Gita Daily Readings

22nd November
Chapter XVIII: 1-2
Arjuna said: I desire to know, Oh mighty armed, the essence or truth of renunciation, Oh Hrsikesha, as also of abandonment, Oh slayer of Keshi.

The blessed Lord said: The sages understand samnyasa to be renunciation of desire-motivated action; the wise declare the abandonment of the fruits of all action as tyaga.

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, tyaga. "Without tyaga 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 tyaga, 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 tyaga.

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