Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda


Song of God (Bhagavad Gita) - Chapter IV: 36-37

April 15, 2019

api ced asi pāpebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ pāpakṛttamaḥ
sarvaṁ jñānaplavenai ’va vṛjinaṁ saṁtariṣyasi (IV-36)
™yathai ’dhāṁsi samiddho ’gnir bhasmasāt kurute ’rjuna
jñānāgniḥ sarvakarmāṇi bhasmasāt kurute tathā  (IV-37)

IV/36. Even if thou art the most sinful of all sinners, yet
thou shalt verily cross all sins by the raft of knowledge.

IV/37. As the blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, O Arjuna,
so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes.

Swamiji's Commentary

      This jñāna or intuitional knowledge or wisdom is fire. It burns. It purifies. It illumines. It burns all the impurities within the human heart. It purifies all that it touches. It illumines the truth. The self, hidden in the heart of man by the veil of ignorance with its heavy encrustation of sinful deeds birth after birth, is the truth. It is the veil that is affected by sin. The self – like space – is unaffected by whatever happens; it is unlimited and ever pure.

      When the fire of knowledge is kindled in the human heart by the sage-guru, this fire reduces the evil (which is veil mis-spelt) – to ashes. The heavy encrustation of sin only makes the fire grow more fierce! The thickness of this encrustation is immaterial; fire is unaltered by what it burns, and fire burns all! Quantity is not the criterion here; a spark can reduce a whole forest to ashes.

      Unlike most forest fires, but like the fire that catches a veil, this fire of knowledge destroys the very roots, the entire veil of sinfulness. With ignorance is burnt desire along with its ramifications as sinful tendencies. The fruits of past actions (sañcita karma) are burnt too, for they were themselves part of the dream from which the wise man has been awakened. The future actions (āgāmi karma) are egoless and desireless and so bear no fruit. But ‘sarva karmāṇi’ is plural, not dual. Even prārabdha karma (the effects of past actions which have begun to fructify) which governs this incarnation, is ‘cheated’ by the wise man who does not identify the self with the body and the mind. (Prārabdha karma can afflict only the body and the mind.) Thus freed from karma and ignorance, even the most sinful man shines as a sage in the light of knowledge of the self. Neither the veil of ignorance, nor the evil action, nor to live in sin and suffering (note the three words in bold type have the same letters) is based on truth. They are born of non-understanding and die on understanding.

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