All Paths Lead to Krishna?

Continuing in the 4th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita…

“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: With their hearts enrapt in knowing me, they could tolerate desire, fear, and anger; so they became liberated and attained me.” [9-10]

Arjuna will want to know, “What about someone who tries to tolerate selfish desires but without any specific interest in you personally?”

So Krishna says…

“Every human walks on my path, and I give each one the reward that they come to me for.” [11]

Arjuna will say, “But it doesn’t seem that way. Many people seem to walk a path that doesn’t include you at all.”

So Krishna says…

“People who desire material success make various sacrifices. Through the gods I quickly grant worldly success to their endeavors. From me spring the four occupations, distinguished from one another on the basis of practical qualifications. I myself work within this system, even though I am the transcendental non-doer.” [12-13]

Everyone walks Krishna’s path, and Krishna grants the rewards of everyone’s efforts. 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 Śrī 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.

The people on these sidewalks are of four divisions: a few are philosophical and intellectual (brāhmaṇa), some are ambitious rulers and enforcers (kṣatriya), many others work for wealth and resources (vaiṣya), while the main bulk simply work with modest survival as their goal (śūdra).

These terms 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 (Gītā 4.13 explicitly says: “guṇa-karma-vibhāgaśa”) while the farce is based solely on birth (“janma-vibhāgaśa”). 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 posed 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.”

To add emphasis, he continued, “I myself walk the path of a warrior and a king – even though you know that I am transcendental and uninterested in material things!”

This brings the conversation back into the flow of the main topic of this section of Bhagavad Gītā; but he exciting new theme briefly introduced here – the personality of Krishna and the possibility of attaining him – will return and be fully explored in chapters Seven through Twelve.


4 thoughts on “All Paths Lead to Krishna?

  1. Pingback: The Bhagavad Gita in a Complicated World «

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