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BG 4 (1968)

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His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada



1: THE BLESSED LORD SAID: I instructed this imperishable science of Yoga to the Sun-god Vivasvan, and Vivasvan instructed it to Manu, the father of Mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Iksaku.


HEREIN WE FIND the history of The Bhagavad Gita traced from a remote time, when it was delivered to the kings of all planets. The royal order is especially dedicated to the protection of the inhabitants, and as such its members should also understand the science of The Bhagavad Gita, in order to rule the citizens and protect them from the onslaught of the material bondage to lust. Human life is meant for cultivation of spiritual knowledge, in eternal relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and the executive heads of all states and all planets are obliged to impart this lesson to the citizens, by education, culture, and devotion. In other words, the executive heads of all states are intended to spread the science of Krishna consciousness so that the people may take advantage of this great science and pursue a successful path, utilizing the opportunity of the human form of life.

2: This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.

3: That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend; therefore, you can understand the transcendental mystery of this science.


THERE ARE TWO classes of men, namely the devotee and the demon. The Lord selected Arjuna as the recipient of this great science owing to his being the devotee of the Lord, but for the demon it is not possible to understand this great, mysterious science. There are a number of editions of this great book of knowledge, and some of them are commented upon by the devotees, and some of them are commented upon by the demons. Commentary by the devotees is real, whereas that of the demons is useless. Arjuna is recognized by the Lord as a devotee; therefore, one who follows the line of Arjuna in understanding The Gita will derive benefit from it. Otherwise, one will simply waste his valuable time in reading commentaries. Arjuna accepts Sri Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and any commentary of The Gita following in the footsteps of Arjuna is real devotional service to the cause of this great science. But the demons do not accept Lord Krishna as He is. The demons concoct something out of their imaginations about Krishna's instructions. Here is a warning regarding such misleading paths. One should try to follow the disciplic succession from Arjuna, and thus be benefited by this great science of The Srimad Bhagavad Gita.

4: Arjuna said: The Sun-god Vivasvan is senior by birth to You. How am I to understand that in the beginning You instructed this science to him?

5: The Blessed Lord said: Many, many births both you and I have passed. I can remember all of them, but you cannot, O subduer of the enemy!


IN THE BRAHMA SAMHITA we have information of many, many incarnations of the Lord. It is stated there: "I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krishna], Who is the Original Person—Absolute, Infallible, without beginning, although expanded into unlimited Forms, still the same Original, the Oldest—and the Person always appearing as a fresh Youth. Such eternal, blissful, all-knowing Forms of the Lord are usually understood by the best Vedic scholars, but they are always manifest to pure, unalloyed devotees."

It is also stated in the same scripture: "I worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Govinda [Krishna], Who is always situated in various incarnations such as Rama, Nrisingha, and many subincarnations as well; but Who is the Original Personality of Godhead known as Krishna, and Who incarnates Personally also."

In the Vedas too it is said that the Lord, although He is One without a second, nevertheless manifests Himself in innumerable forms. He is like the Vaidurya stone, which changes color variously, yet still is one. All those multiforms are understood by the pure, unalloyed devotees, but not by a simple study of the Vedas. Devotees like Arjuna are constant companions of the Lord, and whenever the Lord incarnates, the associate devotees also incarnate in order to serve the Lord in different capacities. Arjuna is one of these devotees, and in this verse it is understood that when Lord Krishna spoke The Bhagavad Gita to the Sun-god Vivasvan, Arjuna in a different capacity was also present there—some millions of years before. But the difference between the Lord and Arjuna is that the Lord remembered the incident, whereas Arjuna could not remember. That is the difference between the part and parcel living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Arjuna is addressed herein as the mighty hero who could subdue the enemies. At the same time, he is unable to recall what had happened in his various past births. Therefore, a living entity, however great he may be in a material estimation, can never equal the Supreme Lord. Anyone who is a constant companion of the Lord is certainly a liberated person, but he cannot be equal to the Lord. The Lord is described above in The Brahma Samhita as Infallible (Achyuta), which means He never forgets Himself, even though He is in material contact. So the Lord and the living entity can never be equal in all respects, even if the living entity is as liberated as Arjuna. Although Arjuna is a devotee of the Lord, he sometimes forgets the nature of the Lord, but by the Divine Grace a devotee can at once understand the infallible condition of the Lord, whereas a nondevotee or a demon cannot understand this transcendental nature. Consequently, these descriptions in The Bhagavad Gita cannot be understood by demonic brains. Krishna remembered acts which were performed by Him millions of years before, but Arjuna could not, despite the fact that both Krishna and Arjuna are eternal in nature. We may also note herein that a living entity forgets everything due to his change of body, but the Lord remembers because He does not change His Sat-Chit-Ananda Body. He is advaita, which means there is no distinction between His Body and Himself. Everything is spirit—whereas the conditioned soul is different from his material body. And, because the Lord is identical in His Body and Self, His position is always different from the ordinary living entity, even when He descends to the material platform. The demons cannot adjust themselves to this transcendental nature of the Lord, as the Lord explains in the following verse.

6: Although I am unborn and My transcendental Body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all sentient beings, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental Form.


