na hi deha-bhṛtā śakyaḿ
tyaktuḿ karmāṇy aśeṣataḥ
yas tu karma-phala-tyāgī
sa tyāgīty abhidhīyate
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.11
It is indeed impossible for an embodied being to give up all activities. But he who renounces the fruits of action is called one who has truly renounced.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
It is said in Bhagavad-gita that one can never give up work at any time. Therefore he who works for Krishna and does not enjoy the fruitive results, who offers everything to Krishna, is actually a renouncer. There are many members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness who work very hard in their office or in the factory or some other place, and whatever they earn they give to the Society. Such highly elevated souls are actually sannyasis and are situated in the renounced order of life. It is clearly outlined here how to renounce the fruits of work and for what purpose fruits should be renounced.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Therefore, actions ordained by scripture should not be given up. It is not possible for one with a body to give up activities. Sakyam is used for the proper word sakyani. The Lord has already said that not for a moment can the person remain without doing action: na hi kascit ksanam api jatu tisthaty akarma-krd iti. (BG 3.5)
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
18.11 It is impossible for one who has a body and has to nourish it. ‘to abandon action entirely’; for eating, drinking etc., required for nourshing the body and other acts connected therewith are unavoidable. And for the same reason the five great sacrifices etc., are also indispensable. He who has given up the fruits of the five great sacrifices, is said to have renounced; this is referred to in the Srutis such as: ‘Only through renunciation do some obtain immortality’ (Ma. Na., 8.14). Renunciation of fruits of actions is illustrative; it implies much more. It implies one who has renounced the fruits, agency and attachment to works, as the topic has been begun with the declaration: ‘For abandonment (Tyaga) is declard to be of three kinds’ (18.4). This statement may be questioned in the following manner: ‘Agnihotra, the full moon and new moon sacrifices, Jyotistoma etc., and also the five great sacrifices are enjoined by the Sastras only for the attainment of their results like heaven. They are not purposeless. Even the injunction with regard to obligatory and occasional ceremonies is enjoined because they yield results, as implied in the following passage: “For householders, Prajapatya ceremony” (V.P., 1.6.37). Therefore, as the performance of actions has to be understood as a means for attaining their respective results, the accruing of agreeable and disagreeable results is inevitable, even though they are performed without any desire for fruits, just as a seed sown must grow into a tree and bear fruit. Hence, actions ought not to be performed by an aspirant for release, because the results are incompatible with release. Sri Krsna answers such objections:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
It may be postulated that better than renunciation of the rewards of actions, it is better to simply renounce all actions; for then there is no distraction from meditation and contemplation and one can unhindered attain the joy of a stable, steadfast state of consciousness. In anticipation of this Lord Krishna explains the reality that no living entity can completely stop all actions entirely. No one ever remains inactive even for a moment as the heart is beating, the lungs are breathing, the pulse is pulsing, the eyes are blinking, the mind is reflecting, etc. etc. Therefore renouncing the desire for rewards is true renunciation.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna explains that since it is impossible for any living entity to completely renounce actions entirely it is clear that renunciation of the desire for rewards of actions and all ego sense as the doer of actions is actual renunciation and not the mere cessation of activities.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Some may conclude that if those imbued with sattva guna or the mode of goodness neither welcomes nor avoids actions conducive to happiness or unhappiness, then they should not indulge in any activities at all because anyway they are not desirous of rewards. Contrarily the very same activities if they are motivated by desire for rewards keep one enslaved in samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death. So to be safe it would be better to abandon all actions. Lord Krishna resolves this predicament in this verse by confirming that it is impossible for any jiva or embodied being in a gross or subtle body to completely stop all actions entirely. This is because there is always some activitiy operating for the maintenance of the subtle and physical body even if it is beyond the threshold of comsciousness. So in conclusion one who has relinquished the desire for rewards for their actions performing prescribed Vedic activities with bhakti or exclusive loving devotion or performing them as a matter of duty is designated as situated in actual renunciation and not the mere abstainer of actions.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
18.11 Deha-bhrta, for one who holds on to a body-one who maintains (bibharti) a body (deha) is called a deha-bhrt. One who has self-indentification with the body is called a deha-bhrt, but not a so a man of discrimination; for he has been excluded from the eligibility for agentship by such texts as, ‘He who knows this One is indestructible…’ etc. Hence, for that unenlightened person who holds on to the body, he, since; it is na, not; sakyam, possible; tyaktum, to give up, renounce; karmani, actions; asesatah, entirely, totally; therefore the ignorant person who is competent (for rites and duties), yah, who; tu, on the other hand; karma-phala-tyagi, renounces results of actions, relinquishes only the hankering for the results of actions while performing the nityakarmas; sah, he; is abhidhiyate, called; tyagi iti, a man of renunciation-even though he continues to be a man of rites and duties. This is said by way of eulogy. Therefore total renunciation of actions is possible only for one who has realized the supreme Truth, who does not hold on to the body, and who is devoid of the idea that the body is the Self. Again, what is that purpose which is accomplished through renunciation of all actions? This is being stated:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
18.4-11 Niscayam etc. upto abhidhiyate. The conclusion here is this : Due to the manifoldness of the nature of the Strands, that have been defined earlier, the act of relinquishment itself is performed with a certain mental disposition which is a modification of the Sattva, the Rajas and the Tamas (the Strands). Because it reflects (is contaminated by) the nature of the person having the same (the said mental dispositon), what is called the real (unalloyed) relinquishment is the performance of the actions by the knowers of the Supreme Brahman by giving up desire to achieve fruits and by avoiding the craving and hatred on account of their equanimity to [the pairs of opposites like] success and failure etc. That is why [the Bhagavat] says : ‘By the act of relinquishment born of the Rajas or of the Tamas (Strands), no connection with the fruit [of relinquishment] is attained’. However, for an act of relinquishing, born of the Sattva (Strand), there is the fruit in the form of honouring the purport of the scriptures. The application of the term ‘relinquishment’ stands to reason, in fact, only in the case of a sage who has relinquished his holding on the multitude of the Strands.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
na hi deha-bhrta sakyam
tyaktum karmany asesatah
yas tu karma-phala-tyagi
sa tyagity abhidhiyate
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
na — never; hi — certainly; deha-bhṛtā — by the embodied; śakyam — is possible; tyaktum — to be renounced; karmāṇi — activities; aśeṣataḥ — altogether; yaḥ — anyone who; tu — but; karma — of work; phala — of the result; tyāgī — the renouncer; saḥ — he; tyāgī — the renouncer; iti — thus; abhidhīyate — is said.