Summary of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 18

In response to Arjuna’s question about the difference between sanyaasa and tyaaga, renunciation and abandonment, Shri Krishna provided several contemporary definitions of tyaaga. He then enumerated three kinds of tyaaga based on the three gunaas. The foremost is sattvic tyaaga where the individual performs his duty and gives up attachment to any personal reward. The importance of action was reiterated for those who have a sense of ego, a sense of I and mine.

Next, Shri Krishna analyzed the five factors that are involved in any action : the foundation, the doer, the instruments, energy and divinity. He then analyzed the three factors that compel us to act : knowledge, action and the sense of doership. These three, as well as intellect, fortitude and joy, were each categorized as sattvic, raajasic and taamasic. This conclusively proved that no one or nothing is free from the effect of the three gunaas.

After explaining the power of the gunaas over our lives, the system of analyzing our mental makeup, the varna system, was explained. Self analysis of our mental makeup enables us to select our duty towards society, which is broadly classified as brahman, kshatriya, vaishya or shoodra. By engaging in our duty and offering our actions to Ishvara, we purify our mind of all selfishness, and reach the state of jnyaana nishthaa yogyata, qualification for devotion to knowledge. When seekers reaches this stage, they engage in a life of monkhood, enabling them to contemplate upon the nature of the aatmaa, the self, and remain devoted to that knowledge, which is known as jnyaana nishthaa, the final stage in the spiritual journey.

Knowing that the state of monkhood is quite far away for most seekers, Shri Krishna restates the teaching which is appropriate for most spiritual seekers. Seek Ishvara, surrender to Ishvara, take refuge in Ishvara, submit all actions and enjoyments to Ishvara. This will enable us to transcend the machine of maaya in which we are trapped. Through Ishvara’s grace, we will make progress in our spiritual journey. The eighteenth chapter and the Gita concludes with Arjuna accepting Shri Krishna’s teaching, Shri Krishna explaining the teaching tradition and praising the teacher and student who study the Gita, and Sanjaya praising and recollecting the joy of listening to the teaching.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 78, Chapter 18

yatra yogeshvaraha krishno yatra paartho dhanurdharaha |
tatra shreervijayo bhootirdhruvaa neetirmatirmama || 78 ||

Where there is Krishna, the lord of yogas, and where their is Paartha, wielder of the bow, there is fortune, victory, prosperity and infallible morality, in my opinion.
yatra : where
yogeshvaraha : lord of yogas
krishnaha : Krishna
yatra : where
paartho : Paartha
dhanurdharaha : wilder of the bow
tatra : there
shreehi : fortune
vijayaha : victory
bhootihi : prosperity
dhruvaaha : infallible
neetihi : morality
matihi : opinion
mama : my
Sanjaya’s final statement in the Gita can be viewed from three standpoints. Taken literally, we can see that Sanjaya wanted to very subtly inform Dhritraashtra that the Paandava army would be victorious, and that his sons, the Kauravas, would be annihilated. This was bound to happen because the world’s foremost warrior, Arjuna, and Shri Krishna, the lord of all yogas, were on the opposing side of the Kauravas. There was not even a tiny chance that the Kauravas would win the war. This was the conclusive answer to the first line of the Gita, where Dhritraashtra wanted to know what did the Kauravas and Paandavas do on the battlefield.
From the standpoint of our duty, we can interpret this shloka as follows. Regardless of how much time and effort we put into any action, we cannot be assured of success. We saw earlier that the success of any action depends on a multitude of factors, but it boils down to two things: self effort and Ishvara’s grace. If either aspect is missing, our actions will not be successful. Self effort or purushaartha alone cannot guarantee a result, neither can waiting for Ishvara’s grace or prasaada without any effort from the part of the individual.
From the absolute standpoint, liberation from bondage, realization of our true self is not possible purely through self effort. We need to perform our duty selflessly, in a spirit of service to Ishvara, without any other person or object as our goal. Selfless devoted service to Ishvara, combined with Ishvara’s grace, will result in progress and success in the spiritual journey. Without Ishvara’s grace, it is not possible.
We end our journey through the Gita here.
Om Poornamadah Poornamidam Poornaat Poornamudachyate |
Poornasya Poornamaadaya Poornamevavashisyate ||
Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantihi ||
Shri Krishnaarpanaastu.
om tatsatiti shreematbhagavatgitasupanishadsu brahmavidyaayaam yogashaastre shreekrishnaarjunsamvade moskhasanayasayogo naama ashtaadashodhyaayaha || 18 ||

