Bhagavad Gita 4.31

Text 31

nayam loko ’sty ayajnasya
kuto ’nyah kuru-sattama

Translation

O best of the Kuru dynasty, without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life: what then of the next?

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Whatever form of material existence one is in, one is invariably ignorant of his real situation. In other words, existence in the material world is due to the multiple reactions to our sinful lives. Ignorance is the cause of sinful life, and sinful life is the cause of one’s dragging on in material existence. The human form of life is the only loophole by which one may get out of this entanglement. The Vedas, therefore, give us a chance for escape by pointing out the paths of religion, economic comfort, regulated sense gratification and, at last, the means to get out of the miserable condition entirely. The path of religion, or the different kinds of sacrifice recommended above, automatically solves our economic problems. By performance of yajna we can have enough food, enough milk, etc.—even if there is a so-called increase of population. When the body is fully supplied, naturally the next stage is to satisfy the senses. The Vedas prescribe, therefore, sacred marriage for regulated sense gratification. Thereby one is gradually elevated to the platform of release from material bondage, and the highest perfection of liberated life is to associate with the Supreme Lord. Perfection is achieved by performance of yajna (sacrifice), as described above. Now, if a person is not inclined to perform yajna according to the Vedas, how can he expect a happy life even in this body, and what to speak of another body on another planet? There are different grades of material comforts in different heavenly planets, and in all cases there is immense happiness for persons engaged in different kinds of yajna. But the highest kind of happiness that a man can achieve is to be promoted to the spiritual planets by practice of Krishna consciousness. A life of Krishna consciousness is therefore the solution to all the problems of material existence.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

The results of not acting in this way are described in this verse. One who does not perform yajna does not attain the little happiness available on this planet, what to speak of attaining the planet of the devatas.


Bhagavad Gita 4.32

Text 32

evam bahu-vidha yajna
vitata brahmano mukhe
karma-jan viddhi tan sarvan
evam jnatva vimoksyase

Translation

All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Different types of sacrifice, as discussed above, are mentioned in the Vedas to suit the different types of worker. Because men are so deeply absorbed in the bodily concept, these sacrifices are so arranged that one can work either with the body, with the mind, or with the intelligence. But all of them are recommended for ultimately bringing about liberation from the body. This is confirmed by the Lord herewith from His own mouth.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

Brahmanah means the Vedas. The phrase vitata brahmano mukhe whose literal meaning is “spread in the mouth of the Vedas” actually means “clearly spoken of by the Vedas themselves.” Karma jan means based on the actions of the body, mind and words.


Bhagavad Gita 4.33

Text 33

sreyan dravya-mayad yajnaj
jnana-yajnah parantapa
sarvam karmakhilam partha
jnane parisamapyate

Translation

O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice performed in knowledge is better than the mere sacrifice of material possessions. After all, O son of Pritha, all sacrifices of work culminate in transcendental knowledge.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

The purpose of all sacrifices is to arrive at the status of complete knowledge, then to gain release from material miseries, and, ultimately, to engage in loving transcendental service to the Supreme Lord (Krishna consciousness). Nonetheless, there is a mystery about all these different activities of sacrifice, and one should know this mystery. Sacrifices sometimes take different forms according to the particular faith of the performer. When one’s faith reaches the stage of transcendental knowledge, the performer of sacrifices should be considered more advanced than those who simply sacrifice material possessions without such knowledge, for without attainment of knowledge, sacrifices remain on the material platform and bestow no spiritual benefit. Real knowledge culminates in Krishna consciousness, the highest stage of transcendental knowledge. Without the elevation of knowledge, sacrifices are simply material activities. When, however, they are elevated to the level of transcendental knowledge, all such activities enter onto the spiritual platform. Depending on differences in consciousness, sacrificial activities are sometimes called karma-kanda (fruitive activities) and sometimes jnana-kanda (knowledge in the pursuit of truth). It is better when the end is knowledge.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

Among these sacrifices, the jnana yajna described in verse 25 with the words brahmagnav apare yajnam yajnenaivopajuhvati is superior to the sacrifice of material objects such as oblations of ghee described in verse 24. Why? With the attainment of knowledge, all actions which bearing fruit (akhilam), are finished. After attaining knowledge, reactions no longer remain.


