Translation and commentary by Dr. Radhakrishnan
Sanskrit Text and transliteration by Veeraswamy Krishnaraj
The Way of Knowledge
The Tradition of j˝āna Yoga
इमं विवस्वते योगं प्रोक्तवानहमव्ययम् ।
विवस्वान्मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत् ॥४-१॥
śrībhagavān uvāca: imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam
śrībhagavān uvāca: imam1 vivasvate2 yogam3
proktavān4 aham5 avyayam6
The Blessed Lord said:
4.1. I proclaimed this imperishable yoga to Vivasvān; Vivasvān told it to Manu and Manu spoke it to Ikṣvāku.á
एवं परम्पराप्राप्तमिमं राजर्षयो विदुः ।
स कालेनेह महता योगो नष्टः परन्तप ॥४-२॥
evaṁ paramparāprāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo
prāptam3 imam4 rājarṣayaḥ5
4.2. Thus handed down from one to another the royal sages knew it till that yoga was lost to the world through long lapse of time, O Oppressor of the foe (Arjuna).
1 rājarṣayaḥ: royal sages .. Rama, Kṛṣṇa and Buddha were all princes who taught the highest wisdom.
kālena8 mahatā10: by the great efflux of time. This teaching has become obscured by the lapse of ages. To renovate the faith for the welfare of humanity, great teachers arise. Kṛṣṇa now gives it to his pupil to reawaken faith in him and illumine his ignorance.
A tradition is authentic when it evokes an adequate response to the reality represented by it. It is valid, when our minds thrill and vibrate to it. When it fails to achieve this end, new teachers arise to rekindle it.
स एवायं मया तेऽद्य योगः प्रोक्तः पुरातनः ।
भक्तोऽसि मे सखा चेति रहस्यं ह्येतदुत्तमम् ॥४-३॥
sa evāyaṁ mayā tedya yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ
saḥ1 eva2 ayam3
mayā4 te5 adya6 yogaḥ7
4.3. This same ancient yoga has been today declared to thee by Me; for thou art My devotee and My friend; and this is the supreme secret,
yogaḥ7 purātanaḥ9: ancient yoga. The teacher declares that he is not stating any new doctrine but is only restoring the old tradition, the eternal verity, handed down from master to pupil. The teaching is a renewal, a rediscovery, a restoration of knowledge long forgotten. All great teachers like Gautama the Buddha and Mahāvīra, S. and R. are content to affirm that they are only restating the teachings of their former masters. Milindapa˝ha explains that it is an ancient way that had been lost that the Buddha opens up again," When the Buddha returns to his father's capital in an ascetic's garb with a begging bowl in hand, his father asks him: "Why is this?" and the answer comes: "My father, it is the custom of my race." The king in surprise asks:
"What race?" and the Buddha answers:
The great teachers do not lay claim to originality but affirm that they are expounding the ancient truth which is the final norm by which all teachings are judged, the eternal source of all religions and philosophies, the philosophia perennis, the Sanātana dharma, what Augustine calls the "wisdom that was not made; but is at this present, as it hath ever been and so shall ever be.
bhaktosi me sakhā ceti: Thou art My devotee and My friend. Revelation is never closed. So long as the human heart has qualities of devotion and friendship, God will disclose His secrets to them. Divine self-communication is possible wherever we have sincerity and a sense of need. Religious revelation is not a past event; it is that which continues to be. It is possible for all beings and not the privilege of a few. "Every one that is of the Truth heareth my voice," said Jesus to Pilate.
IV. The Way of Knowledge page 153
अपरं भवतो जन्म परं जन्म विवस्वतः ।
कथमेतद्विजानीयां त्वमादौ प्रोक्तवानिति ॥४-४॥
4.4. Later was Thy birth and earlier was the birth of Vivasvat. How then am I to understand that thou didst declare it to him in the beginning?
The Buddha claimed to have been the teacher of countless Bodhisattvas in bygone ages. Saddharmapuṇdarīka, XVI I. Jesus said: "Before Abraham was, I am." John viii, 58.
The Theory of Avatars
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन ।
तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप ॥४-५॥
Śrībhagavānuvāca: bahūni me vyatītāni janmāni
Śrībhagavānuvāca: bahūni1 me2
vyatītāni3 janmāni4 tava5 ca6
The Blessed Lord said:
4.5. Many are My lives that are past, and thine also, O Arjuna; all of them I know but thou knowest not, O Scourge of the foe (Arjuna).
