4-1 Avatara 4(1 to 9,14)
Though the main theme of the Gita is jnana yoga, Sri Krishna introduces the topic of Avatara, which is a unique concept in Vedic tradition. He wants to say, nay to remind Arjuna that He is an incarnation (Avatara) of God and has descended on earth to impart the (Vedic) teaching, which is very ancient, as old as creation. The teaching is eternal and cannot be out of date. In the process, He describes the history of the teaching. It was imparted to Lord Sun who gave it to Manu who taught it to Ikshavaku. It is kshatriya tradition different from Brahmin tradition. Sri Krishna and Arjuna are kshatriyas. The royal sages possessed the knowledge handed down from generation to generation. Due to the long passage of time, it was lost in the world. He is giving this teaching to Arjuna as he is a friend and a devotee and through him, this highest and secret teaching will be revived because the purpose of Avatara is to protect the teaching and the humanity. When Arjuna queries that Sri Krishna’s birth is much after the sun, it is clarified that as an Avatara He has many births, and He knows all the births whereas a human being does not know. His birth is different from a human birth.
When a human being is born, it is birth and when the Lord takes human birth, it is an Avatara. There are differences in cause, nature, and purpose. Jiva’s birth is caused by ignorance because of which a jiva has ego and there are punya and papa karmas resulting in rebirth. As human birth is on account of ignorance, it is a fall. In the case of an Avatara, it is not due to ignorance. It is because of His omniscience that Bhagavan chooses to descend on the earth. The second difference is its very nature. As human birth is due to ignorance, a jiva remains in the world. He does not get freedom and remains bound until he gains knowledge and removes ignorance. An Avatara is ever free.
There is a technical difference. Bodies of a jiva and an Avatara are made of matter. In the case of a jiva, the five elements produce the body. In the case of Avatara, maya may skip the intermediary stage of five elements and assume human form. It is maya-to-physical body. It is like camphor which when heated becomes gas skipping the liquid stage. There is a difference in the purpose. Jiva’s birth is solely to exhaust punya and papa acquired in past lives. Avatara has no punya and papa. His purpose is to establish of dharma and the destroy of adharma. Avatara is not veiled by ignorance. He knows past, present, and future.
The world is comparable to a cosmic body, and it functions in harmony and has an internal protection mechanism. Whenever there is disharmony, the world has an appropriate method of Avatara to uphold dharma like a cosmic immunity system. An Avatara is the epitome of knowledge. Actions do not bind Him even though He is ever engaged in action. It is necessary to know that Sri Krishna presents Himself as Nirguna Brahm, Saguna Braham, and Avatara depending upon the context.
4-2 Visvarupa 7(8 to 12), 9(15 to 19)
4-2-1: 7(8 to 12) In the previous verse 7(7) it is said that nothing is higher than Bhagwan as though everything is strung on Him like pearls on a string. Now are stated the qualities by which they are strung. The idea is to bring an attitudinal change based on teaching, i.e., to see divinity in worldly objects. The world seen as the world is threatening and the world seen as divine is a source of joy. The first mantra of Isa Upanishad is “May you learn to look upon the very world as different forms of Isvara”. He is the taste of water which is dependent on Him as its essence. In the absence of taste, water loses its worth. He is the effulgence of the moon and sun, Om in Vedas, sound in space, and manhood of man. He is also the sweet fragrance in the earth; He is the brilliance in the fire and the life in all beings. He is the austerity of the ascetics. He is the eternal seed of all beings. He is intellect of the intelligent, courage of the courageous, strength of strong devoid of passion and attachment, i.e., strength for mere maintenance of body. He is the desire that is not against the scriptures. To sum up, all things made of three qualities originate from Bhagavan. However, He is not in them meaning He is not dependent on them. Is Bhagavan the cause of and involved in varied activities? Bhagavan is only a general cause in the sense that He supports actions. He is not the specific cause. Brick and cement are general causes of all houses, and drawing and planning are specific causes of a particular house.
4-2-2: 9(15 to 19)
In 9(14) it is said that an avowed devotee having virtues like control of sense organs, kindness, and non-injury glorifies and pays obeisance to God. The various ways in which he adores are described. Worshiper of a single form of God worships a personal deity, like, Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Durga, or Kali. It does not mean that he has no respect for other forms of God. The middle-level devotee worships the cosmic form of Isvara. Since rituals were dominant in those days, Sri Krishna mentions things associated with a ritual: the sacrifice, sacrificial offerings, herbage, foodgrains, sacred mantra, clarified butter, sacred fire, act of offerings in the fire, and sacred word OM. Other forms of worship are God as mother and father of creation, i.e., material cause and intelligent cause of creation, radiance of sun, pouring and stopping of rain. The highest level of bhakti is knowledge-based. He sees no difference between the essential nature of God and his own essential nature, formless consciousness.
