Bhagavad-gītā As It Is
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Supreme Personality of Godhead said; imam—this; vivasvate—unto the sun-god; yogam—the science of one’s relationship to the Supreme; proktavān—instructed; aham—I; avyayam—imperishable; vivasvān—Vivasvān (the sun-god’s name); manave—unto the father of mankind (of the name Vaivasvata); prāha—told; manuḥ—the father of mankind; ikṣvākave—unto King Ikṣvāku; abravīt—said.
The Blessed Lord said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku.
Herein we find the history of the Bhagavad-gītā traced from a remote time when it was delivered to the royal order, the kings of all planets. This science is especially meant for the protection of the inhabitants and therefore the royal order should understand it in order to be able to rule the citizens and protect them from the material bondage to lust. Human life is meant for cultivation of spiritual knowledge, in eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the executive heads of all states and all planets are obliged to impart this lesson to the citizens by education, culture and devotion. In other words, the executive heads of all states are intended to spread the science of Kṛṣṇa consciousness so that the people may take advantage of this great science and pursue a successful path, utilizing the opportunity of the human form of life.
In this millennium, the sun-god is known as Vivasvān, the king of the sun, which is the origin of all planets within the solar system. In the Brahma-saṁhitā [Bs. 5.52] it is stated:
yac-cakṣur eṣa savitā sakala-grahāṇāṁ
rājā samasta-sura-mūrttir aśeṣa-tejāḥ
yasyājñayā bhramati sambhṛta-kālacakro
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“Let me worship,” Lord Brahmā said, “the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Kṛṣṇa], who is the original person and under whose order the sun, which is the king of all planets, is assuming immense power and heat. The sun represents the eye of the Lord and traverses its orbit in obedience to His order.”
The sun is the king of the planets, and the sun-god (at present of the name Vivasvān) rules the sun planet, which is controlling all other planets by supplying heat and light. He is rotating under the order of Kṛṣṇa, and Lord Kṛṣṇa originally made Vivasvān His first disciple to understand the science of Bhagavad-gītā. The Gītā is not, therefore, a speculative treatise for the insignificant mundane scholar but is a standard book of knowledge coming down from time immemorial. In the Mahābhārata (Śānti-parva 348.51–52) we can trace out the history of the Gītā as follows:
tretā-yugādau ca tato vivasvān manave dadau
manuś ca loka-bhṛty-arthaṁ sutāyekṣvākave dadau
ikṣvākuṇā ca kathito vyāpya lokān avasthitāḥ
“In the beginning of the Tretā-yuga [millennium] this science of the relationship with the Supreme was delivered by Vivasvān to Manu. Manu, being the father of mankind, gave it to his son Mahārāja Ikṣvāku, the King of this earth planet and forefather of the Raghu dynasty in which Lord Rāmacandra appeared. Therefore, Bhagavad-gītā existed in the human society from the time of Mahārāja Ikṣvāku.”
At the present moment we have just passed through five thousand years of the Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years. Before this there was Dvāpara-yuga (800,000 years), and before that there was Tretā-yuga (1,200,000 years). Thus, some 2,005,000 years ago, Manu spoke the Bhagavad-gītā to his disciple and son Mahārāja lkṣvāku, the King of this planet earth. The age of the current Manu is calculated to last some 305,300,000 years, of which 120,400,000 have passed. Accepting that before the birth of Manu, the Gītā was spoken by the Lord to His disciple, the sun-god Vivasvān, a rough estimate is that the Gītā was spoken at least 120,400,000 years ago; and in human society it has been extant for two million years. It was respoken by the Lord again to Arjuna about five thousand years ago. That is the rough estimate of the history of the Gīta, according to the Gītā itself and according to the version of the speaker, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It was spoken to the sun-god Vivasvān because he is also a kṣatriya and is the father of all kṣatriyas who are descendants of the sun-god, or the sūrya-vaṁśa kṣatriyas. Because Bhagavad-gītā is as good as the Vedas, being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this knowledge is apauruṣeya, superhuman. Since the Vedic instructions are accepted as they are, without human interpretation, the Gītā must therefore be accepted without mundane interpretation. The mundane wranglers may speculate on the Gītā in their own ways, but that is not Bhagavad-gītā as it is. Therefore, Bhagavad-gītā has to be accepted as it is, from the disciplic succession, and it is described herein that the Lord spoke to the sun-god, the sun-god spoke to his son Manu, and Manu spoke to his son Ikṣvāku.
imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ
sa kāleneha mahatā
yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
evam—thus; paramparā—disciplic succession; prāptam—received; imam—this science; rājarṣayaḥ—the saintly kings; viduḥ—understood; saḥ—that knowledge; kālena—in the course of time; iha—in this world; mahatā—by great; yogaḥ—the science of one’s relationship with the Supreme; naṣṭaḥ—scattered; parantapa—O Arjuna, subduer of the enemies.
This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.
It is clearly stated that the Gītā was especially meant for the saintly kings because they were to execute its purpose in ruling over the citizens. Certainly Bhagavad-gītā was never meant for the demonic persons, who would dissipate its value for no one’s benefit and would devise all types of interpretations according to personal whims. As soon as the original purpose was scattered by the motives of the unscrupulous commentators, there arose the need to reestablish the disciplic succession. Five thousand years ago it was detected by the Lord Himself that the disciplic succession was broken, and therefore He declared that the purpose of the Gītā appeared to be lost. In the same way, at the present moment also there are so many editions of the Gītā (especially in English), but almost all of them are not according to authorized disciplic succession. There are innumerable interpretations rendered by different mundane scholars, but almost all of them do not accept the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, although they make a good business on the words of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This spirit is demonic, because demons do not believe in God but simply enjoy the property of the Supreme. Since there is a great need of an edition of the Gītā in English, as it is received by the paramparā (disciplic succession) system, an attempt is made herewith to fulfill this great want. Bhagavad-gītā—accepted as it is—is a great boon to humanity; but if it is accepted as a treatise of philosophical speculations, it is simply a waste of time.
sa evāyaṁ mayā te ’dya
yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ
bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti
rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam
saḥ—the same ancient; eva—certainly; ayam—this; mayā—by Me; te—unto you; adya—today; yogaḥ—the science of yoga; proktaḥ—spoken; purātanaḥ—very old; bhaktaḥ—devotee; asi—you are; me—My; sakhā—friend; ca—also; iti—therefore; rahasyam—mystery; hi—certainly; etat—this; uttamam—transcendental.
That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.
There are two classes of men, namely the devotee and the demon. The Lord selected Arjuna as the recipient of this great science owing to his becoming the devotee of the Lord, but for the demon it is not possible to understand this great mysterious science. There are a number of editions of this great book of knowledge, and some of them have commentaries by the devotees, and some of them have commentaries by the demons. Commentation by the devotees is real, whereas that of the demons is useless. Arjuna accepts Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and any commentary on the Gītā following in the footsteps of Arjuna is real devotional service to the cause of this great science. The demonic, however, concoct something about Kṛṣṇa and mislead the public and general readers from the path of Kṛṣṇa’s instructions. One should try to follow the disciplic succession from Arjuna, and thus be benefitted.
aparaṁ bhavato janma
paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ
katham etad vijānīyāṁ
tvam ādau proktavān iti
arjunaḥ uvāca—Arjuna said; aparam—junior; bhavataḥ—Your; janma—birth; param—superior; janma—birth; vivasvataḥ—of the sun-god; katham—how; etat—this; vijānīyām—shall I understand; tvam—You; ādau—in the beginning; proktavān—instructed; iti—thus.
Arjuna said: The sun-god Vivasvān is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?
Arjuna is an accepted devotee of the Lord, so how could he not believe Kṛṣṇa’s words? The fact is that Arjuna is not inquiring for himself but for those who do not believe in the Supreme Personality of Godhead or for the demons who do not like the idea that Kṛṣṇa should be accepted as the Supreme Personality of Godhead; for them only Arjuna inquires on this point, as if he were himself not aware of the Personality of Godhead, or Kṛṣṇa. As it will be evident from the Tenth Chapter, Arjuna knew perfectly well that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the fountainhead of everything and the last word in Transcendence. Of course, Kṛṣṇa also appeared as the son of Devakī on this earth. How Kṛṣṇa remained the same Supreme Personality of Godhead, the eternal, original person, is very difficult for an ordinary man to understand. Therefore, to clarify this point, Arjuna put this question before Kṛṣṇa so that He Himself could speak authoritatively. That Kṛṣṇa is the supreme authority is accepted by the whole world, not only at present, but from time immemorial, and the demons alone reject Him. Anyway, since Kṛṣṇa is the authority accepted by all, Arjuna put this question before Him in order that Kṛṣṇa would describe Himself without being depicted by the demons who always try to distort Him in a way understandable to the demons and their followers. It is necessary that everyone, for his own interest, know the science of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore, when Kṛṣṇa Himself speaks about Himself, it is auspicious for all the worlds. To the demons, such explanations by Kṛṣṇa Himself may appear to be strange because the demons always study Kṛṣṇa from their own standpoint, but those who are devotees heartily welcome the statements of Kṛṣṇa when they are spoken by Kṛṣṇa Himself. The devotees will always worship such authoritative statements of Kṛṣṇa because they are always eager to know more and more about Him. The atheists, who consider Kṛṣṇa an ordinary man, may in this way come to know that Kṛṣṇa is superhuman, that He is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha—the eternal form of bliss and knowledge—that He is transcendental, and that He is above the domination of the modes of material nature and above the influence of time and space. A devotee of Kṛṣṇa’s, like Arjuna, is undoubtedly above any misunderstanding of the transcendental position of Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna’s putting this question before the Lord is simply an attempt by the devotee to defy the atheistic attitude of persons who consider Kṛṣṇa to be an ordinary human being subject to the modes of material nature.
bahūni me vyatītāni
janmāni tava cārjuna
tāny ahaṁ veda sarvāṇi
na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
śrī bhagavān uvāca—the Personality of Godhead said; bahūni—many; me—of Mine; vyatītāni—have passed; janmāni—births; tava—of yours; ca—and also; arjuna—O Arjuna; tāni—all those; aham—I; veda—do know; sarvāṇi—all; na—not; tvam—yourself; vettha—know; parantapa—O subduer of the enemy.
