Reflections on the Bhagwat-Geeta – Chapter IV – Section I

In this Chapter, Shree Krishna continues the teachings of Karma-Yog. But before proceeding to Karma-Yog, Shree Krishna explains that his teachings are consistent with the foundations of Eternal Dharma, foundations that were built in the earliest days of civilization. 

In doing so, Shree Krishna reveals his true identity to Arjun. This is the first Section of Chapter IV. Then in the second Section, Shree Krishna continues his discussion on Karma-Yog and its direct linkage to Dnyaan-Yog.

Section 1, Chapter IV – Shree Krishna Reveals His True Identity to Arjun – Verses 1-15

This section contains some of the famous verses of the Bhagwat Geeta.  In the first three verses, Shree Krishna provides a historical foundation to what he is advising Arjun.

  • Verse 1 – This is the Eternal (अ-व्ययं or perpetual, never dilutable) Yog which I taught to Vivasvaan (Surya), which Vivasvaan taught to Manu and which Manu taught to Ikshvaku.
  • Verse 2 – This historical, traditional (परंपरा-प्राप्तम ) Yog, which was known to many Raj-Rushi (राजर्षयो विदुः); this Yog was lost (योगो नष्टः) with the great passage of time (कालेनेह महता), O Arjun (actual name used is परंतप or one who delivers hurt or damage to enemies).
  • Verse 3 – This is the ancient Yog (योगः पुरातनः) I have told you; I have revealed this secret to you because you are my Bhakt (भक्तः असि) and Friend  (मे सखा च इति) .

As a brief aside, Ikshvaku was the founder of the Surya Vamsha in which Shree Ram was born. This Vamsha was later called Raghu-Vamsha because of the greatness of Raghu. There is today some controversy about which took place first, Ramaayan or Mahaa-Bhaarat. The mention of Ikshvaku in the Geeta clearly suggests to us that Shree Krishna knew about Ikshvaku and therefore the traditional order of Ramaayan preceding Mahaa-Bhaarat seems confirmed. In this context, Shree Krishna is quoted in Karna Parva of Mahaa-Bhaarat as comparing Arjun’s valor to that of Daasha-Rathi Ram (Ram, the son of Dasha-Rath), another confirmation in our opinion.

Getting back to the Geeta, Arjun is confused by the first verse. He asks Shree Krishna:

  • Verse 4 – Your birth is recent (अपरं भवतो जन्म); the birth of Vivasvaan was much earlier (परं जन्म विवस्वतः); I do not understand how you could have taught Vivasvaan.

Then Shree Krishna begins revealing his true nature to Arjun. His first words are “I have lived many lives (बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि  जन्मानि) and You as well (तव च); I know all this but you don’t.”. The most famous verses of this Section are verses 7 and 8.

Verse 7

          यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर भवति भारत
          Yadaa Yadaa hi Dharmasya Glaanir Bhavati Bhaarat
          Whenever Dharma goes into a decline, O Son of Bharat (Arjun)

          अभि-उथानम अ-धर्मस्य तदा आत्मानं सृजामि अहम्
          Abhi-Uthanam A-Dharmasya Tadaa Atmaanam Srujaami Aham
          (Whenever) Anti-Dharma arises, Then I Surrect Myself

Verse 8

          परित्राणाय साधुनाम विनाशायच दुष-कृताम
          Pari-Traanaya Saadhunaam Vinashayacha Dush-Krutaam
          For the Protection of Good People (or Saints) & For the Destruction of Evil-Doers

          धर्म संस्थापनार्थाय  संभवामि युगे युगे
          Dharma Samstha-apanaa-arthaaya Sambhavami Yuge Yuge
          For the Establishment of Dharma, I Create Myself in Era after Era

Note the words used in Verse 8. Shree Krishna says the purpose is to destroy or annihilate the people who do Evil deeds. This was his purpose as stated to his friend and disciple Arjun, the greatest warrior of that War. Here is no weakness of purpose, no mercy, no hope that Evil-Doers will change their nature. This is a perfect example of the Veet-Raag (without affection) concept below.

Then Shree Krishna tells Arjun that those who understands his “Celestial Life and Actions (जन्म च मे कर्म दिव्यं) will end the cycle of rebirth and Join Me.” At this time, Shree Krishna restates the वीत-राग-भय-क्रोध (detachment from love/affection, fear and anger) concept first explained in Verse 56 of Chapter II.

The next famous Verse clearly states that He, Shree Krishna, is the Only Supreme Ultimate Entity and all paths lead to Him.

Verse 11

           ये यथा माम प्रपद्यन्ते ताम तथा एव भजामि अहम्
           Ye Yathaa Maam Pra-Padyante Taam Tathaa Bhajami Aham
           Those in whichever way approach Me, Them I Greet in That Way

           मम वर्त्मान अनुवर्तन्ते मनुष्याः पार्थ सर्वशः
           Mam Vartmaan Anu-Vartante Manushyah Partha Sarvashah
           They follow in My Path Partha (Arjun); people who come from all directions

This second line of Verse 11 is a repeat of the second line of Verse 23 in Chapter III. In that Chapter, Shree Krishna is telling Arjun the responsibility of Shree Krishna to set the Path
for all people to follow.

Recall that this Section began with Shree Krishna teaching Arjun the Eternal Karma-Yog of the earliest era. The next Verse demonstrates this assertion.

  • Verse 14Actions neither cling (attach) to me (न माम कर्माणि लिपन्ति) nor am I touched by fruit of Action (न मे कर्मफले स्पृहा); he who understands me so, himself will not be bound (or tied) by Action.

The words and the concept are almost exactly those of Verse 2 of Isha-Upanisad which ends in न कर्म लिप्यते नरे (Na Karma Lipyate Nare) or the Action does not cling to Man (or the Performer/Doer).

Finally, in Verse 15, Shree Krishna gives an unequivocal instruction to Arjun एवं न्यात्वा कृतं कर्म or “Knowing this, Perform Action”. A fitting end to the first Section, we think!

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  1. Reflections on the Bhagwat-Geeta – Chapter IV – Section II

    When we face the prospect of performing an action that could have unpleasant consequences, we feel doubts, a sense of angst whether the action is worth doing and whether the difficulties our action imposes on others will come back to haunt us. We feel this angst in our every day lives. So we can imagine what Arjun must have felt. His actions were to have tremendous consequences and impose grave damage on hundreds of thousands of lives. How difficult must his dilemma be?Whether consequences of Our Actions attach themselves to Us is a central question of the Bhagwat Geeta. …

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