Click here to load whole tree
NITAAI-Veda.nyf > Shrimad Bhagavad Gita > Gita By Acharyas > Gita 04 Gyana Yoga

Ch 4. Jnana Yoga

Yoga through Transcendental Knowledge

The fourth chapter begins with instructions on jnana-yoga. It first explains that one can only get genuine tattva-jnana by receiving the mercy of Shri Gurudeva, who is tattva darsi. This mercy manifests through the process of hearing from one in a bona-fide disciplic succession (srauta parampara). One cannot possibly attain bhagavat tattva-jnana through mundane learning, intelligence or knowledge. It is also explained in this chapter that Bhagavan's avatara appears in every yuga. The birth and activities of Bhagavan are divine (aprakrta), and it is foolish and offensive to consider them to be mundane (prakrita). One attains tattva jnana in the association of a tattva darsi guru by gradually heaing from himabout the unique characteristics of jnana yoga and it's superiority to karma-yoga.One can easily cross over the ocean of birth and death by taking shelter of real tattva jnana. The sadhaka cannot make progress if he doubts this. If he lacks tattva jnana, he will become fallen and deviate from the path, becoming trapped again in the cycle of karma.

The Glories of Chapter Four (Mahatmya)

Lord Vishnu said, “My dear Lakshmi, now I will describe the glories of the Fourth Chapter of the Shrimad Bhagavad-gita.
On the bank of the river Ganges there is a town of the name Kasi, (Banaras), where at the temple of Vishvanath, a great saint of the name Bharata lived. Daily with the greatest devotion, he would recite the fourth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita. Previously, when Bharat had been travelling on pilgrimage he had gone to the town of Tapodan to take darshan of the Deity of Lord Krishna there. While leaving that town, he saw two Bael fruit trees. Deciding to take rest under the shade of those trees, he lay down, using the root of one of the tree as a pillow. and a root of the other to rest his feet upon.

After some time, when Bharat left from that place, those two trees started to dry up. Within five or six days both trees completely dried up and died. The two souls, who had been living in those trees, took their next birth as the daughters of a very pious Brahmana. Once, when those girls had reached the age of seven years, they had gone on pilgrimage to Kasi (Banaras). While wandering in Kasi, they happened to see the great sage Bharata. When they saw Bharata Maharaja they immediately went and fell at his feet and in sweet words said, “Oh. Maharaja Bharat, due to your mercy we both became freed from the tree form of life.” When Bharata Maharaja heard their statement, he became surprised. He inquired from them, “My dear daughters, where and when did I come in contact with you, and free you from the form of trees? Also kindly inform me, how you attained the form of trees? Because I do not know anything of this matter.” Thereafter, those two girls first informed Bharata Maharaja the reason for their attaining the form of trees.

The two girls said, “Maharaja, on the bank of the river Godavari there is a sacred place of the name Chinnapaap. At that place, there was a rishi of the name, Sachatapa. He was performing very great and difficult austerities. In the hot season he would sit in between many fires, and in the cold season, he would stand in the cold river. In the course of time, he became completely pure, and had complete control of his senses, and slowly he attained the Lotus-Feet of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. Lord Brahma started visiting daily to take the darshan of Sachatapa and put questions before him about the devotional service of Lord Krishna. Lord Indra meanwhile, was becoming very worried seeing the elevated position of Sachatapa, thinking that he might one day usurp his own position as king of heaven. At that time, Lord Indra called the two of us, who in that birth were apsaras in the heavenly kingdom, an instructed us, ‘Go and cause the fall down of Sachatapa, before he tries to usurp me from my position.”

After receiving Lord Indra’s instructions, we left from his presence and went to the bank of the Godavari River, where Sachatapa was performing austerities. At that place, we both started to sing and dance very provocatively close to Sachatapa, with the intention of causing that sage to engage in a sexual relationship with us. While dancing, our covering cloth slipped down and our breasts became visible. At that time, taking water in his hand, that sage cursed us in the following words.

“You both go and become Bael trees on the bank of the river Ganga.” upon hearing his curse, we both fell at his feet and begged his forgiveness. “My dear sage, please forgive us, for we are simply the servants of Lord Indra.” Seeing our submissive attitude that sage became pleased and informed us that we would remain as trees until Maharaja Bharata came in contact with us. And he also blessed us, that we would be able to, remember our previous births.
“My dear Maharaja Bharata at the time when you visited Tapodan, you rested beneath us. When we were in the form of Bael trees, you were reciting the Fourth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, and by hearing that recitation, we not only became free from that tree form of life and attained birth in a devotee family, also we lost all desire for enjoying in this material world.”

Lord Vishnu said, “My dear Lakshmi, when those two girls recited their history before Bharata Maharaja, he became very happy, and left for his ashram. Those two girls throughout their life carefully recited the Fourth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita daily and attained devotion to My lotus-feet.”

Ch 4 Verse 1

shri bhagavan uvaca
imam vivasvate yogam / proktavan aham avyayam
vivasvan manave praha / manur ikshvakave 'bravit

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.1 <>

shri bhagavan uvaca---Shri Bhagavan said; aham---I; proktavan--- instructed; imam---this; avyayam---imperishable; yogam--- science of yoga; vivasvan---unto the sun-god Vivasvan; (he) praha---told it; manave---unto Manu (the father of mankind); manuh---Manu; abravit---spoke (it); ikshvakave---unto Ikshvaku.

Shri Bhagavan said: I instructed this imp erishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvan, who instructed it to Manu. Manu then instructed it to Ikshvaku.


In the Fourth Chapter, Shri Bhagavan explains the reason for His appearance, the eternal nature of His birth and activities, the superiority of jnana in the form of brahmayaj na and so on. Jnana-yoga, which is the objective of nishkama-karma, is glorified in this shloka beginning with the word imam, as well as in the next chapter.


An incarnation of Manu appears in every manvantara, the first being Svayambhuva Manu. In the current Vaivasvatamanvantara, it was Manu.s father, Vivasvan, who was the first to receive instructions on jnana-yoga. In this shloka, Shri Bhagavan has introduced the concept of sampradayika-dhara, the bona fide succession of self-realised spiritual masters. Without sampradayika-dhara, also known as amnayaparampar a, neither the principles of jnana-tattva nor bhaktitattva can manifest in their pure form in the material world. Only by sampradayika-dhara is the gravity, antiquity and significance of the subject specifically proven. It is seen that in India, even the common people have faith in the ancient sampradayika-dhara, and are devoted to it. That guru-parampar a, which bestows complete knowledge of bhagavat-tattva, is called amnaya or sampradaya. Mantras that are not received from a bona fide sampradaya are fruitless. In Kali-yuga there are four Vaishnava sampradayas: Shri, Brahma, Rudra and Sanaka or Kumara sampradayas. Shri Krishna is the original source of all sampradayas. Only from Shri Krishna does knowledge of bhagavat-tattva flow into this material world: dharmam tu sakshad bhagavat-pranitam. .Real dharma comes directly from Shri Bhagavan. (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 6.3.19). As stated in Bhagavad-gita, Bhagavan Shri Krishna first instructed this jnana-yoga to Surya-deva, Vivasvan, who then instructed Manu, who in turn gave these divine instructions to Ikshvaku. Thus the system of guru-parampara is an ancient and reliable tradition that ensures the sampradayika-dhara (lineage) in which divya-jnana (divine knowledge) has been preserved up to the present day. Whenever this dhara is broken, Shri Bhagavan again arranges for divyaj nana to manifest in the material world. Maha-bhagavatas such as Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana and others in the guru-parampara of the Brahma-Madhva Gaudiya sampradaya realised divya-jnana and instructed the common people through their realised commentaries. Even a person who is highly qualified in material knowledge can never understand the real import of Bhagavadg ita unless he is properly situated in the parampara. It is important to protect oneself from self-made commentators, otherwise, realisation of the true meaning of the Bhagavadg ita will not be possible. Although milk is pure and nourishing, when it has been touched by the lips of a serpent, it acts like poison. Similarly, topics of Shri Hari are supremely purifying for the material world, but hearing such topics becomes the cause of one.s destruction when they are recited by non-devotees such as impersonalists, or those who consider the body to be the self. In this connection, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has also said: mayavadi-bhashya shunile haya sarva-nasha. "If one hears the commentary of the impersonalists, everything is destroyed" (Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita Madhya-lila 6.169).

Ch 4 Verse 2

evam parampara-praptam / imam rajarshayo viduh
sa kaleneha mahata / yogo nashtah parantapa

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.2 <>

parantapa---O Arjuna; imam---this science of yoga; praptam--- was received; parampara---by disciplic succession; rajarshayah--- (and) the saintly kings; viduh---understood it; evam---thus; mahata---by the powerful; kalena---influence of time; sah---that; yogah---science of one-'s relationship with the Supreme Lord; (is) nashtah---lost; iha---in this world.

O Arjuna, this yoga was thus received in parampara and the rajarshis (saintly kings) understood it in that way, but due to a prolonged lapse of time, it has almost become lost to this world.

Ch 4 Verse 3

sa evayam maya te 'dya / yogah proktah puratanah
bhakto 'si me sakha ceti / rahasyam hy etad uttamam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.3 <>

adya---today; hi---certainly; iti---thus; proktah---spoken; maya---
by Me; te---to you; etad---this; uttamam---most; rahasyam---confidential
(knowledge); sah eva ayam---of that very same; puratana
h---ancient; yogah---science of connection with the Supreme;
asi---because you are; me---My; bhaktah---devotee; ca---and;

Today I am explaining to you this supremely confidential
knowledge of that same ancient yoga, because
you are My bhakta as well as My friend.


Shri Krishna says, "I am telling you this because of two sentiments which are inherent within our  elationship. In the first place, you are My bhakta, which means you are My servant; and secondly, you are My sakha, My friend. It is not appropriate to disclose this knowledge to anyone who does not possess these attributes. That is why it is confidential."


A sad-guru instructs highly confidential principles, such as jnana-tattva and bhakti-tattva, only to a disciple who is affectionate, surrendered and endowed with a service attitude. Those bereft of these qualities are unable to retain or realise such jnana. Here, Bhagavan Shri Krishna tells Arjuna, "You are My affectionate servant and dear friend, therefore I am explaining this mysterious secret of karma-yoga to you."

Ch 4 Verse 4

arjuna uvaca aparam bhavato janma / param janma vivasvatah katham etad vijaniyam / tvam adau proktavan iti

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.4 <>

arjuna uvaca---Arjuna said; bhavatah---Your; janma---birth; (is) aparam---recent; (whereas) janma---the birth; vivasvatah---of Surya, the sun-god; (is) param---ancient; katham---how?; vijaniyam---may I understand; iti---that; tvam---You; proktavan--- spoke; etat---this; adau---in the beginning.

Arjuna said: Your birth is recent, whereas Surya was born in ancient times. How am I to understand that You spoke this yoga to him in a previous age?


Considering Shri Krishna.s previous statement to be impossible, Arjuna is questioning Him. "You were born recently (aparam), and Surya was born long ago (param), so how can I believe Your statement that You instructed this yoga to Surya in ancient times?"


Arjuna is Bhagavan's great bhakta and eternal friend (nitya-sakha). For this reason, he is also referred to as a parikara of Shri Krishna, and as such he knows bhagavat-tattva completely. Ignorant people generally think that Bhagavan Vasudeva, the controller of all controllers, is an ordinary human being. Instead of accepting that He is omniscient and ever-existing, they consider Him to be a man of limited knowledge who is subject to death. They also think that the birth and activities of Bhagavan are temporary, not knowing that they are transcendental.

It is said in Bhagavad-gita (10.12):

param brahma param dhama / pavitram paramam bhavan
purusham shashvatam divyam / adi-devam ajam vibhum

Contrary to the meaning of this shloka, ignorant persons do not accept that Shri Bhagavan is the Supreme Absolute Truth (param brahma), possessed of a spiritual form (param dhama), and supremely pure (param pavitra). They also do not believe that He is an eternal person (shashvata-purusha), and the original God (adi-deva), who is unborn (aja) and all-pervading (sarvavy apaka), and who is endowed with transcendental opulence (divya-aishvarya). Although Arjuna is highly learned, for the welfare of humanity, he is inquiring from Bhagavan Shri Krishna as if he were an ignorant person, so that Bhagavan may deliver these tattvas from His own lotus mouth.

Ch 4 Verse 5

shri bhagavan uvaca
bahuni me vyatitani / janmani tava carjuna
tany aham veda sarvani / na tvam vettha parantapa

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.5 <>

shri bhagavan---the Lord, complete in six opulences; uvaca---said; arjuna parantapa---O Arjuna, chastiser of the enemy; tava---you have; ca---and; me---I have; vyatitani---passed; bahuni---many; janmani---births; aham---I; veda---remember; tani---them; sarvani---all; tvam---you; na vettha---do not remember.

Shri Bhagavan said: O Parantapa, chastiser of the enemy, you and I have experienced many births, I remember all of them, whereas you do not.