Bhagavad Gita 4.34

Text 34

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadeksyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darshinah

Translation

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized souls can impart knowledge unto you because they have seen the truth.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders. The Bhagavatam (6.3.19) says, dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord.  Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help lead one to the right path. Nor by independent study of books of knowledge can one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. Not only should one hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

This verse speaks of the method for attaining that knowledge. It is attained by offering respects, bowing down to the guru, the instructor; and by asking questions, such as “O master, why am I in this world of misery? How can this world of birth and death be stopped?” And it is attained by service to the guru. This is illustrated in the sruti:

tad vijnanartharh sa gurum evabhigacchet samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nistham

With fuel wood in his hand, the student should approach the guru, knowledgeable of the Vedas and fixed in Brahman, in order to attain knowledge of Brahman. Mundaka Upanisad 1.2.12


Bhagavad Gita 4.35

Text 35

 yaj jnatva na punar moham
evam yasyasi pandava
yena bhutany asesani
draksyasy atmany atho mayi

 Translation

Having obtained real knowledge from a self-realized soul, you will never fall again into such illusion, for by this knowledge you will see that all living beings are but part of the Supreme, or, in other words, that they are Mine.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

The result of receiving knowledge from a self-realized soul, or one who knows things as they are, is learning that all living beings are parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna. The sense of an existence separate from Krishna is called maya (ma—not, ya—this). Some think that we have nothing to do with Krishna, that Krishna is only a great historical personality and that the Absolute is the impersonal Brahman. Factually, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gita, this impersonal Brahman is the personal effulgence of Krishna. Krishna, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the cause of everything. In the Brahma-samhita it is clearly stated that Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes. Even the millions of incarnations are only His different expansions. Similarly, the living entities are also expansions of Krishna. The Mayavadi philosophers wrongly think that Krishna loses His own separate existence in His many expansions. This thought is material in nature. We have experience in the material world that a thing, when fragmentally distributed, loses its own original identity. But the Mayavadi philosophers fail to understand that absolute means that one plus one is equal to one, and that one minus one is also equal to one. This is the case in the absolute world.

For want of sufficient knowledge in the absolute science, we are now covered with illusion, and therefore we think that we are separate from Krishna. Although we are separated parts of Krishna, we are nevertheless not different from Him. The bodily difference of the living entities is maya, or not actual fact. We are all meant to satisfy Krishna. By maya alone Arjuna thought that the temporary bodily relationship with his kinsmen was more important than his eternal spiritual relationship with Krishna. The whole teaching of the Gita is targeted toward this end: that a living being, as Krishna’s eternal servitor, cannot be separated from Krishna, and his sense of being an identity apart from Krishna is called maya. The living entities, as separate parts and parcels of the Supreme, have a purpose to fulfill. Having forgotten that purpose since time immemorial, they are situated in different bodies, as men, animals, demigods, etc. Such bodily differences arise from forgetfulness of the transcendental service of the Lord. But when one is engaged in transcendental service through Krishna consciousness, one becomes at once liberated from this illusion. One can acquire such pure knowledge only from the bona fide spiritual master and thereby avoid the delusion that the living entity is equal to Krishna. Perfect knowledge is that the Supreme Soul, Krishna, is the supreme shelter for all living entities, and giving up such shelter, the living entities are deluded by the material energy, imagining themselves to have a separate identity. Thus, under different standards of material identity, they become forgetful of Krishna. When, however, such deluded living entities become situated in Krishna consciousness, it is to be understood that they are on the path of liberation, as confirmed in the Bhagavatam (2.10.6): muktir hitvanyatha-rupam svarupena vyavasthitih. Liberation means to be situated in one’s constitutional position as an eternal servitor of Krishna (Krishna consciousness).

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

The result of knowledge is described in three and a half verses.  Understanding that you are not the body but the soul, you will not have bewilderment, which is the quality of the mind. By destroying bewilderment  through  the  attainment  of natural knowledge of the eternally perfect soul, you will see all living entities, such as men and beasts, as jivatma (atmani), but situated as separate creatures by material identification, and you will also see them situated in me (mayi), the supreme cause since they are my products.


Bhagavad Gita 4.36

Text 36

 api ced asi papebhyah
sarvebhyah papa-krt-tamah
sarvam jnana-plavenaiva
vrjinam santarisyasi

Translation

Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Proper understanding of one’s constitutional position in relationship to Krishna is so nice that it can at once lift one from the struggle for existence which goes on in the ocean of nescience. This material world is sometimes regarded as an ocean of nescience and sometimes as a blazing forest. In the ocean, however expert a swimmer one may be, the struggle for existence is very severe. If someone comes forward and lifts the struggling swimmer from the ocean, he is the greatest savior. Perfect knowledge, received from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the path of liberation. The boat of Krishna consciousness is very simple, but at the same time the most sublime.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

This verse is a glorification of knowledge.

If you are more sinful than all sinners, how can you achieve purity of heart, and without purity of heart, how can you get realization of knowledge? Actually, it is not possible for one who has attained knowledge to commit sinful acts. Madhusudana Sarasvati explains: the words api and cet are used to show the assumption of the impossible; though the commission of sin would be impossible, the assumption is made to show the results of attaining knowledge.


