Chapter 4 - Jnana Yoga
Chapter 4, Verse 1
Lord Krishna says to Arjuna that this knowledge of Yoga has been taught earlier also. He first taught it to Surya, the sun God. That’s why Sun may be doing so much good by burning the fuel without expecting anything in return and without any self. Sun God taught it to his son Manu and Manu taught it to Ikshwaku. Lord Krishna uses the word imperishable for the knowledge of Yoga. I think that is why yoga is being transmitted without any break continuously across generations.
Chapter 4, Verse 2
Thus, the saintly kings received this knowledge in succession from teachers to students. However, this knowledge got diluted or the real message got diluted as time went on by. This usually happens to religions which are not Dogmatic. People can add their own interpretations and the message can be diluted. We have seen this happening in the game called “Chinese whisperers”.
Chapter 4, Verse 3
In this sloka lord, Krishna calls Arjuna Bhakta and friend. The order of arrangement of words is clear, first, we should become a devotee and then we can become a friend to Lord Krishna. He also says that the knowledge he is teaching is the supreme secret that he had taught earlier to Sun God and it is the same he is teaching to Arjuna.
Because of printing and advances in knowledge we got the opportunity to read that secret. Now because it is in form of books and on the internet everywhere it is no more a secret but the knowledge is supreme there is no doubt in that.
If we don’t think the knowledge is supreme we will not value that knowledge. If we follow the knowledge we can attain the supreme position, that is liberation from birth and death.
Chapter 4, Verse 4
Arjuna asks Sri Krishna since your birth is recent when did you teach Sun God. This question Arjuna asks on behalf of all humanity, also Arjuna is just seeing the physical form of Sri Krishna, how can he be teaching to sun who was born when the universe is born?. Sun is born out of Big bang, in fact, the whole universe is born out of big bang and how come Sri Krishna can teach Sun? Age of universe is 13.772 billion years, and age of Sun is 4.6 billion years. That means Sri Krishna existed before Sun existed.
Chapter 4, Verse 5
Sri Krishna replies to Arjuna that there were many birth for him before this birth (Avatars) and also for Arjuna there were many births. It is interesting to see that Sri Krishna remembers all his previous births and Arjuna do not remember. Arjuna is just like any of us, ignorant of our past existence and we think that this is the only birth, the present life is the only existence and we behave in such a way. Whereas the reality is that the present moment effects the future moment and actions have done now affect the future.
Life is a continuous cyclical process.
Chapter 4, Verse 6
Sri Krishna further clarifies to Arjuna that nature (Prakriti/material world) is completely under his control because of his internal potency(Yogamaya). Lord Krishna can take up any form as he is the Lord of Prakriti which is not possible for human beings because they are bound to karma.
Chapter 4, Verse 7
This is the most heard sloka of Bhagwatgita. Lord Krishna affirms that he will manifest whenever there is a decrease in righteousness and increase in unrighteousness on this earth. He not only manifests outside the individual but he manifests within the person also. Whenever a person is going in a highly wrong direction in the direction of adharma Lord Krishna manifests himself within the person as inner voice and try to guide him. (It is an entirely different matter that we do not listen to our inner voice). This sloke gives hope for a person not to lose hope in himself or the society because Lord Krishna will be there to protect him.
Chapter 4, Verse 8
This is another sloka which is widely heard in childhood. Lord Krishna reaffirms what he will be doing by being born again and again. He says he will protect the virtues and annihilate the vices by being born again and again. If we interpret in an individual sense, we can see that Lord Krishna when he is born in a person he will protect the virtues of a person and try to increase them and at the same time, he will destroy the vices of the person. For all this to happen the person himself has to work hard with detachment, without self for the welfare of the society.
Chapter 4, Verse 9
In this sloka, Lord Krishna says, those people who understood not only his various avatars but also the actions he has performed in those avatars, will attain liberation. Here Lord Krishna meant that people should understand and follow the principles he lived for in various Avatars. Like the life Style of Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, if followed by people, will lead to liberation.
Chapter 4, Verse 10
In this sloka, Lord Krishna further elaborates how to achieve liberation. He says the person should be free from Rag -desire-(free from desire and hatred to things, beings, and events), free from fear. Fear leads to attachment so Lord Krishna says persons seeking liberations should be free from fear. They should also be free from anger. We have earlier seen that unsatisfied desires lead to anger, thus persons seeking liberation should be free from anger.