The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!
In the Brahma-saṁhitā we have information of many, many incarnations of the Lord. lt is stated there:
advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam
ādyaṁ purāṇa-puruṣaṁ nava-yauvanaṁ ca
vedeṣu durllabham adurllabham ātma-bhaktau
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi.
“I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Kṛṣṇa], who is the original person—absolute, infallible, without beginning, although expanded into unlimited forms, still the same original, the oldest, and the person always appearing as a fresh youth. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing forms of the Lord are usually understood by the best Vedic scholars, but they are always manifest to pure, unalloyed devotees.” It is also stated in Brahma-saṁhitā:
rāmādi mūrttiṣu kalā-niyamena tiṣṭhan
nānāvatāram akarod bhuvaneṣu kintu
kṛṣṇaḥ svayaṁ samabhavat paramaḥ pumān yo
govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
“I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Kṛṣṇa], who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rāma, Nṛsiṁha and many sub-incarnations as well, but who is the original Personality of Godhead known as Kṛṣṇa, and who incarnates personally also.”
In the Vedas also it is said that the Lord, although one without a second, nevertheless manifests Himself in innumerable forms. He is like the vaidurya stone, which changes color yet still remains one. All those multi-forms are understood by the pure, unalloyed devotees, but not by a simple study of the Vedas: vedeṣu durllabham adurllabham ātma-bhaktau. Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associate devotees also incarnate in order to serve the Lord in different capacities. Arjuna is one of these devotees, and in this verse it is understood that some millions of years ago when Lord Kṛṣṇa spoke the Bhagavad-gītā to the sun-god Vivasvān, Arjuna, in a different capacity, was also present. But the difference between the Lord and Arjuna is that the Lord remembered the incidence, whereas Arjuna could not remember. That is the difference between the part and parcel living entity and the Supreme Lord. Although Arjuna is addressed herein as the mighty hero who could subdue the enemies, he is unable to recall what had happened in his various past births. Therefore, a living entity, however great he may be in the material estimation, can never equal the Supreme Lord. Anyone who is a constant companion of the Lord is certainly a liberated person, but he cannot be equal to the Lord. The Lord is described in the Brahma-saṁhitā as infallible (acyuta), which means that He never forgets Himself, even though He is in material contact. Therefore, the Lord and the living entity can never be equal in all respects, even if the living entity is as liberated as Arjuna. Although Arjuna is a devotee of the Lord, he sometimes forgets the nature of the Lord, but by the divine grace a devotee can at once understand the infallible condition of the Lord, whereas a nondevotee or a demon cannot understand this transcendental nature. Consequently these descriptions in the Gītā cannot be understood by demonic brains. Kṛṣṇa remembered acts which were performed by Him millions of years before, but Arjuna could not, despite the fact that both Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna are eternal in nature. We may also note herein that a living entity forgets everything due to his change of body, but the Lord remembers because He does not change His sac-cid-ānanda body. He is advaita, which means there is no distinction between His body and Himself. Everything in relation to Him is spirit—whereas the conditioned soul is different from his material body. And, because the Lord’s body and self are identical, His position is always different from the ordinary living entity, even when He descends to the material platform. The demons cannot adjust themselves to this transcendental nature of the Lord, as the Lord explains in the following verse.
ajo ’pi sann avyayātmā
bhūtānām īśvaro ’pi san
prakṛtiṁ svām adhiṣṭhāya
ajaḥ—unborn; api—although; san—being so; avyaya—without deterioration; ātmā—body; bhūtānām—all those who are born; īśvaraḥ—the Supreme Lord; api—although; san—being so; prakṛtim—transcendental form; svām—of Myself; adhiṣṭhāya—being so situated; sambhavāmi—I do incarnate; ātma-māyayā—by My internal energy.
Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.
The Lord has spoken about the peculiarity of His birth: although He may appear like an ordinary person, He remembers everything of His many, many past “births,” whereas a common man cannot remember what he has done even a few hours before. If someone is asked what he did exactly at the same time one day earlier, it would be very difficult for a common man to answer immediately. He would surely have to dredge his memory to recall what he was doing exactly at the same time one day before. And yet, men often dare claim to be God, or Kṛṣṇa. One should not be misled by such meaningless claims. Then again, the Lord explains His prakṛti or His form. Prakṛti means nature as well as svarūpa, or one’s own form. The Lord says that He appears in His own body. He does not change His body, as the common living entity changes from one body to another. The conditioned soul may have one kind of body in the present birth, but he has a different body in the next birth. In the material world, the living entity has no fixed body but transmigrates from one body to another. The Lord, however, does not do so. Whenever He appears, He does so in the same original body, by His internal potency. In other words, Kṛṣṇa appears in this material world in His original eternal form, with two hands, holding a flute. He appears exactly in His eternal body, uncontaminated by this material world. Although He appears in the same transcendental body and is Lord of the universe, it still appears that He takes His birth like an ordinary living entity. Despite the fact Lord Kṛṣṇa grows from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth, astonishingly enough He never ages beyond youth. At the time of the Battle of Kurukṣetra, He had many grandchildren at home; or, in other words, He had sufficiently aged by material calculations. Still He looked just like a young man twenty or twenty-five years old. We never see a picture of Kṛṣṇa in old age because He never grows old like us, although He is the oldest person in the whole creation—past, present, and future. Neither His body nor His intelligence ever deteriorates or changes. Therefore, it is clear that in spite of His being in the material world, He is the same unborn, eternal form of bliss and knowledge, changeless in His transcendental body and intelligence. Factually, His appearance and disappearance is like the sun’s rising, moving before us, and then disappearing from our eyesight. When the sun is out of sight, we think that the sun is set, and when the sun is before our eyes, we think that the sun is on the horizon. Actually, the sun is always in its fixed position, but owing to our defective, insufficient senses, we calculate the appearance and disappearance of the sun in the sky. And, because His appearance and disappearance are completely different from that of any ordinary, common living entity, it is evident that He is eternal, blissful knowledge by His internal potency—and He is never contaminated by material nature. The Vedas also confirm that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unborn, yet He still appears to take His birth in multi-manifestations. The Vedic supplementary literatures also confirm that even though the Lord appears to be taking His birth, He is still without change of body. In the Bhāgavatam, He appears before His mother as Nārāyaṇa, with four hands and the decorations of the six kinds of full opulences. His appearance in His original eternal form is His causeless mercy, according to the Viśvakośa dictionary. The Lord is conscious of all of His previous appearances and disappearances, but a common living entity forgets everything about his past body as soon as he gets another body. He is the Lord of all living entities because He performs wonderful and superhuman activities while He is on this earth. Therefore, the Lord is always the same Absolute Truth and is without differentiation between His form and self, or between His quality and body. A question may now be raised as to why the Lord appears and disappears in this world. This is explained in the next verse.
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
yadā—whenever; yadā—wherever; hi—certainly; dharmasya—of religion; glāniḥ—discrepancies; bhavati—manifested, becomes; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata; abhyutthānam—predominance; adharmasya—of irreligion; tadā—at that time; ātmānam—self; sṛjāmi—manifest; aham—I.
Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend Myself.
The word sṛjāmi is significant herein. Sṛjāmi cannot be used in the sense of creation. because, according to the previous verse, there is no creation of the Lord’s form or body, since all of the forms are eternally existent. Therefore sṛjāmi means that the Lord manifests Himself as He is. Although the Lord appears on schedule, namely at the end of Dvāpara-yuga of the twenty-eighth millennium of the eighth Manu, in one day of Brahmā, still He has no obligation to adhere to such rules and regulations because He is completely free to act in many ways at His will. He therefore appears by His own will whenever there is a predominance of irreligiosity and a disappearance of true religion. Principles of religion are laid down in the Vedas, and any discrepancy in the matter of properly executing the rules of the Vedas makes one irreligious. In the Bhāgavatam it is stated that such principles are the laws of the Lord. Only the Lord can manufacture a system of religion. The Vedas are also accepted as originally spoken by the Lord Himself to Brahmā, from within his heart. Therefore, the principles of dharma, or religion, are the direct orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead (dharmaṁ tu sākṣāt-bhagavat-praṇītam). These principles are clearly indicated throughout the Bhagavad-gītā. The purpose of the Vedas is to establish such principles under the order of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord directly orders, at the end of the Gītā, that the highest principle of religion is to surrender unto Him only, and nothing more. The Vedic principles push one towards complete surrender unto Him; and, whenever such principles are disturbed by the demonic, the Lord appears. From the Bhāgavatam we understand that Lord Buddha is the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa who appeared when materialism was rampant and materialists were using the pretext of the authority of the Vedas. Although there are certain restrictive rules and regulations regarding animal sacrifice for particular purposes in the Vedas, people of demonic tendency still took to animal sacrifice without reference to the Vedic principles. Lord Buddha appeared to stop this nonsense and to establish the Vedic principles of nonviolence. Therefore each and every avatāra, or incarnation of the Lord, has a particular mission, and they are all described in the revealed scriptures. No one should be accepted as an avatāra unless he is referred to by scriptures. It is not a fact that the Lord appears only on Indian soil. He can advent Himself anywhere and everywhere, and whenever He desires to appear. In each and every incarnation, He speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstances. But the mission is the same—to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion. Sometimes He descends personally, and sometimes He sends His bona fide representative in the form of His son, or servant, or Himself in some disguised form.