अजोऽपि सन्नव्ययात्मा भूतानामीश्वरोऽपि सन् ।
प्रकृतिं स्वामधिष्ठाय संभवाम्यात्ममायया ॥४-६॥
ajopi sann avyayātmā
bhūtānām īśvaropi san
ajaḥ1 api2 san3
avyaya4 ātmā5 bhūtānām6
īśvaraḥ7 api8 san9
4.6. Though (I am) unborn, and My self (is) imperishable, though (I am) the lord of all creatures, yet establishing Myself in My own nature, I come into (empiric) being through My power (maya).
The embodiments of human beings are not voluntary. Driven by prakṛti through ignorance, they are born again and again.
The Lord controls prakṛti and assumes embodiment through His own free will. The ordinary birth of creatures is determined by the force of prakṛti, avaśaṁ prakṛter veśāt, while the Lord takes birth through his own power, ātmamāyayā.
prakṛtim10 adhiṣṭhāya12: establishing in My own nature. He uses His nature in a way which is free from subjection to karma. There is no suggestion here that the becoming of the one is a mere appearance. It is intended realistically. It is an actual becoming by māyā, "the capacity to render the impossible actual."
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत ।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥४-७॥
yadā yadā hi dharmasya glānir bhavati bhārata
hi3 dharmasya4 glāniḥ5 bhavati6
4.7. Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, O Bharata (Arjuna), then I send forth (create incarnate) Myself.
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम् ।
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय सम्भवामि युगे युगे ॥४-८॥
sādhūnām2 vināśāya3 ca4
जन्म कर्म च मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः ।
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन ॥४-९॥
janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
janma1 karma2 ca3
me4 divyam5 evam6 yaḥ7
4.9. He who knows thus in its true nature My divine birth and works, is not born again, when he leaves his body but comes to Me, O Arjuna.
Kṛṣṇa as an avatar or descent of the Divine into the human world discloses the condition of being to which the human souls should rise. The birth of the birthless means the revelation of the mystery in the soul of man.
The avatāra fulfils a number of functions in the cosmic process.
The conception makes out that there is no opposition between spiritual life and life in the world. If the world is imperfect and ruled by the flesh and the devil, it is our duty to redeem it for the spirit. The avatāra points out the way by which men can rise from their animal to a spiritual mode of existence by providing us with all example of spiritual life. The Divine nature is not seen in the incarnation in its naked splendor but is mediated by the instrumentality of manhood. The Divine greatness is conveyed to us in and through these great individuals. Their lives dramatize for us the essential constituents of human life ascending to the fulfilment of its destiny. The Bhāgavata says, "The omnipresent Lord appears in the world, not only for destroying the demoniac forces but also for teaching mortals. How else could the Lord who is blissful in Himself experience anxieties about Sītā, etc. He knows hunger and thirst, sorrow and suffering, solitude and forsakenness. He overcomes them all and asks us to take courage from His example. He not only teaches us the true doctrine by which we can die to our separate temporal selfness and come to union with Timeless Spirit but He offers Himself to be a channel of grace. By inviting souls to trust and love Him, He promises to lead them to the knowledge of the Absolute. The historical fact is the illustration of a process ever unfolding in the heart of man. The avatāra helps us to become what we potentially are. In Hindu and Buddhist systems of thought, there is no servitude to one historic fact. We can all rise to the divine status and the avatāras help us to achieve this inner realization. Cp. Gautama the Buddha: "Then the Blessed One spoke and said, 'Know Vasettha, that from time to time a Tathāgata is born into the world, a fully enlightened one, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy with the knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as a guide to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a Blessed Buddha. He proclaims the truth both in its letter and in its spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation. A higher life doth he make known in all its purity and in all its perfectness.' According to Mahāyāna Buddhism there have been many previous Buddhas and Gautama would have a successor in Mettreya (Maitreya). Gautama himself passed through many births and acquired the qualities which enabled him to discover the Truth. It is possible for others to do the same. We hear of disciples taking the vow to attain the enlightenment of a Buddha. These systems do not believe in any exclusive revelation at one unique instant of time.
वीतरागभयक्रोधा मन्मया मामुपाश्रिताः ।
बहवो ज्ञानतपसा पूता मद्भावमागताः ॥४-१०॥
vītarāgabhayakrodhā manmayā mām upāśritāḥ
manmayāḥ2 mām3 upāśritāḥ4
4.10. Delivered from passion, fear and anger, absorbed in Me, taking refuge in Me, many purified by the austerity of wisdom, have attained to My state of being.
madbhāvam8 the supernatural being that I possess.
The purpose of incarnation is not simply to uphold the world order but also to help human beings to become perfected in their nature. The freed soul becomes on earth a living image of the Infinite. The ascent of man into Godhead is also the purpose of the descent of God into humanity. The aim of the dharma is this perfection of man and the avatar generally declares that He is the truth, the way and the life.
ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम् ।
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः ॥४-११॥
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ 4.11
ye1 yathā2 mām3 prapadyante4 tān5 tathā6 eva7 bhajāmi8 aham9
mama10 vartma11 anuvartante12 manuṣyāḥ13 pārtha14 sarvaśaḥ15 4.11
4.11. As men approach me so do I accept them: men on all sides follow my path, O Partha (Arjuna).
mama10 vartma11: My path; the way of worshipping Me. sarvaśaḥ15: on all sides; sarvaprakāraḥ, in all ways, is another rendering.á
This verse brings out the wide catholicity of the Gītā religion God meets every aspirant with favour and grants to each his heart's desire. He does not extinguish the hope of any but helps all hopes to grow according to their nature. Even those who worship the Vedic deities with sacrifices and with expectation of reward find what they seek by the grace of the Supreme. Those who are vouchsafed the vision of truth convey it through symbols to ordinary people who cannot look upon its naked intensity. Name and form are used to reach the Formless. Meditation on any favorite forms may be adopted. The Hindu thinkers are conscious of the amazing variety of ways in which we may approach the Supreme, of the contingency of all forms. They know that it is impossible for any effort of logical reason to give us a true picture of ultimate reality. From the point of view of metaphysics (paramārtha), no manifestation is to be taken as absolutely true, while from the standpoint of experience (vyavahāra), every one of them has some validity. The forms we worship are aids to help us to become conscious of our deepest selves. So long as the object of worship holds fast the attention of the soul, it enters our mind and heart and fashions them. The importance of the form is to be judged by the degree in which it expresses ultimate significance.
The Gita does not speak of this or that form of religion but speaks of the impulse which is expressed in all forms, the desire to find God and understand our relation to Him. 1
The same God is worshipped by all. The differences of conception and approach are determined by local coloring and social adaptations. All manifestations belong to the same Supreme. "Viṣṇu is Śiva and Śiva is Viṣṇu and whoever thinks they are different goes to hell, 2 "He who is known as Viṣṇu is verily Rudra and he who is Rudra is Brahmā, One entity functions as three gods that is Rudra, Viṣṇu and Brahmā.'' 3 Udayanācārya writes: "Whom the Śaivas worship as Śiva, the Vedāntins as Brahman, the Buddhists as Buddha, the Naiyyāyikas who specialize in canons of knowledge as the chief agent, the followers of the Jaina code as the ever free, the ritualists as the principle of law, may that Hari, the lord of the three worlds, grant our prayers." 4 If he had been writing in this age, he would have added "whom the Christians devoted to work as Christ and the Mohammedans as Allah," 5 God is the rewarder of all who diligently seek Him,
1 Cp. All worship was to him sacred, since he believed that in its most degraded forms, among the most ignorant and foolish of worshippers, there has yet been some true seeking after the Divine, and that between these and the most glorious ritual or the highest philosophic certainty there lies so small a space that we may believe the Saints in paradise regard it with a smile." Elizabeth Waterhouse, Thoughts of a Tertiary; quoted in Evelyn Underhill, Worship (1937), p.1.
2 Cp. also Maitrāyaṇī Up. See also Atharva veda: The one light manifests itself in various forms.
3, 4. Sanskrit transliterated text not included
5 Abul Fazl describes the spirit of Akbar's Universal Faith in these words: "O God, in every temple I see people that seek Thee, and in every language I hear spoken, people praise Thee. Polytheism and Islam feel after Thee; each religion says 'Thou art One, without equal.' If it be a mosque, people murmur the holy prayer and if it be a Christian Church, people ring the bell from Love to Thee. Sometimes I frequent the Christian cloister, sometimes the mosque. But it is Thou whom I search from temple to temple. Thy elect have no dealings with either heresy or orthodoxy for neither of them stands behind the screen of Thy truth. Heresy to the heretic; and religion to the orthodox. But the dust of the rose petal belongs to the heart of the perfume seller." Blochmann, Aini Akbari, p. xxx.
whatever views of God they may hold. The spiritually immature are unwilling to recognize other gods than their own. Their attachment to their creed makes them blind to the larger unity of the Godhead. This is the result of egotism in the domain of religious ideas. The Gītā, on the other hand, affirms that though beliefs and practices may be many and varied, spiritual realization to which these are the means is one.
A strong consciousness of one's own possession of the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth added to a condescending anxiety for the condition of those who are in outer darkness produces a state of mind which is not remote from that of an inquisitor.
