The four divisions of human life, namely the brahma Chari, the grahasta, the vanaprastha, and the sanyasi, are all meant to help men become perfect yogis or transcendentalists. Since human life is not meant for enjoying sense gratification like the animals, the four orders of human life are so arranged that one may become perfect in spiritual life. These sacrifices may be fitted into various divisions. Some utilize their wealth and material possessions, for the welfare of others, without any selfish motive, by regarding these as of others only. There are persons who are sacrificing their possessions in the form of various kinds of charities and are called ‘dravyamaya-yajna’.  Observing fast and keeping mum, etc., are also austerities, as sacrifice. Sacrifice of the comforts of life is called ‘tapomaya-yajna’. Those who engage themselves in the studies of different Vedic literatures, specifically the Upanisads and Vedanta-sutras, or the Sankhya philosophy are called ‘svadhyaya-yajna’, or engagement in the sacrifice of studies. Sense gratification is the root cause of material existence; therefore, unless and until one is situated on a platform apart from sense gratification, there is no chance of being elevated to the eternal platform of full knowledge, full bliss and full life.

Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and to refrain from hoarding – these five are yama, the five great vows. These five vows have been very much eulogized, in the scriptures. This system of yoga for controlling the breathing process is called pranayama. They are recommended for controlling the senses and for advancement in spiritual realization.

That person who does not perform yagna or offerings of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord and who does not perform the regular and occasional duties as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures according to varnasrama or their rank and station in life, such a person derives absolutely no benefit for receiving a human existence in this world. They have wasted a very precious opportunity as human birth is very difficult to receive and humans are the only species on the Earth with freewill and the power to reflect on the Supreme. He, who wants to lead a peaceful life in the family, should perform his duty by rendering service to other members of the family. By doing so, he becomes a source of inspiration for others and thus unity and peace prevail, in the family and in the world, here as well as hereafter. On the other hand, he who does not perform his duty scrupulously does not lead a happy life, here as well as hereafter.

The mind is tainted by three kinds of defects – sins, volatility of mind, and ignorance. When a seeker performs actions, for the welfare of others without any selfish motive, his first two defects i.e., sins and volatility of mind, come to an end. In order to get rid of the third defect, having renounced actions, he goes to his teacher, so that he may impart knowledge. At that time, he does not aim at actions and material objects, but his aim is God-realization. This is known, as culmination of all actions and material objects, in knowledge i.e., God-realization through the attainment of true knowledge.

Lord Krishna is revealing how to attain spiritual knowledge. The seeker should go to a teacher, with profound humility and perfect devotion, and through prostration surrender himself, his body mind and possessions etc., to him. The student must have an intellectual attitude of surrender and meekness, respect and obedience towards the Teacher. He should keep his inquisitiveness always, awake. The seeker must ask the teacher with a pure heart about the purpose of life, the true nature of a living being and how to revive one’s relationship with the Supreme Being? By these questions and by being pleased by one’s sincere service such a self-realised being will guide and instruct one on matters related to the ultimate truth. The Guru will remove all doubts about: Who am I? Why was I born? What is my purpose in life? A seeker, having gained knowledge of the self, by hearing, cognition constant and deep meditation etc., or from the Guru, sees all beings in the self-this is the realization of ‘Tvam’ (self-realization). Then he sees all beings and the self in God-this is realization of ‘Tat’ (God-realization). Thus, he realizes the identity of the self with God, and, then nothing remains for him, except God.

There are essentially 4 ways of gaining knowledge.

“Achaaryaath paadam aadatthe , paadam sishya swamedhayaa

paadam sa brahmachaaribhya sesham kaala kramena cha”

It means one can get one quarter of the knowledge from the teacher, one quarter by analyzing oneself, one quarter by discussing with others and the last quarter one can get during the process of living or through experience. In the scriptures, there are eight inward spiritual means to attain knowledge. These are (1) Discrimination. (2) Dispassion. (3) Six traits (Quietness, self-control, piety, indifference, endurance and composure). (4) Desire to attain salvation. (5) Listening to Vedanta texts. (6) Cognition. (7) Constant and deep meditation. (8) Self-realization.

Generally sinners are not engaged in spiritual practice, but it does not mean that they cannot be engaged in it. If by coming into contact, with a great soul or by being influenced by an incident or circumstance or environment etc., they resolve, that they have to gain knowledge of the self, or God, they cross the ocean of sins, by the boat of knowledge, of the self. As blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge, reduce the three kinds of actions (i.e.,)-prarabdha (in the form of fate), sancita (accumulated actions) and Kriyamana (the present actions), to ashes. It means that when a man gains knowledge of the self, his affinity for the actions or the world is totally renounced. Consequently, the world loses its independent existence and there remains, only God.

In this world nothing is as purifying as spiritual knowledge. Then why is not everyone pursuing this? Lord Krishna explains that first one must become qualified from prolonged practice of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities performed without desire for rewards. Then in due course of time, if there is no interruption, knowledge will arise leading to purity of heart after which soul realization will be achieved. After previously describing the qualifications of an aspirant for spiritual knowledge now Lord Krishna describes the characteristics of one who is unfit and not qualified for spiritual knowledge. One who is ignorant, of little faith, who does not follow instructions of the spiritual master and who doubts the teachings of the eternal Vedic scriptures, such a person has no chance for spiritual awakening and their human birth goes in vain. One who doubts is ruined in this life and will have little or no success in this world and such a person will have nothing in the next life because of not acquiring any merit in this life. Without faith nothing can be achieved as for instance when you ask for directions to a place you have to have faith in the one who directs you. Similarly one who has no faith in scriptures or in the word of the saints will not acquire wisdom. A man who digs for water will get it only if he digs deep enough in one place and not if he tries in different places giving up each one after a little effort.

A doubting soul, can, never perform his duty efficiently. All doubt should be completely uprooted from one’s heart and mind and follow the path that Lord Krishna has explained which is first and foremost to do one’s duty in life according to qualification. Following this path one will acquire the spiritual knowledge to cross over samsara the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation from material existence.

In the world, innumerable actions are performed, but we remain free from their bondage, because we have neither attachment nor aversion for them. It is because of attachment or aversion, that we are linked with actions. When we become free, from attachment and aversion i.e., get established in equanimity, we are not connected with actions and thus become free, from the bondage of actions.

When actions are performed for others and objects are regarded as others’ and for them, affinity for actions and objects is totally renounced and equanimity is automatically realized.

 

In the third chapter, emphasis has been laid on the performance (discharge) of duty, while in the fourth chapter there is an emphasis on knowing the truth, about Karma yoga. The reason is that action can be performed scrupulously, only when reality is known about it. Moreover, if the truth about actions is known, such actions, which bind a man, can liberate him from bondage. Therefore, in this chapter, the Lord has laid special emphasis on, knowing the truth about actions.

Lord Krishna 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 (Sun God) is now 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.

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. 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.

Carelessness and indolence in the performance of actions and the desire for fruit of actions are the main stumbling blocks to God-realization. If actions are performed without the desire for fruit in rendering service to others, the affinity for actions is renounced and we realize our affinity for God which is naturally eternal. When actions are performed with a selfish motive i.e., for reward, there is a decline of righteousness; and when a man, having deviated from his duty performs forbidden action there is rise of unrighteousness. It is desire, which is the root of all unrighteousness, sins and injustice etc. Therefore, God manifests Himself, in order to root out this desire and propagate the principle of the performance of actions, without expectation of any reward. Reasons of Lord Krishna’s avatars or incarnations are: 1) for protecting the virtuous 2) for destroying the wicked 3) for re-establishing dharma or eternal righteousness which had become obscured.