In this shloka beginning with bahuni, Shri Bhagavan says, .I have also instructed this science in My other avataras.. Tava ca means, "You have also appeared as My associate whenever I have descended and I, being omniscient (sarva-jna) and omnipotent (sarveshvara), remember all My appearances. For the fulfilment of My lila, I have covered your knowledge, that is why you do not remember your previous births. Now, with the abhimana (identity) of a son of Kunti, you are giving tapa (pain) to para (the enemy), O Parantapa."


Here, Shri Krishna informs Arjuna, "Even prior to this present appearance, I have descended in many other avataras, manifesting many different names, forms and pastimes. I remember all of them fully. You also appeared with Me, but because you are in the category of jiva-tattva (an atomic conscious particle), you do not remember them."

At the time of Krishna.s name-giving ceremony, Shri Gargacarya also confirmed that He has many names, forms and pastimes.

bahuni santi namani / rupani ca sutasya te
guna-karmani rupani / tany aham veda no janah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam (10.8.15)

According to His qualities (gunas) and activities (karma), your son has many names and forms. I am aware of them, but others are not.

Similarly Bhagavan told Mucukunda:

janma-karmabhidhanani santi me 'nga sahasrashah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam 10.51.36

O My dear Mucukunda, My name, births, activities and other characteristics are unlimited.

Ch 4 Verse 6

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.6 <>

ajo 'pi sann avyayatma / bhutanam ishvaro 'pi san
prakritim svam adhishthaya / sambhavamy atma-mayaya

api---although; san---being; ajah---unborn; avyaya-atma---(and having) an imperishable body; api---although; san---being; ishvarah---the Lord; bhutanam---of (all) beings; sambhavami---I fully manifest; atma-mayaya; by My yogamaya; adhishthaya---situated; (in) svam---My original; prakritim---nature.

Although I am unborn, imperishable and the controller of all living entities, I appear by My yogamaya potency in My original sac-cid-ananda-svarupa.


Shri Bhagavan is explaining the principle behind His birth (janma-tattva). "Although I am unborn, I manifest in various species such as the devas, humans and animals." One may ask, "What is so wonderful about this? In reality, the jiva is also unborn, and when his gross body is destroyed, he also accepts another birth." In response, Shri Bhagavan says, avyayatma. "My body is imperishable, whereas the body of the jiva is perishable. Moreover, the unborn nature of the jiva is of a different type. His birth is due to his identifying with the body which has arisen out of ignorance. As Ishvara, I am non-different from My body. Consequently, My quality of being both born and unborn is perfectly natural. Such a nature, which is impossible to find elsewhere, is wonderful and beyond the scope of logic and reason. Thus there is no possibility of comparing My birth to that of the jiva, who takes birth in high and low species as a result of his piety and sin." To clarify this further, Bhagavan Shri Krishna says, "Even though I am the Ishvara of the jivas, which means that I am free from the control of karma, still I accept birth." The following doubt may be raised: "The jiva also takes bodies in various species such as devas, humans and animals, due to the activities of his subtle body (linga-sharira) which cause his bondage. You, Parameshvara, do not have a subtle body. You are all-pervading and the controller of all principles, including kala (time) and karma (action). It is said in the shrutis that You desired to become many, bahu syam, .I can become many." According to this statement of shruti, You are everything in the entire universe. However, You specifically express in the shrutis: evam bhuto 'py aham sambhavami. "Although I appear to be everything in the universe, still I personally manifest Myself." From this it is understood that You take birth only to manifest Your eternal form, which is categorically distinct from the whole universe."

This being the case, one may inquire, "What is the nature of these bodies of Yours?" In response to this, Shri Bhagavan says in the second half of this shloka: prakritim svam adhishthaya sambhamy atma-mayaya. If the word prakriti is taken to indicate the external maya-shakti, the meaning here becomes "Parameshvara, the presiding controller of prakriti, who becomes the universe with the help of this shakti." However, this does not describe the specific nature of Shri Bhagavan. In the Sanskrit dictionary it is said: sam-siddhi-prakritis tv ime svarupan ca sva bhavash ca. Svarupa (natural form) and svabhava (intrinsic nature) are synonyms for samsiddhi or prakriti. For this reason, the word prakriti mentioned in this shloka indicates svarupa. The nature of this svarupa is sac-cid-ananda. Shrila Shridhara Svamipada says, "Your svarupa is not composed of maya-shakti, but is sac-cid-ananda. Therefore, Your prakriti is by nature shuddha-sattva, pure goodness." According to Shri Ramanujacarya, prakriti means svabhava.

"Remaining situated in Your svabhava, that is, retaining Your entire divinity, You manifest Your own svarupa only by Your independent will." If we accept prakriti as svabhava, then the use of these qualifying adjectives, that is, sac-cid-anandaghana eka-rasa (uniformly concentrated eternity, knowledge and bliss), distinguishes between Shri Bhagavan's form and maya. Svam means one's own rupa. It is said in the shruti: sa bhagavatah kasmin pratishthitah sva-mahimni. "Shri Bhagavan is situated in full possession of all His divine glory."According to Shri Madhusudana Sarasvati, when Bhagavan appears, He still remains situated in His svarupa. He behaves like an embodied living entity, although there is no difference between His body and His actual self.

If one raises the question, "Since You are eternal, when You accept indestructible forms such as Matsya and Kurma, are Your past and present forms also simultaneously perceptible? " then in response Bhagavan says: atma-mayaya. "This act is performed by My atma-bhuta maya (internal potency or yogamaya). My svarupa is both concealed and manifested by yogamaya, which is the function of cit-shakti. I appear only with the help of this yogamaya, who is manifesting My present svarupa and who has concealed My previous forms."

Shrila Shridhara Svami writes in his commentary, "I appear only by My atma-maya, the potency of complete and infallible knowledge, strength, prowess, and so on."

Shri Ramanujacarya writes in his commentary, "Shri Bhagavan appears by His atma-maya, or through the potency of His own knowledge. Atma-jnana-maya vayunam jnanam. In this context the word maya is a synonym for jnana. This is also confirmed by the Sanskrit dictionary. Shri Bhagavan knows the pious and impious karma of the eternal jivas only by the help of this potency." According to Madhusudana Sarasvati, "It is simply illusion to apply the conception of the body and the embodied to Me, Bhagavan Vasudeva, for I am transcendental to all such duality."


In the Kurma Purana it is stated: deha-dehi-vibhagash ca neshvare vidyate kvacit. "In regard to Shri Bhagavan, there is no distinction between the body and the embodied." Regarding the jiva, however, the body is different from the embodied soul, meaning that his gross and subtle bodies are different from him, the jivatma. This is further clarified in Shri Chaitanya-caritamrita (Madhya lila 17.132):

deha-dehir, nama-namir krishne nahi 'bheda.
jivera dharma.nama-deha-svarupe 'vibheda.

In Krishna there is no distinction between nama and nami (the name and the possessor of the name), or between deha and dehi (the body and the embodied). The embodied jiva's dharma (character or nature), name and body, however, are different from his svarupa (spiritual constitution). Bhagavan is aja, unborn. By His own will He accepts the shelter of His cit-shakti in the form of yogamaya, and by manifesting His eternal body in this material world, He performs simple and natural pastimes as though He is an ordinary boy. Still, His body, consisting of sac-cid-ananda, is not covered by a gross or subtle body. The atomic jiva, on the other hand, being overpowered by the influence of Bhagavan's maya-shakti, accepts a subtle and a gross body according to his samskaras, impressions created by his previous karma, and in this way again takes birth.

In conclusion, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has commented that here Krishna is explaining to Arjuna, "Although you and I appear in this world again and again, there is a specific difference between your descent and mine. I am Ishvara, the controller of all jivas; I am aja, without birth, and My form is immutable. I appear through the agency of My cit-shakti, whereas the jivas take birth in this world under the influence of My maya-shakti, which deprives them of the memory of their past lives. Jivas have to accept a subtle body as a result of their previous karma, and as a result of taking shelter of that subtle body, they have to repeatedly take birth. My appearance, however, in the deva, animal and other forms, occurs solely by My own will. Unlike the jivas, My supremely pure conscious body is not covered by a subtle and a gross body. In this mundane plane I manifest that very same eternal body which exists naturally in Vaikuntha."

Someone may inquire, "How is it possible for cit-tattva, the transcendental Personality, to manifest in the material world along with His realm?" Now hear My response. My yogamaya- shakti is inconceivable, and consequently cannot be comprehended. No amount of reasoning, however clever, is able to comprehend and measure the acts performed by yogamaya. You must understand, by naturally acquired knowledge that I, Bhagavan, with My inconceivable potency, am not bound by any rules governing the mundane plane. By My mere will, all the entities of Vaikuntha can easily manifest their supremely pure forms in this material world. In other words, I can transform the complete phenomenal manifestation into cit-svarupa. My sac-cid-ananda vigraha, which is beyond all material laws, is indeed completely pure, even when it manifests in the material world. What doubt can there be of this? That maya, which controls the jiva, is also My prakriti, energy, but understand that when I use the phrase "My prakriti", it only refers to the cit-shakti. Although My potency is one without a second, in My presense it is cit-shakti, however, for the jivas bound by karma, it is maya-shakti, endowed with its respective influences and various types of majestic, mystic powers, which forces them to rotate in the cycle of birth and death."

Ch 4 Verse 7

yada yada hi dharmasya / glanir bhavati bharata
abhyutthanam adharmasya / tadatmanam srijamy aham

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.7 <>

bharata---decendent of Bharata; hi---assuredly; yada yada--- whenever; bhavati---there is; glanih---a decline; dharmasya---of dharma; (and) abhyutthanam---an increase; adharmasya---of adharma; tada---then; aham---I; srijami---manifest; atmanam--- My own Self.

O Bharata! Whenever there is a decline of dharma and an increase in adharma, at that time I manifest My eternally perfect form in this mundane world.


When does Shri Bhagavan appear? To answer this question, Bhagavan replies with this shloka beginning with the word yada. "Being unable to tolerate the decline of dharma and the increase of adharma, I appear for the purpose of changing or reversing the situation." According to Shripada Madhusudana Sarasvati, atmanam srijamy means I create the body. "With the help of yogamaya, I exhibit My nitya-siddha-deha, My eternally perfect body, as if it were created by material nature."


In each birth, a jiva who is bound by the result of his karma takes a new body that is made from inert matter. But Shri Bhagavan, by His own will and through the agency of His maya-shakti, deludes the asuras in such a way that they consider His body to be an object of the material creation. Shri Shukadeva Gosvami has confirmed this in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (9.24.56):

yada yada hi dharmasya kshayo vriddhish ca papmanah
tada tu bhagavan isha atmanam srijate harih

Whenever there is a decline of dharma and an increase of sin, Bhagavan Shri Hari manifests Himself in this world. Various acaryas have explained the word dharma used in this shloka in different ways. Shri Ramanujacarya has accepted the word dharma to mean the worship of Bhagavan. Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana has explained dharma as shuddha-bhakti-yoga, characterised by the performance of arcana (worship) of Bhagavan, dhyana (meditation) and other such practices as well as varnashrama-dharma prescribed in the Vedas. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has quoted Krishna as follows: "The only reason for My appearance is that I desire it; I descend of My own free will. Whenever there is a decline in dharma and a prevalence of adharma, I appear of My own accord. My laws, which govern the activities of this material world, are unconquerable. However, when in due course of time, these rules become ineffective for some undefinable and indescribable reason, adharma becomes prominent. No one except Me can put an end to this disorder. I thus appear in this mundane plane with the assistance of My cit-shakti and dispel the decline of dharma. "It is not true that I only appear in the land of Bharata, India. According to necessity I appear, by My will, among devas, animals, birds and all other species. Therefore, do not think that I do not appear among mleccha, antyaja and other outcastes. All those pitiable people also except a certain degree of dharma as their sva-dharma (natural religion). When their religion declines, I also appear among them as a shaktyaveshaavat ara and protect their religion. In India people regularly perform their sva-dharma in the form of varnashrama-dharma. Because of this, I make a special endevour to establish this system of dharma among them. For this reason, all the charming avataras, such as the yuga-avataras and the amsha-avataras (partial avataras) can be seen to manifest only in India. In places where there is no varnashrama-dharma, people cannot properly practise nishkama-karma-yoga, or its goals, jnanayoga, and its highest fruit, bhakti-yoga. Still, any tinge of bhakti which manifests among the outcastes (antyaja), can be attributed to the sudden devotional faith generated by the mercy of My bhakta."

Ch 4 Verse 8

paritranaya sadhunam / vinashaya ca dushkritam
dharma-samsthapanarthaya / sambhavami yuge yuge

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.8 <>

paritranaya---for the protection; sadhunam---of good men; vinashaya---for the destruction; dushkritam---of evil-doers; ca--- and; arthaya---for the purpose; dharma-samsthapana---of establishing dharma; sambhavami---I appear; yuge yuge---in every age.

To protect My unalloyed bhaktas, annihilate the wicked and re-establish dharma, I appear in every age.