He also mentions some more additional qualities, that the person should be fully absorbed in Lord Krishna, that means whatever the person is doing that should be for Lord Krishna and not for the person himself. Then he says the person should have knowledge of what he is doing and why he doing. The realization should come as to why a person is doing actions without desires, without anger etc. Without knowledge, the person might stop acting on it in future. Another additional quality for liberation is doing work like a tapasya. The effort the person should keep in work should be like tapasya and not halfhearted efforts.
Chapter 4, Verse 11
Lord Krishna says he will reward/serve/love everybody whoever reaches him in whatever way. If people want to reach Lord Krishna through work they can reach him through work. If people want to reach Krishna thorough devotion he will reach them too. Thus, this is important that people will ultimately reach Lord Krishna whatever faith they may be having. Lord Krishna also uses the word accordingly. This is very important. As per faith of people, he will reach them as accordingly.
Chapter 4, Verse 12
Why is that most people follow other Gods/demi-gods when it is known that finally, they have to reach him? Lord Krishna answers this question by saying that people worship various Gods seeking material wealth and other benefits, as per their desires. Gods will bestow the results too heeding to the prayers of people. The prayers results form a cause and effect phenomenon, which is easy for people to see. The liberation/moksha which is the highest ideal for a man is usually not followed by people most of the times hence they do not worship Krishna.
Chapter 4, Verse 13
Lord Krishna clearly tells he has created the four varna’s based on the qualities of a person and the kind of activities a person does in life. ( Gradually instead of being based on Guna’s and Work the caste system has become hereditary). He created human beings and the divisions in the human beings so that society will move forward with the support of each division of people. Even though he created the system he says he is not attached to the system in any way, and by does not get exhausted by the work he does. Here in this sloka, Lord Krishna says that people should follow him. People should create systems and should not be attached to them. They should work hard continuously for the system without any attachment and should not feel tired of the work they are doing.
Chapter 4, Verse 14
Sri Krishna further elaborates that he is not entangled in his work and he has no aspirations of fruits for his work. He works relentlessly for the universe without expecting any fruits of his work. Whenever there is Adharma he is born on this planet to make it right. Even then he doesn’t get attached to the work he is doing. He says that if people will follow his model, working relentlessly selflessly they will reach him.
Chapter 4, Verse 15
Lord Krishna asks Arjuna to follow the example of Ancient Sage’s like Janaka, Manu, and Vivaswan (Sun) who after learning from the Lord performed actions without any reward in their mind and worked selflessly to attain liberation. In the same way, Arjuna can see the Lord’s activities, like the creation of the universe yet not being attached to it, works of the great Sages who got inspired by Krishna and performed great acts. Lord Krishna is asking Arjuna to perform actions without any self in mind and rewards in mind.
Chapter 4, Verse 16
In this Sloka Lord Krishna says even for the wise it is difficult to understand what is action and what is action and this confusion usually leads to inaction. Thus Lord Krishna says he will clear the confusion so that Arjuna will be clear in his mind hat actions need to be done and what not.
Chapter 4, Verse 17
This sloka has very deep meanings. The sloka ends with “directions or manifestations of karma are deep” so careful attention needs to be paid by the person every time. Actions are of three types, Actions which produce right reactions -Karma, actions which produce negative reactions- Vikarma and actions which produce no reactions. Not to be confused with action reaction of physics but with cause and effects. Some actions cause good effects, some actions cause bad effects and some actions have no effect at all.
What should a person aspire for? He should ideally be doing selfless work for the benefit of humanity so he should aspire for work which does not cause any personal effect on him. Without expecting the rewards or fruits if a person performs actions then they do not form karmic bonds on the person.
If a person does action thinking of rewards then karmic bonds are formed. So, actions as per the Vedic scriptures have to be done, they are good for the person and also for the society but leave karmic debt on the person.
If a person aims for liberation he should perform actions which do not leave any karmic debt on him and he should not do any duties prohibited in the scriptures.
Chapter 4, Verse 18
This sloka explains the previous sloka well. After saying the meaning and direction of actions are deep, Lord Krishna reveals that those people are intelligent who realizes renunciation of activities in action and action in activities of renunciation. A bit difficult to comprehend but it means we should perform actions like a renunciate not getting the effects of action stick to us. Preform causes where the effects do not stick to the person who is doing actions. Perform action with complete detachment. Perform actions with a feeling of vairagya so that the person can think clearly about the work, without any personal attachment.
