SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 16 Chapter 4, Verses 11 to 20 – JNANA YOGA

Summary

Bhagavan Shri Krishna in these ten verses explains the intricacies of various kinds of actions and inaction together with their implications.

Bhagavan says that He rewards everyone in accordance with their actions. As the ultimate dispenser of all rewards, He bestows rewards on everyone regardless of who they offer their homage to; although the rewards are in proportion to the intensity of their worship. He further explains that who seek material rewards, worship the demigods and get their temporary rewards as these manifest quickly.  Only a rare being aspires to attain Moksha and is situated in spiritual intelligence to get free from the cycle of Samsara and achieves liberation from the cycle of birth and death.  Lord Krishna says that even persons with discriminative intellect and knowledge are bewildered in determining the righteous actions and get confused.

If one is seeking liberation from material bondage, one has to understand the distinctions between action, inaction and forbidden actions. He explains that One who has mastered renunciation in action, and action in renunciation of activities, is spiritually intelligent among men.

Such a person is transcendentally situated and is a perfect performer of all actions.  Such a person is understood to be in perfect knowledge, whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. Such a person’s fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge and they are free from bondage of karma.

The nature of spiritual intelligence is to be always tranquil and ever content state. By acting in this way, one assumes the qualities of one in eternal equi-poise and in infinite bliss.

4.11      Shloka 4.11

ये यथा मां प्रपद्यन्ते तांस्तथैव भजाम्यहम्।
मम वर्त्मानुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः।।4.11।।

Ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham |
Mama vartma anuvartante manusyah Partha sarvasah ||4.11||
Meaning: All those who surrender unto Me in whatever way, I reward them accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Partha.

In Srimad Bhagavatam (2.3.10) it says:
Akamah sarva-kamo va moksa-kama udaradhih
Tivrena bhakti-yogena yajeta purusam param
Meaning: Whether one is without desire (Dharma), or is desirous of all fruitive results (Artha, Kama), or is after liberation (Mumukshu), one should, with all efforts, worship the Supreme Lord.

“Tathaiva bhajamy” means in accordance with their intensity of faith and devotion.  Lord Krishna reciprocates rewards to all in proportion of their intensity of devotion. It would appear unfair, if Lord Krishna bestowed His benedictions only upon those who worship Him but not to those who are seeking material rewards. To dispel this notion, Bhagavan Krishna states in this verse that whoever approaches Him, whether with desires or without desires, direct or indirect, He rewards them accordingly.

Lord Krishna is the ultimate dispenser of all rewards to everyone, regardless of who they offer their homage to; although the rewards are in proportion to the intensity of their worship.

Lord Krishna’s divine nature is such that even realised saints and yogis find His sublime nature transcendental; yet for all those who are situated in righteousness worshiping any God of their choice, He manifests the way to receive their mode of worship while maintaining their faith.

4.12      Shloka 4.12

काङ्क्षन्तः कर्मणां सिद्धिं यजन्त इह देवताः।
क्षिप्रं हि मानुषे लोके सिद्धिर्भवति कर्मजा।।4.12।।

Kanksantah karmanam siddhim yajanta iha devatah   |
Kshipram hi manuse loke siddhir bhavati karma-ja ||4.12||
Meaning: In this world, those who desire success in fruitive activities worship the various Devas, and they get results since it manifests very quickly.

Bhagavan explains that those who seek material rewards, worship the demigods and get their temporary rewards as these manifest quickly.  Only a rare being aspires to attain Moksha and is situated in spiritual intelligence to get free from the cycle of Samsara and achieves liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Only such a rare being would engage in Karma yoga or the performance of prescribed activities as a propitiation to the Supreme Being.

Sriman Narayana is the Moksha dhaata and hence those seeking the higher goal of Moksha worship Him.

“Manuse Loke” means the mortal world and persons in the mortal world are oblivious of the true purpose of human existence i.e. Moksha. Due to a vast accumulation of sinful reactions that have not been exhausted from previous births, they continue to desire immediate results for their actions causing them to accumulate more such reactions. Such people worship demigods for temporary material rewards and foolishly pursue transient material objectives.

In the Katha Upanishad 2.2.13, it says:
Nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam |
Eko bahunam yo vidadhati Kaman ||
Meaning: The Supreme Lord is eternal, and the living beings are eternal. The Supreme Lord is cognizant, and the living beings are cognizant. The difference is that the Supreme Lord is supplying all the necessities of life for the many other living entities.

The Supreme God is one and the demigods are delegated with powers to manage this material world. These demigods are all living entities (nityanam) with different grades of material power. They cannot be equal to the Supreme God—Narayana, Vishnu, or Bhagavan Shri Krishna.