"O Arjuna, a question may arise in your heart regarding the necessity of My appearance when the rajarshis, brahmar shis and My bhaktas are capable of rectifying the decline of dharma and the increase of adharma. Listen to My answer. Although it is true that they can do this work, I appear in order to perform acts which are impossible for others. To explain this, I have spoken this shloka beginning with paritranaya. Paritranaya (protecting the sadhus) refers to protecting the acutely eager hearts of My aikantika-bhaktas who are suffering from intense hankering to have My darshana. Just to remove that suffering I manifest Myself. Dushkritam means that I appear to annihilate Ravana, Kamsa, Keshi and the other asuras who give pain to My bhaktas, and who cannot be killed by anyone else. Dharma-samsthapanarthaya means that I advent in order to perfectly establish parama-dharma (the eternal dharma), which is endowed with such characteristics as bhajana, dhyana, paricarya (service) to Me and sankirtana. It is not possible for others to do this. Yuge yuge means that I appear in every yuga or kalpa (day of Brahma). Although I punish the miscreants, one should not suspect that I am guilty of being biased. By killing these miscreants with My own hands, I protect them from going to hell as a result of their sinful deeds, and I deliver them from material existence. You should consider this punishment to be My mercy."


Shri Bhagavan establishes varnashrama-dharma by transmitting shakti into the hearts of His prominent saintly bhaktas in the royal and brahminical orders. However, Bhagavan Himself descends for three reasons: to pacify the afflictions of those bhaktas who are suffering in separation from Him, to kill asuras like Kamsa who strongly oppose the sadhus and who cannot be killed by others, and to propagate the message of shuddha-bhakti.

While defining the word avatara, Shrila Jiva Gosvamipada writes: avatarash ca prakrita-vaibhave 'vataranam iti' "The descent of Shri Bhagavan into this material creation is called avatara."

Shri Baladeva Vidyabhushana has elucidated on the same point in different words: aprapancat prapance 'vataranam khalv avatarah' "The descent of Bhagavan from His unmanifested eternal abode into the mundane plane is called avatara." Shri Krishna is avatari, the origin of unlimited avataras. He is therefore called Svayam Bhagavan. His avataras are of six types: (1) purusha-avatara, (2) guna-avatara, (3) lila-avatara, (4) manvantara-avatara, (5) yuga-avatara and (6) shaktyaveshaavat ara.

There are four yugas: Satya, Treta, Dvapara and Kali. In Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.20), it is stated that Krishna appears in all of them:

kritam treta dvaparam ca kalir ity eshu keshavah
nana-varnabhidhakaro nanaiva vidhinejyate

One day of Brahma's life span is called a kalpa. There are fourteen manvantaras in one kalpa. There are one thousand catur-yugas (complete cycles of the four ages) in one day of Brahma. According to the calculations of human solar years, one day of Brahma equals 4,320,000,000 years. Three hundred and sixty such days make one year of Brahma, and Brahma lives for one hundred such years.

Although Bhagavan kills the wicked asuras, He remains aloof from their faults. In other words, He is free from the imperfection of being biased; His killing them is only an exhibition of His mercy towards them. Commenting on the shloka: ajasya janmotpatha-nashanaya (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 3.1.44), Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes, "Although Bhagavan is aja (unborn), He descends to annihilate and liberate the asuras who impede the path of truth." Shrila Shridhara Svami has also commented in a similar manner:

lalane tadane matur nakarunya yatharbhake
tadvad eva maheshasya niyantur guna-doshayoh

Just as an affectionate mother is not considered hard-hearted or harsh if she chastises her child in the course of raising and caring for him, Parameshvara is also not cruel when He disciplines the jivas to bring out their good qualities and diminish their bad ones. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura has quoted Shri Krishna as follows: .I establish varnashrama-dharma by infusing My shakti into the royal and brahminical saints who are devoted to Me. However, in order to protect My pure bhaktas from non-devotees, there is a need for Me to appear. Thus, appearing as the yuga-avataras, I protect the sadhus. By eliminating the wicked asuras, I redress the decline in dharma, and by preaching the limbs of bhakti, such as shravana and kirtana, I establish the eternal dharma of the jivas. "I descend in every yuga. From this statement, one should understand that I also descend in Kali-yuga. My avatara in Kali-yuga, Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, will establish that most rarely attained prema, the eternal dharma, solely by the process of nama-sankirtana. This avatara has no other purpose, and as the greatest of all avataras I will remain concealed from the common man. My pure bhaktas will be naturally attracted to Me, and you, Arjuna, will realise this when you appear with Me in that age. The most wonderful feature of this hidden avatara, who delivers the people of Kali-yuga, is that I reform the miscreants' wicked natures by blessing them with divine love through the chanting of nama-sankirtana, instead of completely annihilating them in the manner of My previous avataras."

Ch 4 Verse 9

janma karma ca me divyam / evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma / naiti mam eti so ’rjuna

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.9 <>

arjuna---O Arjuna; me---My; janma---birth; ca---and; karma--- activities; (are) divyam---transcendental; (one) yah---who; vetti--- knows; evam---thus; tattvatah---in truth; tyaktva---having given up; deham---the body; na eti---does not accept; punah---again; janma---(re) birth; sah---he; eti.comes; mam---to Me.

O Arjuna! My birth and activities are transcendental. One who knows this in truth does not take another birth after giving up the present body. He certainly attains Me.


"One will only become perfect when he has understood the essence of the transcendental nature of My birth (janma) and activities (karma), which are endowed with the characteristics described in the previous shlokas." This shloka, beginning with the word janma, is spoken to explain this. Shripada Ramanujacarya and Shripada Madhusudana Sarasvati explain that the word divya means aprakrita, transcendental, and Shrila Shridhara Svami has translated it as alaukika, not of this material world. The material world is created by prakriti (material nature), thus by the word alaukika Shrila Shridhara Svamipada also implies aprakrita. Consequently, because the birth and activities of Shri Bhagavan are aprakrita and beyond the modes, they are nitya (eternal). In the Bhagavat-sandarbha, Shrila Jiva Gosvami refers to this present subject in his explanation of the shloka: na vidyate yasya ca janma karma va (Shrimad-Bhagavatam (8.3.8)). He explains that, although this matter cannot be comprehended by logic, on the strength of statements from the Vedas and Smriti it must be accepted as being beyond reason. In this regard, it is also said in the Purusha-bodhini shruti of Piplada-shakha:

eko deva nitya-lilanurakto / bhakta-hridy antar-atma

Eternally engaged in His pastimes, the one Lord in His form of Antaryami enters within the hearts of His bhaktas. Regarding he eternality of Shri Bhagavan's birth and activities (janma and karma), detailed descriptions have been given in Shrimad-Bhagavatam. "After hearing My statements such as: yo vetti tattvatah (Gita 4.9), ajo 'pi sann avyayatma (Gita 4.6) and janma karma ca me divyam (Gita 4.9), one who understands the eternal nature of My birth and activities with theistic intelligence-that is, who is not dependent on empiricism to accept it-does not have to take birth again in this material world."

"Those who in truth understand the word tat in the statement of Gita (17.23)-om tat sad iti nirdesho brahmanas trividha h smritah to mean brahma do not have to take birth again after giving up their present body. Rather, it is assured that they attain Me." Here Bhagavan gives a superior meaning to the phrase 'giving up the body'. "Such a person does not take another birth after giving up the body. Rather, he attains Me even without giving it up."

Shripada Ramanujacarya writes paraphrasing Krishna, "All sins that impede one on the path to attain My full shelter are completely destroyed by true knowledge of My transcendental birth and activities. Only those dear devotees who have taken shelter of Me, attain Me even in this very life."


Those who, by the grace of guru and the Vaishnavas, realise that Shri Bhagavan accepts a transcendental birth and performs transcendental activities through the medium of His acintya-shakti attain eternal service to Him in this very life by the mercy of His hladhini-shakti. On the contrary, those who consider the birth and activities of Shri Krishna to be mundane are overpowered by ignorance and wander in the cycle of birth and death, afflicted by the three-fold miseries. Lord Brahma has also said in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (2.7.29): tat karma divyam iva, "The activities of Shri Bhagavan are indeed suprahuman."

Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura has clarified this point in his Bhagavatam commentary on this shloka. "In reality, all of Shri Krishna.s activities are transcendental. " Furthermore, it is stated:

na vidyate yasya ca janma karma va
na nama-rupe guna-dosha eva va
tathapi lokapyaya-sambhavaya yah
sva-mayaya tany anukalam ricchati
Shrimad-Bhagavatam (8.3.8)

For the Lord there is no janma, karma, nama, rupa, guna, dosha (fault), etc., yet He always accepts these attributes by His potency for the creation and destruction of the material world. The explanation of the above shloka by Shrila Jiva Gosvami is significant and can be referred to in his Bhagavatsandarbha and Krama-sandarbha.

The Shrutis have described Bhagavan as nishphala (ineffective), nishkriya (inactive), niranjana (faultless), nirakara (formless), ashabdam (indescribable), avyaya (imperishable), and so forth. This is only because He is beyond material qualities. Thus, in specific Shrutis such as Chandogya Upanishad (3.14.4), He is called sarva-karmah, the performer of all activities, sarva-kamah, the possessor of all types of desires, sarvagandha h, the possessor of all fragrances, sarva-rasah, the possessor of all mellows, and so on. This is corroborated in Shrimad-Bhagavatam 6.4.33:

yo 'nugrahartham bhajatam pada-mulam
anama-rupo bhagavan anantah
namani rupani ca janma-karmabhir
bheje sa mahyam paramah prasidatu

To bestow mercy upon those who worship His lotus feet, Bhagavan-although free from material names, forms and other attributes-accepts various transcendental forms and names through His different avataras and activities. May that unlimited Bhagavan, whose opulence is inconceivable, be pleased with me. Those who are bhaktas achieve Bhagavan even while living within this body. Krishna says: yanti mam eva nirgunah. "Those who are free from the modes attain Me" (Shrimad- Bhagavatam 11.25.22). While commenting on this shloka, Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura writes that the word laya (dissolution) is not mentioned here. This clarifies Krishna's point: "Upon becoming nirguna, My bhaktas attain Me even in their present body."

Ch 4 Verse 10

vita-raga-bhaya-krodha / man-maya mam upashritah
bahavo jnana-tapasa / puta mad-bhavam agatah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.10 <>

vita---being freed; raga---from attachment; bhaya---fear; krodhah---and anger; (being) mat-mayah---absorbed in Me; (and) upashritah---surrendered; mam---to Me; bahavah---many persons; jnana-tapasa---qualities in the form of knowledge; (became) putah---purified; (and) agatah---came; (to have) mad-bhavam--- love for Me.

Freed from attachment, fear and anger, with their concentration fixed on Me, being completely surrendered, and purified by austerity in the form of knowledge, many persons have attained prema-bhakti for Me.


Shri Bhagavan says, "O Arjuna, not only do those having full knowledge of My birth and activities, who are now present during My current avatara attain Me, but even in ancient times those endowed with this transcendental knowledge of My birth and activities of My previous avataras also attained Me." To explain this, the present shloka, beginning with the word vita-raga, is being spoken. Jnana-tapasa means purified by austerity in the form of knowledge. In the opinion of Shri Ramanujacarya, Krishna is saying, "This knowledge is realisation of the absolute knowledge of My birth and activities. People attain Me when they have been purified by realizing My birth and activities in terms of the characteristics described earlier." In other words, "While trying with determination to realise the eternal nature of My birth and activities, they attain My prema-bhakti. However, they are first purified by the fire of transcendental knowledge and the austerity of tolerating the burning poison of the serpents of various types of wrong opinions, misguided logic and fallacious arguments."

In Shri Ramanujacarya's commentary he cites the Shruti statement: tasya dhirah parijananti yonim. "One who is dhira (intelligent) completely knows the nature of Shri Bhagavan.s birth."

Vita-raga refers to those who have given up attachment to persons who engage in mundane talk and who advocate bo- gus opinions. "My bhaktas do not become angry with them nor do they fear them. If one asks why, the answer is that they are intensely absorbed in deliberating and meditating on My birth and activities, and hearing and chanting about them." Mad-bhavam means "prema for Me."


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "There are three reasons why foolish people are not inclined to deliberate on the transcendental and supremely pure nature of My birth, activities and form. They are:
(1) attachment to worldly objects,
(2) fear and
(3) anger.
Those whose intelligence is tightly bound by mundane thoughts are so deeply absorbed in and attached to materialism, that they do not accept or even consider the existence of an eternal entity known as cit-tattva. According to such persons, svabhava (nature itself) is the Absolute Truth. Some of them maintain that inert matter is the eternal cause and the source of cit-tattva. The jada-vadis (empiricists), the svabhava-vadis (nature theorists), and the chaitanya-hina-vidhi-vadis, who advocate a system of ethics which is based on the conception that the Absolute is unconscious, have no understanding of consciousness. These three classes of philosophers are all impelled by an attachment to materialism and contend that inert matter is the all-in-all (jada-vadis), that nature is a law unto itself (svabhava-vadis) and that one can deny the principle of consciousness (chaitanya-hina-vidhi-vadis). They gradually become bereft of any transcendental attachment to the Supreme Absolute Reality.

