Bhagavan Shri Krishna, in these twelve verses, explains the divine experience of those who practice Yajnas and likens it to that of tasting nectar. He also mentions that those who do not perform sacrifices are not fit for this world let alone the heavenly world.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna goes on to elaborate on the different types of sacrifices performed by Yogis and others. He also explains as to how one should seek knowledge (Atma Jnana) by approaching a spiritual master. When a seeker learns the Truth, he will know that all living beings are but a part of Shri Krishna—and they are within Him.
As the blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge burns to ashes all reactions to material activities. Therefore, one who has renounced the fruits of his action, whose doubts are destroyed by transcendental knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the Self, is not bound by actions and attains Moksha.
4.31 Shloka 4.31
यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम्।
नायं लोकोऽस्त्ययज्ञस्य कुतो़ऽन्यः कुरुसत्तम।।4.31।।
Yajna-shishtamrta-bhujo yanti brahma sanatanam |
Nayam loko ‘sty ayajnasya kuto ‘nyah kuru-sattama ||4.31||
Meaning: Those who have tasted nectar as a result of performing sacrifice reach the eternal, Ultimate Truth. O’ Arjuna, one who does not perform any sacrifice is not fit for this world let alone the heavenly worlds.
One should consider one’s life as the oblation offered to the Supreme Lord in full surrender following the injunctions recommended in the Vedic scriptures. In the Brahma Vaivartaka Purana it states that one should realise the Supreme Lord as the yajna and propitiate Him with body, mind and words.
When the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence has been perceived, then the relation between the performer, the activity performed, the recipient of the performance as well as the result of the yajna are not separate from the Supreme Lord. One who is in such an evolved state will experience the actual presence of the Supreme Lord everywhere and in all situations.
But those who do not perform any yajna i.e. who are “ayajnasya”, such people will not even enjoy the meagre joys of this world let alone the heavenly worlds. They would have wasted a very precious opportunity as a human birth which is achieved after several cycles of rebirth.
Moksha is the true goal of all human endeavour and real purpose of human existence. The Bhagavad-Gita is about attaining Moksha which is the eternal “Summum Bonum” or greatest good eternally for humanity.
4.32 Shloka 4.32
एवं बहुविधा यज्ञा वितता ब्रह्मणो मुखे।
कर्मजान्विद्धि तान्सर्वानेवं ज्ञात्वा विमोक्ष्यसे।।4.32।।
Evam bahu-vidha yajna vitata brahmano mukhe |
Karma-jan viddhi tan sarvan evam jnatva vimoksyase ||4.32||
Meaning: All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated.
Lord Krishna has described the 12 different performances of yajna or offerings of worship in propitiation to the Supreme Lord that are the means of attaining Atma Tattva or soul realisation performed in Karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities. The words “vitata brahmano mukhe” means all details are mentioned in the Vedas. All of the mentioned Yajnas earlier are performed by mind, by speech or by the physical body but their actions are of a transitory nature while the Atma or Soul is eternal. Thus comprehending this in reality one will be free from Samsara or the cycle of birth and death caused by actions.
4.33 Shloka 4.33
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते।।4.33।।
Shreyan dravya-mayad yajnaj jnana-yajnah parantapa |
Sarvam karmakhilam partha jnane parisamapyate ||4.33||
Meaning: O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice of knowledge is greater than the sacrifice of material possessions. O son of Prtha, after all, the sacrifice of work culminates in transcendental knowledge.
Actions by itself amounts to very little and hence they need to be performed with a spirit of sacrifice or offering to the Supreme. The culmination of Vedic actions is spiritual knowledge and actions find fulfillment in Self-realisation.
In the Mundaka Upanisad it states: That acts of yajna or offerings of worship are undoubtedly meritorious in themselves; but superior to them is spiritual knowledge where all doubts are dispelled and the need for all actions terminated.
Lord Krishna instructs that yajna or sacrifice of knowledge is far superior to yajnas performed with dravyam or material ingredients as these bestow only trivial rewards of a transitory material nature. The performance of the yajna of knowledge leads to spiritual knowledge.
In the Bhagavad Purana it is stated that: The performers of austerities, the makers of pilgrimages, the chanters of mantras, the givers of donations and others never reach the achievement of that being who has even one percentage of Vedic knowledge.
All activities culminate in transcendental wisdom if performed with directed intelligence with the objective of gaining spiritual knowledge.
