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What is the Connection Between Yajna(Sacrifice) and Prasada?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

यज्ञशिष्टामृतभुजो यान्ति ब्रह्म सनातनम् |

नायं लोकोऽस्त्ययज्ञस्य कुतोऽन्य: कुरुसत्तम || 4.31||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 31

Those who know the secret of sacrifice, and engaging in it, partake of its remnants that are like nectar, advance toward the Absolute Truth. O best of the Kurus, those who perform no sacrifice find no happiness either in this world or the next.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 31 (English Translation)

This section deals with sacrifice. Here, Krishna uses yajna as a metaphor for this attitude of sacrifice, which is part of the teachings of karma yoga. When you sacrifice your personal agenda and instead choose to follow dharma, this is the sacrifice that Krishna is talking about in this section—sacrificing what you want for what you should do according to the principles of dharma. When you breathe, what you eat—all are forms of sacrifice. 

The content of this verse is on receiving Prasada. As mentioned in previous posts, yajna is the fire ritual, the primary form of worship thousands of years ago. Today, the primary form of Hindu worship is puja. Puja is a form of worship that involves praying and offering food to deities. The food that remains after the ritual is called Prasada, and it is for the worshippers to consume. Prasada means a gift to you, whereas the food you bring is called naivedyam, which is the food offered before the ritual is performed.

To look upon the food as a gift from Ishvara is called Prasada buddhi. It is not just food. It is sanctified food that is a gift.

Those who partake in the sanctified food reach brahman. In other words, this attitude is a spiritual practice that prepares you for enlightenment. The ritual is a metaphor for all spiritual traditions and all activities of life. When we act, we receive the results of our deeds from Ishvara’s will. And that which we receive from Ishvara is a gift or Prasada. What you receive every day of your life, the results of your past actions, you can look upon all of it as Prasada as coming from Ishvara’s hands.

There is no success in this world or the next life for one who does not perform these ritual sacrifices.

What Else Can be Considered as Sacrifice?

एवं बहुविधा यज्ञा वितता ब्रह्मणो मुखे |

कर्मजान्विद्धि तान्सर्वानेवं ज्ञात्वा विमोक्ष्यसे || 4.32||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 32

All these different kinds of sacrifice have been described in the Vedas. Know them as originating from different types of work; this understanding cuts the knots of material bondage.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 32 (English Translation)

Everything in life can be understood as a sacrifice to Ishvara. With this verse, Krishna concludes this topic where yajna has been used as an extended metaphor.

The fundamental sacrifice is sacrificing raga-dvesha to follow dharma. Another is the attitude of looking upon your day-to-day activities as a kind of sacrificial offering to God. All of those are born of karma. Understanding this attitude of sacrifice and putting into your daily activities by living your life with this attitude leads you to gain liberation.

The next topic deals more with spiritual wisdom or jnana. This knowledge is the discovery of the ultimate truth of the divinity within you, and that everything that exists is a manifestation of the divine.

What is Jnana Yajna?

श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञ: परन्तप |

सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते || 4.33||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 33

Better than sacrifice of oblations is the sacrifice of knowledge, O Arjuna. O Arjuna, all actions culminate in knowledge.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 33 (English Translation)

Jnana yajna is an offering of knowledge or wisdom. Offering in the form of wisdom can refer to teaching, but it can also refer to study. When you engage in spiritual studies, you are making a sacrifice. All deeds performed with the attitude of karma yoga lead to knowledge. The performance of all deeds with the attitude of karma yoga is a transformation of all deeds into a form of spiritual practice that prepares you to gain spiritual wisdom and knowledge and thereby become enlightened.

What is the Most Direct Means of Gaining Spiritual Knowledge?

तद्विद्धि प्रणिपातेन परिप्रश्नेन सेवया |

उपदेक्ष्यन्ति ते ज्ञानं ज्ञानिनस्तत्त्वदर्शिन: || 4.34||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 34

Learn the Truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him with reverence and render service unto him. Such an enlightened Saint can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the Truth.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 34 (English Translation)

Where do you go to receive that spiritual wisdom if you seek spiritual wisdom? You go to someone who already possesses that spiritual wisdom.

Those who have discovered that absolute reality will teach their knowledge, but it is up to you to understand. No one can make you understand or make you enlightened. The role of the teacher is to use language to lead you to a place wherein you cannot but see. 

What helps one assimilate that knowledge? Shri Krishna gives three keys to gaining knowledge. You should gain that knowledge through an attitude in which you presume that the teacher possesses the wisdom you want to acquire. The second factor is being actively engaged to the extent of asking questions. Lastly, the most fundamental way of serving your teacher is to be fully involved in the process of learning, such as by studying.

यज्ज्ञात्वा न पुनर्मोहमेवं यास्यसि पाण्डव |

येन भूतान्यशेषेण द्रक्ष्यस्यात्मन्यथो मयि || 4.35||

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 35

Following this path and having achieved enlightenment from a Guru, O Arjun, you will no longer fall into delusion. In the light of that knowledge, you will see that all living beings are but parts of the Supreme, and are within Me.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 4 verse 35 (English Translation)

One gains freedom from ignorance by understanding the knowledge of their teacher. Through this spiritual wisdom, you will see the reality of all that exists in yourself and others. This vision of non-duality describes the point where you finally discover that whatever you experience is a manifestation of a single underlying reality that we call Brahman

What the Gita Teaches Us

We understand that the results of every deed we commit come from Ishvara, and we welcome those results with a prayerful attitude and look at them as gifts. The wise ones will teach you principles such as this one, but it’s up to the individual to make that discovery.