Following is an excerpt from an Audio Class on Bhagavad Gita Chapter 4 – Verse 25 to 33.
In this section Krishna is speaking about sacrifice.
Sacrifice means giving up something ideally. So Krishna explains how everyone should do some sacrifice according to their capacity, according to their level and only then one can make spiritual advancement as they cannot always think of their enjoyment. So Krishna explains how some people perform sacrifices and please different Demigods, where as some people perform sacrifice to get Brahman realization i.e. Shanti and Nirakar which means understanding of God. So here Krishna gives a whole range of sacrifices that people perform and he is telling people to perform sacrifice because without sacrifice one cannot be happy. Krishna then concludes this section by telling Arjun that sacrifice performed in knowledge is better than sacrifice performed without knowledge. That means one should perform sacrifice based on the knowledge which Krishna has given to us in the earlier verses and based on that knowledge one will get advanced and if one does not perform sacrifice according to the knowledge then that sacrifice cannot be called as sacrifice but an action which is performed to get something more in return and this act of expecting something more in return is not in the knowledge of Krishna
According to different levels, we perform different sacrifices. Bhagavad Gita does not change one’s external activity. For example, Bhagavad Gita does not change the activity but simply moves the direction of a person by giving them the understanding that sacrifice is the main goal of life. It changes the paradigm but does not change the activity. So Bhagavad Gita teaches us that “there are no free lunches in the world” but modern media will put one in an illusion and say that “one can live life freely”. Which is not correct because there are no free lunches, everyone has to pay a price for their lunch. So one simply cannot avoid making a sacrifice and if one sacrifices for a higher cost then he will get higher level of happiness. Krishna is talking about the principles of sacrifice so that we experience real happiness and not relative happiness of the material world. Generally, people are conscious on how they can become happy and their whole life goes wasted on thinking over ‘how they will get pleasure?’ And Bhagavad Gita tells us to make sacrifice for higher level of happiness, also to forget the bodily happiness.
Human life is not meant to enjoy like animals because human life has a higher purpose and within that human life there is Brahmacharya life which means student life and then there is Grihasta life or house-hold life. In student life, the main sacrifice is hearing or studying. So they sacrifice their hearing process that means, they engage their time and energy solely for submissively hearing from the guru. And a householder restricts his gratification of the senses by having those pleasures only with the legally wedded partner and that is how they restrict their sense gratification. So in Brahmacharya life only hear words regarding Krishna and only studies Bhagavatam also they are only absorbed in Krishna. Whereas in Grihastha life, on the other hand, is the license for enjoyment but there is a restriction for enjoyment so that one does not become like an animal, one experiences those pleasures within the Varna ashram.
Krishna then explains about sacrifice performed through Ashtanga yoga.
There are ten types of air in our body in which five types of air are major and five are minor and this whole process of adjusting air inside the body is given in detailed in Patanjali yoga sutra. Patanjali is the father of Ashtanga yoga. It’s a deep process which can be only achieved by putting a lot of energy and effort to learn it at first place. So people are focusing on this process of adjusting the body air by which they can increase their life span. And this is called as sacrifice performed through Ashtanga yoga.
Krishna explains more four types of sacrifice.
The first type of sacrifice is about position. When one sacrifices their position and by doing so they will get enlighten and happiness. For example, In India many people donate money for charity and host charity events to show their support for the society and also donate money to the orphans and for poor children suffering from disease in the hospitals and by doing such activity, they feel enlighten and this is the kind of sacrifices people make, one way of giving away your position and this is called as Dravyamay Yagya.
Second type of sacrifice is called as severe austerity which means “Tapasya”. For example, during Chaturmas, a holy period of four months where people for the next four months will only have one meal in a day and there are some people whose life is completely focused on austerity. So they will grow beard and hair and will not take bath. In summer time, they will put fire around themselves and do Tapasya and in winter they will dive in the river of Gangotri and that’s a type of sacrifice they like to perform.
The third one is called as Eightfold Mysticism, which means ‘Yoga’. People who practice Eightfold Mysticism will get power and get anything they want. For example, they will get gold out of ashes, they can create Shiv Ling from air. Mystic powers are very difficult to get but there are people who are performing such sacrifices to get that power.
And the fourth one is called ‘Studying of Vedas.’ Our focus is to please Krishna, we perform those austerities which Krishna wants and don’t perform certain austerity which Krishna doesn’t want, and there is a fundamental difference, like Krishna wants his devotees to be humble. It’s a big austerity to live with devotees. We appreciate other people and Krishna likes it very much. You may not see Krishna devotees sitting under fire and doing Tapasya but they will do whatever it will take to please Krishna. So preaching, cultivating people, listing to their problems especially when people don’t treat us right, becomes a Tapasya for Krishna devotees.
So Krishna says that performing sacrifice simply for enjoyment is inferior to sacrifice performed in knowledge. Therefore, one should perform Yagya with the knowledge provided by Krishna and that will be called as highest form of sacrifice otherwise his life will not change and he’ll simply perform sacrifice in sophisticated way of enjoyment. The essence of this section is ‘Lead a life centered around service and sacrifice’.