Bhagavagd Gita - Session 13: Chapter 3—Verses 18–43 (26 January 1999)

The 3rd and 4th chapters, both of them are centred on the concept of yajñā: sacrifice. And to properly understand the whole concept of yajñā, we shall make a slight excursion into the Veda, because it is in the Veda for the first time that the concept of yajñā has been brought out very powerfully.

You might say that Vedic Rishis were explorers, discoverers, and they have fathomed into the depths of existence. And one most important question, which they dealt with, was: is it possible to create events, to control events, to avoid certain events, to strengthen events? You might say that they have developed a science of “Eventology”: science of ‘event making’.

In fact every human being is basically in search of events, and events that are desired. Normally events occur, they happen, and we have to take them and make the best of them as they occur. But can we really create events, as we want them to be? So they went in search of this secret knowledge. The basic reason is that events as they occur are not entirely satisfactory, they do not fulfil us, and we always find some deficiency in the events which occur in our life. We want events to occur, and then to see that these events satisfy everything that we want. Now, this can be done only if we can go to the root where events are brought out, where they come out of the “room”, as it were. And they discovered that the events occur, not from what we normally see as occurring, but that there is a process, and that process is described in very symbolic terms, and that is what is given in one of the verses of the Bhagavad Gita.

In ||I, 10, we have read this already, but I am now trying to see it, in a larger context of “Eventology”. How do events occur, and whether events can be created? And if they can be created, what kinds of events can be created? What is the limit of the highest height which you can reach in making events? So, in ||I, 10, third chapter, tenth verse, first of all, there is one proposition which is given here and this is the theory of the Veda, but described in symbolic terms:

saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā purovāca prajāpatiḥ |
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo ’stv iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk ||3.10||

Which means: “In ancient times, Prajapati created all beings along with sacrifice and said, ‘May you prosper with the help of sacrifice! May the sacrifice yield all your desired joys!’” That is to say that events began to occur from Prajapati. This is the first concept that events do not occur “pell-mell”, as if it were, by chance. They occur from Prajapati: there is somebody, at the root, who is very conscious, and who is the Father. It is from Him that all the things are created and they are caused: all events occur from Him. Now, it is He, Himself said, and gave the secret. What was the secret? “May you prosper with the help of sacrifice.” So, this concept of sacrifice was the very first concept given by Prajapati Himself. Prajapati Himself created the world by a sacrifice.

Last time we saw that there is a Reality, which becomes other than itself by a complete holocaust of Himself. This holocaust is a sacrifice: there is no creation, no events that can occur without a holocaust, without an offering, without sacrifice. So, this is the secret, which was discovered by the Vedic Rishis: that the whole world depends upon sacrifice: all events occur by sacrifice.

And then, “May the sacrifice yield all your desired joys”. Now, this is another point: the events occur, but if you want occur these occurrences to give you joy, then you put the saṅkalpa into the yajñā; and then that saṅkalpa will give you the fruit at the end of the sacrifice. See, in other words, there are two things involved: there is an offering, and there is a saṅkalpa to derive out of sacrifice what you want. This is a very simple proposition, which we shall see becomes more and more complicated.

Then He says:

devān bhāvayatānena te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ |
parasparaṃ bhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha ||3.11||

Now, comes the concept of devān: “May you foster the gods by the performance of sacrifice, in turn may the gods foster you. Thus fostering each other, may you attain the supreme good.”

Now this is a very important concept: what are the gods? What is their role? Do the gods exist? There has been in the history of thought a great deal of discussion about the existence of the gods. There are some religions, which do not believe in gods at all. Some religions do not believe in God even, like Buddhism does not believe in the existence of God. Jainism does not believe in the existence of God. But some religions, which do not believe in the existence of God, believe in gods. And some religions believe only in God, but not in gods. And some religions believe both in God and in gods.

Now, here we have this Vedic revelation, that apart from God, there are gods; but these gods are nothing but cosmic powers; they are not independent, they are not original, they are not ultimate: they themselves are nothing but different forms and different powers of one God. But they have a role to play, in such a way that each one of them has been assigned a task. This was another discovery of the Veda, that apart from God, there are gods, and each god has a function, has a role to play.

In other words they have found out that the whole universe is like a huge machinery of administration, in which there are hierarchies, and that there are some who are more supreme, having more powers, some other lesser powers, and then, they have got various kinds of relationships among themselves. One of the great contributions of the Veda is to tell us, which god has what power. It is as if the Vedic Rishis went into the whole administration of the universe, and after examining the entire administration they gave us a direct and continuous idea of the entire administration of the world.

They found out that there is first of all the Sun: Sun is a word, Surya, Savitri, which is the most powerful entity, and everything can be derived through the Sun power. Sun, which we see physically, is only symbol, but really speaking, there is a power, which can be called Savitri, which can be called Surya. In the Veda many names have been given to this power. This Sun has a position, which is intermediate between the Supreme and the world, so that all that happens in the world happens through the Sun: it is the intermediary.

Now, this Sun has got four guardians. You cannot approach the Sun. If you are here and you want to approach the Sun, the Sun power, according to the Veda you cannot reach that Sun power without passing through four guardians, four sentinels. In other words, unless they are worshiped, unless they are pleased, that is unless you offer yourself to them, then they give you back: this is the law of sacrifice. If you want to enter into the Sun power, then first approach these four powers, and therefore you offer first of all yourself to these four powers, then they in return will give you openings to the gates of the Sun power: they are like sentinels at the gates. The Sun is surrounded by four gates, and at each gate there is one of these four powers. They are so powerful because the Sun is the Supreme through which everything can occur.

