The Deity said:
This everlasting (system of) devotion I declared to the sun, the sun declared it to Manu, and Manu communicated it to Ikṣvāku. Coming thus by steps, it became known to royal sages. But, O terror of (your) foes! that devotion was lost to the world by long (lapse of) time. That same primeval devotion I have declared to you to-day, seeing. that you are my devotee and friend, for it is the highest mystery.
Later is your birth the birth of the sun is prior. How then shall I understand that you declared (this) first?
The Deity said:
I have passed through many births, O Arjuna I and you also. I know them all, but you, O terror of (your) foes! do not know them. Even though I am unborn and inexhaustible in (my) essence, even though I am lord of all beings, still I take up the control of my own nature, and am born by means of my delusive power. Whensoever, O descendant of Bharata! piety languishes, and impiety is in the ascendant, I create myself. I am born age after age, for the protection of the good, for the destruction of evil-doers, and the establishment of piety. Whoever truly knows thus my divine birth and work, casts off (this) body and is not born again. He comes to me, O Arjuna! Many from whom affection, fear, and wrath have departed, who are full of me, who depend on me, and who are purified by the penance of knowledge, have come into my essence. I serve men in the way in which they approach me. In every way, O son of Pṛthā! men follow in my path. Desiring the success of actions, men in this world worship the divinities, for in this world of mortals, the success produced by action is soon obtained. The fourfold division of castes was created by me according to the apportionment of qualities and duties. But though I am its author, know me to be inexhaustible, and not the author. Actions defile me not. I have no attachment to the fruit of actions. He who knows me thus is not tied down by actions. Knowing this, the men of old who wished for final emancipation, performed action. Therefore do you, too, perform action as was done by men of old in olden times. Even sages are confused as to what is action, what inaction. Therefore I will speak to you about action, and learning that, you will be freed from (this world of) evil. One must possess knowledge about action; one must also possess knowledge about prohibited action; and again one must possess knowledge about inaction. The truth regarding action is abstruse. He is wise among men, he is possessed of devotion, and performs all actions, who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction. The wise call him learned, whose acts are all free from desires and fancies, and whose actions are burnt down by the fire of knowledge. Forsaking all attachment to the fruit of action, always contented, dependent on none, he does nothing at all, though he engages in action. Devoid of expectations, restraining the mind and the self, and casting off all belongings, he incurs no sin, performing actions merely for the sake of the body. Satisfied with earnings coming spontaneously, rising above the pairs of opposites, free from all animosity, and equable on success or ill-success, he is not fettered down, even though he performs (actions). The acts of one who is devoid of attachment, who is free, whose mind is fixed on knowledge, and who performs action for (the purpose of) the sacrifice are all destroyed.
Brahman is the oblation; with Brahman (as a sacrificial instrument) it is offered up; Brahman is in the fire; and by Brahman it is thrown; and Brahman, too, is the goal to which he proceeds who meditates on Brahman in the action. Some devotees perform the sacrifice to the gods, some offer up the sacrifice by the sacrifice itself in the fire of Brahman. Others offer up the senses, such as the sense of hearing and others, in the fires of restraint; others offer up the objects of sense, such as sound and so forth, into the fires of the senses. Some again offer up all the operations of the senses and the operations of the life-breaths into the fire of devotion by self-restraint, kindled by knowledge. Others perform the sacrifice of wealth, the sacrifice of penance, the sacrifice of concentration of mind, the sacrifice of Vedic study, and of knowledge, and others are ascetics of rigid vows. Some offer up the upward life-breath into the downward life-breath, and the downward life-breath into the upper life-breath, and stopping up the motions of the upward and downward