Here is the opening passage from this chapter, we will post others throughout the next two weeks.  Feel free to post other translations for comparison.   Please add your questions and comments.


“This exhaustless doctrine of Yoga I formerly taught unto Vivasvat; Vivasvat communicated it to Manu and Manu made it known unto Ikshvaku; and being thus transmitted from one unto another it was studied by the Rajarshis, until at length in the course of time the mighty art was lost, O harasser of thy foes! It is even the same exhaustless, secret, eternal doctrine I have this day communicated unto thee because thou art my devotee and my friend.”

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“Both I and thou have passed through many births, O harasser of thy foes! Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine.

“Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature — which is mine — I am born but through my own maya5, the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind.6 I produce myself among creatures, O son of Bharata, whenever there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness. Whoever, O Arjuna, knoweth my divine birth and actions to be even so doth not upon quitting his mortal frame enter into another, for he entereth into me. Many who were free from craving, fear, and anger, filled with my spirit, and who depended upon me, having been purified by the ascetic fire of knowledge, have entered into my being. In whatever way men approach me, in that way do I assist them; but whatever the path taken by mankind, that path is mine, O son of Pritha. Those who wish for success to their works in this life sacrifice to the gods; and in this world success from their actions soon corneth to pass.


The Key to Theosophy group has been talking about post -mortem states and the reasons why the personal mind cannot remember its past lives.


This passage points to the unceasing efforts of the Mahatmas to assist in the evolution of humanity.

"In whatever way men approach me, in that way do I assist them; but whatever the path taken by mankind, that path is mine, O son of Pritha."


What is Devotion and Sacrifice?  Who is devoted and who sacrifices?  All of our text and scriptures inform us that the Self is actionless, the Self; "That thou art."

How can we understand the true meanings of Devotion and Sacrifice?  When we set out to perform puja, or make the commitment to sacrifice something, what are we really doing?

To me this discourse (IV) expounds that the most worthy sacrifice is Self-surrender.  Bhavani Shankar writes that this is the surest way to Moksha .


These are very good questions.  We have to start where we are at I think.  We have the experience of feeling separate from the One Self, disconnected from our higher nature.  So your questions point to the challenge of repairing this situation.  We know repairing process to be the Path, not just for any one of us, but for humanity as a whole.

Do you think that sacrifice and devotion have ever deepening meanings as we move along this path? Like a friendship that deepens over time or respect for a parent as one grows older?

What role does spiritual knowledge play in devotion?


I believe so Gerry. I think the more we question and dig deep into areas where we don't want to, our understanding of our relationships, other people, the Path, and the One Life deepens until its lost sight of completely. 

[IV.37.] " As kindled fire reduces all fuel to ashes, O Arjuna, so does wisdom-fire reduce all actions to ashes."

When one can truly accept grief to be equal with love, pleasure with pain, then I feel devotion is correctly understood. Duality is a brilliant concept, because as soon as unity in diversity is perceived, "outside and inside", the sight of the seer, seen, and seeing all vanish, a wickedly profound subject to meditate upon. 

IV.24; " Brahman is the offering, Brahman the oblation; by Brahman is the oblation poured into the fire of Brahman; Brahman verily shall be reached by him who always sees Brahman in action."


It does seem natural that the more we understand something the more we appreciate it.  Say like a great piece of art or a great musical composition which grows on us as we contemplate it.  Devotion and Knowledge seem to be two wings of the bird so to speak, each one supporting the other, neither one able to soar without the other.  Devotion without knowledge leads to zealotry, knowledge without devotion leads to pride.


"Devotion without knowledge leads to zealotry, knowledge without devotion leads to pride."

This is an accurate observation.  We see so much zealotry all around us;  the followers have a good intent but misled by their own ideals and ignorance.  Those who possess dry knowledge pride themselves on their intelligence but lacks the depth.  It is a matter of bringing the mind and heart together. 


How might we guard against this in ourselves?


I think, in addition to studying, we need to practice.  Theory and practice have to go hand in hand.  A teacher I know used to ask the students everyday,  how much efforts have you put into your spiritual work each day.  The expectation is that the students choose one aspect of the teachings to work on everyday.   It is easy to just go with the flow but spiritual discipline requires intentional efforts as we overcome our lower selves.  There should not be a day that goes by without specific efforts of implementation. 

Studying is fine but, devoid of practice, it only looks good on paper.  Practice is fine but, devoid of study,  we would not understand the experiences.  When we have both theory and practice, only then will our lives become living truths. 


Wise words, Barbara - words that we all need to take to heart.


Hello Barbara,

Pardon my sectarian statement, but to this post I say, "AMEN"

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 12, 2014 at 1:46pm

Excellent points you make here my dear.  It is through the attempt to practice an idea we come discover how well we know it and what we need to study next.  The study and the practice are two sides of the same coin and support each other.  I often wonder if the spread of theosophy has been slowed because of our unwillingness or inability to practice what we study.  It is a humbling thought.

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on March 13, 2014 at 8:58am

Practice is truly essential, otherwise truth is left intellectualized and does find expression in our lives. Study is essential for laying the foundation for greater and more expansive experiences and potentials.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 21, 2014 at 9:54am

An example of what you say here Barbaram is perhaps best put in a question.  How can we see ourselves as immortal souls if we are not making an effort to see our fellow man as immortal souls too?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on March 21, 2014 at 8:06pm

This is the most beautiful way of putting it -

Lift thy head, oh Lanoo; dost thou see one, or countless lights above thee, burning in the dark midnight sky?

I sense one Flame, oh Gurudeva, I see countless undetached sparks shining in it.

Thou sayest well. And now look around and into thyself. That light which burns inside thee, dost thou feel it different    in anywise from the light that shines in thy Brother-men?

