Gita Saar, Chapter – 18
In the last chapter of the Gita-chapter 18, Lord Krishna summarizes the fundamental principles of the Gita and reiterates its basic message.
Chapter 18 starts with elaborations on the nature of Action. Lord Krishna explains that individual actions and the intention behind our actions are the crucible-on which depends our ultimate destination-whether it is bondage or liberation.
All of us are bound by having to act since no-one can be inactive in this physical life and every action committed ( in thoughts deeds or words) has binding impacts attached to it.
The million dollar question then is – How to escape the bondage of our actions and be liberated?
The Gita explains that when action is done right, it no longer binds us to the wheel of re-birth and such an action is deemed Dharma-righteous action. Such an action leads us to liberation.
It can be said that by committing right action-Dharma, that is the only way to liberation and here in the last chapter of Gita Lord Krishna gives full emphasis to the understanding of what is Dharmic action.
The chapter 18 starts with Arjuna asking Lord Krishna about the nature of Tyaga (giving up worldly objects) and Sanyaas( renunciation & withdrawal from the world).
The reason why Arjuna asks this question is because he is still trying to avoid the action of battle in which he will have to kill his relatives and friends. He wonders that if Dhyaana, Tyaaga and Gyaana are equally valid methods to reach liberation, then why should he have to chose the path of karma-in which he has to kill his friends and relatives.
Lord Krishna immediately understands the question behind the question and answers it squarely by saying that the real meaning of Tyaga and Sanyaas is giving up the fruits of action and by acting without selfish motives rather than avoiding the action itself.
Lord Krishna then goes into further detail. He says that some wise men debate this point by thinking that since all actions have some measure of evil in them, all action should be avoided as much as possible. While some others believe that actions related to sacrifice, penance and charity should not be shunned.
Lord Krishna then gives the definitive word of God on this subject.
He says-that Sanyaas and Tyaga are themselves of three types. Sattvika, Rajasic and tamasic. He says further that acts of sacrifice, charity and penance must not be given up since these acts purify that person who executes them sincerely and diligently.
Lord Krishna exhorts Arjuna by saying that the individual must strive to give up selfishly motivated action but a prescribed duty must never be abandoned.
Lord Krishna further says that if anyone abandons his prescribed duty (as Arjuna is trying to do) then this ignorant abandonment is not Sanyaas or Tyaga but it is tamasika in nature. To avoid a duty because it is difficult, troublesome or painful or even difficult to perform is rajasic or tamasika in nature and is definitely not Sanyaas or Tyaga i.e. It is essentially cowardice and escapism.
That person who performs an action without even thinking whether the action is leading to bondage or liberation-because such an action is his duty, such an attitude in itself is Sanyaas and Tyaga.
Lord Krishna further reiterates that in this physical body inaction is not possible, hence we all have have to act. Thus renunciation can be achieved only by acting without selfish desire and by not being attached to the fruits of the action that one takes.
Lord Krishna then explains those people who act without being able to give up their selfish desires of the fruits of their actions, such people gain three kinds of results-agreeable, disagreeable and mixed, depending on the action they take.
Good; bad; or mixed, all actions lead to bondage when done with a selfish motive. All such actions bind us to the wheel of karma. We will be reborn in any case to experience the pleasurable, painful or mixed results of our actions.
But the secret is that if a person is not attached to the fruits of his actions and does them only as his duty, such a person can perform any kind of action and not be bound by the fruits of that action. Such a person gains liberation swiftly.
The actions we take all come from our desires. Our body, mind, organs of the senses & actions and latent tendencies force us into prescribed or prohibited actions.
Yet even if a persons actions are tainted but he is able to reach a point where he understands that he is not the doer or experiencer of his own actions, but that God Himself experiences those actions through such a persons body, such a person does not sin.
All action is enabled by creating divisions. Divisions between the knower, knowledge and the objects of knowledge and between the doer of the action, the organs of action and the action itself.
Lord Krishna further explains that all knowledge that helps a person understand the oneness of all things thereby dissolving divisions, such a knowledge is considered Sattvika. That knowledge that enhances the divisions of creation, such a knowledge is Rajasic and the knowledge that makes one self obsessed to one’s body and one’s own self, such a knowledge is considered tamasika.
Similarly all actions that are done without sense of selfish ownership, such actions are considered Sattvika. Those actions that are done for personal gain or because of worldly attachment, those actions are considered Rajasic and the actions that are ignorant and without any thoughts of the consequences for oneself or others, such an action is considered tamasika.
