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The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom

The Holy Lord said:
This imperishable yoga
I taught to Vivaswat, then he
In turn taught it to Manu, who
Then taught it unto Ikshwaku. (1)

Thus, handed down in succession,
The royal sages knew of it.
This yoga, by long lapse of time,
Was lost here on earth, Arjuna. (2)

This ancient yoga is today
Declared by Me to you because
You are my devotee and friend,
This secret is supreme indeed. (3)

Arjuna said:
O Krishna, later was Your birth,
And Vivaswat’s was earlier.
How then should I understand that
You taught this in the beginning? (4)

The Holy Lord said:
Many the births that I have passed–
Many passed by you, Arjuna.
I have full knowledge of them all,
While you do not, Scorcher of Foes. (5)

Though birthless, imperishable,
Although the Lord of all beings,
Controlling my own Prakriti,
I manifest by my own pow’r. (6)

Whenever dharma decreases,
O Bharata, and then there is
The arising of adharma,
Then do I manifest Myself. (7)

For protection of the righteous
And destruction of the wicked,
For establishing of dharma,
I manifest from age to age. (8)

He who thus knows in its true light,
My divine birth and My action,
Leaving the body, is not born
Again–but he attains to Me. (9)

Freed from attachment, fear, anger–
Absorbed, taking refuge in Me,
Purified by fire of knowledge,
Many have attained My Being. (10)

In whatever way they resort
To Me do I thus reward them.
It is My path which ev’rywhere
All men follow, O Arjuna. (11)

Longing for success in action,
In this world men worship the gods,
Because success from such action
Is quickly attained in this world. (12)

The fourfold caste was made by Me,
Based on guna and on karma.
Though I am the Maker thereof,
Know Me as non-doer, changeless. (13)

Never do actions taint Me, nor
Do I thirst for action’s result.
And whosoever knows Me thus
Is not fettered by his actions. (14)

Knowing thus, the ancient seekers
After freedom performed action.
Do you, therefore, perform action,
As did the ancients in past times. (15)

Even sages are bewildered
As what is action, inaction.
I shall tell you what action is:
This knowledge frees you from evil. (16)

For you should know the nature of
Actions enjoined, prohibited,
As well as that of inaction–
All this is hard to understand. (17)

Seeing inaction in action,
Seeing action in inaction–
Such a man is wise among men:
A yogi–doing all action. (18)

Whose undertakings are devoid
Of plan and desire for results,
Whose actions are burnt in the fire
Of knowledge–him the wise call wise. (19)

Having abandoned attachment
For action’s fruit, always content,
Not dependent e’en when acting,
He truly does nothing at all. (20)

Acting with the body alone,
Without wish, thought and self restrained,
Abandoning all thoughts of gain,
Though acting he incurs no fault. (21)

Content with what comes unbidden,
Beyond duality, envy,
The same in success or failure,
E’en though acting, he is not bound. (22)

Having gone beyond attachment,
His mind established in knowledge,
Who acts only as sacrifice:
His whole karma dissolves away. (23)

Brahman is the off’ring and the
Oblation made by Brahman in
The fire that is Brahman. Who sees
Thus, by him Brahman is attained.1 (24)

Some yogis offer sacrifice
To gods alone, while some others
Offer the self as sacrifice
Unto the self in Brahman’s fire. (25)

Some offer senses like hearing
Into the fires2 of restraint;
Some, sound and other sense objects
Into the fire of the senses. (26)

Some offer the senses’ actions
And the functions of life force in
The yoga-fire of self-control,
That is enkindled by knowledge. (27)

Some offer wealth, austerity,
And yoga as their sacrifice,
Some, of restraint and stringent vows,
Offer knowledge as sacrifice. (28)

Some offer the outgoing breath
Into the incoming breath, and
Then stop the course of both the breaths–
Their breath-control their sacrifice.3 (29)

While those of regulated food
Offer it to digestive fires.
All these, knowers of sacrifice,
Destroy their sins by sacrifice. (30)

Eating sacrificial remains,
They go to the Primal Brahman.
Neither this world nor the others
Are for the non-sacrificing. (31)

