Sacrifice is essential to be on the path of knowing.
Sreejit Datta teaches English and Cultural Studies at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Mysore. Variously trained in comparative literature, Hindustani music and statistics; Sreejit happens to be an acclaimed vocalist who has been regularly performing across multiple Indian and non-Indian genres. He can be reached at:
Then God said: I had proclaimed this eternal way to Vivasvan, the Sun-god,
He in turn revealed it to Manu, from Manu to Ikshvaku ‘twas brought.
Thus the sagacious kings learned of it, through this sacred succession;
It got lost to this realm thro’ the ages, O scorcher of thy opposition!
Today I’ve once again revealed this great secret, the Old Way, to thee
For you’re my disciple, my companion, and thus so very dear to me.
Arjun asked: you were born later in time, while Vivasvan is of old –
So how do I know that in the beginning it was you who had told?
God said: I have passed through many births, and so have you, O Arjun,
Of each of these I know every bit; but to you they remain unknown.
Though I’m birthless and changeless, and am the Lord of all beings,
Yet I take birth thro’ my mystic power, resorting to the elemental things –
Presiding over my prakriti, using my Maya, I bring about many risings.
O Scion of Bharat! Whenever dharma suffers, and adharma is on the rise,
I arise. To protect the virtuous, to destroy the wicked, and to reorganize
Dharma, the eternal path, I take birth in every era. Thus the avatars arise.
O Arjun! Whosoever gets to know these my divine births and actions well,
Such a soul, when it leaves its sheath, is not born again, but in Me it dwells.
Free from passion, fear, and wrath; in Me absorbed, taking refuge in Me,
And cleansed by the striving for the knowledge of truth, there’ve been many
Who attained My everlasting, divine state of being. I gratify one and all
According to their manners of seeking Me. Whatsoever path men may follow,
O son of Pritha, in the end they all take to Me. Desiring fulfilment of actions,
In this realm they worship various gods; for swiftly do they get such fruition
That arise out of sacrificial acts, in the realm of men. It is I who created
The four varnas, based on the types of qualities and actions; yet associated
I am not – know Me, ever without change, to be its maker but inactive still.
Actions bind me not, nor do I hanker after their fruits: that man has the skill
For actions who knows me thus; ‘cause even he is never chained by his acts!
Former seekers acted in the same manner – for they too knew these facts;
Therefore do your work just as the predecessors did, act with the same stance!
Now what is action, and what inaction – these queries elude even the seers;
I will tell you of such actions whose knowledge shall dispel all your fears.
You must understand what action is, as well as that which is a misdeed;
You must also understand inaction – the way of karma is obscure indeed!
He who perceives inaction in action, and within inaction sees toil,
Such a man is wise among men, for he acts in yoga without turmoil.
A man, whose every endeavour is devoid of the impulse of desire,
Is called wise by sages, for his karmas are burnt up in wisdom’s fire.
Giving up attachment to the fruits of actions, ever-content, independent,
He does nothing in reality, even if he sets out on something with intent.
Without the longing for results, with his mind under complete control,
Rejecting all possessions, only his body works; no sin ever touches his soul.
Satisfied with what he gets by chance, beyond pleasure, pain and envy,
He acts, but isn’t bound by actions; in both success and failure he is steady.
All his actions melt away, who performs them as a sacred offering,
Whose attachments are gone, who is free – his mind in wisdom resting.
The act of offering is Brahman for him, Brahman is also the oblation;
By Brahman it is offered in the fire of Brahman; Brahman his destination!
Therefore it is but Brahman, wherein dissolves all sorts of action.
For some yogis, offering a pious sacrifice to the gods is a sacred device;
For others it is offering sacrifice into the fire of Brahman by that very sacrifice.
Some people offer up the sense organs into the fire of discipline,
Others offer up the sense objects into the fire of those senses within.
Into the fire of self-restraint, kindled by wisdom, others make an offering
Of all the actions undertaken by the sense organs and by the vital breathing.
There are those who offer up material things, and those who do austerities,
And then some others, who make an offering out of their spiritual severities;
There are also such resolute men of strict vows, who offer up their learning.
Some offer up their incoming breath into the outgoing, some do the opposite;
Yet others devote themselves to the controlling of breaths by barring their exit.
Some people offer up their vital breaths into vital breaths by moderate eating;
All these masters of sacrifices get rid of sins through their acts of offering.
Those who eat the nectar-like remains of a sacrifice, go unto Brahman the eternal;
But those who make no offerings have neither this realm nor the supernal.
These various forms of sacrifice have been explained thro’ Brahma’s mouth;
Know that these relate to actions: thus informed you’ll be free, without a doubt.
O scorcher of foes! An offering of knowledge is better than that of material;
O son of Pritha! All actions culminate into the knowledge of the ethereal.
Find such knowledge through reverence, questioning and selfless service,
The knowledge which the seers of truth will offer you – a novice –
Knowing which you won’t get tangled in such delusions ever again;
You’ll see all beings in yourself, and then in Me, O Prince of Pandav descent!
And even if you happen to be the most sinful among all the sinners,
The boat of knowledge will row you across all evils like ace mariners.
O Arjun! As the kindled fire reduces its fuel down to mere ashes,
So does the fire of knowledge devour all actions, without a trace.
Nothing in this realm is as pure as knowledge; yogis find it within themselves.
Those who have shraddha – the conviction of spirit, and those who are intent
On receiving knowledge, with concentration and their senses under restraint,
Obtain knowledge. Gaining it, in no time they attain to absolute content.
But the ignorant man, the man who lacks shraddha, and the sceptics perish;
The sceptic has neither this realm nor the other, the sceptic has no bliss.
One who has attained detachment from the fruits of action through discipline,
One whose doubts have been dispelled by the knowledge of the light within,
One who is ever rooted in the awareness of Atman – his True Self,
O Dhananjay! Such a soul is never bound by actions; he has freed himself.
Therefore, with your blazing sword of knowledge cut asunder
The doubts of your heart, born of ignorance and blunder;
Being firmly rooted in yoga, the intense discipline of the wise,
Do your assigned part in this battle, O Scion of Bharat! Arise!