etāny api tu karmāṇi
sańgaḿ tyaktvā phalāni ca
kartavyānīti me pārtha
niścitaḿ matam uttamam
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.6
All these activities should be performed without attachment or any expectation of result. They should be performed as a matter of duty, O son of Pritha. That is My final opinion.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Although all sacrifices are purifying, one should not expect any result by such performances. In other words, all sacrifices which are meant for material advancement in life should be given up, but sacrifices that purify one’s existence and elevate one to the spiritual plane should not be stopped. Everything that leads to Krishna consciousness must be encouraged. In the Srimad-Bhagavatam also it is said that any activity which leads to devotional service to the Lord should be accepted. That is the highest criterion of religion. A devotee of the Lord should accept any kind of work, sacrifice or charity which will help him in the discharge of devotional service to the Lord.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
In this verse the Lord shows the method by which these actions become purifying.
Giving up the misconception of being the doer (sangam tyaktva) and also seeking results (phalani), one should perform those actions. Giving up the idea of being the doer and giving up seeking results is tyaga and this is also called sannyasa.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
18.6 Since sacrifices, gifts, austerities etc., are the means for the purification of the wise, therefore, it is My decided and final view that they should be performed as a part of my worship until one’s death, renouncing attachment, viz., possessiveness towards actions and their fruits.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Now the absolute conclusion is revealed that even prescribed Vedic activities which are sanctifying and purifying and are so essential are in fact to be performed as acts of devotion to the Supreme Lord without desire for recompense and without a sense of ego attached to them. They should be performed for the exclusive satisfaction of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures. If that consciousness has not been attained then they should be verily performed as a matter of duty. This is the best comprehensive conclusive view.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The different classes of prescribed Vedic activities are delineated. The types of yagna or ritualistic propitiation and worship, tapah or austerities and danam or charity have been classified in the previous chapter according to the three gunas or modes of material nature. Yet here Lord Krishna emphasises that all these activities should be forthrightly performed and never given up because such activities are sanctifying and purifying. Only the desire for rewards for such activities should be abandoned and not the activity itself. If this were not true then there would be contradiction with the hallowed revelations of Vedavyasa who stated that: An aspirant whether a married householder, a forest dweller or mountain recluse who is striving for moksa or liberation from material existence must perform prescribed Vedic activities for their own best welfare and interests. Yagna is the form of acquired wisdom, tapah is the form of acquired faith and danam is the form of acquired fearlessness. So they all should be always performed. The purport is that no one can permanently avoid activity it is not possible, but everyone can give up the desire for rewards from activities and that is actual renunciation.
Now begins the summary.
One should sincerely offer charity to the Vaisnavas and Brahmins according to one’s capacity. One should sincerely instruct spiritual knowledge to supplicants to the best of one’s ability and one should perform personal austerities according to one’s varnasrama or class and stage in life. A grihasta or householder of the vaisya or mercantile class has a different parameter for austerities then a brahmacari or celibate student of Vaisnava brahmanas or ordained spiritual order and their activities are very different. A ksatriya from the royal or warrior class may perform exceedingly extreme austerities such as fasting in desert heat or meditating in intense cold that would not appeal to a grihasta or brahmacari. Even a lowly sudra of the worker class may advance by doing some penance such as fasting and by speaking truthfully and serving the other three orders faithfully. Although one is born in various situations in life the true quality of a jiva or embodied being is inherent within and this is what determines one’s actual character in life. This theme will be examined more by Madhvacarya’s comments on verses 47 and 48.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It might be submitted by an erudite enquirer that Lord Krishna Himself has stated that karma or reactions to action leads to the bondage of samsara the perpetual cycle of birth and death so can how can actions be sanctifying and purifying. To answer this Lord Krishna assures that absolutely such prescribed Vedic activities such as yagna or ritualistic propitiation and worship, tapah or austerities and danam or charity to the Vaisnavas and Brahmins as well as daily obligatory duties must be performed with firm conviction and full faith in the injunctions and ordinances of the Vedic scriptures; or else demerits, offenses and contamination will be incurred. But although these activities are not to be abdicated they must be performed without any sense of ego as the doer and without even the slightest desire for rewards. This can be accomplished either as a matter of duty or for the exclusive satisfaction of the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
18.6 Tu, but; api, even; etani, these; karmani, actions, viz sacrifice, charity and austerity, which have been spoken of as purifiers; kartavyani, have to be undertaken; tyaktva, by renouncing; sangam, attachment to them; and by giving up (hankering for) their phalani, results. Iti, this; is me, My; niscitam, firm; and uttamam, best; matam, conculsion. Having promised, ‘hear from Me the firm conclusion regarding that (tyaga)’ (4) and also adduced the reason that they are purifiers, the utterance, ‘Even these actions have to be performed. This is the firm and best conclusion’, is only by way of concluding the promised subject-matter; this sentence does not introduce a fresh topic. For it stands to reason that the phrase ‘even these’ refers to some immediate topic under discussion. The implication of the word api (even) is: ‘Even these acts, which are causes of bondage to one who has attachment and who hankers after their results, have to be undertaken by a seeker of Liberation.’ But the phrase ‘even these’ is not used in relation to other acts. Others explain (thus): Since the nityakarmas have no results, therefore (in their case) it is illogical to say, ‘by giving up attachment and (hankering for their) results’. The meaning of the phrase etani api (even these) is that, ‘even these rites and duties, which are undertaken for desired results and are different from the nityakarmas, have to be undertaken. What to speak of the nityakarmas like sacrifice, charity and austerity!’ (Reply:) This is wrong since it has been established by the text, ‘sacrifice, charity and austerity are verily the purifiers,’ that even the nityakarmas have results. For a seeker of Liberation who wants to give up even the nityakarmas from fear of their being causes of bondage, how can there be any association with actions done for desired results? Moreover, the phrase etani api cannot apply to actions done for desired results (kamyakarmas), since they have been denigrated in, ‘…indeed, actions is quite inferior’ (2.49), and in, ‘…by actions other than that action meant for God’ (3.9), and since, on the strength of the texts [Which support the two earlier arguments.], ‘the Vedas have the three qualities as their object’ (2.45), ‘Those who are versed in the Vedas, who are drinkers of Soma,…(pray for the heavenly goal by worshipping) Me’ (9.20), and ‘they enter into the human world on the exhaustion of their merit’ (9.21), it has been definitely stated that actions done for desired results are causes of bondage; and also because they are far removed from the context.
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:
etany api tu karmani
sangam tyaktva phalani ca
kartavyaniti me partha
niscitam matam uttamam
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
etāni — all these; api — certainly; tu — but; karmāṇi — activities; sańgam — association; tyaktvā — renouncing; phalāni — results; ca — also; kartavyāni — should be done as duty; iti — thus; me — My; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; niścitam — deﬁnite; matam — opinion; uttamam — the best.