Bhagavan Shri Krishna, in these ten verses, explains the various kinds of sacrifices (Yajnas) practiced by Sadhakas or seekers of Self-realisation. He begins with emphasising that one has to engage in desireless action with a controlled mind and relinquish all sense of doer-ship, and accept with a sense of equipoise the rewards of actions as His blessings. Such persons are said to be engaged in Karma Yoga and qualify themselves to achieve self-realisation.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna goes on to elaborate on the different types of sacrifices performed by Yogis and others. He commences with artha-yajnas or offering of donations for worship and propitiation of the Supreme Lord and progresses to the Yajna of pranayama or breath control, and offering of food, different varieties of sacrifice are adopted persons according to their abilities and understanding. Practitioners of these Yajnas eventually realise the Atma or Soul within their heart and perceive the eternal Brahman (ParamAtma or Supersoul) that pervades all existence and leads one to the Supreme Lord.
4.21 Shloka 4.21
शारीरं केवलं कर्म कुर्वन्नाप्नोति किल्बिष।।4.21।।
Nirasir yata-cittatma tyakta-sarva-parigrahah |
Sariram kevalam karma kurvan napnoti kilbisam ||4.21||
Meaning: A person who is devoid of desire, and is with a controlled in mind and intelligence having relinquished all sense of proprietorship over his possessions, and acting only for the sustenance of the body, is not affected by sinful reactions.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the word ‘nirasir’ meaning ‘bereft of expectancy or devoid of all desires for rewards’. The words ‘yata-cittatma’ means to control the mind and focus on the atma or soul, and keep the mind tranquil and equiposed that is free from agitation. The words ‘tyakta-sarva-parigrahah’ means abandoning all longings for sense objects and pleasures. One should perform all actions dispassionately, as a matter of duty merely as a function of their body; actions performed in this manner will attract no sinful reaction and frees one from this samsara or bondage of birth, death and rebirth in the material existence.
If Karma Yoga is performed in this way by those seeking Moksha or liberation from this Samsara, this in itself is sufficient to lead one to ‘atma tattva’ or realisation of the soul.
4.22 Shloka 4.22
यदृच्छालाभसन्तुष्टो द्वन्द्वातीतो विमत्सरः।
समः सिद्धावसिद्धौ च कृत्वापि न निबध्यते।।4.22।।
Yadrccha-labha-santusto dvandvatito vimatsarah |
Samah siddhav asiddhau ca krtvapi na nibadhyate ||4.22||
Meaning: He who is satisfied with the gain that comes of its own accord, and he who is free from duality and harbours no envy, who is steady in both success and failure, is never entangled while performing actions.
One who is tranquil and is equipoised with the results that are enough to maintain one’s existence, is a person who has acquired knowledge of the Self and has reached beyond the dualities of material existence. Such a person is content and accepts pleasure and pain, acceptance or rejection, sadness or happiness in the same vein.
The word ‘vimatsarah’ means free from malice and envy. One who understands that the past Karma are the reasons for present situation, such a person is not envious of others and does not blame others for their adverse situation and experience. They learn to accept it with equipoise. The words ‘siddhau-asiddhau samah’ means one who keeps their mind balanced and equipoised in success or failure while performing their duties.
Lord Krishna is saying is that if a person develops and practices this kind of attitude while performing activities they will not be bound to the Samsara or the cycle of birth, death and rebirth in the material world even though they may not be fully following the path of Jnana Yoga.
4.23 Shloka 4.23
गतसङ्गस्य मुक्तस्य ज्ञानावस्थितचेतसः।
यज्ञायाचरतः कर्म समग्रं प्रविलीयते।।4.23।।
Gata-sangasya muktasya jnanavasthita-cetasah |
Yajnayacaratah karma samagram praviliyate ||4.23||
Meaning: One who is unattached to material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge, and performs all actions as a sacrifice unto the Supreme Being, all such actions are dissolved and the person merges entirely into transcendence.
