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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.

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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.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 64, Chapter 18

sarvaguhyatam bhooyaha shrunu me paramam vachaha |
ishtosi me dridhamiti tato vakshyaami te hitam || 64 ||

 
Listen from me again, my supreme statement, most secret. You are my strong friend, that is why I will speak what is beneficial for you.
 
sarvaguhyatam : most secret
bhooyaha : again
shrunu : listen
me : from me
paramam : supreme
vachaha : statement
ishtaha : friend
asi : are
me : my
dridham : strong
iti : in this manner
tataha : that is why
vakshyaami : I will speak
te : you
hitam : beneficial
 
Every teacher has their own style, their own philosophy, for teaching complicated subjects. A good teacher is one who can not only impart the knowledge, but also, extract the big ideas out of the complexity and present it to the student in such a manner that it can be easily grasped. There is no point teaching a complex subject which students memorize for the sake of passing the exam, but forget it as soon as they submit their paper. Shri Krishna wanted to convey the essence of the Gita to Arjuna, so he addressed him again, after having concluded the teaching.
 
The Gita is a formidable text to understand thoroughly. It deals with karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnyaana yoga and raaja yoga. The same word is used differently in different contexts. For example, the word “aatmaa” is used to mean body, mind, intellect and the self. The Gita makes references to individuals from Vedic and Puraanic literature which requires further effort on the part of the teacher and the student. Seekers who approach the end of the teaching will appreciate a teacher who will extract its essence.
 
Shri Krishna also expresses his motivation for summarizing the teaching. He does not want any reward from Arjuna in return for this teaching. Nor is he doing so out of fear of anyone or anything. He only has a lot of affection for Arjuna, he regards Arjuna as a staunch friend, and he also knows what is the right teaching for the situation Arjuna finds himself in. Therefore, he wants to impart the supreme statement, the param vachaha, the essence of the Gita, that will provide the most benefit to Arjuna.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 63, Chapter 18

iti te jnaanamaakhyaatam guhyaadruhyaataram mayaa |
vimrishyaitadasheshena yathechhasi tathaa kuru || 63 ||

 
In this manner, I have declared that knowledge to you which is most secret among all secrets. Reflect on this fully, then do as you desire.
 
iti : in this manner
te : to you
jnaanam : knowledge
aakhyaatam : declared
guhyaat : of the secret
guhyaataram : most secret
mayaa : I have
vimrishya : reflect
etat : this
asheshena : fully
yatha : what
ichhasi : desire
tathaa : that
kuru : do
 
We have come across the word “iti” several times in the Gita discourse. It is always used to conclude a chapter, and also to conclude a major theme or topic. Here, Shri Krishna uses this word to inform Arjuna that the Gita discourse has concluded with this shloka. We have to note that the Gita is but one portion of the Mahaabhaarata epic. So the shlokas that follow this one are used to summarize the main teaching, and to link back to the conversation between Sanjaya and Dhritarashtra.
 
Shri Krishna also emphasizes the most secret aspect of this text. We have to understand the implication of the word secret here carefully. The Gita is by no means an exclusive text. There are several commentaries, including this one, that are freely available on the web. Most people will not approach the Gita due to their preconceived notions. Some think it is outdated, some think it is impractical and so on. Only a few people are interested in the Gita, and of those, fewer still are willing to understand and change their approach to life based on it.
 
For any spiritual teaching to have an impact on our lives, it has to go through three steps. Shravana is actively listening to the text through a qualified teacher. Manana is reflection on the teaching, with a view to resolve all doubts or gaps in logic. Nidhidhyaasana is meditation and constant contemplation, with a view to assimilate that teaching completely. Many seekers are enthusiastic listeners, but they make the mistake of skipping the second step. In doing so, they are not able to see the value of the teaching in their own lives. Shri Krishna stresses the importance of reflection to Shri Krishna. He also gives Arjuna the freedom to apply the teaching based on this understanding born of out of reflection, instead of taking it at face value.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 62, Chapter 18

tameva sharanam gaccha sarvabhaavena bhaarata |
tatprasaadaatparamaam shaantim sthaanam praapsyasi shaashvatam || 62 ||

 
Take refuge wholeheartedly in him only, O Bhaarata. With his grace you will attain supreme peace and the eternal abode.
 
tam : him
eva : only
sharanam : refuge
gaccha : take
sarvabhaavena : wholeheartedly
bhaarata : O Bhaarata
tatprasaadaat : with his grace
paramaam : supreme
shaantim : peace
sthaanam : abode
praapsyasi : you will attain
shaashvatam : eternal
 
Imagine that a mother is cooking in the kitchen. Her twins are playing in the hall. It is time for their next meal. One twin has learned how to walk before the other twin, and so, walks across the hall to drink his glass of milk. Frustrated at his efforts to walk, the second twin cries out to his mother. The mother immediately rushes to lift him up and give him his glass of milk. She knows that the first child does not need her help, but the second one does.
 
