[This is the fourth in a series of eighteen articles on the eighteen chapters of Bhagavad-gita.—editor]
In the Fourth Chapter of Bhagavad-gita Krsna explains two main topics to his disciple Arjuna: the first has to do with the nature and activities of the Lord, and the second has to do with the activities of the living entity, which are sometimes called sanatana-yoga, or eternal activities of the living being. Krsna as the Supreme Lord of the universe is always transcendental, and in the first nine verses of this chapter we learn a great deal about the transcendental nature of the Lord. He first instructs Arjuna about the transcendental nature of Bhagavad-gita itself, and how this science was transmitted: “I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksvaku.” (Bg. 4.1)
So the first point to be made about the transcendental nature of Krsna is that He is the origin of all dharma. No system of religion can be manufactured by the mental speculator. Krsna definitely asserts here, “I instructed,” and similarly He says that in the course of time, because of changes made in the transmission, the disciplic succession was broken. Therefore Krsna is again speaking the same message to Arjuna, “because you are My friend and devotee.”
There are always two classes of men, the devotee, who is always trying to carry out Krsna’s orders, and the demon, who is always envious of Krsna. The Lord speaks the message of Bhagavad-gita to the first class only, namely the devotees, such as Arjuna or Vivasvan, because they are not envious of Krsna, and will listen. But the demons never listen and are forever rebellious. They are convinced that they can figure out the Absolute Truth by their own mental speculation, and ultimately they conclude that they are as good as Krsna, even though they have none of the qualifications of Krsna. Therefore they cannot accept Lord Krsna as He is, and as He is portrayed in the Bhagavad-gita.
He Is Transcendental
The second point to be made about the transcendental nature of Krsna is that He is not like an ordinary living entity, in that His memory is always perfect: “Many, many births both you and I have passed,” He tells Arjuna, “I can remember all of them, but you cannot.” (Bg. 4.5) Actually this capacity of remembrance and forgetfulness is one of the basic differences between the Supreme and the conditioned soul. The quality of the Supreme is cit, or perfect knowledge, past, present, and future, but the conditioned soul is always forgetful.
With each body that we take we leave behind the memory of the last. With each new body, and even within these bodies, we tend to forget, and especially in this present age called Kali-yuga, memory is being so reduced that we cannot even remember things very close at hand. I doubt if there is a single reader who could recite perfectly the first sentence in this essay. Yet it was not very long ago that a good brahmacari, or student, could hear a lecture and remember it perfectly. Such is our position in this age that we are going down and down, and all the while we think that we are advancing. That is called maya, what is not. We are being degraded and dragged down to hell, and maya says, “Isn’t it nice.”
He Never Forgets
But Krsna is never forgetful. In the Brahma-samhita it says: “I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krsna], 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 vision may on occasion be manifest to the best Vedic scholars, but Krsna says that it is always available to the pure devotee. Actually, this word acyuta, infallible, means that He never forgets himself, even when He is in contact with material nature. The jiva, or individual soul, forgets himself because the jiva is infinitesimal while Krsna is infinite.
So the Lord and the living entity can never beequal in all respects, even if the living entity is as liberated as Arjuna. Although Arjuna is a liberated soul from the very beginning and is an eternal associate of the Lord, nevertheless he sometimes forgets the nature of the Lord. But by the divine grace of the Lord, a devotee alone can understand the infallible condition of the Lord, whereas a nondevotee or demon cannot understand this transcendental nature of Krsna.
And why the Lord never forgets is further explained in the sixth verse: “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’s body is called advaita, which means that there is no distinction between the Lord and His body—everything is spirit. But the conditioned soul is different from his material body. Therefore when he leaves one material body and goes to another he forgets, but the Lord never takes a material body; He always appears in the same sac-cid-ananda body. Sac-cid-ananda means eternal, knowledgeable and blissful, so that is called His transcendental body, and it never deteriorates, and He never changes bodies.
