sa evāyaṁ mayā te ’dya
yogaḥ proktaḥ purātanaḥ
bhakto ’si me sakhā ceti
rahasyaṁ hy etad uttamam
That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science. – The Bhagavad Gita, verse 4.3
Krishna enlightens Arjuna through the Bhagavad Gita because Arjuna is His devotee in the rasa of friendship. Krishna values relationships. He is the supreme man of relationships. One can be in relationship to Krishna in any of the five rasas: santa rasa (neutral), dasya rasa (servant), sakhya rasa (friend), vatsalya rasa (parents), and madhurya rasa (lover). Arjuna is Krishna’s friend, so is Udhava. Devaki, Yashoda, Vasudeva, Nanda are His parents, and Radharani is His supreme lover. The relationships that we experience in this world are a perverted reflection of the relationships that Krishna, the supreme enjoyer, enjoys with His devotees.
He is Nirguna. But, His Nirguna state doesn’t rip Him off of the love that He feels uniquely for each of us. He is Nirguna because He is not influenced by the three modes of nature that keep us glued to the material world. His Nirguna state doesn’t reduce Him to some divine light like many authorities believe. That divine light is Krishna’s effulgence according to the scriptures. The source of this light is Krishna. And, in His effulgence all the universes exist. Srila Prabhupada explains through a beautiful analogy, why people think that the divine light is the highest. He says if you watch a train arriving at the platform from a distance all you see is light in the tunnel. But as you get closer to the train, you see that the light is emitting from the masthead. To the see the source of divine light one needs to get closer to the source. And the only way to get closer to Krishna is to walk the path of bhakti.
He who acts for my sake,
loving me, free of attachment,
with benevolence toward all beings,
will come to me in the end. (BG 11.55)
Krishna enlightens Arjuna about all the possible yogas or spiritual paths that one can follow. However, at many logical points, He brings Arjuna’s attention to the truth that Krishna is the goal. Why does He do that? Because Arjuna He loves Arjuna. In the climax verse (18.66) of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says, “Abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender unto Me. I shall deliver you from all sinful reactions. Do not fear.”
A friendliness toward Krishna, an open heart with sincere longing to know the truth; to experience the love that we lack so dangerously, attracts Krishna. He gives His message according to how we approach Him. I was an avid reader of self-help, mysticism books, so He came to me in His book form; His Bhagavad Gita form. I’ve been quite interested in astrology, so He spoke to me through a Vaishnava astrologer who advised me to read the 12th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita for two months. I followed his advice, so Krishna became pleased me. One day, I thought of reading Geoffery Parrinder’s translation of the Gita. I took out the book from the rack and a random page opened. On top of the page was the climax verse of the Gita, “Abandon all varieties of religion …”. In that moment many of my anxieties evaporated. But I still didn’t get it right. Krishna sent the same message through the same verse to me 3 more times, but through different people. He may speak to you or have already spoken to you in a way that’s appeals you. Arjuna is a warrior, so Krishna spoke this universal message to Him on the battleground. It doesn’t matter as much how He speaks to us. What matter most is whether we are ready to hear Him and accept his guidance.
For Arjuna, Krishna became his chariot rider; a very low profile service from material standards. But for that immeasurable act of loving kindness, Krishna is known as ParthaSarathi (the chariot driver of Arjuna). I was surprised to hear how, those days, one communicated to their chariot riders on the battleground. When Arjuna had to turn right on the battleground, he would kick Krishna’s right shoulder. The loud noises on the battle ground would make conversation inaudible, so kicking was the only way. On whose lotus feet Brahma and Shiva take shelter that Krishna used to get Arjuna’s kick on His shoulder. And He would enjoy it, too.
Devotees offer bhoga to Krishna and eat His remnants called Prasad. Krishna’s cowherd friends in Vrindavana used to feed Krishna their food remnants. This bewildered Brahma. He wondered if Krishna is really the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He tested Krishna by kidnapping all His cowherd friends. Krishna expanded Himself as exact replica of each of His friends. Brahma fell at Krishna’s feet and chanted prayers. The same Krishna once carried Draupadi’s footwear in His hands. Why? Because each atom of Draupadi used to chant Krishna Krishna.
Krishna is not partial in a way we know partiality. He liberates even His enemies. He liberated both Kamsa and Shishupal. The audience saw a light entering Krishna’s body from Shishupal’s body when Krishna killed Shishupal. Arjuna didn’t want liberation. He wanted to serve Krishna with love. And so he did by fighting the war of Mahabharata. Enemies, impersonalists, and Buddhist get liberation; they merge into Krishna’s effulgence. To devotees Krishna bestows His personal association. Only pure devotees of Krishna can understand His message of love. Only they’re empowered to distribute the ancient science in the world. For people with devilish mentalities, the Bhagavad Gita is as clear as mud. Once an impersonalist said to Srila Prabhupada that her guru says Krishna means dark in Sanskrit. And dark means what is unknown. So, no one can know Krishna. Srila Prabhupada replied, well, if Krishna is unknowable then your guru certainly can’t know Him. He shouldn’t comment on Krishna. After a pause, Srila Prabhupada said with intensity, Krishna is known only to the devotees!
In the purport of this verse, Srila Prabhupada says, “There are a number of editions of this great book of knowledge. Some of them have commentaries by the devotees, and some of them have commentaries by the demons. Commentation by the devotees is real, whereas that of the demons is useless. Arjuna accepts Śrī Kṛṣṇa as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and any commentary on the Gītā following in the footsteps of Arjuna is real devotional service to the cause of this great science. The demonic, however, do not accept Lord Kṛṣṇa as He is. Instead they concoct something about Kṛṣṇa and mislead general readers from the path of Kṛṣṇa’s instructions. Here is a warning about such misleading paths. One should try to follow the disciplic succession from Arjuna, and thus be beneﬁted by this great science of Śrīmad Bhagavad-gītā.”
Srila Prabhupada wants us to follow the parampara that can link us to Krishna. Because only taking shelter at Krishna’s lotus feet (samāśritā ye pada-pallava-plavam) reduces the ocean of nescience (bhavāmbudhir vatsa-padam) to a small spot of water like the footprint of the calves (vatsa-padam).