This slokha from Brahmavaivartha Purana says the following

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But Geetha chapter 4 verse 37 says the following

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First one says that, no one can escape from the results of karma, but next says that getting knowledge can nullify all past karma.

Aren't they contradictory? How to interpret them properly?

If I am a great sinner and If I get enlightened by getting knowledge, then does the karma again follows after me as per first slokha or I become free from all my past karma as per next slokha?

  • 1
    Give Bhagavadgita reference in English too, as some people on this site don't speak Telugu. bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-04-37.html
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 6:04
  • 1
    See this page for understanding of "Mind" and its concepts.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 6:08
  • There are three ways to nullify past karma. 1. Through Surrender (Lord Krishna says in the Gita that He will Himself destroy all the sins of those who have surrendered to Him). 2. Through Knowledge (Wisdom of your true nature destroys all karma, because karma is a creation of the Mind, which is illusion, thus Knowledge destroys all karma, for the world ceases to be. Then where is the question of actions?). 3. Through selfless service (when you don't have any desires, there is no question of bad karma, nothing matters, for you are happy no matter what you get. This is teachings of Lord Buddha).
    – Sai
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 16:18
  • @Sai Then is the first slokha false?
    – hanugm
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:21
  • The first sentence is relatively true. i.e Unless you have attained self-realization or have surrendered to God or have destroyed all moha (all three are just different ways of saying the same thing actually), the law of karma appears to be inescapable and it is the law of the Universe. All the best.
    – Sai
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 17:57

1 Answer 1


First I do not see them as contradictory as the verse from the Brahmavaivartha Purana you quote is only addressing what happens to a soul who has not attained Self-Realization - it does not address what happens to a soul who attains Self-Realization. The verse from the Gita, on the other hand, is addressing what happens to a soul who attains Self-Realization. I think a more appropriate verse from the Gita to compare to the Brahmavaivartha Purana verse is Gita verses 2. 42-45.

If you still insist that the Gita and Brahmavaivartha Purana are contradictory, then Sruti supports Krishna's statement in the Gita, which is not surprising as the Gita is the greatest commentary on the Vedas. When there is a conflict between Sruti and Smriti or Purana, Sruti takes precedence (Sankara's commentary on Brahma Sutras verses 1.2.25, 2.1.1, and others).

And Sruti says - The Mundaka Upanishad II. ii. 8 (Swami Nikhilananda translator, both quotes):

The fetters of the heart are broken, all doubts are resolved, and all works cease to bear fruit, when He is beheld who is both high and low.

And Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV. iv. 23 says:

This is the eternal glory of a knower of Brahman: it never increases or decreases by work. [Therefore] one should know the nature of that alone. Knowing it one is not touched by evil action. Therefore he who knows it as such becomes self-controlled, calm, withdrawn into himself, enduring and concentrated, and sees the Self in his own body; he sees all as the Self. Evil does not overtake him, but he transcends all evil. Evil does not trouble him, [but] he consumes all evil. He becomes sinless, taintless, free from doubts, and a knower of Brahman.

Finally Sankara's commentary of Gita verse 4.37 says that (Swami Gambhirananda translator):

...the fire of Knowledge itself cannot directly burn actions to ashes, like pieces of wood. So, the idea implies is that full enlightenment is the cause of making all actions impotent.

From the force of the context it follows that, since the result of actions owing to which the present body has been born has already become effective, therefore it gets exhausted only through experience it. Hence, Knowledge reduces to ashes only those actions what were done (in this life) prior to the rise of Knowledge and that have not become effective, as also those performed along with (i.e. after the dawn of) Knowledge, and those that were done in the many past lives.

It should be noted that those actions that have "already become effective" are not experienced like others who are not enlightened. Being fully enlightened, the remaining actions referred to appear as real as a mirage in the desert, the Reality to the enlightened soul being Brahman.

  • What does Adi Shankaracharya mean by "the fire of Knowledge itself cannot directly burn actions to ashes, like pieces of wood"? In the rest of the passage he's talking about the fire of knowledge burning actions. Commented Dec 22, 2015 at 12:36
  • @KeshavSrinivasan It is a fine point in the Advaita. You cannot 'become' free (become Brahman) because you are free (Brahman) already - you only have to realize it. If you were not already the omnipotent omnipresent Brahman already you could never become the omnipotent omnipresent Brahman. You can not become something which you are not. The purification of the heart - fire - is like tearing away the veil of Maya, when the veil is removed, THAT which was there already is revealed. When THAT is revealed, the actions (karma) become impotent. There is no karma attached to THAT. Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 5:55
  • Knowledge is a relative term. It relates to action between a subject and an object and is experienced as " I cognise this"..Knowledge cannot exist in isolation.
    – user808
    Commented Dec 23, 2015 at 13:56
  • @Krishna Knowledge with a capital K stands for Self-Realization of Brahman - direct Knowledge or experience of Brahman in the English translations and commentaries, it is fairly standardized. knowledge with a small k is the type of knowledge you refer to. Translators are consistent in the use of the small k and capital K in their translations. Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 3:59
  • @Swami Vishwananda - Well, sir, you seem to oblivious to the fact, that I have used capital "K" in my comment to refer to the Knowledge. Knowledge (capital K) is relative term. Whether it is capital K or small k, doesn't matter, Knowledge cannot exist in isolation.
    – user808
    Commented Dec 24, 2015 at 6:32

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