Bhagavan Krishna, through these next ten verses, explains the importance of performing actions without desire or attachment to the results. In these verses, Lord Krishna explains the importance of performing yajna for the purification of the body, mind and intellect. By performing yajnas and offering the food as oblation, one’s food is sanctified, and by eating sanctified food, one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence, the mind becomes sanctified, and when mind is sanctified, one can contemplate on the path of liberation, and all these collectively lead to purification of the Soul (Atma), thus paving the way for liberation.
3.11 Shloka 3.11
देवान्भावयतानेन ते देवा भावयन्तु वः।
परस्परं भावयन्तः श्रेयः परमवाप्स्यथ।।3.11।।
Devan bhavayatanena te deva bhavayantu vah |
Parasparam bhavayantah sreyah param avapsyatha ||3.11||
Meaning: The Devas, being pleased by the sacrifices, will also please you; thus nourishing one another, there will reign general prosperity for all.
The Devas are empowered administrators, supplying air, light, water and all other benedictions for maintaining the body and soul of every living entity. Their pleasures and displeasures are dependent on the performance of yajnas by the human being. Some of the yajnas are meant to satisfy the Ishta (chosen) Devas; but even in so doing, Lord Vishnu is worshiped in all yajnas as the ultimate benefactor.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, Bhagavan Shri Krishna say that He is the beneficiary of all kinds of yajnas: bhoktaram yajna-tapasam. In Chapter 9 Verse 24 Shri Krishna says, ‘aham hi sarva-yajnanam bhokta ca prabhur eva ca – I am the enjoyer of all sacrifices and the Ultimate Lord’.
In the Vishnu Sahasranamam (Shloka 105), the importance 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. By performance of yajnas, all activities become purified, as it is stated in the Vedas:
Ahara-suddhau sattva-suddhih sattva-suddhau |
Dhruva smrtih smrti-lambhe sarva-granthinam vipra-moksah ||
Meaning: By performing yajnas, one’s food is sanctified, and by partaking the sanctified food, one’s very existence becomes purified; by the purification of existence, the mind is sanctified, and when the mind is sanctified, one becomes ready to contemplate the path of liberation, and all these collectively lead to purification of the Soul (Atma), thus paving the way for liberation.
3.12 Shloka 3.12
इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः।।3.12।।
Istan bhogan hi vo deva dasyante yajna-bhavitah |
Tair dattan apradayaibhyo yo bhunkte stena eva sah ||3.12||
Meaning: As Devas are entrusted with providing the various necessities of life, they being satisfied by the performance of yajnas [sacrifice], bestow all necessities to man. But he who enjoys these gifts, without offering them to the Devas, is certainly a thief.
One should understand that all the necessities of life that the human society requires are supplied by the Devas who act as agents of the Lord. Take, for example, all the eatables of human society. These eatables include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, etc., none of which can be manufactured by men. None of the essential things such as heat, light, water, air, etc., which are necessary for sustenance of life—none of them can be manufactured by humans. Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no Sunlight, Moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which nothing can thrive. Obviously, our life is dependent on the supplies from the Lord.
We should make proper use of all the resources to keep ourselves fit and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the Ultimate goal of life i.e., liberation from the material struggle for existence. This aim of life is attained by performance of yajnas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratification and become more and more entangled in material existence, we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy because they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratification; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajnas.
The words yagna-bhavitah means honoured by worship. The worship of pleasing the Devas in whom Bhagavan Krishna resides as the inner-soul or Atma, will confer prosperity and abundance on those who perform the yajnas.
But if one should try to enjoy the gifts granted by them without first offering them back, such a person is a thief – ‘Stena eva sah’ means ‘such a person is certainly a thief’.
3.13 Shloka 3.13
यज्ञशिष्टाशिनः सन्तो मुच्यन्ते सर्वकिल्बिषैः।
भुञ्जते ते त्वघं पापा ये पचन्त्यात्मकारणात्।।3.13।।
Yajna-sistasinah santo mucyante sarva-kilbisaih |
Bhunjate te tv agham papa ye pacanty atma-karanat ||3.13||
Meaning: The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is first offered to the Devas to propitiate them. Others, who prepare food for their own consumption, those sinners eat only sin.
The devotees of the Supreme Lord are called santas or virtuous. Such devotees always perform yajnas through different modes of devotional service, such as Sravanam (listening to Lord’s glory), kirtanam (singing kirtans of the Lord), smaranam (contemplating on Him), arcanam (offering mantras), etc., and while performing these forms of yajnas, they always keep themselves aloof from all kinds of contamination of sinful association in the material world. They partake in the food only after offering it to the Devas. Therefore, those that eat food after it has been offered in yagna are faultless.