The principles of the Bhagavad-gītā were spoken to Arjuna, and, for that matter, to other highly elevated persons, because he was highly advanced compared to ordinary persons in other parts of the world. Two plus two equals four is a mathematical principle that is true both in the beginner’s arithmetic class and in the advanced class as well. Still, there are higher and lower mathematics. In all incarnations of the Lord, therefore, the same principles are taught, but they appear to be higher and lower in varied circumstances. The higher principles of religion begin with the acceptance of the four orders and the four statuses of social life, as will be explained later. The whole purpose of the mission of incarnations is to arouse Kṛṣṇa consciousness everywhere. Such consciousness is manifest and nonmanifest only under different circumstances.
vināśāya ca duṣkṛtām
sambhavāmi yuge yuge
paritrāṇāya—for the deliverance; sādhūnām—of the devotees; vināśāya—for the annihilation; ca—also; duṣkṛtām—of the miscreants; dharma—principles of religion; saṁsthāpana-arthāya—to reestablish; sambhavāmi—I do appear; yuge—millennium; yuge—after millennium.
In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to reestablish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.
According to Bhagavad-gītā, a sādhu (holyman) is a man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A person may appear to be irreligious, but if he has the qualifications of Kṛṣṇa consciousness wholly and fully, he is to be understood to be a sādhu. And duṣkṛtam applies to one who doesn’t care for Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Such miscreants, or duṣkṛtam, are described as foolish and the lowest of mankind, even though they may be decorated with mundane education; whereas another person, who is one hundred percent engaged in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is accepted as sādhu, even though such a person may neither be learned nor well cultured. As far as the atheistic are concerned, it is not necessary for the Supreme Lord to appear as He is to destroy them, as He did with the demons Rāvaṇa and Kaṁsa. The Lord has many agents who are quite competent to vanquish demons. But the Lord especially descends to appease His unalloyed devotees, who are always harassed by the demonic. The demon harasses the devotee, even though the latter may happen to be his kin. Although Prahlāda Mahārāja was the son of Hiraṇyakaśipu, he was nonetheless persecuted by his father; although Devakī, the mother of Kṛṣṇa, was the sister of Kaṁsa, she and her husband Vasudeva were persecuted only because Kṛṣṇa was to be born of them. So Lord Kṛṣṇa appeared primarily to deliver Devakī, rather than kill Kaṁsa, but both were performed simultaneously. Therefore it is said here that to deliver the devotee and vanquish the demon miscreants, the Lord appears in different incarnations.
In the Caitanya-caritāmṛta of Kṛṣṇadāsa Kavirāja, the following verses summarize these principles of incarnation:
sṛṣṭi-hetu yei mūrti prapañce avatare
sei īśvara-mūrti ‘avatāra’ nāma dhare
māyātita paravyome savāra avasthāna
viśve ‘avatāri’ dhare ‘avatāra’ nāma
“The avatāra, or incarnation of Godhead, descends from the kingdom of God for material manifestation. And the particular form of the Personality of Godhead who so descends is called an incarnation, or avatāra. Such incarnations are situated in the spiritual world, the kingdom of God. When they descend to the material creation, they assume the name avatāra.”
There are various kinds of avatāras, such as puruṣāvatāras, guṇāvatāras, līlāvatāras, śaktyāveśa avatāras, manvantara-avatāras and yugāvatāras—all appearing on schedule all over the universe. But Lord Kṛṣṇa is the primeval Lord, the fountainhead of all avatāras. Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa descends for the specific purposes of mitigating the anxieties of the pure devotees, who are very anxious to see Him in His original Vṛndāvana pastimes. Therefore, the prime purpose of the Kṛṣṇa avatāra is to satisfy His unalloyed devotees.
The Lord says that He incarnates Himself in every millennium. This indicates that He incarnates also in the age of Kali. As stated in the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, the incarnation in the age of Kali is Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu, who spread the worship of Kṛṣṇa by the saṅkīrtana movement (congregational chanting of the holy names), and spread Kṛṣṇa consciousness throughout India. He predicted that this culture of saṅkīrtana would be broadcast all over the world, from town to town and village to village. Lord Caitanya as the incarnation of Kṛṣṇa, the Personality of Godhead, is described secretly but not directly in the confidential parts of the revealed scriptures, such as the Upaniṣads, Mahābhārata, Bhāgavatam, etc. The devotees of Lord Kṛṣṇa are much attracted by the saṅkīrtana movement of Lord Caitanya. This avatāra of the Lord does not kill the miscreants, but delivers them by the causeless mercy of the Lord.
janma karma ca me divyam
evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ’rjuna
janma—birth; karma—work; ca—also; me—of Mine; divyam—transcendental; evam—like this; yaḥ—anyone who; vetti—knows; tattvataḥ—in reality; tyaktvā—leaving aside; deham—this body; punaḥ—again; janma—birth; na—never; eti—does attain; mām—unto Me; eti—does attain; saḥ—he; arjuna—O Arjuna.
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.
The Lord’s descent from His transcendental abode is already explained in the 6th verse. One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. The impersonalists and the yogīs attain liberation only after much trouble and many, many births. Even then, the liberation they achieve—merging into the impersonal brahmajyoti of the Lord—is only partial, and there is the risk of returning again to this material world. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the body and activities of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and does not run the risk of returning again to this material world. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is stated that the Lord has many, many forms and incarnations: advaitam acyutam anādim ananta-rūpam. Although there are many transcendental forms of the Lord, they are still one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. One has to understand this fact with conviction, although it is incomprehensible to mundane scholars and empiric philosophers. As stated in the Vedas:
eko devo nitya-līlānurakto bhakta-vyāpī hṛdy antarātmā.
“The one Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternally engaged in many, many transcendental forms in relationships with His unalloyed devotees.” This Vedic version is confirmed in this verse of the Gītā personally by the Lord. He who accepts this truth on the strength of the authority of the Vedas and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who does not waste time in philosophical speculations attains the highest perfectional stage of liberation. Simply by accepting this truth on faith, one can, without a doubt, attain liberation. The Vedic version, “tattvamasi,” is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Kṛṣṇa to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord, “You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead” is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed. In other words, such a faithful devotee of the Lord attains perfection, and this is confirmed by the following Vedic assertion:
tam eva viditvātimṛtyumeti nānyaḥ panthā vidyate ayanāya.
One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is no alternative because anyone who does not understand Lord Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is surely in the mode of ignorance. Consequently he will not attain salvation, simply, so to speak, by licking the outer surface of the bottle of honey, or by interpreting the Bhagavad-gītā according to mundane scholarship. Such empiric philosophers may assume very important roles in the material world, but they are not necessarily eligible for liberation. Such puffed up mundane scholars have to wait for the causeless mercy of the devotee of the Lord. One should therefore cultivate Kṛṣṇa consciousness with faith and knowledge, and in this way attain perfection.
man-mayā mām upāśritāḥ
pūtā mad-bhāvam āgatāḥ
vīta—freed from; rāga—attachment; bhaya—fear; krodhāḥ—anger; mat-mayā—fully in Me; mām—unto Me; upāśritāḥ—being fully situated; bahavaḥ—many; jñāna—knowledge; tapasā—by penance; pūtāḥ—being purified; mat-bhāvam—transcendental love for Me; āgatāḥ—attained.
Being freed from attachment, fear and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purifled by knowledge of Me—and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.
As described above, it is very difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Generally, people who are attached to the bodily conception of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand that there is a transcendental body which is imperishable, full of knowledge and eternally blissful. In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance and completely miserable. Therefore, people in general keep this same bodily idea in mind when they are informed of the personal form of the Lord. For such materialistic men, the form of the gigantic material manifestation is supreme. Consequently they consider the Supreme to be impersonal. And because they are too materially absorbed, the conception of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When they are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they become afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void. Generally, they compare the living entities to the bubbles of the ocean, which merge into the ocean. That is the highest perfection of spiritual existence attainable without individual personality. This is a kind of fearful stage of life, devoid of perfect knowledge of spiritual existence. Furthermore there are many persons who cannot understand spiritual existence at all. Being embarassed by so many theories and by contradictions of various types of philosophical speculation, they become disgusted or angry and foolishly conclude that there is no supreme cause and that everything is ultimately void. Such people are in a diseased condition of life. Some people are too materially attached and therefore do not give attention to spiritual life, some of them want to merge into the supreme spiritual cause, and some of them disbelieve in everything, being angry at all sorts of spiritual speculation out of hopelessness. This last class of men take to the shelter of some kind of intoxication, and their affective hallucinations are sometimes accepted as spiritual vision. One has to get rid of all three stages of attachment to the material world: negligence of spiritual life, fear of a spiritual personal identity, and the conception of void that underlies the frustration of life. To get free from these three stages of the material concept of life, one has to take complete shelter of the Lord, guided by the bona fide spiritual master, and follow the disciplines and regulative principles of devotional life. The last stage of the devotional life is called bhāva, or transcendental love of Godhead.
According to Bhakti-rasāmṛta-sindhu, the science of devotional service:
ādau śraddhā tataḥ sādhu-saṅgo ’tha bhajana-kriyā
tato ’nartha-nivṛttiḥ syāt tato niṣṭhā rucis tataḥ
athāsaktis tato bhāvas tataḥ premābhyudañcati
sādhakānām ayaṁ premṇaḥ prādurbhāve bhavet kramaḥ.
“In the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. In next stage one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under his instruction the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment, attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. This taste leads one further forward to attachment for Kṛṣṇa consciousness, which is matured in bhāva, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of God. Real love for God is called premā, the highest perfectional stage of life.” In the premā stage there is constant engagement in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. So, by the slow process of devotional service, under the guidance of the bona fide spiritual master, one can attain the highest stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness of one’s individual spiritual personality, and from the frustrations resulting from void philosophy. Then one can ultimately attain to the abode of the Supreme Lord.
ye yathā māṁ prapadyante
tāṁs tathaiva bhajāmy aham
manuṣyāḥ pārtha sarvaśaḥ
ye—all of them; yathā—as; mām—unto Me; prapadyante—surrender; tān—unto them; tathā—so; eva—certainly; bhajāmi—do I reward; aham—I; mama—My; vartma—path; anuvartante—do follow; manuṣyāḥ—all men; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; sarvaśaḥ—in all respects.
All of them—as they surrender unto Me—I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pṛthā.
