Gita 4.26


srotradinindriyany anye

samyamagnisu juhvati

sabdadin visayan anya

indriyagnisu juhvati



Some of them sacrifice the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind, and others sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as sound, in the fire of sacrifice.


Sound, sight, touch, taste and smell, are the five sensual objects. The discipline in which these objects of sense, are offered in the fire of sense, becomes a sacrifice. It means that even when the objects of senses come in contact with senses, the senses remain free from attraction and repulsion, or attachment and aversion.

The four divisions of human life, namely the brahmachari, 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 our enjoying sense gratification like the animals, the four orders of human life are so arranged that one may become perfect in spiritual life. The brahmachari, or students under the care of a bona fide spiritual master, control the mind by abstaining from sense gratification. They are referred to in this verse as sacrificing the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind. A brahmachari hears only words concerning God; hearing is the basic principle for understanding, and therefore the pure brahmachari engages fully in chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. He restrains himself from the vibrations of material sounds. Similarly, the householders, who have some license for sense gratification, perform such acts with great restraint. Sex life, intoxication and meat eating are general tendencies of human society, but a regulated householder does not indulge in unrestricted sex life and other sense gratification.


Gita 4.27



prana-karmani capare


juhvati jnana-dipite




Those who are interested in self-realization, in terms of mind and sense control, offer the functions of all the senses, as well as the vital force [breath], as oblations into the fire of the controlled mind.


The yoga system conceived by Patanjali is referred to herein. In the Yoga-sutra of Patanjali, the soul is called ‘pratyag-atma’ and ‘parag-atma’. As long as the soul is attached to sense enjoyment, it is called ‘parag-atma’. The soul is subjected to the functions of ten kinds of air at work within the body, and this is perceived through the breathing system. The Patanjali system of yoga instructs one on how to control the functions of the body’s air in a technical manner so that ultimately all the functions of the air within become favourable for purifying the soul of material attachment. According to this yoga system, ‘pratyag-atma’ is the ultimate goal. This ‘pratyag-atma’ is a withdrawal from activities in matter. The senses interact with the sense objects, like the ear for hearing, eyes for seeing, nose for smelling, tongue for tasting, hand for touching, and all of them are thus engaged in activities outside the self. They are called the functions of the ‘prana-vayu’. The ‘apana-vayu’ goes downwards, ‘vyana-vayu’ acts to shrink and expand, ‘samana-vayu’ adjusts equilibrium, ‘udana-vayu’ goes upwards–and when one is enlightened, one engages all these in searching for self-realization.


Gita 4.28


dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna

yoga-yajnas tathapare

svadhyaya-jnana-yajnas ca

yatayah samsita-vratah



Others again, offer as sacrifice (yajna) their wealth or their austerities or their Yoga, while others with self-restraint and rigid vows, offer study of the scriptures and knowledge, as sacrifice.


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.

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.


Gita 4.29


apane juhvati pranam

prane ‘panam tathapare

pranapana-gati ruddhva


apare niyataharah

pranan pranesu juhvati



And there are even others who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, and they practice stopping the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Some of them, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself, as a sacrifice.


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. This practice involves controlling the air within the body to enable simultaneous passage in opposite directions. The apana air goes downward, and the prana air goes up. The pranayama-yogi practices breathing the opposite way until the currents are neutralized into puraka, equilibrium. Similarly, when the exhaled breathing is offered to the inhaled breathing, it is called recaka. When both air currents are completely stopped, it is called kumbhaka-yoga. By practice of kumbhaka-yoga, the yogis increase the duration of life by many, many years.

“Prana” as we know is not only breath but various activities of life in a living body. They are

  1. Functions of perception.
  2. Functions of excretion
  3. Functions of digestion and assimilation
  4. Functions of the circulatory systems which distribute the food to all parts of the body.
  5. Functions of improving the mental and intellectual outlook.

Others practice decreasing their food intake until it becomes minimal using it to offer as a yajna the senses which become greatly weakened due to lack of food. They follow the Vedic injunctions that the stomach should be half filled with food, a quarter filled with water and a quarter filled with air. Others meditate on the mystic sound of Hamsah meaning that I am and I am that in reference to the Supreme, for every breath inhaled meditating on ham as that I am and as every breathe exhaled meditating on sah as I am that. It is a known fact that to the extent that the mind becomes steady through continuous practice to that extent so does the breath, speech, body and the gaze become steady.
Gita 4.30


sarve ‘py ete yajna-vido



yanti brahma sanatanam



All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reaction, and, having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifice, they go to the supreme eternal atmosphere.


From the foregoing explanation of different types of sacrifice (namely sacrifice of one’s possessions, study of the Vedas or philosophical doctrines, and performance of the yoga system), it is found that the common aim of all is to control the senses. 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.

The main idea in these last two slokas is that even to practice pranayama with detachment towards the result and done as karma yoga with the sole intention of liberation, is yajna only. There is mention of twelve kinds of sacrifice from the twenty-fourth verse to the thirtieth verse and they are as follows.

(i) Brahmayajna -Realizing the doer, the action, the instrument and object etc., in every action as Brahma.

(ii) Bhagavadarpanarupa yajna – Assuming all actions and objects only God’s and only for Him.

(iii) Abhinnatarupa yajna -Having total disinclination for the unreal, merger in God viz., having no independent existence of one’s own apart from God. [Kartavya-karmarupa yajna-performance of all actions for the welfare of others.]

(iv) Samyamarupa yajna – In loneliness not to allow the senses to incline mentally towards the sensual objects.

(v) Visaya-havanarupa yajna -In day to day life to keep the senses free from attachment and aversion even when the senses come in contact with sense-objects.

(vi) Samadhirupa yajna – By restraining all the functions of the senses and breath to get established in trance kindled by knowledge.

(vii) Dravya yajna-Utilization of all materials for the service of others in a selfless spirit.

(viii) Tapoyajna-Facing difficulties happily while discharging one’s duty.

(ix) Yoga yajna-To remain equanimous in success and failure, in favourable and unfavourable circumstances.

(x) Svadhyayarupa jnana yajna – Study of the sacred scriptures and chanting the Lord’s holy names etc., for the good of others.

(xi) Pranayamarupa yajna-Control of breaths by ‘puraka’ (inhalation), ‘Kumbhaka’ (retention) and ‘recaka’ (exhalation).

(xii) Stambhavrtti (fourth) pranayama rupa yajna – By regulating the diet, suspension of the acts of inhalation and exhalation.

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