We may think that we should have a passion to do work, yes, it is agreed we should have passion, but passion is not attachment to work. We should infuse all our energy to the task we are performing but detached from the work we are doing so we take the right decisions.
Chapter 4, Verse 19
Whoever does action by renunciation the desire for the fruits of work, whoever does work totally engrossed in knowledge and whoever does work by burning the reactions of the work by the knowledge of action then that person is called spiritually awakened.
A person performing the action in anticipation of results, rewards are basically causing a reaction to the action he is doing because he is basically anticipating results/rewards before the work is even done. This will cause attachment to the work. The person seeking moksha is basically seeking liberation and perform an action without expecting results and totally engrossed with the supreme atma. He does actions for the betterment of society.
Chapter 4, Verse 20
This is another powerful Bhagwat Geetha Sloka. Lord Krishna says after giving up desires for results and non-attached to the work, The person is always satisfied with work and is never affected by the external phenomenon. That means things that are outside the control of a person will not affect him. In spite of being engaged in activities, he does not do anything at all. ( Does not leave reaction for work at all).
Chapter 4, Verse 21
This is another Gem of a poem in Bhagwat Geetha. Without any desires, without any sense of ownership for the work, the person executes the work. We may think how can we do a work without a sense of ownership. That is where the real motivation for the work lies. Are we motivated for the work, for the welfare of the society or do we have any expectations from the work for ourselves? This is the question we should ask before the start of the work. IF we have any personal reasons for the work then we will be clouded by attachment to the work. Once we get attached to the work, we will not be taking the right decisions when they are needed. For example, if we need to shun the work because of somethings are not working properly which cannot be rectified, we may not be able to do the analysis properly the reasons if we are personally attached to work.
If a person works without a sense of ownership of the work, then he does not have any sinful reaction. It will not lead to the creation of karma. It will lead to “akarma”. It will lead to non-attachment of the work. Just imagine I am a subordinate in office and a work is entrusted to me. I give 100% for the work and do not worry about results. If the results are positive for the work, boss appreciates, its good. If the results are not proper as per satisfaction of boss, he may get angry and scold us. We may get hurt because the boss has scolded us. If we are non-attached to work then it will not cause any hurt to us.
Chapter 4, Verse 22
After giving 100% a person will be satisfied whatever the outcome is. If the result is positive he is satisfied even with the result is negative, the person is satisfied with that. The person is beyond dualities, good result-bad result, happy outcome-unhappy outcome, promotion-demotion, love -hatred, fellow person getting promoted and he is not getting promoted etc.
The person is also free of envy and jealousy. If some colleagues get more than their due and progress forward the person doesn’t worry. He is happy with what he is getting. He is always equipoised, to success or failure and is not affected by the results.
Chapter 4, Verse 23
One whose heart is situated in transcendence, who is working like he is doing the work for the sake of almighty, one who is liberated and do not crave for rewards of the work, one who performs work like a yagna, for him there is no reaction to work.
Here again, Lord Krishna says the following attributes are needed for a person to be called a liberated person:
- He should work like he is doing yagna. Yagna is done with full respect, reverence, and concentration, in the same way, if work is performed like that (respect, reverence, and full energy) such a person is liberated. 2.Whenever a task is performed it should be performed for the lord and not for the personal benefit of the person. Personal benefits lead to ego getting attached to work. So, work should be performed for the sake of almighty.
- The person doing the work has to have knowledge of what he is doing and why he is doing that and he should constantly strive to improve the knowledge.
Chapter 4, Verse 24
Work as if it is offered to Supreme brahmana, whatever ingredients you put in work like time, energy, knowledge should be offered to the supreme creator, work being fully absorbed in the supreme being ( Brahmana) then the liberation, moksha is attainable.
Here Lord Krishna is giving a guarantee that if we work as if everything is offered to the supreme being and not to us then we can achieve liberation.