In whatever form one seeks the Lord, He appears in the same form to the devotee. The criticism of Hinduism being pantheistic is proved wrong by this. There is only one God who can be called by any name or conceived in any form; provided the worshipper remembers that He is not limited to that name or form. The Lord who is everywhere, in and out of all being is naturally present also in the particular form in which one thinks of Him.

“The four orders of society are created by Me according to the differences in their attitude and actions. Though I am the creator, know me to be a non-agent of action and immutable.” This is one of the most misinterpreted stanzas of the Bhagavad Gita. Antagonists attribute Lord Krishna’s action to the ills of the society that is plaguing these days. Lord Krishna clearly states here that the division is based on their attitudes, mental attributes and work.

An action is determined by the motive by which, it is performed. A soldier killing an enemy for the protection of the motherland is not murder, nor a surgeon using the scalpel to remove cancer, attacking with knife. An action, such as adoration of a goddess, is of the mode of goodness, but if it is undertaken with the motive of fulfilling mundane desires, it becomes a mode of passion. If it is undertaken with the motive of someone’s ruin, the same action is, of the mode of ignorance. In the same way, actions which are performed without attachment, a sense of mine and desire for fruits, are classed as inaction, and these do not bind a man, to the fruit of action. It means that truth about action cannot be determined by outward activity only. Actions can be divided, into three groups, according to the motive by which these are performed (i.e.,) action, inaction and forbidden action. An activity undertaken, according to spiritual injunctions with a desire for fruit, is called, action. Action which is performed, being free from the desire for fruit, sense of mine and attachment, for the welfare of others, is classed, as inaction. Even prescribed action, performed with the motive of doing evil to others, or giving pain to them, is classed as, forbidden action. As the desire intensifies, it results in forbidden actions. As a lotus leaf in spite of being born in water and living constantly in touch with it, is not tainted by water, so does a Karmayogi, in spite of being born in a life-of-action (human life) and in spite of living, in this world of actions, while performing actions, does not get attached to these. Detachment from actions is not an easy task. Therefore, the Lord calls him wise among men and a sage.

Envy is a subtle evil. A Karma yogi is very cautious, lest he should be envious of any being, because all his actions are performed for the welfare of the world. A Karma yogi transcends the pairs of opposites, such as profit and loss, honour and dishonour, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, and desirable and undesirable circumstances. So, he has a balanced state of mind, free from attachment and aversion etc.

Cultured people, recite this verse while having meals, so that this activity can be changed into a sacrifice (Yajna).

“brahmarpanam brahma havir, brahmagnau brahmana hutam

brahmaiva tena gantavyam, brahma-karma-samadhina”

When we view everything, as nothing other than God, we attain Him. When a seeker has his meal, he beholds God, in the following way:-

(i) The hand, with which the food is put into the mouth, is God.

(ii) The food is God.

(iii) He who eats the food is also God.

(iv) The fire, that abides in the stomach, and by which food is digested, is also God.

(v) The action of offering food, to the fire, which abides in the stomach, is also God.

(vi) The fruit of eating, the remnants, (residual food) of the sacrifice, is also God.

A Yogi is one who is always trying, through all available means, to raise himself from the state of physical, mental and intellectual imperfections.

Gita 4.40

 

ajnas casraddadhanas ca

samsayatma vinasyati

nayam loko ‘sti na paro

na sukham samsayatmanah

 

Meaning

 

But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures do not attain God consciousness. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.

Explanation

After previously describing the qualifications of an aspirant for spiritual knowledge now Lord Krishna describes the characteristics of one who is unfit and not qualified for spiritual knowledge. One who is ignorant, of little faith, who does not follow instructions of the spiritual master and who doubts the teachings of the eternal Vedic scriptures, such a person has no chance for spiritual awakening and their human birth goes in vain. One who doubts is ruined in this life and will have little or no success in this world and such a person will have nothing in the next life because of not acquiring any merit in this life.

In practical life, a man of doubting nature behaves badly towards others, because he suspects their integrity and actions etc. He also cannot attain salvation, because it requires a determinate intellect and firm resolve. A man of doubting nature cannot resolve, whether he should chant the Lord’s name, study the scriptures, perform mundane actions or attain God-realization and so on. Because of his doubting nature, he cannot attain happiness or peace. Therefore, a seeker through discrimination and faith must get rid of a doubt. When a seeker, comes across two contradictory statements, it leads to scepticism. Such scepticism can be removed, either by discrimination or through a reverential study of scriptures, or by following the advice of saints and holy men. Thus, if a sceptic is lacking in knowledge, he should acquire knowledge and wisdom. If he is wanting in faith, he should endeavour to gain faith. It is, because without especially enhancing either of these two, his scepticism cannot be removed.

Without faith nothing can be achieved as for instance when you ask for directions to a place you have to have faith in the one who directs you. Similarly one who has no faith in scriptures or in the word of the saints will not acquire wisdom. A man who digs for water will get it only if he digs deep enough in one place and not if he tries in different places giving up each one after a little effort.

 

Gita 4.41

 

yoga-sannyasta-karmanam

jnana-sanchinna-samsayam

atmavantam na karmani

nibadhnanti dhananjaya

 

Meaning

Therefore, one who has renounced the fruits of his action, whose doubts are destroyed by spiritual knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the self, is not bound by action, O conqueror of riches.

Explanation

The dual paths of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities and jnana yoga or cultivation of Vedic knowledge are both concluded in this verse and the next. Actions do not bind one to material existence who is renounced. All actions offered or dedicated to the Supreme Lord are always renounced. Lord Krishna explains that the performance of karma yoga is the mode of action in the ways He indicated above. Dedication and renunciation means that actions are performed in jnana yoga or the cultivation of Vedic knowledge. When performed in this way the binding power of actions becomes neutralised. Also by this method any doubts concerning the soul are dispelled by knowledge. One whose mind is unassailable and unapproachable by any type of doubt, such a person has achieved an unshakeable certitude about the reality and eternality of the soul from the teachings received from the spiritual master.

 

Gita 4.42

 

tasmad ajnana-sambhutam

hrt-stham jnanasinatmanah

chittvainam samsayam yogam

atisthottistha bharata

 

Meaning

 

Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.

Explanation

Arjuna had a doubt how the cruel deed of fighting, would lead him to salvation. Moreover, he was in a dilemma, whether he should follow the Discipline of Action or that of Knowledge. So the Lord advises him, to remove his doubt, so that he may perform his duty scrupulously. A doubting soul, can, never perform his duty efficiently. All doubt should be completely uprooted from one’s heart and mind and follow the path that Lord Krishna has explained which is first and foremost to do one’s duty in life according to qualification. Following this path one will acquire the spiritual knowledge to cross over samsara the cycle of birth and death and attain liberation from material existence.

In the world, innumerable actions are performed, but we remain free from their bondage, because we have neither attachment nor aversion for them. It is because of attachment or aversion, that we are linked with actions. When we become free, from attachment and aversion i.e., get established in equanimity, we are not connected with actions and thus become free, from the bondage of actions.

When actions are performed for others and objects are regarded as others’ and for them, affinity for actions and objects is totally renounced and equanimity is automatically realized.

Gita 4.36

 

api ced asi papebhyah

sarvebhyah papa-krttamah

sarvam jnana-plavenaiva

vrjinam santarisyasi

 

Meaning

Even if you are the most sinful of all sinners, you shall undoubtedly, cross all sins by the boat of knowledge (wisdom), alone.

Explanation

Lord Krishna completes the discourse on jnana by extolling the glory of it. To emphasise the power of spiritual knowledge He specifically states in this verse that even the most incorrigible sinner is redeemed if changing their ways acquires and applies spiritual knowledge in their consciousness.

