Part 7 ThumbnailThis section completes Chapter 4, which reveals the mechanism of freedom from karma by practicing karma-yoga. Because the Lord is on the transcendental platform, work done for His benefit does not result in karmic bondage. Sacrifice thus means to work in the material world, but offer the results to the Lord through the bona fide spiritual master. Vedic sacrifice begins by approaching a guru, surrendering to him, offering service and making relevant inquiries.


Hello! I’m David Hughes. Welcome to part 7 of our series on Bhagavad-gita, where we will cover the last half of Chapter 4: Transcendental Knowledge. You can download Chapter 4 at this web site

To give you the overview, Chapter 3 introduces the concept of karma-yoga, or working for the Supreme and offering the results in sacrifice. Chapter 4 explains how this principle of karma-yoga works. In other words, Krsna, the Supreme Lord, is transcendental. Nothing that He does entangles Him in the modes of material nature. Similarly, one who works only for His satisfaction also remains un-entangled. He says: “He who is satisfied with gain that comes of its own accord, who is always self-satisfied, and does not envy, [who] is steady in both success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.” This is the key to freedom from the law of karma. Krsna continues, “The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges completely into transcendence.” In other words, he is free from the law of karma because his work is not performed with material results in mind, but all of his actions are done for the satisfaction of the Supreme. This means that the results of all his work are offered to the Supreme in sacrifice; and Krsna explains more about this process of sacrifice in the end of the Fourth Chapter. 

He says: “Those who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reactions and progress towards the Supreme destination.” In other words, everything we do in this material world generates karma or unintended consequences. So, when our actions are not done for our own benefit, but offered in sacrifice to the Supreme, then those actions don’t count towards our karma, but actually they count towards our liberation. In other words, we can do the very same activities that mean entanglement in material nature, but because we do them as a sacrifice to God, they become causes of our liberation from the same material nature. 

Then Krsna says something very significant: “Without sacrifice, one can not live happily in this life or on this planet, what to speak of the next life or the spiritual world?” In other words, nobody can be happy without offering some sacrifice to God, and this is the purpose of religion. We find that the process of sacrifice in religion is known as charity. It’s also known as worship. But here, Krsna is talking about something deeper. He is talking about actually living our life for the purpose of the satisfaction of God. Not for our own satisfaction, not for our own happiness, but for His. This is love; unconditional love of God or bhakti; and as the Gita progresses, Krsna will reveal more and more of this transcendental process of bhakti. Right now, He is talking about the mechanics of it. “How do we actually become free from the law of karma?” [We become free] by offering the results of our work to Him in sacrifice.

He says: “Sacrifice is born of different kinds of work; and the actions of sacrifice culminate in transcendental knowledge.” In other words, if we offer the results of our work to God, the gain that we will receive is transcendental knowledge of God, the soul and the spiritual world. This knowledge is itself liberating, because it gives us a new kind of consciousness: transcendental consciousness, which is not based on the material senses, but on transcendental knowledge or spiritual consciousness. This has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. It frees us from the actions and reactions; [from] the causes and the effects of material laws, and it puts us under a new kind of law: spiritual law, which is unconditional, eternal and free from any kind of defects.

So, practically, how do we perform this process of sacrifice? Krsna says: “Just approach a self-realized spiritual master; surrender unto him; render service and enquiries unto him. The self-realized soul can give you knowledge because he has seen the Truth.” This is the actual process of attaining transcendental consciousness, spiritual knowledge or self-realization. One has to approach a spiritual master situated in the disciplic lineage from Krsna Himself. This is Krsna’s process. The self-realized soul can impart spiritual knowledge unto you, because he has seen the Truth. In other words, a real spiritual master has seen God directly, face-to-face, person-to-person and has an eternal, spiritual, loving relationship with God that transcends this material world. This is the actual qualification of the spiritual master; and if one somehow or other finds and approaches a self-realized soul, performs service unto him, and gives him relevant enquiries based on one's real questions about life, then one can learn the Truth. It’s like the process of apprenticeship. The result of this apprenticeship is that one receives transcendental knowledge of the spiritual world, God, the soul and our relationship with God. Krsna says: “There is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. This is the root source of all happiness; and without this transcendental knowledge, it is not possible to be happy either in this world or the next.”

Finally Krsna says something very, very interesting to Arjuna. He says: “The doubting soul can be happy neither in this world nor the next. Armed with the weapon of knowledge, slash the doubts in your heart and armed with yoga, stand and fight.” What does this mean? It’s natural for us to doubt, but when we have real knowledge of spiritual life and self-realization, we can see the truth directly. That’s because this knowledge actually changes our consciousness. So when we have this real knowledge or self-realization, we can see the Truth. Really, faith is not required, but a certain kind of knowledge that changes our consciousness [is required]. This knowledge can be received from the spiritual master by association, by service and by enquiries. This is the real message of Chapter 4 of the Gita: that armed with this transcendental knowledge, one should defeat all of the doubts and misgivings that come from one's material existence. One should offer the result of one's work in service to the spiritual master; and by this process, one will receive the transcendental knowledge that gives him a face-to-face personal relationship with God.

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