Essence of Bhagavad Gita - Chapter-18


“Arjuna asked: O mighty One! I desire to know how relinquishment is distinguished from
Lord Shri Krishna replied: The sages say that renunciation means forgoing an action which
springs from desire; and relinquishing means the surrender of its fruit.
Some philosophers say that all action is evil and should be abandoned. Others that acts of
sacrifice, benevolence and austerity should not be given up.
O best of Indians! Listen to my judgment as regards this problem. It has a threefold aspect.
Acts of sacrifice, benevolence and austerity should not be given up but should be
performed, for they purify the aspiring soul.
But they should be done with detachment and without thought of recompense. This is my
final judgment.
It is not right to give up actions which are obligatory; and if they are misunderstood, it is
the result of sheer ignorance.
To avoid an action through fear of physical suffering, because it is likely to be painful, is to
act from passion, and the benefit of renunciation will not follow.
He who performs an obligatory action, because he believes it to be a duty which ought to
be done, without any personal desire to do the act or to receive any return – such
renunciation is Pure.
The wise man who has attained purity, whose doubts are solved, who is filled with the
spirit of self-abnegation, does not shrink from action because it brings pain, nor does he
desire it because it brings pleasure.
But since those still in the body cannot entirely avoid action, in their case abandonment of
the fruit of action is considered as complete renunciation.
For those who cannot renounce all desire, the fruit of action hereafter is threefold – good,
evil, and partly good and partly evil. But for him who has renounced, there is none.
I will tell thee now, O Mighty Man, the five causes which, according to the final decision
of philosophy, must concur before an action can be accomplished.
They are a body, a personality, physical organs, their manifold activity and destiny.
Whatever action a man performs, whether by muscular effort or by speech or by thought,
and whether it be right or wrong, these five are the essential causes.
But the fool who supposes, because of his immature judgment, that it is his own Self alone
that acts, he perverts the truth and does not see rightly.
He who has no pride, and whose intellect is unalloyed by attachment, even though he kill
these people, yet he does not kill them, and his act does not bind him.

Knowledge, the knower and the object of knowledge, these are the three incentives to
action; and the act, the actor and the instrument are the threefold constituents.
The knowledge, the act and the doer differ according to the Qualities. Listen to this too:
That knowledge which sees the One Indestructible in all beings, the One Indivisible in all
separate lives, may be truly called Pure Knowledge.
The knowledge which thinks of the manifold existence in all beings as separate – that
comes from Passion.
But that which clings blindly to one idea as if it were all, without logic, truth or insight,
that has its origin in Darkness.
An obligatory action done by one who is disinterested, who neither likes nor dislikes it,
and gives no thought to the consequences that follow, such an action is Pure.
But even though an action involve the most strenuous endeavour, yet if the doer is seeking
to gratify his desires, and is filled with personal vanity, it may be assumed to originate in
An action undertaken through delusion, and with no regard to the spiritual issues
involved, or the real capacity of the doer, or to the injury which may follow, such an act
may be assumed to be the product of Ignorance.
But when a man has no sentiment and no personal vanity, when he possesses courage and
confidence, cares not whether he succeeds or fails, then his action arises from Purity.
In him who is impulsive, greedy, looking for reward, violent, impure, torn between joy
and sorrow,it may be assumed that in him Passion is predominant.
While he whose purpose is infirm, who is low-minded, stubborn, dishonest, malicious,
indolent, despondent, procrastinating – he may be assumed to be in Darkness.
Reason and conviction are threefold, according to the Quality which is dominant. I will
explain them fully and severally, O Arjuna!
That intellect which understands the creation and dissolution of life, what actions should
be done and what not, which discriminates between fear and fearlessness, bondage and
deliverance, that is Pure.
The intellect which does not understand what is right and what is wrong, and what
should be done and what not, is under the sway of Passion.
And that which, shrouded in Ignorance, thinks wrong right, and sees everything
perversely, O Arjuna, that intellect is ruled by Darkness.
The conviction and steady concentration by which the mind, the vitality and the senses are
controlled – O Arjuna! They are the product of Purity.
The conviction which always holds fast to rituals, to self-interest and wealth, for the sake
of what they may bring forth – that comes from Passion.

