In the previous chapter, Lord Krishna explained the concept of Yajna. In this chapter the lord explains about the inward journey (path of knowledge), and how Yajna (or path of actions) helps in this journey. Read that line again! Indeed, it is only through actions, you can acquire real knowledge – as it is experiential knowledge. Remember your childhood – we learn more easily and effectively in lab experiments, than what’s thought in classrooms via lectures. So actions (karma), is the best way to knowledge. We’ll explore this concept throughout the chapter.

The lord begins the chapter saying – the knowledge he’s imparting now to Arjuna is only a repetition of what he had already tought Vivaswan (sun god), which has been flowing through generations. Naturally Arjuna is a bit perplexed about the first statement – that Krishna imparted this knowledge originally. Krishna was born just few years ago, then how could he be the source of knowledge, and teach it to Vivaswan! 

Concept of Avatāra

While Arjuna isn’t aware of his previous births, or future, the Lord is aware of all these. How and why of this mystical concept, we’ll explore in subsequent chapters. The lord states – Whenever there’s a deterioration of dharma (living with right values), the lord manifests in some form – to set right the disorder / chaos (adharma). He does this to re-establish dharma, destroy the cause of adharma. 

The lord manifesting thus, is an interesting concept. While we all know the stories of Nrsimha, Rāma, Krishna – some of the prominent avatāra of the lord, the concept is not limited to those. Like the lord says, he keeps manifesting, as and when there’s rise in adharma. Depending on the scale of adharma, manifestation is also equally prominent or subtle. 

The good and bad, always exist in universe. When concentration of bad exceeds viable limits, there’s a natural course correction that sets right the imbalance. The time it takes for such acts of rebalancing by divine intervention varies, also the forms through which it occurs varies – hence, our ability to recognise the divinity of intervention is often subdued. 

Consider a person on the street very hungry and cannot afford food, but isn’t begging. Another person passing by, simply recognises that he’s hungry and offers him food on his own without being asked. That is a divine intervention. It is a subtle element of lord, manifesting via that passer-by, during that time. Such beautiful incidents are in plenty – it’s just that we don’t know how to recognise them. Whenever we see such people (or beings) engaged in such divine acts, don’t miss the opportunity bow down to the lord in them! Lord hardly comes with four hands, or various weapons as illustrated in the pictures we’re used to seeing! He’s in everything around you, every being around you – expressing himself explicitly occasionally. Learn to see him!

We all would have experienced such instances, what we refer as – being saved in the nick of time. We can either term it as ‘luck’, or those that understand the philosophy of life – call it as divine intervention. And, we may also have occasions where that divinity manifested via us. Now, don’t let yourself get carried away – stating hey, I’m god. Although the element of lord is within all of us, that doesn’t make us lord. But yes, objective is to involve more in such divine actions, so we are always near to that divinity! To be specific, it is the attitude that we apply while performing actions (Yajna spirit), that makes actions divine. One who learns to recognise such divinity that exists all around us, in us, such a person is truly enlightened. 

How to recognise this divine being, all around us?

To those that are not bound by desires, thus also not affected by anxiety/frustration, who are always engaged in this seeking – they certainly attain this state of wisdom. To attain such wisdom, lord elaborates on different types of Yajnas. (See Karma Yoga for a brief introduction about Yajna). 

Before touching upon the types of Yajnas, the lord briefly reiterates the concepts of Karma Yoga. One should be aware of what actions are to be performed, what actions are NOT to be performed. Certainly, non performance of actions/duties is not an option at all. Essentially, being aware of dharma (right ways of living), and being engaged in karma all the time. 

There’s a beautiful shloka that talks about how to develop the mindset to recognise the divinity all around. It goes like – “One who is able to be inactive while being engaged in actions, and one who is able to be active even while no performing action – they are the wise people”.
Meaning – while being engaged in actions, they believe it is lord that’s getting them to perform these actions. So their ego is completely inactive. That’s when the divinity manifests via the individual. Similarly, even when not being engaged in actions, the mind is entirely engaged in the seeking of that supreme being.

When we practice living in this way, we truly come to believe that every action is a yajna. And they get to realise and also experience how it is the same divine that inspires an action, makes use of our body as an instrument for that action, makes way for the offering to provide as well. Thus, truly it’s the divinity at play all around. Certainly, this can only be experienced. Understanding of the concept alone won’t give us the experience. What takes us to experience this bliss? 

Given that the element of lord is within us as well, that should ideally be the quickest way to experience him – rather than searching externally. But our mind is only tuned to think, act, consume only based on external world! So the task at hand is really to subdue the external distractions, and turn the mind inwards.

The lord talks about different types of Yajnas, that can help in this inward journey. Essentially, what is offered (or sacrificed) are source of distractions – like material possessions, objects that result in sense gratification (something that I like to eat, or something I like to see etc).

Next phase is to gain mastery over our ability to engage sense organs. Rather, disengage them to reduce distractions. So this yajna is about giving up sense perception. Like – giving up hearing, or giving up vision. Is that even possible? Sure – are you able to listen someone whispering to you when you’re asleep? Or someone knocking at the door or passing by, while binge watching some web series on Netflix? This is not about tearing off your ears or eyes, but rather stop being distracted by the perception it generates.

Svādhyāya-yajna is another form of yajna, where the goal is to acquire right knowledge. We all know what it takes to excel in the field of studies – keeping yourself away from all sources of distraction and being engaged in the subject of study throughout – that is also a form of yajna itself. And here, the subject is seeking the absolute truth! Contemplation, all throughout!

Then there’s prāṇāyāma-yajna and yoga-yajna. Prāṇāyāma-yajna is about gaining complete control over breath, and thus the prāṇā shakthi within us. Yoga-Yajna on the other hand is probably the ultimate step – where you offer your ego itself (the identity associated with external body) – true surrender to the divinity. 

These concepts do sound a bit complicated – lord specifically says it is best to learn these from a Guru, an enlightened person. Although these may sound difficult, taking one step is all that’s required, to realise how beautiful the journey can be! Practicing these with complete conviction, certainly leads you to the absolute knowledge – the experience of the divine. This, is the path of knowledge, that can be traversed only via path of actions. 

DISCLAIMER: This our sincere attempt to summarise the Gitōpadesha, via a series of short blogs. This is NOT the whole translation, or commentary of the divine book. We seek forgiveness of reader and the lord, for omissions which is inevitable to keep the blog short. The write-ups include both, writer’s personal opinion and summarised version of many shlokas from the Bhagavad Gita. Intent of blog was never to be a commentary of Bhagavad Gita, but simply inspire the reader to read Bhagavad Gita in it’s entirety. The writer is neither a scholar, nor a bummer, somewhere in between, with a firm belief that the lord gets him to do all the things he does. Being human, he still keeps erring. Forgive him for all such mistakes.

Sarvam Krishnarpanamasthu!

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