Chapter 4. Jnana Karma Sanyasa Yoga (Transcendental Knowledge)
In the third chapter Lord Krishna explained that only karma yoga or the performance of prescribed Vedic activities was suitable for the materialistic person aspiring for moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death and that such an aspirant was not competent to follow the path of jnana yoga or the cultivation of Vedic knowledge. It was also shown that even for jnana yoga practitioners that karma yoga when performed as a matter of duty without attachment was preferable. It was further illustrated that for leaders of prominence in society it is an important necessity to perform karma yoga in order that the public is guided and inspired in a righteous manner. The objective of this fourth chapter is to further emphasise the worthiness of karma yoga by giving evidence that it was taught to great personalities at the beginning of this Manvantar or cyclic appearance of one type of divine incarnations as verified in Vedic scriptures over a period of time comprising approximately every 350 million years. Also it will be shown in this chapter how karma yoga partakes of the nature of jnana yoga by reason of spiritual intentions underlying all prescribed Vedic activities. Chapter four finishes up by explaining the nature and varieties of karma yoga and the importance of spiritual awareness connected to performing every action.
imam vivasvate yogam
proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha
manur iksvakave ‘bravit
The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.
“In the beginning of the Treta-yuga [millennium] this science of the relationship with the Supreme was delivered by Vivasvan to Manu. Manu, being the father of mankind, gave it to his son Maharaja Iksvaku, the king of this earth planet and forefather of the Solar dynasty in which Lord Ramachandra appeared. Therefore, Bhagavad-Gita existed in the human society from the time of Maharaja Iksvaku.
At the present moment we have just passed through five thousand years of the Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years. Before this there was the Dvapara-yuga (800,000 years), and before that there was Treta-yuga (1,200,000 years). Thus, some 2,005,000 years ago, Manu spoke the Bhagavad-Gita to his disciple and son Maharaja Iksvaku, the king of this planet earth. The age of the current Manu is calculated to last some 305,300,000 years, of which 120,400,000 have passed. Accepting that before the birth of Manu, the Gita was spoken by the Lord to His disciple, the sun-god Vivasvan, a rough estimate is that the Gita was spoken at least 120,400,000 years ago; and in human society it has been extant for two million years. It was re-spoken by the Lord again to Arjuna about five thousand years ago. That is the rough estimate of the history of the Gita, according to the Gita itself and according to the version of the speaker, Lord Sri Krishna.
The kings, such as Surya, Manu and Ikshaku, who have been mentioned by the Lord, were householders and they attained perfection, through the Discipline of Action, leading a householder’s life. By the terms ‘Vivasvate proktavan’, the Lord wants to explain to the seekers that as the sun in the solar system while performing its action by providing heat and light, remains un-engrossed; similarly, all the seekers should perform actions without attachment according to available circumstances. They should, also impart this teaching of Karma yoga, to others for the public welfare by remaining un-engrossed (without desire for fruit, without a sense of ‘mine’ and without attachment).
He creation of the universe, it is accepted even by modern science, must have started with Sun. (refer the Big bang theory). As the source of all energy the sun was the first of the created objects and with its creation, this great knowledge of self was given to rest of the world.
imam rajarsayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata
yogo nastah parantapa
This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciples’ succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.
This was transmitted from Lord Krishna to a distinguished parampara or succession from illustrious father to illustrious son. This knowledge was passed onto the saintly kings and royal sages like Nimi and Sagara; but its origins are without beginning because its roots are in the eternal Vedas. By great efflux of time and degradation of human intelligence limiting qualified recipients this great knowledge disappeared into oblivion due to a break in parampara causing a discontinuation of the tradition in this world.
In ancient days, the kings who knew Karma yoga administered the affairs of state smoothly, without being attached to royal pleasures. They had a natural inclination for the welfare of the subjects. The great Sanskrit poet Kalidasa writes about the kings of solar dynasty: – “Those kings levied a tax on their subjects in the same way, as the sun sucks water from the earth, in order to supply it to the earth in the form of rain, a thousand times more.” It means, that the tax realized from the subjects by kings, was all used for public welfare. In order to, provide for their household expenses, they followed occupations, like farming.
sa evayam maya te ‘dya
yogah proktah puratanah
bhakto ‘si me sakha ceti
rahasyam hy etad uttamam
That very ancient science is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend.
Lord Krishna now confirms that the same eternal yoga or science of the individual consciousness attaining communion with the ultimate consciousness that was imparted aeons before to Vivasvan is being instructed to His friend Arjuna and no one else. Why no one else? Because Arjuna was qualified to receive this yoga and because he was Lord Krishna’s surrendered disciple. As this yoga is highly confidential it should not be revealed to those who have no faith or to those who are unqualified. The secret, which is not disclosed even to a comrade, is revealed to a disciple, who surrenders himself to his preceptor. Arjuna also says to Lord Krishna, “I am Thy disciple, teach me, who have taken refuge in Thee.” Therefore, the Lord reveals His secret to him.
Common people, regard the objects bestowed upon them by God as theirs (while in fact they are not theirs), but they do not regard the Lord, (Who is actually theirs), as theirs. They, instead of having an eye on the glorious Lord, look at His glory. Having attached importance to the glory, their intellect becomes so dull, that they do not even believe, in His existence i.e., they do not even look towards Him. Some people adore Him, in order to gain riches and glory etc. Though riches lie at the feet of devotees, yet true devotees do not adore Him for riches, but they adore Him to attain Him. Those who hanker after riches are devotees (slaves) to riches, while those who want to attain God, are His real devotees.
The Lord says that He taught this karma yoga to the Sun. This means, there could not be a better example of a karma yogi than the Sun. He shines to all and stands as a witness to everything that happens, good or bad and is not affected by anything. He goes on doing his duty as ordained by the Lord. This quality is imparted to the Sun by the Lord only and that is why He says “I told this to the Sun”. As all beings came from Manu it is said that the Sun taught this to Manu, who did his karma without attachment, following the command of the Lord. Ikshaku is the descendant of the Sun and hence as the kings of the solar race were reputed to be karma yogis it is mentioned that it was handed down by tradition.
aparam bhavato janma
param janma vivasvatah
katham etad vijaniyam
tvam adau proktavan iti
You are of recent origin, while the birth of Vivasvan dates back to remote past, how then am I to understand, that Thou did declare it to him, in the beginning?
Considering the possibility of Vivasvan being instructed 120 million years previously by the same Lord Krishna as He is standing before him, Arjuna asks the Lord to explain just how it was that He taught this eternal yoga to Vivasvan, the Sun God.
Arjuna asks Lord Krishna, that He was born in the house of Vasudeva a few years ago, while Vivasvan (the sun-god) was born earlier at the beginning of creation. So how could he believe that He had taught this Yoga to the sun-god. This question of Arjuna expresses his curiosity, rather than argument or blame. He wants to hear from Lord Krishna, the secret of His Divine descent, because only He was capable of revealing this secret, to him.
bahuni me vyatitani
janmani tava carjuna
tany aham veda sarvani
na tvam vettha parantapa
The Lord said – Many lives have passed of Me and you, Arjuna, and I know them while you do not.
Lord Krishna’s declaration of many births has passed for you and for Me is a definite affirmation of the reality of reincarnation for Arjuna and confirmation of the avatars or incarnations of the Supreme Lord Krishna. What He 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 them.
Here Krishna represents ‘Atma’ and Arjuna is senses. Atma always exists and knows everything while senses are only temporary.