Bhagavad-Gita, Plain and Simple—Chapter Four: Part One.
This is the seventh installment of my Bhagavad-Gita series. You can find the previous discussion here.
How to Become Wise.
The theme of the Gita so far is, “Put philosophy into practice. Don’t give up responsibilities, perform them with wisdom.” Wisdom and philosophy are of central importance to this theme; so, in the Fourth Chapter Krishna will explain how to gain philosophical wisdom.
The True Identity of Krishna.
All-Attractive Krishna said: “I explained this eternal wisdom of yoga to the sun-god, who passed it on to the original human being, who passed it in turn to his son. Passed on like that from one person to the next, it gradually became known to many philosopher-kings, but in the process it also became distorted, degraded and eventually forgotten. Today I will once again explain that ancient science anew, to you.” [1-2]
Arjuna would ask, “Why me?!” So Krishna says:
“I have chosen you because I trust you, and you trust me. You are devoted to me, and you are my friend—therefore you can certainly comprehend the ultimate secrets.” 
“You were born fairly recently. The sun-god was born very long ago. How am I to understand that you were his teacher?” 
This very practical and realistic question shows that humble faith and devotion in a good disciple should not result in mindless gullibility.
All-Attractive Krishna answered:
“I have passed through many births, and so have you Arjuna. But I am aware of all of them, while you are not.” 
Arjuna would ask, “Why do you remember, while I forget?”
“I only seem to have a body. The truth is that I am never ‘born’ and never ‘age.’ I am the proprietor and master of everything. My ‘body’ is my own manifestation of the power within my own self.” 
We forget things because our memories are accessed via organic circuits that deteriorate, and are not fully under our control. Krishna is not in a similar situation; his form is a manifestation of himself, by himself, in himself. Quite unlike the rest of us, there is no difference between the divine energy within Krishna and the divine energy that manifests his body. There is no difference between his ‘body’ and ‘soul.’ Therefore, he has full control over the storage and access of memories.
Now Arjuna will wonder, “Why do you take the trouble of manifesting yourself within this world?”
So Krishna says:
“Time after time, whenever the paths of morality are overgrown by weeds of immorality, I must manifest myself to repave the moral paths by protecting those who still walk upon them and destroying those who do not.” [7-8]
Arjuna knows that not many people understand Krishna deeply. So, Krishna now confirms that only very fortunate, elevated souls accept and comprehend this information about him:
“If you really understand that my birth and my deeds are spiritual, you will come to me and not take another birth when you leave your body. Many people did so in the past. Their hearts became enraptured by knowing me, therefore they could tolerate desire, fear and anger, become liberated, and attain me.” [9-10]
Everyone Walks Krishna’s Path.
Arjuna: “What about someone who tries to tolerate selfish desires, but without any specific interest in you personally?”
“Everyone walks on my path, and I give each one the reward that they come to me for.” 
Arjuna: “But it doesn’t seem that way. Many people seem to walk a path that doesn’t include you at all.”
“People who desire material success make various sacrifices. I reciprocate by empowering the gods to quickly grant worldly success.” 
Everyone walks Krishna’s path, but he is not personally involved in every neighborhood through which the innumerable branches of that path meander. He can be found personally only at the very apex and cynosure of all sub-paths.
The neighborhoods through which the byways wander are maintained by Krishna’s agents, the many gods (devas). The people walking the streets here are interested in selfish objectives, and are therefore unfit to interact directly with Sri Krishna, the entity of supra-concentrated selfless divine love. Instead they interact with his various powers with varying degrees of awareness of the divinity in them.
Arjuna will ask, “What about those whose efforts don’t even include the gods? Those who simply work at their careers for material success, are they also on ‘your path’?”
Krishna will explain that he is the origin and empowerer of secular social systems as well:
“The four careers, distinguished from one another on the basis of practical qualifications, spring from me.” 
As Krishna’s many-branched path meanders further into materialism we encounter four types of people on the sidewalks:
1. A few are philosophical and intellectual (brahmana)
2. Some are ambitious rulers, leaders and enforcers (kshatriya)
3. Several are entrepreneurs amassing wealth and resources (vaishya)
4. Most are simply employees obsessed with making ends meet (shudra)
These terms (brahmana, shudra, etc.) may ring an unfriendly bell, for this is indeed the seed of the deplorable, debilitating “caste system.” The clear and all-important difference between the original system and its ruined pre-modern farce, however, is that the original is based on practical qualifications (Gita 4.13 explicitly says: “guna-karma-vibhagasha”) while the farce is based solely on birth (“janma-vibhagasha”). The caste system is therefore the ball and chain of a hereditary oligarchy, while the original “catur-varna” system is a practical and natural social blueprint.
At this point, Arjuna poses a new argument, “If the social principles of the four occupations are inferior byways on the road that leads to you, let me give them up. Let me give up my duties as a warrior and go straight to the apex of all paths by directly meditating on your transcendental nature.”
To this Krishna replied, “Not everyone on these sidewalks is materialistic. I already told you that great spiritualists also walk these paths, for the sake of inspiring others with an appropriate example.”
Now, to add emphasis, he includes himself among such persons:
“I myself work within this system, even though I am the transcendental non-doer.” 
Krishna lived his adult life following the social duties of a warrior and king—even though he has nothing personally to gain by doing so, being transcendental to and uninterested in material things.
“Karma does not pollute me, because I have no selfish aspirations behind my deeds. One who acts in this manner is never shackled by worldliness. Since ancient times, those who desired enlightenment worked in this frame of mind; you should certainly do the same.” [14-15]
This brings the conversation back to the current main topic of Bhagavad-Gita: the yoga of selfless action.
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He is also a practicing astrologer, prolific writer and former guitarist and song writer in the popular underground spiritual-punk band, 108. His astrology website is available here.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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