Chapter 3 Verse 12

इष्टान्भोगान्हि वो देवा दास्यन्ते यज्ञभाविताः ।
तैर्दत्तानप्रदायैभ्यो यो भुङ्क्ते स्तेन एव सः

istan bhogan hi vo deva dasyante yajnabhavitah
tairdattan apradayaibhyo yo bhunkte stena eva sah

devan – gods
yajnabhavitah – propitiated by yajna
istan bhogan – desirable objects
vah – to you
dasyante – will give
hi – therefore
taih dattan – given by them
yebhyah – to them
apradaya – without offering
yah – the one who
bhunkte – enjoys
sah – that person
stenah – thief
eva – indeed

The deities, propitiated by yagna will give you desirable objects. One who enjoys objects given by them without offering to them in return is indeed a thief.

Krishna uses a harsh word called thief here for people who do not offer even a simple prayer to the deities or the ishwara who have given them so much. We saw in the previous verse the five elements which constitute the universe and each of them give us something which we enjoy every day. E.g. the water we drink, the fire we use to cook, the air we breathe daily to keep us alive, the prithvi on which we live and the akasa (the sun, moon, the rain) which give us various comforts. Imagine if we had no sun, or rain or water, would we be comfortable? We then pray to ishwara during the time when we need him, but not when he is giving us so many things in abundance without even us asking.

In our custom, we do not consume any food without offering first to the lord. Even before we eat food, we pray to the ishwara so that the food we eat gets digested and does not create any health issues.

The meaning of the sloka given below tells us the significance of why we pray. Even in Christian faith people pray before eating.

The act of offering is Brahman. The offering itself is Brahman. The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman. As we chant this prayer we are offering the different types of food to Brahman. This is 24th verse from the 4th chapter of Bhagavad-Gita and we will see more detailed explanation of this mantra.

brahmArpaNaM brahma haviH brahmAgnau brahmaNA hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyaM brahmakarmasamAdhinA

ब्रह्मार्पणं ब्रह्म हविः ब्रह्माग्नौ ब्रह्मणा हुतम् ।
ब्रह्मैव तेन गन्तव्यं ब्रह्मकर्मसमाधिना ॥

In short we eat to live and not live to eat.

A thief does not say ‘Thank you’. He or she just takes what belongs to another and runs away. Therefore a person who does not remember the devatas is no different from a common thief. Here the devatas do not come looking for you. What we return to the devatas is yagna and an offering. Ishwara arpana buddhi is important as we cannot create even a single grain of food without the help of ishwara. In most rituals we would have heard the following.

‘indraya svaha indraya idam namama – offered unto Lord Indra, this is no Indra’s and not mine any more.

Likewise, we have agnaye svaha, bhuva svaha, suvah svaha, mrityave svaha etc which we would have heard in many vaidika karma. The real meaning of these offerings is that once I offer these to the devatas, they are not mine any more and it becomes an offering. The lord does not come and eat the food, but by offering, the very food that we eat is sanctified and protects us. So this attitude is important whether we do any karma i.e. laukika, kayika, vachika, vaidika etc. There are different types of karmas which we will see another time as Krishna talks about these in detail in subsequent chapters.

In the next verse, we will see 2 types of people whom Krishna describes which clarifies why we need to offer anything as yagna.