Lord Krishna said, I previously taught this eternal knowledge of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan. He taught it to Manu, the father of humanity and Manu in turn passed it on to his disciple and son.
In this way, the knowledge was passed down through the guru-disciple succession. But over the passage of time, this knowledge has been lost. I will now reveal this eternal knowledge to you, because you are my devoted friend.
Arjuna said, The sun-god, Vivasvan, was born in ancient times, long before you were. How am I to understand that you previously revealed these teachings to him?
Lord Krishna said, You and I have both passed through many births Arjuna. Because I am the Supreme Lord I can remember all of them. However, you have only finite consciousness so you cannot remember your previous lives.
Although my eternal form is unborn and does not decay; and I am the Supreme Lord of all living beings, I appear within this world in my original spiritual form.
Whenever righteousness diminishes and impiety increases, I personally appear in this world. I appear age after age to liberate the virtuous, vanquish the criminals and firmly establish the principles of true religion.
If you can understand the truth behind my appearance and activities, you will not take birth in this material world again. After leaving your body, you will attain the spiritual realm.
In the past many people have taken shelter of me and become free from material attachment, fear and anger. Their knowledge of me purified them and they all achieved divine love for me.
In whatever way people approach me, I respond to them accordingly. Everyone is following my path, because I am the goal of all philosophies and religions.
I am never affected or implicated by the law of karma, and I do not desire the rewards of action. Action does not entangle anyone who knows this truth about me.
Knowing this, people who desired liberation in previous times performed their duties as a selfless offering to me. You should also perform selfless action, like the sages in times gone by.
Even the intelligent have difficulty understanding what action is and what inaction is. I will now clarify this. Understanding this will free you from misfortune.
It is difficult to comprehend the inner nature of action. You should understand action prescribed by the Vedic scriptures, action forbidden by the Vedic scriptures, and renunciation of action.
The wise can see that selfless action which does not cause material bondage is really inaction. Those who act without a desire for material reward have perfect knowledge.
Giving up all attachment to the fruits of their actions, they are completely content. Although performing all kinds of activities, they do nothing at all.
Controlling the mind and body with the intelligence, they renounce all sense of proprietorship and act only for the sustenance of the body. Working in this way, they incur no karmic reactions.
Satisfied with whatever is easily available, unaffected by dualities like heat and cold, joy and sorrow, they are free of envy and equal in success or failure. Although active, their actions do not bind them to the material world.
The activities of anyone who is enlightened with spiritual knowledge and therefore detached from the results of their actions, does not produce any karmic reaction.
For those people who are fully absorbed in this spiritual consciousness, their actions and all that they sacrifice are spiritual in nature. They are certain to attain the spiritual realm.
Some people offer sacrifices to the demigods, others sacrifice their material possessions and still others undergo strict austerities.
Some people practice the eightfold mystic yoga system, others study the Vedas and still others practice the process of breath control so they can remain in trance.
All of these people who understand the principle of sacrifice are purified of material contamination. They experience the benefits of the remnants of their sacrifice and eventually reach the spiritual realm.
A person who never performs sacrifice cannot achieve fulfilment in this lifetime or the next. The Vedic literature describes all these different types of sacrifice, and you can accomplish all of them through action.
When you understand the principle of action in this way, you will be able to free yourself from karma. The sacrifice of knowledge is superior to sacrifice performed with different articles because the perfection of all action is spiritual knowledge.
To attain this knowledge you must approach a spiritual teacher with respect, inquiry and service. The enlightened souls can teach you spiritual knowledge because they have realised the truth.
When you have learned the truth, you will no longer be subject to your present illusion. You will see the one spiritual nature in all living beings and know that they are all a part of me.
The ship of spiritual knowledge can carry even the greatest criminal across the material sea of suffering. As a fire reduces wood to ash, the fire of knowledge burns up all karma.
There is nothing in the entire world which is as sublime and purifying as spiritual knowledge. Whoever sincerely searches for this knowledge will eventually find the soul within.
If you are devoted and faithful on this path, you will find the spiritual peace. But without knowledge or faith, you will not achieve spiritual consciousness. If your heart is full of doubt, you cannot find peace anywhere.
Those who have removed their doubts with spiritual knowledge and abandoned attachment to the fruits of their action are never bound by karmic reaction.
So with the sword of knowledge sever the doubts which arise from ignorance. Arjuna, arm yourself with knowledge and arise for battle!