Four Sacrifices in Hinduism

In the Bhagavad Gita, IV Chapter 28th Verse talks about four yajnas – the yajnas (yajna means sacrifice) of wealth, austerity, yoga and Self-knowledge. These four yajnas group all service and sacrifice into four categories, graduating from the gross to the subtle as listed below:

1.  Dravya yajna: Yajna of Wealth:

 Dravya literally means grains. In ancient India possession of grains meant wealth. Thus dravya yajna denotes a gift of material wealth. When you give your wealth to another, your wealth decreases and the receiver’s wealth increases. Your wealth is the offering (ahuti) and his wealth is the fire kindled. Thus, this constitutes another yajna.
2.  Tapo yajna: Yajna of Austerity:
Tapas means austerity. It signifies sacrifice of the body. Physical sacrifice is superior to material sacrifice. Parting with physical needs and comforts is greater than the parting with material wealth. The ahuti (offering) here is your body itself. With it you kindle the fire of the recipient’s material or physical benefit. This again symbolizes another form of yajna or offering.
In dravya yajna one more parts with material gifts. Whereas, tapo yajna envisages physical exertion, service and sacrifice on the part of the one who gives. For this reason tapo yajna is considered a subtler sacrifice than dravya yajna.

3.  Yoga yajna: Yajna of Yoga:

Yoga means spiritual practice. Material and physical services are great. But far greater than these is service is rendered to enhance others’ spiritual evolution. Yoga signifies union with the Self. Yoga yajna means rendering emotional and intellectual service for the promotion of another’s spiritual development. You offer the ahuti of mental and intellectual service to kindle the fire of another’s spiritual evolution.

4.  Svadhyaya jnana yajna: Yajna of Self-knowledge:

This yajna is the highest form of service and sacrifice. The sacrifice of ignorance into the fire of wisdom. Ignorance in the form of vasanas (umanifest desires) is the ahuti. It kindles the knowledge of Self, or wisdom. With the destruction of vasanas knowledge of Self arises. This is achieved through asceticism and rigid vows directed to study of the scriptures, contemplation, meditation and realization of the Self. When a person reaches the supreme state of Self-realisation he radiates Self-knowledge, peace and happiness. He communicates the Self to all beings. No human being can perform any greater service than this. Communication of the Self is far superior to the material and physical, emotional and intellectual services of the above three yajnas. A realized soul turns into a fountain of wisdom and bliss. He helps others to gain Self-unfoldment. He gives, as it were, the ‘Self’ to others. Such a gift is indeed far greater than any other conceivable gift.


Personal experiences in day to day activities

Iron and Gold can buy Iron and Gold. So material gifts, if you have two loafs bread, you give one bread, a little bit. Superior to Material thing is Physical. A lady has eight guests coming to her house for a dinner. When her husband phoned to he, she said, “I will manage don’t worry.” A friend visits her. Two ways you can serve. I can send you sweet dish. I can come and help you. Whole day she works with her friend. This is physical service is far superior than material service. Far superior to material service is Mental service.
I have personally known few youngsters. They used to go from Hospital to Hospital everyday in Mumbai, India. They find out from the Hospital who are destitute persons. During visiting hours, they go and meet Patients in a Hospital bringing flowers, fruits and other things and talk to them nearly for two hours. But, they don’t give their own identity to the patience when they leave the Hospital. Likewise, they go and visit to a different Hospitals and serve emotionally. It is far superior than material sacrifice.
Higher superior is to impart the knowledge. Some people go to poor students during exam time and help them. They work for weeks together. Any form of knowledge without expecting anything. The greatest service you can do to the World is to develop yourself spiritually. 90% of the people will say, it is selfish. When people are suffering, there is no hospitals but still you want to become knowledge in scriptures. There is one Buddha, Krishna, Rama Tirtha. The moment you perfect yourself, you become beacon for others to follow.
How are lakes created? They gather water. No lake is neglected in the world. Business of the world is to collect the water. Study and elevated to the state of self realisation and become beacon to follow. It may be superficially, if you look at it. To give the Atman itself. A person who has spiritually knowledge, he can give to the extent to unfolded he can give fully. So that is the highest service you can do.
~ Swami A Parthasarathy