The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 18: The Yoga of Freedom by Renunciation

Arjuna said:
1. O Strong-Armed, Lord of the Senses, I desire to know
The true essence of renunciation (samnyāsa) and of detachment (tyāga),
And the distinction between them, O Slayer of Kesin.

The Blessed One said:
2. Seers know “renunciation” to be the giving up of acts of desire; 
“Detachment” is the relinquishing of the fruit of all action.

3. Some wise men say, however, that action is to be relinquished as evil; 
Others say one should not relinquish the acts of sacrifice, giving, and austerity.

4. Hear from me the resolution of this matter of detachment, O Best of Bhāratas. 
Detachment, Best of Men, has been declared to be threefold.

5. The acts of sacrifice, giving, and austerity
Are not to be relinquished but to be done;
For sacrifice, giving and austerity are purifiers of the wise.

6. But even these acts are to be performed, Son of Prthā,
Without attachment to their fruits:
This is my assured and final judgment.

7. The renunciation of an action prescribed is not fitting; 
he abandonment of it due to delusion is declared to be tamasic.

8. He who relinquishes an action due to fear of bodily pain, 
Performs a rajasic abandonment. 
He does not win fruit for his abandonment.

9. He who does his prescribed action, O Arjuna, 
Because it ought to be done, 
Abandoning attachment and the fruit, 
He is deemed to be sattvic.

10. The wise man, the unattached, whose doubts are removed, 
Who is filled with light (sattva), 
Does not dislike unpleasant action, And is not attached to pleasant action.

11. It is not possible, indeed, to relinquish action altogether for an embodied self; 
But he who abandons the fruit of action Is called the detached.

12. Pleasant, unpleasant and mixed: 
Three-fold is the fruit of action for the attached after death; 
But there is no fruit whatever for those who renounce.

13. Understand from me, O Strong-Armed, learn of me, 
These five factors for the accomplishment of all actions, 
As proclaimed in the Sāmkhya at the end of the krta age.

14. The seat of action (body), the agent, instruments of various sorts, 
Various kinds of actions, 
And (as fifth) also intention:

15. Whatever action a man undertakes with his body, speech, and mind, 
Whether right or wrong, 
These are its five causes.

16. This being so, he who because of undisciplined intelligence, 
Sees himself as the sole agent, 
He is a fool, and does not see.

17. He who is free from the sense of I, 
Whose understanding is not tainted, 
Though he slay these people, 
He slays not nor is he bound.

18. Knowledge, what is to be known, and the knower 
Are a three-fold incitement toward action: 
The instrument, the action and the actor 
Are the three-fold composite of action.

19. Knowledge, action and the agent 
Are said, in the enumeration of the gunas, 
To be three-fold also, according to the diversity of the gunas.
Listen, accordingly, to these also.

20. That knowledge by which the one imperishable being is seen in all beings, 
Undivided in the divided, 
Know that that knowledge is sattvic.

21. That knowledge which knows the manifold
Different conditions in all beings,
Because of their separateness,
Know that knowledge is rajasic.

22. But that which clings to one single effect as if it were the whole, 
Missing the cause, without grasping the real and nonapparent, 
Is said to be tamasic.

23. An action which is obligatory, 
Performed without attachment and without desire
Or hate by one undesirous of the fruit,
That is said to be sattvic.

24. But action which is done in great strain 
By one seeking to gratify his desires or by the sense of I, 
Is said to be rajasic.

25. That action which is undertaken out of delusion, 
Without regard to consequences, or to loss and injury,
Or to one’s human capability,
Is called tamasic.

26. The actor who is free from attachment
And not taking first person speech (literally),
Is without agitātion in regard to success and failure,
And is filled with strength (of vision) and firmness, Is called sattvic.

27. That actor who is passionate, desirous of the fruit of action, 
Lustful and impure and violent, 
Filled with exaltation and grief, Is called rajasic.

28. That actor who is undisciplined, unrefined, obstinate, 
Deceitful, dishonest, indolent, 
Despondent and procrastinating, Is called tamasic.

29. O Wealth-Winner, hear the three-fold differentiation of understanding and firmness also, 
According to the gunas, 
Declared fully and separately.

30. That (understanding) which knows action and inaction, 
What ought to be done and what ought not to be done, 
The fearful and what is not, bondage and release, 
That understanding, O Son of Prthā, is sattvic.

31. That, O Son of Prthā, by which one understands incorrectly dharma and adharma,
And also what ought to be done and what ought not to be done,
That understanding is rajasic.

32. That which, O Son of Prthā, covered by darkness, 
Deems as dharma what is adharma, 
And thinks all things in reversed fashion, 
That understanding is tamasic.

33. The firmness (of judgment) by which one holds  
The workings of the mind, life-breath, and the senses,
By way of undeviating yoga,
That, O Son of Prthā, is sattvic.

34. But that firmness (of judgement) by which one, desiring fruit, 
Holds fast to worldly goals, dharma, wealth, pleasure In an attached manner, 
That, O Son of Prthā, is rajasic.

35. That firmness (of judgment) by which the fool does not give up sleep,
Fear, grief, depression and pride,
That, O Son of Prthā, is tamasic.

36. But hear now from me, O Best of the Bhāratas, the three-fold happiness,
In which man rejoices by long practise,
And comes to the end of suffering.

37. That which, born of clarity in one’s understanding of self, 
Is at first like poison but in the end is the finest nectar, 
That is sattvic.

38. That happiness which (arises) from the union of the senses and their objects, 
Is in the beginning like the finest nectar but in the end like poison, 
That is called rajasic.