It is something like the sun, which appears on the horizon and passes through the meridian and then sets; but this appearance and disappearance is due to our vision, not to the sun. Similarly, Krsna’s appearance and disappearance are due to the imperfect eyesight of the conditioned soul. The Lord is always the same Absolute Truth and is without differentiation between His form and His Self, or between His quality and body. This is omnipotence.
Why He Appears
Now the reason for this appearance and disappearance is revealed in verse seven: “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend My Self.” No man can manufacture a system of religion, for only Krsna can breathe new life into the sleeping soul. Therefore, it says that the Lord originally spoke this transcendental message to Brahma from within his heart. Actually, from the eighth verse of the Fourth Chapter, we can understand that the reason the Lord descends Himself is not so much to annihilate the wicked—He can do that without coming Himself. He can do that by the potency of any one of His multi-energies—all of whom He controls by His expansion as Paramatma.
Then why does He come Himself? Just to deliver the pious, just for the pleasure of His devotees. Actually, when Krsna was a small child He killed so many demons, but it was not for the demons’ sake that He appeared. It was for Mother Yasoda’s sake, just so she could think, “Oh how God has saved my child.” God was her child, but by the ecstasy of love, Mother Yasoda could think, “Oh how God has saved my child.” That is one of the inconceivable pastimes of the Lord. So just to please His devotees, the Lord appears when there is too much wickedness.
For anyone who can understand this transcendental nature of the Lord, the transcendental nature of His appearance and disappearance, and the nature of His activities and speaking, for him there is assurance of liberation, and Krsna promises such a one a place in His transcendental abode. Why is that? Because such a person is qualified. According to the tenth verse, such a person has no attachment to the material world, and one who has no attachment to this material world becomes completely attached to Krsna. Krsna means all-attractive, and therefore He can attract one completely. Even as a magnet can attract all of the iron to itself, so Krsna can attract every jiva soul to Himself. The question is one of knowledge. The soul in knowledge is attracted to Krsna, because He is the reservoir of all pleasure; but the soul in forgetfulness is being attracted to so many reflections because the conditioned soul has forgotten the source of all rasa or pleasure. So Krsna can attract all the living entities as soon as they remember Him. Furthermore, as one becomes free from attachment, he automatically becomes free from fear and anger, because he is completely absorbed in Krsna. And since he is taking refuge in Krsna, what is there to fear?
Next, Krsna tells Arjuna that as proof of what He says, so many great saints and sages in the past became purified in this way and attained transcendental love for Him. So this process of thinking about the transcendental nature of Krsna, His appearance and activities, is an authorized way to attain love for Krsna.
It is all a question of surrender. Verse eleven states: All of them, as they surrender unto Me, I reward accordingly.” Actually Krsna is seated within the heart of every living entity. So there is no question of fooling the Supersoul. He is not impressed by outward show, and He is not impressed by ritual, but He is impressed by a loving heart. There is a nice verse in the Holy Bible which says, “Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The point is that the Lord responds in exact proportion to the striving of the living entity. If we want Krsna ten percent, it is ten percent that we will get. But if we surrender everything that we have (and actually we have nothing which is not already Krsna’s save and except the false ego which we have manufactured in our conditioned state), then Krsna will likewise give Himself. It is something like the mother who hears her child beginning to whine, and so hands him a toy. Then when he whines again she gives him another and another, until the point is reached when the child will not be quieted with any toy. At that point the mother picks up the child and gives him herself.
Similarly, when we become thoroughly disgusted with all of this paraphernalia, and when nothing else will satisfy, Krsna will give us Himself. In this connection, one great saint has prayed, “O my Lord, when will that day come when I will have no more taste for the inebrieties of this world, and I will take to the nectar of Thy loving service? When will that day come when my ears will become stopped up from hearing of Thy glories, and my tongue will be forever engaged in chanting Thy holy name?”
