tyājyaḿ doṣa-vad ity eke
karma prāhur manīṣiṇaḥ
na tyājyam iti cāpare

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.3

Some learned men declare that all kinds of fruitive activities should be given up as faulty, yet other sages maintain that acts of sacrifice, charity and penance should never be abandoned.

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

There are many activities in the Vedic literature which are subjects of contention. For instance, it is said that an animal can be killed in a sacrifice, yet some maintain that animal killing is completely abominable. Although animal killing in a sacrifice is recommended in the Vedic literature, the animal is not considered to be killed. The sacrifice is to give a new life to the animal. Sometimes the animal is given a new animal life after being killed in the sacrifice, and sometimes the animal is promoted immediately to the human form of life. But there are different opinions among the sages. Some say that animal killing should always be avoided, and others say that for a specific sacrifice it is good. All these different opinions on sacrificial activity are now being clarified by the Lord Himself.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

In this verse the Lord describes other opinions about the meaning of tyaga. The sankhya philosophers (eke manisinah) say that all activities described in the scripture, because of being defective with violence or other bad qualities, should be given up completely. On the other hand, the mimamsakas (apare) say that activities such as sacrifice cannot be given up because they are prescribed by the scriptures.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

18.3 Some sages, viz., the adherents of Kapila and those Vaidikas who agree with his creed, contend that all acts such as sacrifices etc., should be renounced by aspirants for release, as they bind even as desires and other similar defects tend to bind. Other learned men say that acts like sacrifices etc., should not be renounced.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The Supreme Lord Krishna replied: Sages and those proficient in learning understand that renouncing and abandoning actions that fulfil desires found in the Vedic scriptures such as prescribed procedures for getting a son, or prescribed rituals for entering the heavenly planets is known as sannyasa and this includes renouncing all actions as well as their rewards. The spiritually enlightened declare that renouncing and relinquishing the desire for rewards of actions although performing daily and occasional prescribed duties and not renouncing the actions themselves is known as tyaja.

The unintelligent propound that abandoning actions is what is meant by sannyasa or renunciation. The intelligent maintain that abandoning the desire for the rewards of actions is renunciation. In order to establish these two diverging views firmly the Supreme Lord Krishna states the word manisinah means the wise, the conscientious. The learned philosophers from the Sankhya philosophy which is based on mundane analysis are of the opinion that all defective actions are to be abandoned because they are produced by the agency of desire which promotes bondage in samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death and because they are contaminated by mundane impulses such as lust and violence. Even ritualistic actions accomplished by material means although without violence are prone to the possibility of causing some injury in some way.

The Vedic scriptures declare that: One should never kill a cow under any circumstances. This is an infallible prohibition. If one does so unlimited sins and immeasurable demerits are accrued and one will be forced to suffer in hell for as many millions of years as there are hairs on the physical body of every cow killed. Yet again there are references in the Vedic scriptures explaining how an animal may be slain, yet as the explanations pertain to two different subject matters they are not in confliction as cow killing is an all inclusive prohibition involving all cows, bulls and calves whereas the slaying of animals is a specific injunction of another type and does not annul the former. What is spoken by the Supreme Lord is anusvarava or infallible. What is revealed in the Vedic scriptures is anusvarava and the knowledge transmitted from the Vedic scriptures by the Vaisnava spiritual master is anusvarava.

The injunctions and ordinances prescribed in the Vedic scriptures although giving protection in temporal things and halt accruing demerits by abstaining from prohibited activities but this is quite ineffectual for achieving moksa or liberation from material existence because of being used in banal and mundane situations. The method of dissolving sins by various procedures such as the jytishtoma yagna or rituaistic propitiation and fire worship or candrayama fasting by the cycles of the moon is temporal, solely for physical and material gain and is accompanied by impurity, selfish motives and evil actions. There is also some gradation in the heavenly planets for one resulting from sinful actions that were absolved compared to one who never committed sinful actions at all.

