Ch 18 Yoga of Single-pointed Surrender (Part 1)

This article is part 96 of 135 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga


Vistarisida dharma-tattva-gaḻan-īgaḻ saṃ- ।
kṣiptadi peḻvaṃ guru tan-
nāpta-sakha-vyāja-diṃde loka-hitārthaṃ ॥ 1 ॥

For the benefit of the world,
on the pretext of his friend
The Guru now briefly
Explains the principles of dharma
That he described in chapters seventeen.

ḍharmada nija-para-hitārtha-saṃskāragaḻaṃ ॥
nirmaman-adhidharmateyaṃ ।
nirmalinada yajña-dāna-tapagaḻa vidhiyaṃ ॥ 2 ॥

(He expounds) the method of worshipping with the flowers of karma
Preparing one to do good to oneself and others
Practising detachment and thus going beyond dharma
And performing yajña, dāna and tapas with purity.

mana-vāg-dehaṃgaḻā śi-
kṣaṇeyaṃ prakṛtia vimiśra-guṇa-śodhaneyaṃ ॥
nanu-vadipaṃ hariy-amogha-jīvana-nayamaṃ ॥3 ॥

Hari explains the training of the mind, speech and body
Filtering the mixture of guṇas driven by prakṛti,
Of having śraddhā only in Bhagavān
Thus, he reiterates the conduct that makes life fruitful.


The concluding chapter of the Gītā - a veritable lamp showing us the path to a fulfilling life - gives great courage and fortitude to people who are immersed in worldly karma. Here, Bhagavān explains the necessity of karma that is devoid of desire for results and is performed only as a service to Īsvara. He propounds the principle that it is not the renouncing of karma that elevates the jīva, but giving up the results of karma. Karma provides the jīva an opportunity to get rid of its selfishness. The jīva is blessed with many innate capabilities and qualities. The practice of using these natural abilities for the benefit of the world increases sattva in the jīva. Through that, it also makes life meaningful.

The natural differences that are present in the composition of the universe itself are the basis for the system of varṇa. The  objective of this system is to benefit society from the constructive aspects of the nature of each person. The two goals of dhārmic karma are — the prosperity of the individual jīva and the sustenance of the world. Following one’s own svadharma that is in accordance with one’s nature is the way to elevate oneself. The instruction of svadharma that is the crown-jewel of the Gītā-śāstra is especially necessary in our times - when incompetence and complexity are prevalent in all fields of work. This teaching is indeed most suitable to be practised by all.

Bhagavān enumerates the steps on the ladder of the jīva’s progress such as  being immersed in one’s own duties, fortitude (dhṛti), self-control (saṃyama), selflessness (nirahaṅkāra), and non-covetousness (aparigraha). He delineates the qualities of a Brahma-realised-person such as equanimity and devotion only towards Parabrahma. Further, he declares there is no opposition between the performance of karma and dharma and the knowledge of the highest truth. He explains that it is futile to oppose karma that is impelled by prakṛti. As part of this instruction is an exposition of the mechanism of the machinery of the universe which is worthy of constant contemplation.
Karma should be performed before the dawn of Brahma-knowledge, and after that as well. While karma is an instrument when a man is a seeker of knowledge, it becomes his second nature once the knowledge is attained. Being free of infatuation and hatred (rāga and dveṣa), and keeping the mind composed and clear are all duties for a seeker, and are attainable only with effort. For a jñāni, however, freedom from infatuation and a clear mind are natural and effortless, joyful and playful. The view of a seeker is admixed with ego; but that of the jñāni is with a view that everything is Brahma, and is for the happiness and well-being of all.

Section 19 / Chapter 18 / Mokṣa-saṃnyāsa-yogaTadeka-śaraṇatā-yoga

(The yoga of single-pointed surrender)

This is the last chapter of the Gītā. Here, Svāmī summarises the instructions from all the previous chapters, and in conclusion teaches an great method that can be adopted by one and all. In one word, it is “tad-eka-śaraṇatā” — taking refuge in him alone.
The following topics are dealt with in this chapter :

  1. The difference between saṃnyāsa and tyāga
  2. The necessity of karma
  3. The part of the divine in karma
  4. Kartṛtva is characteristic of jīva.
  5. The following triads similar to the guṇa-triad -
    1. Jñāna-triad
    2. Karma-triad
    3. Kartṛ-triad
    4. Buddhi-triad
    5. Dhṛti-triad
    6. Sukha-triad
  6. Mutual dependence among men — the system of varṇa that facilitates it.
  7. The greatness of svadharma
  8. Karma as a service to Bhagavān
  9. The inevitability of war for Arjuna
  10. The nature of the Māyā of Īśvara
  11. Seeking refuge from Īśvara alone
  12. The results obtained by studying the Gītā.

There is a warning for us all in the way this chapter begins. In the previous chapters, Arjuna had said a few times that his doubts were cleared and that he was satisfied.

moho’yaṃ vigato mama ॥

BG 11.1

idānīm asmi saṃvṛttaḥ ॥

BG 11.51

In spite of that, his doubts were not ending. Even in this last chapter, he asks —

saṃnyāsasya tattvamicchāmi vedituṃ tyāgasya ca ॥

BG 18.1

What is the principle of saṃnyāsa? What is the principle of tyāga?