It is in no way different, though the prisoner is held in bondage by Karma, and though its outer garments delude the ignorant into saying, 'Thy Soul and My Soul.'

Permalink Reply by Larry Leon Lynch on March 10, 2014 at 1:15pm

"What role does spiritual knowledge play in devotion?"

Spirituality is defined as "…the power of perceiving formless spiritual essences" (Aquarian Axioms, compiled by H.P. Blavatsky -  ).  Even a brief initial experience of divine essence can and usually does inspire us to sincere devotion to our chosen practice, and/or to that which caused the experience.  

"Devotion without knowledge leads to zealotry, knowledge without devotion leads to Pride."

We might add: devotion to both zealotry and pride can, and often does lead to the psychiatric ward!"  Our teachers strongly advise; moderation, easy does it, slow and steady wins the race, etc., etc.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 18, 2014 at 9:52pm

Kristan please explain how someone might come to see grief equal with love?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on March 19, 2014 at 9:59am

Like a desperate, endless trek through the desert to reach a glorious oasis, we cling to every shred of hope that some day we'll basque and revel in the life giving waters.  Wanting and desiring with all our hearts to reach this mysterious, receding spring, we fool ourselves into thinking it is our salvation.  We've unknowingly become attached to this illusion, this mirage, a love we've longed to reach, and collapse in despair when it furthers from our progressing steps.  

Attachment and desire to anything is the cause of endless conditioning such as; misery, love, pleasure, pain, sorrow, joy and etc.  Our ideas of love are akin to what possession is to objects.  Ideally, we may think it goes deeper, however, once again, if contrast is present, we deny absolute love which actually isn't love the way we know it to be, but more like total unmodified love, Compassion.

As if our love were to be widely diffused, a deep resignation, surrendering to life, giving up all for ALL. This is what is meant when we come to see grief equal with love.  Its not by denial, but embracing, obviously. Think about it,what loves? Is it the same thing that hates?

G.III.33-43 goes deeper into this.  Time to rethink and re-write what "human nature" means... Personally I think its quite outdated and self-defeatist. 




Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 19, 2014 at 1:43pm

I wonder if Krishna is not so much saying grief and love are equal, because that sounds a little be nonsensical, but rather that the Sage rises above being thrown off balance by either grief or love?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on March 19, 2014 at 3:06pm

Grace, who, and more importantly what is perceiving the emotion?  And then what attaches itself to the perception?  Who "owns and experiences" this emotion?

I'm not quite sure how "nonsensical" this may be, the equality of two emotions.  Essentially, what is love and grief? Think about it...

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on March 22, 2014 at 11:42am

Let us think about what was said regarding the Sage 

".... but rather that the Sage rises above being thrown off balance by either grief or love? 

It is to my understanding that the sage does not in fact "rise above" anything what so ever, but rather "stoops to conquer," resigns and 'gives in', ultimately gaining a deeper understanding of the system by igniting the sacrificial fire and offering the self.  Again, not by being removed or going "above" does this happen, but by being so saturated and invested, and at the same time establishing a strong and firm center of awareness of "That I am" does the devotee become the sage.

By becoming absolutely conscious of the body, mind, and intellect, and endlessly studying the behavior, the devotee establishes a stronger awareness of the inner working of the five kosas within the three Upadhis.  How is the devotee to gain knowledge if the object of efforts is to raise above something, to neglect it, or even ignore it?  This sounds awfully like avoidance and separation, which isn't liberation at all.  The only reason why I feel that this is of great importance is because this happens to be the very view that the Bhagavan Krishna supports, and which is found though out all Upanisads, and is expounded by every single Acharya of Advaita Vedanta I've read, listened, and talked to.   It is not about "leaving" or "rising above" for there is nothing to rise to!  It is by a deep understanding of the complex natures of the human being that the devotee can properly perform self contemplation and discrimination which ultimately leads knowledge and Wisdom.  The life of a Sage- total equilibrium.

I will list just a few references that may help us to understand this equality of love, grief, joy, pain, misery, desire, and etc..  If you please, you may consider the bhasya of Sankaracharya (his commentary on the listed below);

Mandukya Upanisad: Vaitathya- Prakarna; II: 12-18, 31-38 
Mandukya Upanisad: Advaita- Prakarna; III: 5-11.
Gita V. 18, XIII.27
Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, II.V.1-14

For instance, when we set out to live the Gita, we first need to understand "what I am"- as explained in depth throughout chapter two.  Its a highly personal topic and requires a lot of attention on the part of the individual.  The next time there is the slightest desire or urge to get something, say, a cup of tea/coffee in the morning, pause and watch that feeling only.  Where does this desire or want for the tea arise?  Conditioning perhaps, but it is that conditioning due to an emotional response (pleasure) that the tea alone holds, nothing more!  Without the tea we may grow agitated, another emotional response.  We can observe ourselves thinking about a loved one, or a special moment in our lives, in our memory, and again, due to the memory only, our emotions are changed, constant fluctuation- samsara.  So essentially, all emotion is absolutely the same, no matter the name we assign to it, these emotion are only dependent on external sense objects, and memory, nothing else.  This is again presented in depth within the past 2 chapters. 

However there is Compassion and Altruism, which are not at all dependent on any internal (memory) and external (sense objects) stimulus, but arise, as it were, naturally as if it were the very expression of the Self... as far as we can perceive.  

I hope you all may receive this as being truthful, respectful and sincere.  This idea alone (equality of emotions) is of grave importance, it is found on the first page of Light on the path, and within the first book of Voice of the Silence, Patanjali's Yogs Sutras, and throughout Sankaracharys Vivekchumundi.  The Bhagavad- Gita is an extremely powerful scripture, and to my understanding, it is quite difficult to read alone apart of Upanisads and Brahma-Sutras, for they are intimately connected.  This is my personal opinion, and I do not expect others to hold to the same view. 

