There are various kinds of sacrifices that will be examined later on, but we should understand that the ultimate goal of all sacrifices is to please the Supreme Godhead, Viṣṇu. During our material existence, we have to deal with material objects, if only to keep body and soul together. But in all such material activities we can evoke the spiritual atmosphere, in terms of the Vedantic truth that the Supreme Spirit is omnipresent. This truth is imperfectly explained by the proponents of pantheism, the misconception that everything is the Supreme Spirit simply because the Supreme Spirit is everywhere. Once this misconception is cleared up and if we remember that the Supreme Spirit is indeed omnipresent, we can create a spiritual atmosphere by performing all our activities in relation to the Supreme Spirit, with everything directed by one who is a self-realized soul. Then the whole thing is transformed into spirit.
An example may be given here to illuminate the above process of spiritualization. When the iron is put into the fire and becomes red hot, the iron then develops the qualities of fire and stops functioning as iron. In the same way, when all our activities are done in terms of our relationship with Kṛṣṇa, then everything is surcharged with spiritualization. Because pleasing Kṛṣṇa has become our ultimate goal, all our activities have become spiritual activities. In a sacrifice there are five primary elements—namely, (1) the process of offering, (2) the offering itself, (3) the fire, (4) the sacrifice, and (5) the result of the sacrifice. When all of these elements become related with the Supreme Spirit, all of them become spiritualized; and at that time the whole thing becomes really a sacrifice. So when offered to the transcendental service of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, all the above-mentioned five elements become interrelated with Him, and thus they become totally spiritualized.
Therefore, learned men perform all their activities for transcendental results and thus direct all their activities toward the transcendental service of the Personality of Godhead. These genuinely purified souls actually control all their sensory activities and also master their true, spiritual self. Such spiritualized persons alone can show actual sympathy to the fallen in terms of the individual, the place, and the time. And in spite of performing apparently material activities, such spiritualized persons are free from the bondage of work. This process is explained in the seventh verse of the fifth chapter of Bhagavad-gītā: "Householders who perform their work with a view to transcendental results, out of sympathy for all others, are really eligible to become public leaders. All others who claim to be public leaders are mistaken."
The enemies of the karma-yogīs—who generally perform all works for self-satisfaction or sense gratification, and who are not in touch with the Supreme Spirit by the transcendental relationship of service—sometimes pose themselves as working according to the desire of the supreme will. As a matter of fact, they are pantheist pretenders, trying to cover their extravagancy by falsely labeling it transcendental service to Godhead. But those who are pure in heart—that is, those who have surrendered everything unto the lotus feet of the Personality of Godhead—remain aloof and separate from such easygoing pseudo transcendentalists, while giving them all respects that they may demand.
Such pure-in-heart transcendentalists know that although the living entity is very insignificant, he is part and parcel of the Absolute Truth and so has a proportionate measure of independence. And although the Personality of Godhead is all-powerful, He never interferes with this little freedom that the living entity enjoys. Thus the living entity sometimes becomes conditioned by the modes of nature, simply by abusing his small measure of independence that he is entitled to enjoy. When he becomes conditioned by nature's modes of goodness, passion, or ignorance, he develops those respective qualities of goodness, passion, and ignorance. As long as the living entity remains conditioned by material nature, he has to act according to his particular mode of nature. If these modes were not acting, then we would not have observed in the phenomenal world different varieties of activities. These different varieties of activities are conditioned by the different modes of nature.
Therefore, without knowing the subtle laws of nature, if we tried to justify all our deeds as influenced by the will of the Personality of Godhead, we would be attempting to bring partiality, inebriety, and gracelessness into the acts of the all-good Personality of Godhead. It should never be imagined that various mundane discrepancies arise by the will of the Personality of Godhead—that some are happy by His will, while others are unhappy by His will. Such differences in the material world are due to the proper or improper use of free will enjoyed by the individual living entity. Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, enjoins everyone to give up all such conditional engagements dictated by the various modes of nature. Such varieties of engagements of the living entity arise out of ignorance perpetuated by the modes of nature. Therefore, the Lord says in Bhagavad-gītā (5.13) that He is not the cause of anyone's particular work, nor the authority, nor the result of such work—but that all these come out of the various modes of nature. Thus, all acts performed by the living entity—except those with transcendental results—are self—created engagements arising from an abuse of the free will, and therefore such acts or engagements are never to be considered as if the works and the results were somehow ordained by the almighty Godhead. Such works are all material and are therefore conditioned and directed by the modes of nature. The Personality of Godhead has nothing to do with such works.
