śārīraḿ kevalaḿ karma
kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 4.24
A person who is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
How activities in Krishna consciousness can lead one ultimately to the spiritual goal is described here. There are various activities in Krishna consciousness, and all of them will be described in the following verses. But, for the present, just the principle of Krishna consciousness is described. A conditioned soul, entangled in material contamination, is sure to act in the material atmosphere, and yet he has to get out of such an environment. The process by which the conditioned soul can get out of the material atmosphere is Krishna consciousness. For example, a patient who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels due to overindulgence in milk products is cured by another milk product, namely curds. The materially absorbed conditioned soul can be cured by Krishna consciousness as set forth here in the Gita. This process is generally known as yajna, or activities (sacrifices) simply meant for the satisfaction of Vishnu, or Krishna. The more the activities of the material world are performed in Krishna consciousness, or for Vishnu only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption. The word brahma (Brahman) means “spiritual.” The Lord is spiritual, and the rays of His transcendental body are called brahmajyoti, His spiritual effulgence. Everything that exists is situated in that brahmajyoti, but when the jyoti is covered by illusion (maya) or sense gratification, it is called material. This material veil can be removed at once by Krishna consciousness; thus the offering for the sake of Krishna consciousness, the consuming agent of such an offering or contribution, the process of consumption, the contributor, and the result are—all combined together—Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth covered by maya is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality. Krishna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory consciousness into Brahman, or the Supreme. When the mind is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness, it is said to be in samadhi, or trance. Anything done in such transcendental consciousness is called yajna, or sacrifice for the Absolute. In that condition of spiritual consciousness, the contributor, the contribution, the consumption, the performer or leader of the performance, and the result or ultimate gain—everything—becomes one in the Absolute, the Supreme Brahman. That is the method of Krishna consciousness.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
It has been stated in the previous verse that one should perform actions for the purpose of yajna. What type of yajna is this? This verse explains. Arpanam refers to the instruments such as the wooden spoon used to offer the ghee into the fire. This is brahman. The article used as oblation is brahman. The fire in which the oblation is placed is brahman. The performer of the yajna is brahman. The person who sees things in this way attains brahman alone, not any other result. Why? Because he has concentrated his attention on the action which is composed only of brahman (brahma karma samadhina).
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
4.24 The expression ‘Brahman is the instrument to offer with’ (It is to be remembered that in Ramanuja’s system ‘Brahman’ in the primary sense is the ‘Whole’ with the Supreme Being as the Soul and Atmans and Matter (Prakrti) as His body in inseparable union with the Whole. So the word ‘Brahman’ can, according to the needs of each context, be used to indicate the Supreme Being, the Atman, or Prakrti; In verse 24 it has been used in all these senses. We have therefore put it in italics. See Introduction.) is adjectival to ‘the oblation’. That by which an offering is given, such as a ladle, is an Arpana. It is called Brahman because it is an effect of Brahman, Brahman being the material cause of the universe. ‘Brahmaarpanam’ is the oblation, of which the instrument is Brahman. The oblation, just like the instrument with which it is offered, is also Brahman. It is offered by the agent Brahman into the fire of Brahman. He is the Brahma-karma-samadhi who contemplates thus on all acts as filled with the Supreme Brahman or as having the Supreme Brahman as the Self. He who contemplates on Brahman as the Soul of all actions, reaches Brahman alone, as his own self has the Supreme Brahman as Its Self. The meaning is that the individual self — which is Brahman because of Its having Brahman as Its Self — has to realise Its own real nature. All actions performed by an aspirant for release have the form of knowledge because of their association with the contemplation of the Supreme Brahman as their self. They are a direct means for the vision of the self without the meditation of Jnana Yoga. Thus, Sri Krsna, after explaining how Karma takes the form of knowledge, now speaks of the various kinds of Karma Yoga.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The actions performed by a person as offerings and worship to the Supreme Lord Krishna are considered inaction as they lead to spiritual intelligence and are not bonded in any way to reactions. For one who has achieved atma tattva or soul realisation all actions are neutralised by knowing that one is not the doer and hence for them even various natural actions are considered inaction. The transformation of action to inaction due to absence of egoism was previously explained in verse 18. Now Lord Krishna is stating that the transformation of action to inaction is always present in the person who performs all their actions in relation to the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. One whose mind is absorbed in performing all actions as offerings to the Brahman exclusively, attains the Brahman without a doubt.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The essential meaning Lord Krishna is conveying here is the establishing of a higher consciousness that sees all activities as offerings to the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Everything is spoken as the Brahman because everything is emanated from the Brahman and everything is contained within the Brahman. It should not be assumed that the unlimited myriad of individual beings are in the likeness of the Brahman because that would be erroneous. The Brahman is the whole and all others are infinitesimal parts of the whole and subservient to it because all comes into existence from the Brahman. In the Padma Purana the sages speak that: The Supreme Lord is verily is the essence and the total of the Vedas. Everything is verily the vision of the Supreme Lord’s consciousness and the Brahman is the manifestation of this consciousness. With the equanimity of one’s intellect Brahman is realised to be the performer of all actions.
