The four divisions of human life, namely the brahma Chari, the grahasta, the vanaprastha, and the sanyasi, are all meant to help men become perfect yogis or transcendentalists. Since human life is not meant for enjoying sense gratification like the animals, the four orders of human life are so arranged that one may become perfect in spiritual life. These sacrifices may be fitted into various divisions. Some utilize their wealth and material possessions, for the welfare of others, without any selfish motive, by regarding these as of others only. There are persons who are sacrificing their possessions in the form of various kinds of charities and are called ‘dravyamaya-yajna’. Observing fast and keeping mum, etc., are also austerities, as sacrifice. Sacrifice of the comforts of life is called ‘tapomaya-yajna’. Those who engage themselves in the studies of different Vedic literatures, specifically the Upanisads and Vedanta-sutras, or the Sankhya philosophy are called ‘svadhyaya-yajna’, or engagement in the sacrifice of studies. Sense gratification is the root cause of material existence; therefore, unless and until one is situated on a platform apart from sense gratification, there is no chance of being elevated to the eternal platform of full knowledge, full bliss and full life.
Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and to refrain from hoarding – these five are yama, the five great vows. These five vows have been very much eulogized, in the scriptures. This system of yoga for controlling the breathing process is called pranayama. They are recommended for controlling the senses and for advancement in spiritual realization.
That person who does not perform yagna or offerings of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord and who does not perform the regular and occasional duties as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures according to varnasrama or their rank and station in life, such a person derives absolutely no benefit for receiving a human existence in this world. They have wasted a very precious opportunity as human birth is very difficult to receive and humans are the only species on the Earth with freewill and the power to reflect on the Supreme. He, who wants to lead a peaceful life in the family, should perform his duty by rendering service to other members of the family. By doing so, he becomes a source of inspiration for others and thus unity and peace prevail, in the family and in the world, here as well as hereafter. On the other hand, he who does not perform his duty scrupulously does not lead a happy life, here as well as hereafter.
The mind is tainted by three kinds of defects – sins, volatility of mind, and ignorance. When a seeker performs actions, for the welfare of others without any selfish motive, his first two defects i.e., sins and volatility of mind, come to an end. In order to get rid of the third defect, having renounced actions, he goes to his teacher, so that he may impart knowledge. At that time, he does not aim at actions and material objects, but his aim is God-realization. This is known, as culmination of all actions and material objects, in knowledge i.e., God-realization through the attainment of true knowledge.
Lord Krishna is revealing how to attain spiritual knowledge. The seeker should go to a teacher, with profound humility and perfect devotion, and through prostration surrender himself, his body mind and possessions etc., to him. The student must have an intellectual attitude of surrender and meekness, respect and obedience towards the Teacher. He should keep his inquisitiveness always, awake. The seeker must ask the teacher with a pure heart about the purpose of life, the true nature of a living being and how to revive one’s relationship with the Supreme Being? By these questions and by being pleased by one’s sincere service such a self-realised being will guide and instruct one on matters related to the ultimate truth. The Guru will remove all doubts about: Who am I? Why was I born? What is my purpose in life? A seeker, having gained knowledge of the self, by hearing, cognition constant and deep meditation etc., or from the Guru, sees all beings in the self-this is the realization of ‘Tvam’ (self-realization). Then he sees all beings and the self in God-this is realization of ‘Tat’ (God-realization). Thus, he realizes the identity of the self with God, and, then nothing remains for him, except God.
There are essentially 4 ways of gaining knowledge.
“Achaaryaath paadam aadatthe , paadam sishya swamedhayaa
paadam sa brahmachaaribhya sesham kaala kramena cha”
It means one can get one quarter of the knowledge from the teacher, one quarter by analyzing oneself, one quarter by discussing with others and the last quarter one can get during the process of living or through experience. In the scriptures, there are eight inward spiritual means to attain knowledge. These are (1) Discrimination. (2) Dispassion. (3) Six traits (Quietness, self-control, piety, indifference, endurance and composure). (4) Desire to attain salvation. (5) Listening to Vedanta texts. (6) Cognition. (7) Constant and deep meditation. (8) Self-realization.
Generally sinners are not engaged in spiritual practice, but it does not mean that they cannot be engaged in it. If by coming into contact, with a great soul or by being influenced by an incident or circumstance or environment etc., they resolve, that they have to gain knowledge of the self, or God, they cross the ocean of sins, by the boat of knowledge, of the self. As blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge, reduce the three kinds of actions (i.e.,)-prarabdha (in the form of fate), sancita (accumulated actions) and Kriyamana (the present actions), to ashes. It means that when a man gains knowledge of the self, his affinity for the actions or the world is totally renounced. Consequently, the world loses its independent existence and there remains, only God.
In this world nothing is as purifying as spiritual knowledge. Then why is not everyone pursuing this? Lord Krishna explains that first one must become qualified from prolonged practice of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities performed without desire for rewards. Then in due course of time, if there is no interruption, knowledge will arise leading to purity of heart after which soul realization will be achieved. After previously describing the qualifications of an aspirant for spiritual knowledge now Lord Krishna describes the characteristics of one who is unfit and not qualified for spiritual knowledge. One who is ignorant, of little faith, who does not follow instructions of the spiritual master and who doubts the teachings of the eternal Vedic scriptures, such a person has no chance for spiritual awakening and their human birth goes in vain. One who doubts is ruined in this life and will have little or no success in this world and such a person will have nothing in the next life because of not acquiring any merit in this life. Without faith nothing can be achieved as for instance when you ask for directions to a place you have to have faith in the one who directs you. Similarly one who has no faith in scriptures or in the word of the saints will not acquire wisdom. A man who digs for water will get it only if he digs deep enough in one place and not if he tries in different places giving up each one after a little effort.
A doubting soul, can, never perform his duty efficiently. All doubt should be completely uprooted from one’s heart and mind and follow the path that Lord Krishna has explained which is first and foremost to do one’s duty in life according to qualification. Following this path one will acquire the spiritual knowledge to cross over samsara the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation from material existence.
In the world, innumerable actions are performed, but we remain free from their bondage, because we have neither attachment nor aversion for them. It is because of attachment or aversion, that we are linked with actions. When we become free, from attachment and aversion i.e., get established in equanimity, we are not connected with actions and thus become free, from the bondage of actions.
When actions are performed for others and objects are regarded as others’ and for them, affinity for actions and objects is totally renounced and equanimity is automatically realized.