Krishna tells Arjuna that the eternal Yoga that he was teaching him, was revealed by him to Vivasvan (the Sun-God). Vivasvan offered it to his son Manu, and Manu imparted it to his son Iksvaku; from him it was handed down to the royal rishis. This declaration of Krishna, confuses Arjuna because Vivasvan lived hundreds of years before Krishna was born. At this Krishna reveals to Arjuna the mystery of reincarnation. Says Krishna: “Arjuna, you and I have passed through countless births. I know them all; your memory fails you. Although I am birthless and deathless and the Supreme Lord of all beings, I manifest Myself in the physical universe through My own Maya, keeping My Prakrti [nature] under control.” (4.1)
Arjuna knew Sri Krishna as his cousin, friend, and spiritual Teacher. Now he comes to know Sri Krishna as the Supreme Lord of the world. Krishna says, “Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness, I body Myself forth. For the protection of the good, for the destruction of the wicked, and for the establishment of righteousness, I manifest Myself from age to age.” (4.7-8) Now Sri Krishna has declared Himself as an Avatar. An Avatar is the direct descent of God who embodies the Infinite. He also explains to Arjuna that people who are free from passion, fear, & anger, and take refuge in Him attain to His state of being. Then Krishna goes on to say, “As men approach me so do I accept them” . (4.11) Sri Chinmoy explains this verse in the following manner:
“If we accept Krishna with faith, He illumines our doubting mind. If we accept Krishna with love, He purifies our tormenting vital. If we accept Krishna with devotion, He transforms the ignorance-night of our life into the knowledge-sun of His eternal life.
Krishna says he is the one who created the fourfold order of the caste system according to the aptitudes and deeds of each caste. Krishna also throws light on action, inaction and wrong action. Krishna explains that action is to abandon attachment. Action is to bring the senses under control. Inaction is to throw oneself into ceaseless activities while keeping the conscious mind in a state of tranquility. Krishna defines who a true yogi is, “He who in action sees inaction and action in inaction – he is wise among men, he is a yogin, and he has accomplished all his work. “(4.18)
Krishna describes the various forms of sacrifices and explains that all these sacrifices are born of work and this world is not for him who offers no sacrifice. Then Krishna speaks about the importance of wisdom. He says, “There is nothing on earth equal in purity to wisdom. He who becomes perfected by yoga finds this himself, in his self (atman) in course of time.” (4.38)
This chapter ends with Krishna speaking about faith and doubt. Krishna says, “The possessor of doubt perishes. For the doubting man, neither is this world of ours, nor is the world beyond, no nor even happiness.”
Chapter 4: The Way of Knowledge
The theory of avatars.
The Blessed Lord said:
Though I am unborn,
and My self is imperishable,
though I am the lord of all creatures,
yet, establishing Myself in My own nature,
I come into being through My power (maya).
Whenever there is a decline of righteousness and rise of unrighteousness,
0 Bharata (Arjuna), then I send forth [create incarnate] Myself.
For the protection of the good,
for the destruction of the wicked,
and for the establishment of righteousness,
I come into being from age to age.
Delivered from passion, fear, and anger,
absorbed in Me, taking refuge in Me,
many purified by the austerity of wisdom
have attained to My state of being.
He who is satisfied with whatever comes by chance,
who has passed beyond the dualities (of pleasure and pain),
who is free from jealousy,
who remains the same in success
and failure-even when he acts,
he is not bound.
The Bhagavad Gita
(This translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 19. Princeton University Press)