काङ्क्षन्तः कर्मणां सिद्धिं यजन्त इह देवताः ।
क्षिप्रं हि मानुषे लोके सिद्धिर्भवति कर्मजा ॥४-१२॥
kāṅkṣantaḥ karmaṇāṁ siddhiṁ yajanta iha devatāḥ
karmaṇām2 siddhim3 yajante4 iha5
The Desireless Nature of God's Work
चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः ।
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम् ॥४-१३॥
cāturvarṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ guṇakarmavibhāgaśaḥ
mayā2 sṛṣṭam3 guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśaḥ4
4.13. The fourfold order was created by Me according to the divisions of quality and work. Though I am its creator, know Me to be incapable of action or change.
cātur-varṇyam1: the fourfold order. The emphasis is on guṇa (aptitude) and karma (function) and not jāti (birth). The varṇa or the order to which we belong is independent of sex, birth or breeding. A class determined by temperament and vocation is not a caste determined by birth and heredity. According to the M.B., the whole world was originally of one class but later it became divided into four divisions on account of the specific duties.á Even the distinction between caste and outcaste is artificial and unspiritual. An ancient verse points out that the Brahmin and the outcaste are blood brothers.á In the M.B., Yudhiṣṭhira says that it is difficult to find out the caste of persons on account of the mixture of castes. Men beget offspring in all sorts of women. So conduct is the only determining feature of caste according to sages.
The fourfold order is designed for human evolution. There is nothing absolute about the caste system which has changed its character in the process of history. Today it cannot be regarded as anything more than an insistence on a variety of ways in which the social purpose can be carried out. Functional groupings will never be out of date and as for marriages they will happen among those who belong to more or less the same stage of cultural development, The present morbid condition of India broken into castes and subcastes is opposed to the unity taught by the Gītā, which stands for an organic as against an atomistic conception of society.
akartāram10: non-doer. As the Supreme is unattached, He is said' to be a non-doer. Works do not affect His changeless being, though He is the unseen background of all works.á
Action without Attachment does not lead to Bondage
न मां कर्माणि लिम्पन्ति न मे कर्मफले स्पृहा ।
इति मां योऽभिजानाति कर्मभिर्न स बध्यते ॥४-१४॥
na māṁ karmāṇi limpanti na
me karmaphale spṛhā
karmāṇi3 limpanti4 na5 me6
4.14. Works do not defile Me; nor do I have yearning for their fruit. He who knows Me thus is not bound by works.
एवं ज्ञात्वा कृतं कर्म पूर्वैरपि मुमुक्षुभिः ।
कुरु कर्मैव तस्मात्त्वं पूर्वैः पूर्वतरं कृतम् ॥४-१५॥
evaṁ j˝ātvā kṛtaṁ karma pūrvair
kṛtam3 karma4 pūrvaiḥ5 api6
4.15. So knowing was work done also by the men of old who sought liberation. Therefore do thou also work as the ancients did in former times.
The ignorant perform action for self-purification (ātma śuddhyartham) and the wise perform action for the maintenance of the world (lokasaṁgrahārtham).
As the ancients carried out the work ordained by tradition, Arjuna is called upon to do his duty as a warrior. Cp. "Lord of the Universe, Supreme Spirit, Beneficent God, at Thy command only, I shall carryon this pilgrimage of life, for the good of the creatures and for Thy glory.
Action and Inaction
किं कर्म किमकर्मेति कवयोऽप्यत्र मोहिताः ।
तत्ते कर्म प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात् ॥४-१६॥
kiṁ karma kimakarmeti kavayopy atra mohitāḥ
kim1 karma2 kim3
akarma4 iti5 kavayaḥ6 api7
4.16. What is action? What is inaction ?Śas to this even the wise are bewildered. I will declare to thee what action is, knowing which thou shalt be delivered from evil.
कर्मणो ह्यपि बोद्धव्यं बोद्धव्यं च विकर्मणः ।
अकर्मणश्च बोद्धव्यं गहना कर्मणो गतिः ॥४-१७॥
karmaṇo hy api
api3 boddhavyam4 boddhavyam5 ca6
4.17. One has to understand what action is, and likewise one has to understand what is wrong action and one has to understand about inaction. Hard to understand is the way of work.
What is the right course is not generally obvious. The ideas of our time, the prescription of tradition, the voice of conscience get mixed up and confuse us. In the midst of all this, the wise man seeks a way out by a reference to immutable truths, with the insight of the highest reason.
कर्मण्यकर्म यः पश्येदकर्मणि च कर्म यः ।
स बुद्धिमान्मनुष्येषु स युक्तः कृत्स्नकर्मकृत् ॥४-१८॥
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
yaḥ3 paśyet4 akarmaṇi5 ca6
4.18. He who in action sees inaction and action in inaction, he is wise among men, he is a yogin and he has accomplished all his work.