THE LORD HAS spoken about the peculiarity of His birth: although He may appear like an ordinary person, He remembers everything of His many, many past "births"—whereas a common man cannot remember what he has done even a few hours before. If somebody is asked what he did exactly at the same time one day earlier, it would be very difficult for him to answer immediately. He would have to dredge his memory to recall what he was doing. And yet, men often dare to claim to be God, or Krishna. One should not be misled by such meaningless claims. Then again, the Lord explains His prakriti, or His Form. Prakriti means Nature as well as Svarupa, or one's own Form. The Lord says that He appears in His own Body. He does not change his Body, as the common living entity does from one to another. The conditioned soul may have one kind of body in the present birth, but he has a different one in the next birth. In the material world, the living entity transmigrates in this way. The Lord, however, does not do so. Whenever He appears, He does so in the same original Body, by His internal potency. In other words, Krishna appears in this material world in His original eternal Form, with two hands and holding a flute. He appears exactly in His eternal Body, uncontaminated by this material world. Although He appears in the same transcendental Body, it still appears that He has taken His birth like an ordinary living entity, although in fact He is the Lord of the universe. Despite the fact that Lord Krishna has grown up from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth, astonishingly enough He never ages beyond youthhood. On the Battlefield of Kurukshetra, when He was present, He had many grandchildren at home; or, in other words, He had sufficiently aged by material calculations. Still He looked just like a young man twenty or twenty-five years old. We have never seen a picture of Krishna in old age because He never grows old like us, although He is the oldest Person in the whole creation—past, present, and future. Neither His Body nor His Intelligence ever deteriorates or changes. Therefore, it is clear herein that, in spite of His being in the material world, He is the same unborn, eternal Form of bliss and knowledge, changeless in His transcendental Body and Intelligence. Factually, His appearance and disappearance are like the sun rising, moving before us, and then disappearing from our eyesight. When the sun is out of sight we think that the sun is set, and when the sun is before our eyes, we think that the sun is on the horizon. Actually, the sun is always there, but owing to our defective, insufficient eyesight, we must calculate the appearance and disappearance of the sun in the sky. And because His appearance and disappearance are completely different from that of any ordinary, common living entity, it is evident that He is eternal, blissful knowledge by His internal potency—and He is not contaminated by material Nature. The Vedas confirm that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is unborn; yet He still appears to be taking His birth in multimanifestations. The Vedic supplementary literature also confirms that even though the Lord appears to be taking His birth, He is still without change of body. In The Bhagwatam, He appears before His mother as Narayana—with four hands and the decorations of the six kinds of full opulences. His appearance in His original eternal Form is His causeless mercy, according to the Visvakosa dictionary. The Lord is conscious of all of His previous appearances and disappearances, but a common living entity forgets everything about his past body as soon as he gets another. He shows that He is the Lord of all living entities by performing wonderful and superhuman activities while on this earthly planet.

The Lord is always the same Absolute Truth and is without differentiation between His Form and Self, or between His quality and Body. A question may now be raised as to why the Lord appears and disappears in this world at all. This is explained in the next verse:

7: Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion—at that time I descend My Self.


THE WORD SRIJAMI, manifest, is significant herein. Srijami cannot be used in the sense of creation, because, according to the previous verse, there is no creation of the Lords' Form or Body, since all of the forms are eternally existent. Therefore, Srijami means that the Lord manifests Himself as He is. Although the Lord appears on schedule, namely at the end of Dvapara Yuga of the 28th millennium of the 8th Manu, in one day of Brahma, still He has no obligation to adhere to such rules and regulations, because He is completely free to act many ways at His will. He therefore appears by His own will whenever there is a predominance of irreligion and a disappearance of true religion. Principles of religion are laid down in the Vedas, and any discrepancy in the matter of properly executing the rules of the Vedas makes one irreligious. In The Bhagwatam, we find that such principles of religion are the laws of the Lord. Only the Lord can manufacture a system of religion. The Vedas are also accepted as originally spoken by the Lord Himself to Brahma, from within His heart. Therefore, the principles of religion are the direct orders of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. These principles are clearly indicated throughout The Bhagavad Gita. The purpose of the Vedas is to establish such principles under the order of the Supreme Lord, and the Lord directly orders, at the end of The Bhagavad Gita, that the highest principle of religion is to surrender unto Him only—and nothing more. The Vedic principles are to push one toward complete surrender unto Him. And whenever such principles are disturbed by the demons, the Lord appears. From The Bhagwatam we understand that Lord Buddha is the incarnation of Krishna Who appeared when materialism was rampant and materialists were using the pretext of the authority of the Vedas. Although there are certain restrictive rules and regulations regarding animal sacrifice for particular purposes in the Vedas, people of demonic tendency still took to animal sacrifice without reference to the Vedic principles. Lord Buddha appeared to stop this nonsense, and to establish the Vedic principle of non-violence. Therefore, each and every Avatara, or incarnation of the Lord, has a particular mission, and they are all described in the revealed scriptures. Nobody can be accepted as an Avatara without reference to such scriptural indications. It is not a fact that the Lord appears only on Indian soil. He can advent Himself anywhere and everywhere, and whenever He desires to appear. In each and every incarnation, He speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstances. But the mission is the same—to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion. Sometimes He descends Personally, and sometimes He sends His bona fide representative in the Form of His Son, or Servant—or Himself in some disguised Form. The principles of The Bhagavad Gita were spoken to Arjuna—and, for that matter, to other highly elevated persons—because they were highly advanced compared to ordinary men in other parts of the world. Two plus two equals four—this is a mathematical principle, and it is true both in the infant's arithmetic class and in the master's degree class as well. Still, there are higher and lower mathematics. In all incarnations of the Lord, therefore, the same principles are taught—but they appear to be higher and lower under varied circumstances. The higher principles of religion begin with the acceptance of the four orders and the four ranks of social life, as will be explained later. The whole purpose of the mission of incarnations is to arouse Krishna consciousness everywhere.

