Bhagavad-gita Chapter 4

In this post, Syamananda deliberates on chapter four of the Bhagavad-gita.

The fourth chapter begins with Sri Krishna telling Arjuna that he has previously explained these teachings to the sun-god, Vivasvan, at the beginning of creation. Arjuna is bewildered at this since Krishna is standing right before him and they are quite similar in age. Krishna explains that they have both had many births in this world, and the difference is that Krishna remembers them but Arjuna does not. The reason for this difference is that Krishna is the source of the world and only appears in it in human form to play.

Krishna next tells Arjuna at what times he appears in the world. He comes to protect the saintly and to do away with evil. Protecting the saintly means to relieve them of their own separation from him, their longing for the spirit. There comes a point when the spiritual practitioner longs for their source so intensely that Krishna is moved to appear. He is, of course, present everywhere at all times, and especially so in separation, but the appearance makes him present in a different sense. He will come in a way that matches our longing for him.

Krishna, our consciousness source, the personal aspect of the all-pervading spirit, reciprocates with all of us according to how we approach him. To think of it jokingly in business terms, it’s a very good deal, because we are minute beings and Krishna is infinite, yet if we give ourselves fully to him, he will give himself fully to us.

This is exemplified in the story of Prahlada and Narasinghadeva, Krishna in the form of half-man and half-lion. Prahlada was facing all sorts of difficulties but never gave up his internal absorption in meditating on Krishna. Krishna did not need to appear to Prahlada in such a fierce form to protect him. Prahlada’s simple-hearted devotion was already untouched by the apparently unfavorable circumstances he found himself in. Since he didn’t think of people in terms of friends and enemies he was able to see everything as an impetus for meditating on Krishna. Krishna appeared simply out of love for Prahlada and to show others that he would not tolerate Prahlada being abused.

So where do we find him? He is present in those yogis who love him. They are in human form just as we are and this is important for us to be able to relate. This chapter describes how we should approach such yogis: with surrender, relevant questions, and a service attitude. “What can I do to assist you in your service to the legacy of the previous masters?” You will become a link in the chain between previous masters and the masters of the future. Master here means someone who masters service, someone who is really great at service, serving others, and giving them what they need, which is spiritual nourishment.

The knowledge we will receive from them will burn away all our mistaken ideas about reality and inspire us to practice consistently and steadily. This may happen at once or may take decades to be accomplished in full. It all depends on what impressions we have from previous lifetimes of practice. This burning away of mistaken ideas is similar to what we will hear later in chapter 15 where the world of our mistaken ideas is talked about like a tree that needs to be cut down to the root. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. :)

Categories: : Yoga, Yoga Philosophy