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Chapter 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:

The Blessed Lord said:

4.1 I imparted this imperishable Yoga to Vivasvan, Vivasvan taught this to Manu, and Manu transmitted this to Iksavaku.

In 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.

It (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.

Rajarsayah, 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.

Noticing 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.

Sah, 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.

Lest someone should understand that the Lord has said something contradictory, therefore, in order to prevent that (doubt), as though raising a question,

Arjuna said:

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?

Bhavatah, Your; 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-

The 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 answered:

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.

Api, 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.

It 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.

O 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.

Paritranaya, 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.

Yah, 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, O Arjuna.

This path of Liberation has not been opened recently. What then? Even in earlier days-

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 My state.

Bahavah, 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.

The particular mention of 'the austerity of Knowledge' is to indicate that steadfastness in Knowledge does not depend on any other austerity.

'In 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?'

The answer is:

4.11 According 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.

Yatha, according 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).

Therefore, by 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 is everything?'

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.

Kanksantah, 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.

By 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.

What 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?

Or:-It 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?

This 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.

Catur-varnyam-meaning 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).

As 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'.

'Well, 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!'

This 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.

'In 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.

Jnatva, having 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. p. 114.)

'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.

Kavayah api, 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.

'What, again, 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 stated:

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!

Since engagement 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.

Objection: Well, 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?

Vedantin: Is 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.

Objection: Is it not that to every one action is action itself? Never is there an exception to this.

Vedantin: That 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.'

Therefore, in 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.


(Thus:) 'Since 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....'

This explanation 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!

Opponent: Well, the seeing of inaction in action, or the seeing of action in inaction-that is not a false perception.

Vadantin: What then?

Opponent: It is a figurative statement based on the existence or the non-existence of results.

Vedantin: Not 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 worth knowing.

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.

Further, the 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.

Therefore, the meaning of 'He who finds inaction in action,' etc. is just what stands out literally. And the verse has been explained by us accordingly.

The aforesaid 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.

Budhah, 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.

Finding 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.

However, 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.

By 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.

Nirasih, 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 (actions).

Further, 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 the body?

The 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 into being!

(Further,) 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.

On 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.

This verse is only a reiteration of the result of full illumination stated earlier. It becomes faultless by accepting the interpretation of sariram karma thus.

In 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:

4.22 Remaining 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.

Yadrccha-labha-santustah, 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-.

The 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.

He, 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.

When 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 action....' (20).

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.

Muktasya, 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.

For 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'.)

Brahma-arpanam, 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.

Similarly, brahma-havih, the oblations is Brahman: To him, what is seen as oblations is nothing but Brahman.

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.

Brahma-karma-samadhina, 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 realization.

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.

This (apparent) (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 be sure.

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.

Reply: True, 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).

Besides, knowledge 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.

Apare, other; 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.

Brahma-agnau, 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.

Beginning with, '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.

Anye, 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.

Further, 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.

4.28 Similarly, others are performers of sacrifices through wealth, through austerity, through yoga, and through study and knowledge; others are ascetics with severe vows.

Tatha, similarly; 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.

Sacrificers through 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.]


4.29 Constantly 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.

Pranayama-parayanah, 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.

Besides, apare, 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.

After accomplishing 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)!

Yajna-sista-amrta-bhujah, 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.

Viddhi, know; 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.


Because, sarvam, 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 given:

4.34 Know that through prostration, inquiry and service. The wise ones who have realized the Truth will impart the Knowledge to you.

Viddhi, know; 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.

Although people 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 in Me.

Jnatva, knowing; 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.'

Moreover, the 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.

How Knowledge 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 so, therefore,

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 heart.

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.

Sraddhavan, the 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.

However, prostrations 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.

What, again, 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 and reasoning.

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.

Yoga-sannyasta-karmanam, 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.

O Dhananjaya, 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-

4.42 Therefore, 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 ignorance.

Tasmat, therefore, 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 of non-discrimination.

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.