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 23, 2014 at 7:31am

Kristan - many thanks for your thoughtful and sincere views, as well as the references. Very interesting.

It's also possible to look at it from a slightly different perspective, namely, that it is not so much that all feelings and emotions are equal to each other but that it is theattitude towards them which needs to be equal. This would link in with the definition of yoga that Krishna outlines to Arjuna in Chapter 2 , i.e. that it involves even-mindedness towards the results of actions. (Ch. 2: 48. 49, 50, 51 etc)

Of course, if we really had that that steadfastness in karma-yoga and had evenness of mind towards everything, or if we had the direct realisation of the Sage of "That am I', then we would not experience all these emotional ups and downs in the first place.  The fact that we do is an indication of our, as yet, unenlightened state.

For the Advaita Sage who is a Jnani, or Jivanmukti, he knows the highest truth that "There is no dissolution, no origination, none in bondage, none striving for salvation, non liberated." (Mandukya Upanisad: Vaitathya- Prakarna; II: 32).  In other words the Jnani realises that our true nature is the Atman which has no beginning, no end and which has never been in bondage so therefore does not require liberation.    From the perspective of the Atman-Brahman, which is the All, there is no 'other' to seek, to love, or to grieve over.

The non-jnani is not yet realised, so s/he does need to take steps to remove the ignorance which clouds the true state of Being.  For the non-jnani the variety of different feelings and emotions are not equal and, perhaps, should not be.   Feelings that increase our identification with the body-mind, which support our sense of selfishness and separateness from others, our grasping after objects of desire, our unhappiness when these are not fulfilled & so on are not conducive to the spiritual path.  These need to be reduced and then eradicated. Feelings which tendtowards transcending our sense of separateness from others, such as friendliness, good will and love towards others, charity, patience, equanimity & so on - such feelings are conducive to the spiritual path.  These need to be developed.  

We find some of these positive feelings and attitudes mentioned among the paramitas listed in Fragment 3 of The Voice of the Silence.  Likewise, In Patanjalis Yoga, even though all the Vrittis must be stilled before the Seer rests in 'his' own nature, we find listed among the Vrittis those which are conducive towards discriminative enlightenment (Viveka-Khyāti) and those which are not (see 1:5). 

So, perhaps it depends on which perspective we look at these things - that of the Jnani or that of the non-jnani; the absolute truth or relative truth.

Just some thoughts.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 23, 2014 at 4:06pm

There is a point where one can become over-conscious I believe.  If we 'over' focus on our behavior we pin the mind onto one level.  To see 'ourself' from another level is only possible, again I believe, when one has gained sufficient critical distance through meditation on those things beyond the personality.  This is why we are taught to combine meditation and self-study for balance.  Mediation without self-study leads to the "space cadet syndrome" which is a common problem amongst the enlightenment over night crowd in the new age movement.  When faced with the reality of their false identification (standing on the edge of a tall building perhaps would do it) they don't experience the fearlessness they thought they had.

Self-study without meditation on the other hand leads to hyper self-consciousness and imbalance.  It is just another form of selfishness to be examining oneself constantly to see "how one is doing." It is like pulling a seedling out of the ground constantly to see how much the roots have  grown.  This is harmful to the plant.

The higher carelessness that Mr. Judge talks about combines these two practices in the right blend.

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Permalink Reply by barbaram on March 23, 2014 at 5:22pm

Hi Kristan:

I wonder if the difference in the term “rising above” and your idea of “stoops to conquer” is a just matter of semantics. 

I think a deeper understanding is demanded before any “rising above” could occur.  We all have experience that something could bother us but, year later the same situation would have no effect on us.  This change is a result of “rising above” our own limitation.  For example, when I was young, I was critical of those who hold materialistic values around me but now I understand the reasons behind their perspective and see they are captives of their own karma and conditioning.  Thus, I do not react the same way as I did decades ago.   

The "rising above", some called it ‘transcendence’ is not based on avoidance or separating oneself from others, but a natural result of the ability of seeing through the veils of illusion.  There are many levels of refinement required before “That I Am” can be realized and every awakening deepens our understanding and lifts us out of our own illusion.   

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on March 24, 2014 at 11:59am


I agree, however, I believe all of it is a matter of semantics. "Rising above," "transcending" even as I have said, "stooping to conquer." How are we to add an action to "attain" All pervasive consciousness? We can not at all, for It is All. It is not attainable, It cannot be risen to. This is the idea. While "stooping to conquer" suggests a means of residing, or rather seeing the divinity in all stages of consciousness. I think an expression like "rising above" portrays a locality to be achieved. Stooping to conquer was the best expression I could think of to portray this idea. Many hospice volunteers say how painful it is trying to see a person "rise above" death. Many times they struggle and die fighting this natural event of life. Those on the other hand, who "stoop to conquer" accept this event, except death, and pass peacefully.

The key words are; acceptance, resignation, and self-surrender. Personally "rising above" and even "transcending" do not portray these ideas.

Again, we can see this echo in meditation. It has been said we dont meditate, meditation occurs naturally when the mind has  ceased. By trying and aiming for a goal, we automatically become to "do-er" which is what Krishna is telling Arjuna not to identify with in chapter 3.

To me, "rising above" is too active, too abrasive, and misleading. It sound a lot like trying to stand on your own shoulders.  Eventually, according to the Gita as well as The Upanisads, there is even a point where total surrender is needed, where the idea of "rising above" must be extinguished or, will most defiantly stunt the spiritual growth, and continue to feed the ego, the sense of doership.  This is explained in a wonderful book by an amazing person, Bhavani Shankar's "Doctrine of the Gita." 

