(Chapter-wise Summary)



This chapter, titled as “Yoga of Knowledge”, begins first continues with the discussion on the Yoga of Action (Karmayoga) from the previous chapter before coming to the aspects of Knowledge.

Shri Krishna tells Arjuna that Karmayoga was really very ancient and he had told it to Vivaswan who in turn told it to his son Vaivaswat Manu.  From him it reached royal yogis.  However, people in the course of time had forgotten about it.

(NOTE: Readers may take note that historically Vivaswan was not really Sun-God as many think but one of the sons of Rishi Kashyap, Rishi Marichi’s son.  (Rishi Marichi, according to Puranas, was  one of the seven sages (Saptarshis), the mind born sons of Brahmadeo). Due to similarity in nomenclature and the usual distortion of historical facts in the Puranas, Vivaswan the son of Kashyap through Aditi (one of his 13 wives) is identified with Vivaswan the Sun God.  Vaivaswat Manu, son of Vivaswan, was a philosopher and scholar king.  He was forced by his father and uncles to migrate to the Indian subcontinent from their abode in what today is Afghanistan.  Since he was the founder of the Aryan settlement in India and was responsible for the population growth in his tribe, (a need of those times) he is depicted in the Puranas as Manu the originator of human race.  Historians put the time of Vaivaswat Manu as about 3000BC.)

Shri Krishna is now shown in the role of the personified Absolute who has taken many avatars, all of which he remembers.  He tells Arjuna:


“Karmayoga is quite ancient and I (Shri Krishna as God) had told it to Vivaswan (the Sun-deity) from whom it was passed on to his son Vaivaswat Manu and the successive generations of royal yogis.  However, in the course of time people had started giving secondary importance to or even ignoring the bliss from the Knowledge of the Self and instead had become attracted towards carnal pleasures, which they considered as the highest kind of happiness.  Both of us have gone through many births but while I remember all My incarnations,  you (Arjuna) have no memory of them”.   Shri Krishna adds,

“Though I take birth and assume form by means of Maya, I remain birthless, formless, indestructible and attributeless.  It is My traditional duty to protect the Dharma (the code of righteous conduct), whenever evil predominates over good, therefore I take birth in each yuga (era) in order to protect My devotees and to destroy the ignorance, thus making the whole world happy.  Only persons of Knowledge know this secret of Mine.  He who understands this  reaches Me (God) when he dies”.


Shri Krishna then explains how he graces his devotees.  He says:

“People worship me by their natural tendency and I grace them according to the manner by which they express their devotion to me”.

The desireless attain moksha

Those with desire attain fulfilment THE FOUR CASTES

Shri Krishna tells, “Though all persons are alike, I have divided them into four types according to their qualities and actions, thus creating the four castes.  The actions prescribed for each caste have been determined taking into account the combination of their natural tendencies and qualities.  Therefore, even though the four castes have originated from me, I am not their creator and one who understands this is liberated from the ties of the actions.”

(NOTE: This statement makes the origin of the caste system as divine.  There is a basic question here of how the Almighty could have proposed castes which are nowhere else in the world except in India.  Lack of universality in anything naturally casts a doubt on its divine origin.

There appears to be a paradox in this paragraph, which requires a proper interpretation.  Shri Krishna calls all people to be alike yet differing in qualities and actions.  The four castes have been defined on this basis.  The four castes have originated from him but he is not their creator.  I have tried to interpret this paradox as follows:

Though all people are alike as a species, individuals differ in their qualities, natural tendencies and actions, which are all influenced by and depend upon his karmas of previous birth.  Only the individual is responsible for those karmas.  These qualities and natural tendencies can be classified into a number of classes or types, each becoming a caste, and the number traditionally selected here is four.  The classification being natural is of divine origin according to Shri Krishna and the castes naturally follow this classification.  Being natural, he has not created them.

Today, the castes has proliferated into sub castes which may number more than hundred.  The classification of people on social and economic basis is a natural fallout of human ego.  Such classifications exist in all societies but what is peculiar to the Hindu society is that caste system, originally based on qualities and capability of a person has turned into a birth-based system.  The action and capability based system continues elsewhere in the world.)


The actions of even spiritually very powerful persons have turned out to be desireful actions because of a wrong notion of actionlessness.  Even the wise are puzzled about the significance of action and non-action, therefore they should be interpreted properly and not as one likes.