In other words, the source of “Eventology” is the Sun power. If you want any event to occur, you cannot create any event, particularly those events which are not occurring now, and you want a new event to occur, which has never happened up till now, this cannot happen except through the Sun. So, if you want some event, which has not occurred, it is not at present in the rhythm of the world, and you want to create a new event altogether, then that can occur only there, in the Sun power: so you have to approach the Sun power. How can you reach the Sun power?

You have to, first of all, propitiate these four sentinels, four guardians: they are also called Kings, in the language of the Veda, they are called Raja: they are the four Kings. These four Kings have got their own demands: they will not immediately allow you to enter, unless you propitiate and satisfy them, and they have got their conditions: it’s like entering into a ministry and there is a sentinel and you have to go to reception, and you have to get a pass, and then you have to know which officer you have to meet; and different officers require different kinds of permissions. So, similarly, in this administration of the world, there is this kind of process: before you reach the Sun, you have to reach these four.

They are also named, there are names given in the Veda. The one is called Varuna, the second one is called Mitra, the third one is called Aryaman, and the fourth one is called Bhaga. These are the four names, four Kings and each one has a condition. Unless you are as wide as the universe, Varuna is not pleased with you: so, if you want to approach Varuna and get from him the permission to go to the Sun, he will say: “You become as wide as the universe, that is the ‘law of wideness’; you give up all your narrowness, all your egoism, everything that you call yourself, make sacrifice of everything whichever keeps you bound by prisons of various kinds, you free yourself”. Then only you can enter into Varuna.

But even if Varuna is pleased, all the four doors are not yet opened, so you cannot yet approach the Sun. You have also propitiate Mitra. Wideness is one thing, one can be wide, but there is a greater condition that you should be so wide, and yet so very minute in your relationships that in every relationship there is friendship. He is called Mitra because he demands the power of friendship from you. There are many people who can be as wide as possible, they can give up all relations in the world, and they are so free that they can move about in the world anywhere they like. They can go to the Himalayas, and live alone without any need of anything; or they can move about and travel all about like parivrājakā(s), but that is not enough. You have to have another kind of Tapasya by which in every relationship, you should be able to manifest friendliness, which is more difficult. You can be wide and free from all relations, but to be in relationship and in every relationship you are able to have friendship: sarvamitra, viśvamitra; that was the real name of Vishvamitra, ‘one who is a friend of all’: that is another achievement that we should have.

The third is Aryaman. Aryaman says that unless you are capable of every kind of effort, you are not entitled to enter into the Sun: so, mastery over every effort.

And then comes Bhaga. Bhaga is the guardian who demands from you the capacity of enjoyment. So now, people might say this is an easy condition, but one of the most difficult conditions is the capacity to enjoy. Normally when we get even a slight enjoyment we lose balance; but without losing balance, when you can really bear all the Ananda of various kinds, then you are enabled to enter into the Sun. So, when you fulfil all the four, then you can enter into that power from where new creation can be possible.

Savitri is a world, which is specially meant for new creation. Surya is the one from where all the creation starts; but when you want to create a new creation, then that Surya takes the form of Savitri.

Now, even to approach these four kings is not easy. They are nearest to the Sun, but before you can reach these four Kings, you have to approach Indra. Without fulfilling Indra, you cannot even approach these four. Now, what is the speciality of Indra? Indra is called sahasrākṣa; he is called ‘one who has got a thousand eyes’. It’s also symbolic: we have only two eyes, and with two eyes we can see quite a lot, but with a thousand eyes, what kind of light and knowledge you can possess! This is the kind of light, when you possess, then you are allowed to go forward. So Indra is what is called godā, that is to say, one, go is light, means giver: he is the giver of light. From the condition in which we are normally, in this condition of darkness, in which we live, we have to rise to a point where we can reach Indra.

Now, how do you reach Indra, what is the means of reaching Indra? For reaching Indra, the one which is nearest to us, and which is everywhere, you can find in everything, is Agni, is Fire. Agni also is symbolic, but it is something that is very near to us. It is said that Agni is in the earth; Agni is in the plants; Agni is in all the herbs; Agni is in all the animals and creatures; Agni is in our heart; and Agni is a very special entity. This Agni is one of the secrets, because that is the one which is immediately available to you and which can immediately open the doors of your upward movements. Without Agni there is no upward movement.

That is the one great discovery of the Veda. That even to start your journey, you should approach Agni. It is said: “devaḥ devebhiḥ āgama”, he is the one god if you approach him, all the other gods come; devaḥ, it is one god, devebhiḥ, when he comes, then, all the other gods come. So if you want to have all the cosmic powers, and approach to all the cosmic powers, then first you should propitiate Agni.

Now what is Agni? Agni is…we call normally fire, which we know very well what fire is, that even if you physically touch it, it burns you. It takes away all the impurities: when you want to purify any metal, you put it into the fire, physical fire and impurities are burned. It is said that Agni is capable of devouring everything. In other words, it has such a power that everything can be consumed, the whole earth, the whole universe can be consumed by it. This Agni is also described as jātaveda: “One who is born with all the knowledge”. Or it is also another way interpreted: “One who knows everything that is born”, jātaveda: “One who knows everything that is born”.

If you want to find out your true Self, then also there is Agni in you. Agni is supposed to be that which is immortal in the mortals. We are all mortals, but even in mortals there is one element, which is immortal, and that is Agni. It is inextinguishable, that is the mark of it; it is inextinguishable: ordinary fire of course is extinguishable, but that fire of which Veda speaks, which has been discovered by the Veda, and which is in the heart of everyone is inextinguishable. It is when you approach that Agni, and when that Agni burns in you all the time, then you become fit for a higher journey.