I know these are only words, however, it is my personal experience that when I gave up thinking I needed to "rise above" by the idea of "stooping to conquer," there was a deeper understanding to human nature and the intimate relation to the cosmos, a shift as it were, in my perspective. This is my personal experience, I'm sure there are many way of looking at it, however, "stooping to conquer" seems to be best fitting. But hey, whatever works works.

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on March 5, 2014 at 4:02pm

How do these  two ideas interact with each other?  If I give myself over to something must I give something up?  If I love something with all my heart what must I sacrifice?  Is sacrifice possible without devotion?  Is sacrifice inherently selfless?  Is sacrifice compassion in action?

Permalink Reply by Kristan Stratos on March 5, 2014 at 5:23pm

What Krishna is telling Arjuna, is to make the ultimate sacrifice by sacrificing the self by the Self.  Giving up the self- individuality, the identity of "I am the doer, I am (whatever)"-to the One Self of All.

If I give myself over to something must I give something up?
Yes.  This is the idea.  In this question is the answer alone. 

If I love something with all my heart what must I sacrifice?
The attachment to love itself.

Is sacrifice possible without devotion? 
They are one in the same, essentially. 

Is sacrifice inherently selfless?
No.  I would have to say that motive colors every single thought and action, including spiritual study and practices.  Sacrifice has most defiantly been used for selfish motives and proved to yeld very powerful results, hence Black Magic.

Is sacrifice compassion in action?
Compassion is a Universal Law.  Without that, there would be nothing.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 7, 2014 at 10:28pm

So the essential sacrifice is the lower self to the higher self.  Is this possible without love or devotion?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 7, 2014 at 10:44pm

If I give myself over to something must I give something up?
Yes.  This is the idea.  In this question is the answer alone. 

From Tuesday's quote for this week:

"This is the true end set before the soul, to take that light, to see the Supreme by the Supreme and not by the light of any other principle — but how is this accomplished? Cut away everything."   


Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on March 23, 2014 at 3:47pm

Thinking about my own question it seems to me that if in meditation we are attempting to lift our consciousness out of the mundane concerns of daily life we are performing a sacrifice.  We are pushing out of our minds the demand of the personality and meditating on things universal and eternal and what must be sacrificed to make this happen are our personal desires and concerns.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 7, 2014 at 3:27pm

From the Rendition of Charles Johnson

Many are My past births and thine also, Arjuna; I know them all, but thou 
knowest them not, O consumer of the foe. (5)
Though I am the Unborn, the Soul that passes not away, though I am the lord 
of beings, yet as lord over My nature I become manifest, through the magical 
power of the Soul.
For whenever there is a withering of the Law, O son of Bharata, and an 
uprising of lawlessness on all sides, then I manifest Myself.
For the salvation of the righteous, and the destruction of such as do evil; for the 
firm establishing of the Law I come to birth in age after age.
He who thus perceives My birth and work as divine, as in truth it is, leaving the 
body, he goes not to rebirth; he goes to Me, Arjuna.
Rid of rage and fear and wrath, become like Me, taking refuge in Me, many 
made pure by the fire of wisdom have entered My being. (10)
In whatever way men approach Me, in that way I love them; in all ways the 
sons of man follow My way, O son of Pritha.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 7, 2014 at 10:10pm

This succession from Vivaswat to  Ikshvaku reminds one of the concept of the Guruparampara chain.

The transmission of the Secret Wisdom from Teacher to Teacher through the ages

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 8, 2014 at 8:29am

Krishna refers to a number of types of sacrifice, as offerings, in this chapter: oblations in the ritual fire; oblations to the devas; oblations of the senses through restraint; oblation of all actions in the fire of knowledge; oblations of wealth, austerity, yoga, scriptural study; oblations of the pranas.  Krishna sums them up by saying:

32. Thus many kinds of sacrifice are strewn through the pages of the Vedasl know them all to be born of action, and you will be free.

33. The Knowledge sacrifice is superior to all material sacrifices, O scorcher of foes; for all works, without exception, culminate in Knowledge.

38.  Verily, there exists no purifier on earth equal to Knowledge.  A man who becomes perfect in yoga finds it within himself in course of time.

What, then, is the Knowledge Sacrifice that all others eventually lead to?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on March 8, 2014 at 9:12pm

"What, then, is the Knowledge Sacrifice that all others eventually lead to?"

all true knowledge lead to SELF and  in theosophical terms, to  Atma-buddhi.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 8, 2014 at 10:50pm

Is a sacrifice this grand really composed of thousands of little sacrifices?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 9, 2014 at 4:39am

I wonder if, though small, they may yet build up a momentum within the psyche that at some point burst forth in a more 'grand' way at some stage.

Or, another way to look at it is that each small step - and their maybe thousands of them - leads towards a final goal.

Permalink Reply by barbaram on March 9, 2014 at 9:03am

Sacrifice often means giving up something we cherish.  In many situations,  some look at it as sacrifice while others look at it as duty.  One term Krishnamurti used that stuck in my mind, and he called it - the choiceless choice.  To me it means at certain point,  there is no choice, but one and, that is - to follow the SELF. 

Permalink Reply by Ryan Hauck on March 13, 2014 at 9:02am

An interesting analogy of sacrifice arouse in my mind before. Moving through this life is like moving through a forest, having burrs attaching themselves to our fur coat (body mind). We can choose to remove each burr individually, or choose to take off the jacket.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 8, 2014 at 10:58pm

What is the sanskrit term used in the Gita?  What is its  etymology?

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 9, 2014 at 9:20am

Gerry, are you asking what is the sanskrit term for 'sacrifice' used in the Gita?  

If so, the term is yajna, which I believe comes from the root yaj.  Apparently the root word has three meanings namely: to give (offering), union, and worship of deity or deities.  We see these meanings come together in the Vedic rituals where an offering (oblation) of some kind  (e.g. butter melted in the fire) is made to one or more of the deities (devas).  An offering may be made with the aim of receiving something in return or giving thanks for what has already been received.  

