4 - Jnana Yoga
Commentary by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, Translated by Swami Gambhirananda
This Yoga which
has been spoken of in the preceding two chapters, and which is characterized
by steadfastness in Knowledge associated with renunciation, can be achieved
through Karma-yoga. The import of the Vedas, characterized be engagement in,
and detachment from, action, culminates in it. And this very Yoga is sought
to be taught by the Lord in the whole of the Gita. So, considering that the
purport of the Vedas stands concluded, the Lord praises it by recounting how
it was traditionally handed down:
Blessed Lord said:
4.1 I imparted
this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvan, Vivasvan taught this to Manu, and Manu transmitted
this to Iksavaku.
the beginning of creation, with a veiw to infusing vigour into the Ksatriyas
who are the protectors of the world, aham, I; proktavan, imparted; imam, this;
avyayam, imperishable; yogam, Yoga, presented in the (preceding) two chapters;
vivasvate, to Vivasvan, the Sun. Being endowed with this power of Yoga, they
would be able to protect the Brahmana caste. The protection of the world becomes
ensured when the Brahmanas and the Ksatriyas are protected.
(this Yoga) is avyayam, imperishable, because its result is undecaying. For,
the result-called Liberation-of this (Yoga), which is characterized by steadfastness
in perfect Illumination, does not decay. And he, Vivasvan, praha, taught (this);
manave, to Manu. Manu abravit, transmitted (this); iksvakave, to Iksvaku,
his own son who was the first king. [First king of the Iksvaku dynasty, otherwise
known as the Solar dynasty.]
4.2 The king-sages
knew this (yoga) which was received thus in regular succession. That Yoga, O
destroyer of foes, in now lost owing to a long lapse of time.
the king-sages, those who were kings and sages (at the same time); viduh,
knew; imam, this Yoga; which was evam parampara-praptam, received thus through
a regular succession of Ksatriyas. Sah, that; yogah, Yoga; nastah, is lost,
has go its traditional line snapped; iha, now; mahata kalena, owing to a long
lapse of time. parantapa, O destroyer of foes. By para are meant those against
oneself. He who, like the sun, 'scorches' (tapayati) them by the 'rays' of
the 'heat' of his prowess is parantapa, i.e. scorcher of antagonists.
that the Yoga has got lost by reaching people who are weak and have no control
of their organs, and that the world has become associated with goals that
do not lead to Liberation,
4.3 That ancient
Yoga itself, which is this, has been taught to you by Me today, considering
that you are My devotee and friend, For, this (Yoga) is a profound secret.
that; puratanah, ancient; yogah, Yoga; eva, itself; ayam, which is this; proktah,
has been taught; te, to you; maya, by Me; adya, today; iti, considering that;
asi, you are; me, My; bhaktah, devotee; ca sakha, and friend. Hi, for; etat,
this Yoga, i.e. Knowledge; is a uttamam, profound; rahasyam, secret.
someone should understand that the Lord has said something contradictory,
therefore, in order to prevent that (doubt), as though raising a question,
4.4 Your birth
was later, (whereas) the birth of Vivasvan was earlier. How am I to understand
this that You instructed (him) in the beginning?
janma, was aparam, later, in the abode of Vasudeva; (whereas) the birth vivasvatah,
of Visvasvan, the Sun; was param, earlier, in the beginning of creation. Therefore,
katham, how; vijanyam, am I to understand; etat, this, as not inconsistent;
iti, that; tvam, You, yourself; who proktavan, insturcted this Yoga; adau,
in the beginning, are the same person who are now teaching me?
By way of demolishing
the doubt of fools with regard to Vasudeva, that He has no God-hood and omniscience-to
which very purpose was Arjuna's question-
Blessed Lord said:
4.5 O Arjuna, many
lives of Mine have passed, and so have yours. I know them all, (but) you know
not, O scorcher of enemies!
O Arjuna, bahuni,
many; janmani, lives; me, of Mine; vyatitani, have passed; tava ca, and so
have yours. Aham, I; veda know; tani, them; sarvani, all; (but) tvam, you;
va vetta, know not, due to your power of understanding being obstructed by
righteousness, unrighteousness, etc. However, parantapa, O scorcher of foes;
aham, I know, possessing as I do unobstructed power of knowledge, because
by nature I am enternal, pure, enlightened and free.
'In that case,
how, in spite of the absence of righteousness and unrighteousness, can there
be any birth for You who are the eternal God?'
That is beng
4.6 Though I am
birthless, undecaying by nature, and the Lord of beings, (still) by subjugating
My Prakriti, I take birth by means of My own Maya.
san ajah, though I am birthless; and avyayatma, undecaying by nature, though
I am naturally possessed of an undiminishing power of Knowledge; and so also
api san, though; isvarah, the Lord, natural Ruler; bhutanam, of beings, from
Brahma to a clump of grass; (still) adhisthaya, by subjugating; svam, My own;
prakrtim, Prakrti, the Maya of Visnu consisting of the three gunas, under
whose; spell the whole world exists, and deluded by which one does not know
one's own Self, Vasudeva;-by subjugating that Prakrti of Mine, sambhavami,
I take birth, appear to become embodeid, as though born; atma-mayaya, by means
of My own Maya; but not in reality like an ordinary man.
is being stated when and why that birth occurs:
4.7 O scion of
the Bharata dynasty, whenever there is a decline one virtue and increase of
vice, then do I manifest Myself.
scion of the Bharata dynasty, yada yada hi, whenever; bhavati, there is; a
glanih, decline, decrease; dharmasya, of virtue consisting of the duties of
castes and stages of life of living beings, which are the means to achieving
properity and Liberation; and abhyutthanam, increase, rise; adharmasya, of
vice; tada, then; do aham, I; srjami, manifest; atmanam, Myself, through Maya.
4.8 For the protection
of the pious, the destruction of the evil-doers, and establishing virtue, I
manifest Myself in every age.
for the protection; sadhunam, of the pious, the followers of the virtuous
path; vinasaya, for the destruction; duskrtam, of the evil-doers, of the sinful
ones; and also dharmasamsthapanarthaya, for establishing virtue fully;-for
that purpose, sambhavami, I manifest Myself; yuge yuge, in every age.
4.9 He who thus
knows truly the divine birth and actions of Mine does not get rebirth after
casting off the body. He attains Me, O Arjuna.
he who; evam, thus, as described; vetti, knows tattvatah, truly, as they are
in reality; that divyam, divine, supernatural; janma, birth, which is a form
of Maya; ca karma, and actions, such as protection of the pious, etc.; mama,
of Mine; na eti, does not get; punarjanma, rebirth; tyaktva, after casting
off; this deham, body. Sah, he; eti, attains, comes to; mam, Me-he gets Liberated,
path of Liberation has not been opened recently. What then? Even in earlier
4.10 Many who were
devoid of attachment, fear and anger, who were absorbed in Me, who had taken
refuge in Me, and were purified by the austerity of Knowledge, have attained
many; vita-raga-bhaya-krodhah, who were devoid of attachment, fear and anger;
manmayah, who were absorbed in Me, who were knowers of Brahman, who were seers
of (their) identity with God; mam upasrithah, who had taken refuge only in
Me, the supreme God, i.e. who were steadfast in Knowledge alone; and were
putah, purified, who had become supremely sanctified; jnana-tapasa, by the
austerity of Knowledge-Knowledge itself, about the supreme Reality, being
the austerity; becoming sanctified by that austerity of Knowledge-; agatah,
have attained; madbhavam, My state, Goodhood, Liberation.
particular mention of 'the austerity of Knowledge' is to indicate that steadfastness
in Knowledge does not depend on any other austerity.
that case, You have love and aversion, because of which You grant the state
of identity with Yourself only to a few but not to others?'
to the manner in which they approach Me, I favour them in that very manner.