Similarly, the karma-yogī exists always in a transcendental position, far away from the conditions of the modes of nature, for all his works attain to the platform of the Absolute. When one is in a state of freedom from the modes of nature, the phenomenal world manifests its noumenal feature—its spiritual aspect. With the world thus spiritually manifest, its modes of nature, such as goodness, passion, and ignorance, cannot present any obstacle to one's spiritual advancement. When such obstacles are surpassed, one attains to the absolute vision.
Bhagavad-gītā (5.17) further elucidates that when a learned man attains to absolute vision, he can observe every living being—whether a learned and gentle brahmaṇa, a cow, an elephant, a dog, or a dog-eater—with equanimity. A learned and gentle brahmaṇa is the embodiment of nature's mode of goodness. Among the beasts, the cow is the embodiment of this same mode of goodness. The elephant and the lion are embodiments of the passionate mode of nature, while the dog and the caṇḍāla (dog-eater) are the embodiments of nature's mode of darkness, or ignorance. However, instead of focusing on the various external tabernacles of these living entities (their embodiments under various modes of nature), with his absolute vision the karma-yogī penetrates to the spirit which is embodied therein. And because this infinitesimal spirit emanates from the infinite Supreme Spirit, the karma-yogī in the highest state can observe everyone and everything with equanimity. Such a karma-yogī views everything in relation to the Absolute, and therefore he engages everything in the transcendental service of the Absolute. He observes all living entities as so many transcendental servitors of the absolute Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. His perfect spiritual vision cannot but penetrate the encagement of every material body, just as a red-hot iron cannot but burn everything that it contacts. Thus, the karma-yogī sets an example of transcendental character, by engaging everyone and everything in the transcendental service of the Personality of Godhead.
The karma-yogī knows very well that Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, is the enjoyer of everything, and that He is the Lord of all living entities. He sees very little value in the false prestige by which all living entities in this material world put themselves in the position of either an enjoyer or a renouncer. The learned sages feel disgust with this sort of false prestige as the quintessential disease of material existence. All good work, culture of knowledge, meditation, austerity, and so forth—whatever is performed—all of these activities are meant to ameliorate this material disease. Therefore, the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, says in Bhagavad-gītā (5.28) that one can attain the supreme peace by knowing that He is the enjoyer of all sacrifices and austerities, the Lord of all the universes, and also the supreme friend of all living entities.
We have already discussed the necessity of performing work for sacrifice only, or to please the transcendental senses of Viṣṇu. And in the above statement of Bhagavad-gītā, it is clear that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality, who alone is capable of enjoying the result of all sacrificial performances. The sacrifices of the ordinary workers and the meditation and austerities of the empiric philosophers are all ordained and maintained by the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. In turn, the Supersoul—the localized aspect of Viṣṇu, which is the object of meditation for the mystics—is a plenary portion of Śrī Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead.
We may be able to further discuss all these workers and their work later. But one may know at present that Śrī Kṛṣṇa is the friend of everyone, whether he be an ordinary worker, an empiric philosopher, or even a mystic—and what to speak of the transcendentalists who are cent-percent servitors of the Personality of Godhead. The Personality of Godhead always does good for one and all, by empowering His devotees to preach and propagate the transcendental process of devotional service to Godhead everywhere in accord with the specific time, place, and audience. The Lord is therefore called "Govinda," or the prime cause of all causes and the reservoir of all blessings. And the people in general can attain to perfect peace and tranquillity when they come to know Him by the gradual process of work with transcendental results.
Those who do everything for the transcendental service of the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa, have no need to perform any sacrifice, penance, or meditation that is unrelated to the service of Godhead. We have already discussed hereinbefore that the mundane qualities of goodness that are the signs of the brahmaṇa are included and coexisting within the qualities of the transcendentalist. In the same manner, the dexterity and sacrifice of the devoted worker, the knowledge of the sannyāsī (renunciant), the stillness and profound love for Godhead of the mystic—all these qualities are included and coexisting within the qualities of the transcendental worker, the karma-yogī. Therefore, in Bhagavad-gītā (6.1), the Personality of Godhead says, "One who performs his duty for duty's sake, without seeking the fruitive results of such work, is the true renunciant and mystic—not he who has discarded all his duties and relieved himself of his responsibilities."