Ch. 4, Verses 7–15
The Process of Avtaarhood
We are still in the 4th chapter, it is because this chapter has many aspects and the subject that this chapter aims to explain, is the culmination of Karmayoga. And in this culmination, there are three important elements: Karmayoga at the top gives you the secret of Divine birth, Divine action and synthesise between Action and Knowledge.
There are many paths of Karmayoga and the most famous path of Karmayoga is the one which gives you a method of offering works to the gods, and to gain the results by offering to the gods in which action of offering is enough to produce the results.
But in the Gita’s view, Karmayoga consists of offering to the Supreme and that too with the Knowledge of the Supreme. Karmayoga is not Karmayoga if it not the path of offering action to the Supreme, not only to the gods, but to the Supreme, and that too by the Knowledge of the Supreme. You have to have the Knowledge of what the Supreme is, what is the Divine birth, which Karmayoga really implies. The ordinary Karmayoga in which you have to offer things to the gods, the question of Divine birth does not arise. That is to say the question of growing into the Divine birth does not arise; nor do you know what the Divine work is. Offering to the gods does not require you to find out what actually is the nature of the Divine work: that is how the Divine Himself works in the world.
That is why in verse n°9,
janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ yo vetti tattvataḥ |
tyaktvā dehaṁ punar janma naiti mām eti so ’rjuna ||9|| (IV)
yo vetti tattvataḥ: he who understands, tattvataḥ, essentially, fundamentally, basically, in its root; he who understands, he who knows, the word is “knows”,(not one who believe, but one who knows), yo vetti tattvataḥ: one who knows fundamentally, essentially, in its real terms; janma karma ca me divyam evaṁ, janma karma ca me divyam, my Divine birth, janma divyam, and karma divyam, one who knows my Divine birth and my Divine work fundamentally, only ‘that’ really comes to Me, mām eti so ’rjuna, it is only ‘he’ who comes to Me; and for him there is no binding to punar janma, when he lives the body tyaktvā dehaṁ, when he lives the body, then he has no binding on him to be born again and he comes to Me.
This is the fundamental purpose of the whole chapter: to explain what is the meaning of ‘Divine birth’, and what the ‘Divine work’ is. The 3rd chapter was already an exposition of Karmayoga. It already explained what sacrifice is and how sacrifice reaches its culmination so that instead of your offering to the Divine a stage is reached where Divine Himself takes you and performs actions through you, this is already explained in the 3rd chapter.
But the 4th chapter takes you to mystery of this Divine Action: how the Divine enters into you, and then what kind of action He does through you. That exposition is not done in the 3rd chapter; it is now given here in this 4th chapter: how the Divine enters, how the Divine invades you. This invasion of the Divine is actually concerned with the Divine invasion on the earth, on the whole world: the Divine is a constant invader on this earth, invader in this world. And this is the secret, which we do not know. We only see the events in the world; we do not see how the Divine is involved in these events, how God Himself is working constantly in this world: we do not know the design of the world.
It is here that Sri Krishna explains and explains with some kind of a striking note, where He says that, “I not only act in the world, constantly, and you must know how I act in the world”, but He even says that, “From time to time, I myself enter into the human body”; this is a special kind of action of the Divine. The Divine not only acts in general in the world, but there are occasions, there are circumstances, there are purposes for which the Divine Himself assumes the human body. This also is a secret. Therefore it is called: divyam janma, there is a kind of divya, the Divine birth. This Divine birth is a constant phenomenon, because the Divine is constantly working in the world, therefore you might say, divyam janma, is constant but you must know where exactly this birth is taking place, of the Divine all the time. But you should also know that there are occasions where I take a special kind of birth in the human body. This special kind of birth, which is called “Avatar”, because the Divine Himself descends: avatār, is one who descends, comes down; this descent of the Divine and having descended into the human body, how He acts. And the question is: why does He do it?