yathaidhāḿsi samiddho ’gnir
bhasma-sāt kurute ’rjuna
bhasma-sāt kurute tathā
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 4.37
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 Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
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 Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Knowledge arising from purity of heart destroys all karmas except the prarabdha karmas. This verse illustrates with an example. Samiddhah means “blazing.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
4.37 The fire of knowledge concerning the real nature of the self reduces to ashes the collection of endless Karmas accumulated from beginningless times, just as a well-kindled fire reduces to ashes a bundle of firewood.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
To remove any doubt or misconceptions that might arise from the previous verse that sins may be crossed over but not absolved Lord Krishna gives the illustration that fire of spiritual knowledge as revealed in the Vedic scriptures burns to ashes all karmas or reactions to actions, with the exception of the prarabdha karma which was the karma by which one received their physical body.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
One might wonder that just as crossing the ocean by boat does not destroy the ocean how is it that the boat of spiritual knowledge can destroy all one’s sins. Lord Krishna states here that the boat of spiritual knowledge will destroy all reactions to actions both those leading to merit and those leading to demerit.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
4.37 O Arjuna, yatha, as; a samiddhah, blazing; agnih, fire, a well lighted fire; kurute, reduces; edhamsi, pieces of wood; bhasmasat, to ashes; tatha, similarly; jnanagnih, the fire of Knowledge-Knowledge itself being the fire; kurute, reduces; bhasmasat, to ashes; sarva-karmani, all actions, i.e. it renders them ineffective, for the fire of Knowledge itself cannot directly [Knowledge destroys ignorance, and thereby the idea of agentship is eradicated. This in turn makes actions impossible.] burn actions to ashes, like pieces of wood. So, the idea implied is that full enlightenment is the cuase of making all actions impotent. From the force the context [If the body were to die just with the dawn of Knowledge, imparting of Knowledge by enlightened persons would be impossible, and thus there would be no teacher to transmit Knowledge!] it follows that, since the result of actions owing to which the present body has been born has already become effective, therefore it gets eshausted only through experiencing it. Hence, Knowledge reduces to ashes only all those actions that were done (in this life) prior to the rise of Knowledge and that have not become effective, as also those performed along with (i.e. after the dawn of) Knowledge, and those that were done in the many past lives. Since this is so, therefore,
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
4.36-37 Api cet etc. Yatha etc. The idea is this : One should exert is such a way so that the fire of knowledge remains well fuelled with the knot of firmness of conviction born of practice.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
yathaidhamsi samiddho ’gnir
bhasma-sat kurute ’rjuna
bhasma-sat kurute tatha
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
yathā — just as; edhāḿsi — ﬁrewood; samiddhaḥ — blazing; agniḥ — ﬁre; bhasma-sāt — ashes; kurute — turns; arjuna — O Arjuna; jñāna-agniḥ — the ﬁre of knowledge; sarva-karmāṇi — all reactions to material activities; bhasma-sāt — to ashes; kurute — it turns; tathā — similarly.