9. In this verse Krsna introduces the concept of yajna sacrifice. Yajna is an ancient Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice. In those days, as now, people performed the ritual without knowing or living the significance of the ritual. Hence they had become selfish and self-centred. Selfishness is not an option. As we have seen earlier you get neither success nor happiness through selfish actions. And your spiritual level nosedives with selfishness.
The ritual consists of invoking fire in a havan kund. Each participant offers ahuti into the fire which is usually ghee, grain or pieces of firewood. When the flames are kindled the belief is that fire god has been propitiated and blesses the participants. When all the wood is consumed the ash is applied in three stripes across the forehead and the members visit the temple.
The meaning behind the ritual is:
The havan kund represents the field of activity, the organization, society, nation, environment etc. The ahuti is one’s particular talent or ability. When the contributors offer their respective talent for the larger purpose the organization prospers, society blossoms and the economy does well. When you act in a cooperative spirit for a larger cause the field blesses you with success. Everyone does well. The greater the altar at which you offer your talent the greater is the benefit.
Every organization or society has an impressive range of talent. But to achieve lofty goals individual stars need to align to work collectively as galaxies! The spirit of yajna needs to be infused in corporate bodies, societies and nations.
Grain represents vasanas. When grain is burnt it loses the capacity to germinate. Similarly vasanas can no longer manifest when they are used for a higher goal. The three stripes represent transcendence of the body, mind and intellect. The temple visit is the final leap to Enlightenment.
Yajna is the sacrifice of the lower for the achievement of the higher. Knowledge of the higher is the cause. Sacrifice of the lower is the effect. An athlete turns his back on every indulgence when his attention is on the Olympic Gold. A musician who wants to master a composition finds fulfillment in hours of practice. A tennis player who wants to win the Wimbledon goes through the rigors of training happily.
This selfless action must be performed without attachment. Detachment comes when you are attached to the higher. In this case you are attached to the goal as a result of which you are detached from the path. In the absolute sense you aspire for Realisation, hence are detached from the world.
Bondage comes from self-centred action. Every selfish action breeds more desires. When the same action is dedicated to a higher purpose the existing desire gets exhausted but no fresh desires are created.
Many a talented person fails to excel because she falls for instant pleasure, is afraid to take the plunge to work for a higher mission, or is ignorant. Hence the need for knowledge and reinforcement of the intellect.
10. Only the human species is gifted with the ability to sacrifice. No other creature can do so. Krsna says – with this special ability may you prosper. The message is that it is impossible to prosper without yajna. Yet all of humanity is striving hard to succeed – without sacrifice!
Krsna then adds – let this be the Kamadhenu of all your endeavours. Kamadhenu is a mythical cow residing in heaven that fulfils all your desires. Yajna is Kamadhenu. When you work in a spirit of service and sacrifice towards a higher goal all your desires get fulfilled. Rise above personal desire and the object of desire will come to you. Chase after desire, object will recede. This is a law. Practise it. Experiment with it. Realise its truth.
The cow is revered in the Indian culture because it seems to live by the dictum – maximum work, minimum profit. We need to follow this motto.
Famous achievers and great cultures have sacrificed and prospered. When they became selfish they lost their prosperity.
Plants act for their body. Animals act for body and mind. Humans act for body, mind and intellect but have the capacity to rise above all this and work for That which is beyond the world – Self Realization.