O son of Partha, human beings follow My path in every way.
to the manner in which, the purpose for which, seeking, whatever fruit; prapadyante,
they approach; mam, Me; aham, I; bhajami, favour; tan, them; tatha eva, in
that very manner, by granting that fruit. This is the idea. For they are not
seekers of Liberation. It is certainly impossible for the same person to be
a seeker of Liberation and, at the same time, a seeker of rewards (of actions).
granting fruits to those who hanker after fruits; by granting Knowledge to
those who follow what has been stated (in the scriptures) and are seekers
of Liberation, but do not hanker after rewards; and by granting Liberation
to those who are men of wisdom and are monks aspiring for Liberation; and
so also by removing the miseries of those who suffer- in these ways I favour
them just according to the manner, in which they approach Me. This is the
meaning. On the other hand, I do not favour anybody out of love or aversion,
or out of delusion.
Under all circumstances,
O son of Prtha, manusyah, human beings; anuvartante, follow; sarvasah, in
every way; mama, My; vartma, path, [The paths characterized by Knowledge and
by action (rites and duties).] the path of God who am omnipresent. By 'human
beings' are meant those people who become engaged in their respective duties
to which they are qualified according to the results they seek.
'If Your wish
to be favourable is the same towards all creatures on account of the absence
of the defects of love and aversion in You who are God, and You are there
with Your capacity to grant all rewards, why then do not all, becoming desirous
of Liberation, take refuge in You alone with the very knowledge that Vasudeva
As to that, hear
the reason for this:
4.12 Longing for
the fruition of actions (of their rites and duties), they worship the gods here.
For, in the human world, success from action comes quickly.
longing for, praying for; siddim, fruition, fructification of the results;
karmanam, of actions; yajante, they worship; iha, here, in this world; devatah,
the gods, Indra, Fire and others- which accords with the Upanisadic text,
'While he who worships another god thinking, "He is one, and I am another,"
does not know. He is like an animal to the gods' (Br. 1.4.10). [This text
points out that the reason for adoring other deties is the ignorance of the
Self, which gives rise to the ideas of difference between the worshipped and
the worshipper. As animals are beneficial to human beings, so also is the
sacrificer to the gods, because through oblations he works for their pleasure!]
Hi, for, in the case of those, indeed, who sacrifice to other gods and long
for results; (siddhih, success; karmaja, from action;) bhavati, comes; ksiparm,
quickly; manuse-loke, in the human world, because the authority of the scriptures
extends only over the human world.
the specific statement, 'For, in the human world, success comes quickly,'
the Lord shows that results of actions can accrue even in the other worlds.
The difference lies in this that, in the human world eligibility for [Ast.
and A.A. omit 'adhikara, elegibility for', and read karmani.-Tr.] actions
is according to castes, stages of life, etc. The fruition of the results of
those actions of persons who are eligible according to castes, stages of life,
etc. comes quickly.
is the reason for the rule that the competence for rites and duties according
to castes, stages of life, etc. obtains only in the human world, but not in
the other worlds?
has been said, 'Human beings, having such divisions as castes, stages of life,
etc., follow My path in every way.' For what reason, again, do they as a rule
follow Your path alone, but not of others?
is being answered:
4.13 The four castes
have been created by Me through a classification of the gunas and duties. Even
though I am the agent of that (act of classification), still know Me to be a
non-agent and changeless.
the same as catvarah varnah, the four castes; srstam, have been created; maya,
by Me who am God, which accords with such Vedic texts as, 'The Brahmanas were
His face...' (Rg. 10.90.12); guna-karma-vibhagasah, through a classification
of the gunas and duties. [A.G. writes: guna-vibhagena karma-vibhagah, classification
of the duties, determined by the classification of the gunas.-Tr] By the gunas
are meant sattva, rajas and tamas (see note under 2.45; also see Chapter 14).
to that, the control of the mind and body, austerity, etc. are the duties
of the Brahmanas, who are sattvika, i.e. have a predominance of the quality
of sattva (purity, goodness, etc.). Courage, valour, etc. are the duties of
the Ksatriyas, in whom sattva becomes secondary and rajas (passion, attachment,
etc.) preponderates. Agriculture etc. are the duties of the Vaisya, in whom
tamas (indolence, ignorance, etc.) is secondary and rajas is predominant.
Service is the only duty of the Sudra, in whom rajas is secondary and tamas
predominates (see chapters 14, 16,17 and 18). In this way, the four castes
have been created by Me through a classification of the gunas and duties.
This is the idea. And these four castes do not prevail in the other worlds.
Hence the specification, 'in the human world'.
in that case, by virtues of Your being the agent of the acts of creation of
the four castes,etc. You become subject to the consequence of those actions?
Therefore you are not eternally free and the eternal Lord!'
is being answered: Api, even though; I am kartaram, the agent; tasya, of that
act, from the empirical standpoint of maya; still, from the highest standpoint,
viddhi, know; mam, Me; to be akartaram, a non-agent; and therefore, also know
Me to be avyayam, changeless, not subject to the cycle of births and deaths.
reality, however, I am not the agent of those actions of which you think I
am the agent.'
4.14 Actions do
not taint Me; for Me there is no hankering for the results of actions. One who
knows Me thus, does not become bound by actions.
Because of the
absence of egoism, those karmani, actions; na limpanti, do not taint; mam,
Me, by becoming the originators of body etc. And me, for Me; na sprha, there
is no hankering for the results of those actions. But in the case of transmigrating
beings, who have self-identification in the form, 'I am the agent', and thirst
for actions as also for their results, it is reasonable that actions should
taint them. Owing to the absence of these, actions do not taint Me. Anyone
else, too, yah, who; abhijanati, knows; mam, Me; iti, thus, as his own Self,
and (knows), 'I am not an agent; I have no hankering for the results of actions';
sah, he; na badhyate, does not become bound; karmabhih, by actions. In his
case also actions cease to be the originators of body etc. This is the import.
4.15 Having known
thus, duties were performed even by the ancient seekers of Liberation. Thererfore
you undertake action itself as was performed earlier by the ancient ones.
known; evam, thus, that 'I am not an agent; I have no desire for the results
of actions'; karma, duties; krtam, were undertaken; api, even; purvaih, by
the ancient; mumuksubhih, seekers of Liberation. Tasmat, therefore; tvam,
you; kuru, undertake; karma, action; eva, itself. You ought not to sit quietly,
or even renounce. Therefore, you (undertake actions) because they were performed
by the ancients as well-if you have no Self-knowledge, then (undertake actions)
for self-purification; or, if you have Self-knowledge, then (undertake actions)
in order to prevent people from going astray-, as were krtam, performed; purvataram,
earlier; purvaih, by the ancient ones, Janaka and others; not actions as are
undertaken in the present day. [This last portion of the sentence is translated
by some as follows: You should not undertake actions which are done in the
present manner (i.e. do not perform actions in the manner undertakne by people
nowadays, which neither purifies the mind nor helps people). (See G1. Pr.
'If action has
to be undertaken here, then I shall do so following Your instruction itself.
What is the use of specifying that it was done earlier by the ancient ones?'
'The answer is: Because there is a great difficult as regards actions.' How?
4.16 Even the intelligent
are confounded as to what is action and what is inaction. I shall tell you of
that action by knowing which you will become free from evil.
even the intelligent; mohitah, are confounded in this subject of action etc.;
iti atra, as to; kim karma, what is action; and kim akarma, what is inaction.
Therefore, pravaksyami, I shall tell; te, you; of karma, action; akarma ca,
as also of inaction; jnatva, by knowing; yat, which-action etc.; moksyase,
you will become free: asubhat, from evil, from transmigration.
'And you should
not think thus: What is called karma is the movement of the body etc. as are
well-known in the world; and akarma, inaction, is not doing those, (i.e.)
sitting quietly. What is there to understand (further) in that regard?' 'Why?'
