Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 3 verse 10-24

saha yajñāiḥprajāḥsṛṣṭvāpurovāca prajāpatiḥ|
anena prasaviṣyadhvam eṣa vo’stviṣṭa kāmadhuk || 10 ||

10. In the beginning the Lord of all beings, created humans along with the sacrifice, saying: 'By this shall you prosper; this shall be the cow of plenty granting all your desires.'

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Because of the Vedic text —'The Lord of Universe…..' (patim viśvasya ……. M. Nar. Up. 11.3), it is justifiable to take the term Prajāpati (Lord of Beings) in its wider sense and interpret it to mean Nārāyaṇa who is the Lord of all beings, the 'Creator of the Universe' and the 'Self of all beings' and the 'Supreme Abode'.

In the beginning, at the time of creation, the Lord of beings, saw all beings submerged within Himself, in a state devoid of the distinctions of name and form.

They were helpless due to their total identification with insentient matter and were incapable of attaining the four goals of human existence.

The supremely Compassionate One, with a desire to redeem them, projected them into being together with sacrifice in order that they might perform sacrifices as His worship and said:

—'By this sacrifice, shall you prosper', i.e. accomplish your development and prosperity. May this institute of sacrifice fulfil your supreme desire of liberation (Moksha) and also the other desires that are in conformity with it.

How, then should this be done?

devān bhāvayetānena te devābhāvayantu vaḥ|
parasparaṃbhāvayantaḥ śreyaḥparamavāpsyatha || 11 ||

11. By this, may you nurture the gods, and the gods will nurture you [in return]. Thus, nurturing one another, you will obtain the highest good.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

'By this,' i.e., by the means of sacrifice, you should propitiate the gods who are my manifestations and have Me as their inner-Self —Śrī Krishna will declare later on:

—'For I am the only enjoyer and the only Lord of Sacrifices' (9.24).

Propitiated by sacrifices, May these gods nourish you with food, drink and other such items which are also required for their worship. Thus, supporting each other, may you attain the highest good called Moksha (Liberation).

iṣṭān-bhogān-iha vo devādāsyante yajñā-bhāvitāḥ|
tair-dattān apradāyaibhyo yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ|| 12 ||

12. The gods, pleased by sacrifice, will bestow on you the enjoyments you desire. One who enjoys the bounty of the gods without offering them anything in return, is verily a thief.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words yajñā-bhāvitāḥ means honoured by worship.

The worship of pleasing the gods in which Lord Krishna also resides as the ātma or soul will confer on those whose perform it whatever prosperity and abundance they have prayed for.

This means that by receiving these things as such one is able to worship the gods and receive from them perpetually by offerings and worship to them with regularity.

But if one should try to enjoy the gifts granted by them without first offering them back beforehand then such a person is a thief for misappropriating what was not sanctioned by the act of yajña or appeasement.

Stena eva sah means one is certainly a thief.

A thief is one who executes chaurya or larceny. The definition of larceny is the intention of or act of one to misappropriate property for oneself for the use of which they have no right which factually belongs to others.

Thus to one of this nature and this description there is not only forfeiture and exemption from mokṣa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death but there will also be suffering for these sins in the infernal regions of the hellish planets described in Canto V of the Bhāgavat Purāṇa.

This same subject is further explained in the next verse .

yajñā-śiṣṭāśinaḥsanto mucyante sarva kilbiṣaiḥ|
bhuñjate te tvaghaṃpāpāye pacantyātma kāraṇāt || 13 ||

13 The righteous who eat the remnants of sacrifices are freed from all sins. But the sinful ones who cook only for their own sake eat only sin.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Those who acquire articles of food solely for propitiating the Supreme Being abiding as the Self of Indra and all other devas, and who, cooks and offers them to the Supreme Being, and then sustains themselves on the remnants of such offerings —

they alone will be free of all [mental] impurities which have resulted from beginingless Karma and which obstruct the direct vision of the ātman.

But the evil-minded ones, appropriate for personal use the things which the Supreme Being has granted them for devotional service, and use it all for self-gratification alone —they verily eat only sin.

The error here referred to is the accruing negative result of the actions.