8: In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.

9: One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal Abode, O Arjuna.


THE LORD'S DESCENT from His transcendental Abode is already explained in the sixth verse. One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the Kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. The impersonalists and the yogis attain liberation only after much trouble and many, many births. Even then, the liberation they achieve—merging into the impersonal Brahmajyoti, effulgence, of the Lord—is only partial, and there is the risk of returning again to this material world. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the Body and Activities of the Lord, attains the Abode of the Lord after ending this body, and does not run the risk of returning again to this material world. In The Brahma Samhita it is stated that the Lord has many, many Forms and incarnations. "Advaita acyuta ananta rupam." Although there are many transcendenta1 Forms of the Lord, they are still one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. One has to understand this fact with conviction, although it is incomprehensible to mundane scholars and empiric philosophers. As stated in the Vedas: Eko devo nityalilanurakto bhaktavyapihrdi antaratma. The one Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternally engaged in many, many transcendental Forms, in relationships with His unalloyed devotees. This Vedic version is confirmed in this verse of The Bhagavad Gita personally by the Lord. Anyone who accepts this truth on the strength of the authorities of the Vedas and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and who does not waste time in philosophical speculations, attains the highest perfectional stage of liberation. Simply by acceptance of this truth on faith, one can, without a doubt, attain liberation. The Vedic version, "Tatvamasi," is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Krishna to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord, "You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead," is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed. In other words, such a faithful devotee of the Lord attains perfection, and this is confirmed by the following Vedic assertion: Tvam eva viditva atimrtyum eti nanyah pantha vidyate ayanaya. One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Lord—the Supreme Personality of Godhead. There is no alternative means, because anyone who does not understand Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is surely in the mode of ignorance. Consequently, he will not attain salvation, simply—so to speak—by licking the outer surface of the bottle of honey, or by interpreting the texts of The Bhagavad Gita according to his own mundane scholarship. Such empiric philosophers may assume very important roles in the material world, but they are not necessarily eligible for liberation. Such puffed-up mundane scholars have to wait for the causeless mercy of the devotee of the Lord. One should, therefore, accept the principle of Krishna consciousness with faith and knowledge, and in this way one can attain the perfection of life.

10: Being freed from attachment, fear, and anger, being fully absorbed in Me and taking refuge in Me, many, many persons in the past became purified—and thus they all attained transcendental love for Me.


AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, it is very difficult for a person who is too materially affected to understand the personal nature of the Supreme Absolute Truth. Generally, people who are attached to the bodily concept of life are so absorbed in materialism that it is almost impossible for them to understand how the Supreme can be a Person. Such materialists cannot even imagine that there is a transcendental body which is non-perishable, full of knowledge and eternally blissful. In the materialistic concept, the body is perishable, full of ignorance and completely miserable. Therefore, people in general keep this same bodily idea in mind when they are informed of the Personal form of the Lord. For such materialistic men, the Form of the gigantic material manifestation is supreme; therefore, they imagine that the Supreme is impersonal. And because they are too materially absorbed, the concept of retaining the personality after liberation from matter frightens them. When such materialistic men are informed that spiritual life is also individual and personal, they are afraid of becoming persons again, and so they naturally prefer a kind of merging into the impersonal void. Generally, they compare the living entities to the bubbles of the ocean, which merge into the ocean. That is the highest perfection of spiritual existence attainable without individual personality. This is a fearful stage of life, devoid of perfect knowledge of spiritual existence. Furthermore, there are many persons who cannot understand spiritual existence at all. Being embarrassed by so many theories and by contradictions of various types of philosophical speculation, they become disgusted or angry, and foolishly conclude that there is no Supreme Cause and that everything is ultimately void. Such people are in diseased conditions of life. Some of them are too materially attached, and therefore do not give attention to spiritual life; some of them want to merge into the Supreme Spiritual Cause; and some of them disbelieve in everything, being angry at all sorts of spiritual speculation out of hopelessness. This last class of men take to the shelter of some kind of intoxication, and their effective hallucinations are sometimes accepted as spiritual visions. One has to get rid of all three stages of attachment to the material world: negligence of spiritual life, fear of a spiritual personal identity, and the concept of void that underlies the frustration of life. To get free of these three stages in the material concept of life, one has to take complete shelter of the Lord, guided by the bona fide spiritual master, and follow the penances of disciplinary and regulative principles of devotional life. The last stage of such devotional life is called Bhava, or transcendental love of Godhead.