The answer is:
4.17 For there
is something to be known even about action, and something to be known about
prohibited action; and something has to be known about inaction. The true nature
of action is inscrutable.
Hi, for; there
is something boddhavyam, to be known; api, even; karmanah, about action enjoined
by the scriptures; and there is certainly something to be known vikarmanah,
about prohibited action; so, also, there is something to be known akarmanah,
about inaction, about sitting quietly. (The words 'there is' are to be supplied
in all the three cases.) Because gatih, the true nature, i.e. the essential
nature; karmanah, of action-implying karma etc., viz action, prohibited action
and inaction; is gahana, inscrutable, hard to understand.
is the essential nature of action etc. which has to be understood, and about
which it was promised, "I shall tell you...." (16)?' This is being
4.18 He who finds
inaction in action, and action in inaction, he is the wise one [Possessed of
the knowledge of Brahman] among men; he is engaged in yoga and is a performer
of all actions!
and non-engagement (in action) depend on an agent, therefore, yah, he who;
pasyet, ie. pasyati, finds; akarma, inaction, absence of action; karmani,
in action-karma means whatever is done, action in general; in tha action-;
and yah, who; finds karma, action; akarmani, in inaction, in the absence of
action; sah, he; is buddhiman, a wise one; manusyesu, among men. All dealings
involving an act, accessories, etc. exist certainly on the plane of ignorance,
[Both engagement and non-engagement presuppose agentship and an act of some
kind. This, however, holds good on the plane of ignorance, but not on that
of Self-realization.] only so long as one has not attained to the Reality.
He is a yogi, yuktah, engaged in yoga; and a krtsna-karma-krt, performer of
all actions. One who discriminates between action and actions. One who discriminates
between action and inaction is praised thus.
what is meant by this contradictory statement, 'He who finds inaction in action',
and 'action in inaction'? For action cannot become inaction, nor inaction
action. That being so, how can a witness have (such) an incongruous perception?
it not that [Ast. reads na in place of nanu.-Tr.] to an ordinary foolsih observer,
that which is reality is inaction appears as action, and similarly, action
itself as inaction? That being so, in order to show things as they are the
Lord says, 'He who finds inaction in action', etc. Therefore there is no incongruity.
Besides, the qualifications such as 'intelligent' etc. (thus) become logical.
And by saying, 'there is something to be known', is implied the perception
of things as they are. Moreover, freedom from evil cannot follow from an erroneous
perception; whereas it has been said, 'by knowing which you will become free
from evil'. Therefore, one account of action and inaction being perceived
contrarily by the creatures, the Lord's utterance, 'he who finds inaction
in action,' etc. is for dispelling their contrary perception.
Not that in the
empirical plane inaction has action as its receptacle, like a plum in a bowl!
Nor even has action inaction as its receptacle, because inaction is a negation
of action. Therefore, action and inaction are actually perceived contrarily
by the ordinary persons-like seeing water in a mirage, or silver in nacre.
it not that to every one action is action itself? Never is there an exception
is not so, becuase when a boat is moving, motionless trees on the bank appear
to move in the opposite direction to a man on the boat; an absence of motion
is noticed in distant moving things which are not near one's eyes. Similarly,
here also occurs the contrary perceptions, viz seeing action in inaction under
the idea, 'I am doing', [Ast. omits 'aham karomi iti, under the idea, "I
am doing"'.-Tr.] and seeing, inaction in acion,-because of which it is
said, 'He who finds inaction in action,' etc. in order to eliminate them.
As such, although this answer has been given more than once, still a man becomes
repeatedly deluded under the influence of a totally opposite perception. And
forgetting the truth that has been heard again and again, he repeatedly raises
false issues and questions! And therefore, observing that the subject is difficult
to understand, the Lord gives His answer again and again.
The absence of
action in the Self-well-known from the Vedas, Smrtis and logic, as stated
in, '(It is said that) This is unmanifest; This is inconceivable' (2.25),
'Never is this One born, and never does It die' (2.20; Ka. 1.2.18), etc.-has
been and will be spoken of. The contrary perception of action in that actionless
Self, i.e. in inaction, is very deep-rooted, owing to which 'even the intelligent
are confounded as to what is action and what is inaction.' And as a consequence
of the superimposition of aciton pertaining to the body etc. on the Self,
there arises such ideas as, 'I am an agent; this is my action; its result
is to be enjoyed by me.' Similarly, with the idea, 'I shall remain quiet,
whereby I shall be free from exertion, free from activity, and happy', and
superimposing on the Self the cessation of activities pertaining to the body
and organs and the resulting happiness, a man imagines, 'I shall not do anything;
I shall sit quietly and happily.'
That being so,
the Lord says, 'he who finds inaction in action,' etc. with a view to removing
this contrary understanding of man. And here in this world, though action
belonging to the body and organs continues to be action, still it is superimposed
by everyone on the acitonless, unchanging Self, as a result of which even
a learned person things, 'I act.'
action (karmani), which is universally considered by all people to be inherent
in the Self, like the perception of motion in the (stationary) trees on the
bank of a river-(in that action) he who contrariwise finds the fact of inaction,
like perceiving absence of motion in those trees-.
And, in inaction
(akarmani) in the cessation of the activities pertaining to the body and organs
and ascribed to the Self in the same way that actions are ascribed-, in that
action, he who sees action because of egoism being implicit in the idea, 'I
am happily seated quietly, without doing anything'-; he who knows thus the
distinction between action and inaction, is wise, is learned among men; he
is engaged in yoga, he is a yogi, and a performer of all actions. And he,
freed from evil, attains fulfilment. This is the meaning.
This verse is
interpreted by some in another way.
the daily obligatory duties (nityakarmas) certainly have no results when performed
as a dedication to God, therefore, in a secondary sense, they are said to
be inaction. Again, the non-performance of these (nitya-karmas) is inaction;
since this produces an evil result, therefore it is called action, verily
in a figurative sense. That being so, he who sees inaction in the daily obligatory
duties (nitya-karmas) owing to the obsence of their results-in the same way
as a cow that does not yield milk is said to be not a cow, though in reality
it is so-so also, in the non-performance of the daily obligatory duties, i.e.
in inaction, he who sees action since that yields results such as hell etc....'
is not logical, because freedom from evil as a result of such knowledge is
unreasonable, and the utterance of the Lord in the sentence, '....by knowing
which you will become freed from evil', will be contradicted.
Even if it be
that liberation from evil follows from the performance of nitya-karmas, it
cannot, however, follow from the knowledge of the absence of their results.
For it has not been enjoined (anywhere) that knowledge of the nityakarmas
(themselves), leads to the result of freedom from evil. Nor has this been
stated here by the Lord Himself.
Hereby is refuted
the 'seeing of action in inaction' [As explained by others.-Tr.], for (according
to the opponent) 'seeing of action in inaction' has not been enjoined here
[Here, in the present verse.] as a duty, but (what has been enjoined is) merely
that performance of the nityakarmas is obligatory. Moreover, no result can
accrue from the knowledge that evil arises from non-performance of nityakramas.
Nor even has non-performance of nityakarmas. been enjoined as something that
should be known. Besides, such results as freedom from evil, wisdom, engagement
in yoga, and being a performer of all actions cannot reasonably follow from
a false perception of action as inaction. Nor is this a eulogy of false perception.
[The stated results accrue from correct knowledge, not from false perception;
and correct knowledge alone is praise-worthy.] Indeed, false perception is
itself an abvious form of evil! How can it bring about liberation from another
evil? Surely, darkness does not become the remover of darkness!
the seeing of inaction in action, or the seeing of action in inaction-that
is not a false perception.
is a figurative statement based on the existence or the non-existence of results.
so, because there is no such scriptural statement that something results from
knowing action as inaction and inaction as action, even in a figurative sense.
Besides, nothing particular is gained by rejecting what is heard of (in the
scriptures) and imagining something that is not. Further, it was possible
(for the Lord) to express in His own words that there is no result from the
nityakarmas, and that by their non-performance one would have to go to hell.
Under such circumstances, what was the need of the ambiguous statement, 'He
who sees inaction in action,' etc., which is misleading to others?
This being the
case, such an explanation by anyone will be clearly tantamount to imagining
that statement of the Lord as meant for deluding people. Moreover, this subject-matter
(performance of nityakarmas) is not something to be protected with mystifying
words. It is not even logical to say that the subject-matter will become easy
for comprehension if it is stated again and again through different words.
For, the subject-matter that was stated more clearly in, 'Your right is for
action alone' (2.47), does not need any repetition. And everwhere it is said
that whatever is good and ought to be practised deserves to be understood;
anything purposeloss does not deserve to be known. Besides, neither is false
knowledge worth acquiring nor is the semblance of an object presented by it
Nor even can
any evil, which is an entity, arise from the non-performance of nityakarmas,
which is a non-entity, for there is the statement, 'Of the unreal there is
no being' (2.16), and (in the Upanisad) it has been pointed out, 'How can
existence originate from nonexistence?' (Ch. 4.2.2). Since emergence of the
existent from the nonexistent has been denied, therefore anyone's assertion
that the existent originates from the nonexistent will amount to saying that
a non-entity becomes an entity, and an entity becomes a non-entity! And that
is not rational because it runs counter to all the means of valid knowledge.
scriptures cannot enjoin fruitless actions, they being naturally painful;
and it is illogical that what is painful should be done intentionally. Also,
if it is admitted that falling into hell results from their non-performance
(i.e. of the nityakarmas), then that too is surely a source of evil. In either
case, whether one undertakes them or not, the scriptures will be imagined
to be useless. And there will be a contradiction with your own standpoint
when, after holding that the nityakarmas are fruitless, you assert that they
lead to Liberation.
meaning of 'He who finds inaction in action,' etc. is just what stands out
literally. And the verse has been explained by us accordingly.
perception of 'inaction in action,' etc. is being praised:
4.19 The wise call
him learned whose actions are all devoid of desires and their thougts, [Kama-sankalpa
is variously translated as 'desires and purposes', 'plans and desires for results',
'hankering for desires', etc. But Sankarcarya shows sankalpa as the cause of
kama. -Tr.] and whose actions have been burnt away by the fire of wisdom.
the wise, the knowers of Brahman; ahuh, call; tam, him; panditam, learned,
in the real sense; yasya, whose, of the one who perceives as stated above;
samarambhah, actions-whatever are undertaken; are sarve, all; kama-sankalpa-varjitah,
devoid of desires and the thoughts which are their (desires') causes (see
2.62)-i.e., (those actions) are performed as mere movements, without any selfish
purpose: if they are performed by one (already) engaged in actions, then they
are for preventing people from going astray, and if they are done by one who
has withdrawn from actions, then they are merely for the maintenance of the
body-; and jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam, whose actions have been burnt away by
the fire of wisdom.
inaction etc. in action etc. is jnana, wisdom; that itself is agnih, fire.
He whose actions, karma, described as good and bad, have been dagdhani, burnt
away by that fire of wisdom, is jnana-agni-dagdha-karma.
one who is a perceiver of 'inaction' etc. [Perceiver of inaction etc.: He
who knows the truth about action and inaction as explained before.-Tr.] is
free from actions owing to the very fact of his seeing 'inaction' etc. He
is a monk, who acts merely for the purpose of maintaining the body. Being
so, he does not engage in actions although he might have done so before the
dawn of discrimination. He again who, having been engaged in actions under
the influence of past tendencies, later on becomes endowed with the fullest
Self-knowledge, he surely renounces (all) [Ast. adds this word sarva, all.-Tr.]
actions along with their accessories as he does nnot find any purpose in activity.
For some reason, if it becomes impossible to renounce actions and he, for
the sake of preventing people from going astray, even remains engaged as before
in actions-without attachment to those actions and their results because of
the absence of any selfish purpose-, still he surely does nothing at all!
His actions verily become 'inaction' because of having been burnt away by
the fire of wisdom.
way of pointing out this idea, the Lord says:
4.20 Having given
up attachment to the results of action, he who is ever-contented, dependent
on nothing, he really does not do anything even though engaged in action.
With the help
of the above-mentioned wisdom, tyaktva, having given up the idea of agentship;
and phala-asangam, attachment to the results of action; he who is nitya-trptah,
ever-trptah, ever-contented, i.e. has no hankering for objects; and nirasrayah,
dependent on nothing-. Asraya means that on which a person leans, desiring
to achieve some human goal. The idea is that he is dependent of any support
which may be a means of attaining some coveted seen or unseen result.
In reality, actions
done by a man of Knowledge are certainly inactions, since he is endowed with
the realization of the actionless Self. Actions together with their accessories
must be relinquished by one who has become thus, because they have no end
to serve. This being so, api, even though; he remains abhi-pravrttah, engaged
as before; karmani, in actions-getting out of those (actions) being impossible-,
either with the intention of preventing people from going astray or with a
view to avoiding the censure of the wise people; sah, he; eva, really; na
karoti, does not do; kincit, anything, because he is endued with the realization
of the actionless Self. [From the subjective standpoint of the enlightened
there are no actions, but ordinary people mistakenly think them to be actions,
which in reality are a mere semblance of it.]
On the other
hand, one who is the opposite of the above-mentioned one, (and) in whom, even
before undertaking works, has dawned the realization of his identity with
Brahman, the all-pervasive, inmost, actionless Self; who,being bereft of solicitation
for desirable objects seen or unseen, has renounced actions along with their
accessories, by virtue of seeing no purpose to be served by undertaking actions
meant to secure some seen or unseen result, and makes effort only for the
maintenance of the body, he, the monk steadfast in Knowledge, becomes free.
Hence, in order
to express this idea the Lord says:
4.21 One who is
without solicitation, who has the mind and organs under control, (and) is totally
without possessions, he incurs no sin by performing actions merely for the (maintenance
of the) body.
one who is without solicitation-one from whom asisah [Asih is a kind of desire
that can be classed under prayer. (Some translate it as desire, hope.-Tr.)],
solicitations, have departed; yata-citta-atma, who has the mind and organs
under control-one by whom have been controlled (yatau) both the internal organ
(citta) and the external aggregate of body and organs (atma); (and) is tyakta-sarva-parigrahah,
[ Parigraha: receiving, accepting, possessions, belongings.-V.S.A] totally
without possessions- one by whom have been renounced (tyaktah) all (sarvah)
possessions (parigrahah); na apnoti, he does not incur; kilbisam, sin, in
the form of evil as also rigtheousness-to one aspiring for Liberation, even
righteousness is surely an evil because it brings bondage-; [Here Ast. adds
tasmat tabhyam mukto bhavati samsarat mukto bhavati ityarthah, therefore,
he becomes free from both of them, i.e. he becomes liberated from transmigration.-Tr.]
kurvan, by performing; karma, actions; kevalam, merely; sariram, for the purpose
of maintaining the body-without the idea of agenship even with regard to these
in the expression, 'kevalam sariram karma', do the words sariram karma mean
'actions done by the body' or 'actions merely for the purpose of maintaining
the body? Again, what does it matter if by (the words) sariram karma is meant
'actions done by the body' or 'actions merely for the purpose of maintaning
answer is: If by sariram karma is meant actions done by the body, then it
will amount to a contradiction [Contradiction of the scriptures.] when the
Lord says, 'one does not incur sin by doing with his body any action meant
for seen or unseen purposes, even though it be prohibited.' Even if the Lord
were to say that 'one does not incur sin by doing with his body some scripturally
sanctioned action intended to secure a seen or an unseen end', then there
arises the contingency of His denying something (some evil) that has not come
from the specification, sariram karma kurvan (by doing actions with the body),
and from the use of the word kevala (only), it will amount to saying that
one incurs sin by performing actions, called righteous and unrighteous, which
can be accomplished with the mind and speech and which come within the purview
of injunction and prohibition. Even there, the statement that one incurs sin
by performing enjoined actions through the mind and speech will involve a
contradiction; even in the case of doing what is prohibited, it will amount
to a mere purposeless restatement of a known fact.
the other hand, when the sense conveyed by sariram karma is taken as acctions
merely for the purpose of maintaining the body, then the implication will
be that he does not do any other work as can be accomplished physically, orally,
or mentally, which are known from injunctions and prohibitions (of the scriptures)
and which have in view seen or unseen results; while he appears to people
to be working with those very body (speech) etc. merely for the purpose of
maintaining the body, yet he does not incur sin by merely making movements
of the body etc., because from the use of the word kevala, (merely) it follows
that he is devoid of the sense of agentship implicit in the idea, 'I do.'