39. That happiness which deludes the self in the beginning and in the end, 
Arises from sleep, indolence and heedlessness, 
That is called tamasic.

40. There is no actuality either on earth or in heaven, even among the gods, 
Which is free of these gunas born of prakrti.

41. The works of Brāhmans, Ksatriyas, Vaiśyas and Sūdras, O Foe-Destroyer, 
Are distinguished by the gunas that arise from their own inner condition.

42. Repose, self-restraint, austerity, 
Cleanness, patience and uprightness, 
Piety, wisdom and knowledge, 
Are the actions of the Brahman, born of his own condition.

43. Heroism, energy, firmness, 
Resourcefulness, and not fleeing in battle, 
Generosity and lordliness, 
Are the actions of the Ksatriya, born of his condition.

44. Agriculture, cattle-tending, trade, 
Are the actions of the Vaiśya, born of his condition; 
Service is the action of the Sūdra, born of his condition.

45. A man, dedicated to his own action, attains fulfillment. 
Hear then in what way he finds fulfillment, 
When one is dedicated to action.

46. A man finds fulfillment by worshipping him, through his own proper action, 
From whom all beings arise and by whom all this is pervaded.

47. One’s own dharma, even when not done perfectly, 
Is better than an alien dharma, even though well performed; 
One does not incur sin doing the action prescribed
By one’s own condition (doing one’s thing).

48. One should not abandon the action congenial to one, 
Even though it is defective, 
For all undertakings are clouded with defects 
Like fire by smoke, O Son of Kuntī.

49. He whose understanding is everywhere unattached, 
Who is without yearning, whose self is subdued, 
Arrives by renunciation at the supreme fulfillment of freedom,
From the bondage of action (naiskarmya).

50. Understand from me succinctly, O Son of Kuntī, 
How, he who has reached fulfillment, has reached Brahman, 
Which is the supreme state of wisdom.

51. Disciplined with a pure understanding, 
Having restrained his self with firmness, 
Having relinquished sound and other sense objects, 
Casting aside passion and hate,

52. Dwelling alone, eating little, with mind, body and speech controlled, 
Constantly engaged in the yoga of meditation, 
Supported by dispassion,

53. Having forsaken the sense of I, might, insolence, 
Desire, anger, possession; 
Unselfish and at peace, he is fit to become Brahman.

54. Having become Brahman, tranquil in the self, 
He neither grieves nor desires; 
Regarding all beings as equal, he attains supreme dedication to me.

55. Through this dedication, he knows me in essence; 
Then having known me essentially, he forthwith enters into me.

56. Ever performing all actions, taking refuge in me, 
By my grace, he reaches the eternal, imperishable abode.

57. Renouncing all action to me with your mind, 
Intent on me, relying on the yoga of understanding. 
Become constantly mindful of me.

58. If mindful of me, you will cross all obstacles by my grace. But if, due to your sense of I, you will not pay heed, You will perish.

59. If, having centered in your sense of I, you think “I will not fight,” Your resolve will be in vain:  Prakrti will impel you.

60. Tied to your own action born of your condition, O Son of Kuntī, 
You will do helplessly 
That which, due to delusion, you do not want to do.

61. The Lord stands in the heart of all beings, O Arjuna, 
By his power causing all beings to revolve as if they were mounted on a wheel.

62. Go to him alone for shelter, O Descendent of Bhārata, 
With all your being. 
By his grace, you will attain supreme peace and everlasting abode.

63. Thus the wisdom, more secret than any secret, 
Has been declared by me to you; 
Having reflected fully on this, do as you desire.

64. Hear once more my supreme word, most secret of all. 
You are greatly loved by me: 
Therefore I will speak for your good.

65. Mindful of me, be devoted to me: 
Sacrifice to me, do me homage: 
You will come to me. 
Truly I promise you, for you are dear to me.

66. Having relinquished all dharmas, take shelter in me alone. 
I shall make you released from all sins: be not grieved.

67. This is not to be spoken by you to anyone who is without austerity, 
Not dedicated and not obedient; 
Nor to one who speaks against me.

68. He who will share this supreme secret with my devotees, 
Having supreme devotion to me, He will doubtless come to me.

69. None among men would do anything equally dear to me, 
Nor will there be another dearer to me on earth.

70. And he who shall study this dialogue of ours full of dharma, 
Should sacrifice to me by the sacrifice of wisdom: Such is my thought.

71. The man who, unmurmuring and with faith, shall listen to it, 
He shall be released; He shall attain the radiant worlds of the perfect.

72. O Son of Prthā, have you listened to this with concentrated mind? 
O Wealth-Winner, has your delusion through ignorance been destroyed?

Arjuna said:
73. Destroyed is my delusion; 
By your grace, O Unshaken One, I have gained remembrance.  
I take my stand firmly, with doubt dispelled; I will do your word.

Samjaya said:
74. Thus have I heard this marvelous hair-raising dialogue of Vasudeva (Krsna)
And the Son of Prthā (Arjuna),
Of great self;

75. By the grace of Vyāsa
I have heard this supreme secret, this discipline, 
Related in person by Krsna himself, Lord of Yoga.

76. O King, each time I recall this marvelous holy dialogue of Késava and Arjuna, 
I rejoice once again.

77. And each time I recall that exceedingly marvelous form of Hari (Krsna), 
My wonder is great and I rejoice once again.

78. Wherever there is Krsna, Lord of Yoga, and Pārtha the archer, 
There surely is fortune, victory, prosperity, wise conduct: I believe.

This is the eighteenth chapter, entitled “The Yoga of Renunciation” (moksasamnyāsayoga).
Here the Bhagavadgitā-upanisad ends.”

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives