"This exhaustless doctrine of Yoga I formerly taught unto Vivasvat (1); Vivasvat communicated it to Manu (2) and Manu made it known unto Ikshvaku (3); and being thus transmitted from one unto another it was studied by the Rajarshis (4), until at length in the course of time the mighty art was lost, O harasser of thy foes! It is even the same exhaustless, secret, eternal doctrine I have this day communicated unto thee because thou art my devotee and my friend."
"Seeing that thy birth is posterior to the life of Ikshvaku, how am I to understand that thou wert in the beginning the teacher of this doctrine?"
"Both I and thou have passed through many births, O harasser of thy foes! Mine are known unto me, but thou knowest not of thine.
"Even though myself unborn, of changeless essence, and the lord of all existence, yet in presiding over nature — which is mine — I am born but through my own maya (5), the mystic power of self-ideation, the eternal thought in the eternal mind. (6) I produce myself among creatures, O son of Bharata, whenever there is a decline of virtue and an insurrection of vice and injustice in the world; and thus I incarnate from age to age for the preservation of the just, the destruction of the wicked, and the establishment of righteousness. Whoever, O Arjuna, knoweth my divine birth and actions to be even so doth not upon quitting his mortal frame enter into another, for he entereth into me. Many who were free from craving, fear, and anger, filled with my spirit, and who depended upon me, having been purified by the ascetic fire of knowledge, have entered into my being. In whatever way men approach me, in that way do I assist them; but whatever the path taken by mankind, that path is mine, O son of Pritha. Those who wish for success to their works in this life sacrifice to the gods; and in this world success from their actions soon cometh to pass.
"Mankind was created by me of four castes distinct in their principles and in their duties according to the natural distribution of the actions and qualities. (7) Know me, then, although changeless and not acting, to be the author of this. Actions affect me not, nor have I any expectations from the fruits of actions. He who comprehendeth me to be thus is not held by the bonds of action to rebirth. The ancients who longed for eternal salvation, having discovered this, still performed works. Wherefore perform thou works even as they were performed by the ancients in former times.
"Even sages have been deluded as to what is action and what inaction; therefore I shall explain to thee what is action by a knowledge of which thou shalt be liberated from evil. One must learn well what is action to be performed, what is not to be, and what is inaction. The path of action is obscure. That man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction is wise among men; he is a true devotee and a perfect performer of all action.
"Those who have spiritual discrimination call him wise whose undertakings are all free from desire, for his actions are consumed in the fire of knowledge. He abandoneth the desire to see a reward for his actions, is free, contented, and upon nothing dependeth, and although engaged in action he really doeth nothing; he is not solicitous of results, with mind and body subdued and being above enjoyment from objects, doing with the body alone the acts of the body, he does not subject himself to rebirth. He is contented with whatever he receives fortuitously, is free from the influence of the 'pairs of opposites' and from envy, the same in success and failure; even though he act he is not bound by the bonds of action. All the actions of such a man who is free from self-interest, who is devoted, with heart set upon spiritual knowledge, and whose acts are sacrifices for the sake of the Supreme, are dissolved and left without effect on him. The Supreme Spirit is the act of offering, the Supreme Spirit is the sacrificial butter offered in the fire which is the Supreme Spirit, and unto the Supreme Spirit goeth he who maketh the Supreme Spirit the object of his meditation in performing his actions.
"Some devotees give sacrifice to the Gods, while others, lighting the subtler fire of the Supreme Spirit, offer up themselves; still others make sacrifice with the senses, beginning with hearing, in the fire of self-restraint, and some give up all sense-delighting sounds, and others again, illuminated by spiritual knowledge, sacrifice all the functions of the senses and vitality in the fire of devotion through self-constraint. There are also those who perform sacrifice by wealth given in alms, by mortification, by devotion, and by silent study. Some sacrifice the up-breathing in the down-breathing and the down-breathing in the up-breathing by blocking up the channels of inspiration and expiration; and others by stopping the movements of both the life breaths; still others by abstaining from food sacrifice life in their life.
"All these different kinds of worshipers are by their sacrifices purified from their sins; but they who partake of the perfection of spiritual knowledge arising from such sacrifices pass into the eternal Supreme Spirit. But for him who maketh no sacrifices there is no part nor lot in this world; how then shall he share in the other, O best of the Kurus?
"All these sacrifices of so many kinds are displayed in the sight of God; know that they all spring from action, and, comprehending this, thou shalt obtain an eternal release. O harasser of thy foes, the sacrifice through spiritual knowledge is superior to sacrifice made with material things; every action without exception is comprehended in spiritual knowledge, O son of Pritha. Seek this wisdom by doing service, by strong search, by questions, and by humility; the wise who see the truth will communicate it unto thee, and knowing which thou shalt never again fall into error, O son of Bharata. By this knowledge thou shalt see all things and creatures whatsoever in thyself and then in me. Even if thou wert the greatest of all sinners, thou shalt be able to cross over all sins in the bark of spiritual knowledge. As the natural fire, O Arjuna, reduceth fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes. There is no purifier in this world to be compared to spiritual knowledge; and he who is perfected in devotion findeth spiritual knowledge springing up spontaneously in himself in the progress of time. The man who restraineth the senses and organs and hath faith obtaineth spiritual knowledge, and having obtained it he soon reacheth supreme tranquillity; but the ignorant, those full of doubt and without faith, are lost. The man of doubtful mind hath no happiness either in this world or in the next or in any other. No actions bind that man who through spiritual discrimination hath renounced action and cut asunder all doubt by knowledge, O despiser of wealth. Wherefore, O son of Bharata, having cut asunder with the sword of spiritual knowledge this doubt which existeth in thy heart, engage in the performance of action. Arise!"
Thus in the Upanishads, called the holy Bhagavad-Gita, in the science of the Supreme Spirit, in the book of devotion, in the colloquy between the Holy Krishna and Arjuna, stands the Fourth Chapter, by name --
DEVOTION THROUGH SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.
1. Vivasvat, the sun, first manifestation of divine wisdom at the beginning of evolution. (return to text)
2. Manu, generic title for the reigning spirit of the sensuous universe; the present one being Vaivasvata Manu. (return to text)
3. Ikshvaku, the founder of the Indian solar dynasty. (return to text)
4. Rajarshis, Royal Sages. (return to text)
5. Maya, Illusion. (return to text)
6. See also the Varaha Upanishadof Krishna Yajurveda, viz: "The whole of the universe is evolved through Sankalpa [thought or ideation] alone; it is only through Sankalpa that the universe retains its appearance." (return to text)
7. This refers to the four great castes of India: the Brahmin, the soldier, the merchant, and the servant. Such division is plainly evident in every country, even when not named as such. (return to text)