Since there is no possibility of a person who has reached such a state incurring
evil as suggest by the word sin, therefore he does not become subject to the
evil of transmigration. That is to say, he certainly becomes free without
any obstacle since he has all his actions burnt away by the fire of wisdom.
verse is only a reiteration of the result of full illumination stated earlier.
It becomes faultless by accepting the interpretation of sariram karma thus.
the case of the monk who has renounced all possessions, since owning food
etc. meant for the bare sustenance of the body is absent, therefore it becomes
imperative to beg for alms etc. for the upkeep of the body. Under this circumstance,
by way of pointing out the means of obtaining food etc. for the maintenance
of the body of a monk as permitted by the text, 'What comes unasked for, without
forethought and spontaneously.....' [Unasked for: what comes before the monk
gets ready for going out for alms; without forethought: alms that are not
given with abuses, and have not fallen on the ground, but collected from five
or seven houses without any plan; spontaneously: alms brought to one spontaneously
by devoted people.] (Bo. Sm. 21. 8. 12) etc., the Lord says:
satisfied with what comes unasked for, having transcended the dualities, being
free from spite, and equipoised under success and failure, he is not bound even
by performing actions.
remaining satisfied with what comes unasked for-yadrccha-labha means coming
to possess something without having prayed for it; feeling contented with
that-. Dvandva-atitah,having transcended the dualities-one is said to be beyond
dualities when his mind is not distressed even when afflicted by such opposites
as heat and cold, etc.-. Vimatsarah, being free from spite, from the idea
of enmity; and samah, equipoised; siddhau ca asiddhau, is success and failure,
with regard to things that come unasked for-.
monk who is such, who is equipoised, not delighted or sorrowful in getting
or not getting food etc. for the sustenance of the body, who sees inaction
etc. in action etc., who is ever poised in the realization of the Self as
It is, who, with regard to the activities accomplished by the body etc. in
the course of going about for alms etc. for the bare maintenance of the body,
is ever clearly conscious of the fact, 'I certainly do not anything; the organs
act on the objects of the organs' (see 5.8; 3.28), he, realizing the absence
of agentship in the Self, certainly does not do any actions like going about
for alms etc. But when, abserving similarly with common human behaviour, agentship
is attributed to him by ordinary poeple, then he (apparently) becomes an agent
with regard to such actions as moving about for alms etc. However, from the
standpoint of his own realization which has arisen from the valid means of
knowledge presented in the scriptures, he is surely not an agent.
to whom is thus ascribed agentship by others, na nibadhyate, is not bound;
api, even; krtva, by performing such actions as moving about for alms merely
for the maintenance of the body, because action which is a source of bondage
has been burnt away along with its cause by the fire of wisdom. Thus, this
is only a restatement of what has been said earilier.
a person who has already started works becomes endowed with the realization
of the identity of the Self with the actionless Brahman, then it follows that
in the case of that man, who has experienced the absence of agentship, actions
and purposes in the Self, actions become relinquished. But if this becomes
impossible for some reason and he continues to be engaged in those acitons
as before, still he certainly does not do anything. This absence of action
has been shown in the verse, 'Having given up attachment to the results of
that very person with regard to whom has been shown the absence of aciton-
4.23 Of the liberated
person who has got rid of attachment, whose mind is fixed in Knowledge, actions
undertaken for a sacrifice get totally destroyed.
of the liberated person who has become relieved of such bondages as righteousness
and unrighteousness, etc.; gatasangasya, who has got rid of attachment, who
has become detached from everything; jnana-avasthita-cetasah, whose mind is
fixed in Knowledge only; his karma, actions; acaratah, undertaken; yajnaya,
for a sacrifice, to accomplish a sacrifice [A.G. takes yajna to mean Visnu.
So, yajnaya will mean 'for Visnu'. Sankaracarya also interprets this word
similarly in 3.9.-Tr.]; praviliyate, gets destroyed; samagram, totally-saha
(together) agrena (with its consequence, result). This is the meaning.
what reason, again, does an action that is underway get destroyed totally
without producing its result? This is being answered:
4.24 The ladle
is Brahman [Some translate as 'Brahman is the ladle....,' etc.-Tr.], the oblations
is Brahman, the offering is poured by Brahman in the fire of Brahman. Brahman
alone is to be reached by him who has concentration on Brahman as the objective
[As an object to be known and attained. (Some translate brahma-karma-samadhina
as, 'by him who sees Brahman in action'.)
the ladle is Brahman: The knower of Brahman perceives the instrument with
which he offers oblation in the fire as Brahman Itself. He perceives it as
not existing separately from the Self, as one sees the non-existence of silver
in nacre. In this sense it is that Brahman Itself is the ladle-just as what
appears as silver is only narcre. (The two words brahma and arpanam are not
parts of a compound word, samasa.) The meaning is that, to a knower of Brahman,
what is perceived in the world as ladle is Brahman Itself.
the oblations is Brahman: To him, what is seen as oblations is nothing but
In the same way,
brahma-agnau, (-this is a compound word-) in the fire of Brahman: The fire
into which oblation is hutam, poured; brahmana, by Brahman, by the agent,
is Brahman Itself. The meaning is that Brahman Itself is the agent (of the
offering). That he makes the offering-the act of offering-, that is also Brahman.
And the result that is gantavyam, to be reached by him; that also is brahma
eva, surely Brahman.
by him who has concentration on Brahman as the objective: Brahman Itself is
the objective (karma); he who has concentration (samadhi) on That is brahma-karma-samdhih.
The goal to be reached by him is Brahman alone.
Thus, even the
action undertaken by one who desires to prevent mankind from going astray
is in reality inaction, for it has been sublated by the realization of Brahman.
This being so, in the case of the monk from whom aciton has dropped off, who
has renounced all activity, viewing his Knowledge as a (kind of) sacrifice,
too, becomes all the more justifiable from the point of view of praising full
That is, whatever
is well known as ladle etc. in the context of a sacrifice, all that, in the
context of the Self, is Brahman Itself to one who has realized the supreme
Truth. If not so, then, since all in Brahman, it would have been uselesss
to specifically mention ladle etc. as Brahman. Therefore, all actions cease
to exist for the man of realization who knows that Brahman Itself is all this.
And this follows also from the absence (in him) of the idea of accessories.
[See note on p.211.-Tr.] For the act called 'sacarifice' is not seen to exist
without being in association with the idea of accessories. All such acts as
Agnihotra etc. are associated with the ideas of such accessories as making
an offering etc. to the particular gods who are revealed in the scriptures,
and with the idea of agentship as also desire for results. But they are not
found bereft of the ideas of such distinctions as exist among action, accessories
and results, or unassociated with the ideas of agentship hankering for results.