“Iha devatah” means a powerful demigod while Lord Narayana, Vishnu, Rama or Krishna, are transcendental to material creation.

So, by worshipping the demigods, they get the results, but do not know that the results so obtained are temporary. This verse indicates that people are rarely interested in Moksha and seek mostly material enjoyment, and therefore they worship some other demigod.

Lord Krishna explains that most people perform myriads of actions as they seek material results from their efforts. These material benefits are beseeched in the forms of wealth, power, good health and such other things.  But for Moksha or liberation, the results do not come easy as this knowledge must be refined and perfected through many lifetimes. The purport is that most people worship various other entities because in their present life they have no knowledge and/or no intrinsic interest in Moksha.

4.13      Shloka 4.13

चातुर्वर्ण्यं मया सृष्टं गुणकर्मविभागशः।
तस्य कर्तारमपि मां विद्ध्यकर्तारमव्ययम्।।4.13।।

Catur-varnyam maya srstam guna-karma-vibhagasah |
Tasya kartaram api mam viddhy akartaram avyayam ||4.13||
Meaning: The four divisions of human society were created by Me according to differences in the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them. And, although I am the creator of this system, know Me as the non-doer, being Immutable.

The Lord is the creator of everything. Everything is born of Him, everything is sustained by Him, and everything, after annihilation, rests in Him. He is therefore the creator of the four divisions of the social order.

The four orders result from a combination of the three Gunas viz. Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Those with predominantly Sattva Guna (piety and noble) possess tranquillity and self- control. As Sattva decreases one’s ability and capacity to be righteous declines and they move further away to Rajas (Passion) and Tamas Guna (Sloth). Thus, these four divisions arise naturally due to the combination of these three Gunas and defines a person’s character and disposition.

The verse refers to the four social orders viz. the Brahmins – the priest and knowledge seekers and disseminators, the Kshatriyas – the Royal class, protector and warriors, the Vaishyas – trading class and merchants, and finally the Shudras – the working class. These were created according to the natural qualities of their prenatal disposition and classified initially accordingly to birth.   Through subsequent actions one can redefine oneself.

The determining factor for all beings is that they come into their various existences as a result of their own Karma. This is because all embodied beings accept a form in accordance to the inherent primal force of their past Karma.  However, one is not defined by birth alone and one’s present Karma can define them to be different.

While Bhagavan is the origin of all creation but He also reveals that He is a non-Doer, meaning its one’s own Karma that defines what they become. He also says that He is not originated from any source. He is independent in Himself and not created from anything.

4.14      Shloka 4.14

मां कर्माणि लिम्पन्ति मे कर्मफले स्पृहा।
इति मां योऽभिजानाति कर्मभिर्न बध्यते।।4.14।।

Na mam karmani limpanti na me karma-phale sprha |
Iti mam yo ‘bhijanati karmabhir na sa badhyate ||4.14||
Meaning: There is no work that implicates Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me, such a person does not get entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.

Bhagavan Shri Krishna uses the words ‘mam karmani’ meaning ‘actions do not bind Me’ and further emphasises with ‘mam abhijanati’ meaning ‘One who knows this truth about Me’, does not get entangled.

A question arises as to how is it possible for Bhagavan Shri Krishna to be not implicated by any of the actions and that none of the reactions to His actions are applicable to Him? We can draw a parallel by looking at this analogy. Although fruits, grains or pulses are undoubtedly supported by rain showers, the rain has no attachment not has any desire for tasting and enjoying the fruits. Similarly, in the Creation of various beings, possessing good and evil propensities, performing righteous or unrighteous actions and receiving the bestowal of their reactions, it is the Bhagavan Shri Krishna who sanctions these rewards without any of it implicating Him.

But there is no partiality or injustice coming from Him. Every human being creates their own karma or reactions to actions as defined by the actions they have been performing in life after life since time immemorial.

Lord Krishna confirms here that even those who know Him as the origin of Creation, know that He is not implicated by any activity being transcendental to prakriti or material nature; such individuals also are not bound by their actions having abandoned the fruits of their actions.

The following verse reaffirms it:
Nimitta-matram evasau srjyanam sarga-karmani |
Pradhana-karani-bhuta yato vai srjya-saktayah ||
Meaning:  In the material creations, the Lord is only the Supreme Cause. The immediate Cause is the material nature by which the cosmic manifestation is visible. The created beings are of many varieties and all of them are subject to the reactions of their past good or bad activities. The Lord only gives them the proper faculties for performing their activities but He is never responsible for their past and present activities.