Śrī Krishna again points out that everything has its origin in sacrifice; according to both the worldly and the Scriptural views; the performance of the sacrifices is therefore necessary and their non-performance is a failing:

annād-bhavanti būtāni parjanyād-anna-saṃbhavaḥ|
yajñānād-bhavati parjanyaḥyajñāḥkarma samud-bhavaḥ|| 14 ||

14. From food arise all beings; from rain food is produced; from sacrifice comes rain; and sacrifice is achieved through activity.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

All beings have their existence in nourishment, from rain food is produced. These two facts are matters of common experience —'From sacrifice comes rain' this is known from the Scriptural passages such as;—

'The oblations offered in fire reach the sun, and from the sun comes rain' (Manu, 3.76), —and sacrifice consists of activities such as collecting of the materials, and other similar actions by the sacrificer.

karma brahmod-bhavaṃviddhi brahmākṣara samudbhavam |
tasmāt sarva-gataṃbrahma nityaṃyajñe pratiṣṭhitam || 15 ||

15. Know that activity springs from Brahman and Brahman arises from the imperishable (Self); therefore the all-pervading 'Brahman' is ever established in sacrifice.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Activity arises from 'Brahman', —Brahman here refers to the natural physical body born of Prakṛti and consisting of modifications of Prakṛti. The term 'Brahman' here denotes Prakṛti as in the Scriptural text;—

'From Him arises, this Brahman and this 'Brahman' becomes name, form and food' (Mun. Up., 1.1.9).

In the Gita also it will be taught by Śrī Krishna that:—

'This great 'Brahman' is my 'womb' (14.3)

Therefore, the phrase 'Activity arises from Brahman' is interpreted as activity being produced by the physical body which is comprised of the modifications of Prakṛti.

"The 'Brahman' arises from the imperishable Self" — in this context the term ‘imperishable’ indicates the Jīva [individual Self].

The physical body, which is tenanted by the Self and is nourished by food and drink, is designed for action; hence the physical body which constitutes the instrument of activity is said to arise from the imperishable.

Therefore the 'all-pervading Brahman' means, in this context, the bodies of all persons of diverse natures which are the products of Prakṛti of which all material entities are comprised, and is hence all-pervading.

The meaning is that the bodies owe their existence to this process of sacrifice.

evaṃpravartitaṃcakraṃnānu vartayatīha yaḥ|
aghāyur-indriyārāmo moghaṃpārtha sa jīvati || 16 ||

16. One who does not follow this cycle thus set in motion, lives in error, revelling in the senses; he lives in vain O Arjuna.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

So from actions comes yajña, from yajña - rain, from rainfall food and from food - embodied beings. This cycle was set into motion by the Supreme Lord Krishna at the beginning of creation.

This cycle is never ending and was designed to exist perpetually providing all necessities for the embodied beings allowing them to prosper and flourish.

Whoever is born on this Earth whether they are performers of actions or contemplators of the ultimate truth, the Supreme Brahman –

if they fail to adhere to and follow and adhere to this cycle leads a sinful life for the simple reason that they fail to even support and preserve their own embodied existence by sanctifying it with the daily food remnants eaten that was first offered in yajña.

The word agha-ayuh means full of sin, this can be either that one's life is committed to making sins or that one is living a life perpetuated by sin or it can even mean both.

In this way such a sinner becomes an indriyaramah or one who only seeks delights in the beguiling garden of the senses using their valuable human life only for the pursuit of pleasure, a slave under the control of sense delights.

Therefore such a one never takes delight in the soul and is the antithesis of an ātmaramah or one who delights in the garden of the ātma or soul.

Food eaten that was not first sanctified by being consecrated in yajña or offering of worship beforehand ignites rajas or passions in one and incites tamas or darkness of intellect.

A person in whom these dispositions are prominent becomes hostile to achieving an even rudimental spiritual illumination let alone ātma-tattva or self-realisation of the soul. Such a hostile person only finds pleasure in pursuing pleasure to gratify their senses.

Blessed with the gift of a human body which is suitable for offering Divine worship in yajña and which therefore must be nourished with sanctified food duly consecrated so ones actions fulfil their purpose.

If one errs and fails to honour and respect this eternal cycle given in the Vedic injunctions, then all their hopes for spiritual realisation will not be fulfilled and all their efforts are destined to failure. Their complete life was lived in vain.

So from this it can be understood that the necessity for the actions of yajña as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures are essential and indispensable for the different varṇas or castes and āśramas or stages of society.