(activity of the man of Knowledge), however, stands dissociated from the ideas
of differences among the accessories like ladle etc., actions and results,
which get destroyed by the Knowledge of Brahman. Hence, it is inaction to
And thus has
it been shown in, 'He who finds inaction in action' (18), 'he really does
not do anything even though engaged in action' (20), 'the organs act on the
objects of the organs' (3.28), 'Remaining absorbed in the Self, the knower
of Reality should think, "I certainly do not do anything"' (5.8),
etc. While pointing out thus, the Lord demolishes in various places the ideas
of differences among actions, accessories and results. And it is also seen
in the case of rites such as Agnihotra undertaken for results (kamya), that
the Agnihotra etc. cease to be (kamya) rites undertaken for selfish motives
when the desire for their results is destroyed. Similarly, it is seen that
actions done intentionally and unintentionally yeild different results. So,
here as well, in the case of one who has his ideas of distinctions among accessories
like ladle etc., actions and results eliminated by the knowledge of Brahman,
even activites which are merely external movements amount to inaction. Hence
it was said, 'gets totally destroyed.'
Here some say:
That which is Brahman is the ladle etc. It is surely Brahman Itself which
exists in the five forms [Asscessories that can be indicated by the five grammatical
case-ending, viz Nominative, Objective, Instrumental, Dative and Locative.
(As for instance, the sacrificer, oblation, ladle, sacrificial fire, and Brahman.-Tr.)
of accessories such as the ladle etc. and it is Itself which undertakes actions.
There the ideas of ladle etc. are not eradicated, but the idea of Brahman
is attributed to the ladle etc. as one does the ideas of Visnu etc. to images
etc., or as one does the idea of Brahman ot name etc.
this could have been so as well if the context were not meant for the praise
of jnanayajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice). Here, however, after
presenting full realization as expressed by the word jnana-yajna, and the
varieties of rites as referred to by the word yajna (sacrifice), Knowledge
has been praised by the Lord in, 'Jnana-yajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice)
is greater than sacrifices requiring materials' (33). And in the present context,
this statement, 'the ladle is Brahman' etc., is capable of presenting Knowledge
as a sacrifice; otherwise, since Brahman is everything, it will be purposeless
to speak specially only of ladle etc. as Brahman. But those who maintain that
one has to superimpose the idea of Brahman on the ladle etc., like superimposing
the idea of Visnu and others on images etc. and of Brahman on name etc., for
them the knowledge of Brahma stated (in the verse) cannot be the intended
subject-matter dealt with here, because according to them ladle etc. are the
(primary) objects of knowledge (in the context of the present verse).
in the form of superimposition of an idea cannot lead to Liberation as its
result; and what is said here is, 'Brahman alone in to be realized by him'.
Also, it is inconsistent to maintain that the result of Liberation can be
achieved without full realization. And it goes against the context-the context
being of full realization. This is supported by the fact that (the subject
of ) full realization is introduced in the verse, 'He who finds inaction in
action,' and at the end (of this chapter) the conclusion pertains to that
very subject-matter. The chapter comes to a close by eulozing full realization
itself in, 'Jnana-yajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice) is greater than
sacrifices requiring materials', 'Achieving Knowledge, one...attains supreme
Peace,' (39) etc. That being so, it is unjustifiable to suddenly say out of
context that one has to superimpose the idea of Brahman on the ladle etc.
like the superimposition of the idea of Visnu on images. Therefore this verse
bears the meaing just as it has been already explained.
As to that, after
having presented Knowledge as a sacrifice, other sacrifices also are being
mentioned now in, the verses beginning with, '(Other yogis undertake) sacrifice
to gods alone,' etc., for eulogizing that Knowledge:
4.25 Other yogis
undertake sacrifice to gods alone, Others offer the Self, as a sacrifice by
the Self itself, in the fire of Brahman.
yoginah, yogis, ritualists; pari-upasate, undertake; yajnam, sacrifice; daivam,
to gods; eva, alone. A sacrifice by which the gods are adored is daiva-yajna;
they perform only that. This is the meaning.
in the fire of Brahman: By the word brahman is meant That which is referred
to in such sentences as, 'Brahman is Truth, knowledge and infinite' (Tai.
2.1), 'Knowledge, Bliss, Brahman' (Br. 3.9.28), 'the Brahman that is immediate
and direct-the self that is within all' (Br.3.4.1), which is devoid of all
worldly characteristiscs like hunger etc. and which is beyond all particular
qualifications-as stated in, 'Not this, not this' (Br.4.4.22). That which
is Brahman is the fire. [Brahman is called fire because, as reflected in wisdom,
It burns away everything, i.e. ignorance, or because everything merges into
It during dissolution (pralaya).] And it is spoken of as Brahmagni with a
view to referring to It as that into which the offering is made.
In that fire
of Brahman, apare, others, other knowers of Brahman; upa-juhvati, offer; yajnam,
the Self, which is referred to by the word yajna (sacrifice), it, having,
been presented as a synonym of the Self;-that Self, which is a sacrifice,
which is reality is verily the supreme Brahman, which is associated with such
limiting adjuncts as the intellect etc., which is associated with all the
qualities of the limiting adjuncts superimposed on it, and which is the oblation,
(they offer) yajnena, by the Self itself as described above. The offering
(of the Self) in that (Brahman) is nothing but the realization of that Self
which is assoicated with the limiting adjuncts to be the supreme Brahman which
is free from adjuncts. The monks, steadfast in the realization of the identity
of Brahman and the Self, make that offering. This is the meaning.
'The ladle is Brahman' etc., this sacrifice characterized as full realization
is being included among such sacrifices as daiva-yajna etc. with a view to
eulogizing it in the verses beginning with, 'O destroyer of enemies, jnana-yajna
is greater than the sacrifices involving (sacrificial) materials'.
4.26 Others offer
the organs, viz ear etc., in the fires of self-control. Others offer the objects,
viz sound etc., in the fires of the organs.
others, other yogis; juhvati, offer; indriyani, the organs; viz srotradini,
car etc.; samyama-agnisu, in the fires of self-control. The plural (in fires)
is used because self-control is possible in respect of each of the organs.
Self-control itself is the fire. In that they make the offering, i.e. they
practise control of the organs. anye, others; juhvati, offer; visayan, the
objects; sabdadin, viz sound etc.; indriyagnisu, in the fires of the organs.
The organs themselves are the fires. They make offerings in those fires with
the organs of hearing etc. They consider the perception of objects not prohibited
by the scriputures to be a sacrifice.
4.27 Others offer
all the activities of the organs and the activities of the vital force into
the fire of the yoga of self-control which has been lighted by Knowledge.
apare, others; juhvati, offer, i.e. merge; sarvani, all; indriya-karmani,
the activities of the organs; and also the prana-karmani, activities of the
vital force- prana means the air in the body; they offer its activities such
as contraction, expansion, etc; atma-samyama yoga-agnau, into the fire of
the yoga of self-control-withdrawal (samyama) [Samyama consists of concentration,
meditation, and Self-absorption. The idea conveyed by the verse is that by
stopping all activities, they concentrate the mind on the Self.] into the
Self (atma) is self-control (atma-samyama); that itself is the fire of yoga
(yoga-agni); (they offer) into that fire; jnana-dipite, which has been lighted
by Knowledge, made to blaze up by discriminating knowledge, as if lighted
up by oil.
others are performers of sacrifices through wealth, through austerity, through
yoga, and through study and knowledge; others are ascetics with severe vows.
apare, others; are dravya-yajnah, perfomers of sacrifices through wealth-those
sacrificers who spend wealth (dravya) in holy places under the idea of performing
sacrifices; tapo-yajnah, performers of sacrifices through austerity, men of
austerity, to whom austerity is a sacrifice; [This is according to Ast.-Tr.]
yogayajnah, performers of sacrifice through yoga-those to whom the yoga consisting
in the control of the vital forces, withdrawal of the organs, etc., is a sacrifice;
and svadhyaya-jnana-yajnah, performers of sacrifices through study and knowledge.
study are those to whom the study of Rg-veda etc. accroding to rules is a
sacrifice. And sacrificers through knowledge are those to whom proper understanding
of the meaing of the scriptures is a sacrifice. Others are yatayah, ascetics,
who are deligent; samsita-vratah, in following severe vows. Those whose vows
(vratah) have been fully sharpened (samsita), made very rigid, are samsita-vratah.
