"What is the central teaching of the Bhagavad Gita?"
The sage replied, "If you utter the word 'Gita' a few times in rapid succession you begin to say 'taagi, 'taagi' and that is the essence of Gita". 'Taagi' means one who has renounced the world.
Indeed, renunciation is at the core of spiritual life. The literal meaning of renunciation is 'desertion', 'abandonment', 'rejection', and 'denunciation'. However, this is not the sense in which it is used in the Gita. Renunciation, in the Gita, does not mean abandoning the duties of our everyday lived life and becoming a recluse to lead a monastic life. Nor does it mean otherworldliness. It does not even mean indifference (vairagya) to the world and its affairs.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his Gitarahasya goes a step further and says that Gita, instead of teaching renunciation of any kind, preaches 'energism' (karma yoga). Law of karma according to him is an energetic principle because "unless some karma or action has been performed it is not possible for the imperceptible to become perceptible or quality less to become qualityful".
He goes on to say, "no man is free from action, and that action should never be given up". Rather one has to be busy performing actions that are aimed at sarvabhutahite ritah – promotion of welfare of all.
Tilak argues: "The Gita was not presented either as a pastime for persons tired out after living a worldly life in pursuit of selfish motives, nor as a preparatory lesson for living such worldly life". Its main purpose is to reveal, "how one should live his worldly life" and to point out our "true duty in worldly life". That is why the Gita discourages monastic, or ascetic life if the spirit of detachment is absent.
Renunciation in the Gita does not refer to renunciation of action but connotes renunciation in action. It means performing one's duties but with a detached mind and without thought of worldly gain -- devoting all action to God only. This dedication is the most important component of renunciation.
Renunciation according to Tilak means "whatever a man does must be taken to have been done by him for the purpose of sacrifice". No action is undertaken for personal gain. It is performed for the collective gain of all.
The true ideal of Gita is not sacrifice for humanity but service to humanity. It is service for its own sake and done not for any personal gains, glory or triumph. One is able to serve humanity if and only if he performs his actions efficiently, skillfully and without concern for the outcome or result.
Action must not be renounced because "numerous difficulties arise in the consideration of what should be done and what should not be done" or because there are problems in executing the action. Once we know what is good for loksamgraha or public welfare, we must, with all sincerity and without concern for success or failure, engage ourselves wholeheartedly with conviction in performing the purported action.
Not being attached to the consequences of an action helps one psychologically to perform it most efficiently and "attain the highest" results (Gita, 3.19). Non-attachment to action is called naishkarmya. It is attained, according to Shamkaracharya, by the knowledge that we are mere agents, for God is the real doer and according to Ramanujacharya, by surrendering all action to God.
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