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Bhagavad Gītā 4

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Chapter 4


Union by Knowledge

(Sanskrit terms and names can be clicked for explanation)


The Holy One said:

This imperishable [doctrine of] yogaI set forth to Vivasvat [the Sun]; Vivasvat told it to Manu; Manu communicated it to Ikṣvāku. (1)

Thus being transmitted from one to another, this [doctrine] royal sages [rājarṣaya] knew. But this yoga, O harasser of foes, though great length of time, was lost to the world. (2)

This same ancient yoga I have today set forth to you, for you are beloved by me and are my companion, and this is truly a most esoteric doctrine. (3)

Arjuna said:

Your birth was posterior, the birth of Vivasvat [the Sun] was prior. How shall I understand this, that you first set this forth? (4)

The Holy One said:

Many are my former births, and of you also, O Arjuna. I know all of them; you know them not, O Harasser of foes! (5)

Although [I am] unborn. Of imperishable selfhood, although [I am] lord of all beings, yet while abiding in my own natural state, I take birth through the illusion of [the – Ed.] self (or: I take birth by my own power ātmamāyayā). (6)

Whenever, O descendant of Bharata, a decline of duty comes into being – a springing up of unrighteousness – then, indeed, I emanate myself [send myself forth]. (7)

For the preservation of the righteous, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the sake of establishing Duty, I take birth from age to age. (8)

He who so rightly knows this my divine birth and action, when he has cast of the body does not go to rebirths. He goes to me, O Arjuna! (9)

Many, freed from passion, fear, anger, assimilated unto me, depending on me, purified by the practice of knowledge, have attained to my nature. (10)

Them, who thus approach me, in the same way I also frequent. Men follow my path everywhere, O son of Pṛthā. (11)

Striving to obtain success for works in the world, they venerate the divinities. For in a man-bearing world (manushe loke) success born of action (karmajā) soon cometh to be. (12)

The fourfold division off castes was emanated by me according to the distribution of guṇas (the three qualities) and actions. Know me then the maker thereof, yet the non-maker, and imperishable. (13)

Actions pollute me not, nor is there in me any longing for the fruits of acts. He who knows thus, is not ensnared by actions. (14)

Having known thus, even the ancients who longed for freedom performed action. Perform action, therefore, even as was performed by the ancients in ancient times. (15)

What is action (karman)? What inaction (akarman)? Even the sages have been thus bewildered. Therefore I will explain to you what action [is] having, known which, you shall be free from misfortune: (i.e.) (16)

One must know about action; one must know about wrong action. The cause of karman is profound! (17)

He who should see inaction in action, he [who should see] action in inaction, is wise among men; he is experienced, a doer of all actions (18)

Him whose undertakings are all freed from desire and [personal] will, whose action is purified by the fire of knowledge, the wise call a learned man. (19)

Having abandoned all attachment to the fruits of action, constant in equanimity, self-supported, although engaged in action he thus does naught. (20)

Devoid of expectations, of governed mind and self, having abandoned all desire to possess, performing only [necessary] bodily action, he incurs no guilt [thus]. (21)

Satisfied with what is obtained spontaneously, having gone beyond [the influence of] the ‘pairs of opposites,’ unenvious, unmoved in success and in failure, even though he acts he is not fettered by it. (22)

Of him who has left attachment behind, of him who is free [from karmic bonds], of him whose attention is fixed in knowledge of him who only performs sacrifice, the entire karman melts away. (23)

Brahman is the act of offering, brahman is the oblation, brahman is offered in the fire by brahman; to brahman goes he who is intent on brahman as the action. (24)

Some devotees perform sacrifice itself in the fire of brahman. (25)

Others sacrifice the senses, such as hearing, etc., in the fires of self-control; others sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as sound, etc. in the fire of the senses. (26)

Some again sacrifice all actions of the senses and the functions of the life-breaths in the fire of the practice of self restraint, kindled by knowledge. (27)

Some again [perform] sacrifices of material goods, by penance and also by yoga; and devotees actively [following] the rules, sacrifice by sacred study and [the acquisition of] knowledge. (28)

So again some offer up the upward-going life breath (apāne), or the downward-going life-breath in the upward going life-breath; arresting the causes of both the upward- and downward-going life-breaths, they zealously engage in prāṇāyāma [suspension of the life-breath]. (29)

Some eating little, sacrifice the upward-going life-breaths to the upward going life-breaths [or: translate as in previous note]. All the others, knowers of sacrifice, have their foulness destroyed by sacrifice. (30)

The eaters of the immortal remains of the sacrifice go the eternal brahman; this world is not for him who sacrifices not. Whence another [for him] O best of the Kurus? (31)

Thus sacrifices of various kinds are exhibited by sacred writings (brahmano mukhe). Know them to be all born of action. Knowing this, you will attain freedom. (32)

Better, O harasser of foes, is the sacrifice through knowledge than the sacrifice of material goods. Every action, O son of Pṛthā is folly brought to perfection through knowledge [alone]. (33)

Know this by submission, by inquiry, by service; the Knowers who see truth will point knowledge out to thee: (34)

Having known which, you will not thus fall again into bewilderment, O son of Pāṇḍu! By it you will see all beings without exception in thyself, and this is me. (35)

Even if you are the greatest malefactor of all evil-doers, by the boat of knowledge you shall pass over all crookedness. (36)

As the kindled flame reduces fuel to the state of ashes, O Arjuna, so the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to the state of ashes. (37)

There is no purifier like knowledge known in this world. This, the man perfect in yoga himself discovers, in time, within himself. (38)

The man who has trust, who is devoted to this end, whose senses are under control, obtains knowledge. Having obtained knowledge, before long time he enters upon the highest peace. (39)

He who is ignorant and devoid of trust, of irresolute character, perishes. Neither this world nor the hereafter, nor happiness, are for the man of irresolute character. (40)

The man of self-possessed character, whose actions are gathered up in yoga, whose irresolution is destroyed by knowledge, actions do not ensnare, O Dhanañjaya! (41)

Therefore, having destroyed by the sword of knowledge this irresolution born of ignorance and which dwell in your heart, practice yoga. Arise! O descendant of Bharata. (42)


Thus in the Holy

Bhagavad-Gītā. The fourth

chapter, by name —


Union by Knowledge