Gita Seires 57. Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV. 26-30:

“Some offer as oblations, sensory perceptions like hearing etc into the fire of self-restraint. Some other offer as oblations sensory perceptions like hearing etc into the fire of senses. Some offer the entire functions of senses and the entire functions of prana as oblations into the fire of ‘yoga of self-restraint’ fuelled by wisdom. Some offer materials as oblations. Some offer non-indulgance as oblations. Some offer yoga as oblations. Some offer strict vows as oblations. Some offer oblations in the form of knowledge through the study of scriptures. Some offer exhalation as oblations into inhalation. Some offer inhalation as oblations into exhalation. Some by regulating their diet and by practicing pranayama offer them as oblations into pranayama itself. All of them understand the true nature of sacrificial worship and their sins are consumed.”

Fire consumes all that is not required when offered as oblations. Krishna has already said in Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV.23 “by destroying his worldly attachments and bodily attachments, ever remaining in Paramatma and acts only for the sake of yajna, his karmas are entirely destroyed.” In the path of spirituality, self-restraint is paramount. Senses are the main cause for distraction of awareness from the Supreme. Krishna has already elaborated about sensory afflictions in Chapter II.60. Sense of hearing is cited as an example here. Senses in general lead to desires, bondage and attachments. Senses influence the mind to commit sins. Hence, Krishna says that sensory perceptions are offered as oblations into fire, the internal fire that maintains the body temperature. Without this fire the body ceases to function. When sensory perceptions are sacrificed into this fire, instead of the the flames that are visible in the external fire, powerful energy is emanated from the physical body of that person from the inner fire. The inner fire is the Brahman. Controlling of senses is different from self-restraint. Subduing of senses takes place while controlling senses. One forcefully controls his senses, though his thoughts are still associated with senses. But in the case of self-restraint, he disconnects his thoughts from his senses by means of his self-will, that leads to free will. He is not bothered about his senses at all as he stands attuned with the Brahman. Mind is the key factor both in controlling the senses by force and restraining the senses by fixing his consciousness with the Brahman. If the senses are controlled forcefully, they egress with more potency. Detaching senses from the mind is the ideal situation for progression in spirituality. This can happen if one has a fixed goal of attainment. Krishna says every act of sentience is to be sacrificed in the fire of senses. This alone paves way for the highest source of consciousness or sat-chit-ananda, where physiological functions come to a halt. There is inner silence suspended in timelessness. When the senses are no more useful to him, he willingly sacrifices them to the fire of senses themselves. The question now arises why this sensory oblations have been referred to differently. In the former case he forcibly controls his senses by engaging himself in religious activities (not spiritual activities) and in the latter case he continues to be present as one amongst us. But he does not put into use his sensory organs thereby keeping his mind focused on the Brahman alone. His senses do not influence his mind. He goes to a movie, but his mind is not affected by the movie. The art of taming one’s natural tendencies is not in the application of futile brute force but in gradual psycho-physical (the branch of psychology concerned with quantitative relations between physical stimuli and their psychological effects) steps.

Krishna now introduces ‘atma-samyama-yoga’ or ‘yoga of self-control’. This stage can be called as the closest stage to trance. The next stage is ‘Samadhi’. Meditation is a process that culminates in Samadhi. Meditation is a stage where the meditator, the meditation and the object of meditation exist and in the stage of Samadhi the object of meditation alone exists. For attaining that stage, the supreme knowledge is required. Only the highest knowledge can lead to the Brahman, as knowledge alone makes a person to discriminate between the Brahman and maya. Krishna says fire of yoga of self-restraint is fuelled by knowledge. The fire of self-restraint can be ignited only by knowledge, the knowledge of discrimination. Into this fire of self-restraint, senses and breath are offered as oblations or they are sacrificed and burnt into ashes. In the advanced stage of Samadhi called ‘nir-vikalpa-samadhi’, where in pure mind all the tendencies are submerged and continue to remain in un-manifested state. There is difference between sleep and trance. In sleep ignorance prevails and in trance knowledge alone prevails. That is why Krishna says everything is sacrificed into fire of self-restraint, including one’s breath. Inhalation and exhalation cease during the peak of Samadhi. The breath happens within, as everything happens only within during this stage. His physical body is still alive.

Krishna next talks about material sacrifices. Oblations and sacrifices convey the same meaning in this context. Oblations offered in the fire rituals are only sacrifices as at the end of each oblation, the effect of the oblation is sacrificed to the deity invoked in the fire. For example when an oblation is offered to Krishna, then the mantras says ‘Krishnayae svaha (Svaha for Krishna)! Krishnayae idam na mama!(this is for Krishna, not for me)”. Anything that is not in the interest of self is considered as sacrifice. Anything done for the welfare of the co-inhabitants is a sacrifice. Someone provides free education, then it is a sacrifice. Education is not for his children but for someone else. No selfish motive is involved. Sacrifice does not mean fire oblations alone. This is known as ‘yoga-yajna’, the sacrifice done through the practice of yoga. Yoga is a process by which cessation of the modifications of intellect is carried out. This process is carried out by merging individual self with the Supreme Self. Brahma Sutra 2.1.3 says that yoga is a necessity for liberation. Otherwise, Krishna would not have taken pains to explain about yogas at length. He elaborates one yoga after another throughout Bhagavad Gita. Sacrifices are carried out in different ways. Some perform ritual yajnas, someone else takes a vow, yet another study scriptures and spread his knowledge across the earth for others to know. Whatsoever is the nature of sacrifice, it has to be self-less. Then it is known as yajna. Favours should not be sought from the Brahman. He decides only on the law of karma. Krishna says that pranayama can also be sacrificed as the proper practice of breath control leads to Self-realization. (Breath control will be discussed in detail in our discussions on ‘vijnana Bhairava’). Krishna refers to different types of oblations or sacrifices to indicate that anything can be sacrificed. If such sacrifice is made, the entire actions of those who work for the sake of sacrifice dissolve away. They are not afflicted by karmas, as the fruits of actions have been sacrificed in favour of the Brahman. Krishna has thus far spoken about twelve types of yajna in this chapter.

Further Readings:

Bhagavad Gita. Chapter IV. 22 -25

Bhagavad Gita. Chapter IV. 31 - 34

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