yajñārthāt karmaṇo ’nyatra
loko ’yaṁ karma-bandhanaḥ
tad-arthaṁ karma kaunteya
Work done as a sacriﬁce for Viṣṇu has to be performed; otherwise work causes bondage in this material world. Therefore, O son of Kuntī, perform your prescribed duties for His satisfaction, and in that way you will always remain free from bondage.
Since one has to work even for the simple maintenance of the body, the prescribed duties for a particular social position and quality are so made that that purpose can be fulﬁlled. Yajña means Lord Viṣṇu, or sacriﬁcial performances. All sacriﬁcial performances also are meant for the satisfaction of Lord Viṣṇu. The Vedas enjoin: yajño vai viṣṇuḥ. In other words, the same purpose is served whether one performs prescribed yajñas or directly serves Lord Viṣṇu. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is therefore performance of yajña as it is prescribed in this verse. The varṇāśrama institution also aims at satisfying Lord Viṣṇu. Varṇāśramācāravatā puruṣeṇa paraḥ pumān/ viṣṇur ārādhyate (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 3.8.8).
Therefore one has to work for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu. Any other work done in this material world will be a cause of bondage, for both good and evil work have their reactions, and any reaction binds the performer. Therefore, one has to work in Kṛṣṇa consciousness to satisfy Kṛṣṇa (or Viṣṇu); and while performing such activities one is in a liberated stage. This is the great art of doing work, and in the beginning this process requires very expert guidance. One should therefore act very diligently, under the expert guidance of a devotee of Lord Kṛṣṇa, or under the direct instruction of Lord Kṛṣṇa Himself (under whom Arjuna had the opportunity to work). Nothing should be performed for sense gratiﬁcation, but everything should be done for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. This practice will not only save one from the reaction of work, but also gradually elevate one to transcendental loving service of the Lord, which alone can raise one to the kingdom of God.
saha-yajñāḥ prajāḥ sṛṣṭvā
eṣa vo ’stv iṣṭa-kāma-dhuk
In the beginning of creation, the Lord of all creatures sent forth generations of men and demigods, along with sacriﬁces for Viṣṇu, and blessed them by saying, “Be thou happy by this yajña [sacriﬁce] because its performance will bestow upon you everything desirable for living happily and achieving liberation.”
The material creation by the Lord of creatures (Viṣṇu) is a chance offered to the conditioned souls to come back home – back to Godhead. All living entities within the material creation are conditioned by material nature because of their forgetfulness of their relationship to Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The Vedic principles are to help us understand this eternal relation, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā: vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyaḥ. The Lord says that the purpose of the Vedas is to understand Him. In the Vedic hymns it is said: patiṁ viśvasyātmeśvaram. Therefore, the Lord of the living entities is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam also (2.4.20) Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī describes the Lord as pati in so many ways:
śriyaḥ patir yajña-patiḥ prajā-patir
dhiyāṁ patir loka-patir dharā-patiḥ
patir gatiś cāndhaka-vṛṣṇi-sātvatāṁ
prasīdatāṁ me bhagavān satāṁ patiḥ
The prajā-pati is Lord Viṣṇu, and He is the Lord of all living creatures, all worlds, and all beauties, and the protector of everyone. The Lord created this material world to enable the conditioned souls to learn how to perform yajñas(sacriﬁces) for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu, so that while in the material world they can live very comfortably without anxiety, and after ﬁnishing the present material body they can enter into the kingdom of God. That is the whole program for the conditioned soul. By performance of yajña, the conditioned souls gradually become Kṛṣṇa conscious and become godly in all respects. In the Age of Kali, the saṅkīrtana-yajña (the chanting of the names of God) is recommended by the Vedic scriptures, and this transcendental system was introduced by Lord Caitanya for the deliverance of all men in this age. Saṅkīrtana-yajña and Kṛṣṇa consciousness go well together. Lord Kṛṣṇa in His devotional form (as Lord Caitanya) is mentioned in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (11.5.32) as follows, with special reference to the saṅkīrtana-yajña:
yajanti hi su-medhasaḥ
“In this Age of Kali, people who are endowed with sufﬁcient intelligence will worship the Lord, who is accompanied by His associates, by performance of saṅkīrtana-yajña.” Other yajñas prescribed in the Vedic literatures are not easy to perform in this Age of Kali, but the saṅkīrtana-yajña is easy and sublime for all purposes, as recommended in Bhagavad-gītā also (9.14).
te devā bhāvayantu vaḥ
śreyaḥ param avāpsyatha
The demigods, being pleased by sacriﬁces, will also please you, and thus, by cooperation between men and demigods, prosperity will reign for all.
