Chapter 18 – The Path to Freedom

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The Vedic scriptures describe three types of renunciation. You should not abandon acts of sacrifice, charity and austerity because they purify the heart. But you should perform even these activities without attachment or expectation of a reward. That is my supreme conclusion.

You should never renounce the duties prescribed by the scriptures. To abandon routine duties out of illusion is false renunciation, or renunciation in the mode of ignorance.

Those who abandon prescribed duties considering them a cause of inconvenience or due to fear of bodily discomfort, perform renunciation in the mode of passion. Thus, they do not achieve the results of genuine detachment.

Performing routine work as a matter of duty and renouncing all attachment and material desire is renunciation in the mode of goodness. Those in the mode of goodness are free from all doubts. They do not resent unpleasant duties nor are they attached to pleasant duties.

It is impossible for the embodied soul to renounce all action. However, renouncing the fruits of action is true renunciation. Those who aspire for the fruits of their actions receive three types of rewards — good, bad and mixed. But the true renunciate has no such result to suffer or enjoy.

O Arjuna, now hear from me of the five factors which bring about the accomplishment of all action. These are the body, the performer, the senses, the endeavour, and destiny or the Supersoul.

These five factors are the cause of whatever action you perform with your body, mind or speech. Those who believe they are the only performer, not considering the five factors, do not understand the actual situation.

Knowledge, the knowable, and the knower are the three factors that are the stimulus for action. The senses, the action and the performer are the foundation of action.

Knowledge, action and the performer of action are classified according to the three modes of material nature. Now hear about these.

Knowledge in the mode of goodness sees one undivided and imperishable spiritual nature in all the different species of living beings.

Knowledge in the mode of passion considers a different type of living being to be residing in the different types of bodies.

Knowledge in the mode of ignorance considers insignificant matters to be ultimate and is irrational, bigoted and devoid of spiritual conception.

Action prescribed by the scriptures, performed with detachment and without desire or aversion, by someone who has renounced the fruits, is action in the mode of goodness.

Action performed with great trouble by a person desiring the fruit, is action in the mode of passion.

Action undertaken out of delusion, without considering the consequences, with no regard for ones’ capacity to perform it, or which inflicts harm or injury to others – is action in the mode of ignorance.

A worker in the mode of goodness is unattached, enthusiastic, patient and unaffected by success or failure.

A worker in the mode of passion is attached to the fruits of action, envious, cruel, greedy and affected by joy and sorrow.

A worker in the mode of ignorance engages in actions not sanctioned in the scriptures, is uncontrolled, arrogant, deceitful, offensive, lazy, morose and procrastinating.

Now please listen as I describe the three different types of intelligence and determination according to the three modes of material nature.

Intelligence in the mode of goodness can distinguish between danger and safety, bondage and liberation and right and wrong action.

Intelligence in the mode of passion cannot distinguish between religion and irreligion or right and wrong action.

Intelligence in the mode of ignorance is the deluded perception that accepts irreligion as religion and takes everything as the opposite of reality.

Determination in the mode of goodness is indestructible and continually controls the mind, the senses and all their actions.

Determination in the mode of passion pursues profitable rewards in an attempt to fulfil worldly desires.

Determination in the mode of ignorance does not go beyond dreaming, fear, sorrow and dejection.

Now please hear from me about the three kinds of happiness. Happiness in the mode of goodness arises from the serenity of self-realisation. In the beginning, it seems like poison but ultimately it is like nectar.

Happiness in the mode of passion arises from the contact of the senses with their objects. In the beginning, it seems like nectar but it is ultimately like poison.

Happiness in the mode of ignorance is delusion from beginning to end. It is blind to self-realisation, and arises from sleep, laziness and negligence.

There is no living being in existence, either on the earth or among the celestial demigods, who is free from these three modes arising from the material nature.

According to these qualities of nature, the duties of the four classes of society are classified.

