Gita Series 58. Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV. 31–34:

“Arjuna! By consuming the remnants of yajna, yogis attain the Brahman. When this earthly life is not happy for those who do not perform sacrifices, how can they be happy in other worlds? Many sacrifices have been explained by Vedas. Know them all as karmas. By knowing thus, you shall be liberated from karmic afflictions. Making sacrifices through knowledge is superior to making sacrifices through materials as the entire action without exceptions culminate in knowledge. Understand the true knowledge by approaching a Self-realized person, by paying obeisance, by rendering service and by seeking clarification from him. Those seers will teach you that knowledge.”

Remnants of yajna means left over oblation materials after completing a yajna. In this context, yajna means a fire ritual where oblations are offered into the fire. Fire is said to be the carrier of oblations offered to the gods and goddesses. Lalitha Sahasranamam 946 is ‘pancha-yajna-priya’ meaning that She is fond of five types of yajnas. Yajna should not always be interpreted as fire ritual. Yajna also means selfless offerings. The offerings are made to gods, rishis, guests, fellow humans and animals. Whatever one possesses should first be offered to gods. Though gods are not going to consume the offerings, the formality is just to make us remember the Brahman, who is the cause for all that exists in this universe. Therefore, the first offering is made to the Creator. The next offering is made to sages and saints who guide us through the spiritual path. They do not have time to earn and they involve themselves for the cause of spirituality. A person can be considered as a sage or saint only if he does not get associated with material comforts. He should not share his knowledge for monetary gains. That is why they are to be fed by the society. Spirituality should never be sold or bought. It is not a commercial entity. It is unstinted love and concern for others. Scriptures are unanimous in saying that one’s guest should be fed with reverence and love. They are called ‘atiti’. Food that is available should be shared with fellow human beings. Finally, the animals who cannot express their hunger are to be fed. The five types of yajnas have their own significance. Therefore, yajna has broader implications and does not merely mean the fire ritual that is normally construed. The sacrificial acts cause internal happiness. Opportunities for doing such acts are available only in planet earth and internal happiness can be derived only during this birth. If one fails to enlist this happiness, how can he taste such happiness after his death (by reaching the heaven)? Human form is the only opportunity available to a soul to attain liberation.

Vedas discuss about many sacrifices. The significance of these sacrifices is not properly understood. Vedas can be interpreted both in gross and subtle ways. Gross interpretations are for the not-so-learned. Subtle interpretations are for the learned. Upanishads are the derivatives of Vedas. Upanishads do not prescribe any external rituals. If Vedas have stressed the importance of external rituals, Upanishads would not have hesitated to expatiate them. Since interpretations are made only on the gross side of Vedas, everyone is led to believe that Vedas preach only rituals. The fact is that we do not have the necessary mental strength, moral courage, psychological perception and logical reasoning to interpret the Vedic rituals as inner yajna. Inner yajna paves the way for cosmic interaction between the Brahman and the soul through one’s consciousness. Without this interaction, realization is just not possible. Sacrifices therefore mean only our own actions without any concern for the end result. The end result is not desired, but happens on its own about which one is not worried. Making sacrifice through knowledge means performing a given action without concern for its fruits. Knowledge here means the ability to discriminate between reality and illusion. Duality is illusion and non-duality is realism. Understanding the reality (devoid of ego) and performing actions without any attachment either to their cause or effect, do not cause karmic afflictions. If one remains attached only to external yajnas, he continues to be taunted by karmas and liberation becomes a distant reality. Krishna attaches great importance to knowledge because it forms the foundation for Self-realization. Every action causes an experience, which leads to gaining of mundane knowledge. From the mundane knowledge one has to learn to discriminate between the reality and illusion that leads to the higher level of knowledge. Krishna refers only to this higher level of knowledge.

Gaining true knowledge is not going to be that easy. Apart from one’s personal experience, one can also seek the help of a Self-realized person (who is very rare to find). Only a Self-realized person alone can guide his disciple in the right path. Guru-disciple relationship should never be by way of mass contacts. A guru should have direct contact with his disciple. Disciple should have the absolute freedom to contact his guru without any hindrance. Guru-disciple relationship is a sacred relationship. The knowledge of Brahman cannot be imparted in an assembly or mass gatherings. It should be a one to one commune between guru and disciple. What we are witnessing today is the exhibition of one’s oratory skills. All one has to do is to make a self-proclamation, grow beard and wear orange or red robes. They are not gurus that Krishna is talking about. Writings like this (manblunder) can only be supplementary in nature and can never transport the real knowledge. Krishna says that a true Self-realized person should be approached with great reverence requesting for a share of his knowledge. The impartation of true knowledge happens through hearts and not through minds.

Further readings:

E-Book - Bhagavad Gita - Chapters I and II

Bhagavad Gita. Chapter IV. 26 -30.

Bhagavad Gita. Chapter IV. 35 - 39.