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Chanting Hymn Before Meals
Seeker: Hi, Sundari and James. ☺ I am curious to know what this “important non-dual verse of the Gita” you chant with every meal is.
Sundari: Here it is:
Bhagavad Gita, Chapter IV, Verse 24, A Non-Dual Prayer:
Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaiva Tena Ghantavyam
“The means of offering is Brahman. The oblation is Brahman, offered by Brahman into the fire, which is Brahman. Brahman indeed is to be reached by him who sees everything as Brahman.”
Commentary by Swami Dayananda
In the preceding section, the nature of atma was described as akarta, meaning that the self performs no action. Action takes place based on desire and will, types of thoughts that belong to the buddhi. The physical body, kaya, organ of speech, vak, and the mind, manas, are the three means of action, karanas. Here, the physical body refers to the hands and legs, the limbs that are used to perform action. Any action that is done can be grouped under any or all these three. For example, when you offer a prayer, it can be either a mental or a verbal action or a ritual involving physical limbs. All three involve the mind.
If atma is the body-mind-sense assemblage, which is the basis for all actions to take place, then I become the actor. Whereas, if this assemblage is not atma, then atma is free from the body, mind and senses. It is in the form of pure consciousness, Suddha-caitanya-svarupa, and performs no action whatsoever. Thus it was said that even while performing action, the wise person does no action whatsoever, because doership is not there for the person.
How Active a Jnani Is Means Nothing
Also, if the jnani performs only those actions that are necessary to sustain the physical body, no results will accrue, because, again, there is no doership. In this way, two types of jnanis were pointed out. One type is in the thick-and-thin of various activities, totally engaged in action, and the second type is not. But even for the jnani who performs activities it was said that no action is performed. Why? Because the person sees akarma in all karmas, meaning that he sees atma as actionless in the very activity itself. How much or how little activity you do means nothing. What is important is whether or not you see atma as a non-doer, akarta.
There is no rule about how a wise person should be. One person may be very active and another may be a sannyasi. A sannyasi can also be active or not very active. He may perform only those activities necessary to sustain the body or may be involved in the world because of his prarabdha. Either way, there is no karma for the person and no results accrue to him, because there is no doership.
In the present verse, we see that, for the wise person, all karma and everything connected to the karma is Brahman. In fact this is what self-knowledge is all about. There is nothing separate from atma, which is Brahman. This is the knowledge that makes the person wise. Atma is equated to Brahman, Brahman is jiana, pure consciousness, and therefore not subject to time, space or any attributes. It is satya, pure existence, and ananta, limitless, which is the basis, the truth, of everything. In terms of time, atma is limitless, and in terms of space also, it is limitless. There is nothing that is independent of this satya-atma. Being dependent on satya, which is parambrahma, everything else is nothing but parambrahma, which is atma, oneself.
One who sees atma as free from action sees atma as Brahman, and this is jnana. Therefore we have to understand atma as a non-doer as param brahma. With this knowledge, all actions and everything connected to them, including the results, are nullified, negated.
The statement made earlier, karmani akarmayah pasyet, was made clearer when it was said, in the last verse, that all the karmas of the wise person are totally resolved – samagram karma praviyate. To say that a wise person sees akarma in karma implies that there are actions being done. For example, speaking is an action done for which there is someone who speaks, a subject matter, a way of speaking, a reason for speaking and so on – all of which the jnani understands as being non-separate from param brahma.
The karta, or the agent of action, is Brahman. The karma, or the object of action, is Brahman. The karana, or the instrument of action, is Brahman and the place where the action is done is Brahman. This vision that everything is Brahman is unfolded in the present verse by using a Vedic ritual as an example. Krsna is not pointing out the ritual itself here; he is pointing out the wisdom encapsulate in the ritual, the vision that is Vedanta.
Krsna Uses a Vedic Ritual to Unfold the Knowledge
A Vedic ritual is as good as a prayer. It is an action in which a purpose and a result are involved. There is a person who wants a particular result and there is a method of offering a particular oblation. All the karakas, all the factors involved in an action, are presented in this verse – an agent of action, an object, a means, a purpose, a place from where the action is coming and a place into which the action is going.
