CHAPTER IV

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Introduction

OVERVIEW – REFINED ACTION I Atman – the real Guru 1-8 II Atman and Action 9-17 III Actions do not Bind the Enlightened 18-23 IV The 12 Yajnas (sacrifices) 24-30 V Yajnas Culminate in Wisdom 31-37 VI Therefore Gain Wisdom 38-42 […]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 1 & Verse 2

1. Krishna speaks of the unique guru-shishya-parampara or preceptor-disciple lineage. He says – I taught Vivasvan, the sun god, of the illustrious surya vamsha or solar dynasty. Vivasvan taught Manu, famous for his Manu Smrti or code of conduct. Manu gave it to Ikshvaku, the first king of the solar dynasty. Rama belonged to the Ikshvaku kula or family. Arjuna is inspired but confused as he cannot understand how Krsna could have taught Vivasvan who lived many centuries before Him!   2. There are four sources of knowledge: Pratyaksha – Direct perception. You see the Taj Mahal in Agra for yourself. Anumana – Inference. You see smoke and infer fire. Upamana – Comparison. You compare living standards of India and the US Agama – Tradition. Great sages over the ages have declared the same Truth. Here Krsna is falling back on the tradition laid down by generations of rajarishis, royal sages like Dasharatha, Rama, Janaka and others. They were kingly without but sagely within. They lived in utter luxury yet had perfect control over their mind and senses. They had knowledge of the Self. Krsna says 5000 years back that over time these values had eroded. This is exactly what has happened in modern times. He addresses Arjuna as Parantapa, scorcher of enemies. The implication to us is – you have the capacity to overcome challenges in life. You cannot let this happen. You must revitalize this great knowledge, and re-install it in the hearts and minds of people [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 3 & Verse 4

3. Arjuna has not fully understood Verse 2 so Krsna elaborates on it. He gives two reasons for giving this timeless knowledge to Arjuna. Arjuna is His 1. Bhakta devotee. He had totally surrendered to Krsna and asked for help in the second chapter. The teacher is then obliged to give the knowledge. 2. Sakha friend. Krsna and Arjuna were close friends since childhood. As a friend Arjuna has confidence in Him and is open to new ideas, keen to learn. Thus Arjuna meets with the two qualifications a disciple needs to have and Krsna is set to give him the supreme secret. Supreme as it is the highest and best knowledge with which one knows everything that needs to be known. Secret because it is beyond the scope of the intellect. It is unknown and profound. Power can be tamed by external authority where the law reins in people in positions of power. Here it is byAtmabalam, the authority of Atman. This is achieved by buddhibalam, the strength of the intellect. It results inbahubalam, a healthy body. A good leader inspires the followers to unfold their infinite potential and become greater than they can visualize.   4. Arjuna asks a question and addresses Krsna as bhavata and twam. Bhavata is a respectful address while one saystwam to a friend. It is like saying aap and tum in Hindi while speaking to the same person! Arjuna acknowledges that Krsna is his guru as well as friend. Arjuna views Krsna [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 5 & Verse 6

5. Krsna answers that both He and Arjuna have passed through many births. The only difference is that He knows them all while Arjuna does not know. Birth and death go on and on until you reach Realisation. During this time your knowledge is confined to your equipments and the environment you are placed in. In other words you know only the present. You cannot tap into the past or penetrate into the future. You know only what your body, mind and intellect perceive now. You are conscious of perceptions, emotions and thoughts. You are aware of colour and form, feelings and thoughts. You have knowledge of the body, mind and intellect and their interactions with the world. You have no access to objectless Awareness or pure Knowledge. Pure Consciousness illumines and enables all experiences of the past, present and future. Not just yours but of all living beings including birds, fishes, worms and insects. When you realize your Self you become pure Consciousness. You are then sarvajna and sarvavit. You know everything, everywhere, in all beings. Arjuna is a limited human being and knows only experiences that come from conditioned consciousness. Krsna is an enlightened Soul. He knows everything.   6. Krsna goes on to describe Atman as: Aja – Unborn. Waves have birth and death. Ocean is unborn and has no death. Ornaments have birth and death. Gold is unborn and cannot die. Similarly beings have birth and death. Consciousness that enlivens beings is unborn. Birth means [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 7 & Verse 8