[Six kinds of sacrifices have been enumerated in this verse.]
practising control of the vital forces by stopping the movements of the outgoing
and the incoming breaths, some offer as a sacrifice the outgoing breath in the
incoming breath; while still others, the incoming breath in the outgoing breath.
constantly practising control of the vital forces-i.e. they practise a form
of pranayama called Kumbhaka (stopping the breath either inside or outside)
['Three sorts of motion of Pranayama (control of the vital forces) are, one
by which we draw the breath in, another by which we throw it out, and the
third action is when the breath is held in the lungs or stopped from entering
the lungs.'-C.W., Vol.I, 1962, p. 267.
Thus, there are
two kinds of Kumbhaka-internal and external.]-; prana-apana-gati ruddhva,
by stopping the movements of the outgoing and the incoming breaths-the outgoing
of breath (exhalation) through the mouth and the nostrils is the movement
of the Prana; as opposed to that, the movement of Apana is the going down
(of breath) (inhalation); these constitute the prana-apana-gati, movements
of Prana and Apana; by stopping these; some juhvati, offer as a sacrifice;
pranam, the outgoing breath, which is the function of Prana; apane, in the
incoming breath, which is the function of Apana-i.e. they practised a form
of pranayama called Puraka ('filling in'); while tatha apare, still others;
offer apanam, the incoming breath; prane, in the outgoing breath, i.e. they
practise a form of pranayama called Recaka ('emptying out'). [Constantly practising
control of the vital, forces, they perform Kumbhaka after Recaka and Puraka.]
4.30 Others, having
their food regulated, offer the vital forces in the vital forces. All of them
are knowers of the sacrifice and have their sins destroyed by sacrifice.
others; niyata-aharah, having their food regulated; juhvati, offer; pranan,
the vital forces, the different kinds of vital forces; pranesu, in the vital
forces themselves. Whichever function of the vital forces is brought under
control, in it they offer the other functions. These latter become, as it
were, merged in the former. Sarve api, all; of ete, them; yajna-vidah, are
knowers of the sacrifice; and yajna-ksapita-kamasah, have their sins destroyed
by the sacrifices as mentioned above.
the above-mentioned sacrifices,
4.31 Those who
partake of the nectar left over after a sacrifice, reach the eternal Brahman.
This world ceases to exist for one who does not perform sacrifices. What to
speak of the other (world), O best among the Kurus (Arjuna)!
those who partake of the nectar left over after a sacrifice, i.e. those who,
after performing the sacrifices described above, eat, during the leisure after
the sacrifice, the food called nectar, as prescribed by the injunctions; yanti,
reach; sanatanam brahma, the eternal Brahman. For the sake of consistency
(with the Upanisads) it is understood that if they (the sacrificers) are seekers
of liberation, (then they reach Brahman) in due course of time. [The Upanisads
describe the different stages through which those who do good deeds and practise
meditation have to pass before reaching the qualified Brahman after death.
For liberation there is need also of purification of the heart, Thus, they
reach Brahman by stages, and not immediately after death. (See Ch. 8.5 and
subsequent portion; also, Br. 4.3.35 to 4.4.25, etc.)]
Even ayam lokah,
this world, common to all beings; na asti, ceases to exist; ayajnasya, for
one who does not perform sacrifices, for him who does not have to his credit
even a single one of the above sacrifices. Kutah anyah, what to speak of the
other world which can be achieved through special disciplines; kurusattama,
O best among the Kurus!
4.32 Thus, various
kinds of sacrifices lie spread at the mouth of the Vedas. Know them all to be
born of action. Knowing thus, you will become liberated.
Evam, thus; bahu-vidha
yajnah, various kinds of sacrifices as described; vitatah, lie spread; mukhe,
at the mouth, at the door; brahmanah, of the Vedas. Those which are known
through the Vedas- as for instance, 'We offer the vital force into speech',
etc.-are said to be vitatah, spread, elaborated; mukhe, at the mouth; brahmanah,
of the Vedas.
tan, them; sarvan, all; to be karmajan, born of action, accoplished through
the activities of body, speech and mind, but not born of the Self. For the
Self is actionless. Hence, jnatva, knowing; evam, thus; vimoksyase, you will
become liberated from evil. By knowing thus- 'These are not my actions; I
am actionless and detached'-You will be freed from worldly bondage as a result
of this full enlightenment. This is the purport.
Through the verse
beginning with, 'The ladle is Brahman' etc., complete Illumination has been
represented as a sacrifice. And sacrifices of various kinds have been taught.
With the help of [Some translate this as: As compared with....-Tr.] those
(sacrifices) that are meant for accomplishing desireable human ends, Knowledge
(considered as a sacrifice) is being extolled:
4.33 O destroyer
of enemies, Knowledge considered as a sacrifice is greater than sacrifices requiring
materials. O son of Prtha, all actions in their totality culminate in Knowledge.
O destroyer of
enemies, jnana-yajnah, Knowledge considered as a sacrifice; is sreyan, greater;
dravyamayat yajnat, than sacrifices requiring materials [Including study of
the Vedas, etc. also.] For, a sacrifice performed with materials is an originator
of results, [Worldly prosperity, attaining heaven, etc.], but Knowledge considered
as a sacrifice is not productive of results. [It only reveals the state of
Liberation that is an achieved fact. (According to Advaitism, Liberation consists
in the removal of ignorance by Illumination. Nothing new is produced thereby.-Tr.)].
Hence it is greater, more praiseworthy.
all; karma-akhilam, actions in their totality, without exception; O son of
Prtha, parisamapyate, culminate, get merged (attain their consummation); jnane,
in Knowledge, which is a means to Liberation and is comparable to 'a flood
all around' (cf.2.46). This is the idea, which accords with the Upanisadic
text, 'As when the (face of a die) bearing the number 4, called Krta, wins,
the other inferior (numbers on the die-faces) get included in it, so whatever
good actions are performed by beings, all that gets merged in this one (Raikva).
(So it happens) to anyone who knows what he (Raikva) knew' (Ch. 4.1.4).
In that case,
by what means is this highly estimable Knowledge acquired? The answer is being
4.34 Know that
through prostration, inquiry and service. The wise ones who have realized the
Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.
tat, that, the process by which It is acquired; by approaching teachers pranipatena,
through prostration, by lying fully streched on the ground with face downward,
with prolonged salutation; pariprasnena, through inquiry, as to how bondage
and Liberation come, and what are Knowledge and ignorance; and sevaya, through
the service of the guru. (Know it) through these and other (disciplines) [Other
disciplines such as control of the mind, body, etc. Sankaracarya's own words
in the Commentary are evamadina, after which Ast. puts a full stop, and agreeing
with this, A.G. says that the word viddhi (know) is to be connected with evamadina.
Hence this translation. Alternatively, those words have to be taken with prasrayena.
Then the meaning will be, 'Being pleased with such and other forms of humility....'-Tr.].
Being pleased with humility, jnaninah, the wise ones, the teachers; tattva-darsinah,
who have realized the Truth; upadeksyanti, will impart, will tell; te, you;
jnanam, the Knowledge as described above.
may be wise, some of them are apt to know Truth just as it is, while others
may not be so. Hence the qualification, 'who have realized the Truth'. The
considered view of the Lord is that Knowledge imparted by those who have full
enlightenment becomes effective, not any other.