And that which clings perversely to false idealism, fear, grief, despair and vanity is the
product of Ignorance.
Hear further the three kinds of pleasure. That which increases day after day delivers one
from misery,
Which at first seems like poison but afterwards acts like nectar – that pleasure is Pure, for
it is born of Wisdom.
That which as first is like nectar, because the senses revel in their objects, but in the end
acts like poison – that pleasure arises from Passion.
While the pleasure which from first to last merely drugs the senses, which springs from
indolence, lethargy and folly – that pleasure flows from Ignorance.
There is nothing anywhere on earth or in the higher worlds which is free from the three
Qualities – for they are born of Nature.
O Arjuna! The duties of spiritual teachers, the soldiers, the traders and the servants have
all been fixed according to the dominant Quality in their nature.
Serenity, self-restraint, austerity, purity, forgiveness, as well as uprightness, knowledge,
wisdom and faith in God – these constitute the duty of a spiritual Teacher.
Valour, glory, firmness, skill, generosity, steadiness in battle and ability to rule – these
constitute the duty of a soldier. They flow from his own nature.
Agriculture, protection of the cow and trade are the duty of a trader, again in accordance
with his nature. The duty of a servant is to serve, and that too agrees with his nature.
Perfection is attained when each attends diligently to his duty. Listen and I will tell you
how it is attained by him who always minds his own duty.
Man reaches perfection by dedicating his actions to God, Who is the source of all being,
and fills everything.
It is better to do one’s own duty, however defective it may be, than to follow the duty of
another, however well one may perform it. He who does his duty as his own nature
reveals it, never sins.
The duty that of itself falls to one’s lot should not be abandoned, though it may have its
defects. All acts are marred by defects, as fire is obscured by smoke.
He whose mind is entirely detached, who has conquered himself, whose desires have
vanished, by his renunciation reaches that stage of perfect freedom where action
completes itself and leaves no seed.
I will now state briefly how he, who has reached perfection, finds the Eternal Spirit, the
state of Supreme Wisdom.
Guided always by pure reason, bravely restraining himself, renouncing the objects of
sense and giving up attachment and hatred;

Enjoying solitude, abstemiousness, his body, mind and speech under perfect control,
absorbed in meditation, he becomes free – always filled with the spirit of renunciation.
Having abandoned selfishness, power, arrogance, anger and desire, possessing nothing of
his own and having attained peace, he is fit to join the Eternal Spirit.
And when he becomes one with the Eternal, and his soul knows the bliss that belongs to
the Self, he feels no desire and no regret, he regards all beings equally and enjoys the
blessing of supreme devotion to Me.
By such devotion, he sees Me, who I am and what I am; and thus realising the Truth, he
enters My Kingdom.
Relying on Me in all his action and doing them for My sake, he attains, by My Grace,
Eternal and Unchangeable Life.
Surrender then thy actions unto Me, live in Me, concentrate thine intellect on Me, and
think always of Me.
Fix but thy mind on Me, and by My grace thou shalt overcome the obstacles in thy path.
But if, misled by pride, thou wilt not listen, then indeed thou shalt be lost.
If thou in thy vanity thinkest of avoiding this fight, thy will shall not be fulfilled, for
Nature herself will compel thee.
O Arjuna! Thy duty binds thee. From thine own nature has it arisen, and that which in thy
delusion thou desire not to do, that very thing thou shalt do. Thou art helpless.
God dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna! He causes them to revolve as it were on a
wheel by His mystic power.
With all thy strength, fly unto Him and surrender thyself, and by His grace shalt thou
attain Supreme Peace and reach the Eternal Home.
Thus have I revealed to thee the Truth, the Mystery of mysteries. Having thought it over,
thou art free to act as thou wilt.
Only listen once more to My last word, the deepest secret of all; thou art My beloved, thou
are My friend, and I speak for thy welfare.
Dedicate thyself to Me, worship Me, sacrifice all for Me, prostrate thyself before Me, and
to Me thou shalt surely come. Truly do I pledge thee; thou art My own beloved.
Give up then thy earthly duties, surrender thyself to Me only. Do not be anxious; I will
absolve thee from all thy sin.
Speak not this to one who has not practised austerities, or to him who does not love, or
who will not listen, or who mocks.
But he who teaches this great secret to My devotees, his is the highest devotion, and verily
he shall come unto Me.

Nor is there among men any who can perform a service dearer to Me than this, or any
man on earth more beloved by Me than he.
He who will study this spiritual discourse of ours, I assure thee, he shall thereby worship
Me at the altar of Wisdom.
Yea, he who listens to it with faith and without doubt, even he, freed from evil, shalt rise
to the worlds which the virtuous attain through righteous deeds.
O Arjuna! Hast thou listened attentively to My words? Has thy ignorance and thy
delusion gone?
Arjuna replied: My Lord! O Immutable One! My delusion has fled. By Thy Grace,
O Changeless One, the light has dawned. My doubts are gone, and I stand before Thee
ready to do Thy will.”
Sanjaya told: “Thus have I heard this rare, wonderful and soul-stirring discourse of the Lord Shri
Krishna and the great-souled Arjuna.
Through the blessing of the sage Vyasa, I listened to this secret and noble science from the lips of its
Master, the Lord Shri Krishna.
O King! The more I think of that marvellous and holy discourse, the more I lose myself in joy.
As memory recalls again and again the exceeding beauty of the Lord, I am filled with amazement
and happiness.
Wherever is the Lord Shri Krishna, the Prince of Wisdom, and wherever is Arjuna, the Great
Archer, I am more than convinced that good fortune, victory, happiness and righteousness will
Thus, in the Holy Book the Bhagavad Gita, one of the Upanishads, in the Science of the Supreme
Spirit, in the Art of Self-Knowledge, in the colloquy between the Divine Lord Shri Krishna and the
Prince Arjuna, stands the eighteenth chapter, entitled: The Spirit of Renunciation
May the Lord Shri Krishna bless you!