Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 (Renunciation of Action) Verses 22 to 28

Verse 22:
Yadrascha-labha-samtushto dvandv’atito vimatsarah !
Samah siddhav asiddhau cha kritva’pi na nibadhyate !!

Satisfied with whatever comes without calculations, arising above the contrasting conditions of life, without any competitive spirit, and alike in success and in failure, a man, though working, incurs no sin.

Swamy Tapasyananda

Content with what comes to him without effort, free from the pairs-of-opposites and envy, even-minded in success and failure, though acting he is not bound.

Swamy Chinmayananda:

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

Such an individual, who has gone beyond his own ego, can thereafte commence no desire-prompted activity with any definite fruit-motive. Naturally he will feel quite contented and happy in whatever gain spontaneously rises out of his actions. The state-of-egolessness indicates a condition of perfect conquest over the mind and intellect. Naturally therefore, the pairs-of-opposites –heat and cold, success and failure, good and bad, joy and sorrow, etc., –cannot affect him, they being always the interpretations of the world-of-objects by the mind.

Where the mind has ended, the intellect too can no more bring its own affections and prejudices, or its spirit of competitions and jealousies. We generally get agitated due to the pulls of success and failure, On the rising tide of success our ego dances in a vain joy, while in the hollows of failures it feel miserable and crushed. But when the ego is completely divinised, the individual will, thereafter, automatically remain equanimous in both success and failure. Such an individual who has thus conquered his ego-centric misconceptions about himself, “though acting, is not fettered” by the natural consequences of the actions performed (Karma-phala).

When such a Perfect-Master-of-Realisation live amidst us, he is generally seen to act in no way different from an ordinary sensible man, and yet, all the same, his activities show an extra dynamic capacity to carve out a more complete and enduring success. According to the Lord’s words, the activities of a man-of-Knowledge do not, in any sense of the term, affect him. Naturally, it becomes a little difficult for an ordinary man to know readily how this accomplished by the sage.

Verse 23

Gata-sangasya muktasya jnan’avasthita-chetasah !
Yajnay’acharatah karma samagram praviliyate !!

In the case of one who is without attachments and the sense of agency, and whose mind is fully established in the knowledge of God,- his actions, being done in dedication to the Lord, melt away their very tendencies.

Swamy Tapasyananda

. Of one who is devoid of attachment, who is liberated, whose mind is established in knowledge, who acts for the sake of sacrifice, all his actions are dissolved

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

A Man-of-Wisdom has been fully comprehended in the first line of this stanza. The qualifications are beautifully enumerated serially and they themselves explain the “Path-to-Perfection.” Economy of words is the very essence of the style in all Scriptural books. Even so, they are particularly careful to use the most suggestive terms for their purpose and take an artistic joy in ordering the very sequence of the words used; here is a brilliant example of it.

Devoid of Attachment (Gata-sangah): - The divinity attained by the Rsi-s is not a new status strangely acquired by them from same unknown and secret quarters. It is only a rediscovery of the Perfection that is already in each one. We are self-exiled from ourselves due to our attachments with the finite world-of-objects. Thus a “wise” man is he, from whom all his attachments with the finite things of the world have dropped away.
Liberated (Muktah): -The majority of seeker have only a vague idea of what this “liberation” means. The bondages are created upon our personality and life by none other than ourselves. These bondages, infinite in their number, are produced by the subtle chords of our own attachments with things. The deluded ego feels fulfilled only through the world-of-objects. Thus, as a body, it gets attached to the world of its sense-objects; as a mind it lives enslaved to the world of emotions; and as an intellect, it gets bound with its own ideas.

If an individual sitting in a room were to tie himself with his own idle hands tightly to all the furniture pieces in the room, certainly, in a short time, he will discover himself to be bound and chained to the room. His liberty to walk freely out of the room becomes curtailed because of the cords with which he has tied himself to the pieces of furniture. The furniture in itself has no power to enslave him, nor can the furniture bind him to itself. He of his own accord has tied himself to the fixtures in that room, movable and immovable, and thereafter he feels himself bound within the four walls of his own room!

Whose mind is established in Knowledge (Jnana-avasthita-cetasah) –The above phenomenon of perfect detachment, which produces a sense of complete liberation, can be accomplished only when the mind of the seeker gets centered in right discriminative knowledge and develops for itself a capacity to distinguish between the permanent and the impermanent, the fleeting and the lasting.

This self-evident psychological truth is so beautifully put in these lines that the very felicity with which it has been expressed conceals it from the hasty readers.