If Arjuna, who thought he was satisfied with Bhagavān’s instruction was riddled thus again and again with new doubts, what to say of us, ordinary mortals? We might feel for a moment that we have understood everything and there are no doubts remaining. That is a deluding satisfaction; there will be a new doubt in the very next moment; we forget what was said earlier, or some aspect might not be clear to our minds. In this way, there will be uncertainty and doubt at every step. This topic is deep and very complex; our belief will not become firm unless each and every aspect is clearly understood. To get that clarity, it is not enough to listen to a lecture once or read the text twice. It should be repeated again and again in the mind. The text should be recalled again and again (The word used in the original is āloḍanè). The mind should be stirred with the meaning of the text and the text should be deeply researched with the mind. Only if the text is examined and deliberated upon again and again in this way can this topic be understood, and certainly not just by superficially familiarising oneself with the letters and the verses.

The question asked now by Arjuna had already been answered many times. It was the main subject of the fifth chapter.

saṃnyāsaḥ karmayogaśca niḥśreyasa-karāv-ubhau ।
ṭayostu karma-saṃnyāsāt karma-yogo viśiṣyate ॥

BG 5.2

“Both karma-saṃnyāsa and karma-yoga can help in attaining mokṣa. Among those two, karma-yoga is better than karma-saṃnyāsa.

Svāmi makes it clearer now —

kāmyānāṃ karmaṇāṃ nyāsaṃ saṃnyāsaṃ kavayo viduḥ ।
sarva-karma-phala-tyāgaṃ prāhus-tyāgaṃ vicakṣaṇāḥ ॥

BG 18.2

Saṃnyāsa is renunciation of karmas motivated by desire. Tyāga is giving up all results of karma.”

Thus, Bhagavān shows a subtle difference between saṃnyāsa and tyāga. These two words are often used interchangeably. Speaking at a gross level, they both do mean the same; however, there is a subtle difference between them, which Svāmī explains.

We have seen earlier that karma is of many kinds. There are three main types:

  1. Laukika karma : This is of the form of one’s profession, interaction with others, friendship and other relationships, neighbourly actions, duties towards one’s country and so on. It is a training to the jīva on one’s obligations to society.
  2. Vaidika nitya-karma: This is karma of the form of worshipping the divine, depending on one’s varṇa and āśrama, on one’s religion and tradition. The main objective of these karmas is training to the jīva — introspection and teaching the manas.
  3. Vaidika kāmya-karma: This is also worship of the divine. However, it has a selfish objective, lower than that of saṃskāra to the jīva. Various vratas, dīkṣas and pūjas performed to obtain health, wealth, children and status belong to this category. Yajñas like agniṣṭoma and aśvamedha are also kāmya-karmas.

Saṃnyāsa is giving up kāmya-karmas. A Saṃnyāsin does not have to perform varalaksmī-vrata, nāga-pratiṣṭha or circumambulate the aśvattha tree. A saṃnyāsin need not perform any karma with a view of worldly benefit. However, he has to perform nitya-karmas such as japa and snāna.

kāmyānāṃ karmaṇāṃ nyāsam ॥

BG 18.2

In this context, “nyāsa” means giving up. To etymologically derive “saṃnyāsa”, the word “nyāsa” is useful.

What, then, is tyāga?

sarva-karma-phala-tyagaṃ prāhus-tyāgam ॥

BG 18.2

Renunciation of the results of all karmas is tyāga.

The concept here is not giving up karma, but giving up the results of karma. A saṃnyāsin gives up only kāmya-karmas. A tattvajña gives up the results of all his karmas. Karma is inevitable for all of us who are still embodied. Even a jñāni performs laukika-karmas. Why is that? He performs those karmas without any desire — for his own conditioning, for the love of the Bhagavān and to help the world. A tyāgī — whether he wears ochre robes signifying saṃnyāsa or not — gives up the results of all karmas for the love of Paramātmā.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.



Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.



Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.


Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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Shiva-Rama-Krishna is an English adaptation of Śatāvadhāni Dr. R Ganesh's popular lecture series on the three great...


ಮಹಾಮಾಹೇಶ್ವರ ಅಭಿನವಗುಪ್ತ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ವಿದ್ಯಾವಲಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಮರೆಯಲಾಗದ ಹೆಸರು. ಮುಖ್ಯವಾಗಿ ಶೈವದರ್ಶನ ಮತ್ತು ಸೌಂದರ್ಯಮೀಮಾಂಸೆಗಳ ಪರಮಾಚಾರ್ಯನಾಗಿ  ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಂದ ಇವನು ಜ್ಞಾನಪ್ರಪಂಚವನ್ನು ಪ್ರಭಾವಿಸುತ್ತಲೇ ಇದ್ದಾನೆ. ಭರತಮುನಿಯ ನಾಟ್ಯಶಾಸ್ತ್ರವನ್ನು ಅರ್ಥಮಾಡಿಕೊಳ್ಳಲು ಇವನೊಬ್ಬನೇ ನಮಗಿರುವ ಆಲಂಬನ. ಇದೇ ರೀತಿ ರಸಧ್ವನಿಸಿದ್ಧಾಂತವನ್ನು...


“वागर्थविस्मयास्वादः” प्रमुखतया साहित्यशास्त्रतत्त्वानि विमृशति । अत्र सौन्दर्यर्यशास्त्रीयमूलतत्त्वानि यथा रस-ध्वनि-वक्रता-औचित्यादीनि सुनिपुणं परामृष्टानि प्रतिनवे चिकित्सकप्रज्ञाप्रकाशे। तदन्तर एव संस्कृतवाङ्मयस्य सामर्थ्यसमाविष्कारोऽपि विहितः। क्वचिदिव च्छन्दोमीमांसा च...

The Best of Hiriyanna

The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...