We see a reference to the Vedic ritual in verse 4:24, but as seen from the perspective of one endowed with Wisdom:

4:24  To him Brahman is the offering and Brahman is the oblation, and it is Brahman who offers the oblation in the fire of Brahman.  Brahman alone is attained by him who thus sees Brahman in action.

Krishna virtually repeats the above in Chapter 9 verse 16, this time from His own perspective:

9:16  I am the sacrifice, I am the worship, I am the oblation to the manes, and I am the cereal.  I am the hymn, I am the melted butter, I am the fire, and I am the offering.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 12, 2014 at 2:20pm

Thank you kindly for this Peter.  Yes that was exactly what I was looking for.

You get the impression that term in Sanskrit "Yajna" has a close connection with ceremonial religious offerings and "sacrifices".  It is fascinating that Krishna is within each of the elements of the ceremony.

I have always loved the passage paraphrased badly by me here: "He is also my devotee who offers a leaf, a flower or fruit with a pure heart."   It has a Little Drummer Boy ring to it.

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 12, 2014 at 5:03pm

It makes sense that yajna would have that connection with the sacrifices in the Vedas, Gerry, given the context or tradition out of which the Gita emerged.   I believe that the earliest references to the term 'Karma' come from the Rigveda, in which it referred solely to ritual and obligatory actions.  However, in the verses we've studied so far we've seen Krishna give a deeper and broader meaning to these two terms.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 18, 2014 at 10:01pm

And a spiritual ceremony would, one assumes,  have something to do with sanctifying something.  How do we bring a little bit of sanctity to our every day affairs?

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 8, 2014 at 10:46pm

Continuing on in the Judge rendition

“Mankind was created by me of four castes distinct in their principles and in their duties according to the natural distribution of the actions and qualities. 7 Know me, then, although changeless and not acting, to be the author of this. Actions affect me not, nor have I any expectations from the fruits of actions. He who comprehendeth me to be thus is not held by the bonds of action to rebirth. The ancients who longed for eternal salvation, having discovered this, still performed works. Wherefore perform thou works even as they were performed by the ancients in former times."

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 11, 2014 at 11:56am

Further in the Judge rendition:

“Even sages have been deluded as to what is action and what inaction; therefore I shall explain to thee what is action by a knowledge of which thou shalt be liberated from evil. One must learn well what is action to be performed, what is not to be, and what is inaction. The path of action is obscure. That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a true devotee and a perfect performer of all action."


Permalink Reply by Peter on March 12, 2014 at 4:30pm

“That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a true devotee and a perfect performer of all action." (Judge)

The second part of the above verse has different translations which fall mainly into two camps. A number of translations are similar to Judge’s rendering along the lines of:

“…he is wise among men, he is devout, he is the performer of all action.”

Other translations give another slant to it:

“He who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, he is wise among men he is a yogi and he has performed all action.” (Radhakrishnan gives this last part as “he has accomplished all his work.”)

Nikhilananda summarises Sankara’s lengthy commentary on this verse as follows:

       ‘Action and inaction are not rightly understood; the one is mistaken for the other. Sri Krishna intends to remove this mistake. The real Self of man is actionless. Action pertains to the physical body, the senses and the mind. But an un-illumined, or ignorant, person falsely attributes action to the Self and says to himself, “I am the doer, mine is the action, by me will the fruit of action be reaped.” Similarly, he falsely imputes to the Self the cessation of activity, which really pertains to the body and the senses, as also the happiness that results from such cessation; he says to himself: “I shall be quiet that I may be free from work and worry and be happy. I am quiet now; I am happy.”
        ‘Through right knowledge a man sees inaction in action; he sees that action commonly associated with the Self really belongs to the body, and that the Self is actionless. Likewise a man with right knowledge sees action in inaction; he knows that inaction is also a kind of action. Inaction is a correlative of action and belongs to the body. The Self is beyond action and inaction.
        ‘He who knows the meaning of action and inaction as expounded above is wise among men; he is a yogi. He does all action without being bound; he is free from the evil results of action. He has achieved everything.’

Sankara's and Nikhilananda's reference to the wrong view that Krishna is seeking to correct first came in Chapter Three when He says to Arjuna:

3:27 All work is performed by the gunas of Prakriti. But he whose mind is deluded by egotism thinks, “I am the doer.”

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 18, 2014 at 9:58pm

You would presume that Sages are privy to this  teaching. You would presume that a sage has reached some level of enlightenment.  So why is it that even Sages have trouble with the teaching to what is action and what is inaction?

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 19, 2014 at 3:26am

Good point, Gerry. It does seem odd to read in verse 4:16 that even “the sage” is confused as to what is action and what is inaction  (karma and akarma).  Especially when a few verses later we read that the “wise man” does indeed understand action and inaction.  Perhaps there is a question as to the translation of 'sage' in this verse?  The sanskrit term in the verse is kavayah, which it appears can be translated as ‘the learned’, ‘the intelligent’, ‘the scholarly’, as well as ‘learned sage’ etc  (see 

Gambhirananda translates this as “Even the intelligent are confounded...", while Swami Dayananda uses the term “scholarly”.