Other learned philosophers such as those of the Mimamsaka philosophy or mundane rationalist declare that prescribed Vedic activities should never be abandoned. A Vedic injunction enjoins the performance of what has been prescribed for a particular aim to insure a specific result and benefits all involved. But a prohibition does not similarly denote that such action serves the purpose of something else but only that abstaining from such an act insures that no demerits will be accrued if the act is not committed. If this was true then even prohibited actions performed inadvertently or in ignorance would cease to be sinful and that is erroneous and not reality. Therefore among these two philosophies there is some contradiction. The Mimamsakas have a rule that when there is contradiction between two Vedic injunctions the specific one is more prominent then the general one and therefore annuls it. The Sankhyas analyse that there should be discrimination in interpreting the Vedic scriptures and although one injunction forbids killing and the another injunction permits killing they relate to different subject matter and there is no verification that sins are absent in ritualistic killing and following their rule of interpreting the Vedic texts the general rule is more prominent and annuls the specific rule.

It has been established that impurities and contamination are contained in killing; so for the Sankhyas although the performer of the action may receive some benefit such as gaining entry to the heavenly spheres it will shorten the duration of enjoying there due to the sin incurred of the slaying and soon afterwards one takes birth again in the worldly planets. Such reactions are also understood to be major impediments in the achievement of moksa or liberation from material existence. There is also a gradation in the results of different Vedic rituals. Some result in promotion to the heavenly spheres, some award kingship in the human spheres, some give sovereignty in the demoniac spheres but in all cases the results are only temporary and not permanent.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The word manisinah refers to the scholars of the sankhya or analytical school of thought who propound that renunciation is the abandonment of unrighteous actions due to possessing defects such as promoting desires or instigating violence. While others denoted by the words apare ca maintain the understanding that only the abandonment of the desire for rewards is renunciation. Both opinions have relevance and both opinions have been accepted as reasonable.

Now begins the summation.

Having referred to them as manisinah it is not appropriate to minimise their views but if inferior they should be given up. Thus a breach of etiquette is averted. The purport is to abandon actions with desires for rewards and all attachment to them. In the next verse Lord Krishna gives His absolute conclusion on this subject.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

Other erudite men of knowledge assert that since all activities contain an element of desire which are producive of bondage they should all be given up. While other wise men of discernment declare that prescribed Vedic duties such as yagna or ritualistic worship and propitiation, tapah or austerities and penance and danam or charity should never to be abandoned.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