So long as we work in a detached spirit our mental balance is not disturbed. We refrain from actions which are born of desire and do our duties, with a soul linked with the Divine. So true non-activity is to preserve inner composure and to be free from attachment. Akarma means the absence of bondage resulting from work because it is done without attachment. He who works without attachment is not bound. We are acting even when we sit quiet without any outward action. Cp. Aṣṭavakragītā. The turning away from action by fools due to perversity and ignorance amounts to action. The action of the wise (that is their desireless action) has the same fruit as that of renunciation.
S. explains that in atman there is no action; in the body however there is no rest, even when there seems to be rest.
R. holds that akarma is ātmaj˝āna. The wise man is he who sees j˝āna in the true performance of karma. For him j˝āna and karma go together.
According to Madhva, akarma is the inactivity of the self and the activity of Viṣṇu. Therefore the wise man is he who sees the activity of the Lord whether the individual is active or not.
यस्य सर्वे समारम्भाः कामसंकल्पवर्जिताः ।
ज्ञानाग्निदग्धकर्माणं तमाहुः पण्डितं बुधाः ॥४-१९॥
yasya sarve samārambhāḥ kāmasaṁkalpavarjitāḥ
samārambhāḥ3 kāma4 saṁkalpa5
4.19. He whose undertakings are all free from the will of desire, whose works are burned up in the fire of wisdom, him the wise call a man of learning.
Such a worker has the universality of outlook born of wisdom (j˝āna) and freedom from selfish desire. Though he works, he really does nothing.
त्यक्त्वा कर्मफलासङ्गं नित्यतृप्तो निराश्रयः ।
कर्मण्यभिप्रवृत्तोऽपि नैव किंचित्करोति सः ॥४-२०॥
4.20. Having abandoned attachment to the fruit of works, ever content, without any kind of dependence, he does nothing though he is ever engaged in work.
Cp. Aṣṭavakragītā. "He who is devoid of existence and non-existence) who is wise, satisfied, free from desire, does nothing even if he may be acting in the eyes of the world."
"He who, without attachment to them, surrenders to God all religious practices ordained by the scriptures, obtains the perfection of non-action; the promised fruit is only to attract us to action.
निराशीर्यतचित्तात्मा त्यक्तसर्वपरिग्रहः ।
शारीरं केवलं कर्म कुर्वन्नाप्नोति किल्बिषम् ॥४-२१॥
nirāśīr yatacittātmā tyaktasarvaparigrahaḥ
yata2 citta-ātmā3 tyakta4 sarva5
4.2I. Having no desires, with his heart and self under control, giving up all possessions, performing action by the body alone, he commits no wrong.
śārīram7 karma9 is work required for the maintenance of the body according to S. and Madhusūdana. It is work done by the body alone according to Vedānta Deśika,
Virtue or vice does not belong to the outer deed. When a man is rid of his passions and self-will, he becomes a mirror reflecting the will of the Divine. The human soul becomes the pure channel of Divine power.
यदृच्छालाभसंतुष्टो द्वन्द्वातीतो विमत्सरः ।
समः सिद्धावसिद्धौ च कृत्वापि न निबध्यते ॥४-२२॥
yadṛcchālābhasaṁtuṣṭo dvandvātīto vimatsaraḥ
yadṛcchā1 lābha2 saṁtuṣṭaḥ3 dvandva4 atītaḥ5 vimatsaraḥ6
samaḥ7 siddhāu8 asiddhau9 ca10 kṛtvā11 api12 na13 nibadhyate14 4.22
4.22. He who is satisfied with whatever comes by chance, who has passed beyond the dualities (of pleasure and pain), who is free from jealousy, who remains the same in success and failure, even when he acts, he is not bound.
Action by itself does not bind. If it does, then we are committed to a gross dualism between God and the world and the world becomes a cosmic blunder. The cosmos is a manifestation of the Supreme and what binds is not the act but the selfish attitude to action, born of ignorance which makes us imagine that we are so many separate individuals with our special preferences and aversions.
The teacher now proceeds to point out how the actor, the act and the action are all different manifestations of the one Supreme and action offered as a sacrifice to the Supreme does not bind.
Sacrifice and Its Symbolic Value
गतसङ्गस्य मुक्तस्य ज्ञानावस्थितचेतसः ।
यज्ञायाचरतः कर्म समग्रं प्रविलीयते ॥४-२३॥
gatasaṅgasya muktasya j˝ānāvasthitacetasaḥ
j˝āna3 avasthita4 cetasaḥ5
4.23. The work of a man whose attachments are sundered, who is liberated, whose mind is firmly founded in wisdom, who does work as a sacrifice, is dissolved entirely.
ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना ॥४-२४॥
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir brahmāgnau brahmaṇā
brahma3 haviḥ4 brahma5 agnau6
4.24. For him the act of offering is God, the oblation is God. By God is it offered into the fire of God. God is that which is to be attained by him who realizes God in his works.
The Vedic yaj˝a is here interpreted in a larger, spiritual way. Though the performer of yaj˝a does work, he is not bound by it, for his earth life is brooded over by the sense of eternity.1
1 Cp, Mantiqu't-Tair. E. T. by Fitzgerald.
All you have been, and seen, and done and thought,
Not you but I have seen and been and wroughtů
Pilgrim, pilgrimage and Road,
Was but Myself toward Myself; and your
Arrival but Myself at my own door ...
Come, you lost Atoms, to your centre drawů
Rays that have wandered into Darkness wide,
Return, and back into your Sun subside."
Quoted from Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Hinduism and Buddhism (1943), p. 42.
दैवमेवापरे यज्ञं योगिनः पर्युपासते ।
ब्रह्माग्नावपरे यज्ञं यज्ञेनैवोपजुह्वति ॥४-२५॥
daivam evāpare yaj˝aṁ yoginaḥ paryupāsate
daivam1 eva2 apare3
yaj˝am4 yoginaḥ5 pari-upāsate6
4.25. Some yogins offer sacrifices to the gods while others offer sacrifice by the sacrifice itself into the fire of the Supreme.
S. interprets yaj˝a in the second half of the verse as atman.
"Others offer the self as self into the fire of Brahman.
Those who conceive the Divine in various forms seek favors from them by performing the consecrated rites of action, while others offer all works to the Divine itself.
श्रोत्रादीनीन्द्रियाण्यन्ये संयमाग्निषु जुह्वति ।
शब्दादीन्विषयानन्य इन्द्रियाग्निषु जुह्वति ॥४-२६॥
śrotrādīnīndriyāṇy anye saṁyamāgniṣu
īndriyāṇi2 anye3 saṁyama4
4.26. Some offer hearing and the other senses into the fires of restraint; others offer sound and the other objects of sense in the fires of sense.
By means of sacrifice interpreted here as means to mental control and discipline, we strive to make knowledge penetrate our whole being.' out whole being is surrendered and changed. A right enjoyment of sense objects is compared to a sacrifice in which the objects are the offering and senses the sacrificial fires. Every form of self-control, where we surrender the egoistic enjoyment for the higher delight, where we give up lower impulses is said to be a sacrifice.
सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि प्राणकर्माणि चापरे ।
आत्मसंयमयोगाग्नौ जुह्वति ज्ञानदीपिते ॥४-२७॥
prāṇa-karmāṇi3 ca4 apare5
4.27. Some again offer all the works of their senses and the works of the vital force into the fire of the yoga of self-control, kindled by knowledge.
द्रव्ययज्ञास्तपोयज्ञा योगयज्ञास्तथापरे ।
स्वाध्यायज्ञानयज्ञाश्च यतयः संशितव्रताः ॥४-२८॥
dravyayaj˝ās tapoyaj˝ā yogayaj˝ās tathāpare
4.28. Some likewise offer as sacrifice their material possessions. or their austerities or their spiritual exercises while others of subdued minds and severe vows offer their learning and knowledge.
अपाने जुह्वति प्राणं प्राणेऽपानं तथापरे ।
प्राणापानगती रुद्ध्वा प्राणायामपरायणाः ॥४-२९॥
apāne juvhati prāṇaṁ
prāṇam3 prāṇe4 apānam5
4.29. Others again who are devoted to breath control, having restrained the paths of prāṇa (the outgoing breath) and apāna (the incoming breath) pour as sacrifice prāṇa into apāna and apāna into prāṇa.
अपरे नियताहाराः प्राणान्प्राणेषु जुह्वति ।
सर्वेऽप्येते यज्ञविदो यज्ञक्षपितकल्मषाः ॥४-३०॥
4.30. While others, restricting their food, pour as sacrifice their life breaths into life breaths. All these are knowers of sacrifice (know what sacrifice is) and by sacrifice have their sins destroyed.
Restraint is the essence of all sacrifice and so all sacrifices may be regarded as means to spiritual growth.
यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम् ।
नायं लोकोऽस्त्ययज्ञस्य कुतोऽन्यः कुरुसत्तम ॥४-३१॥
yaj˝aśiṣṭāmṛtabhujo yānti brahma sanātanam
yānti5 brahma6 sanātanam7
4.31. Those who eat the sacred food that remains after a sacrifice attain to the eternal Absolute; this world is not for him who offers no sacrifice, how then any other world, O Best of the Kurus (Arjuna)?
The law of the world is sacrifice and he who violates it cannot obtain mastery either here or beyond.