The demigods are empowered administrators of material affairs. The supply of air, light, water and all other benedictions for maintaining the body and soul of every living entity is entrusted to the demigods, who are innumerable assistants in different parts of the body of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Their pleasures and displeasures are dependent on the performance of yajñas by the human being. Some of the yajñas are meant to satisfy particular demigods; but even in so doing, Lord Viṣṇu is worshiped in all yajñas as the chief beneﬁciary. It is stated also in the Bhagavad-gītā that Kṛṣṇa Himself is the beneﬁciary of all kinds of yajñas: bhoktāraṁ yajña-tapasām. Therefore, ultimate satisfaction of the yajña-pati is the chief purpose of all yajñas. When these yajñas are perfectly performed, naturally the demigods in charge of the different departments of supply are pleased, and there is no scarcity in the supply of natural products.
Performance of yajñas has many side beneﬁts, ultimately leading to liberation from material bondage. By performance of yajñas, all activities become puriﬁed, as it is stated in the Vedas: āhāra-śuddhau sattva-śuddhiḥ sattva-śuddhau dhruvā smṛtiḥ smṛti-lambhe sarva-granthīnāṁ vipramokṣaḥ. By performance of yajña one’s eatables become sanctiﬁed, and by eating sanctiﬁed foodstuffs one’s very existence becomes puriﬁed; by the puriﬁcation of existence ﬁner tissues in the memory become sanctiﬁed, and when memory is sanctiﬁed one can think of the path of liberation, and all these combined together lead to Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the great necessity of present-day society.
iṣṭān bhogān hi vo devā
tair dattān apradāyaibhyo
yo bhuṅkte stena eva saḥ
In charge of the various necessities of life, the demigods, being satisﬁed by the performance of yajña [sacriﬁce], will supply all necessities to you. But he who enjoys such gifts without offering them to the demigods in return is certainly a thief.
The demigods are authorized supplying agents on behalf of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Viṣṇu. Therefore, they must be satisﬁed by the performance of prescribed yajñas. In the Vedas, there are different kinds of yajñasprescribed for different kinds of demigods, but all are ultimately offered to the Supreme Personality of Godhead. For one who cannot understand what the Personality of Godhead is, sacriﬁce to the demigods is recommended. According to the different material qualities of the persons concerned, different types of yajñas are recommended in the Vedas. Worship of different demigods is also on the same basis – namely, according to different qualities. For example, the meat-eaters are recommended to worship the goddess Kālī, the ghastly form of material nature, and before the goddess the sacriﬁce of animals is recommended. But for those who are in the mode of goodness, the transcendental worship of Viṣṇu is recommended. But ultimately all yajñas are meant for gradual promotion to the transcendental position. For ordinary men, at least ﬁve yajñas, known as pañca-mahā-yajña, are necessary.
One should know, however, that all the necessities of life that the human society requires are supplied by the demigod agents of the Lord. No one can manufacture anything. Take, for example, all the eatables of human society. These eatables include grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, sugar, etc., for the persons in the mode of goodness, and also eatables for the nonvegetarians, like meats, none of which can be manufactured by men. Then again, take for example heat, light, water, air, etc., which are also necessities of life – none of them can be manufactured by the human society. Without the Supreme Lord, there can be no profuse sunlight, moonlight, rainfall, breeze, etc., without which no one can live. Obviously, our life is dependent on supplies from the Lord. Even for our manufacturing enterprises, we require so many raw materials like metal, sulphur, mercury, manganese, and so many essentials – all of which are supplied by the agents of the Lord, with the purpose that we should make proper use of them to keep ourselves ﬁt and healthy for the purpose of self-realization, leading to the ultimate goal of life, namely, liberation from the material struggle for existence. This aim of life is attained by performance of yajñas. If we forget the purpose of human life and simply take supplies from the agents of the Lord for sense gratiﬁcation and become more and more entangled in material existence, which is not the purpose of creation, certainly we become thieves, and therefore we are punished by the laws of material nature. A society of thieves can never be happy, because they have no aim in life. The gross materialist thieves have no ultimate goal of life. They are simply directed to sense gratiﬁcation; nor do they have knowledge of how to perform yajñas. Lord Caitanya, however, inaugurated the easiest performance of yajña, namely the saṅkīrtana-yajña, which can be performed by anyone in the world who accepts the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
bhuñjate te tv aghaṁ pāpā
ye pacanty ātma-kāraṇāt
The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered ﬁrst for sacriﬁce. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.
