Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, sloka 37

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath

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Sloka 37


O Arjuna, just as the blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge reduce all actions to ashes.


After having referred the Jnana to the raft in the last verse, Jnana is compared to “the fire.” What does the fire do?

Any item that is burnt by the fire is considered to be the fuel for the fire. Firewood, any material made of wood like the chair, table etc, paper and any flammable product can be the fuel. The fuel would have some form of identity before being burnt. After it is burnt, there is no more identity left of the fuel. What are left are only the ashes.

All the actions we conduct do normally end up with entry of new vasanas on our mind. This would result in further new actions and consequent accumulation of new vasanas. It is an ongoing chain of actions and reactions. The purpose of Jnana given by the Lord is to clear the vasanas without formation of new vasanas. This is known as “burning of the existing vasanas.” The vasanas are technically said to have burnt to ashes with no more identity left. Those actions conducted without “the Jnana” (out of ignorance) generally are considered as “sins” because they lead to rebirth into this world of samsara. Based on this explanation, Jnana is said to burn the sins.

This is the time to introduce three popular words in the literature concerning actions and reactions. These are:

In relation to actions, Sanchita  –  past
Prarabdha  –  present
Aagaami  –  future

Whatever actions we conducted in the past life that resulted in further vasanas and such vasanas have not materialised into actions remain in our mind at the time of physical death as unfulfilled desires/hatreds etc. These are the bundles of vasanas we carry to our next birth, next stage of life. This is known as “Sanchita karmas” .It is like the sack we carry on our back as our luggage. No one can carry the bag for us and it is solely on us to take responsibility for all the unfulfilled vasanas of the past.

In the new birth or the new stage in our life, we will get the fruition of some of these accumulated vasanas. It is like taking some items from the sack we carry.

For whatever good we may have done in the past, we might get good benefit/reward in some form or other. (Example- in an examination we might have probably entitled to get 80% of marks but we may end up by getting highest marks.) On the other hand, for whatever wrong actions we might have conducted in the past and not experienced the results thereof, we would experience some form of hardship or other. (Taking the example of the student sitting for an examination – the student might have been entitled to higher marks but will end up getting lower marks.)

We can use this explanation for happy and painful experiences in our lives. The sastras say this is the “Prarabdha” which is the fate. It is the fate decreed by the Supreme for our actions of the past. In other words, it is the result of our actions committed knowingly/unknowingly in the past.

We still may have a number of unfulfilled items in the sack that would need to be taken to the next birth or next stage in our life. In our present life, we would have added more vasanas into the sack with the innumerable thoughts that cross the mind. We would have added additional desires/hatreds into the sack and death may have proceeded before the fulfilment of those at the time of death. So, we would not know what the future holds for us for tomorrow to come in our life either as a new stage in life or a new birth. This is known as “Aagaami.” It simply means “not known”. We do not know tomorrow and hence it becomes “Aagaami.”

Even though we have no control over the present from results of the past, we, the humans have the blessings of the intellect that will help us to correct the present actions and thoughts. By understanding the scriptures, knowing dharma and adharma, truth and un-truth, we can put new good vasanas in our sacks and will then be expected to have a better tomorrow. The Jnana which we are learning now will help in making for a better tomorrow not only for us but through our actions for the society.

To summarize: we can make our future blissful by our present actions conducted with the knowledge acquired (following the path of righteousness), learn to accept the hardships now as the results of our past (grin and bear and at the same time do not forget to continue to discharge the duty as far as possible.) Thus we can leave a better world for tomorrow not only for us but for our future generations to come.

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