Nikhilananda and Swami Chinmayananda translate it “even the wise” and save the term “sage” for the later verse:

4:19 He whose undertakings are all free from desires and self-will, and whose works are consumed in the fire of Knowledge – he, by the wise, is called a sage.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 21, 2014 at 9:57am

The S. Radhakrishnan translation uses the term "the wise" in the translation of the same passage.  I think the bottom line is the distinction is very difficult and subtle for all but the most enlightened.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 12, 2014 at 6:02pm

Next section:

“Those who have spiritual discrimination call him wise whose undertakings are all free from desire, for his actions are consumed in the fire of knowledge. He abandoneth the desire to see a reward for his actions, is free, contented, and upon nothing dependeth, and although engaged in action he really doeth nothing; he is not solicitous of results, with mind and body subdued and being above enjoyment from objects, doing with the body alone the acts of the body, he does not subject himself to rebirth. He is contented with whatever he receives fortuitously, is free from the influence of the ‘pairs of opposites’ and from envy, the same in success and failure; even though he act he is not bound by the bonds of action. All the actions of such a man who is free from self-interest, who is devoted, with heart set upon spiritual knowledge, and whose acts are sacrifices for the sake of the Supreme, are dissolved and left without effect on him. The Supreme Spirit is the act of offering, the Supreme Spirit is the sacrificial butter offered in the fire which is the Supreme Spirit, and unto the Supreme Spirit goeth he who maketh the Supreme Spirit the object of his meditation in performing his actions.


Permalink Reply by Peter on March 14, 2014 at 6:16am

There is a great deal in this Chapter Four which appears to repeat what Krishna taught in Chapter Three, for example - karma and the right attitude to it, renunciation of the fruit of actions, the nature of the  Self which is beyond action and inaction & so on.  What is it, specifically, that Krishna wants Arjuna to learn from this section of His teaching?

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 18, 2014 at 10:08pm

This is an interesting question.  One thing that Chapter four seems to emphasize that was not as prominent in Chapter Three is the lineage of the teaching.  Krishna wants us to know that this teaching is nothing new.  It has been passed on from generation to generation in a long guru parampara chain.  He is speaking of the Secret Doctrine here, I believe, the Perennial Philosophy.

Perhaps other students would like to address this question.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 21, 2014 at 10:00am

Broadly speaking we might say that "Right Performance of Action" chapter 3 requires "Spiritual Knowledge" chapter 4.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 16, 2014 at 12:13pm

“Some devotees give sacrifice to the Gods, while others, lighting the subtler fire of the Supreme Spirit, offer up themselves; still others make sacrifice with the senses, beginning with hearing, in the fire of self-restraint, and some give up all sense-delighting sounds, and others again, illuminated by spiritual knowledge, sacrifice all the functions of the senses and vitality in the fire of devotion through self-constraint. There are also those who perform sacrifice by wealth given in alms, by mortification, by devotion, and by silent study. Some sacrifice the up-breathing in the down-breathing and the down-breathing in the up-breathing by blocking up the channels of inspiration and expiration; and others by stopping the movements of both the life breaths; still others by abstaining from food sacrifice life in their life.


Permalink Reply by Peter on March 19, 2014 at 1:48pm

Judge's rendition above comprises verses 24 to 31 of Chapter Four.  

Bhavani Shankar, a chela of the Mahatma KH, comments on the verses above which outline many types of sacrifice.  He writes:

‘Then comes verse 32, which runs:

“Thus manifold sacrifices are revealed at the mouth of Brahman; know them all as born of action. Thus knowing, thou shalt be liberated.”

This verse in one word points out the crucial difference between wisdom-sacrifice and all the other sacrifices enumerated above. The latter, says Bhagavan, are all born of action, are of the not-self, because the Self is actionless, and if this actionless Self is realised, one becomes liberated. The transcendental superiority of wisdom sacrifice over all the sacrifices is dwelt upon and the reason for it is given in the 33rd verse:

“Superior is wisdom-sacrifice to the sacrifice with objects, O harasser of thy foes; all action without exception, O son of Pritha, is comprehended in wisdom.”

Wisdom-sacrifice transcends all sacrifices with objects, because all action is comprehended in wisdom, which comprehending all actions, transcends them all.’

(from ‘The Doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita’ by Bhavani Sankar, Chapter 7.)

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 21, 2014 at 10:02am

Your point Peter reminds me of the story of the Little Drummer Boy who has nothing to give Jesus but his heart.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 20, 2014 at 4:11pm

Next Paragraph:

“All these different kinds of worshipers are by their sacrifices purified from their sins; but they who partake of the perfection of spiritual knowledge arising from such sacrifices pass into the eternal Supreme Spirit. But for him who maketh no sacrifices there is no part nor lot in this world; how then shall he share in the other, O best of the Kurus?

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 23, 2014 at 8:36am

“All these different kinds of worshipers are by their sacrifices purified from their sins; but they who partake of the perfection of spiritual knowledge arising from such sacrifices pass into the eternal Supreme Spirit. But for him who maketh no sacrifices there is no part nor lot in this world; how then shall he share in the other, O best of the Kurus?  (Judge rendition)

Just prior to the above verses Krishna has given a list of sacrifices made by the devotee. Judge's rendition gives spiritual knowledge arising from such sacrifices.  The usual translation of these verses is different to Judge’s rendering and allows for a number of different meanings.  For example:

    4.30  Others, with regulated food, offer life-breaths in life-breaths.  All these are knowers of sacrifice, whose sins are destroyed by sacrifice.

    4.31  Eating of ambrosia, the remains of the sacrifice, they go to Eternal Brahman. This world is not for the non-sacrificer;  whence the other? – O best of Kurus.  (Trans., Abhinava)

This refers back to the ritual sacrifices prescribed in the Vedas where what “remains” is referred to as prasad.  An offering once made to the gods (devas) or the Divine becomes divinely invested and is given back or shared with the devotees.  Those who make no offering in the first place receive nothing back from the Divine and therefore cannot enter into the divine “world” (Brahma Loka?). We saw reference to this in Chapter Three:

    3.13  Good men who eat the leavings of the sacrifice are freed from every taint, but evil are they and evil do they who cook (only) for their own sakes.

Sankara states in relation to verse 4.31 that those who make sacrifice and eat of the remains in the prescribed manner go to Brahman in due course of time, not immediately. 

