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BG Chapter 4 Transcendental Knowledge  

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Vs 31& 32 - 'without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet, in this life, what then of the next life'.  What sacrifice are we talking about? Are we talking about rituals? 

But then in the next verse Krsna is talking about sacrifice of material possessions. Are we talking about austerity - giving up material comforts. Does an austere action have to hurt/be difficult to give up to count?

@renu-vasdev Great question, here is my humble attempt to bring some explanation.

Sacrifice means having the consciousness that I am duty bound to others for my entire existence and I need to give back in gratitude. Sacrifice is thus meant to lift us out of the consciousness of being an enjoyer. Therefore it purifies us. It does have to be hurt be difficult to count but it requires some balance or not being too easy or too difficult. It is meant to make us realise we are not this body and free us from the enjoying spirit.

Krsna lists many sacrifices prior to verse 31. And in the purport to verse 31 he mentions marriage. I take all those types of sacrifice to be what is referred to in verse 31.
 
Krsna says:
 
"Some yogīs perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some offer sacrifices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.
 
Some [the unadulterated brahmacārīs] sacrifice the hearing process and the senses in the fire of mental control, and others [the regulated householders] sacrifice the objects of the senses in the fire of the senses.
 
Others, who are interested in achieving self-realization through control of the mind and senses, offer the functions of all the senses, and of the life breath, as oblations into the fire of the controlled mind.
 
 
Having accepted strict vows, some become enlightened by sacrificing their possessions, and others by performing severe austerities, by practicing the yoga of eightfold mysticism, or by studying the Vedas to advance in transcendental knowledge.
 
Still others, who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, practice by offering the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and the incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Others, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself as a sacrifice."
 
 
We benefit when we undergo austerity for Krsna, Krsna sees the inconvenience we tolerate on his behalf. But some austerities do not hurt but are still beneficial. For example, one may feast on grain-free prasadam on ekadasi. Not too austere, but still beneficial.
 
Prabhupada has given us a simple and easy process, he says that in this age and time all we have to do is chant and be happy. So if you perform an austerity it should not seem to be difficult, because your mood should be to please Krishna. For example when you love someone you are willing to accept any difficulty for them, and in return those difficulties do not seem as difficulties, because when the eyes are painted in the ointment of love everything becomes an offering, an opportunity to gift our hearts of Krishna. The mood of great austerity is to sacrifice ourselves in the pursuit of Love. 
 
I hope this helps. 
2 Answers
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Hare Krishna Renu Vasdev. I believe the sacrifice mentioned in 4.31 is referring to sacrifice in general which can be either spiritual or material. This sacrifice refers to the choice we have to serve our own selfish desires which means serving Krishna's inferior external energy, or the choice to serve the Lord which means serving Krishna's internal superior energy. This purport acknowledges that there is some happiness in material enjoyment and however that this happiness is inferior to the happiness attained by serving the Lord. To understand your question on the next verse we have to acknowledge that there is always sacrifice involved wether we are seeking the absolute truth or seeking to fulfill our own material desires. As mentioned in the purport of 4.33 sacrifice takes different forms depending on our faith. No an austere action does not have to hurt. The analogy is given of jaundice and sugarcane. When one is sick from jaundice and is given sugarcane as a remedy the sugarcane tastes bitter at the beginning. As a one gradually becomes cured the sugarcane begins to taste sweet. This is similar to the medicine that is Krishna consciousness for treating the materially conditioned soul. When we come to Krishna consciousness it may be difficult and strange to us at first, however as we develop a taste for it we no longer find it to be an austerity and we have a natural inclination. I hope this answer was satisfactory. Hare Krishna.

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What wonderful answers, both Harika and David.  Thank you so much.

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