4.15      Shloka 4.15

एवं ज्ञात्वा कृतं कर्म पूर्वैरपि मुमुक्षुभिः।
कुरु कर्मैव तस्मात्त्वं पूर्वैः पूर्वतरं कृतम्।।4.15।।

Evam jnatva krtam karma purvair api mumuksubhih  |
Kuru karmaiva tasmat tvam purvaih purvataram krtam ||4.15||
Meaning: All the liberated souls in ancient times acted with this understanding and attained liberation. Therefore, you should adopt the actions performed by the ancient authorities.

Bhagavan says that ancient Seers understood that He was completely delineated although performing such magnificent activities as Creation of all Beings.  They performed their activities free from desire and attachment and thus attained Moksha or liberation.

Bhagavan is encouraging Arjuna to perform Karma Yoga just like the ancient seers such as Vivasvan. Therefore, He recommends that Arjuna act like the Sun-God, who learned this art from the Lord.

4.16      Shloka 4.16

किं कर्म किमकर्मेति कवयोऽप्यत्र मोहिताः।
तत्ते कर्म प्रवक्ष्यामि यज्ज्ञात्वा मोक्ष्यसेऽशुभात्।।4.16।।

Kim karma kim akarmeti kavayo ‘py atra mohitah |
Tat te karma pravaksyami yaj jnatva moksyase ‘subhat ||4.16||
Meaning: Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what action is and what inaction is. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all sins.

Bhagavan says that even persons with discriminative intellect and knowledge are bewildered in determining the righteous actions and get confused.  Bhagavan Shri Krishna now promises to dispel all delusion in the intricacies of this subject.

What is the purpose of performing actions as a matter of duty? The satisfaction consists in the knowledge of knowing why the duty is to be discharged. The knower is the person who performs works aspiring for Moksha. The one who performs work for sense gratification is ignorant (or Baddha Jiva).

4.17      Shloka 4.17

कर्मणो ह्यपि बोद्धव्यं बोद्धव्यं विकर्मणः।
अकर्मणश्च बोद्धव्यं गहना कर्मणो गतिः।।4.17।।

Karmano hy api boddhavyam boddhavyam ca vikarmanah |
Akarmanas ca boddhavyam gahana karmano gatih ||4.17||
Meaning: The intricacies of action are to be understood and the actions that are forbidden should also be understood.  The subject of renunciation of action is even harder to comprehend.  Therefore, one should know properly understand the intricacies of action, forbidden action and inaction.

The nature of karma or prescribed actions performed for attaining Moksha or liberation from material existence should be understood. Actions which are ‘nitya’ (regular) are to be performed without any attachment or desire. Actions that are ‘naimittika’ (occasional) that are performed for sense enjoyment and/or with a desire for material rewards is known as ‘vikarma’ or ‘improper actions’.  The absence of action known as ‘akarma’ (inaction) is also not an option and this should also be comprehended.

Therefore, the path of Karma is not easily discernible for those seeking Moksha. As the rewards are varied for each type of action, it should be clearly understood by an aspirant of Moksha.  It is important to perform actions with an attitude of renunciation while maintain discipline, equipoise and dispassion.  It is also important to abstain from certain actions and knowing when to act and when to abstain in critical.

4.18      Shloka 4.18

कर्मण्यकर्म यः पश्येदकर्मणि कर्म यः।
बुद्धिमान् मनुष्येषु युक्तः कृत्स्नकर्मकृत्।।4.18।।

Karmany akarma yah pasyed akarmani ca karma yah |
Sa buddhiman manusyesu sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt ||4.18||
Meaning: One who has mastered renunciation in action, and action in renunciation of activities, is spiritually intelligent among men. Such a person is transcendentally situated and is a perfect performer of all actions.

There are two categories of persons:

  • The person who performs actions while continuously contemplating on the Atma – this is a stage where one is seeking realisation of the Self
  • The person who immersed within the Atma and perceives the Atma to be performing all actions taking on the role of an Observer – this is a person who has attained Self-Realisation (a Jnani or a Jeevan Mukt)

No one can escape performing actions. In Chapter 3 Verse 22, Bhagavan says there is no prescribed for Him and yet He is engaged in actions to set the right examples for others to follow.

So, it is important to understand what the righteous actions are and how they are to be performed.  Having a dispassionate attitude while performing actions is like ‘Inaction in Action’. Similarly, in certain circumstances abstaining from an action is a conscious choice, for e.g. Observing fast on auspicious days is like ‘Action in Inaction’.  One who practices the above achieves Self-realisation and becomes liberated.

In Narada Purana, it states that the Supreme Lord Krishna is never bound by Cause and Effect as all His actions are to be understood as inaction.

All material actions are visible to the living beings, but what is not visible is the karma or reactions that come with the actions. This results in repeated performance of such actions which keeps them in worldly bondage. Out of compassion, Lord Krishna states the truth of action, inaction and prohibited actions.