It’s also stated in the commentaries that what ‘remains’ can refer to mental state of the devotee.  Action carried out with even-ness of mind (Karma-Yoga) in the knowledge that everything is Brahman prepares the devotee for the Wisdom Sacrifice, i.e. the path leading to Wisdom, or Jnana.

  We probably need to view verses 24 to 31 - where the list of sacrifices is given - along with the next verses 4.32 and 4.33 in order to see the bigger picture being presented by Krishna to Arjuna

    4.32 Thus manifold sacrifices are revealed at the mouth of Brahman; know them all as born of action. Thus knowing, thou shalt be liberated.

As mentioned in our previous chapter, Bhavani Shankar, a chela of the Mahatma KH, comments on this verse as follows:

‘This verse in one word points out the crucial difference between wisdom-sacrifice and all the other sacrifices enumerated above. The latter, says Bhagavan, are all born of action, are of the not-self, because the Self is actionless, and if this actionless Self is realised, one becomes liberated. The transcendental superiority of wisdom sacrifice over all the sacrifices is dwelt upon and the reason for it is given in the 33rd verse:

    4.33: Superior is wisdom-sacrifice to the sacrifice with objects, O harasser of thy foes; all action without exception, O son of Pritha, is comprehended in wisdom.

Wisdom-sacrifice transcends all sacrifices with objects, because all action is comprehended in wisdom, which comprehending all actions, transcends them all.’

(from ‘The Doctrine of the Bhagavad Gita’ by Bhavani Sankar, Chapter 7.)

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on March 23, 2014 at 3:39pm

I wonder if wisdom sacrifice is the burning up of a separative sense of self and a realization of one's higher nature as one's true identity.  This would be the ultimate sacrifice, to give one's entire self to Bhagavan.  This no doubt happens gradually over time like a growing tree.  But one must make a start at some point.

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 25, 2014 at 2:59pm

We could also say that Knowledge ( 'illumination' ) destroys Ignorance, just as light 'destroys' the dark. 

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 20, 2014 at 4:14pm

What is it about the nature of spiritual knowledge that gives it a purifying quality?  What is the nature of the sacrifices Krishna is advocating to Arjuna?

Permalink Reply by Tamiko Yamada on March 23, 2014 at 3:35pm

Spiritual knowledge is purifying because it reveals the truth and transcends illusions.   Illusions are burnt away by the fire of spiritual knowledge.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 26, 2014 at 10:08am

Spiritual knowledge is purifying because it burns away the false sense of self which is the underlying problem and challenge of humanity and the source of so much suffering and pain.

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 24, 2014 at 10:12am

Just as a general 'by-the-way' on this study...

As we know, the Gita forms but a part of the epic story  'The Mahabharata' in the Hindu religious tradition.  It's teachings could be said to be universal on the one hand and also arise out of a specific context on the other. While students of Theosophy like myself and others tend to use the commentaries from the Advaita Vedanta tradition (e.g. Sankara) to help better understand the Gita, it's important to note that not all Hindus accept the advaita tradition's explanation of the Gita's teaching.  Many follow the Gita due to its strong Theistic theme (i.e. the worship of and devotion to 'Lord Krishna').   Hence, Sri Ramanuja's commentaries on the Gita, based on his more theistic perspective, sometimes referred to as qualified monism (Vishistadvaita Vedanta), provide different insights into many passages of the Gita than those of his rivals, the advaitees. 

More modern translations of the Gita by Radhakrishnan and by Zaehner give quite a reasonably comprehensive overview of the key commentaries (verse by verse) from the various traditions.  Zaehner believes that Ramanuja's commentary is more in keeping with the actual teachings found in the Gita.  

Radhakrishnan points out that the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahma Sutras together form the triple canon (prasthāna-traya) of the Vedanta tradition.  Therefore, teachers from the different schools of thought were obliged to demonstrate, through writing a commentary on these core texts, just where their own special doctrines could be consistently found in all three works of the canon.   The result is that each school of thought can justify its own doctrinal position based on the triple canon, even though they disagree between themselves on some fundamental doctrines.

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 24, 2014 at 11:30am

All these schools and all these commentaries are helpful to the student in a wide variety of ways. And it points to the infinite number of perspectives that are possible in a study such as this. But like the Secret Doctrine, as Peter has so convincingly has stated, the student needs to establish an original relationship with the Gita.  The Gita is so much more than a book or a collection of writings.  It is a doorway to Higher Manas and Buddhi. Gandhi called the Gita his Guru for this reason. And he would turn to it for practical advice on the matters of life.  I think if the student persists and continues to refine and purify one's mental posture the Gita, like other sacred texts derived from the enlightened, will open up and reveal itself more and more as time passes. It is the study of Sages we are told.

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 24, 2014 at 12:49pm

That's very well said, Gerry.  

We've touched on how the Gita is meant to appeal to different temperaments. It's also generally accepted by HIndus that the Gita provides, or seeks to provide, a synthesis for the different schools and competing doctrines within Hinduism that were around at that time.   While there were differences between these schools, the fact that they all had the Vedas and the Upanishads as a common base meant there were many elements and assumptions about the general doctrines they all had in common.  But there may be temperaments outside of that whole field, to whom the Gita does not speak. There might be people drawn to Buddhism, for example, for whom the Gita doesn't resonate at all, even though they might recognise the common teachings on Karma.

I'm just thinking out loud rather than looking to make a specific point.

Permalink Reply by Larry Leon Lynch on March 25, 2014 at 5:04pm

This is a little off of the topic, but in response to Peter’s post (…temperaments outside the whole field…), perhaps the following Buddhist perspective  might serve as an example of an alternate philosophy worthy of devotion:

“In the all encompassing space of the nature of mind, which is like a clear limitless sky,  a realization arises that enlightenment is naturally self existing within each one.  That thoughts are like clouds, just happening there, free”.  This is a perspective of Dzogchen, heart essence of Padmasambhava, that even welcomes chaos and neurosis as nourishment for Its indestructible sanity.  This seems similar in essence  to the practice of Devotion Through Spiritual Knowledge.

