Reflections Along The Way

Bhagavad Geeta: Chapter 4, Verses 33-42

Knowledge is two-fold:

  • Knowing the Self to be non-doer (Refer to verse 4.18)
  • Seeing every component of action as expressions of the Self, the pure consciousness (Refer to verse 4.24)

To enable these two things to happen, various spiritual practices were given in the previous verses.

Chapter 4, Verse 33

रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञः परन्तप ।
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते ॥३३॥
śreyāndravyamayādyajñājjñānayajñaḥ parantapa,
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha jñāne parisamāpyate. (33)

O Parantapa, sacrifice performed in knowledge is superior to sacrifice performed with objects. O Partha, all actions in their entirety culminate in knowledge.

In all the practices enumerated in the previous few verses, Shri Krishna says jñāna yajña (sacrificing action in knowledge) excels compared to the others. 

Religion is to be practiced at the mental level. One can worship God by offering him fruits, flowers, etc. but cannot reach God by bribing Him. External worship is much less in value when compared to doing it with both the mind and intellect involved. The sacrifice of wrong values in knowledge is nobler than all the other physical practices. 

However noble the actions are, vāsanās are created. As a result, those need to be exhausted, and they bind you in the cycle of samsara. With knowledge and higher experience of Reality, one gives up both good and bad actions. Therefore, no new vāsanās are created. All activities (egocentric) end when one awakens to the new dimension of consciousness, just like the activities in the dream become meaningless to the waker. But in the beginning, other spiritual practices are required to calm and purify the mind. 

The next verse explains how one can get this knowledge.

Chapter 4, Verse 34

द्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया ।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः ॥३४॥
tadviddhi praṇipātena paripraśnena sevayā,
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ jñāninastattvadarśinaḥ. (34)

By approaching the wise with reverence (prostrating) and rendering service, humbly question and they can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the Truth.

By performing dravya yajña (all practices mentioned in verses 4.25 – 4.30 other than jñāna yajña), you train the mind to quieten it a little. Once the mind is a bit calm, with your heart purified a little, you approach a teacher to learn about the highest Reality and how to reach it.

You don’t go to the teacher demanding to be taught. When you approach a teacher,

  • At the mental level, there must be a spirit of devotion in your prostration
  • At the intellectual level, you should ask questions and clear your doubts
  • At the physical level, you must serve the teacher.

The teacher then gives knowledge of this higher state and advises you on the path to attain that state.

Why should one go to a teacher and go into a state of contemplation? What does one gain from that? The next verse explains that.

Chapter 4, Verse 35

यज्ज्ञात्वा न पुनर्मोहमेवं यास्यसि पाण्डव ।
येन भूतान्यशेषेण द्रक्ष्यस्यात्मन्यथो मयि ॥३५॥
yajjñātvā na punarmohamevaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava,
sarvaṁ jñānaplavenaiva vṛjinaṁ santariṣyasi. (36)

O Pandava (Arjuna), having known that (Truth), you will never again be deluded like this and by that, you will see all living beings in your Self, and also in Me.

Shri Krishna says to Arjuna that once he gains this knowledge, he will never be deluded again. 

The core delusion is the same for all of us – having the notion of self in not-self and the notion of Reality in the world. The dream and dream objects merge into the waker as soon as he wakes up. Similarly, once the waker awakens to the higher state of consciousness (Self), the waker and all the objects of the waker world merge into it. Once that happens, you will never again have any confusion or sorrow. The present delusory state ends once and for all. 

The glory of this knowledge is explained in the next couple of verses.

Chapter 4, Verse 36

अपि चेदसि पापेभ्यः सर्वेभ्यः पापकृत्तमः ।
सर्वं ज्ञानप्लवेनैव वृजिनं सन्तरिष्यसि ॥३६॥
api cedasi pāpebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ pāpakṛttamaḥ,
tatte karma pravakṣyāmi yajjñātva mokṣyase’śubhāt. (16)

Even those who are most immoral of all sinners can cross over this ocean of sins in the boat of knowledge.

Sometimes we feel we have committed many mistakes and are not ready to become spiritual. Shri Krishna dispels this doubt in this verse. He says that even if you are the greatest best sinner, you can cross over the sins in the boat of knowledge. 

A dreamer who wakes up from something horrible he did in the dream doesn’t dwell on the activities in the dream, as he is aware that they are not real. Similarly, a waker who awakens to the higher state of consciousness realizes that all the activities performed in the waking state are not real. Hence, he is not attached to them. 

Chapter 4, Verse 37

यथैधांसि समिद्धोऽग्निर्भस्मसात्कुरुतेऽर्जुन ।
ञानाग्निः सर्वकर्माणि भस्मसात्कुरुते तथा ॥३७॥
yathaidhāṁsi samiddho’gnirbhasmasātkurute’rjuna,
jñānāgniḥ sarvakarmāṇi bhasmasātkurute tathā (37)

As a blazing fire reduces wood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge reduces all actions.

When you put wood in a blazing fire in the fireplace, the wood will turn to ashes. From the ashes, you can not conceive what it was before. Similarly, in the fire of knowledge, all actions burn to ashes. There is nothing more purifying than knowledge.

