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.