"Although some thinkers do accept cit-tattva (spiritual principles) as eternal, because they reject the principles of transcendental knowledge and perpetually take shelter of mundane logic and reasoning, they can actually have no realisation of cit-tattva. Whatever attributes and activities they see in inert matter they designate as asat (unreal) and very carefully abandon them. Thus, in the name of identifying that which is uncontaminated by inert matter, they imagine an Absolute Reality (brahma) which is beyond definition. However, that is nothing more than an indirect manifestation of My maya; it is not My eternal form. Later they give up meditating on My svarupa and worshipping My deity form, fearing that by this meditation and way of thinking they may come under the influence of material conceptions. Because of this fear, they lose the opportunity to realise the svarupa of the Absolute Truth (parama-tattva) and are deprived of My prema. There are others who, being unable to discern any substance beyond matter, become possessed by anger. Impelled by such anger they maintain that the Absolute Reality is just nirvana, a void, nothingness and the complete annihilation of all existence. The doctrine of the Buddhists and Jains has appeared from this principle of nirvana."

"Many wise men, however, do become free from attachment, fear and anger and see nothing but Myself everywhere. Genuinely surrendered to Me, they are purified by the fire of transcendental knowledge, and by the penance of tolerating the burning poison of false reasoning. Thus they have attained pure, sublime love for Me."

Ch 4 Verse 11

ye yatha mam prapadyante / tams tathaiva bhajamy aham
mama vartmanuvarttante / manushyah partha sarvashah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.11 <>

partha---O son of Pritha; yatha---as; ye---they; prapadyante---as they serve; (to) mam---Me; tatha---so; eva---certainly; aham bhajami---I love and serve; (with) tan---them; manushyah---men; anuvarttante---follow; mama vartma---My path; sarvashah---in all respects.

O Partha! In whichever way a person renders service to Me I serve him in that very same way. Everyone follows My path in all respects.


One may ask the following question: "Only Your aikantika bhaktas understand Your birth and activities to be eternal. Others, who have an inclination toward jnana and other processes, take shelter of You to perfect their particular process, but they do not accept the eternality of Your birth and activities. What will happen to them?" In response, Shri Krishna speaks this shloka beginning with the words ye yatha. "Those who take shelter of Me perform bhajana, and I reciprocate by granting them the result of that bhajana. I am the supreme master, and My birth and activities (pastimes) are eternal. To those with this understanding, who also perform My bhajana by rendering service to My pastimes with the specific intention of giving pleasure to Me, I as Ishvara, being independent to act or not act as I choose, also make their birth and activities eternal. I make them My parikaras (associates) and in due course of time I become manifest and unmanifest in this material world along with them. In this way, I bestow My mercy upon them at every moment by giving them prema as the fruit of their bhajana (seva). There are others, such as the jnanis, who take shelter of Me, considering My birth and activities to be temporary and My deity form to be a product of the external energy. In turn, I repeatedly throw them into the cycle of birth and activities which are subject to destruction. There, in the snare of maya, I give them misery in the form of birth and death. However, those jnanis who consider My birth and activities to be eternal and My deity to be sac-cid-ananda take shelter of Me to perfect their knowledge. For such mumukshus, who desire mukti through the dissolution of their gross and subtle bodies, I destroy their implication in the cycle of birth and death which is born of ignorance, and grant them brahmananda (the bliss of liberation) as the fruit of their bhajana. Thus, not only My bhaktas take shelter of Me, but jnanis, karmis, yogis, tyagis, worshippers of the devatas and all others follow My path. Since I am sarva-svarupa, the form of omnipotence, all paths including those of jnana and karma are My paths."


tams tan kaman harir dadyad yan yan kamayate janah
aradhito yathaivaisha tatha pumsam phalodayah
Shrimad-Bhagavatam. (4.13.34)

It is understood from this shloka that according to the intention with which people worship or take shelter of Bhagavan Shri Hari, He rewards them in accordance with their desires. The shuddha-bhaktas worship Him to attain eternal service to His sac-cid-ananda deity. Making such prema-bhaktas His nitya-parikaras, Bhagavan Shri Hari fulfils their desire to attain His loving service (prema-mayi seva). In accordance with the desire of the nirvishesha-vadi jnanis, Bhagavan grants them mukti in the form of nirvana in the featureless nirvisheshabrahma, which is the unvariegated manifestation of His personality. Bhagavan appears to sakama-karmis as the bestower of the fruits of their karma. He appears to the yogis as Ishvara, giving them vibhuti (mystic powers) or kaivalya (liberation). However, of all the various achievements, attaining the service of Vrajendra-nandana Shri Krishna in Goloka Vraja is the ultimate.

It should be clearly understood from the present shloka of Bhagavad-gita that the results of different types of bhajana depend on the desires of the practitioners. The results of various types of worship are not the same. Some explain the words manushyah partha sarvashah to mean that everyone is following the path of service to Bhagavan and, whatever action they may perform, they will all attain the same result. This conception is completely incorrect. The idea that the miscreants, the jnanis, the bhaktas and the prema-bhaktas ultimately achieve the exact same destination has been refuted in shastras such as Bhagavad-gita and Shrimad-Bhagavatam. This is stated later in the Gita (9.25):

yanti deva-vrata devan / pitrin yanti pitri-vratah
bhutani yanti bhutejya / yanti mad-yajino 'pi mam

Those who worship the devas go to the planets of the devas, those who worship the forefathers go to their planet, those who worship the spirits go to the planet of the spirits and those who worship Me attain Me.

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as follows, "When people accept My shelter by worshipping Me, I reciprocate with whatever intention or faith they have in relation to Me. Everyone can certainly attain Me, because I am the ultimate objective of all paths. Those who are shuddha bhaktas attain paramananda (transcendental bliss) by eternally rendering confidential eternal service to My sac-cid-ananda deity in the Supreme Abode. To the worshippers of My featureless aspect (nirvishesha-vadis), I award nirvana-mukti, total absorption in the nirvishesha-brahma, by way of self-annihilation. Since they do not accept the eternality of My saccid- ananda deity, they consequently lose their eternal, blissful svarupa."

"According to their degree of conviction, I cast some of them into the cycle of birth and death. I appear as shunya (void) to the shunya-vadis, merging their existence with the void. I cover the atma, consciousness (acchadita-cetana), of the empiricists as well as the nature theists who identify themselves as being born of nature, by making their consciousness almost inert. I am only attainable to them in the form of inert nature. I appear as Ishvara to the yogis, rewarding them with vibhutis (mystic powers) or kaivalya (impersonal liberation). In this way, as sarva-svarupa, the intrinsic form of everything, I am the object of achievement for all types of beliefs. Among them all, only attainment of My transcendental service should be considered supreme. All human beings follow one of My various paths."

Ch 4 Verse 12

kankshantah karmanam siddhim / yajanta iha devatah
kshipram hi manushe loke / siddhir bhavati karmaja

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.12 <>

kankshantah---those desiring; siddhim---perfection; karmanam. in fruitive acts; iha---in this world; yajante---worship; devatah--- the devas; hi---certainly; loke manushe---in this world of men; karmaja---fruitive work; bhavati---becomes; kshipram---speedily; siddhih---fruitful.

Those who desire the fruits of their activities in this world worship the devatas. Thus the results of their fruitive work are quickly achieved.

"Among all such persons with whom I reciprocate, those desiring material success give up the path of My bhakti, which is non-different from Me, and follow the path of karma, which quickly bears fruit." To explain this point, Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with the word kankshantah. The word karma-ja means born of karma and refers to perfections such as the attainment of Svarga.


Karma is of three types: nitya, routine; naimittika, occasional and kamya, with fruitive desire. Actions prescribed in the Vedas, such as sandhya, reciting prayers at the three junctions of the day, are nitya-karma, daily religious duties. Activities such as pitri-shraddha, offering oblations to the forefathers, are known as naimittika-karma or occasional duties and those actions performed with a fruitive desire are called kamyakarma or sakama. Kamya-karma is superior to both akarma, abstaining from prescribed duties and vikarma, prohibited, sinful action.

kamais tais tair hrita-jnanah / prapadyante .nya-devatah Gita (7.20)

People who desire the fruits of their actions give up the worship of Bhagavan Shri Vasudeva and worship the different devatas.

labhate ca tatah kaman / mayaiva vihitan hi tan Gita (7.22)

By the arrangements of Bhagavan, they receive their desired results from those devatas.

Those who, by the association of shuddha-bhaktas, realise the insignificance of karma and its fruits, adopt the path of nirguna-bhakti. Very quickly, they become successful and attain bhagavat-seva. According to shastra (Shrimad-Bhagavatam 11.14.21), this is because Shri Bhagavan is achieved only by bhakti: bhaktyaham ekaya grahyah. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.14.20) also says: na sadhayati mam yogo. "Bhagavan is not achieved by such processes as yoga or tapasya."

Ch 4 Verse 13

catur-varnyam maya srishtam / guna-karma-vibhagashah
tasya karttaram api mam / viddhy akarttaram avyayam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.13  <>

catur-varnyam---the system of the four social orders; srishtam--- was created; maya---by Me; vibhagashah---according to divisions; guna---of quality; (and) karma---work; api---although; (I am) karttaram---the creator; tasya---of this (system); viddhi---you should know; mam---Me; avyayam---(to be) the unchanging; akarttaram---non-doer.

The fourfold system of varnas ( brahmana, kshatriya, vaishya and shudra) was created by Me according to divisions of quality ( guna) and work ( karma). Although I am the creator of this system, you should know that I am immutable and the non-doer ( akartta), and that I am not the direct instigator.


One may ask,"The paths of bhakti and jnana give mukti as their fruit, yet the path of karma gives bondage. You, Parameshvara, have introduced all these paths, so how is it that this biased feature exists in You?" In response, Shri Bhagavan says, "No, no, it is not like this." To justify this, He has spoken this shloka beginning with the word catur-varnyam, which indicates the four varnas.

The qualities of four varnas are as follows: brahmanas possess a predominance of sattva-guna, and their activity (karma) is to control the mind and senses. Kshatriyas are predominated by sattva-guna mixed with rajas, and their karma is to be chivalrous and to engage in warfare. Vaishyas are predominated by rajo-guna mixed with tamas, and their karma is farming and protecting cows, etc. Shudras are predominated by tamogu na, and their karma is to perform menial service.

"I have created the four varnas, guna-karma-vibhagashah, according to divisions based on guna (quality) and karma (work) which is supported by karma-marga (the path of fruitive work). Although I am the doer and the creator of this system, you should know that I am not the doer or the creator, for I am not directly concerned with this system. Material nature (prakriti) is My potency, but I am transcendental to the modes of material nature. Hence, although I am the creator, I am also not the creator, because I am free from the false ego of being the doer. It is My prakriti which, as the material cause, is the direct agent concerned with establishing this system. I am therefore immutable. In other words, I remain unchanged, unbound and unconcerned with the introduction of the varna system."


Shri Bhagavan alone is the creator and direct initiator (kartta) of the whole universe. According to this siddhanta, He alone is the creator(kartta) of varna and the fourfold system of varna-dharma. By His constitutional nature, the jiva is nitya-krishna-dasa. Bhagavan has bestowed upon him an invaluable treasure in the form of free will. When the jiva misuses his independence by deciding not to serve Krishna, Bhagavan's maya immediately covers his svarupa with gross and subtle bodies, and throws him into the cycle of samsara. To deliver such jivas, Shri Bhagavan, being causelessly merciful, creates the path of karma-marga (varnashrama-dharma) through the agency of His maya-shakti. At the same time, He is eternally engaged in enjoying with His cit-shakti, and so remains avyaya (unchangeable) and akartta (the non-doer). For further details about the four varnas, one should read Bhagavad-gita(18.41-4) and Shrimad-Bhagavatam (7.11.21-4), (11.17.16-19).

Ch 4 Verse 14

na mam karmani limpanti / na me karma-phale spriha
iti mam yo .bhijanati / karmabhir na sa badhyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.14 <>

karmani---actions; na limpanti---do not bind; mam---Me; me. for Me; (there is) na---no; spriha---hankering; karma-phale---for the results of action; sah---he; yah---who; abhijanati---thoroughly understands; mam---Me; iti---in this way; na badhyate---is not bound; karmabhih---by actions.

Karma can never bind Me, because I have no desire for its fruits. Those who know this truth about Me are also never bound by their activities.


Even if the arguments from the previous shloka are accepted, Arjuna may still say to Bhagavan, "But now You have appeared in a kshatriya dynasty and every day You perform the activities of a kshatriya, so how can I accept You as akartta, the non-doer?" In answer to this, Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with na mam. "This karma does not bind Me as it does the jivas. Although the jiva desires the fruits of his karma in the form of residence in Svarga and so on, I have no such desire. As Parameshvara, I am complete in My own bliss; yet simply to set an example, I perform work. Those who do not know Me as such become bound by karma."


