Knowledge and Renunciation of actions – Chapter 4 – Slokas 4.01 – 4.42

The Blessed Lord said, “In the beginning of creation, I imparted this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvān, the Sun and he taught this to Manu and Manu imparted it to Iksvāku, his own son who was the first king.


The rajarshis, king-sages knew this Yoga which was thus received through the successive generations. That Yoga is lost now owing to a long lapse of time, O destroyer of foes.


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.”


Arjuna said, “Your birth was later, whereas the birth of Vivasvān was earlier. Therefore, how am I to understand this, that You, Yourself instructed this Yoga in the beginning to him and are now teaching me?”


The Blessed Lord said, “O Arjuna, many lives of Mine have passed and so have yours. I know all of them but you do not know, O scorcher of foes.


ajo ‘pi sann avyayatma
bhutanam isvaro ‘pi san
prakrtim svam adhisthaya
sambhavamy atma-mayaya 
– Though I am birthless and avyaya-ātmā, undecaying and eternal by nature and the Lord of all beings, still by subjugating My own prakrtim, prakriti and maya, I take birth appearing to be embodied by means of My own Māyā, ātmamāyayā.


yada yada hi dharmasya
glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya
tadatmanam srjamy aham
– O scion of the Bharata dynasty, whenever, there is a decline and decrease of virtue and righteousness which are the means to achieve Liberation and an increase and rise of vice, then do I manifest Myself through Māyā.


paritranaya sadhunam
vinasaya ca duskrtam
sambhavami yuge yuge
– For the protection of the pious and those steadfast in the virtuous path and for the destruction of the evil-doers and sinful ones and also for establishing virtue in entirety, I manifest Myself in every yuga, age.


janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
– He who thus truly knows in entirety, that divine resplendent birth and understands in totality actions of Mine which are done through Māyā, he does not get rebirth after casting off this body. He attains and comes to Me, O Arjuna. 


Many who were devoid of vitarāgabhayakrodāh, attachment, fear and anger, who were absorbed in Me, who were knowers of Brahman, who had taken refuge only in Me, were purified by the jnānatapasā, austerity of Knowledge and have attained My state.


According to the manner in which, they approach Me, I favour them in that very manner. O son of Prthā, human beings follow My path in every way. 


Longing for fruition of actions and hankering for the results of the customary and obligatory duties and actions performed, they worship the gods here in this world. For, success from performing actions comes quickly in the human world.


The four castes have been created by Me through a classification of the gunas and duties. Even though, I am the kartāram, cause and agent of that act from the empirical standpoint of Māyā, know Me to be akartāram, a non-agent and also avayayam, changeless.


na mam karmani limpanti
na me karma-phale sprha
iti mam yo ‘bhijanati
karmabhir na sa badhyate 
– Actions do not taint Me, for Me, there is no hankering for the results of those actions. One who knows Me thus, as his own Self, will not become bound by actions.


evam jnatva krtam karma
purvair api mumuksubhih
kuru karmaiva tasmat tvam
purvaih purvataram krtam 
– Having therefore, known thus, that obligatory and customary and ordained duties were undertaken even by the ancient seekers of Liberation, you must undertake and engage in duty and action itself as was performed earlier by the ancient ones.


Even the intelligent are confounded in the subject of kim karma, action and duty and what is kim akarma, inaction. Therefore, I shall tell you of karma, action and also of akarma ca, inaction by knowing which you will become free from evil.


For there is something to be known even about karmanah, the obligatory, ordained and customary duties and there is certainly something to be known about vikarmanah, prohibited action and there is something to be known about akarmanah, inaction. Because, the true nature of karmanah, action is inscrutable.


karmany akarma yah pasyed
akarmani ca karma yah
sa buddhiman manusyesu
sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt 
– He who finds akarma, inaction in karmani, action and who finds karma, action in akarmani, inaction is a wise one among men for he is engaged in Yoga krtsnakarma-krt, and is a performer of all actions.


The wise, the knowers of Brahman, call him learned whose actions are devoid of all desires and thoughts, kāmasankalpavarjitāh and whose actions have been burnt away by the fire of wisdom, jnānāgnidagdhakarmānam.


Having given up the idea of doership and causative nature and given up attachment to the results of action, phalaāsangam, he is ever-contented and dependent on nothing even when he remains engaged in actions and customary duties.


nirasir yata-cittatma
sariram kevalam karma
kurvan napnoti kilbisam
One who is without solicitation, who has the mind and organs under control and is totally without possessions meaning desires and thoughts and hankering for the results of actions, he does not incur sin by performing actions merely for the maintenance of the body.


dvandvatito vimatsarah
samah siddhav asiddhau ca
krtvapi na nibadhyate
– Remaining satisfied with what comes unasked for, having transcended the dualities, being free from spite and enmity and equipoised in success and failure, he is not bound even by performing actions.