4-3 Vibhuties of Isvara-Divine Glory 10(1 to7,12 to 42), 15(12 to 15)
4-3-1: 10(1 to 7, 12 to 42) In the seventh and ninth chapters, the reality and glories of God have been revealed. To meditate on God, manifestations of God are presented. Sri Krishna describes His majesty for two reasons: (1) neither gods nor sages know fully His majesty because He is their source and (2) Arjuna would take delight in knowing God’s manifestations. A person who knows that God is without beginning and end is undeluded, is freed from sins. God is the source of deities and sages. He is the source of intelligence, wisdom, non-delusion, forgiveness, truth, control of external organs and internal organs, happiness, sorrow, birth, death, and fear as also fearlessness, non-injury, equanimity, satisfaction, austerity, charity, fame, infamy.
The seven great sages and four Manus are born of His mind. They meditated on God. Wise men adore and speak about God, the origin of all. The world is created, sustained, and dissolved by the yoga maya of God. God’s grace is available to all, but only wise men who are devoted to Him get it because they are free from material desires. Devotion to God earns a devotee wisdom and knowledge of God. The path leading to God is freed from obstacles. God destroys darkness born of ignorance with the luminous lamp of Knowledge.
After hearing the above majesty, Arjuna eulogizes Sri Krishna with words like Supreme Brahm, Supreme Light, and Supreme Sanctifier. All the sages like Narada, Asita, Devala, and Vyasa call Him the eternal Divine Person, the primal Bhagavan, the birthless, the omnipresent. Arjuna has no doubt about His glories that even gods cannot comprehend. God alone knows Himself fully. Arjuna requests Sri Krishna to describe his divine manifestations pervading the world so that he can be ever engaged in meditation. As there is no end of His manifestations, Sri Krishna describes manifestations that are pre-eminent in their respective spheres. He can be meditated as indwelling Self of all beings residing in their hearts. If a person is unable to meditate, he can meditate through different worldly objects in as much as He is the origin, continuance, and end of everything.
1 Among the twelve sons of Aditi, He is Visnu; among the luminaries, the radiant sun; among Maruts (forty-nine wind-gods), He is Marichi; among stars, He is the moon.
2 Among Vedas, He is Sama-Veda; among gods, He is Indra. Among organs, He is the mind, and He is the intelligence in creatures.
3 Among Rudras, He is Shiva, and among Yakshas and goblins, He is Kubera. Among the Vasus, He is Fire, and among the mountains, He is Meru.
4 He is Brhaspati, the foremost among the priests of kings. Among commanders of armies, He is Skanda; among large expanses of water, He is sea.
5 Among the great sages, He is Bhrgu; of words, He is the single syllable (Om). Among rituals, He is japa. Of the immovables, He is the Himalayas. Among trees, He is Asvattha (Peepul), and He is Narada among the divine sages. Among Gandharvas, He is Chitraratha; among perfected ones, sage Kapila.
6 Among horses, He is celestial horse Uchchaihsrava, born of nectar; Airavata among godly elephants, and among men, king of men.
7 Among weapons, the thunderbolt; among cows, Kamadhenu. He is Kandarpa, the progenitor, and among serpents, He is Vasuki, the king of serpents. Among snakes, He is Ananta, and Varuna among gods of the waters. Among the manes He is Aryama, and among the maintainers of law and order, He is Yama (king of death).
8 Among demons He is Prahlada, and He is time among reckoners of time. Among animals, He is the lion, and among birds, Garuḍa.
9 Of the purifiers, He is air; among wielders of weapons, He is Rama. Among fishes, He is the shark, Ganga among rivers.
10 He is the source of creations. He is the beginning, middle, and end of creation.
11 He is Self-knowledge among knowledge. Of debates, He is Vada debate. Debate leads to truth.
12 Of the letters He is letter a, and of groups of compound words, He is dvandva.
13 He is Death, destroyer of all; and prosperity of those destined to be prosperous.
14 Of feminine qualities, He is fame, beauty, speech, memory, intelligence, fortitude, and forbearance.
15 He is Brhat-Sama of the Sama, of the metres, Gayatri. Of months, He is Marga-Sirsa, and of seasons, spring.
16 Of fraudulent He is gambling. He is the irresistible command of the mighty. He is excellence, effort, and sattva quality of those possessed of sattva.
17 Of Vrsnis, He is Vasudeva; of Pandavas, He is Arjuna. And of wise, He is Vyasa; of omniscient, He is sage Sukracharya.
18 Of punishers He is the rod. He is the righteous policy of those who desire to conquer. And of secret, He is silence. He is knowledge of men of knowledge.
19 Whatsoever is the seed of all beings, He is that.
20 There is nothing moving or non-moving that can exist without Him. Whatever is rejected by Him, from whatever He withdraws Himself will have no substance, and will become a non-entity. Everything has Him as its essence.
The above manifestations are illustrations only. His glories are inexhaustible. Everything possessed of majesty, prosperity has His part as source and as a foot of His.
4-3-2: 15(12 to 15)
In 15(11), the topic of Brahm as reflected consciousness in jiva is over. From 12th to 15th is the second topic, i.e., the universe is a manifestation of God. Lights of the sun and moon, and the power of fire are His manifestations. The God sustains the earth. He is the sap that nourishes the plants and herbs. He is the digestive fire that enables digestion and assimilation of four kinds of food. He is both inhalation and exhalation of breath. He resides in the heart of all jivas as the inner controller. He is the source of intellect, knowledge, and memory. He is the source of Vedas and the knower of Vedas.