Eveyone is searching for Kṛṣṇa in the different aspects of His manifestations. Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is partially realized in His impersonal brahmajyoti effulgence and as the all-pervading Supersoul dwelling within everything, including the particles of atoms. But Kṛṣṇa is only fully realized by His pure devotees. Consequently, Kṛṣṇa is the object of everyone’s realization, and thus anyone and everyone is satisfied according to one’s desire to have Him. In the transcendental world also, Kṛṣṇa reciprocates with His pure devotees in the transcendental attitude, just as the devotee wants Him. One devotee may want Kṛṣṇa as supreme master, another as his personal friend, another as his son, and still another as his lover. Kṛṣṇa rewards all the devotees equally, according to their different intensities of love for Him. In the material world, the same reciprocations of feelings are there, and they are equally exchanged by the Lord with the different types of worshipers. The pure devotees both here and in the transcendental abode associate with Him in person and are able to render personal service to the Lord and thus derive transcendental bliss in His loving service. As for those who are impersonalists and who want to commit spiritual suicide by annihilating the individual existence of the living entity, Kṛṣṇa helps also by absorbing them into His effulgence. Such impersonalists do not agree to accept the eternal, blissful Personality of Godhead; consequently they cannot relish the bliss of transcendental personal service to the Lord, having extinguished their individuality. Some of them, who are not situated even in the impersonal existence, return to this material field to exhibit their dormant desires for activities. They are not admitted in the spiritual planets, but they are again given a chance to act on the material planets. For those who are fruitive workers, the Lord awards the desired results of their prescribed duties, as the yajñeśvara; and those who are yogīs seeking mystic powers are awarded such powers. In other words, everyone is dependant for success upon His mercy alone, and all kinds of spiritual processes are but different degrees of success on the same path. Unless, therefore, one comes to the highest perfection of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, all attempts remain imperfect, as is stated in the Śrīmad Bhāgavatam:
akāmaḥ sarva-kāmo vā mokṣa-kāma udāradhīḥ
tīvreṇa bhakti-yogena yajeta puruṣaṁ param
“Whether one is without desire [the condition of the devotees], or is desirous of all fruitive results, or is after liberation, one should with all efforts try to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead for complete perfection, culminating in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.” (Bhāg. 2.3.10)
kāṅkṣantaḥ karmaṇāṁ siddhiṁ
yajanta iha devatāḥ
kṣipraṁ hi mānuṣe loke
siddhir bhavati karma-jā
kāṅkṣantaḥ—desiring; karmaṇām—of fruitive activities; siddhim—perfection; yajante—worship by sacrifices; iha—in the material world; devatāḥ—the demigods; kṣipram—very quickly; hi—certainly; mānuṣe—in human society; loke—within this world; siddhiḥ bhavati—becomes successful; karmajā—the fruitive worker.
Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods. Quickly, of course, men get results from fruitive work in this world.
There is a great misconception about the gods or demigods of this material world, and men of less intelligence, although passing as great scholars, take these demigods to be various forms of the Supreme Lord. Actually, the demigods are not different forms of God, but they are God’s different parts and parcels. God is one, and the parts and parcels are many. The Vedas say, nityo nityānām: God is one. Īśvaraḥ paramaḥ kṛṣṇaḥ. The Supreme God is one—Kṛṣṇa—and the demigods are delegated with powers to manage this material world. These demigods are all living entities (nityānām) with different grades of material power. They cannot be equal to the Supreme God—Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu, or Kṛṣṇa. Anyone who thinks that God and the demigods are on the same level is called an atheist, or pāṣaṇḍī. Even the great demigods like Brahmā and Śiva cannot be compared to the Supreme Lord. In fact, the Lord is worshiped by demigods such as Brahmā and Śiva (śiva-viriñci-nutam). Yet curiously enough there are many human leaders who are worshiped by foolish men under the misunderstanding of anthropomorphism or zoomorphism. Iha devatāḥ denotes a powerful man or demigod of this material world. But Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, does not belong to this world. He is above, or transcendental to, material creation. Even Śrīpāda Śaṅkarācārya, the leader of the impersonalists, maintains that Nārāyaṇa, or Kṛṣṇa, is beyond this material creation. However, foolish people (hṛt-añjana) worship the demigods because they want immediate results. They get the results, but do not know that results so obtained are temporary and are meant for less intelligent persons. The intelligent person is in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and he has no need to worship the paltry demigods for some immediate, temporary benefit. The demigods of this material world, as well as their worshipers, will vanish with the annihilation of this material world. The boons of the demigods are material and temporary. Both the material worlds and their inhabitants, including the demigods, and their worshipers, are bubbles in the cosmic ocean. In this world, however, human society is mad after temporary things such as the material opulence of possessing land, family and enjoyable paraphernalia. To achieve such temporary things, they worship the demigods or powerful men in human society. If a man gets some ministership in the government by worshiping a political leader, he considers that he has achieved a great boon. All of them are therefore kowtowing to the so-called leaders or “big guns” in order to achieve temporary boons, and they indeed achieve such things. Such foolish men are not interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness for the permanent solution to the hardships of material existence. They are all after sense enjoyment, and to get a little facility for sense enjoyment they are attracted to worship empowered living entities known as demigods. This verse indicates that people are rarely interested in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They are mostly interested in material enjoyment, and therefore they worship some powerful living entity.
cātur-varṇyaṁ mayā sṛṣṭaṁ
tasya kartāram api māṁ
viddhy akartāram avyayam
cātur-varṇyam—the four divisions of human society; mayā—by Me; sṛṣṭam—created; guṇa—quality; karma—work; vibhāgaśaḥ—in terms of division; tasya—of that; kartāram—the father; api—although; mām—Me; viddhi—you may know; akartāram—as the non-doer; avyayam—being unchangeable.
According to the three modes of material nature and the work ascribed to them, the four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.
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 brāhmaṇas due to their being situated in the mode of goodness. Next is the administrative class, technically called the kṣatriyas due to their being situated in the mode of passion. The mercantile men, called the vaiśyas, are situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance, and the śūdras, or laborer class, are situated in the ignorant mode of material nature. In spite of His creating the four divisions of human society, Lord Kṛṣṇa does not belong to any of these divisions, because He is not one of the conditioned souls, a section of whom form human society. Human society is similar to any other animal society, but to elevate men from the animal status, the abovementioned divisions are created by the Lord for the systematic development of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The tendency of a particular man toward work is determined by the modes of material nature which he has acquired. Such symptoms of life, according to different modes of material nature, are described in the Eighteenth Chapter of this book. A person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, however, is above even the brāhmaṇas, because a brāhmaṇa by quality is supposed to know about Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth. Most of them approach the impersonal Brahman manifestation of Lord Kṛṣṇa, but only a man who transcends the limited knowledge of a brāhmaṇa and reaches the knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, becomes a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness—or, in other words, a Vaiṣṇava. Kṛṣṇa consciousness includes knowledge of all different plenary expansions of Kṛṣṇa, namely Rāma, Nṛsiṁha, Varāha, etc. However, as Kṛṣṇa is transcendental to this system of the four divisions of human society, a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is also transcendental to all divisions of human society, whether we consider the divisions of community, nation or species.
na māṁ karmāṇi limpanti
na me karma-phale spṛhā
iti māṁ yo ’bhijānāti
karmabhir na sa badhyate
na—never; mām—unto Me; karmāṇi—all kinds of work; limpanti—do affect; na—nor; me—My; karma-phale—in fruitive action; spṛhā—aspiration; iti—thus; mām—unto Me; yaḥ—one who; abhijānāti—does know; karmabhiḥ—by the reaction of such work; na—never does; saḥ—he; badhyate—become entangled.
There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me also does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.
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. The proprietor of an establishment is not responsible for the right and wrong activities of the workers, but the workers are themselves responsible. The living entities are engaged in their respective activities of sense gratification, and these activities are not ordained by the Lord. 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. The heavenly demigods are only His engaged servants. The proprietor never desires the low-grade happiness such as the workers may desire. He is aloof from the material actions and reactions. 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. Vedic smṛti confirms this fact as follows:
nimitta-mātram evāsau sṛjyānāṁ sarga-karmaṇi
pradhāna-kāraṇī-bhūtā yato vai sṛjya-śaktayaḥ.
In the material creations, the Lord is only the supreme cause. The immediate cause is material nature by which the cosmic manifestation is visible. The created beings are of many varieties, such as the demigods, human beings and lower animals, and all of them are subject to the reactions of their past good or bad activities. The Lord only gives them the proper facilities for such activities and the regulations of the modes of nature, but He is never responsible for their past and present activities. In the Vedānta-sūtras it is confirmed that the Lord is never partial to any living entity. The living entity is responsible for his own acts. The Lord only gives him facilities, through the agency of material nature, the external energy. Anyone who is fully conversant with all the intricacies of this law of karma, or fruitive activities, does not become affected by the results of his activities. In other words, the person who understands this transcendental nature of the Lord is an experienced man in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and thus he is never subjected to the laws of karma. One who does not know the transcendental nature of the Lord and who thinks that the activities of the Lord are aimed at fruitive results, as are the activities of the ordinary living entities, certainly becomes entangled himself in fruitive reaction. But one who knows the Supreme Truth is a liberated soul fixed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
evaṁ jñātvā kṛtaṁ karma
pūrvair api mumukṣubhiḥ
kuru karmaiva tasmāt tvaṁ
pūrvaiḥ pūrvataraṁ kṛtam
evam—thus; jñātvā—knowing well; kṛtam—performed; karma—work; pūrvaiḥ—by past authorities; api—although; mumukṣubhiḥ—who attained liberation; kuru—just perform; karma—prescribed duty; eva—certainly; tasmāt—therefore; tvam—you; pūrvaiḥ—by the predecessors; pūrvataram—ancient predecessors; kṛtam—as performed.
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.