So, in fact the ‘Vedic journey’ starts with Agni. All yajñā therefore, is supposed to start with Agni: yajñā is nothing but sacrifice of all that you are, all that you have, that is the one simple definition of sacrifice. To offer all that you are and all that you have is sacrifice. And Agni is capable of receiving: that is why Agni is called in the very beginning, because Agni is the one which can receive all that you are and all that you have, and when it is received what does it mean? Received means that it burns away all that is unacceptable; it burns away all that is unacceptable, that is, all impurities are burned away when you offer it to Agni. It purifies everything: it no more remains.

So, one of the first things that human beings have is activity. Every kind of activity: from breathing to any other achievement is nothing but activity. So the Veda says that if you want to approach that Reality, from where a new event can be created, there the starting point is that your activities you throw into the fire, into Agni. And first of all, Agni will purify all the impurities from your activities. We offer everything: all that we are, all that we have, and much of that is impure. So, before it becomes acceptable to that Sun power, this great Tapasya has to be done in which you throw yourself into the Fire.

Now, this Fire is of many kinds. And that is what in the 4th chapter, Sri Krishna describes: various kinds of fires. That is the inner meaning of outer ritualistic interpretation of the Veda, which speaks only of fire that we normally see as a physical fire: you do a sacrifice, you offer samidh(s), and then you believe that an action has been done, yajñā has been done, and the results will come. That is purely an outer symbolic act, but really speaking, the real yajñā is quite different.

Now, it is at this point that we have to understand that unless you offer yourself to Agni and to the other gods, which we described just now. There are many others but I have only told you in general the basic hierarchy.

Agni comes first, in reply to that Indra comes, and Indra takes you farther to these four Kings: Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, and Bhaga, and from there you go upward and you get Surya. And when you get Surya then it gives you Soma, the highest delight: this is the entire hierarchy, basic hierarchy. There are many more details, but this is the basic administration of the whole world. All these powers, according to the Veda, are powers of one Reality. That is why the famous sentence of the Veda is: ekaṁ sad viprā bahudhā vadanti, (Rig Veda, 1, 164, 46), “He is one, but different learned people speak of Him in many different ways.”

So, Indra is supreme; Agni is supreme; Varuna is supreme; Mitra is supreme; Bhaga is supreme; Aryaman is supreme; Surya is supreme; all of them are supreme. But even though each one of them is supreme, it still has its specific function, and therefore that specificity cannot be ruled out. So, unless you first of all go to Agni, you cannot start the journey. Therefore, this sentence simply says that, when Prajapati created the world, yajñā was created at the same time, and he said to people: “You offer yourself to yajñā, as a result of that “they”, the forces, the cosmic forces will give you back, you please them and they will please you”: this is the basic principle of the cycle of life.

Then it goes farther, in ||I, 12, it says:

iṣṭān bhogān hi vo devā dāsyante yajña-bhāvitāḥ |
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ ||12||

We had seen all these verses last time but I am now seeing it from another point of view, in a larger context of the Vedic knowledge: “The gods, pleased by yajñā will bestow upon you the objects of your desire. He who enjoys the objects given by the gods without offering yajñā to them is a thief.”

In other words, all that you have you offer to Agni, by which when Agni is there, then all the other gods come: devaḥ devebhiḥ āgama. Then, the gods give you back.

In ordinary life, normally, we are full of desires: all human beings are normally moved by this desire or that desire, and we want the desire to be fulfilled. In other words we want an event to occur by which the desire is fulfilled. Therefore, the first proposition that is made by the Vedic knowledge is: “You bring your desires, but throw your desires into Agni, and then you will find that the gods, in return, will fulfil your desires.” This is the small “Eventology” as it were; small events will occur in your life, when you give up your desires first to Agni. Then whatever is given to you, you give back again; keep with you only what is necessary, and if you do not give again back, you are a thief.

yajña-śiṣṭāśinaḥ santo mucyante sarva-kilbiṣaiḥ |
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt ||3.13||

“Those good men who eat only what is left from the sacrifice are freed from all sins…” Now, this is purely a ritualistic process. What happens is that you arrange a big sacrifice, you arrange a lot of food, and you sacrifice as much as you can, and all the remains is prasāda, and you eat only the Prasad. So, it is said that if you do not offer first, and then take the remaining, then you are a thief, but if you eat only what is left out, then you are free from all the sins: now this is purely ritualistic understanding.

But really speaking it is not that: you throw your desires first to do Agni, then, whatever is given back to you, you put again back into Agni, and then what remains, a little for you; you keep that. Therefore, it is said that if you cook only for yourself, then there is no yajñā: you should cook first of all so much that you can offer a great deal out of it so something remains. But in the purely ritualistic sense it means that you cook a lot of food, invite hundreds and thousands of people, and have a big yajñā, and whatever remains like a Prasad you give to everybody. But this is purely a ritualistic interpretation of it. But internally, it is a question of your desires, giving up your desires to Agni, and then whatever returns to you, you keep only a little and then you again make a sacrifice.

Now, is given cycle, as to how this…why this yajñā becomes effective, why this yajñā is an effective instrument of creating events; because of the following reason:

annād bhavanti bhūtāni parjanyād-annasambhavaḥ |
yajñād bhavati parjanyo yajñaḥ karma-samudbhavaḥ ||3.14||

This is the cycle: “From food creatures come into being; from rain grows the food. It is yajñā that gives rise to rain, while yajñā is born of action.” This is the cycle. All human beings or everything that is born ultimately is born from food: that is the basic, you might say, vasu. In the Veda there is the concept of vasu: vasu is substance. In fact everybody in the world is in pursuit of vasu: substance. Whether it is in the form of wealth, because wealth is something that is substantial; or it is in the form of knowledge, which is also vasu because it is knowledge that gives you further substance; or joy that is also a substance because you really become fulfilled, but all that basically is food.

