The closing Chapter is a summary of the entire Gita. If the 2nd Chapter is its Profile, the 18th is its Review. This is the longest Chapter in the Gita having 78 Verses.
Moksha consists in securing lasting freedom from the bondage of mundane existence in the form of birth and death and realizing God who is no other than Bliss. Summing up the substance of all the previous Chapters, the present one discusses in detail, under the terms of ‘Sannyasa’ and ‘Tyaga’ respectively the paths of Knowledge and Action, both of which are the means to the attainment of Moksha.
It was explained that there are three types of personalities depending on their temperaments or Gunas. They are Sattwic-good, Rajasic-passionate and Tamasic-dull. This Chapter discusses how these Gunas create differences among individuals in their capacity to sacrifice, in their wisdom, in their actions, fortitude and happiness.
The teaching of the Gita has been wound up in Verse 66 of this Chapter with an exhortation to offer all actions to God who is the same as Moksha. It is for these reasons that this Chapter has been entitled “Moksha Sannyaasa Yoga” or Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation.
RENUNCIATION IS TO BE PRACTISED NOT TOWARDS WORK BUT TO THE FRUITS OF WORK
sannyaasasya mahaabaaho tattwam icchaami veditum
tyaagasya cha hrisheekesha prithak keshinishoodana // 18.1 //
I desire to know the true nature of sannyaasa and tyaga as distinguished from each other,
O mighty Hrishikesa, O Slayer of Kesi.
This Chapter begins with Arjuna's question seeking the precise definition of Sannyasa - renunciation and Tyaga - relinquishment. These terms are used in many places in different contexts in the Gita with apparent varying meanings. Sri Krishna replies this question exhaustively.
The central theme of this discourse revolves around the meanings of these two words. It guides us what types of tendencies, urges, impulses and motives are to be relinquished or abandoned so that true renunciation of the non-divinity in oneself can take place.
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
kaamyaanaam karmanaam nyaasam sannyaasam kavayoviduh
sarvakarmaphalatyaagam praahustyaagam vichakshanaah // 18.2 //
Sri Bhagavan said
The renunciation of works induced by desire is understood by the sages to be Sannyasa while the surrender of the fruits of all works is called tyaga by the wise.
Total giving up all desire-prompted activities is renunciation while giving up of the fruits of actions is relinquishment. On the face of it these two statements appear to have the same implication because desires are always for the fruits of actions. Although both mean giving up of desire, Sannyasa is giving up of desire motivated action while Tyaga is giving up of desire for the fruits of actions.
Action is the effort put forth at present to attain its fruit in future. The fruit is a culmination in future of the present action. A desire-prompted action relates to the present while anxiety to enjoy its reward which is a mental disturbance relates to the future in the time-frame. A disturbed mind cannot execute any action with efficiency. Thus renunciation is the goal to be reached through abandoning the anxiety for the enjoyment of the fruits of actions.
Both Sannyasa and Tyaga are disciplines in our activities. These terms do not indicate that work should be ignored. On the other hand Gita insists that we must always work. But work can be executed with efficiency if these two factors viz. desire prompted action and desire for its reward are eliminated in which case the work becomes an inspired and noble action.
Inertia or non-action is not the ideal. Action without any selfish desires or expectation of gain, performed in the spirit that `I am not the doer, I am surrendering myself to the Universal Self' is the ideal set before us. The Gita does not teach the complete renunciation of works but the conversion of all works into nishkama karma or desireless action.
tyaajyam doshavadityeke karma praahurmaneeshinah
yajnadaanatapahkarma na tyaajyamiti chaapare // 18.3 //
Some philosophers declare that all works should be relinquished as evil; others declare that acts of sacrifice, gift and austerity should not be given up.
As against the principles of work stated in the previous verse, some philosophers (Sankhyas) declare that action itself should be abandoned as an evil because they produce Vasanas obstructing the realization of the Self while some others say that acts of sacrifice (Yajna), charity (Dana) and austerity (Tapas) should never be given up.
However the imports of Sri Krishna’s teachings in the Gita is that only evil activities are to be renounced and that all the spiritual activities and one’s own duties should be pursued in a spirit of dedicated selfless devotion and thus transform the work itself as a homage to the Supreme.