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THE WAY OF KNOWLEDGE
In the third chapter of the Gita, we have seen how Sri Krishna stressed the Supreme importance of Karma Yoga and impressed on Arjuna the necessity to do his natural duty, even if he had attained the Jnana that qualified him to rise above all routines ceremonials. Bhagavan told Arjuna that such unattached performance of Karma was necessary in the larger interest of the welfare of the world. The performance of the Karmas prescribed in the Vedas, and the duties pertaining to each person's station in life, is as sure means to get rid of the impurity of the heart and to keep the mind under control, so that the individual Atma may realise its real nature, namely, that it is an infinitesimal fraction of the ocean of Paramatma, and, in that realisation, become merged in the Eternal and Supreme Bliss. Bhagavan also warns Arjuna that the two enemies of our spiritual progress are Kaama and Krodha, desire and anger, and tells him that he must do his duty with all the intensity he is capable of, free from even the faintest taint of Kaama and Krodha.
It is against this background that Sri Krishna delivers His message contained in the fourth chapter. In a past age, Bhagavan says, He had given this message to the world through Vivasvaan, the Sun, and He was now again giving the secret of this Yoga to Arjuna, because he has surrendered himself to Him as a devotee (Bhakta) and also as a friend (Sakha). This created for Arjuna the natural difficulty of associating Sri Krishna with Bhagavan, who first gave this message to the Sun. This doubt raised by Arjuna was cleared by Bhagavan by giving him a glimpse of His real nature, through the memorable verses in the Fourth chapter. He also lets Arjuna into the secret of His Avatars, as stated in the often-quoted verse:
Yadaa yadaahi dharmasya glaanirbhavati bhaarata
Abhyutthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham.
The main point to be noted is that He is born from time to time to save humanity from perishing, by arresting its course along the wrong path and guiding its feet again along the right path. When we say He is born, we have to bear in mind one important difference. Bhagavan Himself proclaims that He has neither beginning nor end (birth or death), and the He is the Supreme Isvara of the Universe. So, He is not born in the ordinary sense, but born out of his own Maaya(Atma Maaya). An actor, who is a distinct individual in private life, appears on the stage in one role today and another role tomorrow. The real personality of the actor is hidden behind the make-up on the stage. On the stage he is a different person each day. God is eternal and changeless. But He appears to assume different forms on account of the drapings, which is maaya, that cover His real personality. The static Isvara or Purusha appears to function in infinite ways in this Universe, because of the impact of Maaya or Prakriti, which in its turn drives its energy from Him, the reservoir of all energies. He is conscious of His avatars, because He has never ceased to exist; but Arjuna (by implication, the entire humanity) is not conscious of the several births taken by him, because his awareness is limited to present birth. Though the Atma is but a spark of the Paramatma, it is wrapped up in ignorance or Ajnaana, on account of the operation of emotions like raaga(desire), krodha(anger), and bhaya(fear) and is not, therefore, able to know itself. Man is born subject to the play of these emotions, while bhagavan, who transcends all these emotions, while appearing to be born, is in reality birthless.
Bhagavan tells Arjuna that he who is able to pierce through the wheel of His apparent birth through Jnaana, and see Him as He is, will be able to transcend birth and death and realise Him. How to achieve this is explained in this chapter. The emphasis is again on getting rid of the emotions caused by the promptings of the senses(veeta raaga bhaya krodha). Those who succeed in this task are able first to contemplate Him uninterruptedly(manmayaa) then surrender themselves unreservedly to Him(maamupaasritah) and finally get merged in Him (madbhaava maagataah).
Ordinarily people are inclined to perform Karma or to worship one or the other manifestations of God for obtaining quick results in the material sphere. But Isvara has no likes and dislikes and showers His grace on all, each getting what he is qualified of or deserves to receive. As stated in the subsequent chapter, He is worship by four distinct types of persons - aartah(those in trouble), jijnaasuh(those thirsting for true knowledge), artthaarthi(those who wish to be happy always) and jnaani(those who are aware of him). Among them, the jnaani alone gets freed from further births and gets merged in Him.
For every effect there is a cause, ordinary and extraordinary. Ordinary cause can be illustrated by saying that yarn is the cause of cloth. Isvara is the extraordinary cause for the functioning of the Universe. The path for each is chalked out by Him. Even hatred for God becomes the cause of salvation, as in the case of Hiranyakasipu and Kamsa, for, each of them, in His intense hatred, began to think constantly of God.
The key for understanding the real nature of God is to realise that thought the entire Universe functions on account of Him, He is not the doer. He is akarta and He is unattached, both to the actions and to the results flowing from those actions. Realising this, if we do our prescribed task, without attachment or expectation of results, we gradually become Braahman Himself. That is the path followed by the great men in the past, and that is the path shown in the Geetha by Bhagavan Krishna to Arjuna and all of us. Good deed s wipe out the bad karmaas of the past and by acting in a spirit of dedication, the mind becomes pure. When devotion is added to disinterested act, jnaana or Ultimate Realisation results.