So, from food arises everything. If there is no substance, then there is no creation out of anything: substance is the most important thing. In the world as we understand, there is lot of hollowness, and because of hollowness we are in need of substance. Desire is what? Desire is an experience of a need, need that arises out of hollowness. Because we live in hollowness, we want to fill that hollowness with annā. Therefore we seek food, and it is only from food: basic substance is food. That food gives rise to the people; everything in the world depends upon food. Now, food itself arises out of rain; that is a purely physical understanding of food, but everything that you call vasu requires some kind of a fostering condition, in which it is fostered. Now this rain can come only out of yajñā, and yajñā cannot be done without action. That is the importance of action: if you don’t do action, then there is no yajñā; if there is no yajñā there is no rain; if there is no rain then the food is not produced. And therefore, there is no such thing as what you can really possess and enjoy.

Now, there is a farther point:

karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣara-samudbhavam |
tasmāt sarva-gataṁ brahma nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam ||3.15||

Now, Karma arises from where? Karma itself arises from Brahma. Brahma has two meanings: Brahma means “mantra”; Brahma also means “active power of energy”. Now, those who are purely ritualistic Vedists, they take this word ‘Brahma’ as if it means ‘Mantra’, that is Karma arises from Mantra, that is why in the Vedic sacrifices, while you offer anything, you have to recite the Mantra. So this sentence has two meanings: Karma is preceded by ‘Brahma Mantra’; Karma is preceded…this is the second meaning, Karma is preceded by ‘the active energy of Reality’: that is Brahma:

karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi brahmākṣara-samudbhavam |

Now this active energy, according to the Vedic purely ritualistic meaning, Mantras are what? akṣara(s), letters. So, Brahma arises out of Akshara: if there are no Aksharas, you cannot have Mantras. The other meaning is that Brahma, the active energy of Brahman arises from that immobile Brahma, Akshara, that which is immobile. So, out of immobility, arises the mobile energy; out of the mobile energy arises Karma; out of Karma arises yajñā. Out of yajñā is produced the rains; out of the rains is produced the annā.

tasmāt sarvagataṁ brahma: now here the inner meaning is now brought out very clearly that this is not referring to ritualistic sacrifice, but something that is deeper because now the world is called: sarvagataṁ brahma. Mantra is not sarvagataṁ, is not everywhere.

So sarvagataṁ brahma, that is: active energy which is everywhere. sarvagataṁ brahma nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam: the active energy is basically established in yajñā; this is the importance of yajñā. Unless you act, you cannot do sacrifice, and unless you sacrifice, the rains will not come, without rains the fostering powers will not be born, and without fostering power nothing that what you want, “annā”, that you will not be able to achieve. This is the cycle. Whatever you want, you start with Karma and make that Karma as a yajñā.

evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ nānuvartayatīha yaḥ |
aghāyur indriyārāmo moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati ||3.16||

This the cakra, this is the cycle, and he who does not follow this cycle, he remains absorbed in his own senses and he lives in vain. Now so far is the praise of action.

Now, in the middle, in the 3rd chapter of 17th verse, you get another line of thought, and they may seem to collide with each other, but which are reconciled latter on:

yas tv ātma-ratir eva syād ātma-tṛptaś ca mānavaḥ |
ātmany eva ca santuṣṭas tasya kāryaṁ na vidyate ||3.17||

But one who is settled in his Self, and is content within himself, of that individual who is completely contented within himself for him, there is no action: kāryaṁ na vidyate. So up till now we were told about Karma as most fundamental. Now we…

Chapter 3—Verses 18-43

Comment: Whole of Gita in a way is kṣara and the akṣara, the entire universe is explained.

Absolutely, absolutely, you have got exactly the right point.

In fact this is the most important verse, or you might say, one of the most important verses. And when we shall come to the 8th chapter, when Sri Krishna will say, “I will now tell you the full Knowledge, and more than full, so much that after knowing which, nothing more remains to be known”, then you will get the same proposition in a much more elaborate manner but the same idea is repeated in the 8th chapter.

So the entire universe is as it were explained, and because of that whole Knowledge of the universe, you are able to do the action rightly, and what is to be done is done. You are then enabled to do action, and yet not to be bound by action. Action is burned, action is created, action is controlled, and whatever event you want to create is created, and yet you are free from action. Even when you create, you are still unaffected by anything that is created: you are still superior to action.

In fact that is what is said in now 17th verse: that even when you act, and even when you do all this, at the same time if you are seated in the Self, then for you no action remains. You can do the whole world, you can make a tremendous revolution in the world, and people may hail you as the originator of all the revolution, but as far as you are concerned, you are seated in the Self quietly, and for you there is no action: that is because all action is offered already, and it is all burned. There is no action left for you. And that is the secret of freedom: to do action and yet to be free. This is the condition than when you are seated in your Self, and by self is not meant something that is your egoistic self, but the vastest like Varuna, Mitra, all this is satisfied, that Self, when you reach that point, then only you can create a real action. And then you can see that you are not the creator at all. All is created from the Prajapati, from the Supreme, therefore for you no action remains.

naiva tasya kṛtenārtho nākṛteneha kaścana |
na cāsya sarva-bhūteṣu kaścid artha-vyapāśrayaḥ ||3.18||

“For him, when he reaches that point, in this world he has no interest whatever to gain by the actions that he has done and seeks nothing to gain by the actions that he has not done, for he who delights in the Self, such an enlightened person does not depend on anything for any interest of his own.”

tasmād, therefore,* asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samācara |
asakto hy ācaran karma param āpnoti pūruṣaḥ ||3.19||

Now this idea of tasmād is very important. Having described all this again Sri Krishna says: “Therefore do the action, although you have gone above action, and there is nothing now for you to be done, even then you act”:

tasmād asaktaḥ satataṁ kāryaṁ karma samācara |

All the time you do action, but asaktaḥ, knowing that you are not the doer of action; asakto hyācaran, non-attached you do everything, you move about, when you do that, then you attain to the Supreme.