Bhagavad Gita Verse 74-77, Chapter 18

Sanjaya uvaacha:
ityaham vaasudevasya paarthasya cha mahaatmanaha |
samvaadamimamashraushamadbhutam romaharshanam || 74 ||
vyaasaprasaadaacchhrutavaanetad guhyamaham param |
yogam yogeshvaraatkrishnaatsaakshaatkathayataha svayam || 75 ||
raajansamsmritya samsmritya samvaadamimamadbhutam |
keshavaarjunayoho punyam hrishyaami cha muhurmuhuhu || 76 ||
taccha samsmritya samsmritya roopamatyadbhutam harehe |
vismayo me mahaan raajan hrishaami cha punaha punaha || 77 ||

Sanjaya said:
In this manner, I heard this wonderful conversation of Vaasudeva and of the great-souled Paartha, which makes the hair stand on end.
Through the grace of Vyaasa, I heard this secret of supreme yoga directly from the lord of yogas, while he was himself speaking.
O King, as I repeatedly recall this wonderful, sacred conversation between Keshava and Arjuna, I delight again and again.
And as I repeatedly recall that extremely wonderful form of Hari, I am struck with astonishment, O King. And I delight again and again.

iti : in this manner
aham : I
vaasudevasya : of Vaasudeva
paarthasya : of Paartha
cha : and
mahaatmanaha : great souled
samvaadam : conversation
imam : this
ashrausham : heard
adbhutam : wonderful
romaharshanam : makes hair stand on end
vyaasaprasaat : through the grace of Vyaasa
shrutavaan : heard
etat : this
guhyam : secret
param : supreme
yogam : yoga
yogeshvaraat : from the lord of yogas
krishnaat: from Krishna
saakshaat : directly
kathayataha : speaking
svayam : himself
raajan : O King
samsmritya : recall
samvaadam : conversation
keshavaarjunayoho : between Keshava and Arjuna
punyam : sacred
hrishyaami : I delight
muhuhu : again
roopam : form
harehe : of Hari
vismayaha : astonishment
mahaan : great
raajan : O King
hrishaami : I delight
We now get to hear Sanjaya words as he conveys his reaction to King Dhritaraashtra. He now refers to Arjuna as a mahaatmaa, since Arjuna had realized the nature of his true self. He refers to the conversation between Shri Krishna and Arjuna as adbhuta, which means fascinating, marvellous, wonderful. It made his hair stand on end, such was the level of his amazement. Although Sanjay had his own reasons for expressing his wonder, which we shall see now, from our standpoint, it is indeed fascinating that we are able to study the text that was created by ancient Rishis several thousand years ago. Furthermore, such knowledge is rare to find in this material obsessed world, that is what makes it even more fascinating.
One of the reasons for Sanjaya’s excitement is that he was able to listen to the Gita live, in real-time, not second-hand. This was made possible by a divine boon granted to him by Sage Veda Vyaasa. This boon was previously offered to Dhritraashtra who refused it, since he did not want to witness the destruction of his sons. Sanjaya praises Sage Vyaasa for granting this boon to him. It enabled him to hear the teaching of the Gita, the ultimate manual of yoga, from the lord of all yogas himself, Shri Krishna. Yoga, in this context, refers to that which can unite the finite with the infinite.
Another benefit of the boon to Sanjaya was the ability to view the Vishwa roopa, Ishvara’s cosmic form, exactly as seen by Arjuna. No one besides Arjuna ans Sanjaya were able to see this form. As we recall, this form invoked wonder and fear in Arjuna, who had a reputation of not getting afraid of anyone or anything. This form had such an impact on Sanjaya that he repeatedly recalled this form to memory, and rejoiced every time he recalled it. Sanjaya referred to the teaching as punyam, that which is sacred, that which purifies its listener.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 73, Chapter 18

