After describing the Knowledge sacrifice and the faculty of seeing everything as Brahman the Lord proceeds to enumerate other kinds of sacrifices (Yajnas) and extols the Knowledge sacrifice as the highest. When a seeker constantly practices the different types of Yajnas suggested in this section he gains wisdom. With the dawn of wisdom he begins to develop renunciation and perceives the identity of the atman and brahman.
Yajna in the ancient past merely meant the ritual of fire worship by kindling the flames with the offerings therein by the people. Krishna gives a new interpretation to the word Yajna to mean the conversion of human day to day activities into worship. The cycle of human activity starts with the receipt of stimuli from the world at large by the organs of perception, which turn them into reaction in mind and intellect, and which are returned as a response back into the world through the organs of action. This entire cycle has been split into twelve main activities; each of them turned into a ritual, worship, a Yajna. Those who understand this and turn their daily activities into a practice of these yajnas will free themselves from the vasanas / desires.
This concept of viewing daily activities as a Yajna can be further explained in simpler terms. Take for instance the most common activities of eating and reading. This can be stated in the Gita language as “People offer the sense of hunger as sacrifice in the fire of food; others offer the sense of ignorance as sacrifice in the fire of the knowledge” What does this mean? It simply means that food satisfies hunger or hunger is burnt in the Yajnakund of food or hunger is burnt by food or just hunger is satiated by consuming food. Similarly, knowledge removes ignorance or ignorance is burnt in the sacrificial fire of knowledge or ignorance is burnt (removed) by knowledge or just ignorance disappears when knowledge dawns.
By converting activities into Yajna (worship) a seeker drops his vasanas and gradually gains knowledge of the Self. The supermost of all yajnas is jnana yajna, the yajna of Wisdom. A seeker should prepare himself for the yajna through devotion, enquiry and service. With such preparation he will attract a perfect Guru to teach him the knowledge of the Self. This knowledge of the Self destroys all desires and agitations and removes forever his delusion that the world is real.
The knowledge of Self purifies the mind of all agitations and gives supreme Peace. Those devoted to Self control their senses and pursue the Self with consistency until they reach it. The ignorant, ever doubtful of the Self, lack steadiness of purpose. They will not achieve anything in this world or the next nor will they find any enduring happiness. Krishna, therefore, advises Arjuna to gain knowledge and remove all doubts and delusion and thus become established in the Supreme Self.
daivamevaapare yajnam yoginah paryupaasate
brahmaagnaavapare yajnam yajnenaivopajuhwati // 4.25 //
Some Yogis offer oblations or perform sacrifice to Devas alone (Deva-yagna); while others offer the Self as sacrifice by the Self into the fire of Brahman (Brahma Yagna).
Sri Krishna explains the mental attitude of a sage when he comes in contact with the world and functions in it. The Lord is enumerating in these verses twelve different types of Yagnas, each one apparently meaning ritualism but in fact suggesting different patterns of life wherein by the necessary adjustments in the mind we can effectively change the entire reactions of the world upon us.
Deva Yagna - Some Yogis perform sacrifice to Devas alone: According to ritualism this means invoking the grace of a specific deity and offering oblations to it in the sacred fire for gaining its blessings. But here it means that the perfect masters (Yogis) when they move in the world do perceive objects but their understanding and experience of the perception is of such a nature that the world of objects was subservient to the five sense organs which are Devas. When this mental attitude is entertained by the seeker, he feels detached from the sense experience and is able to have a sense of inner equanimity. It is surrendering individual consciousness to Cosmic Consciousness.
Brahma Yagna - Offering the Self as a sacrifice by the Self in the fire of Brahman: The outer world by itself is incapable of giving us sorrow or joy; but it is our attitude towards the objects and situations of the outer world that brings us such feelings. The perfect masters understand that the sense organs are mere instruments of perception and tune them to sacrifice themselves in the knowledge of the Brahman. When an individual's organs of perception and action are to function not for satisfying his selfish needs but for the sake of serving the society at large, then although he lives in the world of objects he will not have any attachment to them.
The limiting accessories such as body, mind and intellect which are super imposed on the Self through ignorance are subordinated and the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul is realized. The offering of the Self in the Brahman is to know that the Self which is associated with the limiting adjuncts is identical with the unconditioned Supreme Brahman. This is called Brahma Yagna wherein the Self is divested of Its Upadhis or limiting adjuncts so that it is recognized as the Supreme Self or Brahman.
Brahman is described in the scriptures as Consciousness, Knowledge and Bliss and as the innermost Self of all. It is devoid of all limitations imposed by time, space and causality. The individual self is in reality Brahman, but appears as the individual through association with the body, mind, intelligence and senses. To know the conditioned self as one with the unconditioned Brahman is to sacrifice the self in the fire of Brahman. This sacrifice is performed by those who have renounced all action and are devoted to the Knowledge of Brahman.
shrotraadeeneendriyaanyanye samyamaagnishu juhwati
shabdaadeen vishayaananya indriyaagnishu juhwati // 4.26 //
Some again offer hearing and other senses as sacrifice in the fire of restraint; others offer sound and other objects of the senses as sacrifice in the fire of the senses.
To offer hearing and other senses in the fire of restraint: Some masters live constantly offering the senses into the fire of self-control so that the senses, of their own accord, get burnt up giving them inner joy. The more we satisfy the sense organs, the more they demand and this process goes on endlessly. Hence self-control of the sense organs is the only way to tame them for experiencing inner peace. This is the path of self control which is also an act of Yagna. Every form of self control, where we surrender the egocentric enjoyment for the higher delight, where we give up lower impulses, is said to be a sacrifice.
To offer sound and other objects of sense in the fire of the senses : Others direct their senses towards pure and unforbidden objects of the senses and in so doing regard themselves as performing acts of sacrifice. Under this method the senses are made the best use of for the adoration of the Almighty. In the fire of the senses, sense objects are offered as oblation. The sensual is transformed into spiritual.
Two diametrically opposite types of Yagnas are mentioned here. One makes the senses ineffective and the other makes the senses super-effective. The method of self control is negative (which is given to the few) while sense-sublimation is positive (which is given to the aspiring many); but both achieve the same objective i.e. purification of the mind.
sarvaaneendriya karmaani praanakarmaani chaapare
aatmasamyamayogaagnau juhwati jnaanadeepite // 4.27 //
Others again sacrifice all the functions of the senses and the functions of the breath (vital energy) in the fire of the Yoga of self-restraint kindled by knowledge.
Control of the ego by better understanding of the Divine behind it is called atma-samyama-yoga i.e. the Yoga of self-restraint. All the activities of sense organs and the organs of action as well as the objects of the senses together with the functions of the prana are offered into the knowledge-kindled fire of right understanding i.e. meditation which is one-pointed discriminative wisdom. The idea conveyed here is that by stopping all activities, the masters concentrate the mind on the Self.