Updated : Aug 27, 2019 in Articles

Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition – 18 – Conclusion The Perfection of Renunciation


Arjuna said, O mighty-armed one, I wish to
understand the purpose of renunciation [tyāga] and of the renounced order of life [sannyāsa],
O killer of the Keśī demon, Hṛṣīkeśa. The Supreme Lord said, To give up the results
of all activities is called renunciation [tyāga] by the wise. And that state is called the
renounced order of life [sannyāsa] by great learned men.
Some learned men declare that all kinds of fruitive activities should be given up, but
there are yet other sages who maintain that acts of sacrifice, charity and penance should
never be abandoned. O best of the Bhāratas, hear from Me now about
renunciation. O tiger among men, there are three kinds of renunciation declared in the
scriptures. Acts of sacrifice, charity and penance are
not to be given up but should be performed. Indeed, sacrifice, charity and penance purify
even the great souls. All these activities should be performed without
any expectation of result. They should be performed as a matter of duty, O son of Pṛthā.
That is My final opinion. Prescribed duties should never be renounced.
If, by illusion, one gives up his prescribed duties, such renunciation is said to be in
the mode of ignorance. Anyone who gives up prescribed duties as troublesome,
or out of fear, is said to be in the mode of passion. Such action never leads to the
elevation of renunciation. But he who performs his prescribed duty only
because it ought to be done, and renounces all attachment to the fruit–his renunciation
is of the nature of goodness, O Arjuna. Those who are situated in the mode of goodness,
who neither hate inauspicious work nor are attached to auspicious work, have no doubts
about work. It is indeed impossible for an embodied being
to give up all activities. Therefore it is said that he who renounces the fruits of action
is one who has truly renounced. For one who is not renounced, the threefold
fruits of action–desirable, undesirable and mixed–accrue after death. But those who are
in the renounced order of life have no such results to suffer or enjoy.
O mighty-armed Arjuna, learn from Me of the five factors which bring about the accomplishment
of all action. These are declared in sāṅkhya philosophy to be the place of action, the
performer, the senses, the endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul.
Whatever right or wrong action a man performs by body, mind or speech is caused by these
five factors. Therefore one who thinks himself the only
doer, not considering the five factors, is certainly not very intelligent and cannot
see things as they are. One who is not motivated by false ego, whose
intelligence is not entangled, though he kills men in this world, is not the slayer. Nor
is he bound by his actions. Knowledge, the object of knowledge and the
knower are the three factors which motivate action; the senses, the work and the doer
comprise the threefold basis of action. In accordance with the three modes of material
nature, there are three kinds of knowledge, action, and performers of action. Listen as
I describe them. That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual
nature is seen in all existences, undivided in the divided, is knowledge in the mode of
goodness. That knowledge by which a different type of
living entity is seen to be dwelling in different bodies is knowledge in the mode of passion.
And that knowledge by which one is attached to one kind of work as the all in all, without
knowledge of the truth, and which is very meager, is said to be in the mode of darkness.
As for actions, that action in accordance with duty, which is performed without attachment,
without love or hate, by one who has renounced fruitive results, is called action in the
mode of goodness. But action performed with great effort by
one seeking to gratify his desires, and which is enacted from a sense of false ego, is called
action in the mode of passion. And that action performed in ignorance and
delusion without consideration of future bondage or consequences, which inflicts injury and
is impractical, is said to be action in the mode of ignorance.
The worker who is free from all material attachments and false ego, who is enthusiastic and resolute
and who is indifferent to success or failure, is a worker in the mode of goodness.
But that worker who is attached to the fruits of his labor and who passionately wants to
enjoy them, who is greedy, envious and impure and moved by happiness and distress, is a
worker in the mode of passion. And that worker who is always engaged in work
against the injunction of the scripture, who is materialistic, obstinate, cheating and
expert in insulting others, who is lazy, always morose and procrastinating, is a worker in
the mode of ignorance. Now, O winner of wealth, please listen as
I tell you in detail of the three kinds of understanding and determination according
to the three modes of nature. O son of Pṛthā, that understanding by which
one knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, what is to be feared and what
is not to be feared, what is binding and what is liberating, that understanding is established
in the mode of goodness. And that understanding which cannot distinguish
between the religious way of life and the irreligious, between action that should be
done and action that should not be done, that imperfect understanding, O son of Pṛthā, is
in the mode of passion. That understanding which considers irreligion
to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness,
and strives always in the wrong direction, O Pārtha, is in the mode of ignorance.
O son of Pṛthā, that determination which is unbreakable, which is sustained with steadfastness
by yoga practice, and thus controls the mind, life, and the acts of the senses, is in the
mode of goodness. And that determination by which one holds
fast to fruitive result in religion, economic development and sense gratification is of
the nature of passion, O Arjuna. And that determination which cannot go beyond
dreaming, fearfulness, lamentation, moroseness, and illusion–such unintelligent determination
is in the mode of darkness. O best of the Bhāratas, now please hear from
Me about the three kinds of happiness which the conditioned soul enjoys, and by which
he sometimes comes to the end of all distress. That which in the beginning may be just like
poison but at the end is just like nectar and which awakens one to self-realization