Of the liberated person and knower of Brahman, who has got rid of attachment and whose mind is fixed in Knowledge only, actions undertaken by him for a sacrifice gets totally destroyed.


brahmarpanam brahma havir
brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam
The ladle is Brahman, the oblation is Brahman, the offering is Brahman poured by Brahman into the fire of Brahman with the result and objective to reach Brahman by Brahman. Brahman alone is to be reached by one who has concentration on Brahman as the objective.


daivam evapare yajnam
yoginah paryupasate
brahmagnav apare yajnam
– Other Yogis undertake sacrifices to gods alone. Others who are knowers of Brahman offer the Self as a sacrifice by the Self itself in the fire of Brahman.


Other Yogis offer the organs in the fires of self-control. While others offer objects like sabda, sound and others in the fires of the organs.


Others offer all the activities of the organs, indriyakarmāni, and the activities of the vital force, prānakarmāni into the fire of the Yoga of self-controlātmasamyama yogaagnau that has been lighted by Knowledge, jnānadipite.


Similarly, others are performers of sacrifices through wealth and offerings, performers of sacrifices through austerity, performers of sacrifices through yoga, performers of sacrifices through study and knowledge and others are ascetics who are diligent with severe vows.


Constantly practising control of the vital forces in the form of prānāyāma of Kumbhaka by stopping the movements of the outgoing and incoming breaths of prāna and apāna, some offer the prānam, the outgoing breath in the incoming breath as a sacrifice that is known as Puraka, while still others offer the apānam, the incoming breath in prāne, the outgoing breath as a sacrifice that is known as Rechaka.


Others having their food regulated, offer the vital forces, prānān, in the vital forces itself, prānesu. All of them are knowers of sacrifice, yajnavidah and have their sins destroyed by the sacrifices as mentioned above, yajnaksapitakalmasāh.


Those who partake of the nectar left over after a sacrifice reach the eternal Brahman, sanātanam brahma. Even this world ceases to exist for one who does not perform sacrifices. What to speak of the other world, O best among the Kurus!


Thus, the various kinds of sacrifices as described lie spread at the mouth of the Vedas. Know them all to be born of action. Hence knowing thus, you will become liberated.


sreyan dravya-mayad yajnaj
jnana-yajnah parantapa
sarvam karmakhilam partha
jnane parisamapyate
– O destroyer of enemies, jnānayajnah, Knowledge considered as a sacrifice is greater than sacrifices requiring materials. Because, O son of Prthā, all actions in totality and without exception get merged in Knowledge, jnāne


tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah
– Know that through prostration, through inquiry and through service, the wise ones and knowers of Brahman and Supreme Knowledge who have realized the Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.


yaj jnatva na punar moham
evam yasyasi pandava
yena bhutany asesani
draksyasy atmany atho mayi
– Knowing which, O Pāndava, you will not come under delusion again in this way as has happened and through this Knowledge, you will see directly all beings without exception in the Self and also see these in Me.


api ced asi papebhyah
sarvebhyah papa-krt-tamah
sarvam jnana-plavenaiva
vrjinam santarisyasi
– Even if you are the worst sinner among all the sinners, still you will cross over all the wickedness with the raft of Knowledge, jnānaplavena eva.


yathaidhamsi samiddho ‘gnir
bhasma-sat kurute ‘rjuna
jnanagnih sarva-karmani
bhasma-sat kurute tatha
O Arjuna, just as a blazing fire reduces pieces of wood to ashes, similarly, the fire of Knowledge, jnānāgnih, reduces all actions to ashes.


na hi jnanena sadrsam
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah
kalenatmani vindati
– Indeed, there is nothing here more sanctifying comparable to Knowledge. One who has become perfect and a seeker of Liberation who has become purified and eligible through Yoga after a long time, realizes That, verily by himself in his own heart.


sraddhaval labhate jnanam
tat-parah samyatendriyah
jnanam labdhva param santim
– The man who has faith, is diligent in his effort and who has control over the organs, attains Knowledge. Thus, achieving Knowledge, one attains the Supreme Peace soon.


One who is ignorant, who has not known the Self and who is faithless and who has a doubting mind perishes. Neither this world nor also the next world nor happiness exists for one who has a doubting mind.


O Dhananjaya, actions do not bind one who has renounced actions through Yoga who is knower of the Supreme Goal, by whom actions righteous or unrighteous have been renounced through Yoga characterized as Knowledge of the Supreme Goal, whose doubts have been fully dispelled by Knowledge, and who is not careless and inadvertent.


tasmad ajnana-sambhutam
hrt-stham jnanasinatmanah
chittvainam samsayam yogam
atisthottistha bharata
– Therefore, O scion of the Bharata dynasty, take recourse in Yoga that is performance of customary, rightful and obligatory actions and duties and now rise up for battle cutting asunder this doubt of your own making that is the cause for one’s ruin which is in the heart arising from ignorance with the sword of Knowledge. 


