Ancient India
Jnana: Knowledge

Krishna

   This everlasting system of devotion I declared to the sun, the sun declared it to Manu, 1 and Manu communicated it to Ikshvaku. 2 Coming thus by steps it became known to royal sages. But that devotion was lost to the world by long lapse of time. That same primeval devotion I have declared to you today, seeing that you are my devotee and friend, for it is the highest mystery.


Arjuna

   Later is your birth; the birth of the sun is prior. How then shall I understand that you declared this first?


Arjuna

   I have passed through many births, Arjuna, and you also. I know them all, but you do not know them. Even though I am unborn and inexhaustible in my essence, even though I am lord of all beings, still I take up the control of my own nature and am born by means of my delusive power.

   Whenever sacred duty languishes, and impiety rules, I create myself. I am born age after age, for the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, and the establishment of sacred duty. Whoever truly knows about my divine birth and work casts off this body and is not born again. He comes to me, Arjuna. Many from whom affection, fear, and wrath have departed, who are full of me, who depend on me, and who are purified by the penance 3 of knowledge, have come into my essence.

   I serve men in the way in which they approach me. Men follow me in every possible way. Desiring the success of actions, men in this world worship the divinities, for in this world of mortals, the success produced by action is soon obtained.

   The fourfold division of castes was created by me according to the apportionment of qualities and duties. 4 But though I am its author, know me to be inexhaustible, and not the author. Actions do not pollute me. I have no attachment to the fruit of actions. He who knows me thus is not tied down by actions.

   Knowing this, the men of old who wished for final emancipation performed action. Therefore you, too, should perform action as was done by men of old in ancient times. Even sages are confused as to what action is and what inaction is. Therefore I will speak to you about action, and learning that, you will be freed from this world of evil.

   One must possess knowledge 5 about action; one must also possess knowledge about prohibited action; and again one must possess knowledge about inaction.

   The truth regarding action is obscure and difficult. He is wise among men, he is possessed of devotion, and performs all actions, who sees inaction in action and action in inaction. The wise call him learned, whose acts are all free from desires and fancies, and whose actions are burnt down by the fire of knowledge.

   Forsaking all attachment to the fruit of action, always contented, dependent on none, he does nothing at all, though he engages in action.

   Devoid of expectations, restraining the mind and the self, and casting off all belongings, he incurs no sin, performing actions merely for the sake of the body.

   Satisfied with earnings coming spontaneously, rising above the pairs of opposites, free from all animosity, and maintaining equanimity in success and failure, he is not chained down, even though he performs actions.

   The acts of one who lacks all attachment, who is free, whose mind is fixed on knowledge, and who performs action for the purpose of sacrifice are all destroyed.

   Brahman 6 is the offering; with Brahman as a sacrificial instrument it is offered up; Brahman is in the fire; and by Brahman it is thrown; and Brahman, too, is the goal to which he proceeds who meditates on Brahman in the action.

   Some devotees perform the sacrifice to the gods, some offer up the sacrifice by the sacrifice of Brahman in the fire.

   Others offer up the senses, such as the sense of hearing and others, in the fires of restraint; others offer up the objects of sense, such as sound and so forth, into the fires of the senses .

   Some again offer up all the operations of the senses and tne operations of the life-breaths into the fire of devotion by self-restraint, kindled by knowledge.

   Others perform the sacrifice of wealth, the sacrifice of penance, the sacrifice of concentration of mind, the sacrifice of Vedic study, and of knowledge, and others are ascetics of rigid vows.

   Some offer up the upward life-breath into the downward life-breath, and the downward life-breath into the upper life-breath, and stopping up the motions of the upward and downward life-breaths, devote themselves to restraining their breathing . 7

   Others, who take limited food, offer up the life-breaths into the life-breaths.

   All of these, conversant with the sacrifice, have their sins destroyed by the sacrifice

   Those who eat the nectar-like leavings of the sacrifice repair to the eternal Brahman.

   This world is not for those who perform no sacrifice, nor is the other world, either.

   Thus sacrifices of various sorts are laid down in the Vedas. Know them all to be produced from action and knowing this you will be released from the chains of this world. The sacrifice of knowledge, Arjuna, is superior to the sacrifice of wealth, for action is wholly and entirely comprehended in knowledge. That you should learn by humble submission, by asking questions, and by doing service.

   The men of knowledge who perceive the truth will teach knowledge to you. Having learned that, O son of Pandu, you will not again fall into delusion, and by means of it you will see all beings without exception, first in yourself, and then in me.

   Even if you are the most sinful of all sinful men, you will cross over all your sins by means of the boat of knowledge alone. As a fire well kindled, Arjuna, reduces fuel to ashes, so the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to ashes. For there is in this world no means of holiness like knowledge, and that one perfected by devotion finds this out in his own self.

   He who has faith, whose senses are restrained, and who is subdued, obtains knowledge. Obtaining knowledge, he acquires, without delay, the highest tranquillity.

   He who is ignorant and lacking in faith, and whose self is full of misgivings, is ruined. Not this world, not the next, nor happinness, is for him whose self is full of misgivings.

   Actions do not chain one who is self-possessed, who has renounced action by devotion, and who has destroyed misgivings by knowledge. Therefore, Arjuna, destroy, with the sword of knowledge, these misgivings of yours which fill your mind, and which are produced from ignorance. Engage in devotion. Arise!

Translated by Kashinath Trimbak Telano, 1882
Edited and annotated by Richard Hooker



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Updated 10-17-97