18.66सर्वधर्मान्परित्यज्य मामेकं शरणं व्रज।
अहं त्वा सर्वपापेभ्यो मोक्षयिष्यामि मा शुचः।।18.66।।
Meaning: Abandoning all forms of rites and duties, take refuge in Me alone. I shall free you from all sins. (Therefore) do not grieve. [Gambhirananda]. Bhasyam is extensive as it should be [Translation: Gambhirananda]. It discusses four topics.
1 Renunciation of rites and duties
Sarva-dharman includes dhrma (virtuous) and adharma (non-virtuous), i.e., renunciation of all actions as both dhArmic and adhArmic actions are the cause of bondage. That evil actions have to be given up does not need any explanation. Take refuge in Me, the Self, that exists in all beings without exception. The necessary sAdhnA is to identify with the Self and not with the mind and body. As the Self is action-free, renunciation of virtuous ones follows. Furthermore, as the Self is free from birth, old age, and death, liberation is assured. Arjuna should not grieve if he engages in war and kills friends and foes. He will incur no sin. He who has not the feeling of egoism, whose intellect is not tainted, he does not kill, nor does he become bound even by killing these creatures! (18.17-Gambhirananda)
2 Knowledge is the only means of liberation
In verses 2.47, 4.15, and in 18.41 it is said that the duties of four varnas are classified according to their respective gunas. 18.45 and 18.46 say that a man achieves perfection by devotion to the prescribed duties and treating them as worship. 18.47 says that doing one’s prescribed duty, even if defective in some way, is better than doing work prescribed for others. Thus the BG enjoins action. Since both knowledge and action are compulsory, therefore a doubt may arise that actions, in combination with knowledge as well, may lead to liberation. Bhasyam does a thorough investigation and clarifies that erroneous notions that ‘I am an agent, ‘I work’ are existing from time without beginning. And dispeller of the erroneous notions is Self-knowledge “in the form, ‘I am the absolute, non-agent, free from action and result; there is none else other than myself because when it (Knowledge) arises it dispels the idea of differences which is the cause of engagement in action.” As liberation is not a product, it cannot be the result of action or even action in combination with knowledge. An objector argues that a combination of action with knowledge may work just like eating and Aghnihotra together are possible. Shankara rejects it and counters that there can be no desire to dig a well or pond when there is a flood all around, similarly when knowledge ensures liberation, there is no possibility of any motive for any action and its result.
3 Nitya and naimitta karmas
An objector says that if obligatory duties (nitya karmas) and occasional duties (naimitta karmas) prescribed by Vedas are not performed then the non-performer incurs sin and goes to hell. And if the action does not lead to liberation, it means that liberation is not possible. A pseudo-vedantin replies: by performing nitya karmas one will not incur sin; by abstaining from nisiddha karmas birth in an undesirable body is ruled out; by not doing kamya-karmas desirable birth is ruled out; and the actions that produced the present body are exhausted by experiencing them in the current life. Therefore, there is no possibility of rebirth. As liberation is eternal, it is attained without effort. When the objector reminds the pseudo-vedantin about sanchita karmas that would cause rebirth, the pseudo-vedantin argues that pain suffered in the performance of nitya-karmas will neutralize sanchita karmas. As expected, the vedantin does not support the pseudo-vedantin. He says that the result of any action which had not become operative at the time of death (to yield its result) cannot be experienced in a life produced by different actions. Furthermore, though the scriptures do prescribe the performance of the nitya-karmas they are meant only for the ignorant. Killing a Brahmin is prohibited, yet under the influence of ignorance, passion, etc, one commits it. so is with nitya, naimitta and kamya actions. The view that the performance of nitya karmas burns sanchita karmas is incorrect.
4 Notions of kartA and bhoktA are not figurative
The objector argues that the statement, namely, identification of ‘I’ with mind-body is figurative as in the case when Veda calls the son as you (father) yourself. The vedantin replies that a figurative notion cannot lead to an effect in the real sense. On the other hand, undesirable effects of false notions are experienced. Identification of ‘I’ with mind-body has harmful consequences; it is not in a secondary sense. It is a false identification. Therefore, notions of kartA and a bhoktA are not figurative. They are wrongly fastened to the Self. [Concluded]