Being free from all dependence means to take complete refuge in the Supreme Lord and to be totally under His protection. Liberated means to be free from all sense of pride.
Devoid of attachment to the rewards of actions due to one’s mind being firmly fixed in the bliss of the Atma or Soul and he who performs all actions as an offering of worship for the propitiation to the Supreme Lord will never be bound by the actions.
When one’s mind is always engrossed in contemplation of the Supreme, the attachment to worldly desires is naturally withdrawn. For such a person the sense of ownership and proprietorship are automatically abandoned. Such a person realises the Self and is in communion with the Supreme Being. Living such a life leads to every action performed as a yajna or worship and an offering to the Supreme Being. For such a person, all the accumulated reactions from the past resulting from previous actions are completely evaporated without any residue.
4.24 Shloka 4.24
ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्महविर्ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम्।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना।।4.24।।
Brahmarpanam brahma havir brahmagnau brahmana hutam |
Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahma-karma-samadhina ||4.24||
Meaning: The sacrificial paraphernalia is the Ultimate truth; the sacrificial fire is the Ultimate truth; the offering of oblations and clarified butter by the Brahmana is the Ultimate truth; for him being fully absorbed in the Ultimate truth by spiritual activities; certainly the Ultimate truth is attainable.
The word ‘Brahmarpanam’ means the paraphernalia used to offer oblations in yajna or offering of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord. All the accessories used in Yajna are also considered to be Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence, along with the offerings of ghee and grain, pulses, and the fire they are offered through as well as the performer of the offering.
Lord Krishna explains that everything used in Yajna can be considered as part of the Brahman. One who realises that the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence is actually abiding in all actions, reaches the Brahman. As everything in existence is factually within the Brahman it can be understood that everything is actually a form of the Brahman. The Brahman or spiritual substratum of reality is surely the destination to be achieved by those who are experiencing it, as it is eternal and permanent. Concentration in the Brahman is considered as a Yajna or propitiation to the Ultimate reality. This is the consciousness of the actions from an aspirant of Moksha or liberation where the Atma or Soul is understood to be non-different from the Brahman.
Consequently actions performed in this consciousness are all known to be spiritual and a person is situated in such perfect knowledge is known to have achieved Atma tattva or Self-Realisation, hence obviating any further need to practice Jnana yoga.
4.25 Shloka 4.25
दैवमेवापरे यज्ञं योगिनः पर्युपासते।
ब्रह्माग्नावपरे यज्ञं यज्ञेनैवोपजुह्वति।।4.25।।
Daivam evapare yajnam yoginah paryupasate |
Brahmagnav apare yajnam yajnenaivopajuhvati ||4.25||
Meaning: Some yogis perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some of them offer sacrifices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.
In this way, Bhagavan Shri Krishna is draws the distinction between worship of the Devas and propitiation of the Supreme Brahman. The results one achieves while being continuously immersed in the Brahman while performing every action as Yajna or offering and propitiation to the Supreme Lord is eternal bliss and superior to the transient benefits derived from the worship of the Devas. To show the superiority of this Yajna over all others, Bhagavan presents various types of Yajnas performed by different yogis or those striving to achieve self-realisation, in the next eight verses.
4.26 Shloka 4.26
श्रोत्रादीनीन्द्रियाण्यन्ये संयमाग्निषु जुह्वति।
शब्दादीन्विषयानन्य इन्द्रियाग्निषु जुह्वति।।4.26।।
Srotradinindriyany anye samyamagnisu juhvati
Sabdadin visayan anya indriyagnisu juhvati ||4.26||
Meaning: Some (Sanyasis) offer sacrificial oblations such as hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind, while others (grihistas or householders) sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as pleasing sound and sights in the fire as oblations.
In the fire of the Yajna, the offerings are usually ‘havis’ or ghee and grainseeds that are used in the paraphernalia to perform the Yajna. In the form of Yajna, the goal of Yajna being the Supreme Lord is offered to Himself. Thus, everything becomes Brahman.
