In the third chapter of Bhagavat Gita, Sri Krishna stresses the Supreme importance of Karma Yoga and impresses upon Arjuna the necessity to do his duty. Performance of the Karmas prescribed in the Vedas, and the duties pertaining to one’s vocation in life, is a sure way of getting rid of the impurities of the heart and keeping the mind under control. That way the individual’s Atma may realise its real nature, namely, that it is merely an infinitesimal part of the 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. Therefore, one must do one’s duty with all the devotion one 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. When Sri Krishna tells Arjuna that He would be imparting Arjuna the ‘uttama rahasyam’ or the Supreme secret, Arjuna who has known Sri Krishna just as his friend, becomes skeptical. To clear this doubt, Bhagavan gives him a glimpse of His real nature, through some memorable verses. He lets Arjuna into the secret of His Avatars, through the often-quoted verse:
Yadaa yadaahi dharmasya glaanirbhavati bhaarata
Abhyutthaanam adharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham.
‘O Bharata, whenever there is indeed a decline in dharma (or ighteousness)
and a rise in adharma, then I manifest myself’.
He tells Arjuna that He is ‘born’ from time to time to save humanity, by arresting its course along the wrong path and guiding it 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). So, He is not born in the ordinary sense. We all know that 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 thus eternal and changeless. But He assumes different forms on account of the drapings, which is maaya, that cover His real personality.
The Absolute Isvara or Purusha appears to function in infinite ways in this Universe, because of the impact of Maaya or Prakriti, which in its turn also drives its energy from Him, the reservoir of all energies. He Himself 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 Arjuna’s (and by implication, all our) awareness is limited to his current 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 then tells Arjuna that he who is able to pierce through the wheel of His apparent birth through Jnaana, and see Him as He is, such a person, will be able to transcend birth and death and realise Him. The emphasis is again on getting rid of the emotions caused by the promptings of the senses (veeta, raga, bhaya and krodha).
Veeta Raaga Bhaya Krodha manmaya mamupsritah
Bhahavo jnanathapasa puta madhbhavamaagatah
‘Freed from desire, fear and anger, absorbed in Me, taking refuge in Me,
purified by the fire of knowledge, many have attained my Being.’
Those who succeed in this task (of realing Him) are the ones that first contemplate Him uninterruptedly (manmaya), then surrender themselves unreservedly to Him (maamupaasritah) and finally get merged in Him (madbhava maagatah).
The key for understanding the real nature of God is to internalize the thought that 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.
Sraddhavamllabhate jnanam tatparah samyatendriyah
Jnanam labdhva param santimacirenadhiacchati
One who has sraddah (faith),is devoted, and has subdued the senses, only such a person can attain Knowledge; and, having attained Knowledge, ere long, he gains the Supreme Peace.
That is the path followed by the great men in the past, and that is the path shown in the Gita by Bhagavan Krishna to Arjuna and all of us. Good deeds wipe out the bad karmaas of the past and by acting in a spirit of dedication, the mind becomes pure. When devotion is combined with disinterested action, Jnana or Ultimate Realisation results.
Hara Hara Sankara, Jaya Jaya Sankara