Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 4: Transcendental Knowledge: Verse 24
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir
brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ
brahma — spiritual in nature; arpaṇam — contribution; brahma — the Supreme; haviḥ — butter; brahma — spiritual; agnau — in the fire of consummation; brahmaṇā — by the spirit soul; hutam — offered; brahma — spiritual kingdom; eva — certainly; tena — by him; gantavyam — to be reached; brahma — spiritual; karma — in activities; samādhinā — by complete absorption.
A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature.
Chapter 4 is entitled “ Transcendental Knowledge” for it is this knowledge which outlines how one can establish their divine connection with God. Srila Prabupada in this verse, gives a “perfect cure” for a materially entangled soul to come out of the cycle of death and attain spiritual progress by the practice of Krishna consciousness. We are actually entrapped in this material world, and are influenced by the 3 modes of material nature. Krishna consciousness is the process of converting our illusory consciousness in to Brahman. The word “Brahma” (Brahman) means “spiritual”-The Lord is spiritual and the rays of his transcendental body are called Brahma Jyoti. Everything is situated in that Brahma Jyoti but when the Jyoti is covered by illusion or sense gratification, it is called material. The example Srila Prabupada gives in this verse is a patient who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels due to overindulgence in milk products is cured by another milk product, namely curd. The materially absorbed conditioned soul can be cured by Kṛṣṇa consciousness as set forth here in the Gītā. This process is generally known as yajna, or activities (sacrifices) simply meant for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa.
Anyone can practice Krishna Consciousness. In fact Krishna had said in BG 9:26
patraṁ puṣhpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayachchhati
Translation : If one offers to Me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or even water, I delightfully partake of that article offered with love by My devotee in pure consciousness.
With whatever capacity you have, you can still worship Krishna with love and surrender, in that condition as it is said in the verse the contributor, the consumption, the performer or leader of the performance, and the result or ultimate gain-everything -becomes one in the Absolute, the Supreme Brahman. We are fortunate to be in the association of Guru Parampara of ISCKON to start our Journey to attain our spiritual world.
Here in this verse the word “ Samadhina” is very important. It says if you are fully absorbed in something you are going to give your 100 percent contribution. So if you fully get absorbed or investing your time in Krsna consciousness with complete surrender , you are sure to transcend the material platform and attain the spiritual kingdom.
Spiritual knowledge is known as Sruti-“that which is heard”. In the previous ages, people would hear such knowledge, remember it and assimilate it, and perfectly communicate to the next person without any adulteration.
The Vedas encourage us to see God through the ears rather than the eyes
The Acronym of Ear is
E stand for Eternal education
A stand for Accurate understanding
R stand for Removing reactions
S stand for Sacrifice.
In this verse Brahmarpanam means Sacrifice for the Supreme Brahman. Krishna is described in the Tenth Chapter as the Parambrahman, the Supreme Brahman. We are also Brahman in one way, because we are the fragmental parts and parcels of the Supreme Brahman just like particles of gold is also gold. The spiritual conception is that, any number of fragments of the whole can be taken from the whole spirit, but still, the spirit whole is as it is, it is like one minus one equal to one. That is the description in the Vedic literature. But if we take it in material terms “one minus one equal to zero”. So with that consciousness we have to make sacrifices to Krishna
Brahmarpanam Brahma havir means that whatever we are sacrificing, we have to understand that these things belong to Krishna or Supreme Brahman
Brahmarpanam Brahma havir brahmagnau: It means that the fire which is on the altar, is the energy of the Supreme Brahman, and Brahmana hutam– the person who is offering the sacrifice, he is also part and parcel of the Supreme Brahman. Then brahmaiva tena gantavyam, the person who is offering such sacrifice is sure to attain spiritual salvation
Brahma-karama-samadhina: means executing duties according to Vedic injunction so as to attain the Brahman and that whole process is called Krishna consciousness
At present moment we have to perform sacrifice by chanting the Hari-kirtana or the glorification of Krishna as recommended in Vedic literature. This is yajna which was actually performed by Lord Caitanya. It is authorized process and we have to practice it even though there will be lots of impediments in our path. One of the ten offenses , one offense is to be inattentive by chanting . These ten offences we should use as a matrix to measure our progress.
Since we are in this material world and when we practice Krishna consciousness , there will be some conflicts, our defects will show off time to time , till we get to that perfect stage, but we still have to put our sincere endeavor.
Sri Rupa Goswami clearly gave us the 9 stages of Bhakti
2. Sadhu-sanga- Association with Saints
3. Bhajana-Kriya: Performance of devotional practices
4. Anartha Nivrtti: Decreasing of unwanted attachments
5. Nishta: Steadiness
6. Ruchi: Taste
7. Asakti: Attachment
9. Prema: Pure love of God
Conflicts arises when we have Anarthas in our heart. If a devotee practices Bakthi properly , like chanting HareKrishna Mahamantra without any offence or trying in a Nama Abhasa stage (The stage of chanting in which one is becoming cleared of sins and offences but has not yet attained pure chanting), following regulative principles, and work under Spiritual Master or associates of Spiritual Master under proper association then Anartha Nivrtti takes place. All the unwanted desires go away from our heart. Then we come to Nishta stage, but in the beginning of Nishta stage, Anarthas will be there but they are under control or do not disturb our Bhakti. In the state of Bhajana-Kriya you get initiated, you get the Mantra , start to chant, Anarthas are there and they still disturb our Bhakti, and we will not be able to chant properly and will get disturbed by small things happening around us so it is very important to work under authority. So, if we perform this sacrifice of chanting of Holy name of the Lord with patience, perseverance, with steadiness and by following the rules recommended by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu we are sure to get salvation and go back to God head .Here the word Niscitam means sure.