Shri Bhagavan is purna-tattva (the complete Absolute Reality) composed of sat, cit and ananda. The jiva is an atomic, conscious reality (anu-cit). Bhagavan is replete with six types of oppulence, but the jiva who is averse to the seva of Bhagavan is bereft of oppulence. Bhagavan is the master of maya, while the jiva is subject to maya's control. These are the differences between the two. The jiva can never, under any circumstance, become brahma or Bhagavan. However, when the jiva performs bhagavad-bhakti, knowing that Shri Bhagavan is all-powerful, independent, imperishable and desireless, he becomes freed from the bondage of karma, and attains the service of Bhagavan in his svarupa. This is the jiva's eternal position (nitya-dharma).

Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "The path of karma which is created due to adrishta (the jiva's previous abuse of free will) does not affect Me. Nor do I desire to enjoy the petty fruits of karma because I, Bhagavan, am full in six opulences. Those who keep in mind My absolute free nature by understanding My avyaya-tattva (imperishable nature) and by deliberating on the path of karma (varnashrama system), are, like Me, never bound by karma. By performing shuddhabhakti, they attain only Me."

Ch 4 Verse 15

evam jnatva kritam karma / purvair api mumukshubhih
kuru karmaiva tasmat tvam / purvaih purvataram kritam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.15 <>

evam---thus; jnatva---knowing; api---even; purvaih---the ancients; mumukshubhih---who desired liberation; kritam---performed; karma---work; eva---certainly; tasmat---therefore; tvam---you; kuru---must perform; karma---the action; kritam---performed; purvataram---previously; purvaih---by those ancients.

Even the mumukshus (seekers of liberation) in ancient times, who understood My tattva in this way, performed their prescribed duties simply to set the standard for common men. Therefore, you should also perform your karma, following the example of these predecessor authorities.


"Previous authorities such as Janaka, knowing Me in this way, have also performed karma to set an ideal for humanity."

Ch 4 Verse 16

kim karma kim akarmeti / kavayo 'py atra mohitah
tat te karma pravakshyami / yaj jnatva mokshyase 'shubhat

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.16 <>

api---even; kavayah---the wise; mohitah---are confused; atra--- on this point; iti---that is to say; kim---what?; (is) karma.action; (is) kim---what?; akarma---inaction; pravakshyami---I shall explain; tat---that; karma---action; te---to you; jnatva---having understood; yat---which; mokshyase---you shall be freed; ashubhat---from inauspiciousness.

Even men of discrimination become bewildered in their efforts to determine what is karma and what is akarma. I shall therefore explain karma-tattva to you, knowing which you will become liberated from the bondage of karma.


Even the wise should not perform karma simply by imitating the previous acaryas. Rather, they should act only when they have understood the specific nature of karma (action). For this reason, the difficult topic of karma-tattva is being explained.


In Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura.s commentary, the word gatanugatika-nyaya means working by imitating the actions of others without trying to deeply understand the subject matter concerning the purpose of the action.

Ch 4 Verse 17

karmano hy api boddhavyam / boddhavyan ca vikarmanah
akarmanash ca boddhavyam / gahana karmano gatih

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.16 <>

hi---certainly; (the principle) karmanah---of action; boddhavyam ---should be understood; api---also; (the principle) vikarmanah---of prohibited action; boddhavyam---should be understood; (the principle) akarmanah---of inaction; ca---and; boddhavyam---should be understood; ca---and; gatih---the principle; karmanah---of action; (is) gahana---profound.

Karma, vikarma and akarma should be distinctly understood, for the principle of karma is profound.


Vikarma, forbidden action, leads to a miserable destination. This is the principle. Akarma means not to perform one's prescribed action (karma). Why is it auspicious for sannyasis to refrain from karma? In other words, how will they attain the highest welfare without performing action? The tattva of karma is extremely deep and difficult to understand. The word karma indicates all three aspects: karma, akarma and vikarma.


It is difficult to understand the tattva of karma. Only the karma prescribed in shastra is the cause of moksha. Vikarma, forbidden action which is contrary to prescribed karma, leads the jivas to a miserable destination. Not performing the karma prescribed in shastra is called akarma (inaction). There are three levels of akarma:

1. The ignorant do not perform the karma which is prescribed in the Vedas, due to laziness.

2. Those who know the result of karma to be perishable and miserable become resentful. Being disgusted with karma, they act for moksha.

3. After hearing hari-katha, some persons abandon prescribed karma and cultivate bhakti.

tavat karmani kurvita / na nirvidyeta yavata

mat-katha-shravanadau va / shraddha yavan na jayate
Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.20.9)

In this current shloka of Gita, the word karmano in the phrase gahana karmano gatih implies all three aspects: karma, akarma and vikarma.

Ch 4 Verse 18

karmany akarma yah pashyed / akarmani ca karma yah
sa buddhiman manushyeshu / sa yuktah kritsna-karma-krit

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.18 <>

sah---that; buddhiman---intelligent person; manushyeshu---among mankind; yah---who; pashyet---can see; akarma---inaction; karmany---within action; ca---and; yah---who (sees); karma--- action; akarmani---within inaction; (is) yuktah---transcendentally situated; (although) krit---the performer; kritsna-karma--- of all activities.

One who sees action in non-action and non-action in action is truly wise among men and transcenden- tally situated, even though he performs all sorts of actions.


Of the three types of karma, the tattva of karma and akarma is explained in this shloka beginning with the word karmani. Personalities such as Janaka Maharaja, who were pure in heart, did not take sannyasa although they were endowed with jnana. Instead, they performed akarma by following nishkama-karma-yoga. Those who can see that such actions are not karma are themselves not bound by karma. A karmasanny asi whose heart is impure, who lacks tattva-jnana, and who possesses mere intellectual knowledge of shastra, can only deliver exalted speeches. But, those who can see karma in the akarma of such sannyasis, and who realise that bondage to karma leads only to a miserable destination, are actually wise. The pure-hearted person mentioned above performs all types of karma but does not accept karma-sannyasa. On the other hand, there are so-called karma-sannyasis who consider themselves to be knowledgeable, but who are actually proud and garrulous. They do not seek higher association or follow instructions, and they only praise themselves. Those impurehearted persons suffer miserably.

Shri Bhagavan has also said:

yas tv asamyata-shad-vargah / pracandendriya-sarathih
jnana-vairagya-rahitas / tri-dandam upajivati
suran atmanam atma-stham / nihnute mam ca dharma-ha
avipakva-kashayo .smad / amushmac ca vihiyate
Shrimad Bhagavatam (11.18.40-1)

Sometimes, a person who is bereft of jnana and vairagya makes a show of accepting tridanda, the symbol of sannyasa, to maintain his life. This is condemned if his intelligence, which should direct the senses, is instead controlled by the fiercely strong senses and by the six invincible enemies (lust, anger, greed, illusion, pride and envy). Such a person is the killer of his own soul. Completely immersed in endless material desires, he denies the worshipable devas, his own self and even Me, who am situated within his heart. Thus he is ruined both in this world and in the next.


All karma performed by a nishkama-karma-yogi is akarma (inaction) in the form of karma-sannyasa. Renunciation of the fruits of action (karma-tyaga) constitutes his performance of nishkama-karma. Although nishkama-karma-yogis perform all types of actions, they are not considered to be karmis (fruitive workers). For them karma and akarma are the same. On the other hand, so-called jnanis who have artificially renounced their prescribed duties (karma-sannyasa), but whose conduct is poor (duracari) due to their impure hearts, who are proud, and who praise themselves, suffer miserable consequences.

Ch 4 Verse 19

yasya sarve samarambhah / kama-sankalpa-varjitah
jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam / tam ahuh panditam budhah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.19 <>

(he) yasya---whose; sarve---every; samarambhah---endeavour; (is) varjitah---devoid; kama-sankalpa---of selfish desire; (his) karmanam---action; dagdha---is burned up; jnana-agni---by the fire of knowledge; budhah---the wise; ahuh---call; tam---him; panditam---a learned person.

He whose every action is free from hankering for pleasure, having burnt all fruitive desires in the fire of pure knowledge, is called a pandita by the wise.


The subject of karma is now being explained in detail in five shlokas (Gita 4.19-24), the first beginning with the word yasya. Kama-sankalpa-varjitah means devoid of the desire for the fruits of action, and samarambhah refers to all actions which are properly instigated. Jnanagni-dagdha-karmanam indicates those in whom the reactions to previous karma or vikarma, have all been burnt by the fire of jnana. The fate of those who perform vikarma, as described in Gita 4.17, should be understood in this way. Just as for a wise person, who was described in the previous shloka, it is proper to see his karma as akarma, similarly it is also proper to see his vikarma as akarma. This is in sangati (harmony) with the previous shloka and will be explained in later shlokas (Gita 4.36-7).


Those who perform prescribed duties, and at the same time become free from fruitive desires, burn up all the results of their prescribed karma, as well as their vikarma in jnanagni, the fire of transcendental knowledge, which results from their performance of nishkama-karma-yoga. Such mahatmas are called jnanagni-dagdha-karma, those who have burnt all their karma in the fire of transcendental knowledge.

Ch 4 Verse 20

tyaktva karma-phalasangam / nitya-tripto nirashrayah
karmany abhipravritto .pi / naiva kincit karoti sah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.20 <>

tyaktva---having given up; asangam---attachment; karmaphala ---to the fruits of action; nitya-triptah---he is always blissful; nirashrayah---and without dependence; eva---certainly; sah na karoti---he does not do; kincit---anything; api---although; abhipravrittah---engaged; karmani---in work.

One who has renounced attachment to the fruits of karma, who is always blissful within, and who is not dependent on anyone for his maintenance does not act, though fully engaged in all types of karma.


Nitya-triptah means that internally such a person remains blissfully content. Nirashrayah means not depending on anyone for one's maintenance (yoga-kshema).


The word yoga, cited in the Sarartha-Varshini, means to attain or to acquire that which one lacks. The word kshema means to protect what one possesses.

Ch 4 Verse 21

nirashir yata-cittatma / tyakta-sarva-parigrahah
shariram kevalam karma / kurvan napnoti kilbisham

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.21 <>

atma---the soul; citta.whose mind; controlled; nirashih.who does not hanker; tyakta.who has abandoned; sarva-parigrahah.all ingredients for sense pleasure; karma.his work; (is) kevalam.solely; shariram.for bodily maintenance; doing; (he) na apnoti.does not acquire; kilbisham. sinful reaction. One who can control his mind and senses, who is devoid of fruitive desires, who has given up all variety of sense pleasure, and who performs karma only for bodily maintenance, does not become affected by sinful reactions resulting from his karma. 20 - 21 ! Sh R I M A D BHAGAVAD- G I T A CH A P T E R 4 284 SARARTHA-VARShINI Here the word atma refers to the gross body. Shariram refers to performing actions such as accepting donations from dishonest persons to maintain the body (asat-pratigraha). Such people do not incur sin even if they act like this. This further describes the phrase of Gita (4.17), vikarmanah boddhavyam. .One should understand the tattva of vikarma.. SARARTHA-VARShINI PRAKAShIKA-VRiTTI Nirashih means those who are devoid of fruitive desires. Although such people may accept charity from dishonest persons to maintain the body, still they do not incur sin; nor do they incur piety by accepting charity through the proper means. This is because they control the mind and gross body, and are free from any effort to accumulate objects meant for sense enjoyment.

Ch 4 Verse 22

yadriccha-labha-santushto / dvandvatito vimatsarah
samah siddhav asiddhau ca / kritvapi na nibadhyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.22 <>

(he is) santushtah---satisfied; labha---with gain; yad-riccha---which comes (of its own accord); (and) atitah---has left behind; dvandva---tolerating duality such as heat and cold; (he is) vimatsarah---free from envy; samah---equipoised; siddhau---in success; ca---and; asiddhau---failure; api---although; kritva--- acting; na nibadhyate---he is not bound.

He who is satisfied with objects that come of their own accord, and who tolerates dualities such as heat and cold or happiness and distress, is free from envy and remains equipoised in success and failure. Although he performs karma, he does not become bound.

URL of this page <<<<<<< 4.22.htm>>>>>>>

Ch 4 Verse 23

gata-sangasya muktasya / jnanavasthita-cetasah
yajnayacaratah karma / samagram praviliyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.23 <>

(he who) gata-sangasya---has given up attachment (for external things); muktasya---is liberated; cetasah---whose consciousness; (is) avasthita---situated; jnana---in knowledge; acaratah. by performing action; yajnaya---for the sake of Vishnu; karma praviliyate---his fruitive action vanishes; samagram---completely.

One who is devoid of material attachments, and whose mind is situated in true knowledge, is liberated. All the fruitive action of such a person, who performs his every action for the worship of Parameshvara, is completely dissolved. Thus he attains the state of akarma.


The characteristics of yajna will be explained later. Karma performed for the sake of yajna is dissolved, and this results in a state of akarma (inaction).


