Friday, 18 August 2017

Jnana Yajna

Gita essays – 7

In verse 4-24 Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that a Jnani beholds only Brahman in everything and everywhere illustrating it with the example of yajna.  Thereafter He continues his teaching comparing Brahma Jnanam and the sadhanas for purification of mind to get Brahma Jnana yogyatha as yajnas.  Yajna ordinarily means the fire ritual in worship, kindling the flames with offerings.  Lord Krishna gives a new interpretation to the word yajna to cover the human day to day activities done with devotion and dedicated to Lord and the prayerful acts done for spiritual growth.  We shall see them one by one starting with Brahma yajna.

1)    Brahma yajna – In the fire of higher Self, Paramathma, the oblation of lower self, ego, is offered.  This is an intellectual act bringing about a cognitive change. This is also the highest act of Bhakthi as well, Athma Nivedhanam and is practised by a Jnani.

2)    Daiva yajna – regular worship; any type of worship done at home to any deity,

3)    Viṣhaya bhoga yajna -  all the interactions with world in worshipful attitude; whatever you give you give as offering to the Lord, whatever you take you take as prasada or as offering to the Lord within you.

4)    Dama yajna -  sense mastery; discipline of the sense organs, not being a slave to them.

5)     Sama yajna - mastery of the mind; so that it is under one’s control and not the other way.

6)    Dravya yajna – acts of charity.

7)    Tapo yajna -  practice of moderation in everything.

8)    Yoga yajna – practice of ashtanga yoga

9)    Svadhyaya yajnaparayanam of scriptures

10) Pranayama yajna – practice of pranayama.

11) Ahara niyama yajna – discipline in eating

12) Jnana yajna – acquiring  spiritual knowledge leading to Atma Jnanam.  Swami Chinmayananda’s public lectures on Gita and Upanishads were called jnana yajna only.

After talking about all these yajnas, Lord Krishna says that of the yajnas from 2 to 12, Jnana yajna is superior to others, as other ten sadhanas can only prepare the mind for Jnanam and gives Jnana yogyatha to the sadhaka.  Through Jnana yajna one can acquire Brahma Jnanam that can lead to liberation but under certain conditions as enumerated by the Lord in verse 4-34.
तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया। (Tadviddhi pranipaatena pariprashnena sevayaa)
उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिनः।। (Upadekshyanti te jnaanam jnaaninas tattwadarshinah)
Know that through prostration, proper enquiry and service to the wise ones, who have realized the Truth, and they will impart (that) Knowledge to you.

A competent Acharya is one who has perfect knowledge of the Scriptures and also subjective experience of the Infinite Reality.  Mere theoretical knowledge, however perfect, does not make one a competent guru in this discipline.  The mental attitude and intellectual approach on the part of the student should also be different from that of a student in other disciplines. Self -knowledge is acquired through:

  • Prostration and Service:  Prostration, besides being a physical act also stands for an intellectual attitude of humility, reverence and obedience when he approaches the guru.  Service does not imply any physical service but the attunement of the student to the principles of life advised by his guru.
  • Inquiry: The student besides exhibiting readiness to understand, grasp and follow the Master's instructions should also be prepared to raise relevant doubts regarding what is taught with devotion and respect and have them cleared so that the knowledge acquired is doubt-free.

Additional qualifications for the student are also listed in 4-39, where Lord saysश्रद्धावाँल्लभते ज्ञानं तत्परः संयतेन्द्रियः। (Shraddhaavaan labhate jnaanam tatparah samyatendriyah) One who has shraddah, who is devoted, and whose senses are under his control attains knowledge”  Shraddah, devotion and sense-control are the additional desired qualifications besides attitude of humility, reverence and obedience and intellectual sharpness and keenness, listed earlier.  In this verse Lord gives the benefit as well.  He states that one, achieving this Jnanam, attains supreme peace and this supreme peace gives supreme happiness which is the ultimate goal of all human activities. This comes as a climax of other benefits listed ealier from verse 4-35.

Lord Krishna declares first that having gained the Self-knowledge, Arjuna will never again suffer such delusion, as he had at the start of the war.   Second benefit Lord  lists is, Self-knowledge will give him knowledge of Jiva-Brahma-Ikyam.  Like the wave that discovers it is nothing but water which is also the true identity of ocean, he will also learn that his true Self is Pure Consciousness, which is also the real identity of Brahman.  Thirdly all the karmas will be reduced to ashes in the fire of knowledge. Karma is of three kinds, which are,

  • Prarabhdha - past karma that has given rise to the present birth (operative).
  • Sanchita - the balance of past karma that will give rise to future births (not yet operative)
  • Agami - karma done in the present life (to be operative in the future).

Through this knowledge all the sanchita karmas are destroyed, all the agami karmas are avoided; and all the prarabha karmas are de-fanged, in Swami Paramarthananda’s words.  When karmas are destroyed, all papas and punyas are dissolved absolving him of future births.  So Lord glorifies this knowledge as a great purifier that washes off all sins, past and present.  He assures that one with mental purity attained through karma yoga and  sadhana chathushtayam will discover the knowledge himself in course of time.  
Lord also uses a negative approach to emphasise the importance of this knowledge and qualities for this knowledge by denouncing the one, who has no knowledge of the Self (ignorant), who has no faith in the scriptures and in the teachings of his guru (faithless) and who is of a doubting disposition, as one who will not find any joy anywhere - neither here nor in the hereafter.

Before concluding His teaching on Jnana karma sanyasa, Lord Krishna recapitulates the three main qualifications for the person whom actions do not bind:

1)    The person has the body-mind complex under perfect control

2)    The person has renounced attachment to the fruits of action, righteous and unrighteous, through the practice of karma yoga and

3)    The person is free of doubts by following the teachings of his guru

Lord Krishna concludes his teachings on jnana karma sanyasa in verse 42 with a call for action as follows:
तस्मादज्ञानसंभूतं हृत्स्थं ज्ञानासिनाऽऽत्मनः।(Tasmaad ajnaanasambhootam hritstham l forjnaanaasinaatmanah)
छित्त्वैनं संशयं योगमातिष्ठोत्तिष्ठ भारत।। (Cchittwainam samshayam yogam aatishthottishtha bhaarata)

O Arjuna, Therefore with the sword of knowledge (of the Self), destroy the doubt about the Self which is in your mind, and which is born out of ignorance. Get up and take to karma yoga.

Arjuna has doubts in his heart about waging the war, where he is pitted against his beloved grandfather and revered Acharya.  Lord Krishna exhorts him to get rid of all his doubts born out of his Athma ajjnanam through the knowledge of one’s true Self and with a doubt-free firm mind do his duty as a kshatriya like a true karma yogi. We can interpret it as an advice to all spiritual seekers to act in the spirit of yajna like a true karma yogi, when assailed by doubts and confused as to goal

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