The Exchange of Knowledge


श्रेयान्द्रव्यमयाद्यज्ञाज्ज्ञानयज्ञ: परन्तप |
सर्वं कर्माखिलं पार्थ ज्ञाने परिसमाप्यते || ४.३३||

śreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj jñāna-yajñaḥ paran-tapa
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha jñāne parisamāpyate. Shri Bhagwad Gita: 4.33 [Link]

Word Meaning

śreyān — greater; dravya-mayāt — of material possessions; yajñāt — than the sacrifice; jñāna-yajñaḥ — sacrifice in knowledge; param-tapa — O chastiser of the enemy; sarvam — all; karma — activities; akhilam — in totality; pārtha — O son of Pṛthā; jñāne — in knowledge; parisamāpyate — end. [Link]


Superior is “Knowledge-sacrifice” to “Sacrifice-with-objects,” O Parantapa. All actions in their entirety, O Partha, culminate in Knowledge. [Swami Chinmayananda]


In his book, My Gita, Devdutt Pattanaik, has a fresh take on the words yagna, which is usually translated as sacrifice. He calls it an exchange, and not a sacrifice. He says:

Yagna is a very special form of exchange, where we can give and hope to receive. It is give and get, not give and take. When we take without giving, we become oppressors. When we give and don’t get we become the oppressed.

~ My Gita, Chapter 7, pp. 100-101

This is a very different take on yagna, and it seems to me that the concept has remained a slave to the obvious translation. Elsewhere, I have found these explanations of yagna:

Literally speaking, Yagya means – selfless sacrifice for noble purposes. Sacrificing ego, selfishness and material attachments and adopting rational thinking, humane compassion and dedicated creativity for the welfare of all – is indeed the best Yagya which should be performed by all human beings. The philosophy of Yagya teaches a way of living in the society in harmony, a living style to promote and protect higher humane values in the society – which is indeed the basis of the ideal human culture.

Source: .:: Yagya (All World Gayatri Pariwar)


The meaning of yagna is not confined to this sacrificial ritual. It has a much wider and deeper meaning. The word yagna is derived from the Sanskrit verb yaj, which has a three-fold meaning: worship of deities (devapujana), unity (sangatikarana) and charity (dana). The philosophy of yagna teaches a way of living in the society in harmony and a lifestyle which promotes and protects higher human values in the society, which is indeed the basis of an ideal human culture…

Source: .:: Yajna – The Foundation of Vedic Culture (All World Gayatri Pariwar)

Irrespective, the concept of knowledge-sacrifice or knowledge-exchange, if you will, makes perfect sense. It transcends the tangible.

Yoga: Spiritual Peace and Poise

शब्दज्ञानानुपाती वस्तुशून्यो विकल्पः ॥१:९॥

śabda-jñāna: verbal knowledge
anupātī: followed in sequence, pursued, phased in regular succession
vastu-śūnyo: devoid of things, devoid of substance or meaning
vikalpaḥ: imagination, fancy

Verbal knowledge devoid of substance is fancy or imagination

Via:  Light on the Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, by B.K.S. Iyengar

Patanjali’s opening words are on the need for a disciplined code of conduct to educate us towards a spiritual poise and peace under all circumstances.

A gentle reminder to those who are showering words, words, and more words, without substance or awareness of what they speak.

Arise, Awake & Learn

उत्तिष्ठत जाग्रत
प्राप्य वरान्निबोधत ।
क्षुरस्य धारा निशिता दुरत्यया
दुर्गं पथस्तत्कवयो वदन्ति ॥

कठ उपनिषद् – १.३.१४ ॥


Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones,
for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable,
and hard to go by, say the wise.

Katha Upanishad – 1.3.14