Karma (work) performed for the pleasure of Shri Bhagavan (yajnartha) never becomes a cause of bondage to the material world. Such action for the pleasure of Bhagavan is described here as akarma-bhava, the state of inaction. Mere performance of dharmika activities (karma as prescribed in the Vedas) does not in itself lead to the higher planets, nor do sinful activities in the form of vikarma (actions forbidden in the Vedas) lead to the lower planets. Knowers of karma who accept the principle of purvam imamsa, claim that actions produce an unseen subtle potency called apurva, which causes the karma to give its results life after life. Their conception that this fruit can be later shared by others is meant to establish the eternality of karma. This consideration, however, does not apply to a nishkama-karma-yogi.

Ch 4 Verse 24

brahmarpanam brahma havir / brahmagnau brahmana hutam
brahmaiva tena gantavyam / brahma-karma-samadhina

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.24 <>

brahma---the spiritual reality; eva gantavyam---is certainly achieved; tena brahmana---by that brahmana; samadhina---who is absorbed; brahma-karma---spiritual action; arpanam---his sacrificial spoons and other paraphernalia; brahma---are spiritualised; havih---his ghee and other ingredients for offering; brahma---are spiritualised; (and) hutam---his offering of foods; agnau---into the fire; brahma---are spiritualised.

Brahma can be attained by one who performs yajna in which the sacrificial instruments, the ghee, the fire, the offerings and the priest (agent) are all brahma. Such a person is qualified to attain brahma because he is fully absorbed in karma which is of the same nature as brahma.


The previous shloka states that one should perform karma for yajna. What is the nature of yajna? In anticipation of this question, Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with the word brahmarpanam. Arpanam refers to the instrument with which the offering is made. The ladle used in the sacrifice and other such instruments are brahma. Havih (the ghee, etc.) which is offered is also brahma. Brahmagnau means the resting place of the recipient of the offering or fire, is brahma. The brahmana who performs the yajna is also brahma. Thus, brahma is the only desirable object for a wise man. There is no other result. If one asks why, the answer is that activity, which is identical to, or in oneness with brahma, leads to samadhi, exclusive concentration of the mind. Thus, no other fruit is obtained.


In sacrificial acts, the specific instrument used to offer ghee in the fire is called sruva. The ingredients offered to the devas in the yajna are called havih. Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Krishna as saying, "Now, hear how work in the form of yajna gives rise to knowledge. I will explain various types of yajna later. Now, I will explain the fundamental principle behind them. Material actions are compulsory for the jiva bound to material consciousness. In such mundane activities, the faithful discharge of prescribed duties in which one can deliberate on cit-tattva (the conscious reality) is called yajna. When conscious reality manifests in matter, it is called brahma. That brahma is merely My bodily effulgence. Cit-tattva is quite distinct from the whole material universe. Yajna is perfect when its five constituents, namely arpanam (the instrument for offering), havih (the ingredients), agni (the fire), hota (the doer) and phala (the fruit), are the resting place of brahma, that is, when they are meant for the revelation of brahma. A person.s activity is known as brahma-yajna when he seeks revelation of brahma in his karma with concentrated meditation. The instruments of offering, the ingredients, the fire, the doer (that is, his own existence) and the fruits are all brahma. Thus their ultimate destination is also brahma."

Ch 4 Verse 25

daivam evapare yajnam / yoginah paryupasate
brahmagnav apare yajnam / yajnenaivopajuhvati

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.25 <>

eva---indeed; apare---other; yoginah---karma-yogis; paryup asate---worship; daivam---the devas; (through) yajnam---sacrifice; eva---indeed; apare---others (jnana-yogis); upajuhvati--- offer; yajnam---sacrifice; yajnena---through sacrifice; brahmaagnau ---in the fire of the Absolute Truth.

Some karma-yogis perfectly perform deva-yajna in the form of worship of the devatas, while jnana- yogis offer all their activities as oblations in the yajna of brahma.


Shri Bhagavan is saying, "There are various types of yajna according to the varieties of desired goals. Now hear of them all." Shri Bhagavan speaks eight shlokas beginning with the present one, daivam eva, to explain these different types of yajna. Yajna in which the worship of devas such as Indra and Varuna is performed is called daivam. The performers of such yajna do not consider devas like Indra and others to be brahma. This is being explained here. According to the sutra: sasya-devatetyana, the devas are the only worshipable deities for those performers of the deva-yajna; brahma is not mentioned here. In this shloka, yoginah means karma-yogis, while apare implies jnanayog is. Brahmagnau means that brahma or Paramatma is the sacrificial fire. In that sacrificial fire or tat-padartha (the Absolute Truth) the yajnam (havih, oblation) in the form of tvam-padartha (the jiva) is the yajnena, which is offered by chanting the pranava-mantra, om. This very jnana-yajna will be glorified later. Here, the words yajnam and yajnena have been used for the object which is offered (such as ghee) and the instrument of the offering (the ladle) respectively. In other words, it is understood that the shuddha-jiva and pranava are indicated by a superior understanding of yajna and yajnena.


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses Krishna.s mood as follows, "Those who take the vow to perform yajna are called yogis. There are various types of yajna according to the different aptitudes of the yogis. In fact, there are as many varieties of yajnas as there are types of yogi. All yajnas can be divided into two general divisions based on vijnana, scientific understanding: 1) karma-yajna, consisting of sacrificial offerings and 2) jnana-yajna, sacrifice in the form of deliberation on cit-tattva. This will be explained further on. Now, please hear as I explain some varieties of yajnas. The karmayog is perform their worship through deva-yajna, the worship of My authorised representatives such as Indra and Varuna who, by My external potency, are gifted with specific powers.

By such worship, these karma-yogis gradually attain the stage of nishkama-karma-yoga. The yajna of the jnana-yogis consists of offering themselves (tvam-padartha) as the ghee in the fire of brahma (tat-padartha) by reciting the pranavamantra, om, or having taken shelter of the maha-vakya (great axium), tat-tvam asi (you are His servant). The superiority of this jnana-yajna will be explained later on."

Ch 4 Verse 26

shrotradinindriyany anye / samyamagnishu juhvati
shabdadin vishayan anya / indriyagnishu juhvati

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.26 <>

anye---others; juhvati---offer; indriyani---the senses; shrotra- aduni---beginning with the ear; agnishu---into the fire; sam- yama---of the controlled mind; anye---others; juhvati---offer; vishayan---the sense objects; shabda-adin---beginning with sound; indriya-agnishu---into the fire of the senses.

The naishthika-brahmacaris offer their hearing and other senses into the fire of the controlled mind, while the grihasthas offer sense objects, such as sound, into the fire of the senses.


The resolute brahmacaris offer indriyani, the hearing and other sense processes, into the fire of the controlled mind. In this way, they completely dissolve the senses into the pure mind. The irresolute brahmacaris (grihasthas) offer the objects of the senses, such as sound, into the fire of the senses.

Ch 4 Verse 27

sarvanindriya-karmani / prana-karmani capare
atma-samyama-yogagnau / juhvati jnana-dipite

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.27 <>

ca---and; apare---others (yogis); juhvati---offer; karmani---the functions; sarvani---of all; indriya---the senses; (and) pranakarm ani---the functions of breath; yoga-agnau---in the fire of connection; atma-samyama---with the pure soul; jnana-dipite--- which is illuminated by transcendental knowledge.

Other yogis offer the activities of all their senses and life airs into the fire of the controlled self, which is illuminated by knowledge


Apare means the knower of pure tvam-padartha, namely the pure self (the jiva). These yogis offer all of their senses, the activities of the senses such as hearing and seeing, the ten types of life airs (prana), and the actions of the life airs into the fire of the controlled self, or the fire of the purified existence of tvam-padartha (the jiva). In other words, they completely dissolve the mind, the intelligence, the senses and the ten life airs in the pure self. Their understanding is that the pratyag-atma (pure soul) is all that exists, and that the mind and so on do not have any real existence.

The ten types of life airs and their actions are as follows:
prana : out-going
apana : in-coming
samana : to adjust the equilibrium of all objects eaten or drunk
udana : to take up
vyana : to move everywhere
naga : to belch
kurma : to open the eyes
krikara : to cough
devadatta : to yawn
dhananjaya : to remain in the body even after death.

Ch 4 Verse 28

dravya-yajnas tapo-yajna / yoga-yajnas tathapare
svadhyaya-jnana-yajnash ca / yatayah samshita-vratah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.28 <>

apare---others; dravya-yajnah---sacrifice of possessions; tapoyaj nah---sacrifice of austerities; yoga-yajnah---sacrifice of ashtangayoga; tatha---and; svadhyaya-jnana-yajnah---sacrifice of study of transcendental knowledge from the Vedas; ca---and; yatayah--- these ascetics; samshita-vratah---follow strict vows.

Some perform dravya-yajna by giving their possessions in charity, some perform tapo-yajna by performing austerities, and some perform yoga-yajna by practising the yoga of eightfold mysticism. Others perform svadhyaya-yajna by studying the Vedas and acquiring transcendental knowledge. All who make such endeavours follow strict vows.


Those who perform yajna by offering their material possessions in charity are called dravya-yajnah. Those who perform yajna with austerity such as the kricchra-candrayana vrata are called tapo-yajnah. Those who perform yajna by ashtangayoga are called yoga-yajnah, and those whose yajna is only to study the Vedas in order to acquire knowledge are called svadhyaya-jnana-yajnah. All those who make such endeavours are described as samshita-vratah (performers of strict vows).

Here Bhagavan Shri Krishna is describing various types of yajna. Karma-yogis give food, cloth and so on in charity, which is their dravya-yajna. They perform welfare activities that are described in smriti-shastra, such as digging wells and ponds, establishing temples, giving food in charity and making parks and gardens. There are others who perform activities such as protecting their dependents and taking a vow of non-vio lence towards all jivas. Their activity is called datta-karma, charitable acts. There are others who perform yajna for the purpose of pleasing the devas. Such activity is called ishta-yajna. Some perform painfully austere vratas (vows), such as candrayana, which are explained in Manu-samhita:


ekaikam grasam ashniyat try-ahani trini purvava
try-ahan copavased antyam atikricchriam caran dvijah
Manu-samhita 11.214

For the first three days a person eats one mouthful of food during the day. For the next three days he eats one mouthful daily in the evening, and for the following three days he takes one morsel of food a day without begging. For the last three days he fasts completely. This austere vow is called kricchra-vrata.


ekaikam hy asayet pindam krishne shukle ca varddhayet
upasprishamsh tri-shavanam etac candrayanam smritam
Manu-samhita 11.217

On the full moon day, a person should take only fifteen mouthfuls of food per day and take morning, midday and evening bath. From the first day of the lunar month onwards, he should reduce his food by one mouthful each day, and on the fourteenth day he should eat only one mouthful. He has to fast completely on the dark moon day. From the first day of the bright fortnight onwards, he increases his meal by one mouthful each day, eating fifteen mouthfuls on the full moon day. This is called candrayana-vrata. There are others who perform yajna by devoting themselves to yoga. Their yajna is to perform ashtanga-yoga while residing in a pious place or holy place. Patanjali has said: Yogash citta-vrittinirodha. .Yoga means to control the various activities of the mind.. The eight limbs of yoga are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi, the performance of which is called ashtanga-yoga. Other karma-yogis call the study of the Vedas jnana-yajna, and they only perform this yajna.

Ch 4 Verse 29

apane juhvati pranam / prane .panam tathapare
pranapana-gati ruddhva / pranayama-parayanah
apare niyataharah / pranan praneshu juhvati

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.29 <>

apare---others; juhvati---offer; pranam---the out-going breath; apane---into the in-coming; tatha---and; apanam---the in-coming breath; prane---into the out-going; ruddhva---blocking; pranaap ana-gati---the movement of these two airs; pranayamapar ayanah---they become absorbed in a trance of breath-control; apare---others; niyata-aharah---restraining eating; juhvati---offer; pranan---their out-going breaths; praneshu---into the outgoing breaths themselves.

Others, who are devoted to pranayama (controlling the life force), offer prana (the out-going breath) into apana (the in-coming breath) and vice versa. By gradually stopping both prana and apana, they become fixed in pranayama. Others, while checking the eating process, offer their prana into the fire of prana (life) itself.


Some yogis, who are devoted to the control of their life airs, sacrifice prana into apana. This means that at the time of puraka (inhalation) they combine the prana and apana. Similarly, during the time of recaka (exhalation), they offer apana into prana, and at the time of kumbhaka (holding the breath) they stop the movement of both prana and apana and become fixed in pranayama.

Others, who want to control the senses, sacrifice their senses into prana, the life airs, by moderating their food intake. The senses are under the control of prana. When the life air becomes weak, naturally the senses also become weak and unable to enjoy their sense objects. In this way, they offer the disabled senses into their life airs, living only on their life airs (prana).


Ashtanga-yoga (the eightfold path of yoga) is being explained in more detail. Yogis sacrifice prana into apana through puraka (inhalation). In other words, at the time of puraka, they combine the prana and apana. Similarly, while exhaling (recaka), they offer apana into prana and at the time of kumbhaka (holding the breath), they stop the movements of both prana and apana.