Actually, no one ever becomes the loser by giving to Krsna. We may be giving up ten percent, or fifty percent, or one hundred percent of what we have, but count it any way you want, ten percent of nothing or fifty percent of nothing or one hundred percent of nothing is still nothing. It is all illusion, maya, that is all. But if I get ten percent of the Infinite, that is infinite, and we cannot imagine what is one hundred percent of the Infinite. One may give up a worthless body, or the worthless conception of “I” and “mine,” but Krsna can give one a body like His own, and a conception of I and mine which is spiritual, and therefore in perfect relation to the Absolute, a body not subject to birth and death, but one which is eternal and full of bliss. In short, such a man has Krsna, and therefore all the resources of all the opulences of the Almighty.
Krsna is so kind that He reciprocates with the devotee just as the devotee would like to have him. To one He is master, to another He is friend, to another He is son and to still another, He reciprocates in the supreme exchange of the perfect lover. Krsna awards equally all devotees in their different intensities of love for Him. Thus the devotees can serve Krsna personally, and as such they partake of His sac-cid-ananda nature, because no one can be in the presence of Krsna without experiencing bliss.
And even the impersonalists, who are envious of Krsna’s personal form, who are fearful of having an eternal personality because of their material frustrations, and who are so frustrated with material existence that they want to commit spiritual suicide, they will also be rewarded by Krsna accordingly. Krsna allows them to merge into His effulgence, called the brahmajyoti, but that certainly is not the most desirable position. We have information that those who attain this brahmajyoti eventually fall down to material existence again to exhibit their dormant desire for activities.
Activity is the actual condition of the living entity, and such a condition of non-activity is against our spiritual nature. So we should not strive to give up activity, but we should strive to practice sanatana-yoga, or the eternal activities of the living entity. Verse fifteen of Chapter Four says, “All the liberated souls in ancient times acted with this understanding and so attained liberation. Therefore, as did the ancients, you should perform your duty in this divine consciousness.” And verse eighteen says: “One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities. “
So we can understand that this sanatana-yoga or eternal activities of the living entity is not exactly a question of whether one is materially active or inactive, but rather, a question of his consciousness. Therefore there are three concepts in the Sanskrit: One is karma, one is vikarma, and the third is akarma. Karma means to follow prescribed regulations, as laid down by the great authorities and scriptures, for good work, for good results, for fruitive activity, for gaining some material benefit or heavenly happiness. These activities are always performed with some good result in view, and therefore ultimately there must also be some reaction. Vikarma is just the opposite. It means acting for one’s personal sense enjoyment, or according to one’s personal whim, disregarding the directions of the scriptures or authorities. Therefore there is reaction, but the consequences are always inauspicious or bad.
But akarma means to work in such a way that there is no reaction. The first mantra of Isopanisad says: “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one must not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” So the conclusion of Isopanisad is that everything belongs to the Lord. Everything is His energy, and therefore He is the ultimate proprietor of everything that is.
So if a man can become a servant of Krsna and use things only as Krsna directs, then certainly for that man there is no reaction, any more than there is legal action against the bank teller who just does his job nicely, without claiming any of the millions of dollars he is handling as his own. He is simply transferring it from one account to another on behalf of the bank. But if a teller tries to keep some of the funds for himself, he is called an embezzler, and is immediately thrown into jail. Similarly, the living entities who do not do everything for Krsna are actually thieves.
Everything For Krsna
So sanatana-yoga means to be doing everything for Krsna, and in verse twenty-four of this Fourth Chapter it is practically explained how such a man works: “To him, Brahman, the Supreme, is the offering, Brahman is the oblation and the sacrificial fire, and by Brahman the sacrifice is performed. By performing action in this way, one ultimately attains the Supreme.” So it is not very difficult for someone who is practicing Krsna consciousness to know that whatever has come into his hands is simply the energy of the Supreme Lord Krsna, or Brahman. Therefore the very offering is Krsna; and to whom he is offering it, that is also Krsna. He understands that even his body is Krsna’s energy, and therefore it is Krsna’s energy which is performing the sacrifice.
