Contemplation of God is the only real action. That conduct is action which enables the mind to concentrate on God. It is a prescribed act and, according to Bhagavad Gita, tasks other than this are only forms of worldly bondage. Anything other than performance of this yagya is a form of slavery rather than action. It is important to remind ourselves once more of Lord Krishn’s injunction to Arjun that he shall be freed from evils of this world only by doing the one real work. The accomplishment of this work, of yagya, is action; and Arjun is urged to do it well in a spirit of detachment. It cannot be honestly performed without disinterest in the world and its objects.
So conduct of yagya is action. But another question that now arises is what this worthwhile act of yagya is along with it’s nature and form? Let us share this subject in light of Bhagavad Gita verses.
Lord Krishn sings in Chapter Four of Bhagavad Gita:
“Since both the dedication and the oblation itself are God, and it is the Godlike teacher who offers the oblation to the fire which is also God, the attainment, too, of the man whose mind is set on God like action is God himself.”
The emancipated man’s yagya is God, what he offers as oblation is God, and the sacred fire to which the sacrifice is made is also God. That is to say that what is offered by the Godlike worshipper to the sacred fire that is an embodiment of God is also God himself. That which is worthy of being secured by the man whose actions have been dissolved and stilled by God’s loving touch is also God. So this man does nothing; he only acts for the good of others.
These are attributes of the realized sage who has reached the stage of final attainment. But what is the nature of yagya that is performed by worshippers who have just set out on the quest ?
In the above verse Lord Krishn portrayed the sacrifice made by sages who have made their abode in the Supreme Spirit. But he now depicts the yagya performed by worshippers who wish to be initiated into yog.
“Some yogis perform yagya to foster divine impulses, whereas some other yogis offer the sacrifice of yagya to a seer who is the fire of God.”
These novices undertake sincere performance of yagya to gods to foster them, that is, they strengthen and augment divine impulses in the heart.The more virtues there are cultivated and garnered in the heart, the more the worshipper advances towards the ultimate excellence until he at last attains it. The novice worshipper’s yagya is thus aimed at strengthening the forces of righteousness in his heart.
A detailed account of the divine treasure of righteousness is given in the first three verses of Chapter Sixteen of Bhagavad Gita. Righteous impulses lie dormant in all of us and it is an important duty to cherish and wake them up. On the contrary, there are the demoniacal, devilish forces which lead the soul to rebirth in low and inferior forms. It is these negative impulses that are offered as oblation to fire. This is yagya and also its inception.
Other yogis perform yagya by offering sacrifice to the accomplished teacher in his heart-the sacred fire that is an embodiment of God. Sri Krishn further adds that in the human body he is the adhiyagya or that in whom the oblation is consumed.Sri Krishn too was a yogi and an accomplished teacher.These other yogi offer oblations to the Godlike teacher who also annihilates evils like fire. They perform sacrifices aimed at this accomplished teacher who is also an embodiment of sacrifice. In brief, they concentrate their minds on the form of the accomplished teacher, a realized sage.
Lord Krishn adds further:
“While some offer their hearing and other senses as sacrifice to the fire of self-restraint, others offer speech and other sense objects to the fire of the senses.”
Yet other yogi offer all their senses of action-ear, eye, skin, tongue, and nose-to the fire of self-control, that is, they subdue their senses by withdrawing them from their objects. There is no real fire in this case. As everything cast into fire is reduced to ashes, even so the fire of restraint destroys the outward looking senses. There are then yogi who offer all their senses of perception, sound, touch, form, taste, and smell, to the fire of senses; they sublimate their desires and thus turn them into effective means for achievement of the supreme goal.
After all, the worshipper has to carry on his task in this world itself, assaulted all the while by good as well evil utterances of people around him. No sooner than he hears words that arouse passion, however, he sublimates them into the feeling of renunciation and thus bums them in the fire of the senses.
Here we have the fire of the senses. Just as objects put into fire are burnt out, sensual forms–sight, taste, smell, touch, and sound-are bereft of their power to distract the worshipper when they are transformed and shaped in accordance with the requirements of his goal. Having no longer any interest in sense-perceptions, the worshipper does not now assimilate them .
Now sings Lord Krishn:
“Yet other yogi offer the functions of their senses and operations of their life-breaths to the fire of yog (self-control) kindled by knowledge.”
In the yagya Sri Krishn has so far spoken of, there are a gradual fostering of pious impulses, restraint of the working of senses, and parrying off of sensual perceptions through a modification of their intent. In a still higher state than this, yogi offer as oblation the functions of all senses and operations of life-breaths to the fire of yog that is lit up by knowledge of God. When restraint is integrated with the Self and the operations of breath and senses are stilled, the current which stimulates passions and the current which propels one towards God merge into the Self. The outcome of yagya then emerges as God-realization, the culmination of this spiritual exercise. When one dwells in the God who had to be realized, nothing else remains to be achieved.
Yogeshwar Krishn again explains yagya:
“Just as many perform yagya by making material gifts in service of the world, some other men perform yagya through physical mortification, some perform the sacrifice of yog, and yet others who practice severe austerities perform yagya through the study of scriptures.”
There are many who make sacrifice of wealth. They contribute riches to the service of saints.Sri Krishn accepts whatever gifts are offered to him with devotion and he is a benefactor of those who make these gifts. This is the yagya of wealth or riches. To serve every man, to bring those who have strayed back to the right path, by contributing wealth to the cause is the sacrifice of riches. These sacrifices have the capability to nullify the natural sanskars.