According to Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, The Science of Devotional Service, in the beginning one must have a preliminary desire for self-realization. This will bring one to the stage of trying to associate with persons who are spiritually elevated. The next stage is that one becomes initiated by an elevated spiritual master, and under the instruction of the spiritual master, the neophyte devotee begins the process of devotional service. By execution of devotional service under the guidance of the spiritual master, one becomes free from all material attachment and attains steadiness in self-realization, and acquires a taste for hearing about the Absolute Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna. This taste leads one further forward to the attachment for Krishna consciousness, and this Krishna consciousness is matured in Bhava, or the preliminary stage of transcendental love of Godhead. When the devotee reaches the stage of real love for Godhead it is called Prema—the highest perfection of life. In the Prema stage there is a constant engagement in the transcendenta1 loving service of the Lord. So, by the slow process of devotional service—under the guidance of the bona fide spiritual master—one can attain the Bhava stage, being freed from all material attachment, from the fearfulness of one's individual spiritual personality, and from the frustration of voidness. And when one is actually free from such lower stages of life, one can attain to the Abode of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.

11: All of them—as they surrender unto Me—I reward accordingly. Everyone follows My path in all respects, O son of Pritha.


EVERYONE IS SEARCHING after Krishna in the different aspects of His manifestations. Krishna the Supreme Personality of Godhead is partially realized in His impersonal Brahmajyoti, or shining effulgence. Krishna is also partially realized as the all-pervading Supersoul dwelling within everything—even in the particles of atoms. But Krishna is only fully realized by His pure devotees. Therefore, Krishna is the object of everyone's realization; and, as such, anyone and everyone is satisfied according to one's desire to have Him. One devotee may want Krishna as the Supreme Master, another as his personal Friend, another as his Son, and still another as his Lover. Krishna rewards equally all the devotees, in their different intensities of love for Him. In the material world, the same reciprocations of feelings are there, and they are equally exchanged by the Lord with the different types of worshipers. The pure devotees both here and in the transcendental Abode associate with Him in person and are able to render personal service to the Lord, and thus derive transcendental bliss in His loving service. As for those who are impersonalists, and who want to commit spiritual suicide by annihilating the individual existence of the living entity, Krishna helps them also, by absorbing them into His effulgence. Such impersonalists do not agree to accept the eternal, blissful Personality of Godhead: and consequently they cannot relish the bliss of transcendental personal service to the Lord, having extinguished their individuality. Some of them, who are not situated even in the impersonal existence, return to this material field to exhibit their dormant desires for activities. They are not admitted into the spiritual planets, but they are again given a chance to act on the material planets. For those who are fruitive workers, the Lord awards the desired results of their prescribed duties, as the Yajnesvara; and those who are yogis seeking mystic powers are awarded such powers. In other words, everyone is dependent for success upon His mercy alone, and all kinds of spiritual processes are but different degrees of success on the same path. Unless, therefore, one comes to the highest perfection of Krishna consciousness, all attempts remain imperfect, as is stated in The Srimad Bhagwatam: "Whether one is without desire [the condition of the devotees], or is desirous of all fruitive results, or is after liberation—one should with all efforts try to worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead for complete perfection, culminating in Krishna consciousness."

12: Men in this world desire success in fruitive activities, and therefore they worship the demigods. Quickly, of course, men get results from fruitive work in this world.

13: According to the three modes of material Nature and the work ascribed to them, the corresponding four divisions of human society were created by Me. And, although I am the Creator of this system, you should know that I am yet the non-doer, being unchangeable.


THE LORD IS THE CREATOR of everything. Everything is born of Him, everything is sustained by Him, and everything, after annihilation, rests in Him. He is therefore the Creator of the four divisions of the social order—beginning with the intelligent class of men, technically called the Brahmins due to their being situated in the mode of goodness. Next is the administrative class, technically called the Kshatriyas due to their being situated in the mode of passion. The mercantile men, called the Vaisyas, are situated in the mixed modes of passion and ignorance; and the Sudras, or the laborer class, are situated in the ignorant mode of material Nature. In spite of His creating the four divisions of human society, Lord Krishna does not belong to any of these divisions because He is not one of the conditioned souls, a section of whom form human society. Human society is the same as animal society, but to elevate men from the animal status, the above-mentioned divisions are created by the Lord—for the systematic development of Krishna consciousness. The tendency of a particular man toward work is determined by the modes of material Nature which he has acquired. Such symptoms of life, according to different modes of material Nature, are described in the Eighteenth Chapter of this book. A person in Krishna consciousness, however, is above even the Brahmins, because a Brahmin by quality is supposed to know about Brahman, the Supreme Absolute Truth. Most of them approach the impersonal Brahman manifestation of Lord Krishna, but only a man who transcends the limited knowledge of a Brahmin, and reaches the knowledge of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna, becomes a person in Krishna consciousness—or, in other words, a Vaishnava. Krishna consciousness includes knowledge of all different plenary expansions of Krishna—namely Rama, Nrisingha, Baraha, etc. As Krishna is transcendental to this system of the four divisions of human society, a person in Krishna consciousness is also transcendental to the mundane divisions of human society, whether we consider the divisions of community, nation, or species.

14: There is no work that affects Me; nor do I aspire for the fruits of action. One who understands this truth about Me does not become entangled in the fruitive reactions of work.

15: All the liberated souls in ancient times acted with this understanding and so attained liberation. Therefore, as did the ancients, you should perform your duty in this divine consciousness.