is said to be happiness in the mode of goodness. That happiness which is derived from contact
of the senses with their objects and which appears like nectar at first but poison at
the end is said to be of the nature of passion. And that happiness which is blind to self-realization,
which is delusion from beginning to end and which arises from sleep, laziness and illusion
is said to be of the nature of ignorance. There is no being existing, either here or
among the demigods in the higher planetary systems, which is freed from the three modes
of material nature. Brāhmaṇas, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas and śūdras are
distinguished by their qualities of work, O chastiser of the enemy, in accordance with
the modes of nature. Peacefulness, self-control, austerity, purity,
tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge, and religiousness–these are the qualities by
which the brāhmaṇas work. Heroism, power, determination, resourcefulness,
courage in battle, generosity, and leadership are the qualities of work for the kṣatriyas.
Farming, cattle raising and business are the qualities of work for the vaiśyas, and for
the śūdras there is labor and service to others. By following his qualities of work, every
man can become perfect. Now please hear from Me how this can be done.
By worship of the Lord, who is the source of all beings and who is all-pervading, man
can, in the performance of his own duty, attain perfection.
It is better to engage in one’s own occupation, even though one may perform it imperfectly,
than to accept another’s occupation and perform it perfectly. Prescribed duties, according
to one’s nature, are never affected by sinful reactions.
Every endeavor is covered by some sort of fault, just as fire is covered by smoke. Therefore
one should not give up the work which is born of his nature, O son of Kuntī, even if such
work is full of fault. One can obtain the results of renunciation
simply by self-control and by becoming unattached to material things and disregarding material
enjoyments. That is the highest perfectional stage of renunciation.
O son of Kuntī, learn from Me in brief how one can attain to the supreme perfectional
stage, Brahman, by acting in the way which I shall now summarize.
Being purified by his intelligence and controlling the mind with determination, giving up the
objects of sense gratification, being freed from attachment and hatred, one who lives
in a secluded place, who eats little and who controls the body and the tongue, and is always
in trance and is detached, who is without false ego, false strength, false pride, lust,
anger, and who does not accept material things, such a person is certainly elevated to the
position of self-realization. One who is thus transcendentally situated
at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is
equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service
unto Me. One can understand the Supreme Personality
as He is only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of the Supreme
Lord by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God.
Though engaged in all kinds of activities, My devotee, under My protection, reaches the
eternal and imperishable abode by My grace. In all activities just depend upon Me and
work always under My protection. In such devotional service, be fully conscious of Me.
If you become conscious of Me, you will pass over all the obstacles of conditional life
by My grace. If, however, you do not work in such consciousness but act through false
ego, not hearing Me, you will be lost. If you do not act according to My direction
and do not fight, then you will be falsely directed. By your nature, you will have to
be engaged in warfare. Under illusion you are now declining to act
according to My direction. But, compelled by your own nature, you will act all the same,
O son of Kuntī. The Supreme Lord is situated in everyone’s
heart, O Arjuna, and is directing the wanderings of all living entities, who are seated as
on a machine, made of the material energy. O scion of Bhārata, surrender unto Him utterly.
By His grace you will attain transcendental peace and the supreme and eternal abode.
Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge. Deliberate on this fully,
and then do what you wish to do. Because you are My very dear friend, I am
speaking to you the most confidential part of knowledge. Hear this from Me, for it is
for your benefit. Always think of Me and become My devotee.
Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise
you this because you are My very dear friend. Abandon all varieties of religion and just
surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reaction. Do not fear.
This confidential knowledge may not be explained to those who are not austere, or devoted,
or engaged in devotional service, nor to one who is envious of Me.
For one who explains the supreme secret to the devotees, devotional service is guaranteed,
and at the end he will come back to Me. There is no servant in this world more dear
to Me than he, nor will there ever be one more dear.
And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence.
And one who listens with faith and without envy becomes free from sinful reaction and
attains to the planets where the pious dwell. O conqueror of wealth, Arjuna, have you heard
this attentively with your mind? And are your illusions and ignorance now dispelled?
Arjuna said, My dear Kṛṣṇa, O infallible one, my illusion is now gone. I have regained my
memory by Your mercy, and I am now firm and free from doubt and am prepared to act according
to Your instructions. Sañjaya said: Thus have I heard the conversation
of two great souls, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna. And so wonderful is that message that my hair
is standing on end. By the mercy of Vyāsa, I have heard these
most confidential talks directly from the master of all mysticism, Kṛṣṇa, who was speaking
personally to Arjuna. O King, as I repeatedly recall this wondrous
and holy dialogue between Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna, I take pleasure, being thrilled at every moment.
O King, when I remember the wonderful form of Lord Kṛṣṇa, I am struck with even greater
wonder, and I rejoice again and again. Wherever there is Kṛṣṇa, the master of all
mystics, and wherever there is Arjuna, the supreme archer, there will also certainly
be opulence, victory, extraordinary power, and morality. That is my opinion.

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