Done with the right attitude, even pranayama, self-study, the pursuit of knowledge, etc can be considered as forms of worship...'''

Done with the right attitude, even pranayama, self-study, the pursuit of knowledge, etc can be considered as forms of worship…

Jnana-karma-sanyasa yoga/Topic of renunciation of action with knowledge (chapter 4)

In the fourth chapter, Krishna makes another interesting comment.

Daivam evapare yajnam yoginah paryupasate

Brahmagnavapare yajnam yajnenaivopajuhvati  // 4.25 //

Karma-yogins perform only those rituals that invoke the deities, while others (sannyasins) offer themselves by themselves unto the fire (knowledge) of Brahman.

This knowledge presupposes a contemplative mind, a mind that can think deeply, feel strongly and act decisively without getting disturbed or turning into an emotional yo-yo. Keeping this in mind, he says, one can be a good karma yogi or sanyasi when one has a sense of surrender to Ishwara. We have seen this in our earlier posts on Ishwara. Here he says if you understand Ishwara, it is natural to have an emotional response to it. This is true for everything– if you see a juicy fruit, there will be a natural emotional response of liking it. Therefore, with an idea there is always some sort of an emotional response. You meet a nice person, you will respond to him in a friendly way. Sometimes there can be more; it can even turn into a romantic attraction. Therefore, with an understanding there is always an emotional response. In my years of teaching, I often meet people who have an understanding of Ishwara but no emotional response. In the fourth chapter, verse 25 onwards, he gives you a few exercises to have this emotional response.

[pullquote]When pranayama is practiced, there is always a kumbhaka at the end. That “holding’’ is a state of pure potentiality where the movement in one direction ends and the other has not yet begun; that’s full of potentiality, that’s the point of ishwara.[/pullquote]

Now how will you clarify an emotional response? Any emotional response you have for your understanding of Ishwara is classified as bhakti. It does not matter what that emotional response is unless of course it goes into hatred, dislike, not caring….I am not talking of those, which do not enter the picture if you have understood Ishwara in the way we have mentioned it in our blogs. A feeling of emotional connect is what we call bhakti. Generally speaking, singing bhajans will be considered bhakti in North India and in the South it would be pujas…But that is not what I am talking about. Bhakti is a feeling, and that feeling is your emotional response. If you have this understanding of Ishwara, there should be an emotional connect because Ishwara is everything. Really speaking, you should not feel disconnected in life. However, emotions are not a matter of should and should not; in spite of understanding Ishwara one does feel disconnected in life. That is because the emotional response of bhakti has not come in. I find it difficult to accept the results of all actions as prasada because I do not have bhakti to Ishwara.

So he gives a few exercises in this chapter. These would be acts of worship. Now, when I say this, some of my readers might not have had any form of worship at home and therefore cannot relate to it. Or they must have had too much of it therefore got fed up of it. Both these extremes are common in the society. Here, he gives you a range of methods in which you could worship.

Apane juhvati pranam prane’panam tatha’pare

Pranapanagati rudhva pranayamaparayanah //4.29 //

So too, others who are committed to the practice of pranayama (breath control), stopping the flow of inhalation and exhalation, offer the outgoing breath into the incoming breath (and) the incoming breath into the outgoing breath.

What is a “worship’’ after all? If you look at the simple vedic worship, something is offered to the fire and something is taken back as prasada. Keeping this imagery, he says, your yoga pranayama can also be worship. Why?  You offer the incoming breath to the outgoing breath and the outgoing breath to the incoming breath. Now how is that done? When pranayama is practiced, there is always a kumbhaka at the end. You breathe in, you hold, and you breathe out and you hold (suspend your breath). That “holding’’ is a state of pure potentiality where the movement in one direction ends and the other has not yet begun; that’s full of potentiality, that’s the point of ishwara. So, in the kumbhaka you are offering the breath to ishwara. If you have that awareness, when you are doing a pranayama the whole pranayama becomes a worship.