4.19      Shloka 4.19

यस्य सर्वे समारम्भाः कामसङ्कल्पवर्जिताः।
ज्ञानाग्निदग्धकर्माणं तमाहुः पण्डितं बुधाः।।4.19।।

Yasya sarve samarambhah kama-sankalpa-varjitah |
Jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam tam ahuh panditam budhah ||4.19||
Meaning: One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. The Sages say that such a worker’s fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.

The person performing karma or actions accrues reactions by his attachment to the results and hankering for rewards. This is delusional as desires are imagined and fantasised even before enactment. Lord Krishna explains that the spiritually intelligent person approaches action and inaction with a sense of dispassion and equipoise. Their actions are free from desires and hankering for rewards, and hence their actions are incapable of sprouting reactions.  Such fruitive actions are purified by the fire of perfect knowledge.  And only a person in perfect knowledge can understand that eternal service of the Lord can burn the effects of such fruitive results.

Whoever performs Karma in this manner while constantly contemplating and meditating on the Self, is a person of spiritual intelligence situated in Atma tattva or Self-realisation. For such a person all reactions to their myriads of past actions are singed by the fire of knowledge. 

4.20      Shloka 4.20

त्यक्त्वा कर्मफलासङ्गं नित्यतृप्तो निराश्रयः ।
कर्मण्यभिप्रवृत्तोऽपि नैव किञ्चित्करोति सः।।4.20।।

Tyaktva karma-phalasangam nitya-trpto nirasrayah |
Karmany abhipravrtto ‘pi naiva kincit karoti sah ||4.20||
Meaning: Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.

Whoever has completely given up all desires and attachments for rewards of actions, and is also ‘nitya-trypto’ or ‘totally content and immersed’ in the Atma or Soul, self-satisfied with no dependence on anything for material existence, such a person although seen to be intently performing various prescribed actions is in reality performing no action (inaction in action) that has any binding effect. Such a person might appear to be performing various activities externally but internally that person is cultivating spiritual knowledge, thus is exempt from any binding effect from results.

The nature of spiritual intelligence is to be always tranquil and ever-content state. By acting in this way, one assumes the qualities of the eternally equipoised and enjoys infinite bliss.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna! 

Hari Om Tat Sat

SRIMAD BHAGAVAD GITA – PART 15 Chapter 4, Verses 1 to 10 – JNANA YOGA

In the first three verses of this fourth Chapter, Bhagavan Shri Krishna sums up the Karma Yoga from the last Chapter before moving on to Jnana Yoga.  Bhagavan says, “I handed down this imperishable Supreme Discipline, which has decayed over course of time, to the shining Sun, even though this has not always been well preserved.” 

Surprised, Arjuna asks, “Later was your birth, and earlier was the birth of the Sun, then how did you teach the sun?” Then, Shri Krishna says:
“Whenever sacred duty (Dharma) decays and chaos (Adharma) prevails, I incarnate myself. I’ve incarnated myself several times, and you’ve taken several births, I know all of them but you don’t remember them.”

It is good to do one’s own duty honestly, but at the same time, one should aim at purification of the heart and mind as well. If work is done by completely surrendering to God, then that work becomes a Supreme Action. The course of action is very deep and secretive; therefore, intelligent people become free of the bondage of action by understanding the subtle nature of action properly. Unattached action becomes a sacrificial action.

Emphasizing on the fact that all actions done to realize this Supreme Knowledge are the best of actions, Shri Krishna says to Arjuna:
You go to the great men who have realized the True Self to understand this Supreme Knowledge. These great men will shower upon you the sacred knowledge of True Self, if you seek for this Knowledge from them humbly, bow with due respect in front of them, and serve them with a devoted heart. Nothing can purify your heart and mind more than this True Knowledge. By seeking shelter in this Knowledge, destroy the doubt arising in your heart out of ignorance with the sword of Knowledge. Arise for the battle performing disciplined action and keeping your mind stable.

The man who is full of faith (Shraddha), who is devoted, and who has subdued the senses, obtains this Knowledge. Having obtained Knowledge, he at once experiences Supreme Peace. The ignorant, the faithless, the doubting self goes to destruction; there is happiness in neither this world, nor the other for the doubting.”

To become a Sannyasi, it requires mature mind and a contemplative disposition that cannot be gained overnight.  Also knowledge is something that is gained from a Guru who is well accomplished.  It is also important to understand that when the word “Yoga” is used in the Bhagavad Gita, it refers to “Jnana-Yoga” for a Sannyasi and “Karma Yoga” for others.  Both lead to the same destination of gaining “Moksha” when properly practiced with the right attitude and commitment with a spirit of renunciation of results of action.