Now begins the summation.
How can pride be relinquished? By offering pride to the Brahman along with other unwanted hindrances. The paraphernalia offered to the Brahman is called Brahmarpanamas and they include the fire itself, the ghee or clarified butter and foodgrains offered to the sacred fire as well as the performer of the yagna or worship who propitiates the Supreme Lord by offering oblations. So the Brahman is also the performing presribed Vedic actions with equanimity in higher consciousness. But even with this equanimity all are eternally subservient to the Supreme Lord. The Mahabharata confirms that only the respendent Supreme Lord Krishna is independent everything else is dependent upon Him.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna explains that all the actions of such a yogi or one whose individual consciousness is in communion with the ultimate consciousness are dissolved but how is this possible? It is because such a yogi is established in the knowledge of the atma or soul with full cognisance of every action being a yagna or offering to the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. As everything in existence is factually within the Brahman it can be understood that everything is actually a form of the Brahman. The Brahman or spiritual substratum of reality is surely the destination to be achieved by those who are experiencing it, as verily it is eternal and permanent. This is in contrast to one being absorbed in obtaining the enjoyments of heaven which are temporary and transitory. Concentration in the Brahman is considered as yagna or propitiation to the ultimate reality.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
4.24 Brahma-arpanam, the ladle is Brahman: The knower of Brahman perceives the instrument with which he offers oblation in the fire as Brahman Itself. He perceives it as not existing separately from the Self, as one sees the non-existence of silver in nacre. In this sense it is that Brahman Itself is the ladle-just as what appears as silver is only narcre. (The two words brahma and arpanam are not parts of a compound word, samasa.) The meaning is that, to a knower of Brahman, what is perceived in the world as ladle is Brahman Itself. Similarly, brahma-havih, the oblations is Brahman: To him, what is seen as oblations is nothing but Brahman. In the same way, brahma-agnau, (-this is a compound word-) in the fire of Brahman: The fire into which oblation is hutam, poured; brahmana, by Brahman, by the agent, is Brahman Itself. The meaning is that Brahman Itself is the agent (of the offering). That he makes the offering-the act of offering-, that is also Brahman. And the result that is gantavyam, to be reached by him; that also is brahma eva, surely Brahman. Brahma-karma-samadhina, by him who has concentration on Brahman as the objective: Brahman Itself is the objective (karma); he who has concentration (samadhi) on That is brahma-karma-samdhih. The goal to be reached by him is Brahman alone. Thus, even the action undertaken by one who desires to prevent mankind from going astray is in reality inaction, for it has been sublated by the realization of Brahman. This being so, in the case of the monk from whom aciton has dropped off, who has renounced all activity, viewing his Knowledge as a (kind of) sacrifice, too, becomes all the more justifiable from the point of view of praising full realization. That is, whatever is well known as ladle etc. in the context of a sacrifice, all that, in the context of the Self, is Brahman Itself to one who has realized the supreme Truth. If not so, then, since all in Brahman, it would have been uselesss to specifically mention ladle etc. as Brahman. Therefore, all actions cease to exist for the man of realization who knows that Brahman Itself is all this. And this follows also from the absence (in him) of the idea of accessories. [See note on p.211.-Tr.] For the act called ‘sacarifice’ is not seen to exist without being in association with the idea of accessories. All such acts as Agnihotra etc. are associated with the ideas of such accessories as making an offering etc. to the particular gods who are revealed in the scriptures, and with the idea of agentship as also desire for results. But they are not found bereft of the ideas of such distinctions as exist among action, accessories and results, or unassociated with the ideas of agentship hankering for results. This (apparent) (activity of the man of Knowledge), however, stands dissociated from the ideas of differences among the accessories like ladle etc., actions and results, which get destroyed by the Knowledge of Brahman. Hence, it is inaction to be sure. And thus has it been shown in, ‘He who finds inaction in action’ (18), ‘he really does not do anything even though engaged in action’ (20), ‘the organs act on the objects of the organs’ (3.28), ‘Remaining absorbed in the Self, the knower of Reality should think, “I certainly do not do anything”‘ (5.8), etc. While pointing out thus, the Lord demolishes in various places the ideas of differences among actions, accessories and results. And it is also seen in the case of rites such as Agnihotra undertaken for results (kamya), that the Agnihotra etc. cease to be (kamya) rites undertaken for selfish motives when the desire for their results is destroyed. Similarly, it is seen that actions done intentionally and unintentionally yeild different results. So, here as well, in the case of one who has his ideas of distinctions among accessories like ladle etc., actions and results eliminated by the knowledge of Brahman, even activites which are merely external movements amount to inaction. Hence it was said, ‘gets totally destroyed.’ Here some say: That which is Brahman is the ladle etc. It is surely Brahman Itself which exists in the five forms [Asscessories that can be indicated by the five grammatical case-ending, viz Nominative, Objective, Instrumental, Dative and Locative. (As for instance, the sacrificer, oblation, ladle, sacrificial fire, and Brahman.