There are two classes of men. Some of them are full of polluted material things within their hearts, and some of them are materially free. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is equally beneficial for both of these persons. Those who are full of dirty things can take to the line of Kṛṣṇa consciousness for a gradual cleansing process, following the regulative principles of devotional service. Those who are already cleansed of the impurities may continue to act in the same Kṛṣṇa consciousness so that others may follow their exemplary activities and thereby be benefitted. Foolish persons or neophytes in Kṛṣṇa consciousness often want to retire from activities without having knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Arjuna’s desire to retire from activities on the battlefield was not approved by the Lord. One need only know how to act. To retire from the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness and to sit aloof making a show of Kṛṣṇa consciousness; is less important than actually engaging in the field of activities for the sake of Kṛṣṇa. Arjuna is here advised to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, following in the footsteps of the Lord’s previous disciples, such as the sun-god Vivasvān, as mentioned hereinbefore. The Supreme Lord knows all His past activities, as well as those of persons who acted in Kṛṣṇa consciousness in the past. Therefore He recommends the acts of the sun-god, who learned this art from the Lord some millions of years before. All such students of Lord Kṛṣṇa are mentioned here as past liberated persons, engaged in the discharge of duties allotted by Kṛṣṇa.
kiṁ karma kim akarmeti
kavayo ’py atra mohitāḥ
tat te karma pravakṣyāmi
yaj jñātvā mokṣyase ’śubhāt
kim—what is; karma—action; kim—what is; akarma—inaction; iti—thus; kavayaḥ—the intelligent; api—also; atra—in this matter; mohitāḥ—bewildered; tat—that; te—unto you; karma—work; pravakṣyāmi—I shall explain; yat—which; jñātvā—knowing; mokṣyase—be liberated; aśubhāt—from ill fortune.
Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all sins.
Action in Kṛṣṇa consciousness has to be executed in accord with the examples of previous bona fide devotees. This is recommended in the 15th verse. Why such action should not be independant will be explained in the text to follow.
To act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one has to follow the leadership of authorized persons who are in a line of disciplic succession as explained in the beginning of this chapter. The system of Kṛṣṇa consciousness was first narrated to the sun-god, the sun-god explained it to his son Manu, Manu explained it to his son Ikṣvāku, and the system is current on this earth from that very remote time. Therefore, one has to follow in the footsteps of previous authorities in the line of disciplic succession. Otherwise even the most intelligent men will be bewildered regarding the standard actions of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. For this reason, the Lord decided to instruct Arjuna in Kṛṣṇa consciousness directly. Because of the direct instruction of the Lord to Arjuna, anyone who follows in the footsteps of Arjuna is certainly not bewildered.
It is said that one cannot ascertain the ways of religion simply by imperfect experimental knowledge. Actually, the principles of religion can only be laid down by the Lord Himself. Dharmaṁ hi sākṣāt-bhagavat-praṇītam. No one can manufacture a religious principle by imperfect speculation. One must follow in the footsteps of great authorities like Brahmā, Śiva, Nārada, Manu, Kumāra, Kapila, Prahlāda, Bhīṣma, Śukadeva Gosvāmī, Yamarāja, Janaka, etc. By mental speculation one cannot ascertain what is religion or self-realization. Therefore, out of causeless mercy to His devotees, the Lord explains directly to Arjuna what action is and what inaction is. Only action performed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can deliver a person from the entanglement of material existence.
karmaṇo hy api boddhavyaṁ
boddhavyaṁ ca vikarmaṇaḥ
akarmaṇaś ca boddhavyaṁ
gahanā karmaṇo gatiḥ
karmaṇaḥ—working order ; hi—certainly; api—also; boddhavyam—should be understood; boddhavyam—to be understood; ca—also; vikarmaṇaḥ—forbidden work; akarmaṇaḥ—inaction; ca—also; boddhavyam—should be understood; gahanā—very difficult; karmaṇaḥ—working order; gatiḥ—to enter into.
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.
If one is serious about liberation from material bondage, one has to understand the distinctions between action, inaction and unauthorized actions. One has to apply oneself to such an analysis of action, reaction and perverted actions because it is a very difficult subject matter. To understand Kṛṣṇa consciousness and action according to the modes, one has to learn one’s relationship with the Supreme; i.e., one who has learned perfectly knows that every living entity is the eternal servitor of the Lord and that consequently one has to act in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The entire Bhagavad-gītā is directed toward this conclusion. Any other conclusions, against this consciousness and its attendant reactions, are vikarmas, or prohibitive actions. To understand all this one has to associate with authorities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness and learn the secret from them; this is as good as learning from the Lord directly. Otherwise, even the most intelligent person will be bewildered.
karmaṇy akarma yaḥ paśyed
akarmaṇi ca karma yaḥ
sa buddhimān manuṣyeṣu
sa yuktaḥ kṛtsna-karma-kṛt
karmaṇi—in action; akarma—inaction; yaḥ—one who; paśyet—observes; akarmaṇi—in inaction; ca—also; karma—fruitive action; yaḥ—one who; saḥ—he; buddhimān—is intelligent; manuṣyeṣu—in human society; saḥ—he; yuktaḥ—is in the transcendental position; kṛtsna-karma-kṛt—although engaged in all activities.
One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the tranecendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.
A person acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is naturally free from the bonds of karma. His activities are all performed for Kṛṣṇa; therefore he does not enjoy or suffer any of the effects of work. Consequently he is intelligent in human society, even though he is engaged in all sorts of activities for Kṛṣṇa. Akarma means without reaction to work. The impersonalist ceases fruitive activities out of fear, so that the resultant action may not be a stumbling block on the path of self-realization, but the personalist knows rightly his position as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore he engages himself in the activities of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because everything is done for Kṛṣṇa, he enjoys only transcendental happiness in the discharge of this service. Those who are engaged in this process are known to be without desire for personal sense gratification. The sense of eternal servitorship to Kṛṣṇa makes one immune to all sorts of reactionary elements of work.
yasya sarve samārambhāḥ
tam āhuḥ paṇḍitaṁ budhāḥ
yasya—one whose; sarve—all sorts of; samārambhāḥ—in all attempts; kāma—desire for sense gratification; saṅkalpa—determination; varjitāḥ—are devoid of; jñāna—of perfect knowledge; āgni—fire; dagdha—being burnt by; karmāṇam—the performer; tam—him; āhuḥ—declare; paṇḍitam—learned; budhāḥ—those who know.
One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.
Only a person in full knowledge can understand the activities of a person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Because the person in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is devoid of all kinds of sense-gratificatory propensities, it is to be understood that he has burned up the reactions of his work by perfect knowledge of his constitutional position as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is actually learned who has attained to such perfection of knowledge. Development of this knowledge of the eternal servitorship of the Lord is compared to fire. Such a fire, once kindled, can burn up all kinds of reactions to work.
karmaṇy abhipravṛtto ’pi
naiva kiñcit karoti saḥ
tyaktvā—having given up; karma-phala-āsaṅgam—attachment for fruitive results; nitya—always; tṛptaḥ—being satisfied; nirāśrayaḥ—without any center; karmaṇi—in activity; abhipravṛttaḥ—being fully engaged; api—in spite of; na—does not; eva—certainly; kiñcit—anything; karoti—do; saḥ—he.
Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independant, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.
This freedom from the bondage of actions is possible only in Kṛṣṇa consciousness when one is doing everything for Kṛṣṇa. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person acts out of pure love for the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and therefore he has no attraction for the results of the action. He is not even attached to his personal maintenance, for everything is left to Kṛṣṇa. Nor is he anxious to secure things, nor to protect things already in his possession. He does his duty to his best ability and leaves everything to Kṛṣṇa. Such an unattached person is always free from the resultant reactions of good and bad; it is as though he were not doing anything. This is the sign of akarma, or actions without fruitive reactions. Any other action, therefore, devoid of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is binding upon the worker, and that is the real aspect of vikarma, as explained hereinbefore.
śārīraṁ kevalaṁ karma
kurvan nāpnoti kilbiṣam
nirāśīḥ—without desire for the results; yata—controlled; citta-ātmā—mind and intelligence; tyakta—giving up; sarva—all; parigrahaḥ—sense of proprietorship over all possessions; śārīram—in keeping body and soul together; kevalam—only; karma—work; kurvan—doing so; na—never; āpnoti—does not acquire; kilbiṣam—sinful reactions.
Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions.
A Kṛṣṇa conscious person does not expect good or bad results in his activities. His mind and intelligence are fully controlled. He knows that he is part and parcel of the Supreme, and therefore the part played by him, as a part and parcel of the whole, is not his by choice but is chosen for him by the Supreme and is done only through His agency. When the hand moves, it does not move out of its own accord, but by the endeavor of the whole body. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is always dovetailed with the supreme desire, for he has no desire for personal sense gratification. He moves exactly like a part of a machine. As a machine part requires oiling and cleaning for maintenance, similarly, a Kṛṣṇa conscious man maintains himself by his work just to remain fit for action in the transcendental loving service of the Lord. He is therefore immune to all the reactions of his endeavors. Like an animal, he has no proprietorship even over his own body. A cruel proprietor of an animal sometimes kills the animal in his possession, yet the animal does not protest. Nor does it have any real independence. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person, fully engaged in self-realization, has very little time to falsely possess any material object. For maintaining body and soul, he does not require unfair means of accumulating money. He does not, therefore, become contaminated by such material sins. He is free from all reactions to his actions.
samaḥ siddhāv asiddhau ca
kṛtvāpi na nibadhyate
yadṛcchā—out of its own accord; lābha—gain; santuṣṭaḥ—satisfied; dvandva—duality; atītaḥ—surpassed; vimatsaraḥ—free from envy; samaḥ—steady; siddhau—in success; asiddhau—failure; ca—also; kṛtvā—doing; api—although; na—never; nibadhyate—is affected.
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.
A Kṛṣṇa conscious person does not make much endeavor even to maintain his body. He is satisfied with gains which are obtained of their own accord. He neither begs nor borrows, but he labors honestly as far as is in his power, and is satisfied with whatever is obtained by his own honest labor. He is therefore independant in his livelihood. He does not allow anyone’s service to hamper his own service in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. However, for the service of the Lord he can participate in any kind of action without being disturbed by the duality of the material world. The duality of the material world is felt in terms of heat and cold, or misery and happiness. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person is above duality because he does not hesitate to act in any way for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa. Therefore he is steady both in success and in failure. These signs are visible when one is fully in transcendental knowledge.
gata-saṅgasya—unattached to the modes of material nature; muktasya—of the liberated; jñāna-avasthita—situated in transcendence; cetasaḥ—of such wisdom; yajñāya—for the sake of Yajña (Kṛṣṇa); ācarataḥ—so acting; karma—work; samagram—in total; pravilīyate—merges entirely.