Dravyayajnas and Dnyanayajnas

Shri Krishna now tells about various kinds of Yajnas.  Traditionally, yajna needs a fire in which the sacrificial offerings are made.

The yajnas described in the Vedas needing external actions (like burning materials in fire) are all dravyayajnas i.e. yajnas involving wealth leading only to attaining heavenly plane and are very inferior to the Dnyanayajnas (yajnas of knowledge) which have liberation as their goal.

Dnyanayajnas require shedding of the grime from the mind.  After the ignorance about the Soul is burnt away only its pure form remains. Then the difference between the sacrificial fire and the performer of sacrifice vanishes, the sacrifice ends and all actions get nullified.  In this stage, thoughts do not enter the mind, the duality ends and with the ultimate Knowledge that remains, they experience the unification with the Brahman.

Others lead a wasted life

But those, who after being born as human beings do not practice yoga or perform yajnas or practice self-control lead a useless life in this world. Their status in the after world need not even be mentioned.
Some Dnyanayajnas:


This is a yajna performed with the intention of attaining Self.  It is necessary first to give up indiscrimination from his nature, become dispassionate and attain maturity.  The seeker then sacrifices the ignorance and the mind in the fire of (i.e. with the help of) the mantras given by his Guru.


This yajna is done by followers of the path of knowledge in order to attain Brahman.  In this type of yajna, Knowledge itself is burnt as an offering in the fire of Brahman until Knowledge and the knower become one with the object to be known i.e. the Brahman.

(NOTE: These two yajnas are mentioned in Gita Shloka 4:25 which is translated as “Some yogis worship the deities alone while others offer sacrifice itself by the way of sacrifice in the fire of Brahman.” This is difficult to understand!).

Yajna of Self-control

Some people sacrifice the sense pleasures by practicing control of body, speech and mind. Some others develop dispassion and controlling their mind and using the mantra “I am the Brahman” they burn their desires and ambitions from the five sense-organs. Guru-mantra

Some others, with dispassionate attitude and the continuous chanting of the mantras given by their Guru, develop the urge for Knowledge (of the Self).  After avoiding the trap Siddhis (occult powers) they achieve the first spark of Knowledge.  After controlling the mind and burning the desires and the worldly matters like family ties, and through control of breathing (Pranayama) they become one with the Brahman.  What remains is the bliss of the Knowledge of the Self.

Some Dravyayajnas

These include: Dravyayajna or offering of wealth, Tapoyajna or performing penance, Yogayajna or practising Yoga, Vagyajna.  Offering of words i.e. speech as Yajna.

Other types of Yajnas

There are still others who practice Pranayama i.e. breath control.  Such yogis are called Pranayamis.  Some others use a technique called Vajrayoga in which diet is controlled and Pranas are sacrificed into Prana.


Shri Krishna advises:

Saints are the depositories of Knowledge and are fit to be Gurus. Serving them leads to  Knowledge.  Therefore, if you desire to gain Knowledge you should serve them in every way.  You should shed the ego, be their servant, ask them questions about whatever you wish to know and they will explain it to you.  Once you understand it, desires will not enter your mind.  You will lose all your fears and be fit to attain Brahman.  You will see everything including yourself as My form.  Thus, your (I-am-the-body) delusion will vanish once you get the favours of the saint who is a true Guru.


Knowledge is so powerful that it can remove the ignorance in the mind of even a worst sinner even if he is full of illusion and delusion.  This Knowledge is all encompassing and cannot be compared with anything except itself just as if one asks the taste of nectar the answer is like nectar and nothing else.

Knowledge seeks a person who prefers the pleasure of Self-realisation to the sense-pleasures and does not allow desires enter his mind, does not feel responsible for the things which occur naturally and who has become happy by faith.  Once the Knowledge becomes firm in his mind, he attains Self-realisation.  Peace then reigns in his mind and duality about “this is mine” and “that is another person’s” vanishes from his mind.


Death is preferable to the life of a person not interested in Knowledge.  A person may not have gained Knowledge but if he shows even a little interest in it then there is some hope that he will gain it.  But if he shows no such interest then he will surely be afflicted by doubts and can be definitely considered as lost to the happiness in this world as well as the next.  A doubting person does not differentiate between truth and falsehood, proper and improper, beneficial and harmful.  Therefore, there is no greater sin than doubt.  The one means of destroying it is the Knowledge.




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Dr V. V. shirvaikar,                                     email: vshirvaikar@yahoo.com
A-23 Yashodhan Soc.
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