Talks on the Gita -Vinoba 216

Chapter 18
101. Arjuna’s Last Question

1. Dear brothers, by the grace of the Lord, we have now reached the last Chapter. In this world of chance and change, fulfillment of any resolve depends on the will of the Lord. Jail life, in particular, is marked by uncertainty at every step. It is difficult to expect that any work started here would be completed here itself. It was also not expected that these discourses on the Gita would be completed here; but the Lord willed so, and hence we have been able to reach the end of the Gita.

2. In the Fourteenth Chapter, life or karma was divided into three categories: sattvik, rajasik and tamasik. We learnt that what is rajasik or tamasik should be given up and what is sattvik should be cultivated. The Seventeenth Chapter taught the same thing in a different way. The essence of life is yajna-danatapas; or to use a single word, yajna. Actions like eating which are necessary for the performance of yajna should also be made sattvik and turned into a kind of yajna. Only such actions should be done; all others should be given up. This was hinted at in the Seventeenth Chapter. We also saw why we should constantly remember the mantra ऊँ तत् सत् (om tat sat). ऊँ denotes constancy, tat denotes detachment and sat denotes purity. Our sadhana should have these three things: constancy, detachment and purity. Only then can it be dedicated to the Lord. All this indicates that only some and not all of the actions are to be renounced. If we look at the whole message of the Gita, we find it advocating at several places that actions are not to be renounced. What it asks us to renounce is the fruit of actions. Everywhere in the Gita it is taught that we should act ceaselessly and renounce the fruit of our actions. But this is one side of it. The other side appears to be that certain actions should be renounced while certain other actions should be done. That is why Arjuna asks, at the beginning of the Eighteenth Chapter, “On the one hand, it is said that whatever action we do, it should be followed by renunciation of its fruit (falatyaga) and on the other hand, it also appears that some actions must be strictly abjured while some actions should be done. How to reconcile these two positions?” This question has been asked to understand clearly the direction in which life should proceed and to have an insight into the true meaning of the renunciation of the fruit of actions. Actions in themselves are to be renounced in what the scriptures call sannyasa, while in the falatyaga there is renunciation of the fruit of actions. Does renunciation of the fruit of actions as enjoined by the Gita needs renunciation of the actions themselves? This is the crux of the matter. With reference to the criterion of the renunciation of the fruit, is there any role for sannyasa? What are the limits of sannyasa and falatyaga? This is what Arjuna asks.


References and Context