The devotees of the Supreme Lord, or the persons who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, are called santas, and they are always in love with the Lord as it is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā (5.38): premāñjana-cchurita-bhakti-vilocanena santaḥ sadaiva hṛdayeṣu vilokayanti. The santas, being always in a compact of love with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda (the giver of all pleasures), or Mukunda (the giver of liberation), or Kṛṣṇa (the all-attractive person), cannot accept anything without ﬁrst offering it to the Supreme Person. Therefore, such devotees always perform yajñas in different modes of devotional service, such as śravaṇam, kīrtanam, smaraṇam, arcanam,etc., and these performances of yajñas keep them always aloof from all kinds of contamination of sinful association in the material world. Others, who prepare food for self or sense gratiﬁcation, are not only thieves but also the eaters of all kinds of sins. How can a person be happy if he is both a thief and sinful? It is not possible. Therefore, in order for people to become happy in all respects, they must be taught to perform the easy process of saṅkīrtana-yajña, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Otherwise, there can be no peace or happiness in the world.
annād bhavanti bhūtāni
yajñād bhavati parjanyo
All living bodies subsist on food grains, which are produced from rains. Rains are produced by performance of yajña [sacriﬁce], and yajña is born of prescribed duties.
Śrīla Baladeva Vidyābhūṣaṇa, a great commentator on the Bhagavad-gītā, writes as follows: ye indrādy-aṅgatayāvasthitaṁ yajñaṁ sarveśvaraṁ viṣṇum abhyarcya tac-cheṣam aśnanti tena tad deha-yātrāṁ sampādayanti, te santaḥ sarveśvarasya yajña-puruṣasya bhaktāḥ sarva-kilbiṣair anādi-kāla-vivṛddhair ātmānubhava-pratibandhakair nikhilaiḥ pāpair vimucyante. The Supreme Lord, who is known as the yajña-puruṣa, or the personal beneﬁciary of all sacriﬁces, is the master of all the demigods, who serve Him as the different limbs of the body serve the whole. Demigods like Indra, Candra and Varuṇa are appointed ofﬁcers who manage material affairs, and the Vedas direct sacriﬁces to satisfy these demigods so that they may be pleased to supply air, light and water sufﬁciently to produce food grains. When Lord Kṛṣṇa is worshiped, the demigods, who are different limbs of the Lord, are also automatically worshiped; therefore there is no separate need to worship the demigods. For this reason, the devotees of the Lord, who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, offer food to Kṛṣṇa and then eat – a process which nourishes the body spiritually. By such action not only are past sinful reactions in the body vanquished, but the body becomes immunized to all contamination of material nature. When there is an epidemic disease, an antiseptic vaccine protects a person from the attack of such an epidemic. Similarly, food offered to Lord Viṣṇu and then taken by us makes us sufﬁciently resistant to material affection, and one who is accustomed to this practice is called a devotee of the Lord. Therefore, a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, who eats only food offered to Kṛṣṇa, can counteract all reactions of past material infections, which are impediments to the progress of self-realization. On the other hand, one who does not do so continues to increase the volume of sinful action, and this prepares the next body to resemble hogs and dogs, to suffer the resultant reactions of all sins. The material world is full of contaminations, and one who is immunized by accepting prasādam of the Lord (food offered to Viṣṇu) is saved from the attack, whereas one who does not do so becomes subjected to contamination.
