Chapter 18 of The Bhagavad-Gita Simplified

The Threeforld Kinds Icon

January 31, 2022
Arjuna The very truth is abstention or Sannyas, and renunciation or Tyaga. What is the difference between the two?

Sannyas is the foregoing of all acts which spring out of desire. Tyaga is renouncing of the fruit of one’s acts.

Some saints say that all action to be sinful, and have renounced action.

Some say “Nom, the goodly acts–worship, penance, alms–must be performed”

Renunciation is of threefold form:

  • Worship
  • Penance
  • Alms

They should be gladly done. All those three are purifying waters for true souls.

Yet it is higher to give up attachment, and all the fruit produced by works.

This My insuperable and fixed decree.

Abstaining from a work by right prescribed Never is meet!

So to abstain doth spring from “Darkness,” and Delusion teacheth it.

Abstaining from a work grievous to flesh, When one saith “‘Tis unpleasing!” this is null!

Such a person acts from “passion”, not nough of gain Wins his Renunciation!

Abstaining from attachment to the work, Abstaining from rewardment in the work,

While yet one doeth it full faithfully, Saying, “Tis right to do!” that is “true " act

And abstinence! Who doeth duties so, Unvexed if his work fail, if it succeed Unflattered, in his own heart justified, Quit of debates and doubts, his is “true” act:

For, being in the body, none may stand wholly aloof from act; yet, who abstains from profit of his acts is abstinent.

The fruit of labours is threefold ti all men:

  • desirable
  • undesirable
  • a mix of both

Hear from me, Long-armed Lord!

the makings five Which go to every act, in Sankhya taught as necessary.

  1. The force
  2. The agent
  3. The various instruments
  4. The especial effort
  5. The God.

These 5 are in every work that any mortal does of body, mind, or speech, whether good or bad.

The ignorant sees himself as the sole actor. He does not know at all about the five.

You should:

  • hold aloof from self, with unstained mind
  • slay all yonder host, being bid to slay, He doth not slay; he is not bound thereby!

Knowledge, the thing known, and the mind which knows,

These make the threefold

The starting-ground of action is made up of three:

  1. The act
  2. The actor
  3. The instrument

But knowledge, agent, act, are differenced by 3 dividing qualities.

  1. “True” Knowledge

This is when you learn something as it is, as one changeless Life in all the Lives, as the One Inseparable in the Separate.

  1. Imperfect Knowledge

This sees the separate existences apart, thinking that those separations are real.

  1. False Knowledge

This blindly clings to one as if it were all. It seeks no Cause, deprived of light, narrow, and dull, and dark.

These 3 types of knowledge lead to 3 types of action:

  1. “Right” Action

This is done without attachment, passionlessly, for duty, not for love, nor hate, nor gain.

  1. “Vain” action

This is what men pursue when they are:

  • aching to satisfy desires
  • impelled by the sense of self, with all-absorbing stress

This is of Rajas–passionate and vain.

  1. “Dark” Action

This is when one does a thing heedless:

  • of issues
  • of the hurt or wrong for others
  • of harming his own soul

This is of Tamas, black and bad!

These lead to 3 kinds of doers.

  1. The “rightful"doer

This person acts free from self-seeking, humble, resolute, steadfast, in good or evil hap the same, content to do aright-he “truly” acts.

  1. The “impassioned” doer

This person works from impulse, seeking profit, rude and bold to overcome, unchastened; slave by turns of sorrow and of joy:

He is of Rajas.

  1. The “dark” doer

This person is does evil. He is loose of heart, Low-minded, stubborn, fraudulent, remiss, dull, slow, despondent

Hear, too, of Intellect and Steadfastness The threefold separation, Conqueror-Prince!

How these are set apart by Qualities. Good is the Intellect which comprehends The coming forth and going back of life, What must be done, and what must not be done, What should be feared, and what should not be feared, What binds and what emancipates the soul: That is of Sattwan, Prince! of “soothfastness.” Marred is the Intellect which, knowing right And knowing wrong, and what is well to do And what must not be done, yet understands Nought with firm mind, nor as the calm truth is: This is of Rajas, Prince! and “passionate!” Evil is Intellect which, wrapped in gloom, Looks upon wrong as right, and sees all things Contrariwise of Truth. O Pritha’s Son! That is of Tamas, “dark” and desperate! Good is the steadfastness whereby a man Masters his beats of heart, his very breath Of life, the action of his senses; fixed In never-shaken faith and piety: That is of Sattwan, Prince! “soothfast” and fair! Stained is the steadfastness whereby a man Holds to his duty, purpose, effort, end, For life’s sake, and the love of goods to gain, Arjuna! ’tis of Rajas, passion-stamped! Sad is the steadfastness wherewith the fool Cleaves to his sloth, his sorrow, and his fears, His folly and despair. This–Pritha’s Son!– Is born of Tamas, “dark” and miserable! Hear further, Chief of Bharatas! from Me

The threefold kinds of Pleasure which there be. Good Pleasure is the pleasure that endures, Banishing pain for aye; bitter at first As poison to the soul, but afterward Sweet as the taste of Amrit. Drink of that!

It springeth in the Spirit’s deep content.

And painful Pleasure springeth from the bond Between the senses and the sense-world. Sweet As Amrit is its first taste, but its last Bitter as poison. ‘Tis of Rajas, Prince! And foul and “dark” the Pleasure is which springs From sloth and sin and foolishness; at first And at the last, and all the way of life The soul bewildering. ‘Tis of Tamas, Prince!

For nothing lives on earth, nor ‘midst the gods In utmost heaven, but hath its being bound With these three Qualities, by Nature framed. The work of Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas, And Sudras, O thou Slayer of thy Foes! Is fixed by reason of the Qualities Planted in each:

A Brahman’s inherent virtues are:

  • serenity,
  • Self-mastery
  • religion
  • purity,
  • Patience
  • uprightness
  • learning, and
  • know the truth of things.

A Kshatriya’s inherent virtues are:

  • pride,
  • valour,
  • fire,
  • constancy,
  • skilfulness,
  • fighting spirit,
  • open-handedness
  • noble mien as of a lord of men.

A Vaisya’s inherent virtues are:

  • to till the ground
  • tend cattle
  • venture trade.

A Sudra’s inherent virtues are:

  • to minister diligently and contently the work allotted him, whatever it be

Lays hold of perfectness! Hear how a man Findeth perfection, being so content:

He findeth it through worship–wrought by work– Of Him that is the Source of all which lives,

Of HIM by Whom the universe was stretched.

Better thine own work is, though done with fault, Than doing others’ work, ev’n excellently. He shall not fall in sin who fronts the task Set him by Nature’s hand! Let no man leave His natural duty, Prince! though it bear blame! For every work hath blame, as every flame Is wrapped in smoke! Only that man attains Perfect surcease of work whose work was wrought

With mind unfettered, soul wholly subdued,

Desires for ever dead, results renounced. Learn from me, Son of Kunti! also this, How one, attaining perfect peace, attains BRAHM, the supreme, the highest height of all! Devoted–with a heart grown pure, restrained In lordly self-control, forgoing wiles Of song and senses, freed from love and hate, Dwelling ‘mid solitudes, in diet spare, With body, speech, and will tamed to obey, Ever to holy meditation vowed, From passions liberate, quit of the Self, Of arrogance, impatience, anger, pride; Freed from surroundings, quiet, lacking nought– Such an one grows to oneness with the BRAHM; Such an one, growing one with BRAHM, serene, Sorrows no more, desires no more; his soul, Equally loving all that lives, loves well Me, Who have made them, and attains to Me. By this same love and worship doth he know Me as I am, how high and wonderful, And knowing, straightway enters into Me. And whatsoever deeds he doeth–fixed In Me, as in his refuge–he hath won For ever and for ever by My grace Th’ Eternal Rest! So win thou! In thy thoughts Do all thou dost for Me! Renounce for Me! Sacrifice heart and mind and will to Me! Live in the faith of Me! In faith of Me All dangers thou shalt vanquish, by My grace; But, trusting to thyself and heeding not, Thou can’st but perish! If this day thou say’st, Relying on thyself, “I will not fight!” Vain will the purpose prove! thy qualities Would spur thee to the war. What thou dost shun, Misled by fair illusions, thou wouldst seek Against thy will, when the task comes to thee Waking the promptings in thy nature set. There lives a Master in the hearts of men Maketh their deeds, by subtle pulling–strings, Dance to what tune HE will. With all thy soul Trust Him, and take Him for thy succour, Prince! So–only so, Arjuna!–shalt thou gain– By grace of Him–the uttermost repose, The Eternal Place! Thus hath been opened thee This Truth of Truths, the Mystery more hid Than any secret mystery. Meditate! And–as thou wilt–then act! Nay! but once more Take My last word, My utmost meaning have! Precious thou art to Me; right well-beloved! Listen! I tell thee for thy comfort this. Give Me thy heart! adore Me! serve Me! cling In faith and love and reverence to Me! So shalt thou come to Me! I promise true, For thou art sweet to Me! And let go those– Rites and writ duties! Fly to Me alone! Make Me thy single refuge! I will free Thy soul from all its sins! Be of good cheer! [Hide, the holy Krishna saith, This from him that hath no faith, Him that worships not, nor seeks Wisdom’s teaching when she speaks: Hide it from all men who mock; But, wherever, ‘mid the flock Of My lovers, one shall teach This divinest, wisest, speech– Teaching in the faith to bring Truth to them, and offering Of all honour unto Me– Unto Brahma cometh he! Nay, and nowhere shall ye find Any man of all mankind Doing dearer deed for Me; Nor shall any dearer be In My earth. Yea, furthermore, Whoso reads this converse o’er, Held by Us upon the plain, Pondering piously and fain, He hath paid Me sacrifice! (Krishna speaketh in this wise!) Yea, and whoso, full of faith, Heareth wisely what it saith, Heareth meekly,–when he dies, Surely shall his spirit rise To those regions where the Blest, Free of flesh, in joyance rest.] Hath this been heard by thee, O Indian Prince! With mind intent? hath all the ignorance– Which bred thy trouble–vanished, My Arjun?