Only that person who has attained mokṣa or complete liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material nature is under no obligation to in any way whatsoever to perform any activity due to the fact that the achievement of ātma-tattva self-realisation of the soul has already been attained.

yastvātma-ratir-eva syād-ātma tṛptaśca mānavaḥ|
ātmanyeva ca santuṣṭas-tasya kāryaṃna vidyate || 17 ||

17. But the person whose delight is only in the Self, who is satisfied with the Self, who rejoices in the Self, for him nothing remains to be accomplished.

naiva tasya kṛtenārtho nākṛteneha kaścana |
na cāsya sarva-bhūteṣu kaścid artha vyapāśrayaḥ|| 18 ||

18. For him there is no interest in what is done or what is left undone, nor has he to rely on any being for anything whatsoever.

tasmād asaktaḥsatataṃkāryaṃkarma samācara |
asakto hyācaran karma param-āpnoti pūruṣaḥ|| 19 ||

19. Therefore, always perform without attachment, that work which ought to be done. For one who acts without attachment attains to the Supreme.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The person who is neither in need of karma yoga the path of action or jñāna yoga the path of cultivating spiritual knowledge is naturally one who is situated in ātma-tattva or soul realisation.

To such a person the ātma or soul and the Supreme Lord are the only objects of attention and one is completely content within by them.

No satisfaction that is felt in any other situation such as eating delicious foods or drinking nectarine beverages can compare with the satisfaction that the ātma gives.

Neither beautiful scents, nor beautiful music nor the experience of beautiful panorama's can compare either with the bliss of the ātma.

To that person whose focus, whose attention, whose inspiration, whose support, whose everything is emanating from the ātma - what need is there to perform prescribed Vedic activities to attain ātma-tattva?

Such a person is already situated in ātma-tattva and has attained mokṣa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death in the material existence. So such a person has no need to perform prescribed Vedic activities.

Both karma yoga and jñāna yoga are paths for those whose minds need to be diverted and directed from the material illusion to the spiritual reality. But once one has achieved ātma-tattva there is no need to resort to any external assistance any longer.

Any action such a one performs is not bound to the material nature as cause and effect due to the reality that such a person is always performing every action while in blissful contemplation and meditation on the wonders of the ātma.

Performing actions in this state is easy and bereft of any danger as in the case of jñāna yoga furthermore sets a good example for the welfare of the world following the path of the Supreme Spirit in all beings.

In this verse the word karyam means duty bound and the word asaktah means unattached. So one should perform prescribed Vedic actions in karma yoga as a matter of duty without attachment to the results until ātma-tattva is achieved.

In this way karma yoga is performed without ego centred conceptions of the self as the doer.

Karma yoga is recommended even to those practicing jñāna yoga, great Maharishi's and rulers of great wisdom such as King Janaka also achieved ātma-tattva and attained mokṣa solely by karma yoga performing actions following the prescribed injunctions of the Vedas.

This illustrates that the aspirant for mokṣa who is not qualified to tread the path of jñāna yoga can still achieve the highest attainment through karma yoga.

Furthermore it has also been shown that there are some advantages in performing prescribed Vedic activities in karma yoga even for one qualified to tread the path of jñāna yoga.

In the next verse another aspect of karma yoga will be shown as the inevitable duty of a specifically distinguished and qualified class of people in society.

karmaṇaiva hi saṃsiddhim āsthitājanakādayaḥ|
loka saṅgraham-evāpi saṃpaśyan kartum arhasi|| 20 ||

20. Verily, by Karma Yoga alone did Janaka and others reach perfection. Indeed, you should act, bearing in mind the welfare of the world.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Even royal sages like Janaka and others, who were the foremost among the enlightened ones, preferred Karma Yoga as the means for attaining perfection.

Thus, having first declared that for an aspirant for liberation who is unsuited for Jñāna Yoga, Karma Yoga alone should be practiced, it was next convincingly taught that, even for one who is qualified for Jñāna Yoga, Karma Yoga is still the preferred means.

Now it is going to be taught (in verses 20-26) that Karma Yoga must be performed in every way by anyone who is virtuous.