18.3 Eke, some; manisinah, learned ones, subscribing to the views of the Sankhyas and others; prahuh, say; that dosavat, beset with evil (as it is);-What is it?- karma, action, all actions, becuase they are the cause of bondage; tyajyam, should be given up even by those who are eligible for actions (rites and duties). Or, it (action) is to be given up dosavat, just as defects such as attachment etc. are renounced. Ca and, in that very context; apare, others; (say) that yajana-dana-tapah-karma, the practice of sacrifice, charity and auterity; na tyajyam, should not be given up. These alternatives are with regard to only those who are qualified for action, but not with regard to the monks who are steadfast in Knowledge and have gone beyond the stages of life. This discussion is not concerned with those who are held to be outside the scope of eligibility for action in the assertion (by the Lord), ‘The steadfastness in the Yoga of Knowledge by men of realization was spoken of by Me in the days of yore’ (see 3.3). Objection: Well, just as those who are qualified for rites and duties and who have their distinct steadfastness are being considered here in the chapter summarizing the entire scripture, though they have been dealt with earlier in ‘…through the Yoga of Action for the yogis’ (3.3), similarly, let even the men of realization who are steadfast in Knowledge be considered here. Reply: No, because it is not logical that their renunciation should result from delusion and sorrow (cf. 7 and 8). The men of realization do not perceive in the Self the sorrows arising from physical torment; for it has been shown that desire etc. are attributes only of the field (body) (see 13.6). Therefore, they do not renounce action but of fear for physical trouble and pain. Nor do they perceive actions in the Self, on account of which they should give up obligatory duties out of delusion. In fact, they renounce with the conviction that ‘action belongs to the organs’ (see 3.28); ‘I certainly do not do anything’ (see 5.8); for, the mode of renunciation of an enlightened person was shown in, ‘…having given up all actions mentally’ (5.13). Therefore, those others who are qualified for rites and duties, who are unelightened about the Self, and for whom renunciation is possible out of delusion and from fear of physical trouble, are alone condemned as persons who, being possessed of tamas and rajas, resort to renunciation. And this is done with a veiw to eulogizing the renunciation of the results of rites and duties by the unenlightened men of action. Besides, the men of renunciation in the real sense have been particularly pointed out in, ‘who has renounced ever undertaking,’ ‘who is silent, content with anything, homeless, steadyminded’ (12.16, 19), and also (while determining) the characteristics of one who has transcended the gunas (Chapter 14). The Lord will further say, ‘…which is the supreme consummation of Knowledge’ (50). Therefore the monks steadfast in Knowledge are not intended to be spoken of here. It is only the abandoning of the results of action which, by virtue of its being imbued with the quality of sattva, is spoken of as sannyasa in contrast to the renunciation of actions which is possessed of tamas etc.; it is not sannyasa in the primary-sense-the renunciation of all actions. Objection: According to the reason shown in the text, ‘Since it is not possible for one who holds on to a body to give up actions entirely’ (11), may it not be argued that the actions entirely’ (11), may it not be argued that the word sannyasa is certainly used in the primary sense because it is impossible to abandon all works? Reply: No, for the next adducing the reason is meant for eulogy. Just as, ‘From renunciation immediately (follows) Peace’ (12.12), is a mere eulogy of renunciation of the fruits of action, it having been enjoined on Arjuna who was unenlightened and incapable of undertaking the various alternatives (paths) as stated earlier, so also is this sentence, ‘Since it is not possible for one who holds on to a body to give up actions entirely’ (11), meant for eulogizing the renunciation of the resorts of all actions. No one can point an exception to the proposition that ‘having given up all actions mentally, (the embodied man of self-control) continues happily…without doing or causing (others) to do anything at all’ (see 5.13). Therefore these alternative veiws regarding sannyasa and tyaga are concerned only with those who are qualified for rites and duties. But the enlightened ones who have realized the supreme Truth are competent only for steadfastness in Knowledge, which is characterized by renunciation of all actions; not for anything else. Hence, they do not come within the purview of the alternative veiws. Thus has this been pointed out by us in connection with the text, ‘…he who knows this One as indestructible…’ (2.21) as also in the beginning of the third chapter.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

18.3 Tyajyam etc. The harmful : that which is connected with sin, becuase it consists of act of injury etc. Such an action must be relinquished and not all aciton that has auspicious result. In this way certain persons-as if they are attached (as domesticated animals do ) to the house of the Sankhyas – think of a distinction is relinquishing. But there are other learned persons who put on the coat of the Mimamsakas and who, basing exclusively the scriptures, classify what action to be performed and what action not to be performed . They opine : The act of killing that constitutes the technical aspect of execution of a sacrifice is [in fact] not an act of injury at all in view of the principles, like ‘The action intended for sacrifice is indeed known from the scripture only’ – (SB, IV, i, 2) and ‘Therefore the act of injury known from the Vedas’ etc. – (SV, I, i, 2.23) For, the general rule ‘Don’t injure’ is annulled in this case. But, at the same time the Syena-sacrifice etc., is an act of killing. Becuase, ‘The injunctive suffix does not prescribe what falls within the purveiw of fruit of an action of the injunction.’ [SV, I, i, 2.222). Therefore other [Vedic] sacrifices one should not relinquish eventhough they are connected with an act of injury.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

tyajyam dosa-vad ity eke
karma prahur manisinah
na tyajyam iti capare

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

tyājyam — must be given up; doṣa-vat — as an evil; iti — thus; eke — one group; karma — work; prāhuḥ — they say; manīṣiṇaḥ — great thinkers; yajña — of sacrifice; dāna — charity; tapaḥ — and penance; karma — works; na — never; tyājyam — are to be given up; iti — thus; ca — and; apare — others.