[Chapter 4, Slokas 4.01 – 4.42]


In the above verses, Lord Krishna gives the origin of this profound secret of Yoga that is the Supreme Knowledge and how He imparted it to Vivasvān who then imparted it to Manu who then gave it to Iksvāku. Lord Krishna also reveals that this supreme secret of Yoga of Knowledge and Wisdom was known to the great kings who were sages, who performed their duty of a kshatriya, yet steadfast in the Supreme Goal and ever-content and immersed in the Self.


Lord Krishna explains the importance of following His words and path and reveals His manifestations in every age when there is a decline in virtue and righteousness which is the means for Liberation for this aids one to engage in their rightful duty adoring Him at all times and remaining steadfast on the Supreme Goal.

Lord Krishna further explains, that His manifestations will destroy the evil-doers and sinful ones and thereby, re-establishing virtue in every age. He reveals the importance of absolute surrender to Him and to follow His path with absolute faith to know and understand His divine form in entirety. One must seek refuge at the Lotus Feet of Lord to receive the bountiful blessings and resplendence.


Lord Krishna continues to advise Arjuna to engage in rightful duty but not to seek or hanker for the results of actions performed. Lord Krishna also reveals the importance to know, understand, realize and experience Him as the Sole Doer as one’s own Self but yet understand in entirety that He is a non-agent and taintless with no regard for the fruits of actions performed. For one who sees Lord as his own Self, will not become bound by actions that are an act of Māyā with its gunas and Nature.


Lord Krishna continues in the above verses to lay down the importance of engaging in one’s rightful duty but by keeping the focus and concentration always on the Supreme Goal. This will help in burning all desires, thoughts and hankering for results of actions. Lord Krishna also reveals the ambiguous nature of Māyā and the reason why it is difficult to comprehend the meaning of action, inaction and prohibited action. Hence, He says that one who is ever-content in the Self and whose desires, thoughts and wishes have been burned away through steadfast contemplation and focus on the Supreme Goal and devoid of doership, will be able to understand and see action in inaction and inaction in action because he will understand the nature of Māyā and the Truth.


Lord Krishna reveals the different types of sacrifices in the above verses. Each and every one of them are practised with the singular objective of Brahman and to see the Self existing equally within, outside and all-pervading and as existing equally in all the beings to become immersed and absorbed into the Supreme Self. The goal of all sacrifices with the intent of sacrifice and the sacrifice itself is Brahman.


Lord Krishna in the above verses has explained the various sacrifices that beings indulge in with the singular focus on Knowledge and the Supreme Goal. What is important to remember is that sacrifice, intent of sacrifice and the goal of the sacrifice that has manifested from the Vedas or the all-pervading Brahman is bound to occur and perform as per Nature. Hence, it is important to be ever-aware and intent on the Self and remain contented in the Self with only the Supreme Self as the Supreme Goal. This will ensure that one will not be bound to actions and will not incur any sin even while performing actions meant merely for the maintenance of the body. Such a wise one will impart the Supreme Knowledge if the seeker is willing to contemplate, inquire, introspect, surrender to the Supreme Self and willing to engage in the rightful duty renouncing the fruits of the action and customary and obligatory duties by being steadfast in the Self.


Lord Krishna yet again reiterates the importance of Knowledge and practising Yoga that is not only engaging in rightful duty and action with a singular focus on the Supreme Goal but also renouncing the fruits of the customary actions and duties while being neutral and withdrawing the sensory organs to remain intent on the Self and be content in the Self. Here being neutral refers to performing actions with neither attraction nor repulsion but performing actions only for the maintenance of the body, as for a wise one, who sees the Self in his own heart, no bondage occurs from performing actions meant merely for the maintenance of the physical frame.

Lord Krishna yet again lays emphasis on Knowledge as the path to Supreme Peace that will help one to see the Self existing equally within and outside and all-pervading and existing equally in all the beings to become immersed and absorbed in the Supreme Self.


Lord Krishna in the remaining verses in the fourth chapter encourages Arjuna to rise up for battle taking recourse in Yoga of Knowledge of the Supreme Goal by engaging in the rightful duty and cutting asunder all doubts arising out of ignorance and non-discrimination and ignorance of the Knowledge of the Self with the sword of Knowledge as actions do not bind one who has practised Yoga of Knowledge of the Supreme Goal, for he attains the Supreme Peace after a long time.

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