Those who prepare food from funds honestly acquired with the sole objective of worshipping the Supreme Lord Krishna who resides as the inner-soul within themselves as well as within all the Devas and every living entity; and those who only partake of such duly consecrated food become absolved of all sins accumulated over time.
But those sinful victims who do not first offer to the Supreme Lord what was gifted to them and instead prepare and eat it appropriating it for themselves eat only sin. The word ‘agham’ means ‘sin’ denoting the grave consequences for such wilful actions.
It should be clearly understood that the observance of yagna is essential for one’s spiritual advancement and liberation from the material world.
3.14 Shloka 3.14
अन्नाद्भवन्ति भूतानि पर्जन्यादन्नसम्भवः।
यज्ञाद्भवति पर्जन्यो यज्ञः कर्मसमुद्भवः।।3.14।।
Annad bhavanti bhutani parjanyad anna-sambhavah |
Yajnad bhavati parjanyo yajnah karma-samudbhavah ||3.14||
Meaning: All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rain. Rains are produced by performance of yajna [sacrifice], and yajna is born of prescribed duties.
Production of food is dependent on rain and rain is dependent on yagna which is dependent upon the activities performed by the Brahmins as prescribed in the Vedas. It has been presented in another way: the oblations offered into the fire ascend to the sun, from the sun comes clouds and rain, from rainfall food is grown and from food beings come into existence.
The Supreme Lord, who is known as the ‘yajna-purushah’, or the personal beneficiary of all sacrifices, is the master of all Devas. When Lord Vishnu is worshipped, all other Devas are also automatically worshiped. So, food offered to Lord Vishnu and then taken by us enables us to counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress towards self-realization.
3.15 Shloka 3.15
कर्म ब्रह्मोद्भवं विद्धि ब्रह्माक्षरसमुद्भवम्।
तस्मात्सर्वगतं ब्रह्म नित्यं यज्ञे प्रतिष्ठितम्।।3.15।।
Karma brahmodbhavam viddhi brahmaksara-samudbhavam |
Tasmat sarva-gatam brahma nityam yajne pratisthitam ||3.15||
Meaning: Activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Lord. Consequently, all-pervading Absolute Truth is eternally situated in performing sacrifice unto the Supreme Lord.
It should be known that actions have its origins in the Brahman i.e. the Vedas. Lord Krishna by stating Brahman wants to emphasise that the all-pervading substratum of all existence is revealed in the Vedas. Transforming from the mantras into actions as prescribed by the Vedas, one performs yajnas for the forces of nature, sun, moon, clouds and rain etc. for food. Although nature is seen as a force of action, it is actually supported fully by the underlying energy of the Supreme Brahman.
The words ‘sarva-gatam’ means all-pervading or indestructible. The soul is known to be indestructible and all pervading. Through the auspices of the soul the physical body through the manifestations of nature partakes food and gains strength becoming fit for performing actions authorised by the Vedas. The word ‘udbhavan’ means ‘originate from’ and is used to illustrate that this fitness comes from the source that is nature. Therefore, the all-pervading and indestructible atma or soul utilises a physical body which is its substratum, in the same way as the material nature, to perform sacrifices eternally unto the Supreme Lord.
3.16 Shloka 3.16
एवं प्रवर्तितं चक्रं नानुवर्तयतीह यः।
अघायुरिन्द्रियारामो मोघं पार्थ स जीवति।।3.16।।
Evam pravartitam cakram nanuvartayatiha yah |
Aghayur indriyaramo mogham partha sa jivati ||3.16||
Meaning: My dear Arjuna, a man who does not follow the prescribed duties in the scriptures certainly leads a life of sin wasting their life in pursuit of material gains and are trapped in sense gratification.
The word ‘agha-ayuh’ means ‘full of sin’, and this can be due to someone living a life perpetuated by sin. Food eaten that was not first sanctified by being consecrated in yagna or offering of worship beforehand ignites rajas or passions in one and incites tamas or darkness of intellect. A person in whom these dispositions are prominent becomes hostile to achieving an even rudimentary level of spiritual illumination, let alone self-realisation of the soul. Such a person only pursues actions to pleasure or gratify their senses.
Blessed with the gift of a human body, that is suitable for offering divine worship in yagna, one must nourish it with sanctified food duly consecrated, thus fulfilling the purpose of existence. If one errs and fails to honour and respect this eternal cycle given in the Vedic injunctions, then any hope of spiritual realisation will not be fulfilled and all their efforts are destined to fail thereby rendering the entire life to go to waste.
So, from this it can be understood that performing yagna as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are essential.