Arjuna uvaacha:
nashto mohaha smritirlabdhaa tvatprasaadaanmayaachyuta |
sthitosmi gatasandehaha karishye vachanam tava || 73 ||

Arjuna said:
My delusion has been destroyed, and my memory has been restored with your grace, O infallible one. I stand with my doubts removed. I shall do as you say.

nashtaha : destroyed
mohaha : delusion
smritihi : memory
labdhaa : restored
tvat : your
prasaadaan : grace
mayaa : by me
achyuta : O infallible one
sthitaha : stand
asmi : I
gatasandehaha : doubts removed
karishye : I shall do
vachanam : words
tava : your
If we recall, the first words uttered by Arjuna in the Gita were as follows : O achyuta, O infallible one, in preparation for combat, position my chariot between the two armies. Arjuna uses the same address, achyuta, the infallible one, in this shloka. So the conversation that was initiated by Arjuna is concluded here. Arjuna says that the ignorance of his true nature is no more, since he has regained his smritihi, his memory, the knowledge of his true self. When one comes to know about their true self, there is no more delusion in this world. Everything is seen for what it really is, an illusion, a superimposition by maaya on the self.
There is another significance of the word achyuta. While we forget our true nature, and erroneously take maaya to be real, Ishvara is always standing firm in his position as unaffected by the superimposition of maaya. Since he is infallible, only with his grace can we overcome our delusion and come out of the cycle of birth and death, of samsaara. Removal of delusion is the aim of all spiritual teaching, as we saw earlier. All that remains is to stand firm, to be stitaha, in the knowledge of our true self.
From the standpoint of the world, Arjuna was convinced that performing his duty as a warrior was the right decision to make at this point. Therefore, he acknowledged that the teaching of the Gita benefitted him, and that he was ready to fight in the war. From the highest standpoint of the absolute, Arjuna’s sense of agency, his sense of doership, had gone away, once he understood that the self can neither do anything, nor can it enjoy anything. He performed actions spontaneously, in the service of Ishvara. In the words of Shri Shankaraachaarya, he had achieved the ultimate goal of life. He did not have to accomplish anything else.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 72, Chapter 18

kacchidetachhrutam paartha tvayaikagrena chetasaa |
kacchidajnyaanasammohaha pranashtaste dhananjaya || 72 ||

Has this been heard by you, O Paartha, with a focused mind? Has your delusion of ignorance been destroyed, O Dhananjaya?
kacchit : has
etat : this
shrutam : been heard
paartha : O Paartha
tvaya : by you
ekagrena : focused
chetasaa : mind
kacchit : has
ajnyaanasammohaha : delusion of ignorance
pranashtaha : destroyed
te : your
dhananjaya : O Dhananjaya
The goal of the Upanishads, the portions of the Vedas that deal with the eternal essence, is to reveal the true nature of the self. All of us are living in ignorance of our true nature. This ignorance affects everyone, it is natural to all humans. Like someone who has multiple personality disorder needs treatment to understand who they really are, all of us need a qualified teacher who can impart the knowledge of the Upanishads to us so that we can regain the knowledge of our self.
Shri Krishna taught the Gita, which is also another Upanishad, so that Arjuna and other seekers in the future could annihilate their ignorance about their true nature as the self. He employed logic, reasoning, scriptural authority, emotion, psychology, every trick in the book to ensure that Arjuna could grasp the message of the Gita. Having done all that, he still wanted to give Arjuna the chance to ask any other doubts or questions with regards to the teaching. He also asked Arjuna whether he had listed with focus, or whether his mind was wandering.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 70-71, Chapter 18

adhyeshyate cha ya imam dharmyam samvaadamaavayoho |
jnaayayajnena tenaahamishtaha syaamiti me matihi || 70 ||
shraddhaavaanansooyashcha shrunuyaadapi yo naraha |
sopi muktaha shubhaamllokaanpraapnuyaatpunyakarmanaam || 71 ||