Bhagavad Gita 4.37

Text 37

yathaidhamsi samiddho ’gnir
bhasma-sat kurute ’rjuna
jnanagnih sarva-karmani
bhasma-sat kurute tatha

Translation

As a blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Perfect knowledge of self and Superself and of their relationship is compared herein to fire. This fire not only burns up all reactions to impious activities, but also all reactions to pious activities, turning them to ashes. There are many stages of reaction: reaction in the making, reaction fructifying, reaction already achieved, and reaction a priori. But knowledge of the constitutional position of the living entity burns everything to ashes. When one is in complete knowledge, all reactions, both a priori and a posteriori, are consumed. In the Vedas (Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 4.4.22) it is stated, ubhe uhaivaisa ete taraty amritah sadhv-asadhuni: “One overcomes both the pious and impious reactions of work.”

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

Knowledge arising from purity of heart destroys all karmas except the prarabdha karmas. This verse illustrates with an example. Samiddhah means “blazing.”


Bhagavad Gita 4.38

Text 38

na hi jnanena sadrsam
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah
kalenatmani vindati

Translation

In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has become accomplished in the practice of devotional service enjoys this knowledge within himself in due course of time.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

When we speak of transcendental knowledge, we do so in terms of spiritual understanding. As such, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Ignorance is the cause of our bondage, and knowledge is the cause of our liberation. This knowledge is the mature fruit of devotional service, and when one is situated in transcendental knowledge, he need not search for peace elsewhere, for he enjoys peace within himself. In other words, this knowledge and peace culminate in Krishna consciousness. That is the last word in the Bhagavad-gita.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

In this world, among those who engage in austerities, yoga other processes, there is nothing to compare to knowledge. That knowledge is not easily attained by everyone, but is fully attained (sam siddhah) by practicing niskama karma yoga. lt is not unobtainable, but is attained in time, not immediately. That knowledge is attained spontaneously within the self (atmani), not by accepting external sannyasa.


Bhagavad Gita 4.39

Text 39

shraddhaval labhate jnanam
tat-parah samyatendriyah
jnanam labdhva param shantim
acirenadhigacchati

Translation

A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Such knowledge in Krishna consciousness can be achieved by a faithful person who believes firmly in Krishna. One is called a faithful man who thinks that simply by acting in Krishna consciousness he can attain the highest perfection. This faith is attained by the discharge of devotional service, and by chanting Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, which cleanses one’s heart of all material dirt. Over and above this, one should control the senses. A person who is faithful to Krishna and who controls the senses can easily attain perfection in the knowledge of Krishna consciousness without delay.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

How and when does this happen? Having faith in the meaning of the scriptures that knowledge will arise by purity of heart through practice of niskama karma (sraddhavan), being fixed in execution of that niskama karma yoga, and finally attaining controlled senses, he will attain knowledge and supreme peace, meaning destruction of samsara.


Bhagavad Gita 4.40

Text 40

ajnas casraddadhanas ca
samsayatma vinasyati
nayam loko ’sti na paro
na sukham samsayatmanah

Translation

But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness; they fall down. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.

Commentary by Srila Prabhupada

Out of many standard and authoritative revealed scriptures, the Bhagavad-gita is the best. Persons who are almost like animals have no faith in, or knowledge of, the standard revealed scriptures; and some, even though they have knowledge of, or can cite passages from, the revealed scriptures, have actually no faith in these words. And even though others may have faith in scriptures like Bhagavad-gita, they do not believe in or worship the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. Such persons cannot have any standing in Krishna consciousness. They fall down. Out of all the above-mentioned persons, those who have no faith and are always doubtful make no progress at all. Men without faith in God and His revealed word find no good in this world, nor in the next. For them there is no happiness whatsoever. One should therefore follow the principles of revealed scriptures with faith and thereby be raised to the platform of knowledge. Only this knowledge will help one become promoted to the transcendental platform of spiritual understanding. In other words, doubtful persons have no status whatsoever in spiritual emancipation. One should therefore follow in the footsteps of great acaryas who are in the disciplic succession and thereby attain success.

Commentary by Sri Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakur

Having spoken of the person who was qualified with knowledge, in this verse Krishna speaks of the person without qualification for knowledge. That person perishes who is ignorant like an animal, or who, though knowing the scriptures, does not believe in anything, because of seeing the arguments between various factions (asraddhadanah), or who though even having faith, is afflicted with doubt whether he can attain the goal. Among these persons (ignorant, faithless, and doubting); the doubting one is especially criticized in the last line.