A person who is unswayed by the results of his actions and he does them as his duty, such a person is Sattvika.
The one who acts to achieve his personal goals or for indulgence of his personal desires, such a man is Rajasic while a man who does so out of ignorance, sloth, with the intention of deceiving others or because of procrastination, such a man is Tamasic.
Lord Krishna further describes the nature of wisdom that one has as per these three categories.
He says that –
If a man is able to discern truth from falsehood, right action from wrong action, fear from fearlessness and bondage from liberation, his wisdom is Sattvika in nature.
A person who acts out of his selfish desire to indulge in the world, without thinking of dharma or adharma, and who achieves worldly success, such a man has rajasic wisdom and a person who is inverted-thinks of adharma as Dharma and Dharma as adharma, such a person is operating from a tamasic intellect.
A man who is able to control his varying mind and body and make them God oriented, such a man is Sattvika but if a man is highly persevering of his personal desires, meditating not on God but his attachments and desires, such a man is Rajasic in nature while a tamasic man will persevere in things such as laziness, sleep, sloth etc.
Lord Krishna then explains the three-fold nature of joy as well.
A person who adores God and focuses on him even to the extent of abandoning worldly pleasures, such a person experiences Sattvika joy. Initially that joy may taste bland but the taste and benefits soon turn nectar-like On the other hand the joy experienced through the contact of the senses with worldly objects, which may initially seem like nectar-like but which soon turn sour, such joys are Rajasic in nature. And those joys that stupefy the senses, such joys are graded as tamasika.
Thus Sattvika joy is experienced when we experience God within us, Rajasic joy is experienced when we contact objects of the world through our senses and when they give us a thrill and tamasika joy is experienced when we stupefy our senses and in that stillness we experience happiness.
All people born of creation-even the gods and demigods, are bound by the three Gunaas and behave under their influences. The category of Brahmins, Kshatriya, vaishyas and Sudra are categorized, not by birth but by the preponderance of specific Gunaas in each category.
For example, a person who likes to follow the path towards God, through gaining knowledge through the sanctioned scriptures and who carries out all practices with God in his mind such a person is a Brahmin by nature.
A person who is naturally heroic, fearless, gallant, majestic etc is a Kshatriya by nature.
A person who carries out honest trade is categorized as a Vaishya and the one who believes in selfless service towards others has the nature of a Sudra.
God further emphasizes that one should recognize one’s innate nature and figure out which category one fits in. After recognizing one’s innate nature one should engage in that work or profession where one can easily express ones innate nature.
It is only by doing so can one reach liberation since it is by offering one’s natural work produce (Swadharma), that God can be pleased. That means a Brahmin should offer his knowledge to God. A Kshatriya should offer his duty and courageous actions to God, while a Vaishya should offer part of his honest profit to God and the Sudra should serve others selflessly as if he was serving the Lord himself.
Lord explains what is swadharma ? Sanatan Dharm, Hindu dharm, Christian Dharm, Isalam Dharm, Shikh Dharm, Bauddh Dharm, Jain Dharm etc are not Swadharma because it is founded by human mind. The Dharma founded by God Himself is called Swadharma. Swadharma can compare to the fragrance of rose, coolness of water, hit of fire etc. It can be compared to 100% purity. This is the reason Lord says – come back to origin.
Lord explains how to attain perfection – the action that is natural to the individual gives perfection. By performing one’s natural occupation (by perfoming swadharma), one worships the Creator most easily. By doing such natural work, a person easily attains perfection.
This is the quickest path to enlightenment.
Lord Krishna further emphasizes this point that it is better to stick to ones duties and offer their fruit to God rather than try to offer worship God through artificial or special actions such as havans and yagyas.
One should not worry about the inherent evil in ones duties since all actions have some evil just as all fire is covered by some degree of smoke.
What is important is that as long as one offers the fruit of his dutiful work to God, one incurs no sin.
For a person-who has understood all this, the nature of creation itself is no mystery. He understands that creation is like a machine with deluded souls taking births as per their deluded goals and attachments. The realized person has no desire to get on this wheel of creation, unless ofcourse God Himself asks him to do so to achieve a certain necessary task.
For such a liberated person all actions are duties and therefore action-less in their inherent nature. Such actions sooth and simplify the nature of reality rather than making it more turbulent.