Tranquillity, sense-control, austerity, purity, tolerance, honesty, wisdom, knowledge and theism are the natural duties of the priestly section of society.

Bravery, energy, endurance, expertise, courage in battle, generosity and leadership are the natural qualities of work for the governing class.

Agriculture, tending of cattle and trade are the natural duties for the merchants. Service to others is natural for the workers.

By performing the duties prescribed for your natural qualification and inclination, you can attain perfection. By executing your duties, you worship the Supreme Lord who is the source of all beings and pervades the entire universe.

It is better to perform your natural duties imperfectly than to perform another’s duties perfectly. Karmic reactions do not affect those who perform the duties prescribed according to their nature.

Even if you execute your prescribed duties imperfectly, you should not abandon them. All action is covered by imperfection, as smoke covers a fire.

Those who are self-controlled and detached from material enjoyments attain the higher stage of transcending all duties by renouncing the fruits of their activities.

Arjuna, now hear from me in brief how one who has transcended all duties can reach the spiritual reality, the supreme end of knowledge.

One who possesses intelligence with the quality of goodness; controls the mind with determination; renounces the objects of the senses; abandons attachment and aversion; is free from the association of materialistic people; is a moderate eater; restrains the body, speech and mind; is always absorbed in thought of the Supreme Lord; is detached from the material world; has given up ego, power, pride, lust, anger, and possessiveness – such a person is certainly qualified for self-realisation.

The enlightened souls who have realised their spiritual nature never grieve or desire anything. They see all living beings equally. In that state, they achieve loving devotion to me.

Only through loving devotion can you understand me as I truly am. Knowing me in truth, you can enter into my eternal home. Although performing all kinds of actions, if you take refuge in me, you can achieve the eternal imperishable abode by my grace.

Offering every action to me, keep me as the supreme objective. Being devoted to me, be fully conscious of me. If you become conscious of me, you will overcome all obstacles by my grace. If due to pride, you do not listen to me, you will be lost. 

Because of pride, you are thinking you will not fight. Your resolution is futile because your nature will compel you to fight. Due to illusion, you are now refusing to fight. But impelled by the duty born of your own nature you will inevitably act.

The Supreme Lord dwells in everyone’s heart. He is directing the movements of all living beings, who are seated on a bodily machine made of material energy. Surrender to him completely. By his grace, you will attain the supreme peace and your eternal home.

I have revealed the most confidential of all knowledge to you.  Please consider this completely and then do whatever you wish.

Listen now to my supreme teaching, the most secret knowledge. I speak this for your benefit, because you are very dear to me.

Think of me always and devote yourself to me. Worship me and bow down to me and then you will certainly reach me. I promise you this because you are very dear to me. Give up all varieties of religion and surrender to me alone. I will free you from all sins, do not fear.

You should not disclose this confidential knowledge to those who are not devoted or austere, those who are faithless, those who are adverse to my service, or those who are envious of me.

Anyone who reveals this supreme secret to those who are devoted to me will achieve divine love for me and undoubtedly reach me. There is no one who pleases me more than one who explains this supreme secret to the devoted, and there will never be anyone who is dearer to me.

Anyone who studies this holy conversation of ours, is worshiping me with their intelligence. Simply hearing this conversation with faith will liberate you from suffering and you will reach the abode of the virtuous souls.

Arjuna, have you listened to this attentively? Are you now free from ignorance and illusion?

Arjuna said, My dear Krishna, by Your grace my illusion is gone. I have regained my memory and removed my doubts. I am firm in my resolve and ready to follow Your instructions.

Thus ends the conversation of Lord Krishna and Arjuna. The message is so wonderful it inspires joy in the hearts of all.

You have heard these most confidential talks directly from the Supreme Lord of yoga, Lord Krishna himself.

Wherever there is the Lord of yoga, Krishna, and wherever there is the great archer Arjuna, there will be fortune, victory, prosperity and virtue.

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