Bagawat Geeta, Chapter 4, Class 65
Shloka # 30:
अपरे नियताहाराः प्राणान्प्राणेषु जुह्वति।
सर्वेऽप्येते यज्ञविदो यज्ञक्षपितकल्मषाः।।4.30।।
Yet others, with strictly regulated diet, sacrifice vital breaths in vital breaths. All those are conversant with sacrifice, having destroyed their sins by acts of sacrifice.
Continuing his teachings of Gita, Swami Paramarthananda said, Sri Krishna has talked about 12 disciplines (mental discipline, pranayama etc.,) including Gyanam as a Sadhana. First of all, these can be considered spiritual sadhanas only if God is involved in the process. Without God they are just exercises. Spiritual growth is only possible with Ishwara; hence the word Yagnaha is used. The second condition is that all are spiritual sadhana’s only if their goal is spiritual and not material. These exercises often can also help us with material gains. The word Yagnaha is used only if the practice is for spiritual purposes. Thus, the two factors, motive and god, have to be present to make them a spiritual sadhana.
Shloka # 30 discussed the discipline related to food as a Yagnaha. Upvasa (Upa-Vasa) means staying near God. To do so one has to avoid sensory objects on the day of Upavasa. The word Ahara does not only mean food, it also includes other sensory objects that we come in contact with such as hearing, speaking etc., or the Pancha Indriya’s. In Chapter 6 Sri Krishna discusses quantity control of food while in chapter 17 he discusses its quality control. Both need to be controlled.
So, discipline with respect to Ahara means Pancha Prana are to be disciplined. This is also a Yagnaha. Undisciplined Pancha Prana is the sacrifice for disciplined Pancha Parana.
With this shloka, all 12 Yagnahas are complete. Sri Krishna does not say that all 12 sadhanas have to be practiced. He recommends some or some combination at least be practiced.
Citing the sacred thread ceremony or Yagno pavitham is one such Yagnaha. Man is born Animal-man. He then becomes a Man-man through his spiritual life. Later with knowledge he becomes God –Man. The twice born is a deliberate person. By practice of Yagnahas one destroys impurities obstructing knowledge. Hence all Yagnahas are glorious.
Shloka # 31:
यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम्।
नायं लोकोऽस्त्ययज्ञस्य कुतो़ऽन्यः कुरुसत्तम।।4.31।।
They partake of the ambrosial remains of these sacrifices and repair to the eternal Brahman. The non-performer of sacrifices does not own (even) this world; why then, O best of Kuru princes! Speak of another?
Sri Krishna says if a person practices one or more of these Sadhanas it will be helpful. Food should be taken only after the sadhana.
Thus, Shastra says one must get up before sunrise. We must welcome the Sun God when he comes up. Before that one must take a bath and perform prayer. The daily bath itself is a ritual. It has two purposes. One is to purify the physical impurities and second to cleanse all inner impurities as well. All these have to be washed. Every transaction of ours brings with it impurities such as anger, stress etc. Thus, we have the Snana mantra called Aghamarshana mantram. It is addressed to Lord Varuna, the God of water. One should at least say a prayer(s) before taking a bath. Only after the bath and a prayer should one break one’s fast. Many of us do not know what is hunger; because we have never given a chance to our body to tell us what is hunger; so therefore, we are supposed to break the fast, religiously after the yagnaha and the food I take is called yagnaha shishtam. My breakfast is called Yagna Shishtam; while, lunch is called Yagna Prasadam. The Yagnaha prasadam is also called Amrithum. Swamiji recommends trying this kind of disciplined life and see how it changes us. He says you will feel that the mind seems to be light.
These are the 12 Yagnahas. All eleven of them lead to the twelfth, Gyana Yagnaha. A religious life awakens the desire for philosophical knowledge. Such a person attains Brahman. He is known as a Yogi.
Sri Krishna cautions the people who do not practice some sadhana in their lives. Scriptures do not ask us to follow these disciplines for their benefit; rather they recommend them for our own wellbeing. For an undisciplined person even the worldly happiness will disappear. Due to his undisciplined life, his body and mind wear out making him incapable of enjoying even worldly pleasures. Sri Krishna asks how can such a person enjoy spiritual joy?
Shloka # 32:
एवं बहुविधा यज्ञा वितता ब्रह्मणो मुखे।
कर्मजान्विद्धि तान्सर्वानेवं ज्ञात्वा विमोक्ष्यसे।।4.32।।
Thus have many sacrifices been spread out in the pages of the Veda. Know them all to be born of works. Knowing thus will you be liberated.
Here Sri Krishna says the 12 yagnahas he has described are only a sample of the many yagnahas prescribed in the Vedas. In Bhashyam, Shankaracharya describes many yagnahas and also provides reference to their source Veda. Other yagnahas include Pilgrimage, Japa etc. The word BrahmaMukham in this shloka means in Vedas. The reason there are so many Yagnahas is because there are many types of human personalities. Thus, there are Yagnahas related to physical, Vachika (oral) and manasika (mental) attributes. So, the many sadhanas have been created to suit different types of people. In general, yagnahas can be classified in two groups.
First one is Gyana Yagnaha.
Second group are Non-Gyana Yagnahas. These include Dravya Yagna or Karma Yagna. They also include sadhanas such as meditation.
What is the role of each one in life? Karma Yagnahas can only purify the mind. Thus, Japa, Ashtanga Yoga etc can only purify the mind. Only one or a combination of such Sadhanas need to be followed for Chitta Shiddhi.
After purifying the mind one has to come to Gyana Yagnaha. The multiple choices are available only for Karma Yagnahas and not for Gyana Yagnaha. Gyana Yagnaha is a singular sadhana that has to be followed to attain liberation.
Even Ashtanga Yoga’s Nirvikalpa Samadhi cannot give us Gyanam.
Shloka # 33:
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते।।4.33।।
The sacrifice of knowledge, O scourge of foes! Is superior to the sacrifices of materials. All works, without exception, Arjuna! culminate in knowledge.
Here Sri Krishna talks about the glory of Gyana Yagna. He says Dravya Yagna (Karma Yoga) is of lesser superiority than Gyana Yagna. Why so? Since all Karma Yagnas culminate or fructify only in Knowledge, they are useless if they do not take us to Gyanam. Karma Yagnam is incomplete without Gyana Yagnam. Vedas, however, do not prescribe a time line to reach Gyana Yagnam.
Karma Yagna is an indirect means while Gyana Yagna is the direct means of liberation. Gyana Yagna is also not possible without Karma Yagna. There is no short cut.
Another meaning of the shloka is that all Karma phalams are included in Gyana Phalam. Karma phalam is finite in nature as it is a result in time. Gyanam leads to knowledge of “Aham Brahma Asmi”. It is knowledge of the infinite. Infinite cannot become finite. Finite, however, can be a part of infinite.
In chapter # 2 Sri Krishna gave an example of this. He asks who will ask for limited water from a pond when a huge lake is nearby.
Shloka # 34:
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया।
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।।4.34।।
Know it by means of obeisance, exhaustive questionings, service to the (teacher). Knowers who have realized the truth impart to you that knowledge.
Here Sri Krishna says Gyana Yagna cannot be practiced independently. It needs external guidance. It needs:
- Shatram: that deals with the Self. My eyes can see the whole world but cannot see themselves. So we need a mirror. We need a special mirror, a verbal mirror, or a shastra-darpanam. I cannot operate it by myself. One can see one’s Self only when this mirror is operated properly. For this a Guru is required.
Best Practices: Practice of some sadhana every day is highly recommended for a seeker.
With Best Wishes,