What Krsna is conveying here is that every means of offering is Brahman – brahma arpanam. Here arpana means that by which something is offered – arpyate anena iti arpanam.What is the oblation? Havis, the oblation which is offered, is also Brahman – brahma havih. Where is the offering made? Brahma-agnau – into the fire of Brahman, the fire that is Brahman. By whom is the offering made? The offering is made by Brahman – brahmana hutam. The karta, the doer, is Brahman. For what purpose is the offering made? The offering is made for the purpose of gaining Brahman alone – brahma eva tena gantavyam. By whom is this Brahman to be gained? By one who sees everything as Brahman – brahma-karma-samadhina.
Arpana is that by which something is offered, a wooden ladle, for example, or a mantra with which an offering is made. And while offering, a particular mantra is chanted to indicate exactly to which devata, or deity, the oblation is being offered. For example, the words “indraya svaha, indrdya idam na mama” are to invoke the devata called Indra, and they mean “This is being offered to Indra; (this) does not belong to me anymore.” Similarly, “agnaye svdha, agnaye idam na mama” means “This is for Agni; (this) is no longer mine.” In this way, you are not making the devata indebted to you. You offer the oblation to the chosen devata, saying, “This is for you alone. I am giving it to you. It is no longer mine.” This then is the meaning of arpana.
Whether a ladle or a mantra, how is this arpana separate from Brahman? Nothing is separate from Brahman. Therefore sound is Brahman, word is Brahman, knowledge is Brahman, Indra is Brahman. Everything is Brahman. Because of the wise person’s brahma-buddhi, he or she performs the ritual seeing Brahman in everything, just as when you see a clay pot, the clay is not missed. Or when you see a golden ornament, the gold is not missed. When you see a shirt, the cloth is not missed.
The Satya and Mithya of the Ritual
Similarly, when a jnani sees anything, Brahman is not missed, Brahman being the cause of everything. Brahman being the truth, the satya, of everything, everything is dependent upon satya-brahma and is therefore mithya. This means that arpana, the ladle, the mantra and so on are all mithya. Thus arpana is Brahman – arpanam.
The object offered is havis, clarified butter or any other thing that is offered as the oblation. This is also Brahman. And it is offered by Brahman, Brahmanahutam. That is, the person who offers the oblation is also Brahman – a fact known to the wise person. Hutam means “is offered.” This word refers to the act of offering, the kriya. Anena means “by means of this”; arpyate is offered; arpanam, the means, the instrument with which the oblation is offered into the fire during a ritual and this could mean both the wooden ladle and the mantra with which the offering is made is non-separate from brahma. The oblation, havis, is offered unto the fire, agni, the location in which the act of offering takes place. Here too, agni is nothing but Brahman, born of Brahman and therefore non-separate from Brahman.
We see then that all the karakas are covered here. The first karaka, the karta, the one who offers, is Brahman; the second karaka, the karma, or object, is Brahman; the third karaka, the karana, or instrument, is Brahman; the purpose of the ritual is Brahman; and the fifth karaka, from where the action comes, is Brahman. Because the sixth karaka, the possessive or genitive case, generally does not relate to an action, it does not generally represent one of the six karakas. The sixth karaka, which takes the locative case, is also here in the verse. Here it is said, “In the fire of Brahman, brahmagnau.” Therefore the fire into which the offering is made is also Brahman.
Performing Ritual as a Doer
If a person performs a ritual for the sake of heaven, he or she is a karta. Because I am a karta, I want to go to heaven, and this heaven is separate from me. Therefore if I do this particular karma, the karma-phala will be punya, and this punya I can later encash for a ticket to heaven.
This is the meaning of a ritual if I am a karta, whereas if I know that I am Brahman, it is altogether different. Brahman is everything, including heaven. This being the case, what is to be gained by the person of knowledge? Brahman alone is to be gained by the wise person – brahmaivatenagantavyam. This is to say that nothing is to be gained, because the jnani is Brahman.