Sacrifices of many kinds
Are spread out before Brahman’s face.
All of them are born from action;
Thus knowing you shall be released. (32)

Better than mere material
Sacrifice is that of knowledge.
All action without exception
Is comprehended4 in knowledge. (33)

Know that by prostrating yourself,
By questioning and by serving,
The wise who realized the truth
Will instruct you in that knowledge. (34)

Know this, and you shall not again
Become deluded, Arjuna.
By this you shall come to see all
Creation in your self and Me. (35)

Even if you should be the most
Sinful among all the sinful,
Yet you would cross over all sin
By the raft of knowledge alone. (36)

As fire reduces wood to ash,
In the same way, O Arjuna,
The fire of knowledge does reduce
To ashes all karma–know this. (37)

Within this world there is nothing
So purifying as knowledge.
In time, the perfect in yoga
Finds that knowledge within his heart. (38)

The man of faith, and devoted,
And the master of his senses,
Attains this knowledge, and having
Attained quickly finds Supreme Peace. (39)

The ignorant man, without faith,
The doubting, goes to destruction.
The doubter has neither this world,
Nor yet the next, nor happiness. (40)

With work renounced by yoga and
Doubts rent asunder by knowledge,
Actions do not, Dhananjaya,5
Bind him who is poised in the self. (41)

Cutting with the sword of knowledge
This doubt about the self which is
Born of ignorance in your heart,
Take refuge in yoga: arise! (42)

Om Tat Sat
Thus in the Upanishads of the glorious Bhagavad Gita, the science of the Eternal, the scripture of Yoga, the dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna, ends the fourth discourse entitled: The Yoga of Wisdom.

Read the next Chapter of the Bhagavad Gita: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action


1) “Brahman is the offering, Brahman is the oblation poured out by Brahman into the fire of Brahman. Brahman is to be attained by him who always sees Brahman in action.” [Go back]

2) Pronounced as two syllables: “fi-yers.” [Go back]

3) “Others offer inhalation into exhalation, and exhalation into inhalation, restraining the path of inhalation and exhalation, intent on control of the vital breath (prana).” [Go back]

4) That is, contained (encompassed) or completed in knowledge (jnana). [Go back]

5) Conqueror of Wealth–Arjuna [Go back]

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Text of the Bhagavad Gita for Singing:

  1. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 1: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 2: Sankhya Yoga
  3. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 3: The Yoga of Action
  4. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 4: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 5: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 6: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 7: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 8: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 9: The Yoga of the Kingly Science and Kingly Secret
  10. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 10: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 11: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 12: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 13: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 14: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 16: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demoniacal
  17. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 17: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. The Bhagavad Gita—Chapter 18: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

The Bhagavad Gita—The Song of God A new Translation by Abbot George Burke

  1. Bhagavad Gita Chapter One: The Yoga of the Despondency of Arjuna
  2. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Two: Sankhya Yoga
  3. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Three: The Yoga of Action
  4. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Four: The Yoga of Wisdom
  5. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Five: The Yoga of Renunciation of Action
  6. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Six: The Yoga of Meditation
  7. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seven: The Yoga of Wisdom and Realization
  8. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eight: The Yoga of Imperishable Brahman
  9. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Nine: The Yoga of the Royal Science and Royal Secret
  10. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Ten: The Yoga of Divine Glories
  11. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eleven: The Yoga of the Vision of the Cosmic Form
  12. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Twelve: The Yoga of Devotion
  13. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Thirteen: The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field
  14. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fourteen: The Yoga of the Division of the Three Gunas
  15. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Fifteen: The Yoga of the Supreme Spirit
  16. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Sixteen: The Yoga of the Division between the Divine and the Demonic
  17. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Seventeen: The Yoga of the Division of Threefold Faith
  18. Bhagavad Gita Chapter Eighteen: The Yoga of Liberation by Renunciation

Read the Maharshi Gita, an arrangement of verses of the Bhagavad Gita made by Sri Ramana Maharshi that gives an overview of the essential message of the Gita.

Read the Bhagavad Gita for Awakening, a full commentary on the Bhagavad Gita by Abbot George Burke (Swami Nirmalananda Giri).

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