Chapter 4, Verse 25
For many people, it is quite difficult to reach the state of Gnana Yoga “where they offer every work to the Brahman” and work with Brahman consciousness all the time. Those people usually like to have God whom they like. Usually some like Hanuman, Some like Rama, some like Satyanarayana etc. Lord Krishna suggests that those people who are still doing action but still can’t imagine of offering all the work to a supreme consciousness can think of offering all the work to a particular God they like. Christians can offer all their work to the Christ and other religious people can offer their work to respective Gods.
People who have acquired knowledge of reality can offer the work to supreme Brahman consciousness and whatever work they are doing is for the supreme consciousness.
Chapter 4, Verse 26
Lord Krishna further elaborates the methods followed by people which will help them in being in the consciousness of supreme being all the time. To look inward we have to look less outward. What helps in this is basically we withdraw the senses from the objects which cause pleasure and addiction to the mind. This has been told earlier that we should withdraw our senses like a Tortoise. Here Lord Krishna says we should burn the link between the sense objects and sense organs.
For the advanced seekers, they can burn the object itself in their brain. Like the person who has eaten too many sweets may not want another sweet because he doesn’t crave for the object, in the same way, if we stop craving by burning the object in the brain then we can devote the resources of our mind for the consciousness of supreme being.
Chapter 4, Verse 27
I thought of the sloka 26 more and I feel that it is more apt to explain it in terms of addiction to sweets or smoking. People who are addicted to a product can stop it in two ways, either stay away from it, withdraw themselves from the product totally. Like a person addicted to sweets may try a strategy to keep the sweets away from his sight, so that he is not close to sweets thus he doesn’t eat sweets. His desire for sweets remain in mind but he is not eating sweets.
Some other people burn the desire for sweets with proper knowledge of the harm they do to the body and stay away from them totally. These people even when sweets are kept before them will not eat them because their desire for sweets is gone. The space created in the mind for sweets should be filled with thoughts about higher consciousness.
In this sloka, I feel it as a summary for the previous slokas. Here Lord Krishna says “ a person burning with desire for the realization of self, or a person burning with the realization of something in life will burn the thoughts which take him away from the goal through the process of samyama yoga. “Samyama yoga consists of three stages: Dharana: Concentration on the goal, Dhyana: meditation contemplation on knowledge of the goal and Samadhi: Absorption in the goal.
This is the important lesson, Takeaway from Gita I had till now.
Chapter 4, Verse 28
This sloka is a practical manual of different types of actions taken by people as per their likes. Some people would like to make donations of whatever they can, some people would like to perform intense austerities, some people would devote time for yoga following all the principles of Yoga(Yama,niyama, Dharana, Dhyana, samadhi, asana, pranayama, pratyahara). Some people would like to do it by studying themselves the holy scriptures and try to attain knowledge. Whatever path people follow they do it like a vrata. They will put all their energy into it and take it like a mission.
Chapter 4, Verse 29
Mentioning further how people would like to reach the supreme consciousness Lord Krishna mentions that some people do meditation on their breath. Offering incoming breath to out going breath they concentrate on their breath all the time and thus they attain union of senses. This is known as “ana-pana” meditation. Also mentioned in Raja Yoga as one of the means to attain God. Meditation on breath is a good tool to increase concentration.
Some other people reduce the intake of food to reduce the activity of senses. We know ourselves that if we eat more food we will feel lazy and tired. So, its always good to eat less food as described in Ayurveda. Fasting one day in a week is also a good method. Food is one of the basic necessities of life and fasting increases the will power of person to take on the task at hand.
Chapter 4, Verse 30
Lord Krishna makes an affirmative statement that whatever method people follow of the mentioned methodologies, the performer will clean up his past sins and will move closer to attain self-realization. This is a hope for people to attain supreme consciousness, that people can follow any one method , perform any one action to reach the highest state of union with the Lord.
Chapter 4, Verse 33
Here Krishna says that although all the earlier mentioned 12 actions will lead to the supreme consciousness, the actions performed with spiritual knowledge will lead us faster to the goal. Any action if performed by knowledge of the ultimate goal ( self-realization) is the best one. Krishna says ultimately, all actions get burnt up by knowledge. It is best to develop spiritual knowledge by reading holy books and following saintly people and keep doing action as an offering to the supreme lord.
Chapter 4, Verse 34
In this sloka, Lord Krishna explains the way to acquire knowledge. It can be acquired by asking questions and making an inquiry about the absolute truth from the realized beings. Before this, the person should lose his ego and become “coachable”. He should be a sincere seeker first then he should ask questions. Without humbleness we cannot extract the real answers from the teachers.