THERE ARE TWO classes of men: Some of them are full of polluted material things within their hearts, and some of them are materially free. Krishna consciousness is equally beneficial for both of these persons. Those who are full of dirty things can take to the line of Krishna consciousness for a gradual cleansing process, following the regulative principles of devotional service. Those who are already cleansed of the impurities may continue to act in the same Krishna consciousness so that others may follow their exemplary activities and thereby be benefited. Foolish persons or neophytes in Krishna consciousness often want to retire from activities without having knowledge of Krishna consciousness. Arjuna's desire to retire from activities on the battlefield was not approved by the Lord. One need only know how to act. To retire from activities and to sit aloof making a show of Krishna consciousness is less important than actually engaging in the field of activities for the sake of Krishna. Arjuna is here advised to act in Krishna consciousness, following in the footsteps of the Lord's previous disciples, such as the Sun-god Vivasvan, as mentioned hereinbefore. The Supreme Lord knows all His past activities, as well as those of persons who acted in Krishna consciousness in the past—therefore He recommends the acts of the Sun-God, who learned this art from the Lord some millions of years before. All such students of Lord Knshna are mentioned here as past liberated persons, engaged in the discharge of duties allotted by Krishna.

16: Even the intelligent are bewildered in determining what is action and what is inaction. Now I shall explain to you what action is, knowing which you shall be liberated from all sins.

17: The intricacies of action are very hard to understand. Therefore, one should know properly what action is, what forbidden action is, and what inaction is:


IF ONE IS SERIOUS about liberation from material bondage, one has to understand the distinctions between action, inaction, and unauthorized actions. One has to apply oneself to such an analysis of action, reaction, and perverted actions because it is a very difficult subject matter. To understand Krishna consciousness and action according to the modes, one has to learn one's relationship with the Supreme. One who has learned perfectly knows that every living entity is the eternal servitor of the Lord, and consequently acts in Krishna consciousness. The entire Bhagavad Gita is directed toward this conclusion. Any other conclusions, against this consciousness and its attendant reactions, are Vikarmas, or prohibitive actions. To understand all this one has to associate with authorities in Krishna consciousness, and learn the secret from them; this is as good as learning from the Lord directly. Otherwise, even the most intelligent person will be bewildered.

18: One who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is intelligent among men, and he is in the transcendental position, although engaged in all sorts of activities.


A PERSON ACTING in Krishna consciousness is naturally free from the resultant action of work. His activities are all performed for Krishna, and therefore he does not enjoy or suffer any of the effects of work. Consequently, he is intelligent in human society, even though he is engaged in all sorts of activities for Krishna. Akarma means without reaction to work. The impersonalist ceases fruitive activities out of fear, so that the resultant action may not be a stumbling block on the path of self-realization, whereas the personalist knows rightly his position as the eternal servitor of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Therefore, he engages himself in the activities of Krishna consciousness. Because everything is done for Krishna, he enjoys only transcendental happiness in the discharge of this service. Those who are engaged in this process are without desire for personal sense gratification. The sense of eternal servitorship to Krishna makes one immune to all the reactionary elements of work.

19: One is understood to be in full knowledge whose every act is devoid of desire for sense gratification. He is said by sages to be a worker whose fruitive action is burned up by the fire of perfect knowledge.

20: Abandoning all attachment to the results of his activities, ever satisfied and independent, he performs no fruitive action, although engaged in all kinds of undertakings.

21: Such a man of understanding acts with mind and intelligence perfectly controlled, gives up all sense of proprietorship over his possessions, and acts only for the bare necessities of life. Thus working, he is not affected by sinful reactions.

22: He who is satisfied with gain which comes of its own accord, who is free from duality and does not envy, who is steady both in success and failure, is never entangled, although performing actions.


A KRISHNA conscious person does not make much endeavor even to maintain his body. He is satisfied with gains which are obtained of their own accord. He neither begs nor borrows, but he labors honestly as far as is in his power, and is satisfied with whatever is obtained by his own honest labor. A Krishna conscious person is therefore independent in his livelihood. He does not allow anyone's service to hamper his own service to Krishna. However, for the service of the Lord he can participate in any kind of action without being disturbed by the duality of the material world. The duality of the material world is felt in terms of heat and cold, or misery and happiness. A Krishna conscious person is above this duality because he does not hesitate to act in any way for the satisfaction of Krishna. As he does not care for duality, therefore he is steady both in success and in failure. These signs are visible when one is full in transcendental knowledge.

23: The work of a man who is unattached to the modes of material Nature, and who is fully situated in transcendental knowledge, merges entirely into transcendence.

24: To him, Brahman, the Supreme, is the offering, Brahman is the oblation and the sacrificial fire, and by Brahman the sacrifice is performed. By performing action in this way, one ultimately attains the Supreme.