Similarly, he says, a physical yagna invokes a feeling in you. Or he says about your desires– your restraint from overindulgence in your desires becomes another form of worship. He talks about various things like a dravya yagna, where things are offered to the fire, tapas as yagna. What is tapas?  Stepping out of your comfort zone and getting comfortable in areas that you are not comfortable before. That is another form of worship because that is also aiding your growth. Then swadhyaya i.e. self-learning and gaining knowledge…he also classifies this as an act of worship. Why? Because you are studying about Ishwara. Therefore, to study this subject matter with love becomes another form of worship. Therefore, worship, really speaking, is not in the action. Worship is in the attitude towards those actions, exactly as in karma-yoga. I could be doing a lot of karma, but that only makes me a karmi, or I can do it with this attitude of Ishwara-arpana, offering everything to the Lord, and prasad buddhi, taking the result as coming from Ishwara. This makes me a karma yogi.

He suggests here a few simple actions to help one deliberately invoke the Lord so that the emotional flow will begin and a sense of disconnectedness will go. This, of course, will be highlighted more in the 11th and 12th chapters; we will see it in greater detail there. And he says there are a lot of ways to worship like this and he highlights the importance of gyana yagna, yagna of seeking this wisdom because what finally frees you is this wisdom. And how do you gain this wisdom, he says in the 34th verse.

Tadviddhi pranipatena pariprasnena sevaya

Upadeshakshayanti te jnanam jnaninastattvadarshinah // 4.34//

Understand that (which is to be known) by prostrating (the wise), by asking proper questions, (and) by serving (them). Those wise persons, who have the vision of the truth, will teach you (this) knowledge.

Always gain this knowledge from someone who knows. A blog gives you awareness, but it does not give you the details, no blog or website can ever give it, no recording can supplement live teaching. Know this truth with a sense of surrender, find a teacher. What type of teacher? One who knows the truth well and knows how to communicate, because you are supposed to communicate the infinite with words, which are finite. Therefore, it calls for a specialized form of communication. There are plenty of people who have this knowledge, he says, gain it from them. And once you have gained this knowledge, you are never deluded again.

He gives another example in verse 37.

Yathaidhamsi samiddho’ gnirbhasmasatkurute’ rjuna

Jnanagnih sarvakarmani bhasmasatkurute tatha // 4.37 //

Fire burns all the fuel; all your ignorance will be burnt in this knowledge. And then all you are doing is living in this wisdom, living in this knowledge, living free.


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    • Asha Dutia

      Here the point about connecting with Ishvara is made simple. We breathe every moment, no matter where we are or what we are doing. In kumbhaka, that pause between breaths, that nodal point is the residence of Ishvara. So if I consciously become aware of this, then I connect with Ishvara – this sounds simple but in the hurry of daily life, it is easy to forget about that pause because we function on our auto pilot gear. I hope I have understood this as it is meant to be understood.

      • Swami Brahmavidananda

        Dear Asha,
        Thank you for the question. The example of pranayama was given by Krishna to be done as a special act of worship. Please dont try to do kumbhaka etc when you are caught up in the hustle and bustle of life. In an act of worship you feel the connection with Ishwara. Only this connection is extended into my daily activities, not all the acts of worship. –Swami Brahmavidananda Saraswati

    • Asha Dutia

      Thanks Swamiji-however, I don’t understand your words when you say ” Only this connection is extended into my daily activities, not all the acts of worship.” Acts of worship include Pranayam, Ishvara aparnam, Prasad buddhi-surely these acts help establish a connection with Ishvara and strengthen my pursuit of excellence through daily activities? You seem to imply only one single act of worship as connecting with Ishvara. I find this confusing.

    • Jill Gordon

      Thank you again for these wonderful teachings on the Bhagavad Gita. I wondered if you can recommend a translation of the Gita with sanskrit, romanized sanskrit and english translation please. I have been using Paramahansa Yogananda’s one and I’m finding that his interpretation of the sanskrit is poles away from your translation and I find yours much more helpful – so I would be very grateful if you could recommend one or, in fact perhaps you have published one? Thank you. Namaste

      • Swami Brahmavidananda

        Thank you for your comments. I tried to be as authentic in my translations ,both to the sanskrit and the spirit of vedanta. The closest tranlation of the Gita would be translaion of the Gita along with the transliteration by Swami Dayanand Saraswati. You will find it online if you search for Arsha Vidya Research and Publication Trust.
        Happy reading!

        • Jill Gordon

          Thank you very much. I’ll certainly try to find it and get it. Namaste.