Some men mortify their senses through penances for the observance of their dharm. In other words, their sacrifice, made according to their inherent properties, is penance-humiliation of the body, and it belongs to the stage between the lowest and highest levels of yagya. Wanting in adequate knowledge of the path that leads to God, the Shudr worshipper who is just setting out on the way of worship undergoes penance by rendering service, the Vaishya by acquisition of divine riches, the Kshatriya by demolishing passion and anger, and the Brahmin with his ability to be united with God. All of them have to toil alike. In truth yagya is one and there are only its lower and higher stages governed by innate properties.
Revered Gurudev uses to say:
“To trim the mind along with the body and senses in keeping with the goal, is penance. They tend to digress from the goal but have to be pulled back and applied to it.”
There are many who practise the yagya of yog. Yog is the joining of the Soul, wandering amidst nature, with God who is beyond nature.Usually, the meeting of two objects is yog. Nature and the Self are two entities, distinct from each other. There is yog when the nature-based Soul meets the identical God, and when nature is dissolved in the Soul. This is the true yog. So there are many who resort to a strict practice of restraint because it is conducive to this union. The practicers of the yog of sacrifice (yagya) and they who are given to severe austerities keep in view their own Self and perform the yagya of knowledge.
Here, nonviolent but severe austerities such as restraint, religious observance, the appropriate posture of sitting, serenity of breath, withholding of the mind along with the physical organs, retention, meditation and perfect absorption of thought in the Supreme Spirit, are indicated as the eightfold features of yog.
There are many who undertake Self-study because they aim at Self-knowledge. Reading books is but the first step to Self-knowledge, for in the true sense it is derived only from contemplation of the Self which brings about attainment of God, and the final outcome of which is knowledge or intuitive perception.
Lord Krishn now points out what is done for this yagya of knowledge or contemplation of the Self.
“As some offer their exhalation to inhalation, others offer their inhaled breath to the exhaled breath, while yet others practise serenity of breath by regulating their incoming and outgoing breath.”
Meditators on the Self, sacrifice vital air to apan and similarly apan to pran. Going even higher than this, other yogi restrain all life-winds and take refuge in the regulation of breath (pranayam).
That which Sri Krishn calls pran-apan, Mahatma Buddh has named anapan. This is what he has also described as shwas-prashwas (inhaling and exhaling). Pran is the breath that is inhaled, whereas apan is the breath which moves out. Sages have found by experience that along with breath we also imbibe desires from surrounding environment and, similarly, transmit waves of inner pious as well as impious thoughts with our exhalations. Non-assimilation of any desire from an external source is the offering of pran as oblation, whereas suppression of all inner desires is the sacrifice of apan, so that there is generation of neither internal desire nor grief because of thoughts of the external world. So when both pran and apan are properly balanced, breath is regulated. This is pranayam, the serenity of breath. This is the state in which the mind is supreme, for restraint of breath is the same as restraint of mind.
The mind is linked with breath. That is the state of victory of the mind when the eye is set on the breath, when the intoning of name is incorporated into breath, and no desire of the external world can enter into the worshipper. With this the final outcome of yagya emerges.
Now adds Lord Krishn:
“Yet others who subsist on strictly regulated breath and offer their breath to breath, and life to life, are all knowers of yagya, and the sins of all who have known yagya are destroyed.”
They who partake of restricted food offer as oblation their breath to breath-life to life.Revered Gurudev uses to say that the food, posture of sitting, and sleep of a yogi should be steady. Regulation of food and pleasure is a necessity. Many yogi who observe such discipline renounce their breath to breath, concentrating on inhalations and paying no heed to exhalations. With each incoming breath they hear OM. Thus men whose sins have been destroyed by yagya are men of true knowledge.
Lord Krishn now speaks of the outcome of yagya.
“O the best of Kuru, the yogi who have tasted the nectar flowing from yagya attain to the eternal supreme God, but how can the next life of men bereft of yagya be happy when even their life in this world is miserable?”
What yagya generates-what results from it, is nectar the substance of immortality. A direct experience of this is wisdom.The one who feeds on it becomes one with the eternal God. So yagya is something which with its completion unites the worshipper with God. According to Sri Krishn, how can the next world bring happiness to men bereft of yagya when even the mortal, human birth is beyond their reach? It is their inevitable lot to be born in lower forms and nothing better than them. So the observance of yagya is a necessity.
And then Lord Krishn concludes:
“Many such yagya are laid down by the Ved but they all germinate and grow from the ordained action, and performing their various steps you will be free from worldly bondage.”
There are several steps of yagya elaborated by the Ved-God’s own words. After realization, God assumes the body of accomplished sages. The minds of men who have become one with God are then mere instruments. It is God who speaks through them. So it is in his voice that these yagya have been enunciated.
Sri Krishn tells Arjun that he should know that all these yagya have arisen from action. He has pointed out that all those, whose sins have been wiped out by yagya, are the real knowers of yagya. And now he tells Arjun that he will be freed from the bonds of the world if he knows that yagya arises from action.
Here the Yogeshwar has clearly stated the meaning of action. That conduct is action by which yagya is accomplished.
In fact, all these forms of yagya are but internal processes of contemplation-forms of worship which make God manifest and known. Yagya is the special ordained mode that helps the worshipper to traverse the path that leads to God.That by which this yagya is accomplished, regulation and serenity of breath, is action. The true meaning of “action” is therefore “worship”.
I very humbly bow down in lotus feet of revered Gurudev
for such metaphysical expositions from Bhagavad Gita verses preached to us
in reference to “Nature and form of Yagya”.