A PERSON who is fully absorbed in Krishna consciousness is sure to attain the spiritual Kingdom through his full contribution to spiritual activities, for the consummation is Absolute, and the things offered are also of the same spiritual nature. How activities in Krishna consciousness can lead one ultimately to the spiritual goal is described here. There are various activities in Krishna consciousness, and all of them will be described in the following verses. But, for the present, just the principle of Krishna consciousness is described. A conditioned soul, entangled in material contamination, is sure to act in the material atmosphere, and yet he has to get out of such an environment. The process by which the conditioned soul can get out of the material atmosphere is Krishna consciousness. For example, a patient who is suffering from a disorder of the bowels due to overindulgence in milk products is cured by another milk product, curd. Similarly, the materially absorbed conditioned soul can be cured by Krishna consciousness, as it is prescribed here in The Bhagavad Gita. This process is generally known as Yajna, or activities simply meant for the satisfaction of Vishnu or Krishna. Therefore, the more the activities of the material world are performed in Krishna consciousness, or for Vishnu only, the more the atmosphere becomes spiritualized by complete absorption. Brahman means spiritual. The Lord is spiritual and the rays of His transcendental Body are called Brahmajyoti, His spiritual effulgence. Everything that exists is situated in that Brahmajyoti, and when the Jyoti is covered by the illusion of Maya, or sense gratification, it is called Material. This material feature can be removed at once by Krishna consciousness; wherein the offering for the cause of Krishna consciousness, the consuming agent of such an offering or contribution, the process of consumption, the contributor, and the result of such activities, are—all combined together—Brahman, or the Absolute Truth. The Absolute Truth covered by Maya is called Matter. Matter dovetailed for the cause of the Absolute Truth regains its spiritual quality. Krishna consciousness is the process of converting the illusory consciousness into Brahman, or the Supreme. When the mind is fully absorbed in such Krishna consciousness, it is said to be in Samadhi, or trance. Anything done in such transcendental consciousness is called Yajna, or sacrifice for the Absolute; and, in that condition of spiritual consciousness, the contributor, the contribution, the consumption, the performer or leader of the performance, and the result or ultimate gain—everything—becomes one in the Absolute, the Supreme Brahman. That is the explanation of Krishna consciousness.

25: Some yogis perfectly worship the demigods by offering different sacrifices to them, and some of them offer sacrifices in the fire of the Supreme Brahman.


AS DESCRIBED ABOVE, a person engaged in discharging duties in Krishna consciousness is also called a perfect yogi, or a first-class mystic. But there are others also, who perform similar sacrifices in the worship of demigods, and still others who sacrifice to the Supreme Brahman, or the impersonal feature of the Supreme Lord. So there are different kinds of sacrifices in terms of different categories. Such different categories of sacrifice by different types of performers only superficially demark varieties of sacrifice. Factual sacrifice means to satisfy the Supreme Lord, Vishnu, and is also known as Yajna. All the different varieties of sacrifice can be placed within two primary divisions—sacrifice of worldly possessions, and sacrifice in pursuit of transcendental knowledge. Those who are in Krishna consciousness sacrifice all material possessions for the satisfaction of the Supreme Lord, while others, who want some temporary material happiness, sacrifice their material possessions to satisfy demigods such as Indra, the sun, etc. And others, who are impersonalists, sacrifice in the sense of merging into the existence of impersonal Brahman. The demigods are powerful living entities appointed by the Supreme Lord for the maintenance and supervision of all material functions like heating, watering, and lighting of the universe. Those who are interested in such supplies of material benefits worship the demigods by various sacrifices according to the Vedic rituals. They are called Bahvisvaravadi, or believers in many gods. Whereas others, who stick to the impersonal feature of the Absolute Truth, and regard the forms of the demigods as temporary, sacrifice their individual selves in the Supreme fire, and thus end their individual existences by merging into the existence of the Supreme. Such impersonalists relinquish their time in philosophical speculation for understanding the transcendental nature of the Supreme. In other words, the fruitive workers sacrifice their material possessions for material enjoyment, whereas the irnpersonalist sacrifices his material designations with a view to merging into the existence of the Supreme. For the impersonalist, the fire altar of sacrifice is the Supreme Brahman, and the offering is the self being consumed by the fire of Brahman. The Krishna conscious person, however, sacrifices everything for the satisfaction of Krishna, and as such all his material possessions as well as his own self—everything—are sacrificed for Krishna (as with Arjuna). Thus, he is the first-class yogi; but he does not lose his individual existence.

26: Some of them sacrifice the hearing process and the senses in the fire of the controlled mind, and others sacrifice the objects of the senses, such as sound, in the fire of sacrifice.


THE FOUR DIVISIONS of human life, namely the Brahmachary, the Grihastha, the Varnaprastha, and the Sannyasins, are all meant to help men become perfect yogis or transcendentalists. Since human life is not meant for our enjoying sense gratification like the animals, the four orders of human life are fixed so that one may become perfect in spintual life. The Brahmacharis, or students under the care of a bona fide spiritual master, control the mind by abstaining from sense gratification. Furthermore, a Brahmacharary hears only words concerning Krishna consciousness. Hearing is the basic principle for understanding, and therefore the pure Brahmachary engages fully in chanting and hearing the glories of the Lord. He restricts himself from the vibrations of material sounds, and his hearing is engaged in the transcendental sound vibration: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna. Similarly, the householders, who have some license for sense gratification, perform such acts with great restraint. Sex life, intoxication, and meat eating are general tendencies of human society, but a regulated householder does not indulge in unrestricted sex life and other sense gratifications. Marriage on principles of religious life is therefore current in all civilized human society because that is the way for restricted sex life. This restricted unattached sex life is also a kind of Yajna, because the restricted householder sacrifices his general tendency toward sense gratification for higher transcendental life.

