Chapter 18 – Moksha Sanyāsa Yoga (part 1)

As indicated in the title, this chapter is about seeking Moksha (liberation), by means of Sanyāsa (renunciation). While the terms may seem lofty, the principles discussed here is an eye-opener for everyone, in terms of understanding the nuances of karma – what are the components of actions, how Gunas influence these, and what aspect should be renounced. Covering entire chapter in one blog would probably make it overwhelming for the reader, hence we will split it into two parts. We will cover topics related to Thyāga and the nuances of karma in this part. In the next part we’ll look at the influence of Gunas, and how the Lord concludes his advice to Arjuna to get ready for the battle.

The chapter begins with Arjuna’s desire to learn more about the terms, Sanyāsa and Thyāga. The Lord explains, that Sanyāsa is giving up actions motivated by desires; whereas Thyāga is giving up the result of actions. Let’s look at Sanyāsa first. Note here, Sanyāsa is not about giving up all actions – as is popularly perceived. It is giving up only those actions, where we have our personal desires as the motive. Some say that Sanyāsa is giving up ALL actions – the Lord clarifies here that one can never give up all actions.

He goes on to elaborate, that Yajna, Dāna and Tapas are never to be given up. These are to be practiced regularly, as if they are our obligatory duties.

What is Yajna, Dāna and Tapas; why are they never to be given up?

If you recall, Yajna is performing actions without expectation of result. By performing all actions with this Yajna spirit, one learns to tone down their expectations from others.
Dāna is giving away to the deserving, without any expectation of return gratitude. By engaging in Dāna (charity), one learns to identify and give up attachment to material possessions.
Tapas, is about inculcating self-discipline, to live by the principles laid out by Shāstras. By engaging in Tapas (austerity), one learns to practice righteous living in ALL situations.

Thus, these concepts are essentially instruments that helps us to evolve to be better humans! So they’re never to be given up, irrespective of what phase of life one is in.

What is Thyāga?

Talking about Thyāga, the Lord elaborates about what is to be renounced. The concept of Thyāga, is appealing to ego as well – we often take pride in giving up, even more pride in being recognised for giving up. Given the lure of pride, we often want to involve in Thyāga in one way or the other.

Giving up obligatory duties in the name of Thyāga is detrimental to self as well as the society.
Let’s look at some examples. It is the obligatory duties of all Grihasthas to tend to parents, family and society. To say I’m renouncing worldly attachment and walking out of family is not done. Such delusional Thyāga is Tamasic. Even for such renouncement, a consensus from all stakeholders is a pre-requisite.
Similarly, avoiding obligatory duties because it is inconvenient or difficult to perform, is Rajasic. There’s a tradition of giving up something when one visits Gaya kshetra (in Bihar). To give up Karela (bitter gourd), because I don’t like it anyways, could be an example of Rajasic Thyāga! In fact, Arjuna’s thought of giving up arms in the battlefield, is also Rajasic in nature – as the motive was to avoid having to face his own loved ones, even when they’re on the wrong!
Regularly performing ALL obligatory duties – convenient or not, and yet renouncing the pride of having performed the actions and also its results – such renouncement is Sāthvik. This is what we should strive for.

Having so far explained that action is inevitable once we’re born, the Lord explains that results of such actions could be good or bad, or a mix of both – the ‘Karma baggage’. As long as one takes pride in his actions, the ‘karma baggage’ will keep growing – to be consumed at some point in future. Where one renounces the pride of performing (Sāthvik Thyāga), he is no longer bound by results. This is the only way to reduce the Karma Baggage.

Karma – a deep dive!

We all perform very many types of actions, day in and day out. It is very difficult to assess what is Sāthvik, what is not, in each of these actions. It is easy to read examples, but to practically apply the principles in every action is overwhelming! Of course, Lord knows that well. Hence he dissects into actions in 3 different perspectives –

  1. What are the constituents of actions – that is what are all the different factors involved in any action?
  2. What inspires an action?
  3. What are the actual components of action?

So what are the constituents of actions?

The body (to perform action)
The doer (or ego, which directs the action)
The instruments (the sense organs and action organs)
Efforts (to perform action)
Divine grace (that provides the situation)

Our sense organs are constantly working – we see, we hear, we smell and so on. These are the instruments that keep providing stimuli to the mind – invoking it to respond. The response to the stimuli involves an effort, for reaction to occur. And of course, without the divine grace, we probably wouldn’t have this seamlessly functioning body itself! Divine grace is not limited to the body alone, but also very many factors related to what situations we’re presented with!

To take an example, assume you’re walking down a road that has a restaurant dishing out the best of dosas. Your nose (instrument) catches the whiff of the dosa and sambār, triggering the taste of it to linger in your tongue and directing your ego to walk towards the restaurant! To buy that Dosa, you should have put in effort to earn the money required. And to be in the vicinity of the restaurant dishing out those great dosas, and the fact that you had enough earnings to afford the dosa – is the divine grace!

This is trivialising the deeper concepts, but the objective is for us to understand the concepts. Any action, always involves all these 5 constituents. Now, let’s look at the second perspective.

What inspires an action?

Knowledge, object of knowledge and the knower – these three inspires any action. Every action is inspired by these three components. For example, to cook a Dosa, there’s the cook (knower), the knowledge about how to cook (knowledge), experience of cooking (known).

What are the components of action?

Instruments necessary to perform action, the action itself and the doer – these form the components of action. Again, relating back to example of Dosa, the ingredients and instruments to cook, the action of cooking and the cook himself – these are the actual components involved in the action.

Having built on the fundamentals of what all is involved in action, and what inspires one to perform an action, the Lord now gives an overview of how gunas influence these actions, the doer, the knowledge, the intellect of the doer. These aspects, along with the concluding advice by the Lord Krishna to Arjuna, we’ll cover in the next blog!

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!