Gantavyam means “that which is to be reached” or “that which is to be accomplished.” Because the person is already Brahman, there is nothing to be gained. Everything being Brahman, there is nothing away from Brahman, and therefore nothing to be gained that is not Brahman. But while this may indeed be a fact, one has to know the fact. Otherwise the person is a karta. Then, looking at everything in a ritual as Brahman becomes a form of meditation, upasana. Wherever you deliberately superimpose something exalted on something ordinary, there is upasana, just as you deliberately superimpose the United States on a piece of cloth with so many stars and stripes.
Superimposition need not be deliberate always, like when you mistake an object for something else. Without any deliberation, you may superimpose a snake on a piece of rope, for example. This is a mistake. But to take a wooden or stone statue of Visnu for the Lord is not a mistake, unless of course you take the given form alone as Visnu. This is upasana.
Knowledge Alone Is Involved Here
Whereas when a person realises the fact “I am Brahman” it is knowledge, not upasana. Here in this verse knowledge alone is involved, the ritual being performed by one who sees Brahman in all actions, brahma-karma-samadhi. Seeing Brahman everywhere is called brahma-karma-samadhi.
How can one see Brahman everywhere? If one goes around with eyes wide open will Brahman be seen in everything? When a chair is seen, do you go beyond the chair and see Brahman? Seeing Brahman is not like looking at a shirt and seeing the cloth. When you see a shirt, you see only the shirt. Obviously then, you do not see Brahman in this way. In fact you will not see Brahman, because you are Brahman! The thought that objectifies the chair is Brahman. The space in which the chair is sitting is also Brahman. And the chair itself, every particle of it, is nothing but Brahman.
The object of any thought is non-separate from the consciousness that is Brahman, and the knowledge of the object, the thought itself, is also non-separate from this consciousness. The one who knows, who has the knowledge of the object, is also nothing but consciousness. Therefore the knower, the knowledge and the object of knowledge are all Brahman, consciousness, which is satya.
Thus the statement, “I am Brahman,” means atma is Brahman, which is nirvikalpa – that which does not have the knower-knowledge-known distinction, jnatr-jiana-jieya bheda. Nirvikalpa does not mean the absence of thought but points to the non-difference between the knower, knowledge and known. Because knowledge is myself, the knower is myself and the object of knowledge is myself; these three are only apparently different. Thus to say, “I am nirvikalpa,” is to refer to the fact that there is no real difference between the knower, knowledge and known. This knowledge is always nirvikalpa, there being no second thing. Whether you know it or not, this knowledge is always there. Similarly, when you see, the seer, the sight and the seen are all Brahman. And when you hear, the hearer, the hearing and the heard are also Brahman.
Thus being in any situation is seeing Brahman everywhere – sarvatra brahma-darshanam. It is not a matter of opening one’s eyes and trying to see Brahman. Brahman is not an object to be seen with the eyes. To see Brahman everywhere is to recognise the fact that the knower, jnata, is Brahman, the knowledge, jnana, is Brahman, and what is known, jneya, is Brahman. All three are Brahman, but Brahman is independent of all of them.
Seeing Brahman Everywhere Is Knowledge
In fact all three – knower, knowledge and known – can be shaken off; they can be removed. And they can return to be removed again. You have them, you remove them, you have them, you remove them – and all the while Brahman always is. And the one who has this knowledge, who sees Brahman everywhere, is called brahma-karma-samadhi.
Brahma-karma-samadhi here refers to a person who has an intellect that appreciates that everything is Brahman – brahma eva karma – brahma-karma; brahma-karmasamadhina (samahita buddhih) yasya. And what is to be gained by the brahmakarma-samadhi, one who sees Brahman in all action? What is to be gained when everything is Brahman? Nothing, except Brahman – brahmaivagantavyam. If everything is Brahman, what result can there be? If the doer is Brahman, the done is Brahman, the doing is Brahman, and the reason for doing it is Brahman, where is the result? For whom is the result? And for what purpose is the result?
Knowing that everything is Brahman, the jnani who is engaged in activity performs action for the sake of the people – loka-sargrahartham. Even though there is nothing for the wise person to accomplish, his time is available for helping people. The jnani requires nothing to be secure or happy, and therefore his time is no longer required for himself. Whatever time is left in the person’s life can therefore be given to the people for them to make use of as best as they can.