Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 4, Verse 33

श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञ: परन्तप |
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते || 33||

śhreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj jñāna-yajñaḥ parantapa
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha jñāne parisamāpyate

śhreyānsuperior; dravya-mayātof material possessions; yajñātthan the sacrifice; jñāna-yajñaḥsacrifice performed in knowledge; parantapasubduer of enemies, Arjun; sarvamall; karmaworks; akhilamall; pārthaArjun, the son of Pritha; jñānein knowledge; parisamāpyateculminate

Translation

BG 4.33: O subduer of enemies, sacrifice performed in knowledge is superior to any mechanical material sacrifice. After all, O Parth, all sacrifices of work culminate in knowledge.

Commentary

Shree Krishna now puts the previously described sacrifices in proper perspective. He tells Arjun that it is good to do physical acts of devotion, but not good enough. Ritualistic ceremonies, fasts, mantra chants, holy pilgrimages, are all fine, but if they are not performed with knowledge, they remain mere physical activities. Such mechanical activities are better than not doing anything at all, but they are not sufficient to purify the mind.

Many people chant God’s name on rosary beads, sit in recitations of the scriptures, visit holy places, and perform worship ceremonies, with the belief that the physical act itself is sufficient for liberating them from material bondage. However, Saint Kabir rejects this idea very eloquently:

mālā pherata yuga phirā, phirā na mana kā pher,

kar kā manakā ḍāri ke, manakā manakā pher [v27]

“O spiritual aspirant, you have been rotating the chanting beads for many ages, but the mischief of the mind has not ceased. Now put those beads down, and rotate the beads of the mind.” Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj says:

bandhan aur mokṣha kā, kāraṇ manahi bakhān

yate kauniu bhakti karu, karu man te haridhyān (Bhakti Shatak verse 19)[v28]

“The cause of bondage and liberation is the mind. Whatever form of devotion you do, engage your mind in meditating upon God.”

Devotional sentiments are nourished by the cultivation of knowledge. For example, let us say that it is your birthday party, and people are coming and handing you gifts. Someone comes and gives you a ragged bag. You look at it disdainfully, thinking it is insignificant in comparison to the other wonderful gifts you have received. That person requests you to look inside the bag. You open it and find a stack of one hundred notes of $100 denomination. You immediately hug the bag to your chest, and say, “This is the best gift I have received.” Knowledge of its contents developed love for the object. Similarly, cultivating knowledge of God and our relationship with him nurtures devotional sentiments. Hence, Shree Krishna explains to Arjun that sacrifices performed in knowledge are superior to the sacrifice of material things. He now explains the process of acquiring knowledge.