A Perfect Sage, who has thus cut himself free from all attachments, with his mind well-balanced under the light of his own “Wisdom,” becomes completely liberated from the chains of all moral debilities, ethical imperfections, and sensuous appetites. Such a Sage too performs work for the rest of his life in his perfected manifestations. Krsna says that all such activities undertaken and performed by him are ever done in a spirit of ‘dedicated activity’ (Yajna).* When a Sage thus functions in a spirit of Yajna, that action itself does not and cannot produce any reaction, or forging of thicker bondage with newly-formed vasana-s.

The term Yajna was very familiar to Arjuna. No student of the Veda-s could have been ignorant of the significance of this term. Soaked in the tradition of the Veda-s Arjuna, vaguely knew that ritualistic performed in an attitude of God-dedication –Yajna –are the only methods that can contribute to the final redemption of man from the thralldom of his mortal existence. Being a true son of India Arjuna accepted the accomplishment of this self-unfoldment in himself as the very goal of his life. Hence we read in the opening chapter Arjuna’s hesitation as a true Hindu to fight the war and cause bloodshed and destruction.

The term ‘Yajna,’ borrowed from our scriptures, is employed here by Krsna to yield a more elaborate sense implying a wider and a more universal application. In the Gita,the Vedik Yajna has become “a self-dedicated activity performed in a spirit of service to many.” All actions, performed without ego, and not motivated by one’s ego-centric desires, fall under the category of Yajna

Verse 24

Brahm’arpanam brahma havir brahm’agnau brahmana hutam !
Brah’aiva tena gantavyam brahma-karma-samadhina !!

To one of the above description, the ladle with which the offering is made and the oblations are Brahman; and the sacrificial rite (which is Brahman) is performed by the sacrificer who is Brahman, in the fire which too is Brahman. He who is thus absorbed in work as Brahman, attains to Brahman alone.

Swami Tapasyananda

Brahman is the oblation; Brahman is the clarified butter ,etc., constituting the offerings; by Brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of Brahman; Brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees Brahman in all actions.

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

This is a famous stanza* which is chanted throughout India as a prayer at the table before the Hindu-s eat their meals, although today, ninety per cent of those who chant this stanza before their meals do not understand or care to follow its meaning. All the same it contains infinite suggestions and almost summarises the entire philosophic content of Vedanta.

The Infinite Reality, which is the changeless substratum behind and beneath the changing panorama of the world, is indicated by the Vedik term Brahman, and this is contrasted with that aspect of Truth which functions in and through the body as the Atman. But though the Eternal Truth has been thus indicated by two different terms, Vedanta roars that “The Atman is Brahman.”

The metaphor is borrowed from the very well-known divine ritualism of the Veda-s, the Yajna-s. In every Yajna there are four essential factors:

(1) the deity invoked to whom the oblations are offered,
(2) the fire in which the offerings are poured,
(3) the material things that constitute the offerings, and
(4) the individual who is performing the Yajna,

Here the stanza explains the mental attitude and the experience of the Perfect-Sage when he performs the Yajna.

To him Truth alone exists and not the delusory plurality which his erstwhile ignorance had conjured up for him in his mind. Therefore, to him all Yajna-s arise from Brahman (III-14-15); in which Brahman, the Truth, is the performer; offering Brahman, the material; to the sacred fire, which is also nothing other than Brahman; invoking but Brahman. When one wave jumps over another and breaks itself up to embrace and become one with its comrade, we who know that “all waves are nothing but the ocean,” can certainly understand that in this act of union between two waves nothing has happened except that the ocean rising over the ocean, broke itself to become one with the ocean!

The significance of the stanza as “a prayer o be said before food” is amply self-evident. To live we must eat. Food is necessary for existence. Whatever be the type of food, when one is hungry one will enjoy one’s meals. The suggestion is that even at this moment of natural enjoyment, we are not to forget the great Truth that it is Brahman eating Brahman, and that during our meals we are offering to Brahman, the food that is Brahman, invoking nothing but the grace of Brahman, To keep this idea constantly in the mind is to get perfectly detached from the enjoyment and raise ourselves to a greater and endless beatitude which is the reward of Super-manhood.


Daivam ev’apare yajnam yoginah paryuasate !
Brahm’agnau apare yajnam yajnen’aiv’opajuhvati !!

Some Yogis perform sacrifices especially wanting to propitiate deities. Still others offer sacrifice (the Atman) itself as oblation (Yajna) in the fire of Brahman.

Swamy Tapasyananda

Some Yogi-s perform sacrifice to Deva-s alone (Deva-yajna); while others offer “sacrifice” of the Self (i.e., Atman itself) as sacrifice (oblation) by the Self, in the Fire of Brahman (Brahma-yajna).