Generally sinners are not engaged in spiritual practice, but it does not mean that they cannot be engaged in it. If by coming into contact, with a great soul or by being influenced by an incident or circumstance or environment etc., they resolve, that they have to gain knowledge of the self, or God, they cross the ocean of sins, by the boat of knowledge, of the self.

 

Gita 4.37

 

yathaidhamsi samiddho ‘gnir

bhasmasat kurute ‘rjuna

jnanagnih sarva-karmani

bhasmasat kurute tatha

 

Meaning

As blazing fires burn firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge, reduce all actions to ashes.

Explanation

One might wonder that just as crossing the ocean by boat does not destroy the ocean how is it that the boat of spiritual knowledge can destroy all one’s sins. Lord Krishna states here that the boat of spiritual knowledge will destroy all reactions to actions both those leading to merit and those leading to demerit.

As blazing fire reduces fuel to ashes, so does the fire of knowledge, reduce the three kinds of actions (i.e.,)-prarabdha (in the form of fate), sancita (accumulated actions) and Kriyamana (the present actions), to ashes. It means that when a man gains knowledge of the self, his affinity for the actions or the world is totally renounced. Consequently, the world loses its independent existence and there remains, only God.

 

Gita 4.38

na hi jnanena sadrsam

pavitram iha vidyate

tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah

kalenatmani vindati

 

Meaning

In this world, there is nothing as sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time.

Explanation

In this world nothing is as purifying as spiritual knowledge. Then why is not everyone pursuing this? Lord Krishna explains that first one must become qualified from prolonged practice of karma yoga or prescribed Vedic activities performed without desire for rewards. Then in due course of time, if there is no interruption, knowledge will arise leading to purity of heart after which soul realisation will be achieved.

This knowledge of the self cannot be gained by the senses, mind, intellect and other means (instruments). One will find the knowledge of the self, in himself. The means such as, listening to Vedanta texts, cognition and constant and deep meditations etc., may help in removing the obstacles such as notion of impossibility of gaining knowledge and contrary sentiments etc., but they cannot induce a man, to – gain the knowledge of self. He can gain that knowledge, by renouncing his affinity for the insentient. As the world can be seen with an eye but an eye cannot be seen by itself, but it can be said, that the organ with which any object is seen is the eye. So it can be said, that He who is the Knower of all persons and objects etc., and by Whom all objects etc., are known, is the self or God, Who is not known by any means.

 

Gita 4.39

 

sraddhaval labhate jnanam

tat-parah samyatendriyah

jnanam labdhva param santim

acirenadhigacchati

 

Meaning

 

He who has faith and is devoted and who controls his senses, gains knowledge (wisdom) and having gained knowledge he achieves the Supreme peace in no time.

Explanation

A person may acquire knowledge by themselves but here are presented all the qualities that are essential for such a person to succeed. The word sraddhavan means a person who has faith. Faith means firmly believing. The person with faith who follows the Vedic instructions of the spiritual master and who wholeheartedly believes in the knowledge of the Vedic scriptures and who is self-controlled; only such a person receives spiritual realisation and none other. Therefore before one receives spiritual knowledge through the auspices of faith one has to undergo the path of karma yoga or performance of prescribed Vedic activities for one’s purification. After spiritual realisation is attained then one has become liberated and has no need to perform any action.

In Karma yoga and Jnana yoga there is predominance of discrimination and in Bhakti yoga there is predominance of belief-faith. At first the Self-realization is attainable-this faith a seeker must have, then only he will strive for it.

 

Gita 4.31

 

nayam loko ‘sty ayajnasya

kuto ‘nyah kuru-sattama

Meaning

Even this world is not for those who do no sacrifice. How could there be other world for them?

Explanation

That person who does not perform yagna or offerings of worship to propitiate the Supreme Lord and who does not perform the regular and occasional duties as prescribed in the Vedic scriptures according to varnasrama or their rank and station in life, such a person derives absolutely no benefit for receiving a human existence in this world. They have wasted a very precious opportunity as human birth is very difficult to receive and humans are the only species on the Earth with freewill and the power to reflect on the Supreme. Moksha is the true goal of all human endeavours and real purpose of human existence. The divine discourse of the Bhagavad-Gita is all about moksha which is the greatest good eternally for all humanity.

A man (the self), is eternal. It is because of his attachment to the perishable, that he believes that he dies. When he, having utilized his so-called possessions, for the welfare of the world, gets detached from them, he realizes the fact, that he is eternal. When action is performed as duty i.e., for the welfare of others without any selfish motive, it becomes a sacrifice (yajna). A selfish member, who does not perform his duty, is not liked even by members of one’s family. Non-performance of duty causes quarrels, strife and annoyance in the family. He, who wants to lead a peaceful life in the family, should perform his duty by rendering service to other members of the family. By doing so, he becomes a source of inspiration for others and thus unity and peace prevail, in the family and in the world, here as well as hereafter. On the other hand, he who does not perform his duty scrupulously does not lead a happy life, here as well as hereafter.

 

Gita 4.32

evam bahu-vidha yajna

vitata brahmano mukhe

karma-jan viddhi tan sarvan

evam jnatva vimoksyase

Meaning

 

All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated.

Explanation

Lord Krishna has described the 12 different performances of yagna or offerings of worship in propitiation to the Supreme Lord that are the means of attaining soul realisation. It should be clearly understood that all yagnas manifest from activity of the mind, the speech or the body and involve the performance of regular daily duties and occasional special duties. Understanding this wisdom and practically applying this knowledge one shall by their own efforts dissolve all their sins and become free from bondage of the cycle of birth and death.

Arjuna wants to attain salvation, but he wants to renounce his duty of fighting, by regarding it, as a sin. Therefore, the Lord by using the expression ‘Karmajanviddhi’, explains to him, that whatever spiritual practice he will do by renouncing war, will also be, the performance of action. The Lord declares that it is not action, but total renunciation of affinity for actions, which leads to salvation. Therefore, he should perform his duty of fighting, remaining detached from actions, in order to attain salvation, because it is not actions but it is attachment to them, which binds him.

 

Gita 4.33

 

sreyan dravya-mayad yajnaj

jnana-yajnah parantapa

sarvam karmakhilam partha

jnane parisamapyate

 

Meaning

Knowledge, as a sacrifice (yajna) is superior to any material sacrifice, O Arjuna. All actions and objects in their entirety culminate in knowledge (jnana).

Explanation

Karma or actions has two aspects. The action of using the paraphernalia and ingredients to perform is one aspect and the spiritual intelligence to perform it properly is the second aspect. The second aspect of spiritual knowledge is superior to the first aspect consisting of material ingredients. All activities culminate in wisdom. Any action performed without directed intelligence is meaningless.

The mind is tainted by three kinds of defects – sins, volatility of mind, and ignorance. When a seeker performs actions, for the welfare of others without any selfish motive, his first two defects i.e., sins and volatility of mind, come to an end. In order to get rid of the third defect, having renounced actions, he goes to his teacher, so that he may impart knowledge. At that time, he does not aim at actions and material objects, but his aim is God-realization. This is known, as culmination of all actions and material objects, in knowledge i.e., God-realization through the attainment of true knowledge.

In the scriptures, there are eight inward spiritual means to attain knowledge. These are (1) Discrimination. (2) Dispassion. (3) Six traits (Quietness, self-control, piety, indifference, endurance and composure). (4) Desire to attain salvation. (5) Listening to

Vedanta texts. (6) Cognition. (7) Constant and deep meditation. (8) Self-realization.

