śreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj
sarvaḿ karmākhilaḿ pārtha
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 4.33
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 Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
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 Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
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.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
4.33 Karma Yoga has two aspects — knowledge and material ingredients. Of these two, the component of knowledge is superior to the component of material ingredients. Knowledge is the culmination of all actions and of everything else, accessories and other things helpful. This knowledge alone, which is to be obtained by all means, is practised as comprehended in Karma Yoga. And this knowledge being regularly practised, reaches gradually what is ultimately attainable i.e., the vision of the self.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Here the superiority of yagnas or offerings of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord performed in jnana yoga or in the cultivation of Vedic knowledge is being explained by Lord Krishna. The yagna accomplished by knowledge is superior to the yagna performed by material ingredients for the yagna performed in knowledge is accomplished by no other auspices other than the atma or soul. Although the jnana yagna is dependent upon the activity of the mind yet the knowledge realised that is identical with the atma manifests itself as a modification of one’s thoughts and not a by product of one’s mind as in the case of yagnas performed with material ingredients. The Chandogya Upanisad IV.I.IV states that: Whatever righteousness persons do is all completely comprised of knowledge. In the performance of jnana yagna all activities in their entirety are along with their results are fully comprised of knowledge.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Every activity recommended in the preceding verses are useful methods of upasana or engaging oneself in glorifying the Supreme Lord. Spiritual knowledge is the result of this.
Now begins the summation.
Everything is verily performance of actions but by itself it amounts to very little. The culmination of Vedic actions is spiritual knowledge and solely in spiritual realisation do actions find fulfilment. In the Mundaka Upanisad it states: That acts of yagna or offerings of worship are undoubtedly meritorious in themselves; but superior to them is spiritual knowledge where all doubts are dispelled and the need for all actions terminated. The point Lord Krishna is making is that all actions culminate in knowledge.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Because various types of yagnas or offerings of worship have been equally delineated by Lord Krishna, it is appropriate to include the yagna of knowledge. In order to remove the undesirable contingency of resemblance to the others, Lord Krishna instructs that yagna in the form of knowledge is far superior to yagnas performed with material ingredients to the demi-gods designated by their names and which bestow only trivial rewards of a transitory material nature. For the performer of the yagna of knowledge realises that all the components of action without exception in their entirety along with their cause and effect culminate in the knowledge of everything being the manifestation of the eternal form and attributes of the eternal Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Such a person sees everything as Brahman and is unobstructed achieving everything. In the Bhagavad Purana it is stated that: The performers of austerities, the makers of pilgrimages, the chanters of mantras, the givers of donations and others never reachs the achievement of that being who has even one percentage of Vedic knowledge.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
4.33 O destroyer of enemies, jnana-yajnah, Knowledge considered as a sacrifice; is sreyan, greater; dravyamayat yajnat, than sacrifices requiring materials [Including study of the Vedas, etc. also.] For, a sacrifice performed with materials is an originator of results, [Worldly prosperity, attaining heaven, etc.], but Knowledge considered as a sacrifice is not productive of results. [It only reveals the state of Liberation that is an achieved fact. (According to Advaitism, Liberation consists in the removal of ignorance by Illumination. Nothing new is produced thereby.-Tr.)]. Hence it is greater, more praiseworthy. How? Because, sarvam, all; karma-akhilam, actions in their totality, without exception; O son of Prtha, parisamapyate, culminate, get merged (attain their consummation); jnane, in Knowledge, which is a means to Liberation and is comparable to ‘a flood all around’ (cf.2.46). This is the idea, which accords with the Upanisadic text, ‘As when the (face of a die) bearing the number 4, called Krta, wins, the other inferior (numbers on the die-faces) get included in it, so whatever good actions are performed by beings, all that gets merged in this one (Raikva). (So it happens) to anyone who knows what he (Raikva) knew’ (Ch. 4.1.4). In that case, by what means is this highly estimable Knowledge acquired? The answer is being given:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
4.33 Sreyan etc. The sacrifice, illuminated by knowledge, is much more superior to the sacrifice consisting of materials exclusively. The exclusive nature [of it] is indicated by the suffix mayat [in dravyamaya]. For, all actions attain their finality in knowledge.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
sreyan dravya-mayad yajñaj
sarvam karmakhilam partha
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
śreyān — greater; dravya-mayāt — of material possessions; yajñāt — than the sacriﬁce; jñāna-yajñaḥ — sacriﬁce in knowledge; param-tapa — O chastiser of the enemy; sarvam — all; karma — activities; akhilam — in totality; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; jñāne — in knowledge; parisamāpyate — end.