Now come 7 verses, which you might say, perhaps the most remarkable propositions of the Bhagavad Gita. These 7 verses have been forgotten in a long history of India. They have been neglected, and that is why India has fallen to the present condition of poverty and ignorance. But now you listen to these 7 verses; we shall read out the 7 verses, and concentrate on them. Sri Krishna says:

karmaṇaiva hi saṁsiddhim āsthitā janakādayaḥ |
loka-saṁgraham evāpi sampaśyan kartum arhasi ||3.20||

“Men like Janaka, they attain the Supreme by doing action alone…”

The importance of action is underlined: it is not by giving up action, but even when you are not doing action, when you reach that position that you are not doing any action, even then you act. That superiority over action, and yet continuing to act, is underlined in these 7 verses.

And here a very important concept is given “lokasaṁgraḥ”: this is the master idea of the Bhagavad Gita, lokasaṁgraḥ. When I have nothing to act for myself, when all that I need, all that is gone, all is burned away, then, what is the motive of action? There is no motive except to think to give yourself entirely: all that you have and you are.

And give your entire Self to whom? To pūruṣaḥ, to the Supreme. This offering is done to the Supreme, and the Supreme is manifested in prajāḥ. This Supreme again throws Himself into all the beings. There is the sacrifice from our side to Purushottama, and Purushottama sacrifices Himself back into all the people, not in you alone, that is the important point: sarvaḥ prajāḥ. Everything in the world is created by the Supreme: therefore Supreme throws Himself into all. Therefore, when you have given up everything, and still you have to do action, that action is for what? It is like Supreme Himself. Supreme Himself does everything for what? For sarvaḥ prajāḥ: for all the people. Therefore, Sri Krishna says, that when there is no other motive for action, when you don’t need to do anything at all, you still act, and that is for lokasaṁgraḥ: for all the people, so that people remain united.

Now, comes first a statement about the best who has reached this highest position, which has been followed by the example of the Supreme Himself:

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas tad tad everato janaḥ |
sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate ||3.21||

yad yad ācarati śreṣṭhas: “Whatever is done by the highest, by the best; tad tad everato janaḥ, that is followed by other people.” If you want to work for lokasaṁgraḥ, for the solidarity of the people, then the best one should act, so that others also act: yad yad ācarati. And act in such way that that action becomes pramāṇaṁ; sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute: “He acts in such a way, it becomes a standard action.” sa yat pramāṇaṁ kurute lokas tad anuvartate: “That is followed; whatever standard is sets, that is followed by all the people.”

That is why, even when you reach the highest, this is the karma that has been given to you. You do action so that everybody else does action, and you set the standard, so that that standard is followed by all the people. By that, lokasaṁgraḥ is achieved.

Now Sri Krishna gives his own example: the Supreme example. This is the example only of the best human being. Now, Sri Krishna says, “Why even the best should follow this?” Because He says, “Even me, I myself, I have nothing in the world which is not mine, I have nothing in the world which is to be gained by me, and yet I constantly get engaged into action.” What for? lokasaṁgraham: for the protection, for the solidarity of the people.

na me pārthāsti kartavyaṁ triṣu lokeṣu kiñcana |
nānavāptam avāptavyaṁ varta eva ca karmaṇi ||3.22||

“In three worlds there is nothing which for me remains to be done, there is nothing which is not gained, there is nothing which cannot be gained, yet varta eva ca karmaṇi, and yet I get myself engaged in karmaṇi, in the action.”

yadi hy ahaṁ na varteyaṁ jātu karmaṇy atandritaḥ |
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ ||3.23||

yadi hyahaṁ na varteyaṁ: “If I do not act, jātu karmaṇy atandritaḥ, if I remain even for a moment, atandritaḥ, if I do not remain completely awake, vigilant all the time; mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ, then my path all people will follow, and as a result everything in the world is active because of me.”

utsīdeyur ime lokā na kuryāṁ karma ced aham |

“If I do not do any action, then these people will fall in inaction.”

saṁkarasya ca kartā syām upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ ||3.24||

“Then, I will have created confusion, saṁkarasya ca kartā, I would have created confusion, and then, I would have upahanyām imāḥ prajāḥ, then I would have destroyed the people.” Therefore, even when you are a Karmayogi, even when nothing remains for you to do, still you act, and act in such a way…

*saktāḥ karmaṇy avidvāṁso yathā kurvanti bhārata |
kuryād vidvāṁs tathāsaktaḥ cikīrṣur loka-saṁgraham ||3.25||

“Just as the unwise do actions by attachment, even so you act even so you have no attachment”; and how when your are attached you everything so with your heart, even then you act without attachment with the same kind of interest, simply because you don’t need anything and your are master of action, therefore don’t be negligent just as the attached people work with so much of interest, so much of giving into the action, so carefully they do so that every little thing is looked after properly because of desire, even that kind of care you take even though you have no desire: saktāḥ karmaṇy avidvāṁso yathā kurvanti bhārata,

kuryād vidvāṁs tathāsaktaḥ, “When you become unattached, and even you have become very wise, even then you kuryād, you must do, cikīrṣur lokasaṁgraham, considering the lokasaṁgraḥ, the aim of the solidarity of the people. So, do not show to the people: ‘Oh, karma is tuccha’, just as those who are attached, for them Karma is not ‘tuccha’, but is very important, similarly you do your action as if it is extremely important, and do not neglect any item of your action.

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām |
joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran ||3.26||

This is not followed by many people. Even the wisest people in India since a long time, and that is one of the reasons for our trouble. You should not create a wrong impression among the people na buddhi-bhedaṁ, you should not confuse the intelligence of people.