7. Krsna gives His solemn word that whenever dharma righteousness declines and adharma unrighteousness increases ‘I will manifest Myself’. ‘I’ does not mean the personality of Krsna. An Enlightened Person will appear who will help shift the balance towards the good. Whenever there is disruption in society and values are lost, no politician or scholar can help. It is only resurrection of values in the common man that helps restore the balance. Hence the urgent need for values to be spread to all sections of society. Krsna is merely stating the law of demand and supply. When corruption and immorality take over there is a demand in society for values. Then a great master appears who restores the balance. In India there has been a greater demand for spirituality so there have been enlightened Gurus in every generation who have led society out of darkness and into light. Dharma is one of the four ends of human existence as explained in Vedanta. It means many things. It could signify an external code of ethics. It may denote higher values indicated by your inner compass, the conscience. Or it could be the Divine nature of a human being. In this context it means righteousness, uprightness, honesty. The world is a mix of virtue and vice, good and evil. It will always be so. It is only the relative strengths of the two that vary. When spirituality is on the rise and life becomes easy people fall prey to temptation and [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 9 & Verse 10

9. This verse seems to contradict the previous one in which Krsna categorically says – I am born in every age. Here He declares that One who has realized the Self is not born again. If ‘I’ is understood as an enlightened Person there is no contradiction. In every age some realizes Soul appears to lead humanity to spiritual development. The word yah, one who, indicates the universality of the message and its scientific basis. Anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time who meets with these criteria is accepted as a realized Master. One who understands how the inactive, unmanifest Atman has come into manifestation in essence has become Atman. One who understands the relationship between Atman and action. Not theoretical knowledge but wisdom. Atman is inactive. It enables the body to act, mind to feel and intellect to think. Without Atman the body, mind and intellect cannot operate. Just as electricity enables all electrical gadgets to function, remaining immaculate by itself. Fuel enables all cars to move, by itself remaining immobile. Having abandoned the body means having given up vasanas, the causal body, the very cause of your birth.Vasanas or desires need the subtle and gross bodies for their fulfillment. They cause rebirth. When the body and environment are no longer conducive for the gratification of desires nature gives you a fresh lease of life. You give up the present body and environment and take up another that is more favourable for desire-fulfilment. The root cause of [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 11 & Verse 12

11. When Krsna says ‘Me’ He means Atman. The Self in Krsna is the same Self in all. It is the enabling factor that facilitates the perception of the senses, action of the body, feeling of the mind and thinking of the intellect. Atman is the very source of all activity. People perform action according to their own nature for their own ends. A mahatma meditates in the Himalayas to reach God. A criminal engages in crime. A politician acts for power. Atman enables all activities. Hence all people tread My path. Just as gasoline empowers all movement of all cars. It supports good as well as bad driving. You have a choice, indicated by Krsna’s posture. He holds a stick in one hand and makes the jnana mudra with the other. Jnana mudra is when the pointing finger dissociates from the other three fingers and touches the thumb. Krsna, the cowherd, would take the cattle out for grazing during the day and bring them back at sundown. This represents taking your senses to graze in the world for sensual enjoyment. The jnana mudra indicates the ego moving away from body, mind, intellect and surrendering to Atman. The thumb, being the most important finger, represents the Divine. You have the option of chasing after mere sensual pleasure or working towards your spiritual growth. Both are empowered by Atman. Therefore, be careful in your choices. Think and opt for long term happiness and not just momentary, trifling joys.   12. [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 13 & Verse 14

13. The four varnas castes are based on the proportion of sattva, rajas and tamas in a person. The caste system is a classification that allocates vocations according to one’s inner mental composition, not by birth. It is dynamic and changes with one’s proportion of gunas. It is not a water-tight compartmentalization. Brahmanas, the highest category, are predominantly sattvika with a little rajas and a dash of tamas. Ksatriyas are mainly rajasika with a fair amount of sattva and increased levels of tamas. Vaisyas have rajas, but less sattva and more tamas. Sudras are predominantly tamasika with a little rajas and traces of sattva. Accordingly, Brahmanas naturally become teachers, philosophers, advisers, authors, poets and intellectuals. Ksatriyas are the warrior class – kings, administrators, rulers. Vaisyas are traders, engaged in business and industry. And sudras do manual work. These classes exist in all societies. The Brahmanas were the visionaries who maintained the ethics and moral fibre among people. Hence they were at the top of the pyramid. Even kings came second to them. Every king had an in-house sage who would be consulted on every important issue. Thus ancient India was led by men and women of wisdom, not wealth. This made for the Golden Age in Indian history. The decline began when power went in the hands of the wealthy. People have their own unique combination of gunas and perform action as per their gunas. ‘Even though I am their creator, know Me as the non-doer and indestructible.” Pure [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 15 & Verse 16