And he who will study this sacred conversation between the two of us, by him I shall be worshipped through the sacrifice of knowledge. This is my opinion.
And that person who, with faith and without fault finding, might even hear this, will also be liberated, and attain auspicious worlds of those who perform meritorious actions.

adhyeshyate : will study
cha : and
yaha : he who
imam : this
dharmyam : sacred
samvaadam : conversation
aavayoho : between the two of us
jnaayayajnena : through the sacrifice of knowledge
tena : by him
aham : I
ishtaha : worshipped
syaam : shall be
iti : this
me : my
matihi : opinion
shraddhaavaan : with faith
ansooyaha : without fault finding
cha : and
shrunuyaat : hear
api : might even
yaha : that
naraha : person
saha : he
api : also
muktaha : liberated
shubhaam : auspicious
lokaan : worlds
praapnuyaat : shall attain
punyakarmanaam : those who perform meritorious actions
Shri Krishna, having praised the teacher, now praises the sincere student of the Gita. He refers to the teaching using the words dharmyam samvaadam, which means a dialogue based on dharma. Most spiritual teachings in the Indian tradition are in the format of a dialogue between the student and the teacher, where the student is always given the opportunity to ask questions. Otherwise, the teaching becomes dogma. And the content of the conversation, the discussion of the eternal essence, makes it dharmyam, sacred.
Now, when a sincere student studies this conversation between Shri Krishna the teacher, and Arjuna the student, such a student gains the same insight and understanding that Arjuna would, provided he is qualified. When this happens, a sacrifice of knowledge, a jnyaana yajnya takes place. As we have seen in an earlier chapter, the sacrifice of knowledge is considered the foremost type of sacrifice that anyone can undertake. Study of the Gita, then, becomes the highest kind of sacrifice.
Why do we undertake yajnyas or sacrifices? It is to repay our debt to the elements, to our ancestors, to plants and animals, to our teachers, and to our fellow beings. We offer them our prayers, and also other material offerings such as clarified butter. But when we conduct a sacrifice of knowledge, we sacrifice our individuality, our finitude, so that we can merge into the infinite Ishvara. Such a sacrifice is beyond all notions of material offerings, and is conducted in solitude. So then, Shri Krishna asserts that the student of the Gita occupies the position equal to one who conducts the most supreme sacrifice. Furthermore, even one who may not sincerely study, one who may not have understood the deeper meaning, but would just have listened to the Gita, will benefit in some way or another.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 68-69, Chapter 18

ya imam paramam guhyam madbhakteshvabhidhaasyati |
bhaktim mayi paraam kritvaa maamevaishyatyasamshayaha || 68 ||
na cha tasmaanmanushyeshu kaschinme priyakrittamaha |
bhavitaa na cha me tasmaadanyaha priyataro bhuvi || 69 ||