3.17 Shloka 3.17
यस्त्वात्मरतिरेव स्यादात्मतृप्तश्च मानवः।
आत्मन्येव च सन्तुष्टस्तस्य कार्यं न विद्यते।।3.17।।
Yas tv atma-ratir eva syad atma-trptas ca manavah |
Atmany eva ca santustas tasya karyam na vidyate ||3.17||
Meaning: One who is, however, remains satisfied within the Self, who is illumined in the Self, who rejoices in and is satisfied with the Self, fully satiated—for him there is no duty.
In this verse ‘trupti’ means ‘satisfied’ by how things come on their own accord, and the word ‘santustah’ means ‘fully content’. The delight which arises from being satisfied is complete contentment. One who has attained atma-tattva is no longer delighted by external events, and such a person is self-satisfied internally. The one who finds self-realisation is content and nothing else can be a cause of joy for them. Their satisfaction and contentment is based solely on their realisation of their eternal soul within and the glories of the Supreme Lord.
For the one who has attained such a state, there are no prescribed duties as such a person is self-satisfied. In this world only human beings have the potential to achieve atma- tattva. The word ‘manavah’ means mankind and it’s only humans who can strive for self-realisation.
Lord Krishna has explained that those who possess endless desire for the enjoyment of sense objects must offer the food they eat in yagna or worship to purify themselves to perform prescribed Vedic activities. As such a person makes spiritual advancement, they make progress and eventually can achieve Atma-tattva or soul realisation. They are then freed from all material desires and become faultless even by not performing prescribed Vedic actions. For such a self-realised soul who has already attained the goal of human existence, no ordinances of the Vedic scripture are required of them.
3.18 Shloka 3.18
नैव तस्य कृतेनार्थो नाकृतेनेह कश्चन।
न चास्य सर्वभूतेषु कश्िचदर्थव्यपाश्रयः।।3.18।।
Naiva tasya krtenartho nakrteneha kascana |
Na casya sarva-bhutesu kascid artha-vyapasrayah ||3.18||
Meaning: A self-realized man has no purpose to gain from fulfilling his prescribed duties, neither any sin is incurred for non-performance of duties. Nor has he any need to depend on any other living being.
A self-realized man is no longer obliged to perform any prescribed duty, save and except activities in the service of the Lord. For one situated is atma-tattva or soul realisation, there are no demerits accruing for not performing the prescribed actions. One who is in rapt meditation on the soul within, as in a state of Samadhi, there are no dangers of incurring any demerits.
Lord Krishna has declared previously that the performer of yagna prospers and flourishes but now confirms that the knower of atma-tattva has no necessity for performing any action; nor is there any fault or defect in the omission of any such action. Such a person is perfectly equipoised and is indifferent to everything except the eternal soul which is the only medium to the Supreme Lord. Thus, completely satisfied from within, such a person has no dependence on any living being because such a person has no desire for anything from any being.
3.19 Shloka 3.19
तस्मादसक्तः सततं कार्यं कर्म समाचर।
असक्तो ह्याचरन्कर्म परमाप्नोति पूरुषः।।3.19।।
Tasmad asaktah satatam karyam karma samacara |
Asakto hy acaran karma param apnoti purusah ||3.19||
Meaning: Therefore, without being attached to the fruits of activities, one should act constantly as a matter of duty; for by working without attachment, one attains the Supreme.
For all those who have not achieved atma-tattva (as was Arjuna at this point), performance of prescribed actions is mandatory. Therefore, desireless, unattached action is necessary for those who are yet to realise the Self.
A person who has not attained atma-tattva or self-realisation must perform activities without desire and remain unattached to the results for spiritual advancement. This illustrates that aspirants for Moksha who are not qualified to tread the path of jnana yoga can pursue the highest goal of Moksha through Karma Yoga.
3.20 Shloka 3.20
कर्मणैव हि संसिद्धिमास्थिता जनकादयः।
Karmanaiva hi samsiddhim asthita janakadayah |
Loka-sangraham evapi sampasyan kartum arhasi ||3.20||
Meaning: Even kings like Janaka and others attained complete perfection by performing prescribed duties. Therefore, you should perform your work for the sake of the benefit and welfare of the world.
Lord Krishna emphasises Karma by giving examples of men who attained atma-tattva while performing actions. It also infers that by performing prescribed actions in an unattached manner one can gain wisdom. It is important to note that even after attaining moksha (liberation) these men continued to perform activities, primarily for the benefit and welfare of the people and to inspire others.
One could argue that if a person has attained atma-tattva and is free from rebirth (i.e. liberated), what is the necessity for such a person to perform any activity. Lord Krishna anticipating this says that one should consider the welfare of the people in general and perform prescribed actions to protect and to inspire them. This is important for the maintenance of the world and the preservation of creation. That is why one should still perform prescribed activities even though such actions have no further impact for the one who is a realised Soul.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat