Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 18 verse 56-66

Renunciation of all works is necessary for absolute perfection.

Then alone can the well-ascertained teaching of all scriptures—i.e., the Upanishads, Itihāsas, Purāṇas and Smṛiti —enjoining retirement have a meaning.

The scriptural texts are such as the following:

Knowing It, they renounce and lead a mendicant life.”— (Bri. Up. 3-5-9).

Wherefore they say that renunciation is excellent among these austerities.”— (Yājñiki-Up. 79).

Renunciation excels.”— (Ibid. 78).

Sannyāsa is the renunciation of actions.”

Having abandoned Vedas, this world and the next,” etc.—(Āpastamba-Dharmasūtra, 2-23-13).

Renounce dharma and a-dharma.”

And so on.

Here, in the Gītā also, passages of similar import (such as v. 12) occur. It cannot be held that these passages are meaningless.

Nor can it be held that they are Arthavādas, mere explanatory or incidental remarks (not meant as obligatory injunctions); for, they occur in the sections which specially treat of renunciation.

Moreover, renunciation of works is necessary) because Moksha consists in the realisation of the immutability of one’s own Inner Self.

He who wishes to reach the eastern sea should not indeed travel in the opposite direction, i. e., by the same road that the man who wishes to go to the western sea chooses.

And the Devotion of Knowledge (jñāna- nishthā) consists in an intent effort to establish a continuous current of the idea of the Inner Self (Pratyagātman);

and there would be a conflict if that devotion were to be con­joined with ritual (karma), which is like going towards the western sea.

It is a firm conviction of philosophers that the difference between the two is as wide as that between a mountain and a mustard seed.

Hence the conclusion that the Devotion of Knowledge (jñāna-nishthā) should be practised by renouncing all action.

Devotion to the Lord by works enjoined.

The perfection accruing as the fruit of that Bhakti-Yoga which consists in worshipping the Lord through one’s own duties qualifies the aspirant for the Devotion of Knowledge which culminates in moksha.

This Bhakti-Yoga, the Yoga of Devotion to the Lord, is extolled here, in this section which sums up the teaching of the śāstra, with a view to firmly impress that teaching.

56. Doing continually all actions whatsoever, taking refuge in Me,—by My Grace he reaches the eternal undecaying Abode.

Shankara's commentary:

Doing all actions including even the prohibited actions, whoso seeks refuge in Me, Vāsudeva, the Lord, with his whole self centred in Me, reaches the eternal Abode of Vishṇu by the Grace of the Lord.


57. Mentally resigning all deeds to Me, regard­ing Me as the Supreme, resorting to mental con­centration, do thou ever fix thy heart in Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Mentally: with discriminative faith. All actions: producing visible and invisible results. Me: the Lord. As taught in ix. 27, do thou dedicate all thy actions to Me.

Regarding: regarding Me, Vāsudeva, as the highest goal; his whole self centred in Me. Resorting, etc.: resorting to the Buddhi-Yoga (samāhita -buddhitva, steady-mindedness, firm faith) as thy sole refuge.

58. Fixing thy heart in Me, thou shalt, by My Grace, cross over all difficulties; but if from ego­tism thou wilt not hear (Me), thou shalt perish.

Shankara's commentary:

Difficulties: the impassable obstacles arising from (avidya), the cause of saṁsāra.

Egotism: the idea that thou art a learned man. If thou wilt not abide by my advice, then thou shalt be ruined.

Neither shouldst thou think, “I am independent; why should I obey the dictates of another”?

59. If, indulging egotism, thou thinkest ‘I will not fight,’ vain is this, thy resolve; nature will constrain thee.

Shankara's commentary:

Thinkest: resolvest. Vain: for, thy nature as a Kshatriya will constrain thee to do so.

Also because,

60. Bound (as thou art), O son of Kuntī, by thy own nature-born act, that which from delu­sion thou likest not to do, thou shalt do, though against thy will.