He who, having devotion to me, explains this supreme secret to my devotees, will reach me alone, no doubt. And compared to him, no one else among humans performs actions which are dear to me. Nor will there be anyone else on this earth dearer to me than him.
yaha : he who
imam : this
paramam : supreme
guhyam : secret
madbhakteshu : to my devotees
abhidhaasyati : explains
bhaktim : devotion
mayi : to me
paraam : supreme
kritvaa : having done
maam : me
eva : alone
eshyati : reach
asamshayaha : no doubt
na : no
cha : and
tasmaat : compared to him
manushyeshu : among humans
kaschit : else
me : me
priyakrittamaha : performing actions which are dear
bhavitaa : in the future
na : no
cha : and
tasmaat : to him
anyaha : anyone
priyataraha : dearer
bhuvi : on this earth
Previously, Shri Krishna described the tradition and method by which the Gita discourse should be handed down from the teacher to the student. He now describes the teacher who imparts this knowledge to society. He says that the foremost quality of the teacher is devotion to Ishvara, and only such a teacher can impart the real knowledge of the Gita to students, who are also devoted to Ishvara. The teacher should deliver the teaching in the spirit of karma yoga, in a spirit of service to Ishvara, not for name, fame or honour.
In return for their selfless service of teaching the Gita, Shri Krishna declares in no uncertain terms that the teacher will go to Ishvara, he will liberated from all sorrow. Praising the teacher, he says that there is no other person on this earth who does actions that are dearer than the action of teaching the Gita. He further says that the teacher becomes the dearest person Ishvara. It is a status so special that it spans the past, present and future. In other words, this special position transcends all time, such is its greatness.
Why does Ishvara love the teacher so much? The teacher assists Ishvara in the his mission to rid the world of ignorance. A teacher can assess the needs of the seeker, and give him the guidance from the Gita needed for that particular situation of the seeker. Only a qualified teacher is able to do that, as opposed to someone randomly reading shlokas from the Gita. Furthermore, very few people are able to teach the true meaning of the Gita, and convey to the student exactly what Ishvara wants to convey, without distorting anything.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 67, Chapter 18

idam te naatapskaaya naaabhaktaaya kadaachana |
na chaashushrooshave vaachyam na cha maam yobhyasooyati || 67 ||

This what has been taught to you, should never be taught to one without penance, one who is not a devotee, one without service, and to one who has an objection to me.
idam : this
te : you
na : not
atapskaaya : one without penance
na : not
abhaktaaya : one who is not a devotee
kadaachana : never
na : not
cha : and
ashushrooshave: one without service
vaachyam : taught
na : not
cha : and
maam : my
yaha : who
abhyasooyati : objects
In India, scriptural knowledge has always been handed down from the teacher to the student. There are rules with regards to how a teacher should be selected, how a student should be selected, what the teaching method should look like. We cannot read a serious text like we read a magazine or a newspaper, nor can we expect an undergraduate student of arts to solve a PhD level differential equation. Therefore, a serious study of the Gita should also follow certain guidelines and rules. Here, Shri Krishna enumerates these rules.
The Gita should not be taught to one who has not undergone a certain degree of penance or austerity. He should be willing to bear some physical discomfort while attending a discourse, for instance. It is clear that one who wants to visit the bar every night and follow it with a visit to the club will not gain any benefit from the Gita. A certain level of detachment from the material world is required. Secondly, the Gita should not be taught to someone who is not a devotee. If the student does not harbour respect for the guru, the teacher, he does not have the requisite level of humility to undertake spiritual inquiry.
The word shushrushaa has two meanings. It refers to one who has an attitude of service towards the world, instead of a highly selfish outlook. It also refers to one who is fond of listening to discourses. The Gita should not be taught to one who is highly selfish, nor to one who is not interested in listening to any kind of discourse. Finally, the Gita should not be taught to anyone who has objection to the notion that there is Ishvara, there is something beyond the material world. The Gita is not meant for purely materialistic individuals who are content with their existence.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 66, Chapter 18

sarvadharmaanparitajya maamekam sharanam vraja |
aham tvaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shuchaha || 66 ||

