Which actions must one never renounce?

यज्ञदानतप:कर्म न त्याज्यं कार्यमेव तत्।

यज्ञो दानं तपश्चैव पावनानि मनीषिणाम्।।5।।

yajña-dāna-tapaḥ-karma na tyājyaṁ kāryam eva tat

yajño dānaṁ tapaśh chaiva pāvanāni manīṣhiṇām

The work of Yagna, gift, and austerity should not be relinquished, but it should indeed be performed; (for) Yagna, gift, and austerity are purifying to the wise.

~ Chapter 18, Verse 5

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एतान्यपि तु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलानि च।

कर्तव्यानीति मे पार्थ निश्चितं मतमुत्तमम्।।6।।

etāny api tu karmāṇi saṅgaṁ tyaktvā phalāni cha

kartavyānīti me pārtha niśhchitaṁ matam uttamam

But even these works, O Partha should be performed, leaving attachment and the fruits, such is My best and certain conviction.

~ Chapter 18, Verse 6

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नियतस्य तु सन्न्यास: कर्मणो नोपपद्यते।

मोहात्तस्य परित्यागस्तामस: परिकीर्तित:।।7।।

niyatasya tu sannyāsaḥ karmaṇo nopapadyate

mohāt tasya parityāgas tāmasaḥ parikīrtitaḥ

But the renunciation of obligatory action is not proper. Abandonment of the same from delusion is declared to be Tamasika.

~ Chapter 18, Verse 7

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दु:खमित्येव यत्कर्म कायक्लेशभयात्यजेत्।

स कृत्वा राजसं त्यागं नैव त्यागफलं लभेत्।।8।।

duḥkham ity eva yat karma kāya-kleśha-bhayāt tyajet

sa kṛitvā rājasaṁ tyāgaṁ naiva tyāga-phalaṁ labhet

He who from fear of bodily trouble relinquishes action, because it is painful, thus performing a Rajasika relinquishment, he obtains not the fruit thereof.

~ Chapter 18, Verse 8

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कार्यमित्येव यत्कर्म नियतं क्रियतेऽर्जुन।

सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा फलं चैव स त्याग: सात्त्विको मत:।।9।।

kāryam ity eva yat karma niyataṁ kriyate ‘rjuna

saṅgaṁ tyaktvā phalaṁ chaiva sa tyāgaḥ sāttviko mataḥ

When obligatory work is performed, O Arjuna, only because it ought to be done, leaving attachment and fruit, such relinquishment is regarded as Sattvika.

~ Chapter 18, Verse 9

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Questioner (Q): Sir, it’s being said, “Renunciation of obligatory action is not proper.”

What is meant by ‘obligatory action’? Is Shri Krishna talking about my social responsibilities or something else?

Acharya Prashant (AP): No. First of all, the English word ’obligatory’ is not quite proper. Shri Krishna says, “Niyat Karma. Niyatam Karma Kuru.” A more befitting word would be ’destined action’, not ’obligatory action’. It is not ‘Nirdharit Karma’ (pre-ordained or pre-determined action), it is ‘Niyat Karma’. It’s not quite an obligation. It is the only real option. It is your destiny.

You are being advised to do that which your destiny has anyway pre-ordained. What is it that has been pre-ordained for you by your destiny? Social responsibilities? Familial responsibilities? Following the code of your sect, cult or religion? Following the dictates of your desires and fancies? Is that your destiny? Nobody in his right senses would agree to this.

Destiny is the end. Destiny is the final point for the sake of which we all exist and keep moving. What is it that we finally want? Where is it that we ultimately want to reach? That is destiny, obviously. Destination, the end, the summit, the culmination, the total fulfillment, absolute completion—all these points towards destiny.