This is the last chapter of the Gita. Arjuna agreed to do as Krishna advised. Sanjaya, the charioteer who described the entire battle to Dhritarashtra, talked about the greatness of Krishna, Arjuna, and the Gita. Krishna said that just hearing the Gita with devotion takes one to the good and pure worlds. Studying it is equal to performing a gnyana yagnya (worship by knowledge), and this will please Krishna.
Sannyasa and Tyaaga :
While Sannyasa is to give up the actions which fulfill your desires, tyaga is to give up the fruit of your action. Purifying actions like yagnya, charity and austerity should not be given up; but attachment to them and to the fruit thereof should be given up.
Yagnya (worship), daana (giving) and tapa (penance) should be performed even by sannyasis according to some, while others hold that all karma should be given up as bad. However Krishna is quite firm that these purifying Karma must be done.
To give up duty from delusion is Tamasika, to give it up because it is a nuisance is Rajasika. These two ways of giving up action don’t count as sannyasa. Doing karma because it ought to be done, giving up attachment and the fruit thereof is Saattvika.
No being in the flesh can give up all action. But the fruit of action can be relinquished. A satvik relinquisher has no doubts and neither hates disagreeable tasks nor likes agreeable tasks.
Karma only sticks to the non-relinquishers after death.
Karma sticks only to those who don’t let it go!
The doer :
18:13 : Oh one of mighty arms, learn from me, these five causes for achievement of all karma, related at the end of kruta (yuga), in sankhya.
Any act of body, speech, or mind whether just or extreme is caused by five causes as per Sankhya.
- the seat (place or body),
- the person-doer (karta),
- senses (karanas), : different senses (gnyana indriyas and karana indriyas)
- effort (pRthak cESTah) : different functions
- and God (daivam) : daivam can also mean fate as used in older texts.
18:16 He, who due to, an incomplete understanding (akrutabuddhi), thinks of his Self alone (kevalam AtmAnam) as the doer, being a durmati (one of wrong views) sees not.
He whose learning is untouched by the feeling of doership (aham kruta bhAva), is not bound even by the act of killing.
18:18 : Knowledge, that which is to be known, and the Knower are three kinds of instigators of action (karma cOdana). Instrument (karana), action (karma) and doer (karta) are the triad of action (karma sangraha).
The Gunas :
Gnyaana (Knowledge), Karta (the doer) and karma (the action) are three things that differentiate the Gunas as listed in Sankhya.
Sat means existence, reality. Sattva relates to Sat. Rajas is light. Rajasik refers to Rajas. Tamas is darkness. Tamasik refers to darkness. These are the three gunas.
It is satvik to see The One in All, rajasik to see different kinds of beings, and tamasik to think that one single thing is everything.
- One who abides in sattvika is detached, unaffected by success and failure, non-egoistic, and endued with fortitude and enthusiasm.
- One who abides in rajasika is desirous of the fruit, greedy, subject to elation and dejection, violent, and unclean.
- One who abides in tamasika is procrastinating, sorrowful, arrogant, unsteady, vulgar, and deceptive.
- Satvik intellect knows what ought to be done and what ought not to be done, fear and courage, what is binding, and what is liberating. Rajasik intellect is confused between right and wrong. Tamasik intellect sees wrong as right.
- Satvaik tenacity is that by which one regulates the mind, breath and senses. Rajasik tenacity is that by which one holds to duty, pleasure and wealth, desiring fruit. Tamasik tenacity: a stupid person does not give up sleep, fear, grief, depression, and pride.
- Satvik happiness is poison at first and nectar at the end, born of the serenity of the understanding that concerns itself with the self. Rajasik happiness is like nectar at the beginning and poison at the end — it arises from a contact between objects and senses. Tamasik happiness: Self delusive at the beginning and the end, arising from laziness and inadvertence. No one is free from gunas in heaven or on earth. (You have to rise above them).
Krishna said that he created the four castes, based on Gunas and Karma (actions) and detailed the duties of priests and teachers, of warriors and kings, of merchants, and of workers.
In ancient India you could cross castes according to your Gunas. If you were a Brahmin (priest, student, teacher – one immersed in the study of the Brahman) you had no right to wealth or land or, in fact, to horde grain for the next day. Your students would collect alms and bring them in. In return, you were treated with honor. It was a sin to kill a Brahmin and great fortune to be blessed by one. Brahmins were Satvik – and only satviks could be Brahmins. They would derive their joy from knowledge and contemplation and not from the senses or contacts with sensory objects. A Brahmin could hope to attain Liberation on dying and for respect in life.
A kshatriya (‘one of the field’, a warrior) was Rajasik. He could enjoy wealth, food, and women but had to fight on a battlefield to defend his country, his people, and his king and he had to die fighting if necessary. A warrior could attain Heaven if he died fighting and could enjoy earth while he lived. He had to venerate the Brahmin and would consult them for spiritual, political, economic, and other advice.
Merchants and Workers could earn and save money and were not required to sacrifice material comfort or risk their lives. But they were duty bound to give charity (grain, clothes, cows) to Brahmins and to pay taxes (grain, cash, clothes, etc.) to the King according to their ability.
What happened in India was that castes stopped being determined by Gunas and Karma; instead, birth became the determining factor. People who were not born into the system in any one of these castes were called the “fifth” kind or panchamas. They were not treated well (much as poor immigrants are treated in some present- day countries).
(People who quote the Gita to justify their own points of view conveniently ignore that it is the Gunas which determine caste (or “class” which is the meaning of the word Varnam in Sanskrit) and not birth. They use this as a reason to speak against the Gita or for it depending on their own views. One of the reasons that I wanted to study the Gita for myself is the annoying number of people who quote snippets for their own purposes and completely out of context, day in and day out.)
- A man attains perfection by doing his duty, and in so doing worshipping Him from whom all activity proceeds and by whom the world was created. One’s own duty imperfectly done is better than the duty of another well- performed. Do your sahajam (natural) duty, even if it is faulty. All work is faulty in the beginning. (It improves over time).
Attaining Krishna (Brahman) :
The Is’vara (Master) is in the heart of all beings and through his mAya (illusion), he whirls all beings with dizzying precision. To attain a state of eternal, supreme, peace, take refuge in that Lord.
To attain Krishna give up all other Dharmas and follow Krishna (the Brahman) alone; be devoted to him in every way. Do not teach this to the undeserving, but teach it to the deserving and you will attain Krishna.
Whether you like it or not, your nature (svabhava) will compel you to act. It is egoistic to think that you won’t fight. If you think of Krishna, you will overcome your difficulties through his grace. Be egoistic, however, and you will be destroyed. One who does all work, consciously renouncing it to Krishna, taking refuge in Him, attains a lasting state through His grace. Your motive matters.
- One who is detached from everything, free from desire, who has conquered the self, reaches that ultimate state of freedom from action. When he is detached and tranquil and alike to all beings, he attains supreme devotion to Krishna, knows Him truly and enters Him.
Om Tat Sat!
A daily bath will clean a person externally, but a single bath in the Gita will remove the taint of the entire world (samsara). There is but one scripture, the song of the son of Devaki, but one God, the son of Devaki, but one mantra, His Name, and but one duty, service to Him.
Namo Krishna, Namo Krishna, Namo Krishna, Namo Namah.
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