At least for the welfare of all beings (loka-saṅgraha), you should do work even if there is no need of it for yourself.

yadyad-ācarati śreṣṭhas-tat-tad-evetaro janaḥ|
sa yat pramāṇaṃkurute lokas-tad-anuvartate || 21 ||

21. Whatever an eminent person does, other people also do, whatever standard he sets, the world follows it.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

So understanding that the whole Earth benefits from the performance of prescribed Vedic activities, one should act altruistically not for themselves but for the welfare of the world. This is the meaning Lord Krishna is conveying.

The word śreṣṭha means great personality expert in the conclusions of the Vedas. Whatever actions such a great person performs others will try to follow.

It may be that a certain activity should be performed on a special day. The common people will wait to see how a great person takes the initiative on such an action and then they will follow suit.

Hence the great personalities should always act in an exemplary manner to set the standard for the world. In this way they inspire everyone to perform prescribed Vedic actions according to the qualification of one's varṇa or caste in life and one's āśrama or stage in life.

If one fails to do this by neglect or omission one commits sin by omitting to help benefit the welfare of the world by their example and the consequence will be one will fall down from the path they achieved after many lifetimes.

na me parthāsti kartavyaṃtriṣu lokeṣu kiñcana |
nānavāptam-avāptavyaṃ varta eva ca karmaṇi || 22 ||

22. For me, O Arjuna, there is nothing in all the three worlds which ought to be done, nor is there anything lacking that ought to be acquired —yet I continually engage in action.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

For Me, who am the Lord of all, who has all desires fulfilled, who is omniscient, whose will is [unfailingly] true, and who at My own pleasure, choose to remain in the three worlds in the forms of gods, humans and such other beings, there is nothing whatever to achieve.

Therefore, even though there is nothing lacking for Me i.e., nothing yet to be achieved by work, yet still I continue working for the maintenance of the world

yadi hyahaṃvarteyaṃjātu karmaṇyatandritaḥ|
mama vartmānuvartante manuṣyāḥpārtha sarvaśaḥ|| 23 ||

23. For if I did not continue to engage Myself in action, unwearied, O Arjuna, humankind would follow my example.

utsīdeyur-ime lokāna kuryaṃkarma ced aham |
saṅkarasya ca kartāsyām upahanyām-imāḥprajāḥ|| 24 ||

24. These worlds would perish if I did not perform action; I would be the author of confusion and the cause of destruction of these beings.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

If Lord Krishna of infallible will, the Supreme Lord of all, and in whose control the entire phenomenal display of the total material creation is created, maintained and preserved by His inconceivable potency;

if He were not to conduct Himself seriously and omit to perform prescribed Vedic activities for the benefit of all the worlds then others seeing Lord Krishna's indifference would also conduct themselves indifferently following His example.

When Lord Krishna took birth, seemingly as a human being, as the son of the great righteous King Vāsudeva, he conducted Himself in all ways and manners as appropriate for his position in society as a prince of the royal kṣatriya or warrior class.

If Lord Krishna acted otherwise all mankind would begin to imitate Him thinking that such actions were virtuous, the worthy actions, of a worthy son from a worthy father, the righteous King Vāsudeva.

In this way Lord Krishna is explaining that if He failed to perform Vedic activities mankind following His example would be led in a negative way into a hellish perdition unable to purify themselves enough so they could achieve ātma-tattva or soul realisation.

This would be considered as a very serious offence and Lord Krishna would be at fault.

By not setting the example of what is righteous and by not following the traditions and customs established by performing the activities prescribed in the Vedic scriptures then all humanity would deviate from righteousness and become totally lost.

If Lord Krishna failed to respect the injunctions and prohibitions of the Vedic scriptures then all the world would take that to be the standard of righteousness and the final verdict.

There would soon ensue the mixing of classes and a mixture of moral and immoral standards in the class of pure and righteous people, leading to the complete degradation of society.

Lord Krishna is stating that if He failed to follow and perform the Vedic injunctions then it would be the cause of the destruction of society. This is the purport.

Also if Arjuna who was world famous for never having been defeated in battle and who was the brother of King Yudhisṭhīra famed for his righteousness;

if Arjuna refused to fight and protect dharma or righteousness then many other worthy and noble kṣatriyas who were protectors of dharma might follow his example and also renounce their prescribed duties and refuse to protect righteousness then this would bring destruction to the world balance and ruination to the welfare of the people.

Thus it can be understood that for specially qualified people prescribed Vedic activities must be performed for the benefit of the entire human race and the welfare of the world.