The word pranayama has two components. Prana means a special type of air and ayama means expansion. Here, expansion means to control the prana from the tip of the toenails to the hair on top of the head. In Garuda Purana it is said: pranayamo maruj-jayah. "To control the prana air is called pranayama." Therefore, pranayama means expanding prana for the purpose of controlling the activities of the senses. Similarly, Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.15.1) explains, "When a person controls his senses and his breathing process, and fully absorbs his mind in Me, all the siddhis naturally come under his control." For more information on this subject, readers should study Prema-Pradipa by Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura. The smriti-shastra describes yajna such as dravya-yajna, tapo-yajna, yoga-yajna and svadhyaya-jnana-yajna, while the tantra-shastra describes hatha-yoga and various other types of vows for controlling the senses. However, the best type of yajna in this Kali-yuga, when people have short life spans and very little intelligence, is the natural and easily-perfected sankirtana-yajna. Not only every human but every living entity has the right to perform sankirtana-yajna:

harer nama, harer nama, harer namaiva kevalam kalau nasty eva, nasty eva, nasty eva, gatir anyatha
Brihad-Naradiya Purana

This is also explained in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.5.32):

krishna-varnam tvishakrishnam / sangopangastra-parshadam
yajnaih sankirtana-prayair / yajanti hi su-medhasah

By performing the sankirtana-yajna, intelligent persons worship that Personality in whose mouth the two syllables 'Kri' and 'shna' are dancing, whose bodily colour is like brilliant gold, and who is surrounded by His associates, servitors, weapons and confidential companions.

Ch 4 Verse 30

sarve 'py ete yajna-vido / yajna-kshapita-kalmashah
yajna-shishtamrita-bhujo / yanti brahma sanatanam

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.30 <>

api---also; sarve---all; ete---those; yajna-vidah---who are conversant with the principle of yajna; (become) kshapita---cleansed; kalmashah---of sins; (through) yajna---sacrifice; amrita-bhujah. they enjoy the immortal; yajna-shishta---remnants of yajna; (and) yanti---they attain; sanatanam---eternal; brahma---spirit.

All those who know the principle of yajna become free from sin by performing that yajna. Having tasted amrita, the remnants of yajna, they eventually attain the eternal brahma.


All who know the principles of yajna, and who perform yajnas as described above, gradually advance in jnana, by which they can attain brahma. Here, the secondary result of such yajna is explained; they also taste the nectarean remnants of yajna, such as mundane enjoyment, opulence and mystic perfections. Similarly, the primary fruit is described as brahma yanti, the attainment of brahma.


The primary fruit of yajna is the attainment of brahma, and the secondary fruit is to achieve mundane or worldly enjoyment and mystic perfections, such as anima siddhi (becoming atomic in size).

Ch 4 Verse 31

nayam loko 'sty ayajnasya / kuto 'nyah kuru-sattama

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.31 <>

kuru-sattama---O best of the Kurus; ayajnasya---for one who does not perform yajna; (the benefits of) ayam lokah---this world; na asti---are not (available); kutah---what then?; anyah---of the other world.

O best of the Kurus! A person who does not perform yajna cannot even attain this earthly planet with its meagre happiness. How then, can he attain the planets of the devas and others?


By not performing yajna, fault (sin) is incurred.To explain this, Bhagavan Shri Krishna is speaking this shloka beginning with nayam. If one cannot even attain the earth planet, which provides very little happiness, how can one attain the higher planets such as those of the devas?


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses Krishna's mood as follows, "Therefore, Arjuna, O best of the Kurus, one who does not perform yajna cannot even attain this world, what to speak of the next. Therefore, yajna is certainly an obligatory duty. From this you should understand that smartavar nashrama (the caste-rules enjoined in the smritis), ashtangayoga, Vedic sacrifices and so on are all part of yajna. Even brahma-jnana is a special type of yajna. There is no karma (prescribed duty) in this world other than yajna. Everything else is vikarma."

Ch 4 Verse 32

evam bahu-vidha yajna / vitata brahmano mukhe
karma-jan viddhi tan sarvan / evam jnatva vimokshyase

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.32 <>

evam---thus; bahu-vidhah---many kinds; yajnah---of sacrifices; vitatah---are diffused; mukhe---from the mouth; brahmanah--of the Vedas; viddhi---you should know; tan---them; sarvan---all; (to be) karma-jan---born from action; evam---thus; jnatva. knowing; vimokshyase---you shall be liberated.

The various types of yajna are elaborately explained in the Vedas. Knowing all of them to be born of karma you will attain moksha.


Brahmanah means of the Vedas and mukhena means from the mouth. Vedena means "clearly spoken from My own mouth." Karma-jan means "born of the action of speech, mind and body."


The yajnas described in the Vedas are performed by the activities of the body, mind and speech; therefore, they have no relationship with the atma-svarupa (true nature of the self). The soul (atma) remains indifferent and detached from all of these processes. Attainment of this jnana frees one from bondage to this material world.

Ch 4 Verse 33

shreyan dravyamayad yajnaj / jnana-yajnah parantapa
sarvam karmakhilam partha / jnane parisamapyate

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.33 <>

parantapa---O chastiser of the foe; shreyan---better; yajnat---than the sacrifice; dravyamayat---of material possessions; (is) jnanayaj nah---the sacrifice of knowledge; partha---O Partha; sarvam---all; karma-akhilam---complete action; parisamapyate--- culminates; jnane---in transcendental knowledge.

O Parantapa, jnana- yajna is superior to dravyamaya- yajna (the renunciation of material possessions) because, O Partha, the performance of all prescribed actions culminates in transcendental knowledge.


Jnana-yajna (as described in Gita 4.25, brahmagnau), is superior to karma-yajna or dravya-maya-yajna which consists of renouncing material possessions as described in Gita 4.24:

brahmarpanam brahma havir.

One may ask why. The answer is that the culmination of all actions bears fruit upon attaining jnana. In other words, karma ceases to exist after one attains jnana.


In his commentary on this shloka, Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura quotes Shri Krishna as saying, "Although all these yajnas gradually lead to jnana, shanti and finally to bhakti unto Me, which is extremely auspicious for the jiva, still there is something to be considered in this regard. From the above group of yajnas, a person may sometimes perform either dravya-maya-yajna or karma-yajna (ceremonial rites). At other times, depending on his nishtha, he may perform jnanamaya- yajna (a sacrifice performed in knowledge). Jnanamaya- yajna is far superior to dravya-maya-yajna, because, O Partha, all karma culminates in jnana. When the performance of any yajna does not involve deliberation on the transcendental, then the whole activity is simply ritualistic (dravyamaya). However, when the goal is spiritual progress, the karmayaj nas lose their fruitive materialism and become transcendental. The dravya-maya stage of yajna, which consists only of material rituals, is called karma-kanda. One must remain very conscious of this distinction while performing yajna."

Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has also said, "Only those who perform bhajana to Shri Krishna by sankirtana-yajna make their lives successful, and they are most intelligent. All others are foolish slayers of the self." Krishna-nama-yajna is supreme among all types of yajna. Performance of millions of ashvamedha-yajnas cannot be equated with once chanting the name of Krishna. Those who make such comparisons are pashandi, religious impostors, and Yamaraja punishes them in various ways. This is emphasised in Chaitanya-caritamrita (Adi lila 3.77-79).

Moreover, one's bondage to the material world is easily untied by chanting the hare krishna maha-mantra, and by chant ing krishna-nama one attains Shri Krishna's prema-mayi seva. Thus, in the age of Kali, all yajnas except the chanting of Krishna's name, are useless, because they do not fall into the category of svarupa-dharma, the eternal occupation of the soul. This is further clarified in Chaitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila 7.73-74).

Ch 4 Verse 34

tad viddhi pranipatena / pariprashnena sevaya
upadekshyanti te jnanam / jnaninas tattva-darshinah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.34 <>

iddhi---you must understand; tat---this knowledge; pranipatena--- by offering prostrated obeisances to the guru who gives instructions about jnana; pariprashnena---by relevant inquiries on every aspect; sevaya---by rendering devotional service; jnaninah---those in knowledge; tattva-darshinah---who have seen the Absolute Truth; upadekshyanti---will reveal; jnanam---that knowledge; te---unto you.

Acquire this jnana by offering prostrated obeisances to a guru who imparts transcendental knowledge, by asking relevant questions from him and by rendering service to him. The tattva darshi, who are expert in the imports of shastra, and the jnanis, who have realised the Absolute Reality, will enlighten you with that jnana.


How can this knowledge be attained? Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with tad-viddhi to give this information. After offering dandavat-pranamas unto a guru who gives instructions in transcendental knowledge, one should inquire as follows: "Aho Bhagavan! (Gurudeva is addressed as Bhagavan here because he is ashraya Bhagavan, the supreme receptacle of love for Bhagavan, and because the sad-guru has qualities of Bhagavan), Why am I in this material condition? How can I become free from it?" One must satisfy him by seva and by paricarya, attending to his personal needs. It is also said in the shrutis:

tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih shrotriyam brahma-nishtham
Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12

To acquire jnana of Shri Bhagavan, one should approach a guru who knows the real import of the Vedas by carrying samidh (the fuel wood of sublime faith) as an offering to him.


Here, Shri Krishna describes bhagavat-tattva-jnana as extremely rare and difficult to understand. It can only be understood by the mercy of a maha-purusha who is a tattva-jnani, one who knows the Truth, and more specifically a tattva-darshi, one who has realised the Truth. Sincere sadhakas should inquire from such a maha-purusha about this tattva and please him by offering prostrated obeisances, by asking relevant questions and by rendering service to him. Pranipatena means to affectionately offer pranamas with either eight or five limbs of the body. Pranama or namaskara means to give up one's false ego and bow down. Here seva means to render favourable service for the pleasure of the guru. This shloka describes two symptoms of a guru who bestows transcendental knowledge; he is both a jnani and a tattvadar shi. One who has studied shastra and understood the knowledge in it is called a jnani, while a tattva-darshi is a maha- purusha who has direct realisation of tattva.

Persons possessing incomplete knowledge do not have direct realisation of tattva and tat-padartha. The instructions of such unrealised persons are not fruitful. Only the instruc tions of a maha-purusha are fruitful. Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.3.21) also says:

tasmad gurum prapadyeta jijnasuh.

Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura comments on this shloka as follows: "To know supreme auspiciousness and eternal wellbeing, sadhakas should accept the shelter of a guru who is expert in shabda-brahma (the imports of Vedic shastra), who has realised parabrahma, and who has no material attachments. If he is not expert in or knowledgeable of shabdabrahma, he will not be able to dispel the doubts of his disciples and they will lose faith in him. If a guru has no direct realisation of parabrahma, his mercy does not fructify to the fullest extent, nor yield the highest result. Here the word upasamashraya (11.3.21) refers to the guru who is endowed with realisation of parabrahma. This means that he does not fall under the sway of lust, anger, greed, etc. because he has no material attachments." This is further clarified in Shrimad-Bhagavatam (11.11.18):

shabda-brahmani nishnato / na nishnayat pare yadi
shramas tasya shrama-phalo / hy adhenum iva rakshatah

Taking shelter of a guru who is expert in knowledge of shabdabrahma, but is bereft of parabrahma realisation, is like protecting a barren cow. It is useless labour and one does not achieve any transcendental result.

Bhagavad-gita states that Shri Krishna is the Supreme Transcendental Reality. There are those who say that the word tat in this shloka refers to the jivatma, but such understanding is completely incorrect because it contradicts the next shloka. In Vedanta-darshana it is also said:

anyarthash ca paramarshah
(Brahma-sutra 1.3.20).

The word tat refers to paramatmatattva- jnana.

Ch 4 Verse 35

yaj jnatva na punar moham / evam yasyasi pandava yena bhutany asheshani / drakshyasy atmany atho mayi

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.35 <>

pandava---O son of Pandu; jnatva---after understanding (that knowledge); yat---which (was taught by the tattva-darshis); na evam yasyasi---consequently you shall never enter; punah. again; moham---into illusion; yena---by which (knowledge); drakshyasi---you shall perceive; asheshani---all; bhutani---beings; atmani---within Paramatma; atho---that is to say; mayi---in Me. O Pandava, after acquiring such jnana you will never again be deluded.

By that knowledge you will see all living beings as jivatmas, and you will see them in Me, Paramatma.


In the next three and a half shlokas beginning here with the words yaj jnatva, Shri Bhagavan explains the fruit of jnana. "After you have attained jnana, by which one knows the atma to be different from the body, your mind will not become deluded again. By attaining svabhavika nitya-siddha-atmaj nana (natural and eternally perfect knowledge of the self) delusion is removed and you will see all living beings: humans, animals, birds, etc. as jivatmas appearing separately due to their external covering or designations (upadhis). In addition, you will see all of them in Me, parama-karana (the ultimate cause), situated as My effect (the jiva-shakti)."


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura expresses Krishna's mood. "Now, due to delusion, you are trying to give up your sva-dharma (prescribed duty) which is to participate in battle, but after attaining tattva-jnana as instructed by your guru, you will no longer fall prey to delusion. By that tattva-jnana you will be able to understand that all entities: human beings, animals, birds, etc., are situated in the same jiva-tattva. The various levels of gross existence have occurred due to their external bodily designations. All jivas are situated in Me, bhagavatsvar upa, who am the parama-karana (ultimate cause), as the effect of My shakti."

