In the previous Chapter Sri Krishna advocated the path of Karma Yoga as a method to realize the Self. For fear that Arjuna may misunderstand this advice as the only way for the self-development Lord Krishna reveals in this chapter how spiritual knowledge is received by successive disciples and the reason and nature of His descent into the material worlds. He also explains the paths of action and knowledge as well as the wisdom regarding the supreme knowledge which results at the culmination of the two paths. Thus this chapter dealing with the paths of action and knowledge is entitled: ‘The Yoga of Renunciation of Action in Knowledge’. In a way this Chapter can be considered as an Appendix to the Third Chapter.
In this Chapter we can observe Sri Krishna talking to Arjuna not as his friend or charioteer but as an omnipotent and omniscient God probably to instill in his mind the necessary reverence and respect for Him and His teachings.
TRADITION OF JNAANA YOGA
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
imam vivaswate yogam proktavan aham avyayam
vivaswaan manave praaha manur ikshwaakave'braveet // 4.1 //
Sri Bhagavan said
I taught this eternal Yoga to Vivasvan; he taught it to Manu and Manu proclaimed it to Ikshvaku.
This eternal yoga means the yoga taught in the Second and Third Chapters. The fruit of this yoga is liberation, which transcends time, space and causality. Hence it is eternal. Vivasvan is the Sun-God. Manu is the ancient law-giver. Ikshvaku is the ancestor of Kshatriyas whose lineage goes back to the Sun-God.
Jnaana Yoga, discussed in the 2nd and 3rd Chapters, is based on renunciation and is attained through the performance of duty. Thus it comprehends both the life of activity (pravritti) and the life of retirement (nivritti) as taught in the Vedas. The path of knowledge has been described throught the Gita as leading directly to liberation. Therefore, it is extolled here by pointing out its antiquity.
evam paramparaa praaptam imam raajarshayo viduh
sa kaaleneha mahataa yogo nashtah parantapa // 4.2 //
This knowledge, handed down thus in regular succession, the royal sages knew. This yoga by long lapse of time has been lost to the world, O Parantapa (Arjuna).
The royal sages - men like Rama and Janaka who were kings and at the same time sages also because of their austerities and wisdom knew this Yoga. If the leaders of a country possess the knowledge of Yoga i.e. moral values of life, they will percolate down the line into the entire society.
The teachings of this yoga were lost by falling into the hands of selfish and unrighteous people. It is the intention of the Lord to revive it through the Gita.
sa evaayam mayaa te'dya yogah proktah puraatanah
bhakto'si me sakhaa cheti rahasyam hyetad uttamam // 4.3 //
That same ancient yoga has been taught to you by Me today, for you are My devotee and My friend and it is a supreme secret
The yoga mentioned here is considered secret because it is not commonly known to everybody and that it should be revealed only to those who are worthy to receive it.
aparam bhavato janma param janma vivaswatah
katham etadvijaaneeyaam twam aadau proktavaan iti // 4.4 //
Later was your birth and earlier was the birth of Vivasvan; how, then, am I to understand that you taught this Yoga in the beginning?
The birth of Sri Krishna was later than that of The Sun. Arjuna wants to know how he should believe that the former taught this yoga to the latter.
THEORY OF AVATARS
sri bhagavaan uvaacha
bahooni me vyateetaani janmaani tava chaarjuna
taanyaham veda sarvaani na twam vettha parantapa // 4.5 //
Sri Bhagavan said
Many births of mine have passed as well as of yours, O Arjuna; I know them all but you know them not, O Parantapa.
Arjuna with a limited knowledge thinks that Sri Krishna is an ordinary man and not the omnipotent and omniscient Lord. This doubt is cleared here. Sri Krishna knows the past and future because He is the Lord Himself. He is unobstructed in His power of vision.
SECRET OF LORD’S BIRTH
ajo'pi sannavyayaatmaa bhootaanaam eeshwaro'pi san
prakritim swaam adhishthaaya sambhavaamyaatmamaayayaa // 4.6 //
Though I am unborn, and eternal by nature, and though I am the Lord of all beings, yet subjugating my own nature, I come into being by my own Maya.
The Lord is eternal by nature because Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute, which forms His nature, is eternal and changeless. ‘My own nature’ means His inherent power of Maya. Maya inheres in Brahman, but Brahman remains unaffected by it in the same way as the poison of a cobra which is in the cobra but cannot injure it. This power of Maya which is made up of the three Gunas, deludes the embodied being from recognizing the Lord who is his true Self. ‘I come into being by my own Maya’ means that it is through Maya the Lord appears to be born. His embodiment is not real as are the embodiments of other beings.
The embodiments of human beings (birth in the human form) are not voluntary. Driven by nature or prakriti, through ignorance, they are born again and again. The Lord controls nature and assumes embodiment through His own free will. The ordinary birth of creatures is determined by the force of nature while The Lord takes birth through His own power. He uses His nature in such a way which is free from subjection to karma. Yogamaya refers to the free will of God, His incomprehensible power.
To put it differently, the embodiment of the Lord is only an appearance. A created being is under the control of Maya but the Lord is the controller of Maya. The birth and death of the Lord depends upon His own will. But the birth and death of an embodied being are due to the law of Karma. This is the difference between an embodied being and the incarnate Lord.
THE LORD’S INCARNATION
yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanir bhavati bhaarata
abhyutthaanam adharmasya tadaa'tmaanam srijaamyaham // 4.7 //
Whenever there is a decline of dharma (righteousness), O Bharata , and rise of adharma (unrighteousness), then I manifest myself.