27: And some offer the work of the senses, and the work of the life force, controlling them in Yoga, to obtain knowledge of the self.

28: There are others who, enlightened by sacrificing their material possessions in severe austerities, take strict vows and practice the Yoga of eightfold mysticism, and others study the Vedas for the advancement of transcendental knowledge.

29: And there are even others who are inclined to the process of breath restraint to remain in trance, and they practice stopping the movement of the outgoing breath into the incoming, and incoming breath into the outgoing, and thus at last remain in trance, stopping all breathing. Some of them, curtailing the eating process, offer the outgoing breath into itself, as a sacrifice.

30: All these performers who know the meaning of sacrifice become cleansed of sinful reactions, and, having tasted the nectar of the remnants of such sacrifices, they go to the Supreme eternal atmosphere.


FROM THE FOREGOING explanations of different types of sacrifice (namely sacrifice of one's possessions, study of the Vedas or philosophical doctrines, and performance of the Yoga system), it is found that the common aim of all is to control the senses. Sense gratification is the root cause of material existence, and, therefore, unless and until one is situated on a platform apart from sense gratification, there is no chance of being elevated to the eternal platform of full knowledge, full bliss, and full life. This stage of life is called the eternal, or Brahman atmosphere. All the above-mentioned sacrifices help one to become cleansed of the sinful reactions of material existence. By this advancement in life, one not only becomes happy and opulent in this life, but also, at the end, he enters into the eternal Kingdom of God—either merging into the impersonal Brahman, or associating with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna.

31: O best of the Kuru dynasty, without sacrifice one can never live happily on this planet or in this life: What then of the next?


WHATEVER FORM of material existence one is in, one is invariably ignorant of the real situation of his living condition. In other words, existence in the material world is due to the multiple reactions to our sinful lives. Ignorance is the cause of sinful life, and sinful life is the cause of one's dragging on in material existence. The human form of life is the only loophole by which one may get out of this entanglement. The Vedas, therefore, give us a chance for escape by pointing out the paths of religion, economic comfort, regulated sense gratification, and, at last, the means to get out of the miserable condition entirely. The path of religion, the different kinds of sacrifice recommended above, automatically solves our economic problems. By performance of Yajna we can have enough food, enough milk, etc.—even if there is a so-called increase of population. When the body is fully supplied, naturally the next stage is to satisfy the senses. The Vedas prescribe, therefore, sacred marriage for regulated sense gratification, and thereby one is gradually elevated to the platform of release from material engagement. The ultimate goal of life is to get liberation from material bondage, and the highest perfection of liberated life is to associate with the Supreme Lord. All these different stages of perfection are achieved by performance of Yajna, as described above. Now, if a person is not inclined to perform Yajna in terms of the Vedic literature, how can he expect a happy life even in this body, and what to speak of another body on another planet? There are different grades of material comforts in different heavenly planets and on all of them there is immense happiness for the persons engaged in different kinds of Yajna. But the highest kind of happiness that a man can achieve is to be promoted to the spiritual planets by practice of Krishna consciousness. A life of Krishna consciousness is therefore the solution to all problems of material existence.

32: All these different types of sacrifice are approved by the Vedas, and all of them are born of different types of work. Knowing them as such, you will become liberated.

33: O chastiser of the enemy, the sacrifice of knowledge is greater than the sacrifice of material possessions. O son of Pritha, after all, the sacrifice of work culminates in transcendental knowledge.


THE WHOLE PROCESS of different types of sacrifice is to arrive gradually at the status of complete knowledge, then to gain release from material miseries, and, ultimately, to engage in loving transcendental service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead (Krishna). Nonetheless, there is a mystery about all these different activities of sacrifice, and one should know this mystery. Sacrifices sometimes take different forms according to the particular faith of the performer. When his faith reaches the stage of the sacrifice of knowledge, the performer should be considered more advanced than those who simply sacrifice material possessions. For without attainment of knowledge, sacrifices remain on the material platform and bestow no spiritual benefit. Real knowledge is Krishna consciousness, the highest stage of transcendental awareness. Without the elevation of knowledge, sacrifices are simply material activities. When, however, they are elevated to the level of transcendental knowledge, all such activities enter onto the spiritual platform. Depending on differences in consciousness, such activities are sometimes called Karma-kanda, fruitive activities, and sometimes they are called Jnana-kanda, knowledge in the pursuit of Truth. It is better when the end is knowledge.

34: Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth.


THE PATH OF spiritual realization is undoubtedly difficult. The Lord therefore advises us to approach a bona fide spiritual master in the line of disciplic succession from the Lord Himself. Nobody can be a bona fide spiritual master without following this principle of disciplic succession. The Lord is the original Spiritual Master, and a person in the disciplic succession can convey the message of the Lord as it is to his disciple. No one can be spiritually realized by manufacturing his own process, as is the fashion of foolish pretenders. The Bhagavatam says, Dharmam hi saksat bhagavat pranitam: the path of religion is directly enunciated by the Lord. Therefore, mental speculation or dry arguments cannot help one progress in spiritual life. One has to approach a bona fide spiritual master to receive the knowledge. Such a teacher should be accepted in full surrender, and one should serve the spiritual master like a menial servant, without false prestige. Satisfaction of the self-realized spiritual master is the secret of advancement in spiritual life. Inquiries and submission constitute the proper combination for spiritual understanding. Unless there is submission and service, inquiries from the learned spiritual master will not be effective. One must be able to pass the test of the spiritual master, and when the spiritual master sees the genuine desire of the disciple he automatically blesses the disciple with genuine spiritual understanding. In this verse, both blind following and absurd inquiries are condemned. One should not only hear submissively from the spiritual master, but one must also get a clear understanding from him, in submission and service and inquiries. A bona fide spintual master is by nature very kind toward the disciple, and, therefore, when the student is submissive and is always ready to render service, the reciprocation of knowledge and inquiries becomes perfect.