4.1      Shloka 4.1

श्री भगवानुवाच
इमं विवस्वते योगं प्रोक्तवानहमव्ययम्।
विवस्वान् मनवे प्राह मनुरिक्ष्वाकवेऽब्रवीत्।।4.1।।

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca
Imam vivasvate yogam proktavan aham avyayam  |
Vivasvan manave Praha manur iksvakave ‘bravit ||4.1||
Meaning: Bhagavan Shri Krishna says, “I instructed this Imperishable Science of Yoga (uniting the individual consciousness with the Absolute Consciousness) to the Sun God, “Vivasvan”, and Vivasvan instructed it to his son Vaivastava Manu, who in turn passed on the knowledge to his son King Iksvaku”.

Bhagavan Krishna begins the fourth chapter by giving context to the origination of the Jnana Yoga. He explains that He Himself gave instructions in the past to Vivasvan, the Sun God, on how to master the science of uniting the individual Consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness.  Lord Krishna taught this imperishable yoga for the benefit of the humans and for the preservation of Universal order. The Sun God, Vivasvan, passed on this knowledge to his son Vaivastava Manu who later gave it to his eldest son Iksvaku.

4.2      Shloka 4.2

एवं परम्पराप्राप्तमिमं राजर्षयो विदुः।
कालेनेह महता योगो नष्टः परन्तप।।4.2।।

Evam parampara-praptam imam rajarsayo viduh |
Sa kaleneha mahata yogo nastah parantapa ||4.2||
Meaning: In this way the saintly Kings mastered this Supreme Science received through the line of disciplic succession; but during the course of time this knowledge of uniting the Individual Consciousness with the Ultimate was scattered and lost, O’ the conqueror of enemies (Arjuna).

Lord Krishna mentions the great tradition of passing on the knowledge through disciplic succession from one generation to the next.  But with efflux of time and degradation of human intelligence, the number of qualified recipients of this great knowledge dwindled and the knowledge was lost.

4.3      Shloka 4.3

एवायं मया तेऽद्य योगः प्रोक्तः पुरातनः।
भक्तोऽसि मे सखा चेति रहस्यं ह्येतदुत्तमम्।।4.3।। 

Sa evayam maya te ‘dya yogah proktah puratanah |
Bhakto ‘si me sakha ceti rahasyam hy etad uttamam ||4.3||
Meaning: This very ancient science of uniting the Individual Consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness, which is a supreme secret, is being instructed by Me to you because you are My devotee and a dear friend.

Lord Krishna confirms that the same ancient Yoga or the Science of uniting the Individual Consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness, which He imparted aeons before to Vivasvan, emphasising it as a Supreme secret, is now being instructed to Arjuna because he is His devotee and dear friend Arjuna.

Bhagavan Krishna saw Arjuna as qualified to receive this Yoga, because Arjuna had surrendered unto Lord Krishna as a disciple. As this Yoga is highly confidential it should not be revealed to those who have no faith nor to those who are unqualified.

The Bhagavad-Gita as it is the essence of the sublime wisdom of all the Vedas and encapsulates the mysteries of Vedanta and no one other than Bhagavan Krishna could have delivered this.

4.4      Shloka 4.4

अर्जुन उवाच
अपरं भवतो जन्म परं जन्म विवस्वतः।
कथमेतद्विजानीयां त्वमादौ प्रोक्तवानिति।।4.4।।

Arjuna Uvaca
Aparam bhavato janma param janma vivasvatah  |
katham etad vijaniyam tvam adau proktavan iti ||4.4||
Meaning: Arjuna said: You were born after the Sun-God Vivasvan, who is senior to you by birth. How am I to understand your statement that You instructed this science to Sun God in ancient times?

While this is a legitimate question on the anachronism in Shri Krishna’s statement, what is notable is the phrasing of the question by Arjuna.  He approaches it in a polite manner and by way of seeking to understand rather than reject it outright as preposterous.  While Arjuna is a devotee, disciple and a friend of Shri Krishna, this did not preclude him from asking questions of the Lord.

The purpose of inquiry from men of wisdom, as given in the Agni Purana, has a dual purpose. First is reconfirmation of the knowledge of eternal principles that they already possess. Second is that their explanations offer additional clarification.

Arjuna was not a novice bereft of Vedic knowledge. He had received instructions from his father Indra, the chief of the celestials, and had a good understanding of Bhagavan Krishna’s supreme position.

The reason Arjuna asked such a question was to get clarification on Bhagavan’s previous manifestations. He was seeking answers to several questions such as:

  1. Are avatars real or illusory?
  2. Under what circumstances does Bhagavan manifests as avatar?
  3. What is the nature of the body the avatar assumes?
  4. Are all the avatars expanding from Lord Krishna?
  5. Are all the avatars omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent?
  6. Are all avatars transcendental to the cycle of birth and death?
  7. Are all avatars able to fulfill all desires?
  8. What is the time schedule which avatars manifest themselves?