Discrimination (viveka), consists in distinguishing, the real from the unreal. Renunciation of the unreal or having disinclination for the world is called dispassion (vairagya), Deviation of the mind from the sense object is quietness (sama), Control over the senses is ‘dama’. Reverence for God and the scriptures is called ‘piety’ (Sraddha). Total resignation from the world, is ‘Uparati’. Forbearance in the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold is endurance (Titiksa), Freedom from doubt is composure (Samadhana). The desire for salvation, is called ‘Mumuksuta, When desire for salvation, is aroused, a seeker having renounced material objects and actions, goes to a learned God realized teacher. He hears the Vedanta texts, which remove his doubts, which is known as hearing (sravana). Then, he thinks of the reality, about God which is known cognition (Manana). If he holds that the world is real and God does not exist- this is an opposite conception. Removal of this contrary conception is called constant and profound meditation (Nididhyasana). When having renounced affinity for all material objects, one gets established in the self, it is called self-realization (tattvam padartha samsodhana).”

In fact, all these spiritual disciplines are practised, in order to renounce the affinity for the unreal. That which is renounced, is not for one’s own self, but the result of renunciation (God realization), is for one’s own self.

 

Gita 4.34

 

tad viddhi pranipatena

pariprasnena sevaya

upadeksyanti te jnanam

jnaninas tattva-darsinah

 

Meaning

Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.

Explanation

Lord Krishna is revealing how to attain spiritual knowledge. The seeker should go to a teacher, with profound humility and perfect devotion, and through prostration surrender himself, his body mind and possessions etc., to him. The student must have an intellectual attitude of surrender and meekness, respect and obedience towards the Teacher. He should keep his inquisitiveness always, awake. The seeker must ask the teacher with a pure heart about the purpose of life, the true nature of a living being and how to revive one’s relationship with the Supreme Being? By these questions and by being pleased by one’s sincere service such a self-realised being will guide and instruct one on matters related to the ultimate truth. The Guru will remove all doubts about: Who am I? Why was I born? What is my purpose in life?

 

Gita 4.35

 

yaj jnatva na punar moham

evam yasyasi pandava

yena bhutany asesani

draksyasy atmany atho mayi

 

Meaning

Knowing which, Arjuna, you will never lapse back into delusion again and by that knowledge you will see all beings without exception in yourself and also in Me.

Explanation

Lord Krishna is clarifying to Arjuna that by this spiritual knowledge he will no longer be deluded by the illusion of relatives, friends and preceptors dying and if they are dead he would not even want to continue living; because with spiritual knowledge he will realise his soul and the soul in all beings is identical and part of the param atma.

A seeker, having gained knowledge of the self, by hearing, cognition constant and deep meditation etc., or from the Guru, sees all beings in the self-this is the realization of ‘Tvam’ (self-realization). Then he sees all beings and the self in God-this is realization of ‘Tat’ (God-realization). Thus, he realizes the identity of the self with God, and, then nothing remains for him, except God.

Gita 4.26

 

srotradinindriyany anye

samyamagnisu juhvati

sabdadin visayan anya

indriyagnisu juhvati

 

Meaning

Some of them sacrifice the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind, and others sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as sound, in the fire of sacrifice.

Explanation

Sound, sight, touch, taste and smell, are the five sensual objects. The discipline in which these objects of sense, are offered in the fire of sense, becomes a sacrifice. It means that even when the objects of senses come in contact with senses, the senses remain free from attraction and repulsion, or attachment and aversion.

The four divisions of human life, namely the brahmachari, the grahasta, the vanaprastha, and the sanyasi, are all meant to help men become perfect yogis or transcendentalists. Since human life is not meant for our enjoying sense gratification like the animals, the four orders of human life are so arranged that one may become perfect in spiritual life. The brahmachari, or students under the care of a bona fide spiritual master, control the mind by abstaining from sense gratification. They are referred to in this verse as sacrificing the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind. A brahmachari hears only words concerning God; hearing is the basic principle for understanding, and therefore the pure brahmachari engages fully in chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. He restrains himself from the vibrations of material sounds. Similarly, the householders, who have some license for sense gratification, perform such acts with great restraint. Sex life, intoxication and meat eating are general tendencies of human society, but a regulated householder does not indulge in unrestricted sex life and other sense gratification.

 

Gita 4.27

 

sarvanindriya-karmani

prana-karmani capare

atma-samyama-yogagnau

juhvati jnana-dipite

 

Meaning

 

Those who are interested in self-realization, in terms of mind and sense control, offer the functions of all the senses, as well as the vital force [breath], as oblations into the fire of the controlled mind.

Explanation

The yoga system conceived by Patanjali is referred to herein. In the Yoga-sutra of Patanjali, the soul is called ‘pratyag-atma’ and ‘parag-atma’. As long as the soul is attached to sense enjoyment, it is called ‘parag-atma’. The soul is subjected to the functions of ten kinds of air at work within the body, and this is perceived through the breathing system. The Patanjali system of yoga instructs one on how to control the functions of the body’s air in a technical manner so that ultimately all the functions of the air within become favourable for purifying the soul of material attachment. According to this yoga system, ‘pratyag-atma’ is the ultimate goal. This ‘pratyag-atma’ is a withdrawal from activities in matter. The senses interact with the sense objects, like the ear for hearing, eyes for seeing, nose for smelling, tongue for tasting, hand for touching, and all of them are thus engaged in activities outside the self. They are called the functions of the ‘prana-vayu’. The ‘apana-vayu’ goes downwards, ‘vyana-vayu’ acts to shrink and expand, ‘samana-vayu’ adjusts equilibrium, ‘udana-vayu’ goes upwards–and when one is enlightened, one engages all these in searching for self-realization.

 

Gita 4.28

 

dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna

yoga-yajnas tathapare

svadhyaya-jnana-yajnas ca

yatayah samsita-vratah

 

Meaning

Others again, offer as sacrifice (yajna) their wealth or their austerities or their Yoga, while others with self-restraint and rigid vows, offer study of the scriptures and knowledge, as sacrifice.

Explanation

These sacrifices may be fitted into various divisions. Some utilize their wealth and material possessions, for the welfare of others, without any selfish motive, by regarding these as of others only. There are persons who are sacrificing their possessions in the form of various kinds of charities and are called dravyamaya-yajna.  Observing fast and keeping mum, etc., are also austerities, as sacrifice. Sacrifice of the comforts of life is called tapomaya-yajna. Those who engage themselves in the studies of different Vedic literatures, specifically the Upanisads and Vedanta-sutras, or the Sankhya philosophy are called svadhyaya-yajna, or engagement in the sacrifice of studies.

Non-violence, truth, non-stealing, celibacy and to refrain from hoarding-these five are yama, the five great vows. These five vows have been very much eulogized, in the scriptures.

 

Gita 4.29

 

apane juhvati pranam

prane ‘panam tathapare

pranapana-gati ruddhva

pranayama-parayanah

apare niyataharah

pranan pranesu juhvati

 

Meaning

And there are even others who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, and they practice stopping the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Some of them, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself, as a sacrifice.

Explanation

This system of yoga for controlling the breathing process is called pranayama. They are recommended for controlling the senses and for advancement in spiritual realization. This practice involves controlling the air within the body to enable simultaneous passage in opposite directions. The apana air goes downward, and the prana air goes up. The pranayama-yogi practices breathing the opposite way until the currents are neutralized into puraka, equilibrium. Similarly, when the exhaled breathing is offered to the inhaled breathing, it is called recaka. When both air currents are completely stopped, it is called kumbhaka-yoga. By practice of kumbhaka-yoga, the yogis increase the duration of life by many, many years.

“Prana” as we know is not only breath but various activities of life in a living body. They are

  1. Functions of perception.
  2. Functions of excretion
  3. Functions of digestion and assimilation
  4. Functions of the circulatory systems which distribute the food to all parts of the body.
  5. Functions of improving the mental and intellectual outlook.

