Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda

Bhagavad Gita - Song of God - Chapter 18: 1-2

November 22, 2020


arjuna uvāca
™saṁnyāsasya mahābāho tattvam icchāmi vedituṁ
tyāgasya ca hṛṣīkeśa pṛthak keśiniṣūdana  (XVIII-1)
śrī bhagavān uvāca
™kāṁyānāṁ karmaṇāṁ nyāsaṁ saṁnyāsaṁ kavayo viduḥ  (XVIII-2)

XVIII/1. Arjuna said: I desire to know, 0 mighty armed, the essence
or truth of renunciation, O Hṛṣīkeśa, as also of abandonment,
O  slayer of Keśi.

XVIII/2. The blessed Lord said: The sages understand saṁnyᾱsa
to be renunciation of desire-motivated action; the wise declare
the abandonment of the fruits of all action as tyāga.

Swamiji's Commentary

     At the close of chapter 16, Krishna had emphasized the importance of following scriptural injunctions. The next chapter answered Arjuna’s question: “If one did not know the scriptural injunctions but was endowed with faith, what happens to him?” Now in this chapter Arjuna asks the other question: “If a man knew the scripture...?”

     The scriptures emphasize the need for renunciation, tyāga. ‘Without tyāga there can be no  self-realization’.  Renunciation  meant  abandonment  of  all  that  was  considered worldly.  Only  a  few  could  do  this;  they  rose  in  public  esteem  and  endeavored  to preserve it by perpetuating an error! The more spectacular and beyond the reach of the common man they made this tyāga, the surer were they of their own position of prestige and power. It was conveniently ignored that one should renounce only what is one’s own – the false ego and its vanity, prestige and possession – and that renouncing what does not belong to one (e.g. home, property, wealth) is meaningless!

     Of course, the position corrupted their heart and their renunciation was a mockery, even by their own theoretical standards. But they had enough hold on society by now to make any renunciation unnecessary. We find this in all holy orders, whatever be the religion.

Lord Krishna opens the door wider, so that all may enter the realm of renunciation. The swami engaged in self-willed desire-prompted action is no better than a business executive, except that the latter is more honest! The layman who performs the most prosaic task without egoism or selfish desire qualifies for self-realization. If he engages himself in the selfless service of humanity, but has not a single thought for the fruits of such service, he is a man of tyāga.

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