The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material nature and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge merges entirely into transcendence.
Becoming fully Kṛṣṇa conscious, one is freed from all dualities and thus is free from the contaminations of the material modes. He can become liberated because he knows his constitutional position in relationship with Kṛṣṇa; and thus his mind cannot be drawn from Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Consequently, whatever he does, he does for Kṛṣṇa, who is the primeval Viṣṇu. Therefore, all his works are technically sacrifices because sacrifice involves satisfying the Supreme Person, Kṛṣṇa. The resultant reactions to all such work certainly merge into transcendence, and one does not suffer material effects.
brahmārpaṇaṁ brahma havir
brahmāgnau brahmaṇā hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyaṁ
brahma—spiritual nature; arpaṇam—contribution; brahma—the Supreme; haviḥ—butter; brahma—spiritual; agnau—in the fire of consummation; brāhmaṇā—by the spirit soul; hutam—offered; brahma—spiritual kingdom; eva—certainly; tena—by him; gantavyam—to be reached; brahma—spiritual; karma—activities; samādhinā—by complete absorption.
A person who is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa 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.
How activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can lead one ultimately to the spiritual goal is described here. There are various activities in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, and all of them will be described in the following verses. But, for the present, just the principle of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is described. A conditioned soul, entangled in material contamination, is sure to act in the material atmosphere, and yet he has to get out of such an environment. The process by which the conditioned soul can get out of the material atmosphere is Kṛṣṇa consciousness. For example, a patient who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels due to overindulgence in milk products is cured by another milk product, namely curds. The materially absorbed conditioned soul can be cured by Kṛṣṇa consciousness as set forth here in the Gītā. This process is generally known as yajña, or activities (sacrifices) simply meant for the satisfaction of Viṣṇu or Kṛṣṇa. The more the activities of the material world are performed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, or for Viṣṇu only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption. Brahman means spiritual. The Lord is spiritual, and the rays of His transcendental body are called brahmajyoti, His spiritual effulgence. Everything that exists is situated in that brahmajyoti, but when the jyoti is covered by illusion (māyā) or sense gratification, it is called material. This material veil can be removed at once by Kṛṣṇa consciousness; thus the offering for the sake of Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the consuming agent of such an offering or contribution; the process of consumption, the contributor, and the result are—all combined together—Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth covered by māyā is called matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is the process of converting the illusory consciousness into Brahman, or the Supreme. When the mind is fully absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it is said to be in samādhi, or trance. Anything done in such transcendental consciousness is called yajña, or sacrifice for the Absolute. In that condition of spiritual consciousness, the contributor, the contribution, the consumption, the performer or leader of the performance, and the result or ultimate gain—everything—becomes one in the Absolute, the Supreme Brahman. That is the method of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
daivam evāpare yajñaṁ
brahmāgnāv apare yajñaṁ
daivam—in worshiping the demigods; eva—like this; apare—some; yajñam—sacrifices; yoginaḥ—the mystics; paryupāsate—worship perfectly; brahma—the Absolute Truth; agnau—in the fire of; apare—others; yajñam—sacrifice; yajñena—by sacrifice; eva—thus; upajuhvati—worship.
Some yogīs perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some of them offer sacrffices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.
As described above, a person engaged in discharging duties in Kṛṣṇa consciousness is also called a perfect yogī or a first-class mystic. But there are others also, who perform similar sacrifices in the worship of demigods, and still others who sacrifice to the Supreme Brahman, or the impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord. So there are different kinds of sacrifices in terms of different categories. Such different categories of sacrifice by different types of performers only superficially demark varieties of sacrifice. Factual sacrifice means to satisfy the Supreme Lord, Viṣṇu, who is also known as Yajña. All the different varieties of sacrifice can be placed within two primary divisions: namely, sacrifice of worldly possessions and sacrifice in pursuit of transcendental knowledge. Those who are in Kṛṣṇa consciousness sacrifice all material possessions for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, while others, who want some temporary material happiness, sacrifice their material possessions to satisfy demigods such as Indra, the sun-god, etc. And others, who are impersonalists, sacrifice their identity by merging into the existence of impersonal Brahman. The demigods are powerful living entities appointed by the Supreme Lord for the maintenance and supervision of all material functions like the heating, watering and lighting of the universe. Those who are interested in material benefits worship the demigods by various sacrifices according to the Vedic rituals. They are called bahv-īśvara-vādī, or believers in many gods. But others, who worship the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth and regard the forms of the demigods as temporary, sacrifice their individual selves in the supreme fire and thus end their individual existences by merging into the existence of the Supreme. Such impersonalists spend their time in philosophical speculation to understand the transcendental nature of the Supreme. In other words, the fruitive workers sacrifice their material possessions for material enjoyment, whereas the impersonalist sacrifices his material designations with a view to merging into the existence of the Supreme. For the impersonalist, the fire altar of sacrifice is the Supreme Brahman, and the offering is the self being consumed by the fire of Brahman. The Kṛṣṇa conscious person, like Arjuna, however, sacrifices everything for the satisfaction of Kṛṣṇa, and thus all his material possessions as well as his own self—everything—is sacrificed for Kṛṣṇa. Thus, he is the first-class yogī; but he does not lose his individual existence.
śabdādīn viṣayān anya
śrotra ādīni—hearing process; indriyāṇi—senses; anye—others; saṁyama—of restraint; agniṣu—in the fire; juhvati—offers; śabda-ādīn—sound vibration, etc.; viṣayān—objects of sense gratification; anye—others: indriya—of sense organs; agniṣu—in the fire; juhvati—sacrifice.
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.
The four divisions of human life, namely the brahmacārī, the gṛhastha, the vānaprastha, and the sannyāsī, are all meant to help men become perfect yogīs 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 brahmacārīs, 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 brahmacārī hears only words concerning Kṛṣṇa consciousness; hearing is the basic principle for understanding, and therefore the pure brahmacārī engages fully in harer nāmānukīrtanam—chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. He restrains himself from the vibrations of material sounds, and his hearing is engaged in the transcendental sound vibration of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa. 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 gratifications. Marriage on principles of religious life is therefore current in all civilized human society because that is the way for restricted sex life. This restricted, unattached sex life is also a kind of yajña because the restricted householder sacrifices his general tendency toward sense gratification for higher transcendental life.
sarvāṇi—all; indriya—senses; karmāṇi—functions; prāṇa-karmāṇi—functions of the life breath; ca—also; apare—others; ātma-saṁyama—controlling the mind; yoga—linking process; agnau—in the fire of; juhvati—offers; jñāna-dīpite—because of the urge for self-realization.
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.
The yoga system conceived by Patañjali is referred to herein. In the Yoga-sūtra of Patañjali, the soul is called pratyag-ātmā and parag-ātmā. As long as the soul is attached to sense enjoyment, it is called parag-ātmā. 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 Pātañjala 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 favorable for purifying the soul of material attachment. According to this yoga system, pratyag ātmā is the ultimate goal. This pratyag ātmā 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 prāṇa-vāyu. The apāna-vāyu goes downwards, vyāna-vāyu acts to shrink and expand, samāna-vāyu adjusts equilibrium, udāna-vāyu goes upwards—and when one is enlightened, one engages all these in searching for self-realization.
dravya-yajñāḥ—sacrificing one’s possessions; tapo-yajñāḥ—sacrifice in austerities; yoga-yajñāḥ—sacrifice in eightfold mysticism; tathā—thus; apare—others; svādhyāya—sacrifice in the study of the Vedas; jñāna-yajñāḥ—sacrifice in advancement of transcendental knowledge; ca—also; yatayaḥ—enlightened; saṁśita—taken to strict; vratāḥ—vows.
There are others who, enlightened by sacrificing their material possessions in severe austerities, take strict vows and practice the yoga of eightfold mysticism, and others study the Vedas for the advancement of transcendental knowledge.
These sacrifices may be fitted into various divisions. There are persons who are sacrificing their possessions in the form of various kinds of charities. In India, the rich mercantile community or princely orders open various kinds of charitable institutions like dharmaśālā, anna-kṣetra, atithi-śālā, anathalaya, vidyāpīṭha, etc. In other countries, too, there are many hospitals, old age homes and similar charitable foundations meant for distributing food, education and medical treatment free to the poor. All these charitable activities are called dravyamaya-yajña. There are others who, for higher elevation in life or for promotion to higher planets within the universe, voluntarily accept many kinds of austerities such as candrāyana and cāturmāsya. These processes entail severe vows for conducting life under certain rigid rules. For example, under the cāturmāsya vow the candidate does not shave for four months during the year (July to October), he does not eat certain foods, does not eat twice in a day and does not leave home. Such sacrifice of the comforts of life is called tapomaya-yajña. There are still others who engage themselves in different kinds of mystic yogas like the Patañjali system (for merging into the existence of the Absolute), or haṭha-yoga or aṣṭāṅga-yoga (for particular perfections). And some travel to all the sanctified places of pilgrimage. All these practices are called yoga-yajña, sacrifice for a certain type of perfection in the material world. There are others who engage themselves in the studies of different Vedic literatures, specifically the Upaniṣads and Vedānta-sūtras, or the sāṅkhya philosophy. All of these are called svādhyāya-yajña, or engagement in the sacrifice of studies. All these yogīs are faithfully engaged in different types of sacrifice and are seeking a higher status of life. Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is, however, different from these because it is the direct service of the Supreme Lord. Kṛṣṇa consciousness cannot be attained by any one of the above-mentioned types of sacrifices but can be attained only by the mercy of the Lord and His bona fide devotee. Therefore, Kṛṣṇa consciousness is transcendental.
apāne juhvati prāṇaṁ
prāṇe ’pānaṁ tathāpare
prāṇān prāṇeṣu juhvati
apāne—air which acts downward; juhvati—offers; prāṇam—air which acts outward; prāṇe—in the air going outward; apānam—air going downward; tathā—as also; apare—others; prāṇa—air going outward; apāna—air going downward; gatī—movement; ruddhvā—checking; prāṇāyāma—trance induced by stopping all breathing; parāyaṇāḥ—so inclined; apare—others; niyata—controlled; āhārāḥ—eating; prāṇān—outgoing air; prāṇeṣu—in the outgoing air; juhvati—sacrifices.
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.
This system of yoga for controlling the breathing process is called prāṇāyāma, and in the beginning it is practiced in the haṭha-yoga system through different sitting postures. All of these processes 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 apāna air goes downward, and the prāṇa air goes up. The prāṇāyāma yogī practices breathing the opposite way until the currents are neutralized into pūraka, equilibrium. Similarly, when the exhaled breathing is offered to inhaled breathing, it is called recaka. When both air currents are completely stopped, it is called kumbhaka-yoga. By practice of kumbhaka-yoga, the yogīs increase the duration of life by many, many years. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person, however, being always situated in the transcendental loving service of the Lord, automatically becomes the controller of the senses. His senses, being always engaged in the service of Kṛṣṇa, have no chance of becoming otherwise engaged. So at the end of life, he is naturally transferred to the transcendental plane of Lord Kṛṣṇa; consequently he makes no attempt to increase his longevity. He is at once raised to the platform of liberation. A Kṛṣṇa conscious person begins from the transcendental stage, and he is constantly in that consciousness. Therefore, there is no falling down, and ultimately he enters into the abode of the Lord without delay. The practice of reduced eating is automatically done when one eats only Kṛṣṇa prasādam, or food which is offered first to the Lord. Reducing the eating process is very helpful in the matter of sense control. And without sense control there is no possibility of getting out of the material entanglement.
sarve ’py ete yajña-vido
yānti brahma sanātanam
sarve—all; api—although apparently different; ete—all these; yajña-vidaḥ—conversant with the purpose of performing; yajña—sacrifices; kṣapita—being cleansed of the result of such performances; kalmaṣāḥ—sinful reactions; yajña-śiṣṭa—as a result of such performances of yajña; amṛta-bhujaḥ—those who have tasted such nectar; yānti—do approach; brahma—the supreme; sanātanam—eternal atmosphere.
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.
From the foregoing explanation of differents 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. This platform is in the eternal atmosphere, or Brahman atmosphere. All the above-mentioned sacrifices help one to become cleansed of the sinful reactions of material existence. By this advancement in life, one not only becomes happy and opulent in this life, but also, at the end, he enters into the eternal kingdom of God, either merging into the impersonal Brahman or associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa.
nāyaṁ loko ’sty ayajñasya
kuto ’nyaḥ kuru-sattama
na—never; ayam—this; lokaḥ—planet; asti—there is; ayajñasya—of the foolish; kutaḥ—where is; anyaḥ—the other; kuru-sattama—O best amongst the Kurus.
O best of the Kuru dynasty, without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life: what then of the next?
Whatever form of material existence one is in, one is invariably ignorant of his real situation. In other words, existence in the material world is due to the multiple reactions to our sinful lives. Ignorance is the cause of sinful life, and sinful life is the cause of one’s dragging on in material existence. The human form of life is the only loophole by which one may get out of this entanglement. The Vedas, therefore, give us a chance for escape by pointing out the paths of religion, economic comfort, regulated sense gratification and, at last, the means to get out of the miserable condition entirely. The path of religion, or the different kinds of sacrifice recommended above, automatically solves our economic problems. By performance of yajña we can have enough food, enough milk, etc.—even if there is a so-called increase of population. When the body is fully supplied, naturally the next stage is to satisfy the senses. The Vedas prescribe, therefore, sacred marriage for regulated sense gratification. Thereby one is gradually elevated to the platform of release from material bondage, and the highest perfection of liberated life is to associate with the Supreme Lord. Perfection is achieved by performance of yajña (sacrifice), as described above. Now, if a person is not inclined to perform yajña according to the Vedas, how can he expect a happy life? There are different grades of material comforts in different heavenly planets, and in all cases there is immense happiness for persons engaged in different kinds of yajña. But the highest kind of happiness that a man can achieve is to be promoted to the spiritual planets by practice of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. A life of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is therefore the solution to all the problems of material existence.
evaṁ bahu-vidhā yajñā
vitatā brahmaṇo mukhe
karma-jān viddhi tān sarvān
evaṁ jñātvā vimokṣyase
evam—thus; bahu-vidhāḥ—various kinds of; yajñāḥ—sacrifices; vitatāḥ—widespread; brahmaṇaḥ—of the Vedas; mukhe—in the face of; karma-jān—born of work; viddhi—you should know; tān—them; sarvān—all; evam—thus; jñātvā—knowing; vimokṣyase—be liberated.
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.
Different types of sacrifice, as discussed above, are mentioned in the Vedas to suit the different types of worker. Because men are so deeply absorbed in the bodily concept, these sacrifices are so arranged that one can work either with the body, the mind, or the intelligence. But all of them are recommended for ultimately bringing about liberation from the body. This is confirmed by the Lord herewith from His own mouth.
śreyān dravya-mayād yajñāj
sarvaṁ karmākhilaṁ pārtha
śreyān—greater; dravyamayāt—than the sacrifice of material possessions; yajñāt—knowledge; jñāna-yajñaḥ—sacrifice in knowledge; parantapa—O chastiser of the enemy; sarvam—all; karma—activities; akhilam—in totality; pārtha—O son of Pṛthā; jñāne—in knowledge; parisamāpyate—ends in.
O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice of knowledge is greater than the sacrifice of material possessions. O son of Pṛthā, after all, the sacrifice of work culminates in transcendental knowledge.
The purpose of all sacrifices is to arrive at the status of complete knowledge, then to gain release from material miseries, and, ultimately, to engage in loving transcendental service to the Supreme Lord (Kṛṣṇa consciousness). Nonetheless, there is a mystery about all these different activities of sacrifice, and one should know this mystery. Sacrifices sometimes take different forms according to the particular faith of the performer. When one’s faith reaches the stage of transcendental knowledge, the performer of sacrifices should be considered more advanced than those who simply sacrifice material possessions without such knowledge, for without attainment of knowledge, sacrifices remain on the material platform and bestow no spiritual benefit. Real knowledge culminates in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, the highest stage of transcendental knowledge. Without the elevation of knowledge, sacrifices are simply material activities. When, however, they are elevated to the level of transcendental knowledge, all such activities enter onto the spiritual platform. Depending on differences in consciousness, sacrificial activities are sometimes called karma-kāṇḍa, fruitive activities, and sometimes jñāna-kāṇḍa, knowledge in the pursuit of truth. It is better when the end is knowledge.
tad viddhi praṇipātena
upadekṣyanti te jñānaṁ
tat—that knowledge of different sacrifices; viddhi—try to understand; praṇipātena—by approaching a spiritual master; paripraśnena—by submissive inquiries; sevayā—by the rendering of service; upadekṣyanti—initiate; te—unto you; jñānam—knowledge; jñāninaḥ—the self-realized; tattva—truth; darśinaḥ—the seers.
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.
The path of spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. No one can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original spiritual master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of the foolish pretenders. The Bhāgavatam says: dharmaṁ hi sākṣād-bhagavat-praṇītam—the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a spiritual master should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when he sees the genuine desire of the disciple, he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. One should not only hear submissively from the spiritual master; but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spiritual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple. Therefore when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.
yaj jñātvā na punar moham
evaṁ yāsyasi pāṇḍava
yena bhūtāny aśeṣāṇi
drakṣyasy ātmany atho mayi
yat—which; jñātvā—knowing; na—never; punaḥ—again; moham—illusion; evam—like this; yāsyasi—you shall go; pāṇḍava—O son of Pāṇḍu; yena—by which; bhūtāni—all living entities; aśesāṇi—totally; drakṣyasi—you will see; ātmani—in the Supreme Soul; atho—or in other words; mayi—in Me.
And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are but part of Me—and that they are in Me, and are Mine.
The result of receiving knowledge from a self-realized soul, or one who knows things as they are, is learning that all living beings are parts and parcels of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. The sense of a separated existence from Kṛṣṇa is called māyā (mā—not, yā—this). Some think that we have nothing to do with Kṛṣṇa, that Kṛṣṇa is only a great historical personality and that the Absolute is the impersonal Brahman. Factually, as it is stated in the Bhagavad-gītā, this impersonal Brahman is the personal effulgence of Kṛṣṇa. Kṛṣṇa, as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the cause of everything. In the Brahma-saṁhitā it is clearly stated that Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the cause of all causes. Even the millions of incarnations are only His different expansions. Similarly, the living entities are also expansions of Kṛṣṇa. The Māyāvādī philosophers wrongly think that Kṛṣṇa loses His own separate existence in His many expansions. This thought is material in nature. We have experience in the material world that a thing, when fragmentally distributed, loses its own original identity. But the Māyāvādī philosophers fail to understand that Absolute means that one plus one is equal to one, and that one minus one is also equal to one. This is the case in the absolute world.