Trouble and ignorance are gone! the Light Hath come unto me, by Thy favour, Lord! Now am I fixed! my doubt is fled away! According to Thy word, so will I do!


Thus gathered I the gracious speech of Krishna, O my King! Thus have I told, with heart a-thrill, this wise and wondrous thing By great Vyasa’s learning writ, how Krishna’s self made known The Yoga, being Yoga’s Lord. So is the high truth shown! And aye, when I remember, O Lord my King, again Arjuna and the God in talk, and all this holy strain, Great is my gladness: when I muse that splendour, passing speech, Of Hari, visible and plain, there is no tongue to reach My marvel and my love and bliss. O Archer-Prince! all hail! O Krishna, Lord of Yoga! surely there shall not fail Blessing, and victory, and power, for Thy most mighty sake, Where this song comes of Arjun, and how with God he spake.

[FN#1] Some repetitionary lines are here omitted.

[FN#2] Technical phrases of Vedic religion.

[FN#3] The whole of this passage is highly involved and difficult to render.

[FN#4] I feel convinced sankhyanan and yoginan must be transposed here in sense.

[FN#5] I am doubtful of accuracy here.

[FN#6] A name of the sun.

[FN#7] Without desire of fruit.

[FN#8] That is,“joy and sorrow, success and failure, heat and cold,"&c.

[FN#9] i.e., the body.

[FN#10] The Sanskrit has this play on the double meaning of Atman.

[FN#11] So in original.

[FN#12] Beings of low and devilish nature.

[FN#13] Krishna.

[FN#14] I read here janma, “birth;” not jara,“age”

[FN#15] I have discarded ten lines of Sanskrit text here as an undoubted interpolation by some Vedantist

[FN#16] The Sanskrit poem here rises to an elevation of style and manner which I have endeavoured to mark by change of metre.

[FN#17] Ahinsa.

[FN#18] The nectar of immortality.

[FN#19] Called “The Jap.”

[FN#20] The compound form of Sanskrit words.

[FN#21] “Kamalapatraksha”

[FN#22] These are all divine or deified orders of the Hindoo Pantheon.

[FN#23] “Hail to Thee, God of Gods! Be favourable!”

[FN#24] The wind.

[FN#25] “Not peering about,“anapeksha.

[FN#26] The Calcutta edition of the Mahabharata has these three opening lines.

[FN#27] This is the nearest possible version of Kshetrakshetrajnayojnanan yat tajnan matan mama.

[FN#28] I omit two lines of the Sanskrit here, evidently interpolated by some Vedantist.

[FN#29] Wombs.

[FN#30] I do not consider the Sanskrit verses here-which are somewhat freely rendered–“an attack on the authority of the Vedas,” with Mr Davies, but a beautiful lyrical episode, a new “Parable of the fig-tree.”

[FN#31] I omit a verse here, evidently interpolated.

[FN#32] “Of the Asuras,” lit.

[FN#33] I omit the ten concluding shlokas, with Mr Davis.

[FN#34] Rakshasas and Yakshas are unembodied but capricious beings of great power, gifts, and beauty, same times also of benignity.

[FN#35] These are spirits of evil wandering ghosts.

[FN#36] Yatayaman, food which has remained after the watches of the night. In India this would probably “go bad.”

[FN#37] I omit the concluding shlokas, as of very doubtful authenticity.