15. In this verse Krsna makes an emotional appeal, a distinct departure from the trend so far. Arjuna has respect for tradition so Krsna says even the ancient seekers of liberation performed action. You also act as your ancestors did. The Self, Atman, is the source of action but is not responsible for the quality of action and has no desire to perform action. Atman has no interest in acquiring or enjoying the fruit of action. Atman remains unaffected by the result of action. Just as gold has no desire to become a bracelet. It has no interest in acquiring because wherever the bracelet goes gold remains. Gold is not affected by the design of the bracelet. You are Atman. You have no desire to do anything. You have nothing to acquire or enjoy. And you are unconcerned with the fruit. Knowing this, perform actions detachedly. Detachment is not indifference. You are either indifferent or attached to action. When you are attached to Atman and perform action only to get to Atman you act enthusiastically, energetically, excitedly, but detachedly. Like an actor on stage who performs his role brilliantly while being totally unaffected. Ignorant people must act for atmasuddhi self-purification. The wise act for lokasangraha welfare of the world.   16. Even the wise who have not reached Enlightenment are deluded about action and inaction. When you know clearly what karma and akarma are you know Atman. You have reached Realisation. There are two interpretations of the terms karma [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 17 & Verse 18

17. Action should be known – niyatam karma obligatory action, positive action that results in self-purification. Niyatam karma falls in two categories – nitya karma or constant, regular, routine duties and naimittika karma or occasional, special duties that arise out of an extraordinary situation. Vikarma needs to be known – prohibited, negative actions that the conscience does not permit. Most importantly, you must know akarma, the inactive Principle that enables all activity. It is imperative that you know these three as only the human being has been blessed with a choice of action. Since you have the choice you must know how to choose wisely. The choice is between actions that take you to the highest state of Perfection and those that take you down to decline and moral decadence. Action is gahana – deep, incomprehensible. Trace action to its root. Why do you act in a particular way? Desire prompts it. How did the desire come? From thought. Why did you get the thought? Vasana caused it. Vasana is deep-rooted inclination, inherent nature, inborn urge, intrinsic aptitude. How did the vasana arise? From past action. This loop of vasana leading to thought, desire, action and back again to vasana can be broken by setting aside desire and performing obligatory action. Thus your personality gets purified of vasanas and you evolve. Knowledge of Atman, the inactive Power that enables all actions, removes all vasanas and you get to the state of Self Realisation.   18. Krsna follows the basic [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 19 & Verse 20

19. The wise call such a person a sage. Ordinary people do not recognize the greatness of the person. You have to be spiritually evolved to spot an Enlightened person. Only a cricketer of high calibre understands a brilliant shot. A musician can appreciate an outstanding musical performance. As the saying goes – you need a Milton to understand Milton! A pandita sage is one who acts renouncing kama desire which comes from the past and sankalpa expectation of fruit in the future. Past worry and future anxiety drain you of energy and vitality. They interfere with present action. Weighed down by these two a student makes errors in an exam, a job aspirant messes up at the interview and a chef blunders while cooking! The craving to perform action and anxiety for the fruit of action needs to be renounced, not action. Give up kartrtva bhavana and bhoktrtva bhavana - the sense of doership and enjoyership. This leads to failure in life. One who continues to act giving up desire and expectation is freed. His actions get burnt by the fire of Knowledge. Action means desire, vasana. Knowledge sublimates all desires. When a child grows into a teenager all desires for toys get sublimated. So you need knowledge of the higher, the highest being Atman. Then all lower desires and attachments vanish. Ignorant people must act for atmasuddhi self-purification. The wise act for lokasangraha welfare of the world.   20. This verse speaks of gaining harmony with the [...]

Bhagavad Gita Chapter IV – Verse 21 & Verse 22

21. Here Krsna speaks of being harmonious with the inner state. Nirasi – Without expectations. The intellect is not scheming and planning to fulfil desires. The focus is on the higher and actions are channelised to that goal. So the body does not chase after sensual pleasures, the mind does not crave for emotional satisfaction and the intellect does not yearn for academic delights. Yatacittatma – Body and mind controlled. When the mind is engaged with the higher you are naturally self-controlled, not operating on likes and dislikes. When there is no sense control and the mind goes berserk you create problems. Tyaktasarvaparigraha – having abandoned all possessions. It is not possessions but possessiveness that you need to give up. You acquire objects and enter into relationships in order to enjoy them. But possessiveness robs you of the pleasure. Possess the whole world but maintain a dispossessive attitude towards it. Then you will enjoy what you possess fully. You miss the splendour and magnificence of renunciation when you just drop possessions. Besides it leads to frustration and bitterness. There are three types of actions – Selfish actions - actions directed to the well being of only your body, mind and intellect. Unselfish actions – you accomodate the interests of others as well as your own. Selfless actions are directed towards Enlightenment. Then you do not incur sin – actions carry on but they do not rebound on you as more vasanas. Vasanas create mental agitation which is sinful.   [...]

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