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.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 57, Chapter 18

chetasaa sarvakarmaani mayi sanyasya matparaha |
buddhiyogaamupaashritya macchitaha satatam bhava || 57 ||

Mentally surrender all actions to me, designate me as the supreme goal, fix your mind on me by depending upon the yoga of intellect.
chetasaa : mentally
sarvakarmaani : all actions
mayi : to me
sanyasya : surrender
matparaha : me as supreme goal
buddhiyogam : yoga of intellect
upaashritya : depending upon
macchitaha : mind fixed on me
satatam : always
bhava : make
Shri Krishna summarizes karma yoga and bhakti yoga in this shloka. As we saw in the previous shloka, we need to continue performing our duty, and not to worry too much if we inadvertently perform a prohibited action, and to consider Ishvara as the one and only one aashraya, the ultimate refuge. How does this actually work in practice? A step by step approach towards karma yoga and bhakti yoga is enumerated in this shloka for the convenience of the seeker.
First, the seeker should fix Ishvara as his ultimate goal. This is mat paraha, one who is completely oriented towards Ishvara. Next, such a seeker should surrender all his actions to Ishvara. In the ninth chapter, Shri Krishna had said – whatever you do, whatever you consume, whatever you offer or donate, and whatever penance you perform, submit it to me. This is sarvakarmaani sanyasya. Nothing is done for selfish ends such as wealth, power, position, vanity and so on. All is done for Ishvara only.
Now, when the seeker faces challenges in life, he needs to have a method to deal with them. Equanimity is the answer. All actions are performed with full awareness and knowledge, as an offering to Ishvara. No action is perform haphazardly. Once the action is complete, the seeker should neither be attached to success, nor to failure. Such an attitude will only develop as a result of accepting every object, person or situation encountered in life as a gift or a praasada from Ishvara. This is buddhi yoga, as described in the second chapter.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 56, Chapter 18

sarvakarmaanyapi sadaa kurvaano madvyapaashrayaha |
matprasaadaadavaapnoti shaashvatam padamavyayam || 56 ||

Always engaging even in all actions, one who considers me as his refuge, through my grace attains that eternal, imperishable state.
sarvakarmaani : all actions
api : even
sadaa : always
kurvaanaha : engaging
madvyapaashrayaha : one to whom I am the refuge
matprasaadaat : through my grace
avaapnoti : attains
shaashvatam : eternal
padam : state
avyayam : imperishable
Arjuna, after having heard the final message of the Gita discourse, would probably have had felt quite dejected and sad, like many of us. Unless one gave up all actions, took up a life of a monk, lived in a secluded place and contemplated constantly upon the eternal essence, liberation is not possible. How many of us, who are currently quite entrenched in the world, can see ourselves taking up a path of monkhood? It is next to impossible. We may begin to think that the Gita is not for us.
Anticipating this frustration, Shri Krishna brought the discourse back to Arjuna’s level, as it were. Arjuna, like us, was not in a state to renounce his actions and retire to a state of monkhood. Shri Krishna reassured Arjuna that liberation is absolutely possible for such people. It is because of one key point. Whether one continues to act in this world, or takes up renunciation, liberation is entirely up to the grace of Ishvara. We can make all the preparations we want to fall asleep, but ultimately, whether or not we fall asleep is not in our hands.
So then, having known this, Arjuna, who had temporarily given up hope of attaining the shaashvata avyaya padam, the eternal and imperishable state of liberation, regained his interest in the discourse. Shri Krishna now began winding up the entire Gita, by summarizing its key aspects from a very practical standpoint. The simple practical advice given here is to continue performing our duty, not to worry too much if we inadvertently perform a prohibited action, and to consider Ishvara as the one and only one aashraya, the ultimate refuge.

Bhagavad Gita Verse 55, Chapter 18

bhaktyaa maamabhijaanaati yaavaanyashchaasmi tattvataha |
tato maam tattvato jnyaatvaa vishate tadanantaram || 55 ||

Through devotion he knows me in essence, what I am and who I am. Then, having known me in essence, he enters into me immediately.
bhaktyaa : through devotion
maam : me
abhijaanaati : knows
yaavaan : what I am
yaha : who
cha : and
asmi : I am
tattvataha : in essence
tataha : then
maam : me
tattvataha : in essence
jnyaatvaa : known
vishate : enters into me
tadanantaram : immediately
Shri Krishna describes the final stage, the ultimate goal, of the sanyaasi in the shloka. So far, the monk only had a conceptual understanding of Ishvara’s true nature. But, when his devotion to Ishvara reached its peak, when his individuality has been destroyed, when he sees Ishvara as his own self and not someone standing outside of him, he understand what Ishvara is in his essence. When that happens, his identity merges with Ishvara’s identity. He enters, he merges into Ishvara. Knowing Ishvara in essence and merging into Ishvara are the same.
So then, this is true jnyaana, true knowledge. Shri Shankaraachaarya describes this pure understanding of Ishvara as one without a second, absolute, awareness, birthless, ageless, immortal, fearless and deathless. This is the meaning of the word yaha, meaning who I am, in the shloka. The word yaavaan, what I am, refers to the differences in Ishvara creates by his upaadhis, by his maaya. The ability to arrive at this distinction is the culmination of the seeker’s efforts towards chitta shuddi, towards purifying his mind.
Now, what is the connection here between devotion and knowledge, between bhakti and jnyaana? It is said that jnyaana is the fruit of bhakti. When bhakti ripes, jnyaana arises. Bhakti cleanses the mind of all its impurities, and consequently, removes the sense of separation or individuality between the seeker and the world. The seeker, having understood that his self and Ishvara’s self are one and the same, having understood the “asi” in “tat tvam asi”, “you are that”, he merges into Ishvara. The highest teaching of the Gita has been concluded with this shloka.