Shri Krishna says that for people who are still in stuck in the material world, who cannot renounce it in order to gain knowledge about the eternal essence, do have a shot at liberation. This can only happen by taking refuge in Ishvara. But this is no ordinary kind of refuge. It is sarve bhavena, it is wholehearted surrender, also known as sharanaagati. We cannot partially take refuge in Ishvara and also take refuge in material entities such as wealth, power and influence. We cannot hedge our bets in this manner. It has to be complete surrender to Ishvara.
 
So what is the result of sharanaagati? It is the grace, the prasaada, of Ishvara. It is like the mother automatically lifting the child, without any effort of the child. This grace removes all impurities from the mind, resulting in supreme peace, parama shaanti. We stop worrying about our food, clothing and shelter, since we realize it was always in the hands of Ishvara. We simply carry on performing our duty. In time, through the grace of Ishvara, the seeker attains the eternal abode, the shaashvata sthaanam of Ishvara, which is liberation from all sorrow.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 61, Chapter 18

eeshavaraha sarvabhootaanaam hriddesherjuna tishthati |
bhraamayansarvabhootaani yantraroodhaani maayayaa || 61 ||

 
Ishvara is seated in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, spinning all beings mounted on a machine by maaya.
 
eeshavaraha : Ishvara
sarvabhootaanaam : in all beings
hriddeshe : in the hearts
arjuna : O Arjuna
tishthati : seated
bhraamayan : spinning
sarvabhootaani : all beings
yantraroodhaani : mounted on a machine
maayayaa : by maaya
 
Quake was one of the first wildly successful multiplayer video games. Any person could participate in the video game as long as they were connected to the Internet. Players were placed in a virtual world where they could form teams with other players from across the world. Players would win points for shooting a member of the opposing team, and lose points if they would get shot. The creator of the Quake game had no influence on the outcome of the game, other than setting the rules of the game when it was created.
 
Shri Krishna says that the universe is like a gigantic video game set in motion by Ishvara. This video game is maayaa, also known as Prakriti, which is comprised of the three gunaas. By itself, maaya is insentient, it cannot do anything on its own. The eternal essence reflected in maaya adds sentience to maaya, it injects life into maaya by becoming the individual soul, the jeeva. In this way, each jeeva loses its connection with the eternal essence, and is stuck in this massive machine, this massive video game known as maaya.
 
So then, how can the jeeva liberate itself from this never ending video game of maaya? Does the jeeva have a chance? Is there any such thing as free will, or are we just slaves of maaya? The clue lies in the fact that maaya is subservient to Ishvara. If we only rely on maaya, if we only spend our lives attached to the material world, we will never have a chance at liberation. But if we direct our efforts towards knowing the true nature of Ishvara, towards contacting Ishvara, there may be a shot at liberation. Fortunately, he is not in some remote heaven, he is seated within us. How should we approach him? This is taken up next.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 60, Chapter 18

svabhaavajena kaunteya nibaddhaha svena karmanaa |
kartum nechhasi yanmohaatkarishyasyavashopi tat || 60 ||

 
Being bound by your own duty arising out of your nature, O Kaunteya, you will helplessly do that which you do not want to do now, due to delusion.
 
svabhaavajena : arising out of nature
kaunteya : O Kaunteya
nibaddhaha : being bound
svena : own
karmanaa : duty
kartum : do
na : do not
ichhasi : want
yat : which
mohaat : delusion
karishyasi : do
avashaha : helpless
api : certainly
tat : that
 
As Sant Jnyaneshwar says in his commentary, it is impossible for the westward current in a river to flow eastward, and a seed planted in fertile land to not germinate. There are other such examples in the world which illustrate the impossibility of suppressing one’s own natural tendencies. Bookies that are sentenced to prison start operating gambling dens inside the prison itself. Unethical businessmen who get elected into political office sell election seats to the highest bidder.
 