In support of BG 4.24 verse there is similar verse in SB 4.21.34 which says a tinge of bhakti purifies the material nature of the performances, which by devotional service gradually come to the transcendental position. Therefore although such yajnas are superficially material activities, the results are transcendental. Such yajnas as Surya- yajna, Indra-yajna and Candra-yajna are performed in the names of the Demigods, but these Demigods are bodily parts of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Demigods cannot accept sacrificial offerings for themselves, but they can accept them for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, just as a departmental tax collector of a Government cannot collect taxes for his personal account but can realize them for the Government . So any yajna performed with this complete knowledge and understanding is described in Bhagavad-Gita as Brahmarpanam, or a sacrifice offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Since no one but the Supreme Lord can enjoy the results of sacrifice, the Lord says that he is the actual enjoyer of all sacrifices (BG: 5.29 Boktaram yajna-tapasam sara-loka-mahesvaram, also in Visnu purana 3.8.9 also it says the same ). Sacrifice should be performed with this view in mind and with fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness then we are sure to attain the spiritual kingdom and get free from the material bondage.
When we act in Krishna consciousness and keep Krishna as in the center of our activities then that karma is free from bondage. Then it is called Karma Arpanam by our Acharaya’s which means you offer all activities to Krishna while fixed in Atma, fixed in the realization that I am not this body but a spirit soul. All activities mean, all activities that support our body that is favorable to be offered to the Lord. In this material world we can see people doing lots of good things like feeding the hungry, donating good amount of money for charity, education of poor etc.. but if the results of the activities are not offered to Krishna then there will a bondage. Krishna talks about Karma yoga in the BG 3rd chapter, 30th verse 3rd chapter
mayi sarvāṇi karmāṇi
nirāśīr nirmamo bhūtvā
Therefore, O Arjuna, surrendering all your works unto Me, with full knowledge of Me, without desires for profit, with no claims to proprietorship, and free from lethargy, fight.
Karma yoga is 3 types
- Sakama Karma yoga: You follow Karma yoga which is doing your duties like a mother, father, student. This means whatever role you play in the society or family you do with the goal of enjoying the results. Example Go to work, get money, enjoy it, giving little offering to Devatas in any temple but goal is to enjoy
- Nishkama Karma yoga : You follow the principles of Karma Yoga understanding that you are not this body but a spirit soul or Atma and do things without attachment to enjoying the results. By doing this you don’t get any karma at all both good and bad. That is how we come out of this repeated cycle of birth and death. Krishna tells Arjuna you have to transcend from Nishkama Karma yoga to this Karma Arapanam meaning not like fire sacrifice where we are offering indirectly to Vishnu, but offer activities directly to Krishna without the desire for the results or possessiveness (4.24) this is superior to Nishkama Karma Yoga and has more direct link to the Supreme Lord. Here you are not only burning your bad Karma but not accumulating good karma as well to enjoy coming back here in this material world again instead you are developing a relationship with the Lord. With only Nishkama Karma Yoga also burns your Karma not accumulating any more. With Nishkama karma yoga you get impersonal liberation out of the material world and you will be in Brahma Jyoti. That is why Krishna telling Arjuna that Nishkama karma yoga is better than Sakhama karma yoga, but just don’t stop there just do it for me, for my pleasure so then it comes to Bakthi yoga and where you go to his Dham and have relationship with him and attain spiritual happiness.
- Bhakti Yoga: Practicing Bakthi sincerely with complete surrender to the Lord and following the instruction of Spiritual master and with the association of devotees
When people do not accept Krishna as Supreme Lord they treat Vishnu as ordinary Devata and don’t see him as the Supreme Lord and think I am offering to Devatas, but indirectly offering to Vishnu and the goal is to realize Atma, and I am not this body and be attracted to impersonal aspect. Brahman when it is realized at the platform of soul it becomes impersonal. Only the Parabrahman is a person and devotees have realization of this Karma arpanam and recognize Supreme lord as a person and do everything for the satisfaction of Supreme Lord and the results of our activities is the prasadam (or Govinda). When we consume the prasadam with the consciousness of the Supreme Lord it purifies our existences. That is the idea of offering prasadam and eating prasadam. By doing this all our anarthas will go away and we get purified by consuming the result of offering and as we advance we come to the stage of bhakti then do activities already offered to the Lord as Prahalad Maharaj says the 9-devotional path
śravaṇaṁ kīrtanaṁ viṣṇoḥ
arcanaṁ vandanaṁ dāsyaṁ
Then we come to a stage when our obligations are over, we have enough purification and we come to the point of Vanaprastha and completely practice Yoga to give pleasure to the Lord. So the goal and concept of those activities is to please the Lord that is the difference between a Bhakti Yogi and a Karma Arpanam devotee,
So our Goal in this life should not to cure the material problems but to cure our soul from not getting entangled in this material world and engage it in Krishna consciousness and attain the spiritual kingdom.