Bhagavadgita: 4. Renunciation of Action with Knowledge

Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavadgita

Translated by Jayaram V

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Summary: This chapter deals with knowledge, karma and renunciation. Knowledge is gained by serving the enlightened ones. Actions should be burnt in the fire of knowledge. God is the upholder of Dharma. From time to time He manifests upon earth from time to time to protect and restore dharma.


Jnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga

1. Said Lord Supreme, I preached this imperishable yoga to Vivasvata (Sun) who taught it to Manu and who in turn imparted it to king Ikshvaku.

2. The saintly kings who received it by tradition knew it, but in the course of time it was lost , O Parantapa

3. The same yoga of antiquity I shall teach you today. Since you are not only my devotee but also a dear friend of mine, I shall reveal to you this great mystery.

4. Said Arjuna, You are born in the recent times. Vivasvata was born in the antiquity. How am to believe that you taught it Vivasvata of ancient times?

5. Replied Lord Supreme, Many births of mine have passed away, so were yours. I am aware of all those births, but O Parantapa, you are not aware of them.

6. Although I am unborn and inexhaustible, and although I am the Lord of all beings, keeping nature under My control, I manifest Myself by My own self induced illusion.

7. Whenever and wherever there is decline of dharma (righteousness) and ascendance of adharma (unrighteousness), at that time I manifest Myself in visible form.

8. For the protection of the righteous and destruction of the wicked, and for the sake of establishing dharma again, I incarnate Myself on earth from time to time.

9. He who knows correctly the truth of My divine birth and actions, on leaving his body, would never take birth again. He would certainly come to Me.

10.  Freed from lust, fear and anger, fully absorbed in Me and having taken refuge in Me, many men, purified by knowledge and penance, attained My Consciousness.

11. In whatever way men approach Me and surrender to Me, I reward them accordingly. O Partha, people follow My path from all directions.

12. Those who want to succeed in their actions worship gods. Indeed in this world success is achieved quickly through (binding) actions.

13. According to the division of gunas and actions, the fourfold division of castes was created by Me. Although I am the creator of this fourfold division, do know that I am the inexhaustible non-doer.

14. Actions do not touch Me, nor have I any desire for the fruit of My actions. He who knows me thus is never bound to his works.

15. Thus knowing, the ancient seekers of salvation performed their actions and attained salvation. Therefore you also should perform your actions in the same manner as the ancients did in the remote past.

16. Even the learned men are confused about the meaning of action and inaction. This difference now I will explain to you, by knowing which you will be liberated from this unfortunate situation.

17. Certainly one should have a clear knowledge of what is action, what is inaction and what is wrong action, for mysterious are the ways of action.

18. He who sees action in inaction and inaction in action, is wise among all men. He is the accomplished yogi who has succeeded in performing actions.

19. He whose all undertakings are devoid of desires, whose actions are burnt in the fire of knowledge, he is declared as a scholar by the wise.

20. Renouncing all attachment to the fruits of his actions, ever satisfied, without seeking shelter or protection, depending upon nothing, he certainly does nothing though he is engaged in actions.

21. Without any desire or expectation, mind and self under control, giving up all possessions, using the body solely for bodily functions, he incurs no sin.

22. Happy and contended with whatever he has obtained unintentionally, free from jealousy and the sense of duality, equal in both success and failure, he is not bound by his actions, although he is engaged in actions.

23. He who is free from attachment, who is liberated, whose mind is established in knowledge, whose actions are but actions of sacrifice only, his actions are completely dissolved.

24. His offering is Brahman, his oblation is Brahman, his sacrificial fire is Brahman, the sacrificer is Brahman. He certainly attains Brahman who finds Brahman situated in all activities.

25. Some offer sacrifices to gods by performing yajnas, while the mystics worship the Supreme Brahman perfectly by offering the self as sacrifice in the fire of Brahman.

26. Some offer their senses such as hearing in the fire of self-restraint, others offer words mantras) and similar objects of the sense in the fire of the senses.

27. Others in order to achieve supreme wisdom, through control of the mind and the senses, offer the functions of their senses and of the life breath as objects of sacrifice in the fire of yoga called self-control that is illuminated by wisdom.

28. Some perform sacrifice with materials, some with austerity, some with yoga (like hatha yoga, raja yoga, etc.), some with the study of the Vedas, some with knowledge and some by taking strict vows.

29. Some yogis offer outward breath into inward breath, others inward into outward breath. Some controlling the movement of their breathing practice pranayam (breath control).

30. Others by restricting the intake of food, sacrifice their very vital breath into the life breath. All these are well informed in the art of sacrifice and have purified themselves of all sin by such acts of sacrifice.

31. He who partake the life nourishing food of such sacrifices attain the eternal state of Brahman. O Superior among the Kurus, never is this world (fit) for him who does not perform sacrifice. How can be the other world ?

32. Thus all these various forms of sacrifice sprang forth from the face of the Brahmanas (parts of the Vedas). Know them all to have originated from karma only. Knowing thus you will attain salvation.

33. O Chastiser of enemies, performing gnana yajna (sacrifice in the form of knowledge) is better than dravya yajna (sacrifice with materials). O Partha, all actions ultimately end in knowledge only.

34. Acquire that knowledge of sacrifices, by approaching a learned person, by making humble enquiries and by serving him. These self-realized souls can initiate you into this knowledge because they have seen the truth.

35. By knowing this you are never again drawn into illusion, O Pandava for by gaining that knowledge you begin to see all creatures in your self and also in Me.

36. Even if you are the most sinful of all the sinners in the world, by the raft of divine knowledge, you can cross this ocean of miseries.

37. Just as fire burns the wood into ashes, O Arjuna, the fire of divine knowledge burns all actions into ashes.

38. There is nothing in this world more sacred than the Divine knowledge. Whoever personally achieves success in this yoga (of Divine knowledge) realizes this truth in his self in due course of time.

39. A sincere aspirant who is interested in Divine knowledge and is in control of his senses gains such knowledge and having gained knowledge very soon attains supreme peace.

40. But the ignorant, the insincere and the doubting soul perishes. For the skeptic, there is no happiness either here or hereafter.

41. O Dhananjaya, he who renounces all the fruits of his actions through karmayoga and who overcomes all his doubts through the yoga of knowledge, such a self-absorbed soul is never bound by any action.

42. Therefore with the weapon of self, dispel this doubt that is born in your heart because of ignorance and establishing yourself in the yoga (of renunciation of action with knowledge), stand and fight O Bharata.

Thus ends the fourth chapter named The Yoga of Renunciation of Action with Right knowledge in the Upanishad of the divine Bhagavad-Gita, the knowledge of the Absolute, the yogic scripture, and the debate between Arjuna and Lord Krishna.

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