na tadasti prithvyaam vaa divi deveshu vaa punaha |
sattvam prakritijairmuktam yadebhihi syaattribhirgunaihe || 40 ||

 
There is no being on earth, or in heaven, or among the gods, or also in heaven, which can be free from the three gunaas born of Prakriti.
 
na : no
tat : that
asti : is
prithvyaam : on earth
vaa : or
divi : in heaven
deveshu : among gods
vaa : or
punaha : or also
sattvam : being
prakritijaihi : born of Prakriti
muktam : free
yat : which
ebhihi : these
syaat : there is
tribhihi : three
gunaihe : from gunaas
 
We are at the halfway mark of the eighteenth shloka, so let us recap what we have come across so far. The chapter began with Arjuna asking Shri Krishna about the difference between sanyaasa and tyaaga. Shri Krishna did not answer this question directly, but addressed the topic of karma yoga, which is the same as tyaaga. He ended this topic by declaring that the consequence or the fruit of action binds those who are attached to personal reward, and does not bind to those who are not attached. Next, he analyzed knowledge, action, agent, intellect, fortitude and happiness with the framework of the three gunaas, which is concluded with this shloka.
 
Shri Krishna summarizes this analysis by proclaiming the dominion of the three gunaas. He says that there is no being, object or entity, living or inert, that is beyond the influence of the gunaas. The gunaas work throughout the universe, and not just in a certain part of it, like the earth. We may be tempted to take this proclamation in a negative sense by accepting that there is no escape from the grip of Prakriti, no liberation. But that is not the case. The proclamation is meant to reinforce one of the central messages of the Gita, which is that Prakriti by itself is not the problem, it is our identification with Prakriti that is the problem we need to tackle.
 
The nature of this predicament was referenced in the fifteenth chapter through the illustration of the upside down tree which comprises the three gunaas. Only through the axe of detachment can this tree be destroyed. But, given that everything ultimately is under the influence of Prakriti, how can such a weapon be obtained? How can the identification with Prakriti be ended? Before this fundamental question is taken up, Shri Krishna spends a few shlokas on another preparatory topic next.

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