4.34 Shloka 4.34
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।।4.34।।
Tad viddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya |
Upadeksyanti te jnanam jnaninas tattva-darsinah ||4.34||
Meaning: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.
By these questions and by being pleased by one’s sincere service such a self-realised being will guide and instruct one on matters related to the ultimate truth because they have direct experience and wisdom of this and thus will remove all doubts about:
- Who am I?
- Why was I born?
- What is my purpose in life?
The self-realised being will dispel all these doubts by proper reasoning and evidence from the Vedic scriptures. The practical experience from their effort of uniting the individual consciousness with the ultimate consciousness, which is the goal of all existence, will also help to guide the seeker. All actions culminate in knowledge when instructed by a self-realised being.
The words “Jnaninah” means experts in the Vedic scriptures and “Darsinah” means those who have realised the Ultimate Truth denoting that all self-realised being will possess Spiritual Knowledge from whom one should seek to attain this knowledge.
4.35 Shloka 4.35
यज्ज्ञात्वा न पुनर्मोहमेवं यास्यसि पाण्डव।
येन भूतान्यशेषेण द्रक्ष्यस्यात्मन्यथो मयि।।4.35।।
Yaj jnatva na punar moham evam yasyasi pandava |
Yena bhutany asesani draksyasy atmany atho mayi ||4.35||
Meaning: And when you have thus learned the Truth, you will know that all living beings are but a part of Me—and they are in Me, and Mine.
The word “atmani” refers to Bhagavan Shri Krishna’s exalted position as the “ParamAtma” or the Super Soul within all living beings by which one realises the oneness of all beings in creation.
Now regarding the situation on the battlefield, Lord Krishna is clarifying to Arjuna that by this knowledge he will no longer be deluded by the illusion of relatives, friends and preceptors dying and the infatuation of thinking that if they did he would not even want to continue living; because with spiritual knowledge he will realise his atma (soul) and will see the same soul in all beings and he will perceive that all souls are part of the Supreme Being.
That all these individual souls are pervaded by the Supreme Being and they are never independent from the Supreme Being in the state of bondage or in the state of liberation. It can be perceived that the Supreme Being is identical with Lord Krishna. The difference in various beings is only in their outer physical form which is the product of primordial matter but the Atma is purely spiritual and eternal and not subject to any modification. Thus it is equally situated and established in all beings who were naturally created from material nature. The Atma is not a different or separate entity from the Supreme Being.
By learning this spiritual knowledge, one will never be deluded again by maya or illusion. One afflicted by Maya falls into the misconception that the Atma or Soul is the physical body causing ego consciousness of I-ness and my-ness. When disassociated from matter, Atma is similar in all beings and possesses the attributes of the Supreme.
4.36 Shloka 4.36
अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं सन्तरिष्यसि।।4.36।।
Api ced asi papebhyah sarvebhyah papa-krt-tamah |
Sarvam jnana-plavenaiva vrjinam santarisyasi ||4.36||
Meaning: Even if you are the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross the ocean of miseries.
Bhagavan Shri Krishna states that understanding the greatness of this spiritual knowledge will redeem one of all sins. The words “api ced” meaning “even if” and indicates the powerful potency of this spiritual knowledge which can save the most incorrigible sinner. To emphasise the power of spiritual knowledge, Bhagavan Krishna specifically states in this verse that even the most incorrigible sinner is redeemed if they acquire and apply spiritual knowledge in their consciousness, thereby cross the ocean of miseries (Samsara).
4.37 Shloka 4.37
ज्ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा।।4.37।।
Yathaidhamsi samiddho ‘gnir bhasma-sat kurute ‘rjuna |
Jnanagnih sarva-karmani bhasma-sat kurute tatha ||4.37||
Meaning: As the blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burns to ashes all reactions to material activities.
Bhagavan Krishna states here that the boat of spiritual knowledge will destroy all reactions to actions both those leading to merit as well as demerit. One might wonder why should one lose merit points. Unless one loses all merits and demerits, they will continue to be reborn. The merits get a life in heaven but as it diminishes with each day, one is bound to be reborn in lower worlds. In order to attain Moksha or liberation one has to lose both merit and demerits, thereby purifying the Atma to a state of Sat-Chit-Ananda (eternal bliss).
4.38 Shloka 4.38
न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति।।4.38।।
Na hi jnanena sadrsam pavitram iha vidyate |
Tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah kalenatmani vindati ||4.38||
Meaning: In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the Self within himself in due course of time.