Chapter 4, Verse 35
Lord Krishna says that knowledge is the one which will remove the illusion of what is real and unreal. Arjuna is suffering from Maya that he is going to fight his relatives when in fact he is fighting the souls which move from one body to another. Only knowledge can remove the illusion, whatever practices we may do, without knowledge it becomes more strenuous.if we have knowledge we can reach the goal faster. For example, we can lift 100 kilos by different mechanisms, if we have the knowledge of levers, friction and other laws of physics we can lift it easily. Knowledge of a task makes achieving the task easier. The same is for spiritual progress too.
Chapter 4, Verse 36
Lord Krishna gives hope for the people who might have done sinful activities, whether they can attain self-realization or not. He says that if they get spiritual knowledge and start applying to their life they can also attain self-realization. Getting knowledge is the first step and the second step is doing actions as per the knowledge. These days because of the internet getting knowledge is quite easy and acting on that knowledge has become a bit difficult due to complex nature of life.
Chapter 4, Verse 37
In this sloka, Lord Krishna gives illustration as for how spiritual knowledge can change the karma. He says spiritual knowledge has the power to burn the karma (the past) like fire burns the wood and turns it into ashes. The usage of analogy is important in that the mass of wood which is visible can completely be changed to another state, ashes which are not visible. All the sins of the past, karmic reactions can be burnt with knowledge.
Intense desire to change in a person, attaining knowledge and putting that knowledge into action will change the person and burns his past. So, the person can be hopeful whatever he does in the path of self-realization if he does with spiritual knowledge it will lead to the attainment of the goal.
There is always a hope. Supreme consciousness will come and teach the knowledge. Only pre-requisite is the person should have the intense desire.
Chapter 4, Verse 38
Here Lord Krishna gives a pre-requisite for the spiritual knowledge. He says that if one keeps practicing karma yoga (work selflessly without rewards) or practice yoga (uniting self with the supreme consciousness) for a long period of time then spiritual knowledge will come to the person which will help in liberating the person. This is very important that we should prepare ourselves sincerely to receive the knowledge, prove ourselves that we are worthy of receiving the knowledge and once we are ready then the knowledge comes.
Chapter 4, Verse 39
In this sloka Lord Krishna gives hope to the person who is seeking knowledge. A person on the strength of his faith, and who has attained equanimity of his senses (where the senses remain neutral) is bound to attain the knowledge which will liberate him. Once a person has knowledge then there will not be any confusion in his mind and he will attain supreme peace. The person is not in illusions of the world and he will attain peace.
Chapter 4, Verse 40
In this sloka, Lord Krishna explains what will happen to the persons who are ignorant and without faith. He says those people without the right knowledge and who have doubts about the knowledge and who do not have faith in the knowledge will ultimately perish. He also mentions that such a person without faith and doubtful mind will not have happiness either in this birth or in the next birth.
It should be very clear that we should have a clear vision in life and we should pursue that vision with full faith. If we have doubts about our vision then we will not have peace and happiness. We should have faith in our vision and the path we are pursuing. Once we have that then there is a point that we get the supreme knowledge to understand our path which will cause happiness.
There should be proper alignment with our actions, words, and thoughts. If there is any mismatch between them then there is confusion and this confusion leads to an absence of peace in the life of an individual.
Chapter 4, Verse 41
Here it is explained how we are untouched by the effects of the work we do. Here, we should remember here the dilemma of Arjuna that the sin of killing his relatives, teachers, and the disruption of society will be attached to him if he participates in the war. Lord Krishna says the sin will not touch him because he is fighting the war for righteousness and not for himself. He is not attached to the war as he is detached from the outcome of the war. He does not want kingdom for himself, he does not want to win the war, he does not want to take revenge. Neither the victory of the war will please him nor the loss in the war displeases him. He is equanimous about the result of the war. He is fighting the war for the society. A reward of the war does not motivate him. He is fighting the war for the society, for the people. In such a scenario things will be very clear to him and he can make moves of the war very clearly.
Lord Krishna again says there should be complete clarity of thought word and deed and there should not be any confusion.
Chapter 4, Verse 42
Lord Krishna says people should use knowledge as a sword to clear all the doubts in mind and strive for self-realization