Others practice decreasing their food intake until it becomes minimal using it to offer as a yajna the senses which become greatly weakened due to lack of food. They follow the Vedic injunctions that the stomach should be half filled with food, a quarter filled with water and a quarter filled with air. Others meditate on the mystic sound of Hamsah meaning that I am and I am that in reference to the Supreme, for every breath inhaled meditating on ham as that I am and as every breathe exhaled meditating on sah as I am that. It is a known fact that to the extent that the mind becomes steady through continuous practice to that extent so does the breath, speech, body and the gaze become steady.
Gita 4.30

 

sarve ‘py ete yajna-vido

yajna-ksapita-kalmasah

yajna-sistamrta-bhujo

yanti brahma sanatanam

 

Meaning

All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reaction, and, having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifice, they go to the supreme eternal atmosphere.

Explanation

From the foregoing explanation of different types of sacrifice (namely sacrifice of one’s possessions, study of the Vedas or philosophical doctrines, and performance of the yoga system), it is found that the common aim of all is to control the senses. Sense gratification is the root cause of material existence; therefore, unless and until one is situated on a platform apart from sense gratification, there is no chance of being elevated to the eternal platform of full knowledge, full bliss and full life.

The main idea in these last two slokas is that even to practice pranayama with detachment towards the result and done as karma yoga with the sole intention of liberation, is yajna only. There is mention of twelve kinds of sacrifice from the twenty-fourth verse to the thirtieth verse and they are as follows.

(i) Brahmayajna -Realizing the doer, the action, the instrument and object etc., in every action as Brahma.

(ii) Bhagavadarpanarupa yajna – Assuming all actions and objects only God’s and only for Him.

(iii) Abhinnatarupa yajna -Having total disinclination for the unreal, merger in God viz., having no independent existence of one’s own apart from God. [Kartavya-karmarupa yajna-performance of all actions for the welfare of others.]

(iv) Samyamarupa yajna – In loneliness not to allow the senses to incline mentally towards the sensual objects.

(v) Visaya-havanarupa yajna -In day to day life to keep the senses free from attachment and aversion even when the senses come in contact with sense-objects.

(vi) Samadhirupa yajna – By restraining all the functions of the senses and breath to get established in trance kindled by knowledge.

(vii) Dravya yajna-Utilization of all materials for the service of others in a selfless spirit.

(viii) Tapoyajna-Facing difficulties happily while discharging one’s duty.

(ix) Yoga yajna-To remain equanimous in success and failure, in favourable and unfavourable circumstances.

(x) Svadhyayarupa jnana yajna – Study of the sacred scriptures and chanting the Lord’s holy names etc., for the good of others.

(xi) Pranayamarupa yajna-Control of breaths by ‘puraka’ (inhalation), ‘Kumbhaka’ (retention) and ‘recaka’ (exhalation).

(xii) Stambhavrtti (fourth) pranayama rupa yajna – By regulating the diet, suspension of the acts of inhalation and exhalation.

Gita 4.21

 

nirasir yata-cittatma

tyakta-sarva-parigrahah

sariram kevalam karma

kurvan napnoti kilbisam

 

Meaning

Having no desires, with his mind and body fully subdued, giving up all attachments and possessions, even though performing action necessary for the maintenance of the body, a Karma yogi, incurs no sin.

Explanation

Here Lord Krishna uses the word ‘nirasir’ means bereft of expectancy or devoid of all desires for rewards. The words ‘yata-cittatma’ means to control the mind by the power of the atma or soul, keeping the mind tranquil and equipoised, free from agitation. The words ‘tyakta-sarva-parigrahah’ means abandoning all cravings for sense objects and sense pleasures. As long as one has life one should perform all actions as a matter of duty merely as a function of their body; in this way there are no reactions to actions and no disease is incurred. The disease is samsara or repetitive bondage of birth and death in the material existence.

If a Karma yogi is a recluse, he renounces all worldly possessions. But, if he is a householder, he does not accumulate any worldly object, to derive pleasure out of it. He, by regarding it as the worlds, uses it in rendering service to the world. It is inevitable for every seeker not to hanker after, mundane pleasure. The man of action, being free from hope or desire, is not attached to the performance or non-performance of action, so he incurs no sin, all his actions change into inactions. A Karma yogi, who is given to performing some action, does not indulge in indolence and heedlessness. His mind, senses and body, are under his control. Moreover, he is free from hope, desire and a sense of possession etc. So, forbidden actions cannot be performed by him, and thus he incurs no sin.

An action can leave a mark on the subtle body only when we act with ego-centric consciousness that we are the actors. And these marks can be effective only when our actions are motivated by powerful and strong ego-centric desires.

Gita 4.22

 

yadrccha-labha-santusto

dvandvatito vimatsarah

samah siddhav asiddhau ca

krtvapi na nibadhyate

 

Meaning

He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady both in success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.

Explanation

One who is tranquil and content with whatever spontaneously comes to one on its own accord, to maintain one’s existence is the being who has gone beyond the dualities of material existence. This means that such a being patiently endures pleasure and pain, acceptance and rejection, sadness and happiness and the rest of the opposites which inevitably all mortals must face until one attains the goal of their endeavours which is atma tattva or soul realisation.

A Karma yogi is very cautious, lest he should be envious of any being, because all his actions are performed for the welfare of the world. If he is envious of anyone in the least, his undertakings cannot be for the welfare of the world. Envy is a subtle evil. Even friends, members of a family and businessmen, are seen getting envious of each other, because of each other’s good fortune. Where, there are antagonistic feelings, this evil is found in abundance. Therefore, a seeker should be on his guard against this evil. A Karma yogi transcends the pairs of opposites, such as profit and loss, honour and dishonour, praise and blame, pleasure and pain, and desirable and undesirable circumstances. So, he has a balanced state of mind, free from attachment and aversion etc.

 

Gita 4.23

 

gata-sangasya muktasya

jnanavasthita-cetasah

yajnayacaratah karma

samagram praviliyate

 

Meaning

All actions of a man, who is devoid of attachment, who is liberated, whose mind is established in knowledge of the self, who works for the sake of sacrifice (yajna), are destroyed.

Explanation

When a man performs actions for the welfare of the world, without any selfish motive, he becomes free from attachment, for actions and objects. In the Discipline of Action, renunciation of a sense of mine is important, while in the Discipline of Knowledge, renunciation of ‘egoism’ is important. If a seeker renounces one of these, the other is automatically renounced. In the Discipline of Action, first there is renunciation of a sense of mine and then renunciation of egoism, naturally follows; while in the Discipline of Knowledge, the order is reversed.

 

Gita 4.24

 

brahmarpanam brahma havir

brahmagnau brahmana hutam

brahmaiva tena gantavyam

brahma-karma-samadhina

 

Meaning

A person who is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual kingdom because of his full contribution to spiritual activities, in which the consummation is absolute and that which is offered is of the same spiritual nature. For him, the ladle with which yajna offering is made is Brahman, the fire and the act of offering oblation, is also Brahman. The oblation poured into the fire is also Brahman.

Explanation

The actions performed by a person as offerings and worship to the Supreme Lord are considered inaction as they lead to spiritual intelligence and are not bonded in any way to reactions. For one who has achieved ‘atma tattva’ or soul realisation, all actions are neutralised by knowing that one is not the doer and hence for them even various natural actions are considered inaction. Now Lord Krishna is stating that the transformation of action to inaction is always present in the person who performs all their actions in relation to the Brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. One, whose mind is absorbed in performing all actions as offerings to the Brahman exclusively, attains the Brahman without a doubt.

When we view everything, as nothing other than God, we attain Him. Cultured people, recite this verse while having meals, so that this activity can be changed into a sacrifice (Yajna). When a seeker has his meal, he beholds God, in the following way:-

(i) The hand, with which the food is put into the mouth, is God.

