Chapter 4 of The Bhagavad-Gita Simplified

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January 31, 2022


This deathless Yoga, this deep union, I taught Vivaswata,[FN#6] the Lord of Light; Vivaswata gave it to Manu who gave it to Ikshwaku.

In time, the truth grew dim and perished.

I have reincarnated many times.

Maya is my magic which I stamp on floating Nature-forms.

I come, and go, and come.

When Righteousness declines, I rise, from age to age, and take Visible shape, and move a man with men. I succour the good, thrust the evil back, and setting Virtue on her seat again.

I come in many forms, all free from fear, anger, desire. They keep their hearts fixed on me.

Those souls which seek reward for works, make sacrifices to the lower gods. They willl have their reward here.

But I made the Four Castes, and portioned them a place after their qualities and gifts.

Works do not soil my essence, because I am uninvolved in them, just as the all those saints of old worked unchained by action.

Work as those saints did.

Thou sayst, perplexed, It hath been asked before By singers and by sages, “What is act, And what inaction? “I will teach thee this, And, knowing, thou shalt learn which work doth save Needs must one rightly meditate those three– Doing,–not doing,–and undoing.

Here Thorny and dark the path is! He who sees How action may be rest, rest action–he Is wisest ‘mid his kind; he hath the truth! He doeth well, acting or resting. Freed In all his works from prickings of desire, Burned clean in act by the white fire of truth,

The wise call that man wise; and such an one, Renouncing fruit of deeds, always content.

Always self-satisfying, if he works, Doth nothing that shall stain his separate soul, Which–quit of fear and hope–subduing self– Rejecting outward impulse–yielding up To body’s need nothing save body, dwells Sinless amid all sin, with equal calm Taking what may befall, by grief unmoved, Unmoved by joy, unenvyingly; the same In good and evil fortunes; nowise bound

By bond of deeds. Nay, but of such an one, Whose crave is gone, whose soul is liberate, Whose heart is set on truth–of such an one What work he does is work of sacrifice, Which passeth purely into ash and smoke Consumed upon the altar! All’s then God!

  • the sacrifice is Brahm
  • the ghee and grain are Brahm
  • the fire is Brahm
  • the flesh it eats is Brahm
  • unto Brahm attaineth he Who, in such office, meditates on Brahm.

Some devotees serve the gods with flesh and altar-smoke. But others light subtler fires, make purer rite with will of worship.

Of the which be they Who, in white flame of continence, consume Joys of the sense, delights of eye and ear, Forgoing tender speech and sound of song:

And they who, kindling fires with torch of Truth,

Burn on a hidden altar-stone the bliss Of youth and love, renouncing happiness: And they who lay for offering there their wealth, Their penance, meditation, piety, Their steadfast reading of the scrolls, their lore Painfully gained with long austerities:

There are those who make silent sacrifice by drawing in their breath to feed the flame of thought and breathe it forth to waft the heart on high.

Governing the ventage of each entering air Lest one sigh pass which helpeth not the soul: And they who, day by day denying needs, Lay life itself upon the altar-flame, Burning the body wan. Lo! all these keep The rite of offering, as if they slew Victims; and all thereby efface much sin. Yea! and who feed on the immortal food Left of such sacrifice, to Brahma pass, To The Unending. But for him that makes No sacrifice, he hath nor part nor lot

Even in the present world. How should he share Another, O thou Glory of thy Line? In sight of Brahma all these offerings Are spread and are accepted! Comprehend That all proceed by act; for knowing this, Thou shalt be quit of doubt. The sacrifice Which Knowledge pays is better than great gifts Offered by wealth, since gifts’ worth–O my Prince! Lies in the mind which gives, the will that serves: And these are gained by reverence, by strong search, By humble heed of those who see the Truth And teach it. Knowing Truth, thy heart no more Will ache with error, for the Truth shall show All things subdued to thee, as thou to Me. Moreover, Son of Pandu! wert thou worst Of all wrong-doers, this fair ship of Truth Should bear thee safe and dry across the sea Of thy transgressions. As the kindled flame Feeds on the fuel till it sinks to ash, So unto ash, Arjuna! unto nought

The flame of Knowledge wastes works’ dross away! There is no purifier like thereto In all this world, and he who seeketh it

Shall find it–being grown perfect–in himself. Believing, he receives it when the soul Masters itself, and cleaves to Truth, and comes– Possessing knowledge–to the higher peace, The uttermost repose. But those untaught, And those without full faith, and those who fear Are shent; no peace is here or other where, No hope, nor happiness for whoso doubts. He that, being self-contained, hath vanquished doubt,

Disparting self from service, soul from works, Enlightened and emancipate, my Prince! Works fetter him no more! Cut then atwain With sword of wisdom, Son of Bharata! This doubt that binds thy heart-beats! cleave the bond Born of thy ignorance! Be bold and wise! Give thyself to the field with me! Arise!