life-breaths, devote themselves to the restraint of the life-breaths. Others, who (take) limited food, offer up the life-breaths into the life-breaths. All of these, conversant with the sacrifice, have their sins destroyed by the sacrifice. Those who eat the nectar-like leavings of the sacrifice repair to the eternal Brahman. This world is not for those who perform no sacrifice, whence (then) the other, O best of the Kauravas! Thus sacrifices of various sorts are laid down in the Vedas. Know them all to be produced from action, and knowing this you will be released (from the fetters of this world). The sacrifice of knowledge, O terror of (your) foes! is superior to the sacrifice of wealth, for action, O son of Pṛthā! is wholly and entirely comprehended in knowledge. That you should learn by salutation, question, and service. The men of knowledge who perceive the truth will teach knowledge to you. Having learnt that, O son of Pāṇḍu! you will not again fall thus into delusion; and by means of it, you will see all beings, without exception, first in yourself, and then in me. Even if you are the most sinful of all sinful men, you will cross over all trespasses by means of the boat of knowledge alone. As a fire well kindled, O Arjuna! reduces fuel to ashes, so the fire of knowledge reduces all actions to ashes. For there is in this world no means of sanctification like knowledge, and that one perfected by devotion finds within one's self in time. He who has faith, whose senses are restrained, and who is assiduous, obtains knowledge. Obtaining knowledge, he acquires, without delay, the highest tranquillity. He who is ignorant and devoid of faith, and whose self is full of misgivings, is ruined. Not this world, not the next, nor happiness, is for him whose self is full of misgivings. Actions, O Dhanañjaya! do not fetter one who is self-possessed, who has renounced action by devotion, and who has destroyed misgivings by knowledge. Therefore, O descendant of Bharata! destroy, with the sword of knowledge, these misgivings of yours which fill your mind, and which are produced from ignorance. Engage in devotion. Arise!
Footnotes and references:
Because its fruit is imperishable, viz. final emancipation.
In the Chāndogya-upaniṣad, Manu is the channel of communication for some doctrine taught by Prajāpati, which Manu teaches the 'people,' interpreted by Śaṅkara to mean Ikṣvāku, &c. (p. 178; see too p. 625).
Nature is what goes to the formation of the material form in which he is born; the 'power' includes knowledge, omnipotence, &c. It is delusive because he is still really 'unborn.'
Cf. Sutta Nipāta, p. 73.
Cf. infra, p. 61.
I. e. I give to each worshipper what is proper for him.
The original words used here occur before in a different sense (see p. 55). Here the meaning is that to whomsoever directly addressed, all worship is worship of me (see p. 84). In the whole passage, Kṛṣṇa says that the Deity is not chargeable with partiality on account of the variety of human qualities and states.
Such as acquisition of sons, cattle, &c.
Devoted though performing all actions.
'Appropriating nothing,' at Sutta Nipāta, p. 101, seems to be the same idea. 'Self' just before this means senses.
Preferably, perhaps, 'with the body only.' But Śaṅkara rejects this.
Cf. infra, p. 101; and Sutta Nipāta, p. 12.
The commentators vary in their interpretations of this word (mukta), but the common point appears to be 'free from attachment to worldly concerns,' Cf. Sutta Nipāta, p. 8.
Sacrifice here apparently means every act for the attainment of p. 61 the supreme; cf. supra, p. 53. In Āśvalāyana Gṛhya-sūtra III, 1, 5, a text is cited meaning 'salutation verily is a sacrifice.'
This thorough identification with the Brahman explains why the action is 'destroyed' and does not 'fetter' the doer.
I. e. all acts, religious and other, offered up to the Brahman in the mode above stated.
Practise 'yoga' and other like exercises.
Remaining unattached to sensuous enjoyments.
Stopping the bodily operations mentioned, and engaging in contemplation.
This is called Brahmayajña, Āśvalāyana Grihya-sūtra III, 1, 3.
Maitrī-upaniṣad, p. 129.
Supra, p. 53.
Operations of mind, senses, &c.; cf. supra, p. 54.
I. e. knowledge.
Addressed to men of knowledge. Cf. Muṇḍakopaniṣad, p. 282.
The essential unity of the supreme and individual soul and the whole universe. Cf. Īsopaniṣad, pp. 13, 14.
Supra, p. 60.
Sutta Nipāta, p. 48.
Sutta Nipāta, p. 49.
Cautious, free from heedlessness.