In the Vishnu Sahasranamam (Shloka 105), the significance of Yajna is explained:
Yajnabhrit Yajnakrit Yajni Yajnabhuk Yajnasadhanah |
Yajnaantakrit Yajnaguhyam Annam Annaada Eve Ca ||105||
Meaning: He bears the full brunt of the responsibility of taking the Yajna to its successful completion. As the creator, He also created Yajna as a means for devotees to reach Him. He is the Master of all the Yajnas and it is for Him that all the sacrifices are performed. It is He who consumes and enjoys the offerings made in the Yajnas. He is the One Who is sought through the Yajnas. He provides not only the inspiration to perform Yajnas but also the resources to perform the Yajnas. He is the One Who concludes the Yajnas fruitfully and He is the hidden underlying spirit of the noblest of Yajnas. He is eaten by all beings in His form as food and He is the Enjoyer of those who enjoy Him.
When these Yajnas are perfectly performed, there is no scarcity of supplies required for sustenance. Performance of yajnas has many benefits and they ultimately lead to liberation from bondage.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.4.10), it states that the Brahman alone was in the beginning and it knew itself as the Brahman and manifested into all. Whosoever amongst the Devas becomes awakened to this consciousness indeed becomes this consciousness. It is the same for elevated beings and the same for sages and yogis and it is the same for humans.
The Yogis engage in the spiritual practice of renunciation and are desirous of attaining knowledge of the Brahman. They keep all their senses under control and away from sense objects, and offer these into the fire of self-discipline. Others, like the Grihastas or householders, engage in worldly affairs and indulge themselves in sense gratification but with a spirit of performing Yajna or worship by offering all their actions to the Lord.
4.27 Shloka 4.27
सर्वाणीन्द्रियकर्माणि प्राणकर्माणि चापरे।
आत्मसंयमयोगाग्नौ जुह्वति ज्ञानदीपिते।।4.27।।
Sarvanindriya-karmani prana-karmani capare |
Atma-samyama-yogagnau juhvati jnana-dipite ||4.27||
Meaning: Those who seek self-realisation, offer the functions of all their senses, as well as the vital force [breath], as oblations into the fire (symbolically) for purification of the mind by Yoga.
The compound words ‘atma-samyama-yogagnau’ means ‘into the fire of self-purification of the mind by Yoga’. This infers that due to spiritual wisdom and knowledge an intense self-restraint and determination is activated. It is important to understand that a mere control of the senses will not bring the desired result, though this may be the starting point in the process of self-purification.
With constant practice, the mind achieves a state of wisdom when it is no longer a conscious effort to control the senses as the person develops a discriminative intellect wherein the senses are naturally restrained. When a person reaches this state, they become qualified to unite with the Ultimate consciousness.
Some Yogis offer all the functions of the senses and all the functions of the prana or life breath along with the vital energy of the body in the fire of the purified soul ignited by knowledge. By this Bhagavan Shri Krishna means that such Yogis direct their efforts in disciplining the mind to refrain from the pursuit of sensual activities.
4.28 Shloka 4.28
स्वाध्यायज्ञानयज्ञाश्च यतयः संशितव्रताः।।4.28।।
Dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna yoga-yajnas tathapare |
Svadhyaya-jnana-yajnas ca yatayah samsita-vratah ||4.28||
Meaning: There are others who, enlightened by sacrificing their material possessions in severe austerities, take strict vows and practice the yoga of eight-fold mysticism; and study the Vedas for advancement of transcendental knowledge.
Those who donate wealth for Yajnas and also those who perform tapasya or austerities are considered to be offering oblations in Yajna. When such austere penances are offered as propitiation to the Supreme Brahman, the penance itself becomes the Yajna or sacrificial fire. Offering in wisdom is to attain the realisation that all knowledge is ultimately for the realisation of the Atma or Soul which unites with the Supreme.