एवं बहुविधा यज्ञा वितता ब्रह्मणो मुखे ।
कर्मजान्विद्धि तान्सर्वानेवं ज्ञात्वा विमोक्ष्यसे ॥४-३२॥
evaṁ bahuvidhā yaj˝ā vitatā brahmaṇo mukhe
yaj˝āḥ3 vitatāḥ4 brahmaṇaḥ5
á4.32. Thus many forms of sacrifice are spread out in the face of Brahman (Le. set forth as the means of reaching the Absolute) Know thou that all these are born of work , and so knowing thou shalt be freed.
Wisdom and Work
श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञः परन्तप ।
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते ॥४-३३॥
śreyān dravyamayād yaj˝āj j˝ānayaj˝aḥ paraṁtapa
śreyān1 dravyamayāt2 yaj˝āt3 j˝āna-yaj˝aḥ4 parantapa5
IV The Way of Knowledge Page 169
(4.33) Knowledge as a sacrifice is greater than any material sacrifice, 0 scourge of the foe (Arjuna), for all works without any exception culminate in wisdom.
The goal is the lifegiving wisdom, which gives us freedom of action and liberation from the bondage of work.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया ।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः ॥४-३४॥
tat1 viddhi2 praṇipātena3
(4.34) Learn that by humble reverence, by inquiry and by service. The men of wisdom who have seen the truth will instruct thee in knowledge.
Wise men will teach us the truth if we approach them in a spirit of service and reverent inquiry. Until we realize the God within, we must act according to the advice of those who have had the experience of God. If we accept what is said in the Śāstras or taught by the teacher in unthinking bust, that will not do. Reason must be satisfied. "He who has no personal knowledge but has only heard of many things cannot understand the meaning of scriptures even as a spoon has no idea of the taste of the soup.1 We must combine devotion to the teacher with the most unrestricted right of free examination and inquiry. Blind obedience to an external authority is repudiated. Today there are several teachers who require of their followers unthinking obedience to their dictates. They seem to believe that the death of intellect is the condition of the life of spirit. Many credulous and simple-minded people are drawn to them not so much by their spiritual powers as by the publicity of their agents and the human weakness for novelty, curiosity, and excitement. This is against the Hindu tradition which insists on jij˝āsā or inquiry, manana or reflection or paripraśna in the words of the Gītā.
But mere intellectual apprehension will not do. Intellect can only give fragmentary views, glimpses of the Beyond, but it does not give the consciousness of the Beyond. We must open the whole of our inner being to establish personal contact. The disciple has to tread the interior path. The ultimate authority is the inner light which is not to be confused with the promptings of desire. By the quality of service and self-effacement, we knock down the obstructing prejudices and let the wisdom in us shine. Truth achieved is different from truth imparted. Ultimately, what is revealed in the scriptures (praṇipātā-śravaṇa), what is thought out by the mind (paripraśna-manana) and what is realized by the spirit through service and meditation (śeva-nididhyāsana) must agree. 2 We must consort with the great minds of the past, reason about them and intuitively apprehend what is of enduring value in them.
This verse makes out that in spiritual life, faith comes first, then knowledge, and then experience.
Those who have experienced the truth are expected to guide us. The seers owe a duty to their less fortunate brethren and guide them to the attainment of illumination which they have reached.
1 yasya nāsti nijā Prāj˝a kevalaṁ tu bahuśrutaḥ
na sa jānāti śāstrārthaṁ darvī sūtarasān iva. M.B., II, 55, 1
2 Cp, Plato: ('A man should persevere till he has achieved one of two things: either he should discover the truth about them for himself or learn it from some one else; or if this is impossible he should take the best and most irrefragable of human theories and make it the raft on which he sails through life." Phaedo, 85. Cp. Plotinus: "Out of discussion we call to vision" to those desiring to see we point the path, our teaching is a guiding in the way, the seeing must be the very act of him who has made the choice." Enneads, VI, 9, 4.
170 The Bhagavadgita
In Praise of Wisdom
यज्ज्ञात्वा न पुनर्मोहमेवं यास्यसि पाण्डव ।
येन भूतान्यशेषेण द्रक्ष्यस्यात्मन्यथो मयि ॥४-३५॥
j˝ātvā na punar moham
evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava
yat1 j˝ātvā2 na3 punaḥ4 moham5 evam6 yāsyasi7 pāṇḍava8
(4.35) When thou hast known it, thou shalt not fall again into this confusion, 0 Pandava (Arjuna), for by this thou shalt see all existences without exception in the Self, then in Me.
When the sense of difference is destroyed actions do not bind, since ignorance is the source of bondage and the self, having attained wisdom, is free from it.