-Tr.) of accessories such as the ladle etc. and it is Itself which undertakes actions. There the ideas of ladle etc. are not eradicated, but the idea of Brahman is attributed to the ladle etc. as one does the ideas of Visnu etc. to images etc., or as one does the idea of Brahman ot name etc. Reply: True, this could have been so as well if the context were not meant for the praise of jnanayajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice). Here, however, after presenting full realization as expressed by the word jnana-yajna, and the varieties of rites as referred to by the word yajna (sacrifice), Knowledge has been praised by the Lord in, ‘Jnana-yajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice) is greater than sacrifices requiring materials’ (33). And in the present context, this statement, ‘the ladle is Brahman’ etc., is capable of presenting Knowledge as a sacrifice; otherwise, since Brahman is everything, it will be purposeless to speak specially only of ladle etc. as Brahman. But those who maintain that one has to superimpose the idea of Brahman on the ladle etc., like superimposing the idea of Visnu and others on images etc. and of Brahman on name etc., for them the knowledge of Brahma stated (in the verse) cannot be the intended subject-matter dealt with here, because according to them ladle etc. are the (primary) objects of knowledge (in the context of the present verse). Besides, knowledge in the form of superimposition of an idea cannot lead to Liberation as its result; and what is said here is, ‘Brahman alone in to be realized by him’. Also, it is inconsistent to maintain that the result of Liberation can be achieved without full realization. And it goes against the context-the context being of full realization. This is supported by the fact that (the subject of ) full realization is introduced in the verse, ‘He who finds inaction in action,’ and at the end (of this chapter) the conclusion pertains to that very subject-matter. The chapter comes to a close by eulozing full realization itself in, ‘Jnana-yajna (Knowledge considered as a sacrifice) is greater than sacrifices requiring materials’, ‘Achieving Knowledge, one…attains supreme Peace,’ (39) etc. That being so, it is unjustifiable to suddenly say out of context that one has to superimpose the idea of Brahman on the ladle etc. like the superimposition of the idea of Visnu on images. Therefore this verse bears the meaing just as it has been already explained. As to that, after having presented Knowledge as a sacrifice, other sacrifices also are being mentioned now in, the verses beginning with, ‘(Other yogis undertake) sacrifice to gods alone,’ etc., for eulogizing that Knowledge:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
4.24 Brahmarpanam etc. That is to be offered to the Brahman (list) : that, the offering of which is in the Brahman i.e., the reentrance of which is only into That, just from which it has originated. The Brahman (2nd) : That which is the same as the entire universe what we see – this is that very oblation. Into the Brahman-fire : into the fire which is the same as the Brahman, the highly tranquil Supreme Consciousness. By the Brahman : by one or the other action. Is poured : is offered for the augmentation of It’s lumination. Hence, a man of Yoga, whose Brahman-action of this sort is itself a deep concentration – by him, the Brahman alone is [a goal] to be attained i.e., to be realised, not anything else; for there is no other thing. Alternatively [in the verse] the meaning ‘by him’ brings in, by implication, the meaning ‘by whom’. So the following is the alignment [of words] : The action, in which the Brahman-oblation, intended to be an offering to a deity of the Brahman-nature, has been indeed poured into the Brahman-fire by the sacrificer, identical with the Brahman – that very Brahman-action of this sort is itself a deep contemplaiton, because it is the means to gain the innate nature of the Self. And what is attained by this Brahman-action-contemplation is the very Brahman Itself and not any other fruit. Indeed it has been maintained [by the Lord] as : ‘The way in which men resort to Me, [in the same way I favour them]’. (IV, II) ‘Those, who have cultivated the nature of performing sacrifice which is nothing but Me, but of the delimited nature – they attain, therefore, the fruit of similar [limited] nature. This is different matter. But, with regard to those who have realised the nature of the sacrifice identical with Me ( the Supreme Consciousness), the Unlimited and complete; how could they be entertaining a craving for a bit of limited fruit ?’ This is the idea here. Thus, a top secret is furnished by this and by the succeeding verses. that has been also detailed by us (Ag.) – even though our intelligence is limited – as far as our intelligence permits, by not transgressing the instructions of our preceptors. Maybe, for a person without a regular course of the oral tradition [of the system], this looks like a picture painted on the sky and does not appeal to his mind. On that account we should not be blamed. It has been declared by some, in this context, that [here in this verse] the oblation, the fire and the instruments like sruk [used for offering the oblation into the fire in the sacrifice] and also the act [of offering] are all adjectives qualifying the Brahmam. This [explanation] deserves to be ignored. For, these commentators have not troden on the path of the secret tradition.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
brahmarpanam brahma havir
brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
brahma — spiritual in nature; arpaṇam — contribution; brahma — the Supreme; haviḥ — butter; brahma — spiritual; agnau — in the ﬁre of consummation; brahmaṇā — by the spirit soul; hutam — offered; brahma — spiritual kingdom; eva — certainly; tena — by him; gantavyam — to be reached; brahma — spiritual; karma — in activities; samādhinā — by complete absorption.