Abandoning all duties, take refuge in me alone. I shall liberate you from all sins. Do not grieve.
sarvadharmaan : all duties
paritajya : abandoning
maam : me
ekam : alone
sharanam : refuge
vraja : take
aham : I
tvaa : you
sarvapaapebhyaha : from all sins
mokshayishyaami : shall liberate
maa : do not
shuchaha : grieve
When someone joins a large corporation for the first time, they take several months to understand the lay of the land. This is because their boss may tell them to do one thing, but their boss’s boss may tell them to do something else. The sales team may offer suggestions that are completely opposed to the marketing team’s view. The new employee will be totally confused till they figure out a sort of compromise. But, if by chance, the new employee meets the CEO of the company and gets their opinion, they will have a clear and unambiguous direction.
It is said that this shloka, containing the sum and substance of the entire Gita, is the one “take home message” for any student who feels bewildered or overwhelmed with the teaching. There are four parts to the shloka. The first part instructs the seeker to abandon all of their duties. Let us look at this deeper meaning since we should not take it literally. This means that Shri Krishna wants the seeker to stop analyzing which actions they should stop performing, which actions should they continue pursuing and which new actions should they take up. They should simply stop worrying about all these questions.
So then, what should the seeker do? The second part of the shloka gives the answer – take refuge in Ishvara alone. All our thoughts, words, actions, feelings, everything should be dedicated towards Ishvara. By doing so, we will automatically arrive at the answers to our questions regarding what to do and what not to do. If we eat our food by first offering it to Ishvara, we will automatically stop eating food that is not appropriate. If we offer all of our actions to Ishvara, we will not perform any illegal or unethical actions. Everything will automatically fall into place.
What is the result of taking refuge in Ishvara? The third part of the shloka assures the seeker that they will be liberated from all of their paapa, their sins. Sins in this context refers to the bondage of actions caused by our ego. If we perform all actions in service to Ishvara, and accept any success or failure as a gift from Ishvara, we will never harbour any worry or anxiety about the past or future. We will simple continue to fill our time in relentless service to Ishvara. Ultimately, we will reach a stage where our mind is purified of all selfishness, leading to the fourth part of the shloka, complete freedom from sorrow.
Shri Krishna ends this shloka with the words “do not grieve”. It is said that the core teaching of the Gita is complete, since the teaching was begun with a view to eliminate the cause of Arjuna’s sorrow, which is his ignorance of his true nature as the self.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 65, Chapter 18

manmanaa bhava madbhakto maddyaajee maam namaskuru |
maamevaishyasi satyam te pratijaane priyosi me || 65 ||

Fix your mind on me, become devoted to me, worship me, bow to me. You will reach me. This truth I declare to you, for you are dear to me.
manmanaahaa : fix your mind on me
bhava : become
madbhaktaha : devoted to me
maddyaajee : worship me
maam : me
namaskuru : bow
maam : me
eva : only
ishyasi : reach
satyam : truth
te : you
pratijaane : declare
priyaha : dear
asi : are
me : me
Shri Krishna now reveals the supreme statement, the essence of the Gita, in this shloka. The whole of the Gita comprises a comprehensive curriculum of spirituality. It is applicable for all kinds of seekers at all stages in their spiritual pursuit. A detailed study of the Gita requires several lifetimes. But, from a practical standpoint, is that aspect of the Gita that will benefit the majority of seekers who are stuck in the trappings of material world, not knowing how to take the first step. With this in mind, Shri Krishna provides a four point summary of the Gita.
The first point, and the main point, is that the seeker should fix their mind on Ishvara. How can this happen? The second point states that the seeker should become devoted to Ishvara. Devotion here means that the seeker’s actions and speech should support the mind in its attempt to fix itself on Ishvara. This will only happen when the entire day is filled with worship of Ishvara through one’s actions, which is the third point. If no actions are being performed, then the seeker can simply bow to Ishvara in reverence, which is the fourth point.
In the Srimad Bhaagavatam, when the great devotee Prahlad was asked by his father, the demon Hiranyakashipu, to reveal what he had learned in his school, Prahlad listed the nine fold aspects of bhakti, which is in line with this shloka. The nine forms of bhakti are hearing the name of Ishvara, repeating the name of Ishvara, remembering Ishvara, serving the feet of Isvhara, worshipping Ishvara, praising Ishvara, looking upon Ishvara as a master, treating Ishvara as a friend, and surrendering to Ishvara wholeheartedly.