(ii) The food is God.

(iii) He who eats the food is also God.

(iv) The fire, that abides in the stomach, and by which food is digested, is also God.

(v) The action of offering food, to the fire, which abides in the stomach, is also God.

(vi) The fruit of eating, the remnants, (residual food) of the sacrifice, is also God.

 

Gita 4.25

daivam evapare yajnam

yoginah paryupasate

brahmagnav apare yajnam

yajnenaivopajuhvati

 

Meaning

 

Some yogis perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some of them offer sacrifices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.

 

Explanation

Karma yogis or those following the path of prescribed Vedic activities being on a lower platform devotedly worship the demigods such as Indra for rainfall and Surya for sunlight and derive the desired results sought. While the jnana yogis those following the path of cultivating knowledge offer all their oblations such as ghee or clarified butter and food grains exclusively into the fire as offerings to the Brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and this is their yajna or worship to the Supreme.

Of the five kinds of yajna to be performed by a grahasta, man of the world, ‘brahmayajna’, the study of Vedas and acquiring the knowledge of Brahman, ‘devayajna’, the performance of worship like japa, homa and the other activities done to propitiate the divine, ‘pitryajna’ like sraddha and others done towards the pitrs, manes, ‘manushya’ yajna which are services of charity, hospitality and welfare of mankind and ‘bhuta’ yajna, kindness and service to living beings other than humans, deva yajna has been mentioned above.

A Yogi is one who is always trying, through all available means, to raise himself from the state of physical, mental and intellectual imperfections.

 

Gita 4.16

 

kim karma kim akarmeti

kavayo ‘py atra mohitah

tat te karma pravaksyami

yaj jnatva moksyase ‘subhat

 

Meaning

 

What is action? What is inaction? As to this, even the wise are confused. Therefore, I will explain to you what action is, by knowing which, you shall be liberated, from its evil effect (i.e.,) worldly bondage.

 

Explanation

Arjuna might be thinking that if everyone has to perform actions anyway then he will do it because the Lord advised it so; but he may have doubts about his ability to perform actions in the manner that was performed by the great beings of yore. To clarify this Lord Krishna confirms that even those of discrimination and intelligence are bewildered by the subtleties of action and inaction. The actions performed by an aspirant for moksa or liberation are completely different from those seeking rewards for their actions. Because the intricacies of action and inaction are difficult to comprehend. Lord Krishna now promises to explain it definitively, therefore by knowing and performing actions properly one will be freed from the disease of materialism which binds one tightly to samsara the cycle of birth and death.

An action is determined by the motive by which, it is performed. An action, such as adoration of a goddess, is of the mode of goodness, but if it is undertaken with the motive of fulfilling mundane desires, it becomes a mode of passion. If it is undertaken with the motive of someone’s ruin, the same action is, of the mode of ignorance. In the same way, actions which are performed without attachment, a sense of mine and desire for fruits, are classed as inaction, and these do not bind a man, to the fruit of action. It means that truth about action cannot be determined by outward activity only. In this connection, even wise men, possessing knowledge of the scriptures get confused, i.e., they are, at a Loss to understand the truth. An action is classed, as an action or inaction, or is forbidden, according to the motive with which it is performed. Thus performance or non-performance of actions is inaction, if he has no attachment, while performance or non-performance of actions is classed as action, if he has any attachment. A man, (the soul) is bound by actions, so he would also be liberated, by action. The Lord promises here that, He will declare the reality about actions, so that they may not lead him to bondage and he may be liberated from the bondage of the cycle of birth and death.

 

Gita 4.17

 

karmano hy api boddhavyam

boddhavyam ca vikarmanah

akarmanas ca boddhavyam

gahana karmano gatih

 

Meaning

 

The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is, and what inaction is.

 

Explanation

Actions can be divided, into three groups, according to the motive by which these are performed (i.e.,) action, inaction and forbidden action. An activity undertaken, according to spiritual injunctions with a desire for fruit, is called, action. Action which is performed, being free from the desire for fruit, sense of mine and attachment, for the welfare of others, is classed, as inaction. Even prescribed action, performed with the motive of doing evil to others, or giving pain to them, is classed as, forbidden action. A desire is the root of every action. As the desire intensifies, it results in forbidden actions. Therefore it is said that Vikarma is quite near to karma. Therefore, the Lord has referred to forbidden actions, as wretched, so that men may renounce these, as well as the desire which is their main root.

The actual nature of karma or prescribed Vedic actions performed for attaining moksa or liberation from material existence should be understood. Actions which are ‘nitya’ or regular and actions which are ‘naimittika’ or occasional if done with any sense of enjoyment in mind or if they are done with the desire for material rewards should both be known to be ‘vikarma’ or improper actions.

 

Gita 4.18

 

karmany akarma yah pasyed

akarmani ca karma yah

sa buddhiman manusyesu

sa yuktah krtsna-karma-krt

 

Meaning

 

He, who sees inaction in action and action in inaction, is wise among men, he is a Yogi and performs all his duties.

 

Explanation

Seeing inaction in action means, to remain untainted during performance or non-performance of actions. It means also that performance or non-performance of actions is not for the self. When a man thinks that he is the doer and so he should reap the fruit of action, he is bound by such actions. If a seeker has no desire for fruit, new attachment does not arise; and old attachment perishes, when actions are performed for the welfare of others. Thus, he becomes, totally dispassionate. This dispassionate nature turns all actions into inaction.

If a person does nothing for himself, and has no desire, he gets detached from all actions and objects etc., because all objects and materials etc., such as the body, senses, mind, intellect and life-breaths are of the world, not one’s own as these have been acquired from the world, so that service may be rendered to the world with these. Therefore when a seeker performs all actions (service, adoration, chant, meditation, etc.) for the welfare of the world, the flow of action is towards the world and the seeker, remains detached and untainted. This is seeing inaction in action.

In the Discipline of Action, there is performance or non-performance of action, for the welfare of the world without attachment, because, while performing actions, one should remain detached and while remaining detached, one should perform actions-these two aspects are the principles of the Gita.

 

Gita 4.19

 

yasya sarve samarambhah

kama-sankalpa-varjitah

jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam

tam ahuh panditam budhah

 

Meaning

He, whose undertakings are free from Sankalpa and desire and whose actions are burnt up in the fire of wisdom, him the seers, call wise (Pandita).

 

Explanation

All actions of a ‘Karmayogi’ are free from resolve and desire. ‘Sankalpa’ and desire are the two seeds of action. If they are no longer there, action becomes inaction, that is to say, actions lose their binding potentiality. In a liberated soul, these two are absent, so actions performed by that are not binding. Even though, he does everything, in order to maintain social order and protect the chain of social obligations, yet he is quite untainted with his actions, whatsoever.

There are four states of a motor car.

1. When a motor car stands still, in the garage, its engine does not function and the wheels don’t move forward.

2. The engine starts functioning, but the wheels do not move forward (it’s all loss and no gain).

3. The engine functions and the wheels move and cover some distance.

4. On a downward slope, the engine is stopped, while the wheels move and cover a distance (it’s all gain and no cost).

Similarly, a man may have four states-

1. Neither desire, nor action.

2. Desire but no action (it’s all loss and no gain).

3. Desire as well as action.

4. Action, but no desire (it’s all gain and no cost).

The best state of a motor car is the fourth one, when the car runs, but no petrol is consumed. Similar, is the case with man.

The best state is when he performs action, without having any desire. Even the wise call such a man a sage.