35: And when you have thus learned the truth, you will know that all living beings are My parts and parcels—and that they are in Me, and are Mine.

36: Even if you are considered to be the most sinful of all sinners, when you are situated in the boat of transcendental knowledge, you will be able to cross over the ocean of miseries.

37: As the blazing fire turns wood to ashes, O Arjuna, so does the fire of knowledge burn to ashes all reactions to material activities.

38: In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the Self within himself in due course of time.

39: A faithful man who is absorbed in transcendenta1 knowledge and who subdues his senses quickly attains the Supreme spiritual peace.


SUCH KNOWLEDGE in Krishna consciousness can be achieved by a faithful person who believes firmly in Krishna. One is called a faithful man who thinks that, simply by acting in Krishna consciousness, one can attain the highest perfection. This faith is attained by the discharge of devotional service, and by chanting "Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare," which cleanses one's heart of all material dirt. Over and above this, one should control the senses. A person who is faithful and controls the senses can easily attain perfection in the knowledge of Krishna consciousness without delay.

40: But ignorant and faithless persons who doubt the revealed scriptures go to ruin and perish. For the doubting soul there is happiness neither in this world nor the next.

41: Therefore, one who has renounced the fruits of his actions, whose doubts are destroyed by transcendental knowledge, and who is situated firmly in the Self, is not bound by works, O conquerer of riches.


ONE WHO FOLLOWS the instruction of The Bhagavad Gita as it is imparted by the Lord, the Personality of Godhead Himself, becomes free from all doubts by grace of transcendental knowledge. He, as a part and parcel of the Lord, in full Krishna consciousness, is already fully conversant with self-knowledge. As such, he is undoubtedly above the reactions to whatever activities he may carry out.

42: Therefore, the doubts which have arisen in your heart out of ignorance should be slashed by the weapon of knowledge. Armed with Yoga, O Bharata, stand and fight.


THE YOGA SYSTEM instructed in this chapter is called Sanatanyoga, or eternal activities performed by the living entity. This Yoga has two divisions of action, called sacrifices. The one is called sacrifice of one's material possessions, and the other is called knowledge of self, which is pure spiritual activity. If sacrifice of one's material possessions is not dovetailed for spiritual realization, then such sacrifice becomes material. But one who performs such sacrifices with a spiritual objective, or in devotional service, makes a perfect sacrifice. When we come to spiritual activities, we find that these are also divided into two: namely understanding of one's own self (or one's constitutional position), and the truth regarding the Supreme Personality of Godhead. One who follows the path of The Bhagavad Gita as it is can very easily understand these two important divisions of spiritual knowledge. For him there is no difficulty in obtaining perfect knowledge of the self as part and parcel of the Lord. And such understanding is beneficial for such a person who easily understands the transcendental activities of the Lord. In the beginning of this chapter, the transcendental activities of the Lord were discussed by the Supreme Lord Himself. One who does not understand the instructions of The Gita is faithless, and is considered to be misusing the fragmental independence awarded to him by the Lord. In spite of such instructions, one who does not understand the real nature of the Lord as the eternal, blissful, all-knowing Personality of Godhead is certainly Fool Number One. This ignorance of the so-called student of The Bhagavad Gita can be removed by gradual acceptance of the principles of Krishna consciousness. Krishna consciousness is awakened by different types of sacrifice to the demigods, sacrifice to Brahman, sacrifice in celibacy, sacrifice in household life, sacrifice in controlling the senses, sacrifice in practicing mystic Yoga, sacrifice in penance, sacrifice of material possessions, sacrifice in studying the Vedas, and sacrifice in observing the scientific social institution called Varnasrama Dharma (or the divisions of the human society). All of these are known as sacrifice, but all of them are based on regulated action. And within all these activities, the important factor is self-realization. One who seeks that objective is the real student of The Bhagavad Gita, but one who doubts the authority of Krishna falls back. One is therefore advised to study The Bhagavad Gita or any other scripture with a bona fide spiritual master—with service and surrender. A bona fide spiritual master is in the disciplic succession from time eternal, and there is not the slightest deviation from the instruction of the Personality of Godhead, as it was imparted millions of years ago to the Sun-god, from whom the instruction of The Bhagavad Gita has come down to the earthly kingdom. One should, therefore, follow the path of The Bhagavad Gita as it is expressed in The Gita itself, and beware of self-interested people seeking personal aggrandizement who deviate others from the actual path. The Lord is definitely the Supreme Person, and His activities are transcendental. One who understands this is a liberated person from the very beginning of his study of The Gita.

Thus end the Bhaktivedanta Purports to the Fourth Chapter of The Srimad Bhagavad Gita, in the matter of Transcendental Knowledge.