Gita 09.15 – Jnana yajna is not the same as jnana-yoga
Gita verse-by-verse study Podcast
Transcriber: Sharan Shetty
Edited by: Keshavgopal Das
Question: Gita 09.15 – Is jnana yajna is the same as jnana-yoga?
Answer: Gita 09.15 states,
jnana-yajnena capy anye yajanto mam upasate
ekatvena prthaktvena bahudha visvato-mukham
“Others, who engage in sacrifice by the cultivation of knowledge, worship the Supreme Lord as the one without a second, as diverse in many, and in the universal form.”
This is an important transitional verse in the Gita. Lord Krishna talks about people with widely varied conceptions about him. BG 09.11 and BG 09.12 talks about people who misunderstand Krishna by thinking him to be a material person or thinking his form to be ordinary. In BG 09.13 and BG 09.14, Krishna has talked about those who understand him to be the Absolute Truth and surrender to him, making him the ultimate goal of their lives. The first category of men is described by the word mudha (foolish) and the second category is described as mahatma (great souls). Between these two categories, there are many other people about whom Krishna talks in BG 09.15. These people are addressed as anye (others) and it’s a separate category. Krishna says these people worship me through knowledge (jnana-yajnena). They are those who conceive things in oneness (ekatvena) or in duality (prthaktvena).
The word jnana yajnena is also used by Krishna in BG 4.28 and BG 4.33 and later, most famously, in BG 18.70 where he says that “He who studies this sacred conversation of ours worships Me by his intelligence”.
In a broad sense, jnana yajna can be called as using our knowledge in the pursuit of the Absolute Truth. What the conception of the Absolute Truth is and what knowledge different people have will vary from seeker-to-seeker. Accordingly, the nature of jnana yajna will vary. That is why, one should not think that jnana yajna and jnana yoga are same. Jnana yoga is a particular method of sadhana which involves certain intellectual conceptions. In verse BG 09.15, Lord Krishna talks about three ways in which people do jnana yajna: (i) ekatvena (ii) prthaktvena bahudha (iii) vishvato mukham
(i) Ekatvena (oneness): There are transcendentalists who by the eyes of knowledge see beyond the duality and diversity that characterises life at the material level. Krishna talks about this in BG 18.20 as knowledge in the mode of goodness where he says, “That knowledge by which one undivided spiritual nature is seen in all living entities, though they are divided into innumerable forms, you should understand to be in the mode of goodness”.
One should understand that all conceptions of oneness are not one. There are conceptions of oneness which consider Krishna’s form to be an illusion which Krishna disapproves strongly by calling holders of such views as mudha (foolish) in BG 9.11. In BG 9.12, he explains that the endeavours of such people are futile.
In BG 09.15, Krishna talks about those who worship him in a different way which is not necessarily the best but laudable since they see beyond matter to spirit.
(ii) Prthaktvena bahudha: This does not refer simply to demigod worship but to the idea of heathenism which means that there is one Absolute Truth who is actually formless but manifests in many forms. Krishna says such people are also worshipping Me but they are not worshipping with a proper understanding. Their worship, as explained in BG 09.23, is avidhi-purvakam (done in a wrong way and not according to scriptural injunctions).
(iii) Vishvato-mukham: In BG 09.15 Krishna also uses the word vishvato-mukham to refer those who worship him in his manifestation as the universal form.
It is important to note that this single verse (BG 09.15) will be expanded upon in the later parts of the Gita by Lord Krishna.
The idea of vishvato-mukham will span over the entire Chapter 11 of Gita which is titled – “The Universal Form”.
Similarly, the idea of ekatvena will be discussed in Chapter 12. In BG 12.01, Arjuna inquires, “Which are considered to be more perfect, those who are always properly engaged in Your devotional service or those who worship the impersonal brahman, the unmanifested?”.
And prthaktvena bahudha or the idea of demigod worship will be talked about later from BG 09.20 to BG 09.27.
Therefore, essentially this is a very concentrated verse which sets the scene for much further discussion in the Gita and with an inclusive tone Krishna says that the transcendentalists mentioned in this verse also worship Me (yajanto mam upasate).
Sometimes we are much harsher towards impersonalism than Krishna himself. Although we have to be careful that we are not contaminated by impersonalism especially when we are aspiring for pure devotion but at the same time, we should not criticise people who are doing jnana yajna as mayavadis.
End of transcription.