That being so,
the next verse also becomes appropriate:
4.35 Knowing which,
O Pandava (Arjuna), you will not come under delusion again in this way, and
through which you will see all beings without exception in the Self and also
yat, which-by acquiring which Knowledge imparted by them; O Pandava, na vasyasi,
you will not come under; moham, delusion; punah, again; evam, in this way,
in the way you have come under delusion now. Besides, yena, through which
Knowledge; draksyasi, you will see directly; bhutani, all beings; asesena,
without exception, counting from Brahma down to a clump of grass; atmani,
in the Self, in the innermost Self, thus-'These beings exist in me' ; and
atha, also; see that these are mayi. in Me, in Vasudeva, the supreme Lord.
The purport is, 'You will realize the identity of the individual Self and
God, which is well known in the Upanisads.'
greatness of this Knowledge is:
4.36 Even if you
be the worst sinner among all sinners, still you will cross over all the wickedness
with the raft of Knowledge alone.
Api cet asi,
even if you be; papa-krt-tamah, the worst sinner, extremely sinful; sarvebhyah,
among all; papebhyah, the sinners (papa, lit. sin, means here sinner) ; still
santarisyasi, you will cross over; sarvam, all; the vrjinam, wickedness, the
ocean of wickedness, sin; [Ast. reads papa-samudram, (ocean of sin) in place
of papam.-Tr.] jnana-plavena eva, with the raft of Knowledge alone, by using
Knowledge alone as a float. Here [Here, in the scriptures imparting spiritual
instructions.], righteousness (formal religious observance), too, is said
to be an evil in the case of one aspiring for Liberation.
destroys sin is being told with the help of an illustration:
4.37 O Arjuna,
as a blazing fire reduces pieces of wood to ashes, similarly the fire of Knowledge
reduces all actions to ashes.
O Arjuna, yatha,
as; a samiddhah, blazing; agnih, fire, a well lighted fire; kurute, reduces;
edhamsi, pieces of wood; bhasmasat, to ashes; tatha, similarly; jnanagnih,
the fire of Knowledge-Knowledge itself being the fire; kurute, reduces; bhasmasat,
to ashes; sarva-karmani, all actions, i.e. it renders them ineffective, for
the fire of Knowledge itself cannot directly [Knowledge destroys ignorance,
and thereby the idea of agentship is eradicated. This in turn makes actions
impossible.] burn actions to ashes, like pieces of wood. So, the idea implied
is that full enlightenment is the cuase of making all actions impotent.
From the force
the context [If the body were to die just with the dawn of Knowledge, imparting
of Knowledge by enlightened persons would be impossible, and thus there would
be no teacher to transmit Knowledge!] it follows that, since the result of
actions owing to which the present body has been born has already become effective,
therefore it gets eshausted only through experiencing it. Hence, Knowledge
reduces to ashes only all those actions that were done (in this life) prior
to the rise of Knowledge and that have not become effective, as also those
performed along with (i.e. after the dawn of) Knowledge, and those that were
done in the many past lives.
Since this is
4.38 Indeed, there
is nothing purifying here comparable to Knowledge. One who has become perfected
after a (long) time through yoga, realizes That by himself in his own heart.
Hi, indeed; na
vidyate, there is nothing; pavitram, purifying, sanctifying; iha, here; sadrsam,
comparable; jnanena, to Knowledge. Yoga-samsiddhah, one who has become perfected,
who as attained fitness through yoga-the seeker after Liberation who has become
samsiddhah, purified, qualified; yogena, through the yoga of Karma and the
yoga of concentration-; kalena, after a long time; vindati, realizes, i.e.
attains; tat, That, Knowledge; verily svayam, by himself; atmani, in his own
That means by
which Knowledge is invariably attained is being taught:
4.39 The man who
has faith, is diligent and has control over the organs, attains Knowledge. Achieving
Knowledge, one soon attains supreme Peace.
man who has faith; labhate, attains; jnanam, Knowledge. Even when one has
faith, he may be indolent. Therefore the Lord says, tatparah, who is diligent,
steadfast in the service of the teacher, etc., which are the means of attaining
Knowledge. Even when one has faith and is diligent, one may not have control
over the organs. Hence the Lord says, samyata-indriyah, who has control over
the organs-he whose organs (indriyani) have been withdrawn (samyata) from
objects. He who is such, who is full of faith, diligent, and has control over
the organs, does surely attain Knowledge.
etc., which are external, are not invariably fruitful, for there is scope
for dissimulation faith etc. But this is not so in the case of one possessing
faith etc. Hence they are the unfailing means of acquiring Knowledge.
will result from gaining Knowledge? This is being answered: Labdhva, achieving;
jnanam, Knowledge; adhigacchati, one attains; acirena, soon indeed; param,
supreme; santim, Peace, supreme detachment called Liberation. That Liberation
soon follows from full Knowledge is a fact well ascertained from all the scriptures
One should not
entertain any doubt in this matter. For doubt is the most vicious thing. Why?
The answer is being stated:
4.40 One who is
ignorant and faithless, and has a doubting mind perishes. Neither this world
nor the next nor happiness exists for one who has a doubting mind.
Ajnah, one who
is ignorant, who has not known the Self; and asradda-dhanah, who is faithless;
[Ast. adds here: guruvakya-sastresu avisvasavan, who has no faith in the instructions
of the teacher and the scriptures.-Tr.] and samsaya-atma, who has a doubting
mind; vinasyati, perishes. Although the ignorant and the faithless get ruined,
yet it is not to the extent that a man with a doubting mind does. As for one
with a doubting mind, he is the most vicious of them all. How? Na ayam lokah,
neither this world which is familiar; na, nor also; parah, the next world;
na sukham, nor happiness; asti, exist; samsaya-atmanah, for one who has a
doubting mind. For doubt is possible even with regard to them! Therefore one
should not entertain doubt.
4.41 O Dhananjaya
(Arjuna), actions do not bind one who has renounced actions through yoga, whose
doubt has been fully dispelled by Knowledge, and who is not inadvertent.
one who has renounced actions through yoga: that person who is a knower of
the supreme Goal, by whom actions called righteous or unrighteous have been
renounced through the yoga characterized as the Knowledge of the supreme Goal.
How does one
become detached from actions through yoga? The Lord says: He is jnana-samchinna-samsayah,
one whose doubts (samsaya) have been fully dispelled (samchinna) by Knowledge
(jnana) characterized as the realization of the identity of the individual
Self and God.
he who has thus renounced actions through yoga, atmavantam, who is not inadvertent,
not careless; him, karmani, actions, seen as the activities of the gunas (see
3.28); na nibadhnanti, do not bind, (i.e.) they do not produce a result in
the form of evil etc.
Since one whose
doubts have been destroyed by Knowledge-arising from the destruction of the
impurities (of body, mind, etc.) as result of the practise of Karma-yoga-does
not get bound by acitons owing to the mere fact of his actions having been
burnt away by Knowledge; and since one who has doubts with regard to the practice
of the yogas of Knowledge and actions gets ruined-
O scion of the Bharata dyasty, take recourse to yoga and rise up, cutting asunder
with the sword of Knowledge this doubt of your own in the heart, arising from
O scion of the Bharata dynasty; atistha, take recourse to, i.e. undertake;
yogam, yoga -performance of actions, which is a means to full Illumination;
and now, uttistha, rise up for battle; chittva, cutting asunder; jnanasina,
with the sword of Knowledge-Knowledge is full Illumination, which is a destroyer
of such defects as sorrows, delusion, etc.; that itself is the sword; with
that sword of Knowledge-;enam, this; samsayam, doubt; atmanah, of your own,
which is a source of one's own ruin and is most sinful; hrtstham, in the heart,
residing in the intellect; ajnana-sambhutam, arising from ignorance, born
The word atmanah
is used because doubt concerns oneself. Indeed, another's doubt cannot be
removed by someone else. Hence the word 'own' is used. So, although the doubt
is with regard to the Self, it is really one's own.