janma karma ca me divyam
evaḿ yo vetti tattvataḥ
tyaktvā dehaḿ punar janma
naiti mām eti so ‘rjuna
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 4.9
One who knows the transcendental nature of My appearance and activities does not, upon leaving the body, take his birth again in this material world, but attains My eternal abode, O Arjuna.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The Lord’s descent from His transcendental abode is already explained in the 6th verse. One who can understand the truth of the appearance of the Personality of Godhead is already liberated from material bondage, and therefore he returns to the kingdom of God immediately after quitting this present material body. Such liberation of the living entity from material bondage is not at all easy. The impersonalists and the yogis attain liberation only after much trouble and many, many births. Even then, the liberation they achieve—merging into the impersonal brahmajyoti of the Lord—is only partial, and there is the risk of returning to this material world. But the devotee, simply by understanding the transcendental nature of the body and activities of the Lord, attains the abode of the Lord after ending this body and does not run the risk of returning to this material world. In the Brahma-samhita (5.33) it is stated that the Lord has many, many forms and incarnations: advaitam acyutam anadim ananta-rupam. Although there are many transcendental forms of the Lord, they are still one and the same Supreme Personality of Godhead. One has to understand this fact with conviction, although it is incomprehensible to mundane scholars and empiric philosophers. As stated in the Vedas (Purusha-bodhini Upanishad):
eko devo nitya-lilanurakto
bhakta-vyapi hrdy antar-atma
“The one Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternally engaged in many, many transcendental forms in relationships with His unalloyed devotees.” This Vedic version is confirmed in this verse of the Gita personally by the Lord. He who accepts this truth on the strength of the authority of the Vedas and of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and who does not waste time in philosophical speculations attains the highest perfectional stage of liberation. Simply by accepting this truth on faith, one can, without a doubt, attain liberation. The Vedic version tat tvam asi is actually applied in this case. Anyone who understands Lord Krishna to be the Supreme, or who says unto the Lord “You are the same Supreme Brahman, the Personality of Godhead,” is certainly liberated instantly, and consequently his entrance into the transcendental association of the Lord is guaranteed. In other words, such a faithful devotee of the Lord attains perfection, and this is confirmed by the following Vedic assertion:
tam eva viditvati mrityum eti
nanyah pantha vidyate ’yanaya
“One can attain the perfect stage of liberation from birth and death simply by knowing the Lord, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and there is no other way to achieve this perfection.” (Shvetasvatara Upanishad 3.8) That there is no alternative means that anyone who does not understand Lord Krishna as the Supreme Personality of Godhead is surely in the mode of ignorance and consequently he will not attain salvation simply, so to speak, by licking the outer surface of the bottle of honey, or by interpreting the Bhagavad-gita according to mundane scholarship. Such empiric philosophers may assume very important roles in the material world, but they are not necessarily eligible for liberation. Such puffed-up mundane scholars have to wait for the causeless mercy of the devotee of the Lord. One should therefore cultivate Krishna consciousness with faith and knowledge, and in this way attain perfection.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
You will be successful just by knowing in truth about my birth which was previously described, and after my birth, my activities. That is expressed in this verse.
Ramanujacarya and Madhusudana SarasvatI say that divya means “non material, spiritual.” Sridhara Svami says divya means “uncommon.” As this means that it is not related to this material world, it also means “spiritual.” Being spiritual, beyond the gunas, means that the Lord’s birth and activities are eternal. Jiva Gosvami also explains, quoting from Bhagavatam in the Bhagavat Sandarbha that the Lord has no birth or activities:
na vidyate yasya ca janma karma va
na nama-rupe guna-dosa eva va
tathapi lokapyaya-sambhavaya yah
sva-mayaya tany anukalam rcchati
The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no material birth, activities, name, form, qualities or faults. To fulfill the purpose for which this material world is created and destroyed, He comes in the form of a human being like Lord Rama or Lord Krishna by His original internal potency. He has immense potency, and in various forms, all free from material contamination, He acts wonderfully. He is therefore the Supreme Brahman. I offer my respects to Him. SB 8.3.8
Or the word divya can mean not approachable by logic, or inconceivable, on the strength of the words of sruti and smrti. The Purusa Bodhini Sruti (4.3) of the Pippaladi branch of the Vedas says:
eko devo nitya-lilanurakto bhakta-vyapi bhakta-hrdayantaratma
This one, who is inconceivable (deva), engaged in eternal pastimes, is spread in the devotees and resides in the devotee’s heart. The eternal nature of the Lord’s birth and activities is mentioned frequently in the Bhagavatam as well.
Yo vetti tattvatah means “he who knows my birth and activitie are truly eternal,” based on my statements that I am unborn anc with indestructible body (ajo ‘pi san avyayatma) and that my birth and activities are non material (janma karma ca me divyam), and not just an appearance of being eternal, dependent on some sort of trick.
Yo vetti tattvatah can also mean “one who knows me as the ver form of Brahman.” This is because later Krishna will say: om tat sad iti nirdeso brahmanas trividhah smrtah: the three words om tat sat all indicate brahman. (Gita 17.18) Therefore tattva means the state of being brahman (tat). Yo vetti tattvatah means “one who know me as the form of brahman.”