People who reach such a level of realized knowledge live a simple and undefiled life, they eat simple Sattvika food, reject the objects of the senses, naturally control their minds, speech and body actions and have no more personal worldly goals. Such tigers amongst men become qualified to be immersed in the eternal Brahman-that is Truth, Consciousness, Bliss.
Established in these triple blessings such people are ever cheerful, happy, joyful and not in need of anything specific to be happy. Such people are naturally devoted to the one and only Truth-Paramatma.
And such persons, through their single pointed devotion come to know God.
The fact is that outward actions or their renunciation are not important. Even if such a person with such a high level of understanding and devotion acts or is action oriented and yet who surrenders all his actions to God, such a person by God’s grace reaches God even though he is immersed in all worldly actions.
Therefore advice Lord Krishna to Arjuna-”Dedicate all your thoughts, actions and words to me. Say, think and do all things with me in mind as if you are doing them on my behalf. If you do this you will come to me. But if you live for yourself and for the fulfillment of your fears and desires, you will be lost.”
Lord Krishna then tells Arjuna that his desire not to fight is not true renunciation but is borne of fear and selfishness.
Towards the end of the chapter Lord Krishna gives further clear instructions to Arjuna about how to be realized.
Lord Krishna had already described in chapter 11 the various forms of Lord Krishna that exist. They are as follows:-
- Narayan Rishi, 2. Shri Narayan taking rupam of Shri Krishna living in Vaikunth Dham, 3. Shri Krishna living in Golok Dham and 4. Four Arms Shriman Vishnu or Lord Vishnu living in Kshir-sagar i.e. Kshirdakosayi Vishnu.
Lord said clearly – Take refuge wholeheartedly in Him only (Four Arms Shriman Vishnu or Lord Vishnu living in Kshir-sagar only),
He says “O Bhaarata. With His grace you will attain supreme peace and the eternal abode.”
Lord Krishna says again and again, throughout the Gita that it is to this fourth form only of the Lord that Arjuna should surrender to since only this form is the ultimate and this form will give a swift liberation.
Lord Krishna further says that it is by devotion that one comes to the Lord. However knowledge and karma and methods are essential because without knowledge or without taking action, no progress can be made.
Lord Krishna further says that – Always engaging in all actions, if one who considers Me as his refuge (the four armed form), through my grace attains that eternal, imperishable state.
Lord Krishna then tells Arjuna that He – Lord Krishna, has imparted to him, the highest and most secret of knowledge’s, a knowledge that leads to liberation but Lord Krishna can do no more and the decision to fight or to not fight is Arjuna’s alone.
Lord Krishna also cautions Arjuna about the pious nature of the Gita’s teachings and warns him that the teachings of the Gita must not be disseminated to unworthy people- those who have no real interest in liberation.
God further says that in no case should the Gita be preached to the unwilling or to those who find fault with God. The reason is that this text is useful only for those who single mindedly love the Lord and are sincerely seeking only Him. For such people the Gita is perfect for finding quick liberation. And such people who share what they have gained from the Gita to other deserving people, those people are the dearest to God since they do God’s work.
Lord Krishna also tells Arjuna that this dialogue is not just for Arjuna but to all sincere devotees who seek the Lord. Thus Lord Krishna makes it clear that the nature of the Gita is to help humanity in general and it is not just for Arjuna’s liberation.
Lord Krishna told – Hear again my supreme instruction, the most confidential of all knowledge. I am revealing this for your benefit because you are very dear to me (Gita18:64). Always think of Me, be devoted to Me, worship Me, and offer obeisance to Me. Doing so, you will certainly come to Me. This is My pledge to you, for you are very dear to Me (Gita18:65).
In the last Lord warned not only to Arjuna but to the people of the whole world – If you remember Me always, by My grace you will overcome all obstacles and difficulties. But if, due to pride, you do not listen to My advice, you will perish (Gita18:58). It is the demand of time to follow the Lord’s instruction by hook or by crook.
Lord Krishna ends by asking Arjuna whether his doubts have been cleared and is he ready to take up his Bow and fight the righteous battle..
Arjuna answers in the affirmative and says that by Lord Krishna’s grace, his doubts have been dispelled and he is ready for battle and he will do God’s bidding.
Thus ends the Bhagwat Gita – The song divine – with Sanjay informing Dhritarashtra that he – Sanjay is blessed to have been able to hear and witness the words and visions of God Himself through Lord Krishna and that he thrills to have gained such knowledge.
And that wherever God and true devotee are together.