The conclusion, therefore, is that one who practices Krsna consciousness in this way certainly can never be separated from Krsna. The more the activities of the material world are performed in this Krsna consciousness, as a sacrifice for Visnu only, the more the material atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption.
Some people want to give up all activities because they have become frustrated by material activities of maya, but that is not at all recommended. A person who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels from drinking too much milk cannot be cured just by abstinence from milk. No, that is not a very good cure. But if he would take another milk product, yogurt, then that will cure him. Similarly, we have become addicted to and diseased by this material life consisting of activity for sense gratification, and the cure is to transform this material life into spiritual life by dovetailing everything with the Supreme. Actually, everything that exists is Krsna’s energy and is situated with His brahmajyoti, or divine effulgence. But when this effulgence is covered by the cloud of illusion, it is called maya or sense gratification, and that is called material. But when matter is dovetailed in the service of the Supreme, or Krsna, it regains its spiritual quality. Krsna consciousness, wherein everything is done for Krsna, is the process of converting illusory energy into spiritual energy, or Brahman.
The Aim Of Sacrifice
So what shall we sacrifice, what shall we give to Krsna? Basically, there are two kinds of sacrifice, as explained in the thirty-third verse. There is a sacrifice of material possessions and a sacrifice of knowledge. Actually the two are one, but in the beginning there is an apparent difference. The ultimate aim of all sacrifice is to attain Krsna consciousness, which means to attain complete knowledge of the Absolute and thereby be freed of all material miseries, finally attaining transcendental love of Krsna. But due to differences between performers, there are also differences in prescriptions for gradually attaining that goal. Therefore for one who is a neophyte it is prescribed that he give up his material possessions, and gradually this will elevate him to the position where he can sacrifice knowledge. But a person who is actually in Krsna consciousness sacrifices everything, material possessions and knowledge.
So this transcendental knowledge of Krsna consciousness is not such a cheap thing that it can be discovered on any corner or practiced whimsically, without direction. As stated in the thirty-fourth verse: “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.” As was pointed out in the very beginning of the chapter, the transcendental message must come from above. Krsna first spoke it to Vivasvan, and Vivasvan spoke it to Manu, and thus the message comes down in disciplic succession. So Krsna is repeating here that one must find a spiritual master in the disciplic succession and inquire from him submissively. That means unchallengingly, without thinking that one is as good as the spiritual master: The qualification of the spiritual master is that he has seen the truth, and therefore he is in a position to instruct.
So the aspiring disciple must be willing not only to listen, but to also render service. And since our ultimate goal is to render transcendental loving service to Krsna, this process must be learned by rendering such service to the spiritual master. This is the way we learn, and without a developed service mood, no one can enter the transcendental realm. For the ultimate goal of transcendental knowledge is service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and until one has learned how to serve the representative of the Supreme Person, how can they hope to serve the Supreme Personality Himself? The spiritual master is not envious, and he is not trying to get something out of his disciples, but instead he is trying to give. He is trying to disseminate knowledge of Krsna, so that he can present the disciple to Krsna. One who is unqualified cannot approach Krsna, and therefore the spiritual master, as the confidential servant of Krsna, has no other business than to take these forgotten souls for his master, Lord Sri Krsna, back to home, back to Godhead.
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Therefore, when the disciple is submissive, and always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiry becomes perfect, and the result is stated in the thirty-fifth verse: “When you have thus learned the Truth, you will know that all living beings are My parts and parcels, and that they are in Me, and are Mine.” One who has factually realized his identity with Krsna as part and parcel, or as eternal servant of the Lord, is certainly in the transcendental position and free from all anxiety. In the association of a pure devotee one can attain this consciousness simply by rendering devotional service and chanting Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the recommended process for this age for cleansing all the dust, all the dirty things, from the mirror of the mind. Such a person can easily realize that the Supreme Lord is definitely a person, and that all His activities are transcendental. One who understands this is a liberated person from the very beginning of his study of Bhagavad-gita.