Ch 4, VERSE 7

यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य ग्लानिर्भवति भारत

अभ्युत्थानमधर्मस्य तदात्मानं सृजाम्यहम् ॥७॥


yadā yadā hi dharmasya

glānir bhavati bhārata

abhyutthānam adharmasya

tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham


yadā yadā—whenever and wherever; hi—certainly; dharmasya—of religion; glāniḥ—discrepancies; bhavati—become manifested; bhārata—O descendant of Bharata; abhyutthānam—predominance; adharmasya—of irreligion; tadā—at that time; ātmānam—self; sṛjāmi—manifest; aham—I.

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in dharma, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of adharma–at that time I descend Myself.

yadā yadā hi dharmasya

glānir bhavati bhārata

abhyutthānam adharmasya

tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham


“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in dharma, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of adharma—at that time I descend Myself.”

So, this of course, is a statement of Lord Sri Krishna. And we are now speaking about the topic, or we’re going to be speaking about the topic of avatara. Of course, this word avatar has become very popular in the gaming world, and with the movie that came out. The concept that many people may have of an avatar is actually nothing like how it is used and understood in the Vedas.

The word avatara means he who, or one who descends. So it has this quite explicit meaning of a transcendental personality having come from a spiritual dimension, or a spiritual reality, and who has descended, in this case to the earth. But we won’t talk that much about that subject of avatar. We’ll cover it more in the next verse that we’re going to be reading.

Before going any further, I just wanted to deal with this word dharma. Dharma can be translated and used in a number of different ways. It’s probably quite frequently used as “religion,” and adharma as “irreligion,” but we have entered a period in time where religion is—the idea of religion is getting a very bad rap, and people don’t like the word as much. It’s often seen in a negative way by a considerable percentage of the population, at least in the Western world; and that is largely because of two reasons:

One is the fact that people that have meant to be representing religion, or that which is spiritual, or holy— there have been many instances of irreligious activity, of very fallen and sinful activity. And so there has been the tendency of people to, on that basis, to not—to throw the baby out with the bath water, as they say. In other words when I get rid of the bad person, I’ll get rid of everything that they were imperfectly and even wrongly representing. Not very intelligent to do that. And of course, the other thing has been the rise of atheism as being a pretty significant force, particularly within the—in places of academic learning, and amongst people that have become more hedonistic and don’t want any sense of guilt or hang-ups that might interfere with their desire to dominate, and exploit, and enjoy—any of those things, or a combination of those things.

But this is—this concept that people have of religion as being like a belief system, something that was created by a person, a mundane person; and people that are gullible or fearful and insecure simply embrace what has been put forward, as a belief system. That’s not a very profound or insightful look at what religion actually is, or at its roots. And you’ll find that the people that are blindly embracing materialism are themselves often guilty of what they accuse the religionists of, which is blind faith in something, and a belief system, and anybody that holds a counter idea to be condemned. And that kind of thinking and that framework is not very helpful on the path of higher learning and of self-discovery.

The dictionary, Sanskrit dictionary, definitions of dharma are virtue, or morality, or religion, or good works, to engage or to live justly. So these are the, probably, the more common understandings or definitions. But there is a much deeper meaning. The word dharma is clearly defined as something which is according to the nature of anything, the nature, character, peculiar condition, or the essential quality of something. In the Vedas, and also to a considerable extent in the other dharmic traditions, like Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, there is an embrace of, either fully, or partially, of this deeper principle, this idea of the inherent nature.

So the example is given—one of my spiritual teachers would give the example of sugar: the nature of sugar is that it is sweet. If you remove that essential quality, the sweetness, then it’s kind of like you’ve just got kind of crystals that crunch up in your mouth, and there’s no flavour, or no taste, and it’s kind of like, I guess, eating sand or something. So when you separate this essential quality, then that substance is no longer considered sugar. The dharma of water is its wetness. So these are examples of things that have a nature.

The atma, the soul, the self, the actual self, has a nature, and that nature is a spiritual nature. And so the higher understanding of the word dharma references the eternal, or the nature, of the soul itself, of the atma. When we are acting and living according to our nature, this is dharma.

And that leads us to—some people have heard, probably, the term sanatana dharma. This word sanatana means eternal. So sanatana dharma means the eternal nature. So, the Vedas did not promote any particular religion or philosophical school. The Vedas promoted the interest of the eternal nature of the soul itself, the sanatana dharma, and the awakening of these eternal—the awakening of the soul to these eternal—its own eternal nature, and to live in that nature was what is sanatana dharma.

You’ll find many people today connect sanatana dharma in Hinduism, for instance, from a scholar’s perspective, the word Hindu is not actually an original Vedic term. We understand that it has come from a term that was applied by the Muslim warriors who invaded North India, and conquered it, and ruled it for many hundreds of years, that they referenced all of the people who lived east of the Sindhu river, which they called Hindu river, as being Hindus. And so because that was their preferred term it became—and they were the ruling class—it became embraced by the wider population. But our understanding—oh well let me just go a little further with that: Hinduism is—serves as an umbrella under which a huge variety of spiritual, and even material, traditions exist. Not all of them are deeply spiritual, and not all of them are purely Vedic, and not that many of them embrace the highest understanding of the actual nature of the soul itself, the eternal spiritual nature of the atma.

So the term, when Krishna uses dharma, and adharma, yes, it can easily be translated as religion and irreligion, but not in the way that many people in the Western world think of this. It means something actually much deeper, to do with the actual nature of the soul itself.

