Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 4, sloka 36

Newsletter on Bhagavadgita by Dr. P.V. Nath

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Sloka 36


Even if you are the most sinful of all sinners you shall cross over all sins by the raft of knowledge.


The emphasis on this Sloka is on “Papa and Papebhyaha”. It means, “The sin and those who commit acts of sin.”

We have dealt with sin several times already in the preceding chapters. “Sin” can be defined as act/acts or thoughts that generate in the mind that are contrary to the sastras and which are considered as “unrighteous.” Hatred, lust, greed, arrogance, enmity, anger etc make one commit acts of sin. The root cause for committing the sin is “Ego” which is man’s worst enemy in the spiritual progress towards “Liberation.”

In the Hindu philosophy, the emphasis is on achieving “Liberation”. Liberation is freedom from rebirth, uniting with the God principle and experiencing the “Eternal Bliss.” Attachment to the physical body, one’s family, friends, positions acquired in life prevents us progressing in the path to Liberation. Each one of us has gone through several births and deaths in the past and the probabilities are that we will continue to progress in the same path and end up having to be born again and again. The cycle of births and deaths is the “samsara”, the philosophy talks about and the samsara is compared to an ocean in this Sloka.

We need to have the knowledge that we are on an ocean and that there is a shore at the other end. We have knowingly or unknowingly out of ignorance committed a number of sins in the past that includes past births also. We have not paid for those mistakes yet. These have accumulated and it has become a big and mighty ocean. If it dawns on us that we have made ourselves drown into the ocean and we need to come out of the ocean then we have to look for means to reach the shore. The means given by Lord Krishna out of compassion to all is “Jnana”. The Jnana to dispel the ignorance will then act as the raft on our life’s boat and assists us towards having a smooth passage to the shore overcoming all obstacles in the way. The main message from the Lord to all spiritual seekers is “Nishkama karma and Karma Phala tyaga.” The sins referred to are the acts committed out of ignorance of one’s own true identity and the sinners are those who conduct such sins. The philosophy does not condemn one as sinner but points out to the sins in the actions. Swamy Vivekananda stresses on his commentary on Sloka 3, chapter 2, (Klaibyam Maa sma gamaha Partha) that any work which brings the latent divinity is punya (virtue) and that which makes the body and mind weak is verily, sin. Discrimination between “Truth and un-truth” and dispassion to worldly possessions are the keystone of spiritual knowledge which will assist in crossing over the ocean of samsara.

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