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

In the following few stanzas, Lord Krsna is explaining the mental attitude of a Saint-at-Work. One doubt is generally raised by every intelligent student at all times. The spiritual experience, no doubt, can be had when the seeker in meditation transcends even his intellect. But then, this transcendental experience is bound to remain only for a limited time. The “Realised-Saint” is found working in the world, sometimes, in an elaborate fashion, like a Buddha or a Christ; in some case he works in a limited fashion, like a Ramana Maharsi and at certain moments he may not undertake any activity at all, but merely continue living among the world-of-objects. Now the doubt is; “What would be the mental attitude of such a Perfect Master when he comes in contact with the world and functions in it?”

In so elaborately painting the mental and intellectual personality of a Perfect Master, Krsna is trying to give an inkling to Arjuna so that he may recognise what exactly should be his own attitude when he comes across life and its happenings. Through Arjuna’s shoulders, man of all time can listen to the same words and learn to mould his own mind in this healthy fashion, so that he too can live in the world without getting himself buffeted or wrecked during his experiences in the relative existence.

“Some Yogi-s sacrifice to the Deva-s alone” (Deva-yajna): -Very many are the examples in Gita translations wherein the literal meaning gives us a sad misunderstanding of the very import of the text. Here is an example. Some devotees invoke the grace of a specific deity only –by invoking it and offering oblations to it in the sacred fire. But the word Yogi clearly indicates that Krsna paints here something more than a mere ritualist trying to gain the blessings of his chosen deity.

The word “Deva” comes from a root “Div,” meaning ‘illumination. Subjectively viewed, the greatest “Deva-s” are the five sense organs: eyes illumining forms and colours, ears illumining sounds, the nose illumining smells, and the tongue and the skin illumining tastes and touches. Seekers, and Perfected-Masters (Yogi-s) too, when they move in the world, no doubt perceive sense-object through sense stimuli. But in their understanding and experience, perception is but “a world of sense-objects continuously offering themselves into the fires of his perception in order to invoke the Deva-s (Sense-perceptions).” Such seekers and Masters walk out into life, and when they come across the sense world, they only recognise and experience that the world-of-objects is paying a devoted tribute to the powers of sense-perceptions!

When this mental attitude is entertained constantly by a seeker he comes to feel completely detached from the sense experiences and, irrespective of the quality of experience, he is able to maintain a constant sense of inward equanimity.

Sankara defines this “Brahma-yajna as follows: “To know the conditioned-Self (Ego) as identical with the unconditioned-Brahman (the Atman) is to sacrifice the Self in Brahman.” The sense objects can enslave only the ego, just as the dream kingdom can be enjoyed only by the dream-king in us. When the Ego rediscovers itself to be the Pure Consciousness, it gets completely released from all its joys and sorrows, just as, when the dreamer rediscovers his own waking-state, his responsibilities and joys as a king over his dream-domain have also ended.

Verse 26

Srotradini’ndriany anye samyam agnishu juhvati !
Sabdadin visayan anya indriy’agnisu juhvati !!

Some offer their organs of knowledge like hearing as sacrifice in the fire of restraint, while others take in all their sense perceptions as oblations made in the fire of their respective senses.

Swamy Tapasyananda

Some again offer hearing and other senses as sacrifice in the fire-of restraint; other offer sound and other objects of senses as sacrifice in the fire-of the-senses.

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

Some other Great Masters offer hearing and other senses in the fire-of-restraint: -In all these Yajna-s described, the metaphor is taken from the most familiar ritualism known at the time to Arjuna. Oblations were offered, in Vedik ritualism, into the sacred-fire in order to invoke the blessings of the deity. In these examples, we are shown how when some materials are offered into a sacred-fire, not only the oblations get burnt up and consumed by the fire, but also, as a result, a great blessing accrues. Here, it is said that some Masters live on in life constantly offering their senses into the fire-of-self-control, so that the senses, of their own accord get burnt up, contributing a greater freedom and joy in the inner life of the man. It is also a fact, very well experienced by all of us, that the more we try to satisfy the sense-organs the more riotous they become and loot away our inner joy. By self-control alone can the sense-organs be fully controlled and mastered. This is yet another method shown to the seekers by which they can come to experience and live a more intense life of deeper meditation.

Verse 27:

Sarvani’nariya-karmani pranakarmani chapare !
Atma-smayama yogagnau juhvati jnana-dipite !!

Others offer all the functions of their senses and vital energy as sacrificial offerings in the fire of self-restraint kindled by knowledge.

Swamy Tapasyananda

Others again sacrifice all the functions of the senses and the functions of the breath (vital energy) in the fire of the Yoga of self-restraint, kindled by knowledge

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

All the activities of the senses-organs (Jnana-indriya-s), and the organs of action (Prana i.e., Karma-indriya-s) are offered into the knowledge kindled-fire of right understanding –Control of the ego by the better understanding of the Divine Reality is called here as the “Yoga-of-Self-restraint’ (Atma-samyama-Yoga).