Chapter 4, Verse 38

न हि ज्ञानेन सदृशं पवित्रमिह विद्यते ।
तत्स्वयं योगसंसिद्धः कालेनात्मनि विन्दति ॥३८॥
na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ pavitramiha vidyate,
tatsvayaṁ yogasaṁsiddhaḥ kālenātmani vindati. (38)

In this world, there is nothing as purifying as knowledge. One who has purified himself through yoga, finds such knowledge in the Self, in due course of time.

There is nothing other than knowledge that is more purifying. One may do good deeds, pray, chant, etc., but they purify only the sins to make the mind relatively calm. Only knowledge reveals one’s true nature to be beyond the duality of the world. 

Wisdom cannot be transferred. We must put in self-effort by continuously purifying ourselves through yoga (karma, bhakti, jñana). In due course (depending on the vāsanās that are to be exhausted), we will gain Self-knowledge and experience his true nature.

Chapter 4, Verse 39

श्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः ।
ज्ञानं लब्ध्वा परां शान्तिमचिरेणाधिगच्छति ॥३९॥
śraddhāvāṁllabhate jñānaṁ tatparaḥ saṁyatendriyaḥ,
jñānaṁ labdhvā parāṁ śāntimacireṇādhigacchati. (39)

Those who are full of faith, devoted to That, and who have practiced controlling their mind and senses attain this knowledge. Having attained knowledge, they go to supreme peace without delay.

In order to gain this knowledge, it is not enough to buy and read books. Having faith (śraddha) is essential. Belief is emotional that may come and go according to situations and experiences. On the other hand, faith is firm irrespective of the circumstances of life. When belief is reinforced with understanding, it becomes faith. As the understanding becomes clearer by studying scriptures, belief becomes faith. 

When a person of faith has mastered controlling the mind and senses through various spiritual practices and is devoted to the search for Reality exclusively, then the mind becomes quieter and transcends to experience that wealth of peace without any further delay. 

Chapter 4, Verse 40

अज्ञश्चाश्रद्दधानश्च संशयात्मा विनश्यति ।
नायं लोकोऽस्ति न परो न सुखं संशयात्मनः ॥४०॥
ajñaścāśraddadhānaśca saṁśayātmā vinaśyati,
nāyaṁ loko’sti na paro na sukhaṁ saṁśayātmanaḥ. (40)

Those who are ignorant, faithless, and doubting self go to destruction. For those who are skeptical, there is no happiness either in this world or the next.

Those who are ignorant living moment to moment without the knowledge of higher reality, or those who have no faith cannot attain the higher state of consciousness. Naturally, such an individual is doubtful and cannot experience supreme peace. 

In fact, those who are doubtful and confused cannot experience happiness even in this world or the next world, as they have no mental peace. They can’t put a step forward (in the spiritual path) as they constantly doubt everything and everyone. When the mind is so agitated with doubts, there is no scope for joy. 

Chapter 4, Verse 41

योगसन्न्यस्तकर्माणं ज्ञानसञ्छिन्नसंशयम् ।
आत्मवन्तं न कर्माणि निबध्नन्ति धनञ्जय ॥४१॥
yogasannyastakarmāṇaṁ jñānasañchinnasaṁśayam,
ātmavantaṁ na karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanañjaya. (41)

O Arjun, actions do not bind those who have renounced actions in Yoga, whose doubts have been dispelled by knowledge, and who are abiding in the knowledge of the self.

Karma is the physical, mental, and intellectual activity that happens when the body, mind, and intellect contact the world of objects. At the end of every action, a vāsanā (tendency) is created in the person performing the action. Positive tendencies get created with good actions and negative ones get created with bad actions. Those who have renounced all actions by exhausting all their vāsanās through yoga (karma, bhakti, jñāna) and are acting in the world without any desires, get this highest knowledge. All the doubts end in knowledge.

Actions do not bind those who are established in the higher state of the Self as they are not identified with the body, mind, and intellect. Any action performed by them is without ego and egocentric desires. Actions happen but no tendencies or footprints are created thereby conquering samsāra and being liberated.

Chapter 4, Verse 42

तस्मादज्ञानसम्भूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनात्मनः ।
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत ॥४२॥
tasmādajñānasambhūtaṁ hṛtsthaṁ jñānāsinātmanaḥ,
chittvainaṁ saṁśayaṁ yogamātiṣṭhottiṣṭha bhārata. (42)

Therefore, with the sword of knowledge, cut asunder the doubts that have arisen in your heart, born of ignorance. O Bharata (Arjuna), take refuge in yoga and Arise.

Doubts and confusion in the heart/mind are born because of ignorance of our true nature. Nonapprehension of reality leads to misapprehension. Shri Krishna is urging Arjuna to rise from this state of doubt and confusion to realize his true nature by being established in yoga. 

This concludes the fourth chapter of Bhagavad Geeta.

ॐ तत्सदिति श्रीमद् भगवद् गीतासूपनिषत्सु
ब्रह्मविद्यायां योगशास्त्रे
श्रीकृष्णार्जुनसंवादे ज्ञानकर्मसन्न्यास योगो
नाम चतुर्थोऽध्यायः
oṁ tatsad iti śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
brahmavidyāyāṁ yogaśāstre
śrīkṛṣṇārjunasaṁvāde jñānakarmasannyāsa yogo
nāma caturtho’dhyāyaḥ

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