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 26, 2014 at 5:06am

What a wonderful passage, Larry.  

Yes, I don't doubt that spiritual paths outside the field of Hinduism, with it variety of different schools, have their own practice which would equate with Devotion Through Spiritual Knowledge.  I hope I didn't give that impression.   I was thinking only that the Gita with its specific doctrines based on the Upanishads may not appeal to all 'faiths' and temperaments.  That some people might not be inspired by it may not represent any lack of insight or devotion on their part.

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 26, 2014 at 10:11am

It has always been a mystery to me why some spiritual texts speak to a person while others do not.  No doubt there is a karmic reason. We are free to choose from amongst the rich heritage of humanity's accumulated wisdom that which speaks to us.

Permalink Reply by Larry Leon Lynch on March 26, 2014 at 10:43am

Thank you, Peter…

No, I didn’t get the impression that you had doubts about alternate devotional paths, in fact when you opened the door a little, I just took an opportunity to present  something of this particular school of Tibetan Buddhism.  I have found that even a cursory study of the Humanities/World Religions with their respective sacred texts can and usually does resolve many of the conflicts that arise from perceiving only the differences.  After all, we learn from our study of Theosophical Doctrines that all of the worlds religions have their source in Divine Wisdom (Theo-Sophia), hence the proclamation, “There is no religion higher than Truth”.  We are so very fortunate, during these times of chaos and confusion, to have access  to some of these priceless gems, limitless treasures, sacred sign-posts on the Path.

Now I’m just thinking out loud…and am guilty of trying to make a point.  :-)

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 26, 2014 at 2:24pm

Good point - sorry, good thinking out loud, Larry.  :-)

Replies to This Discussion

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 24, 2014 at 11:38am

From the last paragraph:

“All these sacrifices of so many kinds are displayed in the sight of God; know that they all spring from action, and, comprehending this, thou shalt obtain an eternal release. O harasser of thy foes, the sacrifice through spiritual knowledge is superior to sacrifice made with material things; every action without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge, O son of Pritha. Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error, O son of Bharata."

Permalink Reply by Gerry Kiffe on March 24, 2014 at 3:38pm

Concerning, rising above, stooping to conquer et. al..

I think it is important to reflect on the problem.   The lower mind, the personality has the keys to the kingdom.   The lower mind is calling the shots.  The lower mind dominated by desires, and false identification throws up  smoke screens about what is important and what is not. The lower mind is caught in a trap of conflicting desires and the resultant fragmentation leads to weakness of will.

In the second chapter of the Gita Krishna sets the bar very very high for what being a sage means:

“A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he forsaketh every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self. His mind is undisturbed in adversity; he is happy and contented in prosperity, and he is a stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger."

  The moment we try to tame this lower mind, the minute we ACTUALLY (not intellectually) try to shift our identification to something beyond the personal man there will be resistance.   We have hundreds of lives, perhaps more of impressing life atoms (elementals) in a certain way and when we try to change that they will rebel. (Ask any smoker or alcoholic.)

How we undo these things are different from one to the next.  There may be some common suggestions that make sense for every student but by and large we must each unravel our own yarn so to speak.  We do this by a slow process of self-discovery and experimentation. (Self-induced and self-devised efforts says the SD.)  So if rising above works for one and stooping to conquer helps another so be it.  It is all good if the goal is self-mastery and the motive is service of humanity.

Permalink Reply by Peter on March 26, 2014 at 7:50am

“A man is said to be confirmed in spiritual knowledge when he forsaketh every desire which entereth into his heart, and of himself is happy and content in the Self through the Self. His mind is undisturbed in adversity; he is happy and contented in prosperity, and he is a stranger to anxiety, fear, and anger."

This represents the goal and it is the discovery, or realisation of that Self which is the path.  Taming our passions, right action, study & so on are necessary elements.  At the same time it is important to discover, each for ourselves in our moment to moment 'awareness', 'who is this "I" that is seeking liberation?', 'who believes all these practices are necessary?'  What is its source? 

Permalink Reply by Grace Cunningham on March 26, 2014 at 10:29am

You might say "I am the Self I am seeking."  Such is the wonderful mystery of self-consciousness.

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 27, 2014 at 3:55pm

Last Section of Chapter 4 Judge Rendition

"By this knowledge thou shalt see all things and creatures whatsoever in thyself and then in me. Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge. As the natural fire, O Arjuna, reduceth fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes. There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time. The man who restraineth the senses and organs and hath faith obtaineth spiritual knowledge, and having obtained it he soon reacheth supreme tranquillity; but the ignorant, those full of doubt and without faith, are lost. The man of doubtful mind hath no happiness either in this world or in the next or in any other. No actions bind that man who through spiritual discrimination hath renounced action and cut asunder all doubt by knowledge, O despiser of wealth. Wherefore, O son of Bharata, having cut asunder with the sword of spiritual knowledge this doubt which existeth in thy heart, engage in the performance of action. Arise!”

Permalink Reply by ModeratorTN on March 27, 2014 at 4:04pm

Judge Rendition

Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error, O son of Bharata

Eknath Easwaran

Approach those who have realized the purpose of life and question them with reverence and devotion; they will instruct you in this wisdom.

Stephen Mitchell

Find a wise teacher, honor him, ask him your questions, serve him; someone who has seen the truth will guide  you on the path to wisdom.

S. Radhakrishnan

Learn by humble reverence, by inquiry and by service.  The men of wisdom who have seen the truth will instruct thee in knowledge.