You must have seen many Yogis saying, “hamko kya hai? Now, that creates buddhi-bhedaṁ: you may be free from action but do not say therefore, “hamko kya hai”. It creates a wrong impression on the minds of people; even the people when they are not born above action, even they will say: “hamko kya hai”; and that will create a lot of confusion.

na buddhi-bhedaṁ janayed ajñānāṁ karma-saṅginām |

“Those who are attached to their actions, those who are ignorant, in their minds you should not create any confusion.” joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi, not only one action but every action, joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi, because even here, we have failed: the Yogi say: “We shall do only this action, and that action we won’t do; for us appropriate action is only this much, this action is inappropriate.” No: joṣayet sarvakarmāṇi, he should show example in every activity.

Like Vasishtha, and Vishvamitra, they attained to the highest positions in the consciousness, they were absolutely free, and yet if you look at their works: Vasishtha was the advisor to Rama, and to his father Dasharatha, in every activity of the state, they took cognitions of every little thing, enter into every detail of the work, and advise in every way, and acted in every way: sarva-karmāṇi. They did not say, “hamko politics kya hai?” If politics is a part of life, you may not do politics with the intentions with which people who ignorantly are doing, but political activities are part of social organisation; therefore, even that kind of activity.

This is very important for Arjuna to know because Arjuna said, “Why should I do this ghora karma?”: sarva-karmāṇi, even this action, even the battle that has to be fought in the battlefield, even that, even when you are free, you have still to do that:

joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi vidvān yuktaḥ samācaran ||

yuktaḥ, one who is completely a yogi: vidvān, means one who is completely identified with the Supreme. The wise one who is fully identified with the Supreme, he should, joṣayet sarva-karmāṇi, he should join himself, throw himself into all kinds of actions. When you do all actions, you have to know what is the origin of action.

prakṛteḥ kriyamāṇāni guṇaiḥ karmāṇi sarvaśaḥ |
aḥaṁkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate ||3.27||

“You must know that all actions are done by Prakriti”, not by yourself, there is no such thing as ‘me’ acting; aḥaṁkāra-vimūḍhātmā kartāham iti manyate, those who are mūḍhā, “Those who are ignorant, they believe: ‘I am the doer of actions’.” But one who is vidvān, one who is learned, who is wise, he knows that all actions are done by Prakriti. And later on we shall be told that all actions are done by Para Prakriti, and that Para Prakriti itself issues from the Supreme Lord. Therefore all actions actually proceed from Him: “With this knowledge you must act.”

tattva-vit tu mahā-bāho guṇa-karma-vibhāgayoḥ |
guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta iti matvā na sajjate ||3.28||

prakṛter guṇa-sammūḍhāḥ sajjante guṇa-karmasu |
tān akṛtsna-vido mandān kṛtsna-vin na vicālayet ||3.29||

“The one who knows that this whole world is ruled by Prakriti, in which there is nothing but guṇā(s), Sattwa, Rajas and Tamas, and all actions emerge from these Gunas, guṇā guṇeṣu vartanta: all this world is nothing but these Gunas acting among themselves, knowing all this, one is not attached”. Because one becomes free from that egoistic sense:

prakṛter guṇa-saṁmūḍhāḥ sajjante guṇa-karmasu |
tān akṛtsna-vido mandān kṛtsna-vin na vicālayet ||

kṛtsna-vin: one who has known fully, he should act in such a way than those who are mūḍhā, those who are unlearned, those who are unwise, ignorant, allow them to act, and you should not create confusion in their mind.

Now comes the last advice:

mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi sannyasyādhyātma-cetasā |
nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā yudhyasva vigata-jvaraḥ ||3.30||

“Therefore on the basis of all that I have said, you put every action unto me, you sacrifice everything unto me; be liberated sannyasyā, karmāṇi sarvāṇi mayi; sannyasyā means ‘leaving’: throw all your actions in yajñā into me; ādhyātma-cetasā, with this knowledge of the Self, become nirāśīr, give up all the ideas of the fruits of action; nirāśīr, that’s not mean become pessimist, but give up all kinds of expectations, all kinds of desires for fruits of actions; nirmamaḥ, become non egoistic; yudhyasva vigatajvaraḥ, you fight and when you fight in this spirit there will be vigatajvaraḥ, you will be free from all fever, all grief, all anxiety.

This is the basic teaching of the Bhagavad Gita. In these verses that we saw just now, from (3.20) to (3.30), these 10 verses you might say are the “core” of the teaching of the Gita. All that has gone before is a preparation for this, and all that comes after is a consequence of this. But this is the basic message, that even when you become free you act. It is because afterwards, a new message came in India, even though Sri Krishna said: “Again and again you should act, even when you don’t need to act, you should act for the sake of solidarity of the people”, even then, we were told, “Do not act in the world, do not act for the world, give up all this world, take Sannyasa from the world, and do only your duty, and that is all, even if you have to do something, don’t put your heart into action.”: it is this false notion, which was spread in India. As a result, we became negligent in action, and once you become negligent in action, then as Sri Krishna himself says: “You destroy the people”

ye me matam idaṁ nityam anutiṣṭhanti mānavāḥ |
śraddhāvanto ’nasūyanto mucyante te ’pi karmabhiḥ ||3.31||

“Those people who follow this vision, those who are full of faith, and who are free from envy, they become free even in action.” This is the secret that Sri Krishna had promised at the beginning that there are two paths: one, the path of knowledge, which by throwing away action you become free, but there is another path of Karmayoga, which when you do, then even while doing action you will be free. And this is the promise fulfilled by Him: mucyante te ’pi karmabhiḥ, ‘even while doing actions you will be free’

ye tv etad abhyasūyanto nānutiṣṭhanti me matam |
sarva-jñāna-vimūḍhāṁs tān viddhi naṣṭān acetasaḥ ||3.32||