Bhagavan Krishna gives explanations in subsequent verses that answers the above questions.

4.5      Shloka 4.5

श्री भगवानुवाच
बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन।
तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप।।4.5।।

Sri Bhagavan Uvaca
Bahuni me vyatitani janmani tava carjuna  |
Tany aham veda sarvani na tvam vettha parantapa ||4.5||
Meaning: Bhagavan says, Many births of Mine and also of yours have passed, O’ Arjuna; I can remember all of them, but you cannot!

In the Brahma-Samhita (5.33), it states:
Advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam adyam purana-purusam nava-yauvanam ca
Vedesu durllabham adurllabham atma-bhaktau govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami.
Meaning: “I worship Govinda, the primeval God, who is the original person—absolute, infallible, without beginning, although expanded into unlimited forms, still the same original, the oldest, and always youthful. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing forms of the Lord not easily accessible through the Vedas but is obtainable by pure unalloyed devotion of the soul.  He is one, without a second”. 

Ramadi murttisu kala-niyamena tisthan nanavataram akarod bhuvanesu kintu
Krishnah svayam samabhavat paramah puman yo govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami (Brahma Samhita 5.39)
Meaning: I worship Lord Govinda, the primeval Lord, who manifested Himself personally as Kṛiṣhṇa and the different avatars as Rama, Nṛsimha, Vamana, etc., as His subjective portions.

In the Vedas also it is said that the Lord, although one without a second, nevertheless manifests Himself in innumerable forms. All those multi-forms are understood by the pure, unalloyed devotees, but not by a mere study of the Vedas- “Vedesu durllabham adurllabham atma-bhaktau”. 

The difference between the Bhagavan Krishna and Arjuna is that the Bhagavan remembered all the prior incidents, whereas Arjuna could not remember. While Arjuna is addressed herein as the mighty hero who could subdue the enemies, he is however unable to recall the incidents from his past births. Therefore, a living entity, however great in material estimation, can never equal the Supreme Lord.

Though Arjuna is a devotee of the Lord, he sometimes forgets the nature of the Lord, but by the divine grace of the Lord, a devotee can at once understand the infallible condition of the Lord.  Whereas a non-devotee cannot understand this transcendental nature and consequently these descriptions in the Bhagavad Gita cannot be understood by non-believers.

Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associated devotees also appear in order to serve the Lord in various capacities. Arjuna is one of those devotees, and in this verse it is to be understood that some millions of years ago when Bhagavan Krishna imparted the secret knowledge to Sun God Vivasvan, Arjuna was also present although in a different capacity. Anyone who is a constant companion of the Lord is certainly a liberated person, but is not and cannot be equal to the Lord. The Lord is described in the Brahma-samhita as infallible (acyuta), which means that He never slips, even though He is in contact with the material world.

Bhagavan is advaita, which means there is no distinction between His body and Himself. Everything in relation to Him is spirit—whereas the conditioned soul is different from his material body. And, because the Lord’s body and self are identical, His position is always different from the ordinary living entity, even when He descends to the material platform.

What the Lord is confirming is that His present incarnation is as real as Arjuna’s present life reincarnation and that the ones from the past are real as well, subtly implying that there is a fundamental difference between the two of them. The nature of the avatars, and how they manifest together with their purpose for incarnations is given in the next few verses.

4.6      Shloka 4.6

अजोऽपि सन्नव्ययात्मा भूतानामीश्वरोऽपि सन्।
प्रकृतिं स्वामधिष्ठाय संभवाम्यात्ममायया।।4.6।।

Ajo ‘pi sann avyayatma bhutanam isvaro ‘pi san  |
prakrtim svam adhisthaya sambhavamy atma-mayaya ||4.6||
Meaning: Although I am birthless and My transcendental body is Imperishable, and I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in My original transcendental form by my internal potency.

The Lord has spoken about the unique nature of His birth, Although He may appear like an ordinary person, yet He remembers everything of His many, many past “births”, whereas a common man cannot remember what he has done a day or a week before.

Here, Bhagavan explains His prakrti or His form. Prakrti means nature as well as svarupa, or one’s own form. The Lord says that He appears in His own body. He does not change His body, as the common living entity changes from one body to another. The conditioned soul may have one kind of body in the present birth, but he has a different body in the next birth. In this verse the words “ajo pi sann avyaya atma” meaning He is unborn having an imperishable body.