In all these attempts it is interesting to note how Krsna is dragging the frightening term yoga into almost a licentious usage, so that the ordinary man, who had learnt in the Krsna-era to get frightened away by the very term Yoga, may feel at least that term to be a safe and tame one.

This is the most direct method. To live as the Self and not as the delusion-born ego-centre, a true spiritual knowledge supported by one's own intimate experience of it is absolutely unavoidable.

The "Path-of-Discrimination" (Vicara) lies through a constant attempt at distinguishing between the limited lot of the ego and the divine destinies of the Spirit. Having discriminated thus, to live more and more as the Self, and not as the ego, is to "Restrain the Self by the Self (Atma-Samyama).” By this process, it is evident how the mad ramblings of the organs of perception and action can be completely restrained and entirely conquered.

Verse 28

Dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna yogayajnas tatha’pare !
Svadhyaya-jnanyajnas cha yatayah smasita-vratah !!

Likewise others, being of rigid vows and hard practice, offer their wealth, their austerities, their Yogic practices, and their daily study of the Vedas as sacrifice.

Swamy Tapasyananda

Others again offer wealth, austerity and Yoga as sacrifice, while the ascetics of self-restraint and rigid vows offer study of scriptures and knowledge as sacrifice

Swamy Chinmayananda

Commentaries by Swamy Chinmayananda:

Offering of wealth (Dravya-Yajna):— Sacrifice of wealth is to be understood in its largest connotation. Charity and distribution of honestly acquired wealth, in a sincere spirit of devotion to and in the service of the community, or of the individual who is the recipient of the benevolence, is called Dravya-Yajha. This includes more than a mere offering of money or food.

The term Dravya includes everything that we possess, not only in the world outside but also in our worlds of emotions and ideas. To pursue thus a life of charity, serving the world as best as we can, with all that we possess physically, mentally and intellectually is the noble sacrifice called "Wealth sacrifice."

In order to perform this it is not at all necessary that the devotee should be materially rich. Even if we are poor and physically debilitated, from our bed of pain and penury, we can still be charitable, because our inner treasurers of love, kindness, sympathy and affection, do not at all depend either upon our material circumstances nor on our physical condition. Sometimes, a word of sincere sympathy, a look of love, a smile of true affection, or a word registering true friendship, can give to the receiver more than a heartless cheque, even if it be for a very fat sum.

Tapo-Yajna:—Some live, offering unto their Lord, a life of austerity. There is no religion in the world which does not prescribe, by some method or the other, periods of austere living. These austerities (Vrata-s) are invariably undertaken in the name of the Lord. It is very well-known that the Lord of Compassion, who feeds and sustains even the lowliest of the low, can gain no special joy because of a devotee's self-denial. But it is generally done in a spirit of dedication, so that the seeker might achieve some self-control. This activity, in some extreme cases very painful indeed, is undertaken in order that the devotee may learn to control himself in his sense-life.
Yoga-Yajna:—An earnest attempt of the lesser in us to grow into a better standard of diviner living, is called Yoga. In this attempt, devoted worship of the Lord-of-the-heart, called Upasana, is a primary method. This worship and love, offered to the Lord-of-the-heart, when performed without any desire or motive, is also called Yoga, since it directly hastens the seeker's self-development.

Svadhyaya-Yajna:—The daily deep study of the scriptures is called Svadhyaya. Without a complete study of the scriptures we will not be in a position to know the logic of what we are doing in the name of spiritual practice, and without this knowledge our practices cannot gain the edge and the depth that are essential for sure progress. Thus, in all religions, the daily study of the scriptures is insisted upon, as an essential training during the seeker's early days. Even after Self-realisation, we find that the Sages spend all their spare-time reading and contemplating upon the inexhaustible wealth of details and suggestions in the scriptures.

Jnana-Yajna—the Sacrifice-of-Knowledge:—This word has very often been used in the Gita and it constitutes one of the many original terms coined out by Vyasa to beautify the Lord's declarations. The "Sacrifice-of-Knowledge" is the term given to that activity in man by which he renounces all his ignorance into the fire-of-knowledge kindled by him, in him. This is constituted of two aspects; negation of the false, and assertion of the Real Nature of the Self. These two activities are efffectively undertaken during the seeker's meditation.

All these five methods of Self-development—"sacrifice-of-wealth," "austerity," “Yoga;” "study" and "knowledge"—can be practised with profit: only by those who are men of "rigid determination" and who can find in themselves an inexhaustible enthusiasm to apply themselves consistently to reach this great goal. It is not sufficient that we know these paths, or that we decide to gain these developments. Progress in spirituality can come only to one who is "sincere and consistent in his practices" (Yatayah).

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