“Those who do not follow this, those who are envious and they are completely ignorant of knowledge, know that they are naṣṭān acetasaḥ, they are destroyed.” Those who do not act in this way, for them there is no fulfilment.

sadṛśaṁ ceṣṭate svasyāḥ prakṛter jñānavān api |
prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati ||3.33||

The action is such a powerful element in man that those who give up action, in one way or the other they fall into action whether they like it or not because everyone in the world is nothing but an instrument of Prakriti:

prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiṁ kariṣyati*,

Prakriti is the one which rules you even if you want to restrain yourself from it, even if you want to run away from the battlefield, how will you stop it? You will come back again: prakṛtiṁ yānti bhūtāni.

indriyasyendriyasyārthe rāga-dveṣau vyavasthitau |
tayor na vaśam āgacchet tau hy asya paripanthinau ||3.34||

“For every sense, attachment and dveṣa are fixed pertaining to the sense- objects. One should not come under their sway because they are his enemies.”

Now comes a different line of argument, but within the overall purview of Karmayoga. It goes into the depths of the question: what kind of action should one do? All actions can be done, and all actions are preferable actions: sarva-karmāṇi. And yet for every individual, there is a specific action, and that specific action that he has to do, depends upon svadharma.

In other words, even though your are entitled to do every action, and you should ultimately do every action, as we are moving forward from one step to the other, you have at present in your limitations of your structure, of your composition, of your nature, so Sri Krishna says:

śreyān sva-dharmo viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣṭhitāt |
sva-dharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ ||3.35||

You realise that Svadharma is, śreyān, is better for you; viguṇaḥ para-dharmāt sv-anuṣṭhitāt, even though the Dharma belonging to the other one, is much easier for you, and what you have to do is difficult for you, even then, sva-dharmo śreyān, what others can do, you may be able to do better. What you have to do may be more difficult, but for you what you have to do is what you have to do.

What a child can do you can do much better, but therefore, don’t continue to do what your child can do. What you have to do you may fail to do now, because you are not yet proficient, yet you should do what you have to do: sva-dharme nidhanaṁ śreyaḥ, it is better to die while performing your Dharma, para-dharmo bhayāvahaḥ, if you take to the Dharma of the others, what others are doing much better you can do, even that is dangerous for you.

Now this is a statement, which is extremely important because everyone has a question: “There are so many activities in the world: which action do I have to do?” Therefore, Sri Krishna says that, “You have to see what is your Svadharma”. On this question we shall come to later on, because on this question there is much to be said. Here Sri Krishna only puts down the basic line. It is in the last 6 chapters that we shall come to understand better what is Svadharma and many other things.

You might say that Sri Krishna has now told him everything that is to be told. He has explained the two paths: the path of Jnanayoga and the path of Karmayoga. In both the ways there is freedom, and Sri Krishna has said why the path of action is superior, why one should still pursue the path of action. In other words…and He has also said that now, yudhyasva vigata-jvaraḥ, having explained everything, He has given the order, now yudhyasva, now you fight. But now the question of Arjuna is seized, and the rest of the Gita very much depends upon this question and the answer to it and many other questions which arise subsequently.

atha kena prayukto ’yaṁ pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ |
anicchann api vārṣṇeya balād iva niyojitaḥ ||3.36||

After understanding everything, knowing everything that now you have explained to me, even then: kena prayukto ’yaṁ pāpaṁ carati pūruṣaḥ, by what is individual prayukto, is enjoined, so that anicchann api, even without desire, balādiva, by force as it were, one is obliged to do something, something that is pāpaṃ, that which is sinful?

What is it, even after knowing all this, even without desiring to do sinful things, yet how is it that one is by force thrown into sinful action, something which you ought not to do and yet is obliged to do? What is it?

And Sri Krishna answers:

kāma eṣa krodha eṣa rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ |
mahāśano mahā-pāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam ||3.37||

What is it that throws you into sinful action even when you don’t want it?

The answer is: kāma, krodha, only two things. Basically kāma, because krodha comes from kāma. We have been told already in the second chapter kāma jayate krodhaḥ, from kāma arises anger; so kāma eṣa krodha, basically it is kāma. It is the desire which is rajo-guṇa-samudbhavaḥ, which arises out of rajoguṇa, out of Rajas, arises kāma, from where arises krodha; it is because of this: mahāśano mahā-pāpmā viddhy enam iha vairiṇam, realise that it is that which is the destroyer, it is that which is the maker of your sinful action, know him to be your vairiṇa: your desire is your enemy.

Now this kāma, is expounded; what is the nature of kāma:

dhūmenāvriyate vahnir yathādarśo malena ca |
yatholbenāvṛto garbhas tathā tenedam āvṛtam ||3.38||

“Just as the fire gets clouded by smoke, just as a mirror is spoiled by the dust, just as the embryo is covered by olbenā, by placenta, tenedam āvṛtam, similarly this one, your true Self gets covered up by kāma.”