That person does not take birth again, but rather attains me. The words tyaktva deham only indicate the last condition, for, not only on giving up the body one does not take birth again, but even not giving up the body, before that, one attains me.
Ramanujacarya says, “Destroying all sins which are unfavorable for surrender to me by true knowledge of my spiritual birth and activities, taking shelter of me in this life in the prescribed way, that person who holds me alone as dear, constantly thinking of me, attains me.”
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
4.9 He who knows truly My life and actions, super-natural and special to Me, which are intended solely for the protection of the good and to enable them to take refuge in Me, — Me who am devoid of birth, unlike ordinary beings whose birth is caused by Karma associated with Prakrti and its three Gunas producing the evil of bondage, and who is endowed with auspicious attributes such as Lordship over all, omniscience, infallible will etc., — such a person after abandoning the present body will never be born, but will reach Me only. By true knowledge of My divine birth and acts, all his sins that stand in his way of taking refuge in Me are destroyed. In this birth itself, resorting to Me in the manner already described, and loving Me and concentrating on Me alone, he reaches Me. Sri Krsna speaks of the same thing:
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The result of realising Lord Krishna’s divine appearances and phenomenal exploits is being given by Him now. One who has truly realised that Lord Krishna’s manifestations is due only to His sweet will and are for the protection of eternal righteous and beneficial to all living beings by this realisation becomes no more attached to their gross and subtle body is not subject to rebirth and is eligible to attain the blessed eternal spiritual realms in bliss with Him.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
For the purpose of showing that moksa or complete liberation from the cycle of birth and death is only possible through complete knowledge of His essence and not by partial knowledge does Lord Krishna speak thus. The complete knowledge is by the knowledge of the Vedic scriptures. That is the way Lord Krishna must be adored. In the Kurma Purana it is stated that: who lives their life following the principles advised in the Vedic scriptures and adores Him accordingly, to those does the Supreme Lord reveal Himself and not to others. So it is clarified that only proceeding in this manner is salvation and liberation achieved and not by any other method digressing from the Vedic scriptures and this is irrevocable. The adjective tattvatah signifies that the entire scope of knowledge is essential. Regarding it thus this is not contradictory. In the Skanda Purana it has been stated that a human being will not be knowledgeable by understanding a single principle without first knowing the entirety of the principles and even Shiva is not capable of doing so, therefore one should diligently endeavour to be aware of all the principles.
Now begins the summation.
Only by learning and comprehending the knowledge revealed in the Vedic scriptures is moksa or liberation possible. By knowing and furthermore correlating this knowledge from different Vedic texts and applying it to one’s everyday life will the ultimate attainment be gained and no other way. It should be clearly understood that the mere knowledge of the facts and details of the Supreme Lords appearance and divine pastimes will not enable one to attain liberation from the material existence without having first applied this learning through the medium of the Vedic scriptures fully into one’s life and all that one’s life encompasses.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Here Lord Krishna speaks of the merits one acquires who knows the true nature of His divine appearances as sac-cid-ananda or eternity, knowledge and bliss and also knows the divine nature of his lila’s or phenomenal pastimes which he accomplishes by his internal potency without any touch of material nature. One who has realised the truth of His reality does not take rebirth again being freed from their gross physical body as well as their subtle body which is the cause of having to accept a gross body and having qualified themselves for liberation are eligible to come to the eternal spiritual realms of Lord Krishna which is the ultimate reality and revels in bliss with Him.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
4.9 Yah, he who; evam, thus, as described; vetti, knows tattvatah, truly, as they are in reality; that divyam, divine, supernatural; janma, birth, which is a form of Maya; ca karma, and actions, such as protection of the pious, etc.; mama, of Mine; na eti, does not get; punarjanma, rebirth; tyaktva, after casting off; this deham, body. Sah, he; eti, attains, comes to; mam, Me-he gets Liberated, O Arjuna. This path of Liberation has not been opened recently. What then? Even in earlier days-
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
4.5-9 Bahuni etc. upto Arjuna. Indeed the Bhagavat is Himself devoid of all bodily connections on account of His having the group of the ‘six attributes’ in toto. Yet, out of His nature of stabilising [the universe], and out of compassion, He sends forth (or creates) that is which the Self is secondary. The meaning is this : He takes hold of a body, in which the Self, with the group of ‘six qualities’ in full, remains secondary because of Its role as a helper of the body. On account of this, His birth is divine. For, it has been created not by the results of actions, but by His own Trick-of-Illusion, by the highest knowledge of Yoga, and by the energy of Freedom of His own. His action too is divine, as it is incabable of yielding fruits [for Him]. Whosoever knows this truth in this manner i.e., realises in his own Self also in this manner, he necessarily understands the Bhagavat Vasudeva beng.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
janma karma ca me divyam
evam yo vetti tattvatah
tyaktva deham punar janma
naiti mam eti so ‘rjuna
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
janma — birth; karma — work; ca — also; me — of Mine; divyam — transcendental; evam — like this; yaḥ — anyone who; vetti — knows; tattvataḥ — in reality; tyaktvā — leaving aside; deham — this body; punaḥ — again; janma — birth; na — never; eti — does attain; mām — unto Me; eti — does attain; saḥ — he; arjuna — O Arjuna.