Bhagavad Gita Teachings

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Bhagavad Gita For Children

 Bhagavad Gita for Children - Chapter 18

Bhagavad Gita for Children
Bhagavad Gita For Children - Chapter 18


Jai: Grandma, I am confused by different terms you used. Please explain to me clearly what is the difference between renunciation (Samnyasa) and selfless work (KarmaYoga)?

Grandma: Some people think renunciation means walking away from family, home, possessions, and living in a cave or the forest or any other place outside society. But Lord Krishna defined Samnyasa as giving up the selfish desire behind all work. (Gita 6.01, 18.02) In KarmaYoga one gives up the selfish desire of enjoying the results of one’s work. Thus a Samnyasi is an advanced KarmaYogi who does not do anything for personal benefit.

Jai: Does that mean I can’t do anything for myself that gives me pleasure?

Grandma: That depends on what kind of pleasure you have in mind. Actions such as smoking, drinking, gambling, and taking drugs appear enjoyable in the beginning, but definitely produce harmful results in the end. Poison may taste delicious when you drink it, but you know its deadly results when it is too late. On the other hand, actions, such as meditation, worship, and helping the needy, seem difficult or boring in the beginning, but give very useful results in the end. (Gita 5.22, 18.38) A very good rule to follow is to avoid any activity that seems pleasurable in the beginning but causes harmful effects in the end.

Jai: What kinds of activities in society are available, Grandma?

Grandma: In the ancient Vedic way of living, activities of human beings were divided into four universal types of human labor described by Lord Krishna. (Gita 4.13, 18.41-44) These four divisions --- Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Shudra --- were based on the mental, intellectual, and physical abilities of persons. The worth of the individual --- not the birth or social level one was born into --- was the deciding factor. But these four orders are often mistaken for the caste system of modern times in India and elsewhere. The caste system is based on birth only.

Those who were interested in learning, teaching, preaching, and guiding people in spiritual matters were called Brahmanas or intellectuals. Those who could defend the country, establish law and order, prevent crime, and administer justice were called Kshatriyas, the warriors. Those who were good in farming, cattle-raising, business, trade, finance, commerce, and industry were known as Vaishyas or businessmen. Those who were very good in service and labor work were classed as Shudras or workers.

People are born with certain abilities or could develop them through training and effort. Birth into a family at a certain social level, whether high or low, does not decide one’s worth.

The four Varna system was work assigned according to individual’s skills and ability. Unfortunately, the four work classifications became degraded into hundreds of rigid castes to the detriment of this great Dharma. Swami Vivekananda considers modern day caste system in India as a big blot on the face of our great way of life (Dharma). Even some of our educated immigrants from India are forming caste-based associations here in the USA!

Jai: How can anybody living and working in society attain liberation?

Grandma: Work becomes worship when done as a service to the Lord and without selfish attachment to the results. If you work honestly for which you are suited, you incur no Karmic reaction and attain God.

If you take on work that was not meant for you, such work produces stress, and you will not be very successful. It is important to find proper work that best suits your own nature. So you should know yourself before you can decide on the job that will be suitable for you. (Gita 18.47) Then your work will not produce stress and will encourage creativity.

There is no perfect job. Every job has some faults. (Gita 18.48) You should not be concerned about such faults in your duty in life. You can attain God by doing your duty with devotion to God and keeping your senses under control by some spiritual practice.

The following story illustrates that one can attain Self-realization by sincerely doing one’s duty. (Gita 18.46-58)

26. I am no Crane

A holy man named Kaushika had acquired great spiritual powers. One day, he sat under a tree meditating. A crane at the top of the tree soiled his head with its droppings. Kaushika looked up at it angrily, and his angry look killed the bird instantly. The holy man was pained when he saw the dead bird lying on the ground.

Some time later, he went as usual to beg for food and stood before the door of a house. The housewife was busy serving her husband with food and seemed to forget the holy man waiting outside. After her husband had been fed, she came out with food, saying, “I am sorry to have kept you waiting long. Forgive me.”

But Kaushika, burning with anger, said: “Lady, you have made me wait for a long time. This is not fair.”

“Kindly forgive me,” said the woman. “I was serving my sick husband and hence the delay.”

“It is good to attend the husband,” replied Kaushika, “but you seem to be an arrogant woman.”

“I kept you waiting only because I was dutifully serving my sick husband,” she replied. “Please do not be angry with me. I am no crane to be killed by your angry thought. Your anger cannot harm a woman who devotes herself to service of her husband and family.”

Kaushika was surprised. He wondered how she knew of the crane incident.

She continued: “O great one, you do not know the secret of duty, or that anger is the greatest enemy that dwells in human beings. Go to the village Rampur in Mithila and learn the secrets of doing one’s duty with devotion from Vyadha Raj”

Kaushika went to the village and met the man named Vyadha Raj. He was surprised to learn he was selling meat at a butcher’s shop. The butcher got up from his seat and asked: “Honored sir, are you well? Did that pure lady send you to me? I know why you have come. Let us go home.”

The butcher took Kaushika to his house where Kaushika saw a happy family and was greatly amazed at the love and respect with which the butcher served his parents. Kaushika took his lesson from the butcher on doing one’s duty. Vyadha Raj did not kill the animals; he never ate meat. He just carried on his family business after his father retired.

Afterwards, Kaushika returned to his house and began to serve his parents, a duty which he had neglected before.

The moral of this story is that you can reach spiritual perfection by honestly doing whatever duty is yours in life. This is a true worship of God. (Gita 18.46)

Lord Krishna lives within all of us and guides us to work out our own Karma. (Gita 18.61) Put forth your best effort, and gladly accept the results as His will. This is called surrendering to God. (Gita 18.66) The gift of spiritual knowledge is the best gift because the absence of spiritual knowledge is the cause of all evil in the world. Spreading spiritual knowledge is the highest devotional service to Lord Krishna. (Gita 18.68-69)

Everlasting peace and wealth are possible only when you do your duty well and also have the spiritual knowledge given in the Holy Gita by Lord Krishna. (Gita 18.78)

Chapter 18 summary: Lord Krishna said that there is no real difference between a KarmaYogi and Samnyasi. A KarmaYogi gives up the selfish attachment to the fruits of work, whereas a Samnyasi does not work for any personal gain at all. There are two types of pleasures --- helpful and harmful. Society has different work to suit different people. One should choose work wisely. You can get God-realization while living in society by following the three D’s --- Duty, Discipline and Devotion to God.

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