āvṛtaṁ jñānam etena jñānino nitya-vairiṇā |
kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca ||3.39||

This is the nitya-vairi, that which is the enemy, this kāma, āvṛtaṁ jñānam, because of this kāma, even jñānam becomes āvṛtaṁ. Even when you have knowledge, it becomes covered up: even when you are a Jnani, jñānino jñānam. Even if you are wise, even if you have wisdom, even that gets completely covered up by this vairi, by this enemy: *kāma-rūpeṇa kaunteya duṣpūreṇānalena ca ||

It is like a fire, which can never be satisfied duṣpūreṇā: it is a fire, which wants more and more and more. Desire, once you satisfy it…a further desire; you satisfy it…further desire. It is like putting fuel into the fire: it is by this kāma, that even wisdom gets covered up.

indriyāṇi mano buddhir asyādhiṣṭhānam ucyate |
etair vimohayaty eṣa jñānam āvṛtya dehinam ||3.40||

Now how does this kāma works? By what means in our composition of psychology it works? The senses, mind and intellect are set to be in dwelling places: this desire has a dwelling place in our senses, in our mind, in our intellect. Enveloping wisdom by these, it deludes embodied souls. These are three things: the senses, the mind, and the intellect.


tasmāt tvam indriyāṇy ādau niyamya bharatarṣabha | (3.41)*

Therefore, control indriyā and others: your senses, your mind and intellect. They need to be controlled; pāpmānaṁ prajahi: slay this sinful thing; hy enaṁ jñāna-vijñāna-nāśanam: it is this kāma, which destroy jñāna-vijñānanā. Even if you possess jñāna-vijñāna, knowledge and the full knowledge, all that is destroyed by this kāma; therefore, pāpmānaṁ prajahi: prajahi is an order: slay it.

Now, how can you slay it?

indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur indriyebhyaḥ paraṁ manaḥ |
manasas tu parā buddhir yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ ||3.42||

Higher than indriyā(s) is the mind; higher than the mind is the intellect, and if you want to take out kāma from all these crevasses of our consciousness, then you go to him, the Self, the true Self: paratas tu saḥ, there is an inner Self in you, you go to him, by his help you will be able to destroy this desire.

evaṁ buddheḥ paraṁ buddhvā saṁstabhyātmānam ātmanā |
jahi śatruṁ mahā-bāho kāma-rūpaṁ durāsadam ||3.43||

Therefore, you go beyond the Buddhi; by your intellect you go beyond the intellect; and ātmānam ātmanā, and then by your Self you go beyond yourself; jahi śatruṁ, then you will be able to conquer and kill this śatruṁ; kāmarūpaṁ durāsadam, that which has a bad dwelling place, kāma-rūpaṁ, which is full of desire. This śatruṁ, this enemy you will be able to kill.

So, this is the explanation given to emphasize that if there is one thing which you should therefore destroy, if you really want to come out of all kinds of bondage, and even while acting you should be free, then this is the remedy for it.

I think we have done the full chapter today in detail, and we shall come to the 4th chapter next time, which in a sense takes us again into Karmayoga, but in a more subtle manner. And some of the secrets, which are not yet expounded, are expounded in the 4th chapter.

Question: Agni that you mentioned in the Vedas that referred to the Self, or the Surya or…in which way we have to perform the sacrifice?

You know, your question is so precious and so complex. What is Agni in the Veda? There is a distinction between “Self”, which is immobile, which is different from “Jiva”, which is different from “Agni”, yet all the three are called “Self” in different contexts. That is why the question becomes very complex. When you say, “The soul passes from body to body, and it is that soul which is not killed”: it is to Agni that the reference is made. There is inextinguishable fire in us, that fire actually represents the Jiva: our true “individual Self”. The true individual Self is never alone, your individual Self is never been born alone, your individual Self has been born with many at the same time. So, all of us are, as it were, simultaneous, and each one is actually, kṣara, mobile.

But behind these mobile individuals, which we are truly, of which Agni is a representative, we are all united in that “immobile Self”, and that immobile Self is itself rooted in Purushottama, in the supreme Purusha, which transcends everything. Even that is also called: The supreme Self. So, the word “Self” is used for the “supreme Self”, for the “immobile Self”, for the “Jiva” and Jivas which are all mobile of which Agni is a representative.

Now our starting point is Agni, because that is the nearest to us. When you say, “I”, (when you do not mean by “I”, ego), then what is the “I” to which I am referring? It is to Agni that I am referring, that inextinguishable spark that is in me. It is that which is called: Chaitya Purusha, (caitya puruṣa). It is the individual which is a “psychic fire”: it is the psychic being in us, which is immortal in the mortals; it is that which remains immortal. It is that which is described in Katha Upanishad (4.12&13) as: aṅguṣṭha mātraḥ, “That which is not bigger than the thumb.”

Comment: “…which is in the cave of the heart…”

That’s right: ‘that which is in the cave of the heart’. So, that which is absolutely secretly seated, that is the “individual Self”, and that is the “Agni”. Therefore, when it is said, “You offer yourself to Agni”, take out all your egoism, and throw this all Agni into the fire of your inner being, of your inner Self, and that inner being is a power, is itself not immobile, it is power, it is active, but which is seated; it is that power, that activity which is action, all that comes from Brahma, which is active Brahman. All that comes from akṣaraṁ, from that which is immobile; and beyond that which is akṣara, is the Supreme. When we know the relationship of Agni with the Jivatman, with the active Self, which is universal, with the inactive Self which is akṣara, and when we know the Purushottama, when all these is fully understood by us, then the real Karma yoga is performed.

I am not giving you a full answer now because all these terms require now again to be fully elucidated, and it is a question of “questions” in fact. If there is a lot of confusion in our country or in philosophy, it is centred on this question. The question is: who am I? This is the question, which was asked by Nachiketas to Yama; and ultimately he shows him all these, and says ultimately you know that Brahman, and what you need to know is the Supreme. And therefore Katha Upanishad becomes a revelation of that knowledge of the Supreme. What is the relationship of that Supreme with akṣara, with kṣara, with the Jiva, and with this psychic element in us, Agni in us, in what way they are all related is a complex relationship. Once that is known, then everything is known. Or when as in Chandogya Upanishad says, yena vijñāte na sarvaṁ vijñātaṁ bhavati, “By knowing that everything is known.” But as we proceed in the Bhagavad Gita, we shall come to all these details.