pañcaitāni mahā-bāho
kāraṇāni nibodha me
sāńkhye kṛtānte proktāni
siddhaye sarva-karmaṇām

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.13

O mighty-armed Arjuna, according to the Vedanta there are five causes for the accomplishment of all action. Now learn of these from Me.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

A question may be raised that since any activity performed must have some reaction, how is it that the person in Krishna consciousness does not suffer or enjoy the reactions of work? The Lord is citing Vedanta philosophy to show how this is possible. He says that there are five causes for all activities, and for success in all activity one should consider these five causes. Sankhya means the stalk of knowledge, and Vedanta is the final stalk of knowledge accepted by all leading acaryas. Even Shankara accepts Vedanta-sutra as such. Therefore such authority should be consulted.

The ultimate control is invested in the Supersoul. As it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, sarvasya caham hridi sannivistah. He is engaging everyone in certain activities by reminding him of his past actions. And Krishna conscious acts done under His direction from within yield no reaction, either in this life or in the life after death.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

“But how can doing action not give karmic results?”

In order to establish that there is no contamination of karma when performing actions without false identification, the Lord speaks five verses.

For the completion (siddhaye) of all actions, know these five factors from my words (me). Sankhya means to speak (khya) directly (samyak) about the paramatma. These five causes are mentioned in the Vedanta scriptures (sankhye), whose purpose is to destroy karma (krtante).

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

18.13 ‘Sankhya’ means Buddhi (reasoning). ‘Sankhya-krtanta’ means that which is determined after due deliberations by the Buddhi in accordance with the Vedas on the nature of the things as they are. Learn them from Me. There are five causes for the accomplishment of all actions. But the understanding according to the Vedas (Vaidiki-buddhi) is that the Supreme Self alone is the agent working through body, senses, Pranas and the individual self, as asserted in the following Srutis: ‘He who, dwelling in the self, who rules the self from within your self, the Inner Ruler, immortal’ (Br. U. Madh., 3.7.22), and ‘He who has penetrated the interior, is the Ruler of all creatures and the Self of all’ (Tai. A., 3.11.3). Sri Krsna nows sets forth the five causes:

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The question may be submitted how is it possible that one performing actions derives no reactions from their activities. Apprehending such a doubt Lord Krishna in order to exemplify that for one who has given up attachment to the reward of actions and who is free from the ego sense of I and mine there is no connection to reactions from any action. This he elaborates in this verse and the next four. He says to understand the meaning of His words, learn the five causes that are about to be given regarding the accomplishment and production of all actions. To imbibe the cessation of the conception as the doer of actions it is necessary to comprehend these five causes. So to emphasise them Lord Krishna states as declared etc. Here the word sankhya refers to Vedantic philosophy of analytical rationalism established by Kapila Deva, an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna. That by which the atma or immortal soul is thoroughly known is declared sankhya or wisdom of the ultimate truth which is the final point and apex of all knowledge which is the ultimate conclusion found in the Vedic scriptures.

The five causes of all actions to manifest are the body, the ego which is the juncture of spirit and matter, the life airs which automatically function and pervade throughout creation, the senses such as the eyes which include the diety of the sun which presides over the eyes and also the other four senses with their presiding dieties and finally the inner ruler and controller of them all as the atma or soul which is powered by paramatma the Supreme Soul.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

In this verse Lord Krishna again reiterates sannyasa or renunciation by abandonment of actions. The words sankhye kritante refers to the system of analysis established in the sankhya philosophy of analytical conclsion by Kapila-deva, who appeared as the son of Kardama Muni from the womb of Devahuti and who is an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna. His is the original sankhya philosophy acknowledging the existence of the Supreme Lord as the goal and is in full accordance with the Vedic scriptures. It should not be confused by an imitation sankhya philosophy by a Kapila Muni which bases its precepts on analysis of matter and is atheistic, not accepting the reality of the Supreme Lord hence contrary to the Vedic scriptures and unacceptable.

The word adhisthanam means the body, the life airs, the ego, the senses, and their inner director the atma or immortal soul controlled by paramatma the Supreme Soul residing simultaneously in the individual etheric heart of all living entities. Paramatma is an effortless expansion of the Supreme Lord Krishna’s purusa avatar known as Ksisirodaksayi Vishnu. All embodied beings acesta refers to actions both involutary such as the heart beating and breathing as well as volutary actions such as using the hands to perform yagna or ritualistic propitiation and worship of the Supreme Lord or utilising the mind to meditate upon the Supreme Lord. By such actions impressions are established which impel one towards the divine. The divine is transcendental and cannot be seen although the liberated can perceive it in their consciousness it is not visible. It has been said that the body, the life airs, the ego, the senses and the atma are the instruments of all activities with paramatma as the unseen controller of them all.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Lord Krishna previously clarified that those who perform actions motivated by desire incarnate and take birth in either the heavenly, hellish or human worlds; but those who have renounced the desire for rewards are not subject to this karma or reactions to actions. Now in order to establish the fact that egoism and non-egoism are the cause of actions influenced by indiscrimination and discrimination, Lord Krishna revals the five factors which cojointly contribute to the accomplishment of all action. These five factors accomplish all actions and must be understood by the aspirants for moksa or liberation from material existence in order to achieve the discriminative knowledge that dissolves the sense of egoism while performing actions. These five factors to be presented will remove any doubt regarding the liberating or binding effects of actions. The Sankhya philosophy of analytical rationalism established by Kapila Deva an incarnation of Lord Krishna, explains these five factors in detail as a method of eradicating the effects of all actions. This method is by precise analytical ascertainment of the cause and effect of all actions. Such analysis includes atma the immortal soul, maya the illusory potency, prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence, paramatma the Supreme Soul etc. and illustrates how a jiva or embodied beings relationship with each liberates or binds one in the material existence and thus is understood to be included in Vedanta.