Food grains or vegetables are factually eatables. The human being eats different kinds of food grains, vegetables, fruits, etc., and the animals eat the refuse of the food grains and vegetables, grass, plants, etc. Human beings who are accustomed to eating meat and ﬂesh must also depend on the production of vegetation in order to eat the animals. Therefore, ultimately, we have to depend on the production of the ﬁeld and not on the production of big factories. The ﬁeld production is due to sufﬁcient rain from the sky, and such rains are controlled by demigods like Indra, sun, moon, etc., and they are all servants of the Lord. The Lord can be satisﬁed by sacriﬁces; therefore, one who cannot perform them will ﬁnd himself in scarcity – that is the law of nature. Yajña, speciﬁcally the saṅkīrtana-yajñaprescribed for this age, must therefore be performed to save us at least from scarcity of food supply.
karma brahmodbhavaṁ viddhi
tasmāt sarva-gataṁ brahma
nityaṁ yajñe pratiṣṭhitam
Regulated activities are prescribed in the Vedas, and the Vedas are directly manifested from the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Consequently the all-pervading Transcendence is eternally situated in acts of sacriﬁce.
Yajñārtha-karma, or the necessity of work for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa only, is more expressly stated in this verse. If we have to work for the satisfaction of the yajña-puruṣa, Viṣṇu, then we must ﬁnd out the direction of work in Brahman, or the transcendental Vedas. The Vedas are therefore codes of working directions. Anything performed without the direction of the Vedas is called vikarma, or unauthorized or sinful work. Therefore, one should always take direction from the Vedas to be saved from the reaction of work. As one has to work in ordinary life by the direction of the state, one similarly has to work under direction of the supreme state of the Lord. Such directions in the Vedas are directly manifested from the breathing of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. It is said, asya mahato bhūtasya niśvasitam etad yad ṛg-vedo yajur-vedaḥ sāma-vedo ’tharvāṅgirasaḥ. “The four Vedas – namely the Ṛg Veda, Yajur Veda, Sāma Veda and Atharva Veda – are all emanations from the breathing of the great Personality of Godhead.” (Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 4.5.11) The Lord, being omnipotent, can speak by breathing air, for as it is conﬁrmed in the Brahma-saṁhitā, the Lord has the omnipotence to perform through each of His senses the actions of all other senses. In other words, the Lord can speak through His breathing, and He can impregnate by His eyes. In fact, it is said that He glanced over material nature and thus fathered all living entities. After creating or impregnating the conditioned souls into the womb of material nature, He gave His directions in the Vedic wisdom as to how such conditioned souls can return home, back to Godhead. We should always remember that the conditioned souls in material nature are all eager for material enjoyment. But the Vedic directions are so made that one can satisfy one’s perverted desires, then return to Godhead, having ﬁnished his so-called enjoyment. It is a chance for the conditioned souls to attain liberation; therefore the conditioned souls must try to follow the process of yajña by becoming Kṛṣṇa conscious. Even those who have not followed the Vedic injunctions may adopt the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and that will take the place of performance of Vedic yajñas, or karmas.
evaṁ pravartitaṁ cakraṁ
moghaṁ pārtha sa jīvati
My dear Arjuna, one who does not follow in human life the cycle of sacriﬁce thus established by the Vedas certainly leads a life full of sin. Living only for the satisfaction of the senses, such a person lives in vain.
The mammonist philosophy of “work very hard and enjoy sense gratiﬁcation” is condemned herein by the Lord. Therefore, for those who want to enjoy this material world, the above-mentioned cycle of performing yajñas is absolutely necessary. One who does not follow such regulations is living a very risky life, being condemned more and more. By nature’s law, this human form of life is speciﬁcally meant for self-realization, in either of the three ways – namely karma-yoga, jñāna-yoga or bhakti-yoga. There is no necessity of rigidly following the performances of the prescribed yajñas for the transcendentalists who are above vice and virtue; but those who are engaged in sense gratiﬁcation require puriﬁcation by the above-mentioned cycle of yajña performances. There are different kinds of activities. Those who are not Kṛṣṇa conscious are certainly engaged in sensory consciousness; therefore they need to execute pious work. The yajña system is planned in such a way that sensory conscious persons may satisfy their desires without becoming entangled in the reaction of sense-gratiﬁcatory work. The prosperity of the world depends not on our own efforts but on the background arrangement of the Supreme Lord, directly carried out by the demigods. Therefore, the yajñas are directly aimed at the particular demigods mentioned in the Vedas. Indirectly, it is the practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, because when one masters the performance of yajñas one is sure to become Kṛṣṇa conscious. But if by performing yajñas one does not become Kṛṣṇa conscious, such principles are counted as only moral codes. One should not, therefore, limit his progress only to the point of moral codes, but should transcend them, to attain Kṛṣṇa consciousness.