As a lotus leaf in spite of being born in water and living constantly in touch with it, is not tainted by water, so does a Karmayogi, in spite of being born in a life-of-action (human life) and in spite of living, in this world of actions, while performing actions, does not get attached to these. Detachment from actions is not an easy task. Therefore, the Lord, in the eighteenth verse, has called him wise among men, while here He declares that the wise call him a sage. It means that such a Karmayogi is the wisest among the wise.

 

Gita 4.20

 

tyaktva karma-phalasangam

nitya-trpto nirasrayah

karmany abhipravrtto ‘pi

naiva kincit karoti sah

 

Meaning

One having abandoned attachment to actions and their fruit, ever content, without any kind of dependence, he does nothing even though fully engaged in action.

Explanation

If a man thinks, that he is the doer while performing action, regards the body and the senses etc., as his, considers the action as his and for him and expects its fruit, then, he becomes the cause of fruit of action. But an enlightened soul, totally renounces his affinity for the mundane materials and so he is not, in the least, attached to materials for action, to action and to the fruits of action. Thus, he does not become the cause of the fruit of action. Even a king or an emperor, has to depend on circumstances, time, objects and persons etc. But an enlightened soul does not depend on these, because having realized the self or God, he remains satisfied in the self, whether he acquires anything or not.

He, who is attached to the fruit of action, cannot perform actions, scrupulously, because a lot of his energy is wasted, by thinking of the fruit. So long as a man has the sense of doer-ship, during the performance of action or non-performance of action, he remains a doer. But when the sense of doer-ship is wiped out, he does nothing at all or his action or inaction never comes under the category of action at all.

Gita 4.11

 

ye yatha mam prapadyante

tams tathaiva bhajamy aham

mama vartmanuvartante

manusyah partha sarvasah

 

Meaning

 

O Partha! However, the way devotees worship Me, so do I approach them; for all men ultimately follow My path.

 

Explanation

In whatever form one seeks the Lord, He appears in the same form to the devotee. The criticism of Hinduism being pantheistic is proved wrong by this. There is only one God who can be called by any name or conceived in any form; provided the worshipper remembers that He is not limited to that name or form. The Lord who is everywhere, in and out of all being is naturally present also in the particular form in which one thinks of Him. So Krishna affirms that all men follow His path only. If a devotee thinks of Him, as his preceptor, He becomes an excellent preceptor. Similarly, God becomes a worthy father, mother, son, brother, friend or even, an obedient servant, according to the desire of the devotee. If a devotee feels restless without God, He also becomes restless without, His devotee. If a devotee takes one step towards God, God may take hundreds of strides to meet him. The Lord is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Moreover, He is His devotee’s supreme and unselfish friend and true to His resolve. A devotee should use his full power to attain Him, and then the Lord is attained, through His limitless power.

A car gets its power from fuel. The same power can be used to drive the car and reach home safely or drive recklessly and reach a hospital bed with broken bones. This depends on you, the driver. Similarly divine power resides in you, use it wisely. This is what means when the Lord declares “I lend my power to all without any partiality in whatever form they invoke me”.

Egoistic notions and selfishness are the stumbling blocks to devotion for God. When a man loves anyone, without egoism and selfishness, that love automatically flows towards the Lord. It is because of egoism and selfishness, that his love is confined to narrow limits.

 

Gita 4.12

kanksantah karmanam siddhim

yajanta iha devatah

ksipram hi manuse loke

siddhir bhavati karma-ja

 

Meaning

 

Those who desire the fruit of their actions, worship the gods; because success is quickly attained, by men through action.

 

Explanation

It may be questioned that since Lord Krishna is the exclusive awarder of moksa or liberation from the cycle of birth and death; then why is it that most people are obliviously worshipping lesser gods instead of Him? The reason He answers is factual. People worship the lesser gods because they desire material benefits which is what the lesser gods can give. Worshipping lesser gods for wealth, dominion, a beautiful wife, a powerful son, such efforts easily bring quick results and the desired rewards. But moksa or liberation is only achieved as a result of cultivating Vedic knowledge about the Supreme Lord and thus it is hard to attain.

The Lord is like, a father, while the gods are like shopkeepers. We can take a thing from a shopkeeper, only by paying the money but we can take it from the father, free of cost. Similarly, we have to perform rituals according to scriptural methods for gods, in order to obtain fruits from them, while God bestows upon us our necessities, free of cost. Moreover, as a shopkeeper gives even hazardous things, such as, a match box or a knife etc., to a boy on payment, but if the boy wants such things from his father, the latter will not only refuse but take away, the money also. A father gives only beneficial things to a boy. In spite of this fact, the ignorant or dull-witted people, because of their attachment, sense of mine and desire for the perishable materials, worship other gods, as they do not realise the glory, the benevolence and selflessness, friendliness of the Lord.

 

Gita 4.13

 

catur-varnyam maya srstam

guna-karma-vibhagasah

tasya kartaram api mam

viddhy akartaram avyayam

 

Meaning

The four orders of society are created by Me according to the differences in their attitude and actions. Though I am the creator, know me to be a non-agent of action and immutable.

 

Explanation

 

This is one of the most misinterpreted stanzas of the Bhagavad Gita. Antagonists attribute Lord Krishna’s action to the ills of the society that is plaguing these days. Even political parties are divided based on castes in India. Lord Krishna clearly states here that the division is based on their attitudes, mental attributes and work. In Yoga sastra mental temperaments are associated with colour. Sattva is considered white, Rajas is red and Tamas black. Krishna refers this as varna (colour)and people perform actions based on these mental temperaments. However over a period of time, this has been changed to division by birth. And superiority assigned to Brahmans, then Kshatriyas, vaisyas and shudras.

The Brahmins or priestly class have a preponderance of sattva guna or mode of goodness and having their mind and senses under control their duties are to spiritually guide mankind in righteousness. The Kshatriya or royal warrior class possesses some sattva but have a preponderance of rajas guna or mode of passion and their duties are to protect dharma or righteousness from the influence of evil and to protect humanity from demoniac forces. The vaisyas possess some rajas but have a preponderance of tama-guna or mode of ignorance and their duties are farming, agriculture, trade and cow protection. The sudra or lower class possess only a preponderance for tama guna and their duty is to serve the three previous classes to earn their livelihood. So although Lord Krishna is the origin of them all it should be understood that He is not affected by any of them the reason being that He is immutable, imperishable, eternal and transcendental to prakriti or material nature.

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, beginning with the intelligent class of men, technically called Brahmans due to their being situated in the mode of goodness. Next is the administrative class, technically called the Kshatriyas due to their being situated in the mode of passion. The mercantile men, called the vaisyas, are situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance, and the sudras, or labourer class, are situated in the ignorant mode of material nature. In spite of His creating the four divisions of human society, Lord Krishna does not belong to any of these divisions, because He is not one of the conditioned souls, a section of whom forms human society.

In an organization all jobs and positions are important and critical for its success. A sales person is as important as the sales manager and so are the Peon and the President. They should all be complimenting each other and not competing or fighting. Similarly in a society also we need different classes of people with different skill sets and temperament to do different functions. It is almost difficult to say which caste is better than the other as the other caste will not survive without this one.

 

Gita 4.14

 

na mam karmani limpanti

na me karma-phale sprha

iti mam yo ‘bhijanati

karmabhir na sa badhyate

 

Meaning

Actions do not affect Me nor do I have desire for the fruit of action. The one who knows Me as such is also not bound by actions.

 

Explanation

Lord Krishna is declaring that actions do not bind Him as He has no desires to the rewards of any actions. This is not to imply that He does not want the best for creation but only He is equipoise to prakriti or material nature. Even though the Supreme Lord wills the creation into existence and always is the protector of dharma or eternal righteousness and out of His causeless mercy has the best wishes for its development He is not attached to it. This knowledge of this attribute of the Supreme Lord removes one’s own misconceptions of attachment and craving for rewards to the point where one’s desires are not binding by performing prescribed Vedic activities exclusively.