In this world nothing is as purifying as spiritual knowledge. Then why is not everyone pursuing this? Lord Krishna explains that one must be qualified to gain this spiritual knowledge which comes from prolonged practice of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities that are to be performed without desire for rewards. Then in due course knowledge will arise leading to purity of heart after which Atma tattva or Soul realisation will be achieved.
4.39 Shloka 4.39
श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः।
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति।।4.39।।
Shraddhaval labhate jnanam tat-parah samyatendriyah
Jnanam labdhva param santim acirenadhigacchati
Meaning: A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.
One might wonder if one can achieve purity of heart through karma yoga and thereby acquire knowledge then what is the necessity for a spiritual master as noted earlier? To address this potential doubt, Shri Krishna states the necessary qualification required to receive spiritual knowledge. A person may acquire knowledge by themselves but the qualities that are essential for such a person to succeed are explained in this verse.
The word “sraddhavan” means a person who has unflinching faith. But mere faith is not enough as it has to be followed up with sincere devoted service to the spiritual master while studying the scriptures under his tutelage. One must also avoid the association of those who are not following the Vedic injunctions as association with them may cause one to deviate from the path of knowledge. So one who is self-controlled attains spiritual knowledge and acquiring such knowledge neutralises the reactions from all extraneous activities. Such a person perceives the Brahman pervading all existence and achieves Atma tattva or Soul realisation and from that plane attains Moksha or liberation from material existence.
4.40 Shloka 4.40
अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति।
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः।।4.40।।
Ajnas casraddadhanas ca samsayatma vinasyati |
Nayam loko ‘sti na paro na sukham samsayatmanah ||4.40||
Meaning: But the ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting souls there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.
The word ‘ajnah’ means fool or one who is ignorant. The word ‘asraddadhahanah’ means one who has no faith even after being instructed. Bhagavan Shri Krishna speaks of the miserable fate of the ignorant who are devoid of faith. He uses ‘Ca’ twice to indicate that with the guidance of a spiritual master even an ignorant, having faith, can be liberated by performing following the instructions of the Guru.
But a person who has no faith will not engage in any practice or even if he engages may perform their duties without conviction and faith. Bhagavan says that for those who doub the authority of the Vedic scriptures, or the instructions of the spiritual Guru, there is no happiness in this world or the next. How is it possible for a person to become liberated if they doubt the very essence which is the cause of their existence.
The conviction that the Atma or Soul is eternal and the atma is distinct from the physical body is essential for spiritual progress. Whoever doubts the existence of the Atma or Soul or is not sure that it is eternal and hence cannot receive even the smallest percentage of spiritual bliss.
4.41 Shloka 4.41
आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्नन्ति धनञ्जय।।4.41।।
Yoga-sannyasta-karmanam jnana-sanchinna-samsayam |
Atmavantam na karmani nibadhnanti dhananjaya ||4.41||
Meaning: Therefore, one who has renounced the fruits of his action, whose doubts are destroyed by transcendental knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the Self, is not bound by works, O conqueror of riches.
The dual paths of karma yoga or prescribed activities and jnana yoga or cultivation of spiritual knowledge are both concluded in this verse and the next.
Actions do not bind one to material existence who has renounced all desires. All actions offered or dedicated to the Supreme Lord are always renounced and superior. This is characterised by direct perception of the Supreme Lord and the conscious reality that one belongs exclusively to Him which arises only after the realisation of the Brahman that pervades all existence.
One whose mind is unassailable and unwavering, such a person has achieves an unshakeable certitude about the reality and eternity of the soul from the teachings received from the spiritual Guru. No actions performed by such a person in the present or the future can ever bind them.
4.42 Shloka 4.42
तस्मादज्ञानसंभूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनाऽऽत्मनः।
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत।।4.42।।
Tasmad ajnana-sambhutam hrt-stham jnanasinatmanah |
Chittvainam samsayam yogam atisthottistha bharata ||4.42||
Meaning: Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with Yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.
The sword of knowledge that Lord Krishna is referring to is Atma tattva or Soul realisation and the yoga or the science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness.
All doubts should be completely uprooted from one’s heart and mind. A person should follow the path that Shri Krishna has so clearly explained, which is to do one’s duty in life according to one’s dharma. Following this path one will acquire the spiritual knowledge that will enable them to cross over the Ocean (cycle of birth and death) and attain Moksha or liberation from material existence.
जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!
Hari Om Tat Sat