IV The Way of Knowledge 171
अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः ।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं सन्तरिष्यसि ॥४-३६॥
ced asi pāpebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ
api1 cet2 asi3 pāpebhyaḥ4 sarvebhyaḥ5 pāpa-kṛt-tamaḥ6
(4.36) Even if thou shouldst be the most sinful of all sinners, thou shalt cross over all evil by the boat of wisdom alone.
यथैधांसि समिद्धोऽग्निर्भस्मसात्कुरुतेऽर्जुन ।
ज्ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा ॥४-३७॥
yatha1 edhāṁsi2 samiddhaḥ3 agniḥ4
bhasmasāt5 kurute6 arjuna7
(4.37) As the fire which is kindled turns its fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, even so does the fire of wisdom tum to ashes all work.
न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते ।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति ॥४-३८॥
hi j˝ānena sadṛśaṁ
pavitram iha vidyate
na1 hi2 j˝ānena3 sadṛśam4 pavitram5 iha6 vidyate7
(4.38) There is nothing on earth equal in purity to wisdom. He who becomes perfected by yoga finds this of himself, in his self in course of time.
Self-control discovers it to man at last.
Faith is Necessary for Wisdom
श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः ।
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति ॥४-३९॥
śraddhāvān1 labhate2 j˝ānam3 tatparaḥ4 saṁyata5 indriyaḥ6
(4.39) He who has faith, who is absorbed in it (i.e. wisdom) and who has subdued his senses gains wisdom and having gained wisdom he attains quickly the supreme peace.
śraddhā: faith. Faith is necessary for gaining wisdom. Faith is not blind belief. It is the aspiration of the soul to gain wisdom. It is the reflection in the empirical self of the wisdom that dwells in the deepest levels of our being. If faith is constant, it takes us to the realization of wisdom. j˝āna as wisdom is free from doubts while intellectual knowledge where we depend on sense data and logical inference, doubt and skepticism have their place. Wisdom is not acquired by these means. We have to live it inwardly and grow into its reality. The way to it is through faith and self-control.
parāṁ śāntim.: the supreme peace. Nilakaṇtha suggests that he attains the supreme state of bliss, after the karma which has commenced to operate completes its course.1
172 The Bhagavadgita
अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति ।
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः ॥४-४०॥
cāśraddadhānaś ca saṁśayātmā
aj˝aḥ1 ca2 aśraddadhānaḥ3 ca4 saṁśaya5
(4.40) But the man who is ignorant, who has no faith, who is of a doubting nature, perishes. For the doubting soul, there is neither this world nor the world beyond nor any happiness.
We must have a positive basis for life, an unwavering faith which stands the test of life.
योगसंन्यस्तकर्माणं ज्ञानसंछिन्नसंशयम् ।
आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्नन्ति धनंजय ॥४-४१॥
yoga1 sannyasta2 karmāṇam3 j˝āna4 sa˝chinna5 saṁśayam6
( 4.4I) Works do not bind him who has renounced all works by yoga, who has destroyed all doubt by wisdom and who ever possesses his soul, O winner of wealth (Arjuna).
The mutual relationship of true work, wisdom and self-discipline is here brought out.
yogasaṁnyastakarmāṇam: yoga1 sannyasta2 karmāṇam3 who has renounced all works by yoga. This may refer to those who develop even-mindedness with worship of God as its characteristic, and so dedicate all works to God or to those who have insight into the highest reality and so are detached from works.1 Madhusūdana.
1 yogena bhagavadārādhanalakṣaṇasamatvabuddhirūpeṇa saṁnya-
stāni bhagavati samarpitāni karmāṇi yena yadvā paramārtha darśanalakṣaṇena yogena saṁnyastāni tyaktāni, karmāṇi yena tam yogasaṁnyastakarmāṇam.
ātmavantam7 : who possesses his self, While he does work for others, he remains his own self. In the eager pursuit of the good of others, he does not lose his hold on the self.
IV. The Way of Knowledge 173
तस्मादज्ञानसम्भूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनात्मनः ।
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत ॥४-४२॥
sa˝bhūtam3 hṛt-stham4 j˝āna5 asina6 ātmanaḥ7
(4.42) Therefore having cut asunder 'with the sword of wisdom this doubt in thy heart that is born of ignorance, resort to yoga and stand up, O Bhārata (Arjuna).
Arjuna is here called upon to perform action with the help of knowledge and concentration. The doubt in his heart whether it is better to fight or abstain is the product of ignorance. It will be destroyed by wisdom. Then he will know what is right for him to do.
iti . . . j˝ānayogo nāma caturtho 'dhyāyaḥ
This is the fourth chapter entitled The Yoga of Divine Knowledge.
Sometimes the chapter is entitled j˝āna Karmasaṁnyāsayoga, the yoga of knowledge and (true) renunciation of action.
End Chapter IV