Shankara's commentary:

Nature-born: such as prowess, etc., mentioned above (xviii. 43). Against thy will: in subjection to some external force.


61. The Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, O Arjuna, whirling by Māyā all beings (as if) mounted on a machine.

Shankara's commentary:

The Lord (Īśvara): the Ruler, Nārāyaṇa.

Arjuna: pure in the internal self, of a pure antaḥ-karaṇa. The word “Arjuna” is used in the sense of ‘pure’ in the Rig-Veda, “The dark day and the light day.” (6-9-1).

He causes all beings to revolve as if—‘as if’ being understood—mounted on machines, like wooden dolls mounted on a machine. By Māyā: by causing illusion. ‘Whirling’ should be construed with ‘dwells.’

62. Fly unto Him for refuge with all thy being, O Bhārata; by His Grace shalt thou obtain supreme peace (and) the eternal resting place.

Shankara's commentary:

Seek thou that Lord as thy sole Refuge with thy whole being for relief from the distress of saṁsāra.

Then, by His Grace, thou shalt obtain supreme peace and attain to My— i. e., Vishṇu’s—Supreme Eternal Abode.

63. Thus has wisdom, more secret than all that is secret, been declared to thee by Me; reflect, thou over it all and act as thou pleasest.

Shankara's commentary:

Me: the Omniscient Lord. It: the Śāstra, the teaching declared above. All: everything that has been taught.

Devotion to the Lord is the Secret of success in Karma-Yoga.

Listen to what I am again going to say:

64. Hear thou again My word supreme, the most secret of all; because thou art My firm friend, therefore will I tell thee what is good.

Shankara's commentary:

Again: though it has been more than once declared. I do not tell thee either from fear or from hope of reward;

thou art My firm friend, thou art ever beloved of Me; and for this reason I shall tell thee of the supreme good, the means of attaining knowledge. This last is, indeed, the highest of all kinds of good.

What is it?

—The Lord says:

65. Fix thy thought on Me, be devoted to Me, worship Me, do homage to Me. Thou shalt reach Myself. The truth do I declare to thee; (for) thou art dear to Me.

Shankara's commentary:

Thou shalt reach Myself: thus acting—i. e., looking up to Vāsudeva alone as thy aim, means, and end—thou shalt come to Me. In this matter I make a solemn promise.

— The meaning of the verse is this:

Thus, knowing that the Lord’s declarations are true, and being convinced that moksha is a necessary result of devotion to the Lord, one should look to the Lord as the highest and sole Refuge.

Right Knowledge and Renunciation.

Having taught in conclusion that the supreme secret of the Devotion of Karma-Yoga, is the regarding of the Lord as the sole Refuge,

the Lord now proceeds to speak of the Right Knowledge, the fruit of the Devotion of Karma- Yoga, as taught in the essential portions of all the Vedāntas (Upanishads):

66. Abandoning all righteous deeds, seek Me as thy sole Refuge: I will liberate thee from all sins: do thou not grieve.

Shankara's commentary:

Righteous deeds (dharma): including unrighteous deeds (a-dharma) also, since naiṣkarmya or freedom from all action is intended to be taught here.

Here may be cited such passages of the śruti and the smṛiti as the following:

Not he who has not abstained from evil deed...can attain It.”— (Kaṭha-Up. 1-2-24)

Abandon dharma and a-dharma.”

So, the passage means “renouncing all works.” Me alone: the Īśvara, the Self of all, dwelling the same in all.

Seek Me as thy sole Refuge: in the belief “I myself am that Īśvara,” i.e., do thou understand that there is naught else except Me.

When thou art firm in this faith, I shall liberate thee from all sins, from all bonds of dharma and a-dharma, by manifesting Myself as thy own Self.

So it has been already said here,

I destroy the darkness born of ignorance by the luminous lamp of wisdom, abiding in their self.”— (x.11.)

Wherefore do thou not grieve.