Bhagavad-gita: In Due Course of Time (4.38)
Today’s verse comes from the fourth chapter, entitled Jnana-yoga. Srila Prabhupada calls this chapter “Transcendental Knowledge,” while Tripurari Swami, his disciple, entitled it “Yoga of Knowledge,” which is pretty well an exact translation from sanskrti. Narayana Maharaja, disciple of Srila Prabhupada’s godbrother, somewhat flips it around, calling it, “Yoga Through Transcendental Knowledge.” Garuda prabhu, through his poetical translation, gave it the title of “The Way of Knowledge.”
In his title, Srila Prabhupada makes sure that we understand that when he speaks about knowledge, jnana, it is of a spiritual nature. This isn’t material knowledge. Tripurari Swami assume we already know that “knowledge” here means spiritual. “Yoga” in this case (and in all cases throughout the Gita) means to “link up,” generally with the Supreme. Narayana Maharaja, though his Gita was written before Tripuari Swami’s, seems to split the difference. I’ve found this to often be the case, which, in my mind, is a very good thing.
Garuda prabhu’s work is one of poetry. Originally, the Bhagavad-gita was a poem. I find his version to be the most true to that feel. He thusly uses “The Way of Knowledge.” “The Way” invokes the idea of a path, a process. It’s not merely a linking, there is more to it than that.
This idea is also supported in today’s verse, the 38th verse of chapter four.
In this world, there is nothing so sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge. Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism. And one who has achieved this enjoys the self within himself in due course of time.
There is nothing here that is as purifying as transcendental knowledge. One who is perfect in yoga realizes this wisdom within himself in due course.
In this world, there is nothing more purifying than transcendental knowledge. A person who has attained complete perfection in niskama-karma-yoga, receives such jnana naturally within his heart, in due course of time.
-Narayana MaharajaThere is no means of purification found in this world that is equal to knowledge. In time, one perfected in yoga personally finds that [knowledge] within the self. -Garuda dasa (Graham M. Schweig)
Each translation, very closely follows the next. All four start by explaining that “in this world” (or “here” in Tripurari Swami’s translation), there are no means of purification, nothing more purifying, nothing as sublime and pure as transcendental knowledge (or just “knowledge” in Garuda dasa’s).
The Bhagavad-gita was spoke to Arjuna on a battlefield. Each translation, with the exception of Tripurari Swami’s, states “in this world.” He recounts it as “here.” The word in Sanskrit is iha. All of the Gitas, except Garuda’s have word-for-word translations printed just above the actual translation of the verse. Both Srila Prabhupada and Narayana Maharaja translate iha as “in this world.” Clearly, Garuda did as well.
However, in Tripurari Swami’s purport, he states that “iha (here) refers to this world.” He then continues, “Iha can also refer to the sacrificial practices mentioned previously. Among all sacrificial acts, it is the wisdom that arises from them that justifies their performance.”
Each commentary goes on to describe transcendental knowledge. Each, in their own way, explain that this knowledge is naturally there within us. Though none of them use the analogy of a tree growing from a small seed, here is an example of such a thing.
Only Srila Prabhuapda’s translation of the verse hints at it. “Such knowledge is the mature fruit of all mysticism.” This comes from four seemingly different translations of the word samsiddhah.
“Matured” is how Srila Prabhupada defines it. Tripurari Swami has it as “perfect.” Narayana Maharaja gives it a bit of a longer definition: “one who has attained complete perfection of niskama-karma-yoga.” Garuda prabhu’s translation has no word-for-word,
however it can be concluded that he translated it as “perfection.”
But what is this niskama-karma-yoga that only Narayana Maharaja mentions? In this verse and its commentary (which in this case is the commentary by Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura), he does not define or even describe it. Srila Prabhupada has described it as the “renunciation of the fruits of one’s labor.” ((Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura does go on to describe it a few verses farther, “giving up karma through the process of sannyasa (renunciation of attachment to the fruits).”))
From here till the end of the verse, there almost seems to be a bit of disagreement on how this knowledge is achieved/realized/received/found.
Srila Prabhupada states that it is the “mature fruit of all mysticism” and that it is “achieved.” He is the only one to use “mysticism” and it’s a bit puzzling why he chose this word. He uses this word a lot throughout his writings, often translating it from yogina. While the word “mysticism” isn’t in his word-for-word translation, it’s clear that he’s recalling his past uses of “mystics” (meaning yogis, ones who are linked with the Supreme). However, in his word-for-word, he defines yoga as devotion.
Tripurari Swami writes that “one who is perfect in yoga realizes this wisdom…” From combining both Srila Prabhupada’s and Tripurari Swami’s we can conclude that “one who is perfect in devotion realizes this wisdom.” In his purport, Tripurari Swami seems to give a call back to Srila Prabhupada’s “mysticism” reference, this knowledge naturally awakes in someone who has learned how to “acquire knowledge from a seer by engaging himself under that seer’s direction.”
Narayana Maharaja translates that this knowledge is received “naturally.” Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura’s purport explains that while natural, it is not immediate or automatic simply by accepting sannyasa (the celibate, renounced priestly order).
Garuda prabhu’s is a bit more mysterious. “One perfected in yoga, personally finds that [knowledge] within the self.” Many Bhagavad-gita verses are dedicated to describing the different kinds of and the perfection of yoga. Taking this one verse out of that context, it almost seems like with little effort, we’ll stumble upon the knowledge. Devotees know this to be true and also, at times, untrue. Devotion is simple for the simple and complicated for the complicated.
However, all versions conclude that it is not immediate. All four state “in time” it will happen. It’s not something that happens right away. “In due course of time” is used by three translations. Garuda prabhu entitled this chapter “The Way of Knowledge.” Finding this knowledge is a process.
This knowledge and peace are culminated in Krishna consciousness. As our hearts become purified, this knowledge will awaken within us. And, as Srila Prabhupada states in his purport, “that is the last word in the Bhagavad-gita.”