The five factors are the physical body, the five senses such eyes, ears, etc., the ego, the life airs which govern breathing and the atma the controller of them all. The Vedanta Sutra II.III.XXXIII beginning upadanat states: The atma of the jiva or embodied being at the death of the physical body takes the pranas along with it; therefore the atma is the controller. Some assert without any basis that the controller is the insentient ego but this opinion should be rejected based upon the evidence cited above. For how can the insentient ego be responsible for the physical body, the senses, the life airs and itself as well along with the atma. It is not possible for the insentient to control the sentient, The controller of the five factors is atma the individual immortal soul and the controller of all atmas simultaneously is paramatma the Supreme Soul residing with the atma within the etheric heart of all living entities. Srila Vedavyasa has confirmed this in Vedanta Sutras II.III.XXXXI beginning amso nana vyapadesa:The atma is vibhinamsa an infintessimal expansion of paramatma like the rays of the sun.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

18.13 O mighty-armed one, nibodha, learn; me, from Me; imani, these; panca, five; karanani, factors, accessories, which are going to be stated-for drawing the attention of his (Arjuna’s) mind and for showing the difference among these categories [Categories: locus (body) etc], the Lord praises those accessories in the succeeding verses as fit for being known-; siddhaye, for the accomplishment; sarva-karmanam, of all actions; proktani, which have been spoken of; sankhye, in Vedanta-sankhya is that scripture where the subject-matters [In the sentence, ‘Thou art That’, the word Thou means the individual Self, and That means Brahman. The comprehension of their unity, and also ‘hearing, reflection and meditation’ are referred to as the subject-matters.] to be known are fully (samyak) stated (khyayante)-; krtante, in which actions terminate. Krtante qualifies that very word (Vedanta). Krtam mean action. That in which occurs the culmination (anta) of that krtam is krtantam, i.e. the termination of actions. In the texts, ‘…as much utility as a man has in a well’ (2.46), and ‘O son of Prtha, all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge’ (4.33), the Lord shows the cessation of all actions when the knowledge of the Self dawns. Hence (it is said): ‘…which have been spoken of in that Vedanta where actions culminate and which is meant for the knowledge of the Self.’ Which are they? This is being answered:

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

18.13-17 Panca etc. upto na nibadhyate Conclusion : the established end, because here a decision is arrived at. Basis : the material object Destiny : the good and bad result [of actions] previously accumulated. These five viz., the basis etc., constitute the entire assembly of factors and hence they are the causes for each action. But other [commentators give an etymology of] adhisthana ‘basis’ to mean ‘That by which all actions are governed’; and on that ground they believe that it denotes that action which exists in the intellect; which comes ot be due to the Rajas, and is being prone to transform itself into the pentad of (the mental dispositions viz.) the content, the faith, the happiness, the desire to know and the aversion to know; which is referable by the term karma-yoga (that which yokes man into activity); and which is described at times by the term prayatna ‘effort’. Agent : the ascertainer characterised by the intellect. Instrument : [the personal instruments viz.] the mind, the eye etc., and also the external ones like sword etc. Activity : the activity of upper life-breath, nether life-breath etc. The effects of the righteous and unrighteous acts are indicated by the term Destiny. All the dispositions located in the intellect are indicated by these two. Still other commentators, however, take Basis to be the Absolute Lord. Due to his imperfect intellect : because of his having indecisive knowledge. But he, who performs actions with the stability due to disappearance of th I-sense (limited) and [a stability] refined by hundreds of reasoning, as detailed earlier – he does not get the fetter, because he is a man of perfect intellect. This is what is intended [in the passage under study].

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

pañcaitani maha-baho
karanani nibodha me
sankhye krtante proktani
siddhaye sarva-karmanam

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

pañca — five; etāni — these; mahā-bāho — O mighty-armed one; kāraṇāni — causes; nibodha — just understand; me — from Me; sāńkhye — in the Vedānta; kṛta-ante — in the conclusion; proktāni — said; siddhaye — for the perfection; sarva — of all; karmaṇām — activities.