Ch 4 Verse 36

api ced asi papebhyah / sarvebhyah papa-krittamah
sarvam jnana-plavenaiva / vrijinam santarishyasi

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.36 <>

api---even; cet---if; asi---you are; papa-krittamah---the most sinful; sarvebhyah---of all; papebhyah---sinners; eva---certainly; santarishyasi---you will cross over completely; sarvam---all; vrijinam---sin; jnana-plavena---by the boat of transcendental knowledge.

Even if you are the most sinful of sinners, you will be able to completely cross over the ocean of all sins by taking shelter of this boat of transcendental jnana.


Now by speaking this shloka beginning with api ced, Shri Bhagavan describes the glories of jnana. The word papebhyah indicates, "Even if you are the worst of sinners, this tattvaj nana will liberate you from all past sins." Here, a question arises. "How is it possible that the mind will become purified when so many sins exist in it? And if the mind is not pure, how will jnana manifest? There is no possibility that a person in whom jnana has appeared will misbehave or commit any sin."

Here, Shripada Madhusudana Sarasvati explains, "The words api ced are spoken to indicate the possibility of the impossible, by going against the rule. Although this meaning is not possible, it has been spoken of as a promise, in order to explain the fruit (glory) of jnana. In other words, the impossible has also been mentioned as a possibility."

Ch 4 Verse 37

yathaidhamsi samiddho 'gnir / bhasmasat kurute 'rjuna jnanagnih sarva-karmani / bhasmasat kurute tatha

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.37 <>

arjuna---O Arjuna; yatha---as; samiddhah---a blazing; agni---fire; kurute---turns; edhamsi---firewood; bhasmasat---to ashes; tatha--- similarly; jnana-agnih---the fire of transcendental knowledge; kurute---turns; sarva-karmani---all reactions of fruitive work; bhasmasat---to ashes.

O Arjuna, just as a blazing fire burns firewood to ashes, in the same way, the fire of transcendental knowledge burns all karmika reactions to ashes.


When jnana manifests in a pure mind, it burns up all karma (reactions) except for prarabdha-karma. This is explained with an example in this shloka beginning with the word yatha.


Jnana destroys the reactions of all sorts of karma such as nitya, naimittika, kamya, vikarma and accumulated aprarabdha, but not prarabdha-karma. This has been verified in Vedanta-darshana:

tad-adhigama uttara-purvarghayor
ashlesha-vinashau tad-vyapadeshat
Brahma-sutra 4.1.13

Even a jnani has to face the results of his prarabdha-karma. According to Shrila Rupa Gosvami, however, a person who has taken shelter of the holy name, be it even namabhasa (a semblance of pure chanting), not only destroys the results of all his karma, such as accumulated aprarabdha and kuta, but also the fruits of prarabdha-karma. What, then, is to be said about the chanting of shuddha-nama? Shrila Rupa Gosvami has written in Shri Namashtaka (shloka 4):

vinasham ayati vina na bhogaih

O Nama Prabhu! Your appearance on the tongue of Your bhaktas burns up the results of prarabdha-karma, which is otherwise unavoidable, even after realizing brahma by unbroken meditation. This is declared adamantly and repeatedly in the Vedas.

Ch 4 Verse 38

na hi jnanena sadrisham / pavitram iha vidyate
tat svayam yoga-samsiddhah / kalenatmani vindati

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.38 <>

iha---in this world; hi na vidyate---there certainly does not exist; (any such) pavitram---purifying thing; jnanena-sadrisham---as compared to transcendental knowledge; yoga-samsiddhah---one who has attained complete perfection of nishkama-karma-yoga; vindati---finds; tat---that (jnana); svayam---spontaneously manifest; atmani---within his heart; kalena---in course of time.

In this world, there is nothing more purifying than transcendental knowledge. A person who has attained complete perfection in nishkama- karma- yoga, receives such jnana naturally within his heart, in due course of time.


Here, it is said that tapasya, yoga and other processes are not as purifying as jnana. Not everyone can attain this transcendental jnana. It is achieved, not immediately or in the immature stage, but after attaining complete perfection in nishkama-karma-yoga over a prolonged period of time. This jnana reveals itself within one's self (atma). One does not receive this transcendental knowledge merely by accepting sannyasa.

Ch 4 Verse 39

shraddhavan labhate jnanam / tat-parah samyatendriyah jnanam labdhva param shantim / acirenadhigacchati

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.39 <>

shraddhavan---a faithful person; samyata-indriyah---who has controlled senses; (and) tat-parah---is devoted to that (yoga practice); labhate---obtains; jnanam---transcendental knowledge; labdhva---after obtaining; jnanam---transcendental knowledge; adhigacchati---he attains; param---the supreme; shantim---peace; acirena---without delay.

A person who is faithful, who has conquered his senses and who is devoted to the practice of nishkamakarma- yoga attains transcendental knowledge. After attaining transcendental knowlege, he quickly attains the supreme peace: relief from bondage to the material world.


"How and when does one attain this jnana?" Shri Bhagavan answers this question by saying, "That jnana is attained when one becomes faithful, that is, when his mind becomes purified by the performance of nishkama-karma and when he is endowed with proper intelligence, having an inclination towards the instructions of shastra. Tat-parah means that, when one undergoes the practice of nishkama-karma with staunch nishtha, he simultaneously gains control over his senses and achieves supreme peace. In other words, he becomes free from bondage to the material world."


The word acirena in the original shloka means without any delay, or immediately. For example, when a lamp is lit in a room which has been in darkness for a long time, the darkness is immediately dispelled without any separate endeavour. Similarly, as tattva-jnana arises, it simultaneously dispels ignorance.

Ch 4 Verse 40

ajnash cashraddadhanash ca / samshayatma vinashyati
nayam loko 'sti na paro / na sukham samshayatmanah

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.40 <>

(he who is) ajnah---a fool; ca---and; ashraddadhanah---faithless; ca---and; samshaya-atma---a doubting soul; vinashyati---is ruined; samshaya-atmanah---for a doubting soul; asti---there is; na---not; sukham---happiness; ayam lokah---in this world; na---nor; parah---in the next.

Those who are ignorant, faithless and of a doubting nature are ruined. For the doubting person, there is happiness neither in this world nor in the next.


After explaining the adhikara of a person qualified to attain jnana, Shri Bhagavan describes one who is not fit to at- tain such knowledge. Ajnah means foolish like an animal. Ashraddadhanah refers to one who has knowledge of shastra, but does not have faith in any siddhanta because he cannot reconcile the contradictions between the various philosophers. Samshaya-atma means one who, despite having faith, still doubts whether his efforts will become successful. Of these three, the line beginning with nayam specifically condemns one who is samshaya-atma (doubtful).


After explaining the types of people who are qualified to attain jnana and its subsequent result, Shri Krishna describes the ignorant who are not qualified, and the degraded result of such disqualification. A man who is ignorant, who lacks faith and who is doubtful, perishes.

According to Shrila Shridhara Svami, ajnah here means ignorant of the topics instructed by Shri Guru. According to Shrila Baladeva Vidyabhushana, it means that like an animal, one does not have shastra-jnana.

Those who do not have faith in the words of shastra, guru and the Vaishnavas are called ashraddhalu, faithless. One who always doubts the instructions of Hari, Guru and the Vaishnavas is called samshaya-atma, a man of doubt. Such doubtful persons are more fallen than the ignorant and faithless, and they cannot attain happiness and peace anywhere, either in this world or in the next.

Ch 4 Verse 41

yoga-sannyasta-karmanam / jnana-sanchinna-samshayam
atma vantam na karmani / nibadhnanti dhananjaya

Click here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.41 <>

dhananjaya---O winner of wealth; sannyasta-karmanam---one who has renounced karma; yoga---through nishkama-karma-yoga; samshayam---and one whose doubts; sanchinna---are slashed; jnana---by transcendental knowledge; (and) atma-vantam---who has realised his atma-svarupa; karmani---karmika reactions; na nibadhnanti---do not bind.

O Dhananjaya, conqueror of riches! A person who has renounced karma through the process of nishkamakarma- yoga, who has dispelled all his doubts by jnana and who has realised his atma-svarupa, is not bound by karma.


Shri Bhagavan speaks this shloka beginning with the word yoga-sannyasta to explain the kind of person who can attain nishkarma. Those who have realised the soul are atmavan or pratyak-atma, are not bound by karma. A person achieves this stage by performing nishkama-karma-yoga, giving up karma through the process of sannyasa (renunciation) and then removing his doubts by the cultivation of jnana.


In these last two shlokas, Shri Krishna brings this subject to a conclusion. According to the instructions of Bhagavan, one takes shelter of nishkama-karma-yoga by offering all his actions unto His lotus feet. When the citta (heart) is purified by this process, it is illuminated by knowledge, and this cuts asunder all doubts. At that time, such people are completely freed from the bondage of karma.

The word pratyak-atma mentioned in the commentary indicates the jivatma who has given up the sense of enjoyment and who has attained a devotional attitude towards Bhagavan. Otherwise, a jivatma who is averse to Bhagavan, and who is absorbed in sense gratification, is called parak-atma.

Ch 4 Verse 42

tasmad ajnana-sambhutam / hrit-stham jnanasinatmanah
chittvainam samshayam yogam / atishthottishtha bharata

lick here to read Shrila Prabhupada's Bhagavad Gita As It Is 4.42 <>

tasmad---therefore; bharata---O descendant of Bharata; jnanaasin a---with the weapon of knowledge; chittva---slashing; samshayam---the doubt; atmanah hrit-stham---situated in your heart; ajnana-sambhutam---born of ignorance; atishtha---take shelter; enam yogam---of this yoga; (and) uttishtha---arise.

Therefore, O Bharata, with the sword of jnana slash this doubt in your heart which is born of ignorance; take shelter of nishkama- karma- yoga, and prepare for battle.


Shri Bhagavan concludes this chapter with this shloka beginning with tasmad ajnana. Hrit-stha refers to cutting the doubt in the heart (chittva), yoga means taking shelter of nishkamakarma- yoga and atishtha means "be ready for the battle." Of all the processes recommended for attaining mukti, jnana is glorified here; and niskama-karma is the only means to attain jnana. This is the essence of this chapter.

Thus ends the Bhavanuvada of the Sarartha-varshini Tika, by Shrila Vishvanatha Cakravarti Thakura, on the Fourth Chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad-gita, which gives pleasure to the bhaktas and is accepted by all saintly persons.


Shrila Bhaktivinoda Thakura says, "This chapter gives instructions on two divisions of sanatana-yoga (the eternal yoga system). The first is the jada-dravyamaya division, which consists of mundane rituals, or the sacrifice of material possessions. The second is the atma-yathatma-rupa-chinmaya division, or knowledge of the self and of Bhagavan. When the jada-dravyamaya division is performed separately, it simply becomes karma. Those who are bound in this division are known as karma-jada, deeply engrossed in mundane enjoyment. However, those who perform jada-karma (mundane rituals) with the sole purpose of attaining spiritual advancement are yukta or properly situated. When we specifically deliberate on the true nature of spiritual activities, we understand that there are two aspects. One is knowledge of jivatattva and the other is knowledge of bhagavat-tattva. Only those who experience and realise bhagavat-tattva attain the essence of atma-yathatma (knowledge of the real nature of the atma) which is to be Shri Krishna's servant. This experience is perfected by realisation of the transcendental birth and activities of Bhagavan and of the jiva's eternal association with Him. This subject is described in the beginning of this chapter. Bhagavan Himself is the first instructor of this nityadharma. Because the jiva has become bound to inert matter by the defect of his own intelligence, Bhagavan descends by the prowess of His cit-shakti and, by giving instruction on His tattva, He makes the jiva eligible to participate in His lila. "Those who say that the body, birth and activities of Bhagavan are products of maya are extremely foolish. People attain Me according to the degree of purity (knowledge of My tattva) with which they worship Me." All the activities of the karma-yogis are termed yajna. The various types of yajna in the world, such as daiva-yajna, brahmacarya-yajna, grihamedha-yajna, samyama-yajna, ashtanga-yoga-yajna, tapoyaj na, dravya-yajna, svadhyaya-yajna and varnashrama-yajna, all constitute karma. "The only useful factor which is to be sought after in all these yajnas is the conscious part, atma-yathatma, or knowledge of the real nature of the atma. Doubt is the greatest enemy of this tattva-jnana. A person who is endowed with shraddha, and who takes instructions on this tattva from one who is tattva-vit thus realises the self and can dispel all his doubts. As lomg as one has affinity for the material world, one should take shelter of niskama-karma-yoga in order to achieve the stage of atma-yathatma."

Thuse ends the Sarartha-Varsini Pakasika-Vrtti by Shri Shrimad Bhaktivedanta Narayana Maharaja on the ourth chapter of Shrimad Bhagavad Gita.