Shri Krishna continues to convince Arjuna that the decision to quit the war will not work. Arjuna is the perfect embodiment of a kshatriya, a warrior, possessing all the qualities listed earlier in the chapter. Quitting the war would temporarily have suppressed his fighter instinct, but only temporarily. In due course of time, the force of his vaasanaas, the force of his mental impressions would have impelled him to fight the war he had fled. Worse still, shutting off his fighter instincts through coercion would have driven him to insanity.
 
Arjuna would probably have been convinced about the need to fight the war, since it was clear that he could not walk away from fulfilling his duty, and that he could not forcefully choke his inherent warrior instincts. If we were to take this argument to its conclusion, it means that we are helpless under the influence of our natural tendencies. But there has to be way out of this, otherwise there is no scope for liberation. Shri Krishna answers this doubt through an illustration in the next shloka.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 59, Chapter 18

yadahankaaramaashritya na yotsya iti manyase |
mithyaisha vyavasaayaste prakritistvaam niyokshati || 59 ||

 
Relying on that egoism, you think – I will not fight. This determination of yours is wrong. Your nature will compel you.
 
yat : that
ahankaaram : egoism
aashritya : relying
na : not
yotsye : fight
iti : in this manner
manyase : think
mithyaa : wrong
esha : this
vyavasaayaha : determination
te : your
prakritihi : nature
tvaam : you
niyokshati : compel
 
Right at the beginning of the Mahaabhaarata war, when Arjuna asked Shri Krishna whether to fight or not, Shri Krishna could have given the answer right away. But he decided to deliver the discourse of the Gita instead, not just for Arjuna’s benefit but for the benefit of all future seekers. Having done so, he now vehemently points out the flaw in Arjuna’s decision. He says, in crystal clear language, that the decision to not fight is wrong. It is purely ego-driven, and not in line with Arjuna’s duty as a warrior.
 
In our personal experience, we come across stories of children who were misfits in their families and communities simply because their prakriti, their nature, their samskaaraas, were completely different. A family of doctors cannot get along with their son because he wants to become a musician. A family of traders is upset because their daughter wants to join the government civil service. Such conflict is a cause of endless frustration for families across the board, and there is no easy solution, because it is hard to change one’s mental makeup.
 
Why do parents want to foist its career path onto their children? It is purely due to ego. Parents have a strong sense of mine-ness with regards to their children. They prefer not to think of their children as independent entities. The egos of parents derive strength from this sense of mine-ness, and insist that they have the power to reshape the destiny of their children. Similarly, Arjuna also assumed that he could override his nature as a warrior, and become a monk. Shri Krishna reminded him that his inherent nature as a warrior would compel him to fight, and that he should reconsider his decision.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 58, Chapter 18

macchitaha sarvadurguni matprasaadaattarishyasi |
atha chettvamahankaaraanna shrosyasi vinamksyasi || 58 ||

 
With your mind fixed on me, you will overcome all challenges through my grace. However, if you do not listen out of egoism, you shall be destroyed.
 
macchitaha : mind fixed on me
sarvadurguni : all challenges
matprasaadaat : through my grace
tarishyasi : overcome
atha : but
chet : however
tvam : you
ahankaaraat : out of egoism
na : not
shrosyasi : listen
vinamksyasi : destroyed
 
We notice a sudden shift in Shri Krishna’s tone here. Having completed the Gita discourse, he wants to bring Arjuna back to solving his original dilemma, whether to fight in a battle against his kinsmen, or whether to flee the battlefield and live the life of a monk. In the first chapter, we saw that Arjuna had completely broken down due to this dilemma, and had accepted Shri Krishna as his teacher to resolve it. Furthermore, at several points in the Gita discourse, Arjuna had asked questions that indicated his desire to flee the battlefield, rather than fight.
 
As the discourse came to its conclusion, Shri Krishna wanted to clearly point out to Arjuna that observing his duty as a warrior was the solution to his dilemma. This also meant that he had to stop listening to his ego, and listen to Ishvara. In fact, he had to completely submit himself to Ishvara’s will, by fixing his mind or chitta on Ishvara, and accepting the results of all actions as praasaada, a gift from Ishvara. Shri Krishna promised Arjuna that he will overcome all durguna, all challenges, if he performed his duty in this fashion.
 
However, like Arjuna, most of us harbour extremely strong egos, that have become hardened over the course of our life, and probably, of several lives. We have strong attachments, strong likes and dislikes that can cloud our thinking, just like strong attachment to family clouded Arjuna’s thinking. Only a qualified teacher, a guru, can raise us from the level of ego-driven living, and guide us towards the path of selfless service. Following the command of the ego can only lead us to vinaasha or destruction in the form of entrenchment in the material world.