For want of sufficient knowledge in the absolute science, we are now covered with illusion, and therefore we think that we are separate from Kṛṣṇa. Although we are separated parts of Kṛṣṇa, we are nevertheless not different from Him. The bodily difference of the living entities is māyā, or not actual fact. We are all meant to satisfy Kṛṣṇa. By māyā alone Arjuna thought that the temporary bodily relationship with his kinsmen was more important than his eternal spiritual relationship with Kṛṣṇa. The whole teaching of the Gītā is targetted toward this end: that a living being, as His eternal servitor, cannot be separated from Kṛṣṇa, and his sense of being an identity apart from Kṛṣṇa is called māyā. The living entities, as separate parts and parcels of the Supreme, have a purpose to fulfill. Having forgotten that purpose, since time immemorial they are situated in different bodies, as men, animals, demigods, etc. Such bodily differences arise from forgetfulness of the transcendental service of the Lord. But when one is engaged in transcendental service through Kṛṣṇa consciousness, one becomes at once liberated from this illusion. One can acquire such pure knowledge only from the bona fide spiritual master and thereby avoid the delusion that the living entity is equal to Kṛṣṇa. Perfect knowledge is that the Supreme Soul, Kṛṣṇa, is the supreme shelter for all living entities, and giving up such shelter, the living entities are deluded by the material energy, imagining themselves to have a separate identity. Thus, under different standards of material identity, they become forgetful of Kṛṣṇa. When, however, such deluded living entities become situated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, it is to be understood that they are on the path of liberation, as confirmed in the Bhāgavatam: muktir hitvānyathā rūpaṁ svarūpeṇa vyavasthitiḥ. Liberation means to be situated in one’s constitutional position as the eternal servitor of Kṛṣṇa (Kṛṣṇa consciousness).
api ced asi pāpebhyaḥ
api—even; cet—if; asi—you are; pāpebhyaḥ—of sinners; sarvebhyaḥ—of all; pāpa-kṛttamaḥ—the greatest sinner; sarvam—all such sinful actions; jñāna-plavena—by the boat of transcendental knowledge; eva—certainly; vṛjinam—the ocean of miseries; santariṣyasi—you will cross completely.
Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.
Proper understanding of one’s constitutional position in relationship to Kṛṣṇa is so nice that it can at once lift one from the struggle for existence which goes on in the ocean of nescience. This material world is sometimes regarded as an ocean of nescience and sometimes as a blazing forest. In the ocean, however expert a swimmer one may be, the struggle for existence is very severe. If someone comes forward and lifts the struggling swimmer from the ocean, he is the greatest savior. Perfect knowledge, received from the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the path of liberation. The boat of Kṛṣṇa consciousness is very simple, but at the same time the most sublime.
yathaidhāṁsi samiddho ’gnir
bhasma-sāt kurute ’rjuna
bhasma-sāt kurute tathā
yathā—just as; edhāṁsi—firewood; samiddhaḥ—blazing; agniḥ—fire; bhasmasāt—turns into ashes; kurute—so does; arjuna—O Arjuna; jñāna-agniḥ—the fire of knowledge; sarva-karmāṇi—all reactions to material activities; bhasmasāt—to ashes; kurute—it so does; tathā—similarly.
As the blazing fire turns firewood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.
Perfect knowledge of self and Superself and of their relationship is compared herein to fire. This fire not only burns up all reactions to impious activities, but also all reactions to pious activities, turning them to ashes. There are many stages of reaction: reaction in the making, reaction fructifying, reaction already achieved, and reaction a priori. But knowledge of the constitutional position of the living entity burns everything to ashes. When one is in complete knowledge, all reactious, both a priori and a posteriori, are consumed. In the Vedas it is stated: ubhe uhaivaiṣa ete taraty amṛtaḥ sādhv-asādhūnī: “One overcomes both the pious and impious interactions of work.”
na hi jñānena sadṛśaṁ
pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayaṁ yoga-saṁsiddhaḥ
na—never; hi—certainly; jñānena—with knowledge; sadṛśam—in comparison; pavitram—sanctified; iha—in this world; vidyate—exists; tat—that; svayam—itself; yoga—devotion; saṁsiddhaḥ—matured; kālena—in course of time; ātmani—in himself; vindati—enjoys.
In this world, there is nothing so 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.
When we speak of transcendental knowledge, we do so in terms of spiritual understanding. As such, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Ignorance is the cause of our bondage, and knowledge is the cause of our liberation. This knowledge is the mature fruit of devotional service, and when one is situated in transcendental knowledge, he need not search for peace elsewhere, for he enjoys peace within himself. In other words, this knowledge and peace are culminated in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. That is the last word in the Bhagavad-gītā.
śraddhāvāl labhate jñānaṁ
jñānaṁ labdhvā parāṁ śāntim
śraddhāvān—a faithful man; labhate—achieves; jñānam—knowledge; tat-paraḥ—very much attached to it; saṁyata—controlled; indriyaḥ—senses; jñanam—knowledge; labdhvā—having achieved; parām—transcendental; śāntim—peace; acireṇa—very soon; adhigacchati—attains.
A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace.
Such knowledge in Kṛṣṇa consciousness can be achieved by a faithful person who believes firmly in Kṛṣṇa. One is called a faithful man who thinks that, simply by acting in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, he can attain the highest perfection. This faith is attained by the discharge of devotional service, and by chanting “Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare,” which cleanses one’s heart of all material dirt. Over and above this, one should control the senses. A person who is faithful to Kṛṣṇa and who controls the senses can easily attain perfection in the knowledge of Kṛṣṇa consciousness without delay.
ajñaś cāśraddadhānaś ca
nāyaṁ loko ’sti na paro
na sukhaṁ saṁśayātmanaḥ
ajñaḥ—fools who have no knowledge in standard scriptures; ca—and; aśraddadhānaḥ—without faith in revealed scriptures; ca—also; saṁśaya—doubts; ātmā—person; vinaśyati—falls back; na—never; ayam—this; lokaḥ—world; asti—there is; na—neither; paraḥ—next life; na—not; sukham—happiness; saṁśaya—doubtful; ātmanaḥ—of the person.
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.
Out of many standard and authoritative revealed scriptures, the Bhagavad-gītā is the best. Persons who are almost like animals have no faith in, or knowledge of, the standard revealed scriptures; and some, even though they have knowledge of, or can cite passages from, the revealed scriptures, have actually no faith in these words. And even though others may have faith in scriptures like Bhagavad-gītā, they do not believe in or worship the Personality of Godhead, Śrī Kṛṣṇa. Such persons cannot have any standing in Kṛṣṇa consciousness. They fall down. Out of all the abovementioned persons, those who have no faith and are always doubtful make no progress at all. Men without faith in God and His revealed word find no good in this world, nor in the next. For them there is no happiness whatsoever. One should therefore follow the principles of revealed scriptures with faith and thereby be raised to the platform of knowledge. Only this knowledge will help one become promoted to the transcendental platform of spiritual understanding. In other words, doubtful persons have no status whatsoever in spiritual emancipation. One should therefore follow in the footsteps of great ācāryas who are in the disciplic succession and thereby attain success.
ātmavantaṁ na karmāṇi
yoga—devotional service in karma-yoga; sannyasta—renounced; karmāṇam—of the performers; jñāna—knowledge; sañchinna—cut by the advancement of knowledge; saṁśayam—doubts; ātma-vantam—situated in the self; na—never; karmāṇi—work; nibadhnanti—do bind up; dhanañjaya—O conquerer of riches.
Therefore, one who has renounced the fruits of his action, whose doubts are destroyed by transcendental knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the self, is not bound by works, O conqueror of riches.
One who follows the instruction of the Gītā, as it is imparted by the Lord, the Personality of Godhead Himself, becomes free from all doubts by the grace of transcendental knowledge. He, as a part and parcel of the Lord, in full Kṛṣṇa consciousness, is already established in self-knowledge. As such, he is undoubtedly above bondage to action.
chittvainaṁ saṁśayaṁ yogam
tasmāt—therefore; ajñāna-sambhūtam—outcome of ignorance; hṛt-stham—situated in the heart; jñāna—knowledge; asinā—by the weapon of; ātmanaḥ—of the self; chittvā—cutting off; enam—this; saṁśayam—doubt; yogam—in yoga; ātiṣṭha—be situated; uttiṣṭha—stand up to fight; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata.
Therefore the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with yoga, O Bhārata, stand and fight.
The yoga system instructed in this chapter is called sanātana-yoga, or eternal activities performed by the living entity. This yoga has two divisions of sacrificial actions: one is called sacrifice of one’s material possessions, and the other is called knowledge of self, which is pure spiritual activity. If sacrifice of one’s material possessions is not dovetailed for spiritual realization, then such sacrifice becomes material. But one who performs such sacrifices with a spiritual objective, or in devotional service, makes a perfect sacrifice. When we come to spiritual activities, we find that these are also divided into two: namely, understanding of one’s own self (or one’s constitutional position), and the truth regarding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who follows the path of the Gītā as it is can very easily understand these two important divisions of spiritual knowledge. For him there is no difficulty in obtaining perfect knowledge of the self as part and parcel of the Lord. And such understanding is beneficial for such a person who easily understands the transcendental activities of the Lord. In the beginning of this chapter, the transcendental activities of the Lord were discussed by the Supreme Lord Himself. One who does not understand the instructions of the Gītā is faithless, and is to be considered to be misusing the fragmental independence awarded to him by the Lord. In spite of such instructions, one who does not understand the real nature of the Lord as the eternal, blissful, all-knowing Personality of Godhead, is certainly fool number one. Ignorance can be removed by gradual acceptance of the principles of Kṛṣṇa consciousness. Kṛṣṇa consciousness is awakened by different types of sacrifices to the demigods, sacrifice to Brahman, sacrifice in celibacy, in household life, in controlling the senses, in practicing mystic yoga, in penance, in foregoing material possessions, in studying the Vedas, and in partaking of the social institution called varṇāśrama-dharma. All of these are known as sacrifice, and all of them are based on regulated action. But within all these activities, the important factor is self-realization. One who seeks that objective is the real student of Bhagavad-gītā, but one who doubts the authority of Kṛṣṇa falls back. One is therefore advised to study Bhagavad-gītā, or any other scripture, under a bona fide spiritual master, with service and surrender. A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal, and he does not deviate at all from the instructions of the Supreme Lord as they were imparted millions of years ago to the sun-god, from whom the instructions of Bhagavad-gītā have come down to the earthly kingdom. One should, therefore, follow the path of Bhagavad-gītā as it is expressed in the Gītā itself and beware of self-interested people after personal aggrandizement who deviate others from the actual path. The Lord is definitely the supreme person, and His activities are transcendental. One who understands this is a liberated person from the very beginning of his study of the Gītā.
Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Fourth Chapter of the Śrīmad-Bhagavad-gītā in the matter of Transcendental Knowledge.