So looking at the synonyms, I’ll bring your attention to this word first: srjami. So the root of this word srj means, in dictionary definitions, it means like producing, creating, or begetting. However, in older Vedic language it refers to, or is defined as, “to emit from oneself.” So you will see that Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in his synonyms, in the translation here, he has used the translation “manifest.” And he comments in this regard, in his commentary on the Bhagavad-gita, on this verse:

“The word srjami is significant herein. Srjami cannot be used in the sense of creation, because, according to the previous verse, there is no creation of the Lord’s form or body, since all of the forms are eternally existent. Therefore srjami means that the Lord manifests Himself as He is.”

So this is quite, in some quarters, would be considered controversial, because we have a class of philosophers or spiritual aspirants who hold that the highest spiritual truth is ultimately impersonal and formless, but here we are being directed to another understanding or type of appreciation. And I’ll speak to that point in a minute or two, but for now what I’d like to do is to read the verse which had been referenced here, the preceding verse. The translation:

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

This is a direct confirmation of this principle or truth.

The first word here ajah, it literally means unborn. If you remove the first “a” sound and it’s just ja it means birth. And so when you put “a” in front of it, it negates that, so it means unborn, someone who is unborn.

Avyaya, meaning without any deterioration or any inebriety, any defect or—but specifically deterioration.

And then we have the term atma. And here Srila Bhaktivedanta has used the term body, and someone may take exception to that because the atma is meant to—or is most commonly used as the soul, or the spiritual being. It literally means the self. So before going any further with that I would just like to point out that while the most common usage and understanding of atma is the soul, the jiva, jiva atma, the spirit soul, the self, it is occasionally used as the mind, and as the body, depending upon the construction of the verse, where it is situated, and the subject matter that has been presented.

But in this case, even though it is speaking to the actual transcendental form, or the body, the rupa, swarupa, of the Lord, the use of atma is so wonderfully precise, because unlike an embodied human being, who is truly in their essence, a spiritual being temporarily residing within a gross material body and the subtle material body, the linga sarira, so the atma is significantly different from the body. In the case of the Lord, Sri Krishna, the body and the Lord are non-different. This is the manifestation of the Supreme Soul, the Paramatma, the body and the—or the form is the transcendental form of the Paramatma.

Similarly, you and I, the eternal spiritual being, we also have a spiritual form. It is not that the atma, the soul, the spirit soul, is formless and simply some impersonal energy. No, the actual atma has form. This is one of its characteristics.

So moving on: This term, I’ll just draw your attention to the bhutanam. Bhutanam means all of those who have been born, and we’re talking about the limitless number of embodied beings. Bhutanam isvarah, that He is saying, “I am the Supreme Lord of all those living beings who are manifest in the material creation.”

Then we have the word prakrtim. The root prakriti is used in a number of ways. In the dictionary definition it generally means the original or natural form, the original or primary substance, the cause, or the original origin of things. So this term is often used in the Bhagavad-gita in relation to a particular state of the material creation, the material energy. In its most subtle form, it is known as prakriti. In its potential form, before it actually manifests, it is known as pradhana, and it is said that this pradhana, when it becomes mixed by the kala, or time, this particular energy, and the three modes of nature, triguna, now manifests as prakriti; and prakriti now goes through a process of manifestation of the different energies that begin to manifest.

So in this verse, which I will just read again,

“Although I am unborn and My transcendental body never deteriorates, and although I am the Lord of all living entities, I still appear in every millennium in My original transcendental form.”

So I would just like to make the point that millennium here does not mean a thousand years. It’s used in the way it was sometimes used in older English, to mean a vast amount of time, but we will speak to that in the next verse, where I’ll explain what we mean by that in a little bit more detail.

So, what I’d like to do is read something for your consideration.

“Every avatara, or incarnation of the Lord, has a particular mission and they are all described in the Vedic scriptures. No one should be accepted as an avatar unless he is referred to by scriptures.”

So I would just want to make the point here that the Vedas actually delineate all of the principal avatars who may appear over vast periods of time within the material world. We see that there is an unfortunate reality that there are many so-called yogis and gurus who claim to be avatars. And the gullible public embrace such bold proclamations, especially if the person can produce some mystical so-called—or through trickery, or through some actual siddhi, which is very uncommon, more commonly it’s through trickery—to produce something to dazzle people. Because of sentiment people accept someone who is not an avatar as actually being one.

So continuing:

“In each and every incarnation He speaks as much about religion as can be understood by the particular people under their particular circumstance, but the mission is the same, to lead people to God consciousness and obedience to the principles of religion.

So just making a point here, when we say the principles of religion, we are not talking about of any particular religious faith. We are talking about these eternal spiritual principles that are seen in practically all religions and all spiritual paths, and are in the interest of all people to embrace and to practice.  

“Sometimes He descends personally, and sometimes He sends His bona fide representative in the form of His son or servant, or Himself in some disguised form.”

 So I’m just referencing a point, that sometimes they have a form of an incarnation, or avatar, who is not directly identifying themself as being God but who undertake extraordinary work. But even these particular avatars are described in the Vedas.

So in—I’ve mentioned previously, and quoted, one great spiritual personality, Sridhara Swami. He is from the Rudra sampradaya, from the 13th century or thereabouts. He, in speaking to these opening words in that verse which we originally read—and I’ll just read this again,

“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in dharma, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of adharma—at that time I descend Myself.”

So Sridhara Swami, in referencing these two initial words in the Sanskrit, yada yada,

“Krishna declares unequivocally beginning with the words yada yada meaning whenever and wherever, [so] whenever there is a decline in righteousness and wherever there is a predominance of unrighteousness…”

then He descends to correct that imbalance, that situation.

So here we are addressing this principle, that the Supreme Lord Himself, Isvara, Bhagavan Sri Krishna, He descends occasionally, over quite extended periods of time, in order to bring again into some balance, the influence of dharma for the benefit of all of mankind.

Thank you very much.