Yajna, Sthitaprajña, Divyam Karma
I think we had made an excursion into the understanding of two words: ‘Sankhya’ and ‘Yoga’. The word ‘Yoga’ is used in the Bhagavad Gita basically to indicate: “Yoga of Works”. And in due course we shall find that this word ‘Yoga’ becomes enlarged to become a synthesis of the Yoga of Works, Knowledge and Devotion. Whenever the word ‘Yoga’ comes in the Bhagavad Gita, we have to be careful and see what exactly is the context, and what it means in that context. We were to consider that statement where Sri Krishna says, “By Buddhiyoga I have given you that by which you can get free. You distinguish between Purusha and Prakriti and you come out of Prakriti and get liberated into the status of Purusha”. In that process, works are eliminated: it is purely a process of Knowledge by discrimination. Then Sri Krishna says, “I shall tell you the application of Buddhiyoga, by means of which, even while doing works, you can be free”. Later on, Sri Krishna will say that, that is a superior way, a better way, a preferred way. let us see what that process is: “…even while doing works, you become free from works”.
As soon as you start this process you are confronted immediately with a view, which was prevalent at that time, a view of vedavāda, which concentrated upon Works. It was also a kind of Karmayoga, which had two basic propositions: one, you must do works, and by doing works you can satisfy your desires, and satisfy them on a large scale or interesting scale. And secondly, that this sacrifice depends on your offering through a special kind of act, through a special kind of work, in which you invoke gods who receive what you offer to them, and in return, they bestow upon you what you desire. It is an interchange between your offering and what gods give to you in return. This is a process, which was well known at that time and which was propounded as the view of the Veda.
Although we must say, that the original view of the Veda was different, but in due course of time the original meaning of the Veda was lost, it had come to be narrowed down only to this particular point. Secondly the important point is that this sacrifice was conceived as a ritualistic process. You had to ignite fire, physical fire, Agni; you had to prepare a special offering, like samidh, the twigs of wood, the gṛhtam, and some kind of a food, all that to be offered to the fire. There had to be a saṅkalpa, an enunciation of a definite desire, expressed in clear terms and then a Mantra, a sacred word, which is also called brahman in the original sense of the Veda: brahman is a Mantra, expression of Knowledge, it was also called Brahman..., Mantra as a means of invoking the presence of gods. The idea was that when you recite Mantra, then the gods manifest: they come as a result of invocation. Then, they receive the offerings through the fire: the fire was regarded as the intermediary between you and the gods. That is why fire is called dūta, devānāṁ dūta: he is the messenger of the gods. Through the intermediary role played by the fire, Agni, the gods would come, and they would receive your offerings, and then, being pleased with your offerings, they would give, because they are cosmic powers, they are capable of giving the gifts to you. They give you the gifts.
Such is the notion of the Vedic sacrifice. Since Sri Krishna is explaining the Path of Works, and since at that time, ‘this’ was understood to be “the Path of Works”, and since ‘this’ path of works is not approved by Sri Krishna, He begins by criticising that path. And He says: “Those people who are full of desires, and want to satisfy the desires, they offer their offerings to the gods and received from the gods the satisfactions of their desires”. And Sri Krishna says, “This is not the path by which you can get liberation, even while doing actions: the highest that you can get is satisfaction of your desires, but it is not by which karmabandhaṁ prahāsyasi (II, 39); you will not become liberated from the karmabandhaṁ”.
Having said this now is the most important statement. What is then that path by which you do works and yet you do not get bound? It is here that Sri Krishna enunciates that famous statement:
karmaṇy evādhikāras te mā phaleṣu kadācana | (II, 47)
This is the principle. In the time where Sri Krishna gives this message, it is a new message because, although it was the original message of the Veda itself, it was lost, but now He renews it, and gives it with a new formulation. In that sense you might say that Sri Krishna enunciates in his time a radical view, a new teaching, a revolutionary teaching.