Whenever He appears, He does so by His internal potency. Despite the fact Lord Bhagavan Krishna grows from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth, astonishingly enough He never ages beyond youth. We never see a picture of Bhagavan in old age because He never ages like us, although He is the oldest person in the whole creation. Neither His body nor His intelligence ever deteriorates or changes. Therefore, it is clear that in spite of His being in the material world, He is the same unborn, eternal form of bliss and knowledge, changeless in His transcendental body and intelligence.

His appearance and disappearance are like the Sun’s rising, moving before us, and then disappearing from our eyesight. His appearance and disappearance are completely different from that of any ordinary, common living entity, it is evident that He is eternal, blissful knowledge and He is never contaminated by material nature.

The forms and places where the Supreme Lord resides as described in the Vedic scriptures:

  1. He is the spirit who luminously resides in the interior of the Sun
  2. He is the spirit who luminously resides in the etheric region of the heart
  3. He who is immortal and eternal
  4. He who manifested all the Devas and humans
  5. He who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent
  6. He who is resplendent and all pervasive
  7. He who is transcendental to prakriti or material nature
  8. He who by His omniscience knows the actions and qualities of all beings

4.7      Shloka 4.7

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत।
अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदाऽऽत्मानं सृजाम्यहम्।।4.7।। 

Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata  |
Abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjamy aham ||4.7||
Meaning: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.

The use of “srjami” is significant in this Shloka as it means that the Lord manifests Himself as He is and is not be understood as creation. He appears by His own will whenever there is a predominance of “adharma” or atrocities. Principles of righteousness are laid down in the Vedas and as righteousness diminishes Bhagavan chooses to appear to re-establish Dharma and protect the noble people.

In Srimad Bhagavatam, the principles of dharma, or righteousness, are the direct orders of the Supreme (dharmam tu saksat-bhagavat-pranitam). These principles are clearly indicated throughout the Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavan directly orders, at the end of the Bhagavad Gita, that the highest principle of dharma is to surrender unto Him only, and He undertakes to protect and rid one of all sins.

He can advent Himself anywhere and everywhere, and whenever He desires to appear. In each and every incarnation, He speaks as much about Dharma as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstances. But the mission is the same—to lead people to the practice of Dharma and grant them salvation.

4.8      Shloka 4.8

परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय दुष्कृताम्
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे ।।4.8।। 

Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam |
dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge ||4.8||
Meaning: For the protection and deliverance of the devotees and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of dharma (righteousness), I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

The words “Paritranaya Sadhunam” means protecting the virtuous and such protection applies to specifically for the devotees like Prahlada, who was a great devotee of the Supreme Lord even as a child.  The saintly devotees, the eminent Vaishnavas who diligently seek refuge in Bhagavan every moment and in everything they do. These persons feel that without perceiving the Supreme Lord, without chanting His names, without continuously reminiscing over His phenomenal leelas and without meditating on Him there lives are devoid and empty and they find it difficult to even carry on their existence. For these devotees even a single moment of absence from the Lord is like a lifetime.

The word “duskrtam” applies miscreants and represents the lowest of mankind who engage in acts of cruelty and inflict misery on Lord’s devotees. The Lord has many agents who are quite competent to vanquish demons. But the Lord especially descends to appease His unalloyed devotees, who are harassed by the demons. Although Prahlada Maharaja was the son of Hiranyakashipu, he was nonetheless persecuted by his father; although Devaki, the mother of Bhagavan Krishna, was the sister of Kamsa, she and her husband Vasudeva were persecuted. Therefore it is said here that to deliver the devotee and vanquish the demon miscreants, the Lord appears in different incarnations.

There are various kinds of avatars, such as Purusa avatars, Guna avatars, Leela avatars, Saktyavesa avatars, Manvantara Avatars and Yugav avatars—all appearing at various points of time.  Bhagavan descends for protecting His pure devotees and to re-establish Dharma.

The Supreme Lord is complete within Himself so there is nothing to be gained for Him by any action; yet and still He still performs unlimited activities. The word “glanir” in the previous verse does not mean decline as is often translated but it means obscure. What happens is that dharma becomes obscure to the masses due to material influences on the mind, agitated by the effects of sense gratification by the onslaught of maya or illusion. When such times arise the purpose of human existence becomes distorted and consequently the activities of humans become more and more degenerated and humans become degraded. At this time, Dharma of human beings is said to be glanir or obscured.

Bhagavan is also designated as Brahman which means eternal in time and dynamic in creativity and is the all-pervading luminosity of His effulgence. It is not inert or passive. The word Brahman which is derived from the root ‘brh’ means to grow, to burst forth which infers constant, continuous creativity, perpetually manifesting. That which is dynamic and creative cannot remain static and passive. The dynamic, spontaneous, creative impulse is what is known as the Supreme Lord Leela or divine pastimes. In this verse, Bhagavan explicitly reveals that He comes to protect the righteous and to vanquish the sinful miscreants and to personally re-establish dharma or eternal righteousness. Sam-sthapana-arthaya infers to establishing one’s true nature. The Lord’s divine nature assumes His divine form.