As there are constitutional laws in the material world stating that the king can do no wrong, or that the king is not subject to the state laws, similarly the Lord, although He is the creator of this material world, is not affected by the activities of the material world. He creates and remains aloof from the creation, whereas the living entities are entangled in the fruitive results of material activities because of their propensity for lording it over material resources. For advancement of sense gratification, the living entities are engaged in the work of this world, and they aspire to heavenly happiness after death. The Lord, being full in Himself, has no attraction for so-called heavenly happiness. For example, the rains are not responsible for different types of vegetation that appear on the earth, although without such rains there is no possibility of vegetative growth.

 

Gita 4.15

 

evam jnatva krtam karma

purvair api mumuksubhih

kuru karmaiva tasmat tvam

purvaih purvataram krtam

 

Meaning

 

All the liberated souls in ancient times acted with this understanding and so attained liberation. Therefore, as the ancients, you should perform your duty in this divine consciousness.

Explanation

 

So Lord Krishna sums up His conclusion for this theme by stating that having known that He is completely free from desire and attachment although performing such magnificent activities like creation of all the worlds He is never implicated by it. But great beings like Manu and Janaka performed actions according to the injunctions of the Vedic scriptures and being free from egoism without desire for rewards also achieved moksa or liberation as such actions are never binding. Therefore Arjuna and anyone else should perform such actions following in their footsteps as they have come down through the ages in parampara or disciplined succession.

It is mentioned in the scriptures, that when desire for liberation is aroused in a seeker, he should abandon actions, because in that case, he becomes eligible to attain knowledge (wisdom), rather than to perform actions. But here, He urges Arjuna, a seeker of liberation, to perform his duty in a disinterested manner, and cites the example of other ancient seekers of liberation. In order to follow the path of Karma yoga the seeker must be very clear as to which actions will lead him to bondage and which will secure release from bondage.

Gita 4.6

 

ajo ‘pi sann avyayatma

bhutanam isvaro ‘pi san

prakrtim svam adhisthaya

sambhavamy atma-mayaya

 

Meaning

 

Though I am unborn, of imperishable nature, the Lord of all beings, yet, subordinating My nature (prakriti), I manifest Myself, through My Yogamaya (divine potency).

 

Explanation

 

The Supreme Lord Krishna assumes forms suitable to time, place and circumstances in regards to celestial being the demigods and terrestrial being humans. He manifests himself as if He were of their nature according to His desire. Being unborn He yet incarnates in many forms whenever and wherever He chooses whereas for material beings they are forcefully born impelled by their karma or the bondage caused from reactions to past actions. Next the time of manifestation for the avatars or incarnations will be indicated. He incarnates Himself, as Lord Rama or Krishna etc., displays His sports as a child, and an adolescent and then continues to be an adolescent with a healthy and handsome body, without undergoing any change for hundreds of years. He works, as a chariot-driver of Arjuna, and obeys him, yet His Lordliness, over Arjuna and other beings remains intact. That is why, in spite of being a charioteer, He preaches him, the gospel of the Gita. Lord Rama carries out the order of His father, Dasaratha and goes into exile for fourteen years, yet His Lordliness over Dasaratha and other beings, has not suffered, in the least.

 

Gita 4.7

 

yada yada hi dharmasya

glanir bhavati bharata

abhyutthanam adharmasya

tadatmanam srjamy aham

 

Meaning

 

Whenever, there is a decline in righteousness and an upsurge in unrighteousness, O Arjuna, I then manifest Myself.

 

Explanation

 

No fixed time schedule has been mandated for Lord Krishna to manifest Himself in His avatar forms or authorised incarnations but he declares beginning with ‘yada yada’ which means that: whenever or wherever dharma or righteousness decreases and unrighteousness increases and becomes dominant, at that time Lord Krishna or any of His authorised incarnations descends and becomes manifest.

When righteous, innocent, weak: pious and spiritual people, are exploited by unrighteous, cruel, strong, wicked and mundane people, and when moral values are lost and immorality prevails-that state, is the state of a decline of righteousness, and upsurge of unrighteousness. Whenever, there is a decline of righteousness and rise of’ unrighteousness, then the Lord manifests Himself for the destruction of unrighteousness and for the establishment of righteousness. When actions are performed with a selfish motive i.e., for reward, there is a decline of righteousness; and when a man, having deviated from his duty performs forbidden action there is rise of unrighteousness. It is desire, which is the root of all unrighteousness, sins and injustice etc. Therefore, God manifests Himself, in order to root out this desire and propagate the principle of the performance of actions, without expectation of any reward.

 

Gita 4.8

 

paritranaya sadhunam

vinasaya ca duskrtam

dharma-samsthapanarthaya

sambhavami yuge yuge

 

Meaning

For the protection of the good as for the destruction of the wicked and for the establishment of righteousness, I manifest myself from age to age.

 

Explanation

 

The purpose of incarnation is explained here. When there is dearth of dharma and abundance of adharma the Lord manifests Himself to protect the good and to punish the wicked. God manifests Himself, in order to protect the good, because they destroy unrighteousness and propagate righteousness. Reasons of Lord Krishna’s avatars or incarnations are: 1) for protecting the virtuous 2) for destroying the wicked 3) for re-establishing dharma or eternal righteousness which had become obscured.

Those who, because of many desires, remain absorbed in vices, such as falsehood, fraud, deception and dishonesty etc. Those who exploit the virtuous and good persons; those who remain engaged in doing evil to others; those who do not know what ought to be done and what ought not to be done; and those, who always condemn God and the scriptures, such persons, of demoniac nature, have been called wicked. The Lord manifests Himself for the destruction of such wicked persons.

 

Gita 4.9

 

janma karma ca me divyam

evam yo vetti tattvatah

tyaktva deham punar janma

naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna

 

SYNONYMS

 

Meaning

He who thus knows in reality the true nature of My divine birth and action, and he having abandoned the body, is not reborn; but he comes to Me, O Arjuna.

 

Explanation

The Lord is beyond birth and death, He is birth-less and imperishable. His manifestation in human body is not like the birth of common men. He manifests Himself of His own accord in order to stage the drama of human life, for the welfare of beings. It is because of the Lord’s divine nature that He descends to this mortal world, in order to shower His grace upon beings. Those who know this fact become His devotees and then remain absorbed only in His adoration or devotion. This devotion, leads to salvation. Similarly, when a man knows the divine nature of His actions then his actions also become divine viz., pure and then these lead him, as well as others, to God-realization (salvation) as he renounces his affinity for the world. It is the affinity, which is an obstacle to salvation or God-realization.

Carelessness and indolence in the performance of actions and the desire for fruit of actions are the main stumbling blocks to God-realization. If actions are performed without the desire for fruit in rendering service to others, the affinity for actions is renounced and we realize our affinity for God which is naturally eternal.

Gita 4.10

 

vita-raga-bhaya-krodha

man-maya mam upasritah

bahavo jnana-tapasa

puta mad-bhavam agatah

 

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 purified by knowledge of Me–and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.

 

Explanation

In the previous verse Lord Krishna declares that those that truly know Him attain Him. Now the question may be raised,  is there any requirements necessary for attaining Him or does it mean that oneness with Him in His abode transpires automatically with knowledge of Him. To clear this up Lord Krishna states: vita-raga-bhaya-krodha meaning completely freed from passion, fear and anger. Passion is attachment to the opposite sex and children and family life. 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. This clearly indicates that jnana yoga or the cultivation of knowledge is essential for the mind to control the senses.

All three paths of attaining salvation is mentioned here, the path of action, path of knowledge and path of love. All paths are fundamentally meant to purify our mind and make it steady and single pointed.