Here Bhagavan reveals that those who donate wealth for the performance Yajna or offering of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord and to feed the guests are said to be engaged in Artha Yajna. Some perform austerities such as special fasting or perform Yajna by practicing the eight-fold yoga system such as Yama or forbearance, Niyama or restraint, Asanas or postures, Pranayama or breathing exercises, Pratyahara or withdrawal, Dharana or focused attention and Samadhi or complete absorption in meditation. Others strive by observing austere penance and perform Yajna by intense study of the Vedic scriptures.
Some others perform Yajnas by going on a pilgrimage to holy places like Jagannatha Puri, Haridwar, Mathura, Kashi, Kanch etc. Some perform Svadhyaya Yajna or the study of the Vedic scriptures. The word ‘yatayah’ means diligent and refers to yatis who persevere to accomplish all the vows they undertake spiritually. The compound word ‘samsita-vratah’ means they who have firm resolve and fixed determination and refers to the Yatis.
4.29 Shloka 4.29
अपाने जुह्वति प्राण प्राणेऽपानं तथाऽपरे।
प्राणापानगती रुद्ध्वा प्राणायामपरायणाः।
अपरे नियताहाराः प्राणान्प्राणेषु जुह्वति।।4.29।।
Apane juhvati pranam prane ‘panam tathapare |
Pranapana-gati ruddhva pranayama-parayanah |
Apare niyataharah pranan pranesu juhvati ||4.29||
Meaning: And there are others who offer the outgoing breath into the incoming, and incoming breath into the outgoing; in this way they exercise breath control by checking the flow of both incoming and outgoing breath. This arduous practice is called pranayama i.e. control over breathing. Some of them curtail their eating process and offer the outgoing breath into itself as a sacrifice.
Continuing on, Bhagavan Shri Krishna explains that those who are devoted to practicing pranayama or regulation of the breath, offer the prana or outgoing breath to the apana or incoming breath and the incoming breath to the outgoing breath. In this way they arrive at the stage of complete restraint of the breath and this is considered to be Yajna or offerings of worship.
Lord Krishna states that those practising the pranayama or breath control are of three levels -one called rechaka or exhalation for 16 beats, puraka or inhaling for 32 beats and kumbhaka or cessation of breath for 64 beats. For every breath the prana or outgoing breath is offered as Yajna or worship into the apana or incoming breath and the apana is offered into the prana. Some others observe fast and curtail their eating and offer that as a sacrifice.
4.30 Shloka 4.30
सर्वेऽप्येते यज्ञविदो यज्ञक्षपितकल्मषाः।
यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम्।।4.30।।
Sarve ‘py ete yajna-vido yajna-ksapita-kalmasah |
Yajna-sistamrta-bhujo yanti brahma sanatanam ||4.30||
Meaning: All these persons are the knowledgeable of the principle of performing sacrifices, and hence become cleansed of sinful reactions, and having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifice, they achieve the eternal and Ultimate Truth.
Yogis or those following the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness enjoy the ambrosial nectar of the remnants left over in the time period after the Yajna or offerings of worship are completed. The compound word sista-amrta refers to the remains of nectar after Yajna. Through purity of mind followed by acquisition of knowledge one realises the eternal Brahman.
The Skanda Purana reveals that there are two types of food suitable for eating. First, food that was duly offered to the Supreme Lord and the second is the remnants of the food partaken after the devotees of the Supreme Lord have eaten from His offerings. The third type of food is one which was not offered to the Supreme Lord before partaking, and hence should never be eaten by one desiring their welfare.
Therefore, one should offer food to the Lord before partaking and such food becomes ‘Prasada’ and paves the path for realisation of the Brahman and the attainment of Moksha as every action is done while contemplating on the Supreme.
In summary, commencing with artha-yajnas or offering of donations for worship and propitiation of the Supreme Lord to the Yajna of pranayama or breath control, and offering of food, different varieties of sacrifice are adopted persons according to their abilities and understanding. Practitioners of these Yajnas eventually realise the Atma or Soul within their heart and perceive the eternal Brahman (ParamAtma or Supersoul) that pervades all existence and leads one to the Supreme Lord.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat