Bhagavagd Gita - Session 14- Track 1402

This particular verse comes as a result of a question that arises in the mind of Arjuna, which itself arises because of a statement that Sri Krishna makes at the very beginning of this chapter. Let us go back to it. As I said we have to understand both that goes before this verse, and all that comes after that verse in order to understand this very important and famous verse.

Sri Krishna having explained all that has to be explained about Karmayoga, in which he has said that by doing sacrifice you first do works for the Divine, and then at the highest level the Divine himself begins to work through you: this is the secret of Karmayoga, so that even while doing works, you are free. Having expounded this, Sri Krishna makes a statement that this is the Karmayoga, this is the secret, which “I” had expounded to… “This was first proclaimed by me to Vivasvan.” If you read the first verse of this chapter (IV, 1):

imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ proktavān aham avyayam |
vivasvān manave prāha manur ikṣvākave ’bravīt
||1|| (IV)

That means: “This yoga”, which He calls ‘imperishable yoga’ the great secret of yoga, “it was first proclaimed by Me to Vivasvan, Vivasvan told it to his son Manu, and Manu spoke it to his son Ikshvaku.”

And then it says:

evaṁ paramparā-prāptam imaṁ rājarṣayo viduḥ |
sa kāleneha mahatā yogo naṣṭaḥ parantapa
||2|| (IV)

parantapa, is the destroyer of the foes, enemies; paramparā-prāptam, “this yoga was then traditionally received from generation to generation and the kings who became Rishis were perfected because of the acceptance of this Yoga and practise of this Yoga, but this Yoga, kāleneha, in course of time, mahatā yogo naṣṭaḥ, this Yoga was lost in the tide of time in due course.”

And then Sri Krishna says:

sa evāyaṁ mayā te ’dya yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ |

“This ancient yoga, mayā te ’dya yogaḥ proktaḥ, this yoga has been declared to you by Me today…” Why?

bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam ||3|| (IV)

“You are my devotee, you are my friend, and therefore, I have told you this secret Yoga.”

By this means of declaration, a question is impelled in the mind of Arjuna. And he says:

aparaṁ bhavato janma paraṁ janma vivasvataḥ |
katham etad vijānīyāṁ tvam ādau proktavān iti
||4|| (IV)

“How can it be that you are the first declarer of this Yoga, you are now, whereas Vivasvan was so early, Manu was so much in ancient times, Ikshvaku was so much in ancient times, so, how can it be that you told them this Yoga. You are born recently while earlier was the birth of Vivasvan, how then am I to understand that you taught this to Vivasvan in the beginning?”

It is in the answer to this question that Sri Krishna answers and says:

bahūni me vyatītāni janmāni tava cārjuna |
tānyahaṁ veda sarvāṇi na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
||5|| (IV)

bahūni me vyatītāni: “Many, many births have been crossed, have been spent by Me, and many have been crossed by you, O Arjuna; tānyahaṁ veda sarvāṇi, I know all of them; na tvaṁ vettha parantapa, but you do not know them, because you do not know them therefore you have asked this question. If you knew your past births, and also My past births then this would not have been a question in your mind.”