So, in summary the following reasons of Lord Krishna’s avatars or incarnations is for:

  1. protecting the virtuous
  2. destroying the wicked
  3. re-establishing dharma or eternal righteousness which had become obscured.

The words “Yuge Yuge” means from millennium to millennium and indicates that Bhagavan may appear at any time and his incarnation is not limited to any particular Yuga.

4.9      Shloka 4.9

जन्म कर्म मे दिव्यमेवं यो वेत्ति तत्त्वतः।
त्यक्त्वा देहं पुनर्जन्म नैति मामेति सोऽर्जुन।।4.9।।

Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah |
Tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna ||4.9||
Meaning: O’Arjuna, One who knows the transcendental nature of My birth and activities does not take his birth again in this material world upon relinquishing his body, and such a person attains My eternal abode.

One who can understand the truth of the appearance of Bhagavan is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the abode of God immediately after quitting the present material body. Liberation of the living entity from material bondage does not come easy. Even the yogis attain liberation only after great penance and many births. But a sincere devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and is freed from the material bondage.

In the Brahma-samhita it is stated that the Lord has many, many forms and incarnations: advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam. Although there are many transcendental forms of the Lord, they are still one and the same Supreme Brahman. One has to understand this fact with conviction, although it is incomprehensible to mundane scholars and empiric philosophers.

As stated in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Atharva Veda:
eko devo nitya-lilanurakto bhakta-vyapi hrdy antaratma iti ca ||
Meaning: The one Supreme Personality is eternally engaged in many, many transcendental forms in relationships with His unalloyed devotees.

One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Supreme. It should be clearly understood that the mere knowledge of the facts and details of the Supreme Lords appearance and divine pastimes will not enable one to attain liberation from the material existence without having first applied this learning fully into one’s life and all that one’s life encompasses.

Put more succinctly such a person possessing accurate discriminative knowledge from disciplic succession regarding Bhagavan’s incarnations and divine pastimes becomes free from all sins which stand in the way of coming to Him. Such a person will attain Him by placing implicit reliance and full faith in Him in the manner described in previous verses.  By keeping Him at the centre of all their activities, by making Him the be all and end all of their lives, they makes themselves extremely dear to the Lord which qualifies their existence for attaining Him.

4.10   Shloka 4.10

वीतरागभयक्रोधा मन्मया मामुपाश्रिताः।
बहवो ज्ञानतपसा पूता मद्भावमागताः।।4.10।। 

Vita-raga-bhaya-krodha man-maya mam upasritah |
Bahavo jnana-tapasa puta mad-bhavam agatah ||4.10||
Meaning: Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purifled by knowledge of Me—and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.

In the previous verse, Lord Krishna declares that those that truly know Him attain Him. Now in this verse, Bhagavan is laying out the necessary requirements for attaining Him and states, “vita-raga-bhaya-krodha” meaning completely freed from passion, fear and anger.

Passion is obsessive attachment to sense objects and material world. Fear is abhorrence of frightening situations due to lack of faith in God. Anger is a state of mind that blows up when one’s ardent desires are frustrated by obstacles.

To get free from these three, one has to take complete shelter of the Lord, guided by a bona fide spiritual master, and follow the disciplines and regulative principles of devotional life. The last stage of the devotional life is called bhava, or transcendental love. This clearly indicates that jnana yoga or the cultivation of knowledge is essential for the mind to control the senses.

According to Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, the science of devotional service:
adau sraddha tatah sadhu-sango ‘tha bhajana-kriya
tato ‘nartha-nivrttih syat tato nistha rucis tatah
athasaktis tato bhavas tatah premabhyudancati
sadhakanam ayam premnah pradurbhave bhavet kramah||
Meaning: In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In next stage one becomes initiated by an accomplished spiritual master, and under his instruction the devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a burning desire for hearing about the Lilas of the Supreme Lord. This desire matures into Bhakti bhava, and later turns into an eternal love for God in the form of prema, the highest and perfect stage of life. In the prema stage there is constant engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord.

So, by beginning with devotional service, under the guidance of the bonafide spiritual master, one can attain the highest stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness of one’s individual spiritual personality, and from the frustrations, one can ultimately attain to the abode of the Supreme Lord.

The devotees of the Supreme Lord, who desire Him alone and who serve Him with love and devotion, only they can truly comprehend the sublime transcendental mystery of His divine appearances, pastimes, forms, abode and nature.

जय श्री कृष्णा – Jai Shri Krishna!

Hari Om Tat Sat