बहूनि मे व्यतीतानि जन्मानि तव चार्जुन |
तान्यहं वेद सर्वाणि न त्वं वेत्थ परन्तप || 5||*
śhrī bhagavān uvācha
bahūni me vyatītāni janmāni tava chārjuna
tānyahaṁ veda sarvāṇi na tvaṁ vettha parantapa
śhrī-bhagavān uvācha—the Supreme Lord said; bahūni—many; me—of mine; vyatītāni—have passed; janmāni—births; tava—of yours; cha—and; arjuna—Arjun; tāni—them; aham—I; veda—know; sarvāṇi—all; na—not; tvam—you; vettha—know; parantapa—Arjun, the scorcher of foes
The Lord said: O Arjuna! Many births of Mine have passed as well as yours. I know them all but you know them not.
Iswara, the Lord and Jiva, the personalised man are both of the same substance – the Supreme Brahman. Iswara is the Lord of Maya; and Jiva is subject to Maya. Iswara incarnates himself by controlling Maya, for the purpose of establishing Dharma in the world. But the Jiva is born again and again to work out his own karma, under the power and control of Maya. Since the Lord is the Lord of Maya, He knows all His incarnations from the beginning of creation, whereas the Jiva forgets them by the deluding power of Maya.
On account of Avidya, man’s knowledge is confined to the present life only. In truth, every man has passed through myriads of births. He had parents, wives and children, friends and enemies, wealth and prosperity, good and bad, during thousands of former births. But he has no knowledge of them now. If man fails to cut the bonds of karma by knowledge of Atma, he has still to pass through innumerable births. By virtue of the ‘good that he has done, he has now acquired the human birth, endowed with reason and discrimination, and not the birth of a worm or reptile, bird or beast. Having this great good fortune if still he indulges in sense pleasures and gets lost in the meshes of karma, he is indeed an unfortunate being.
When the embryo in the mother’s womb attains the seventh month, he gets the vision of his past births for a brief time and then, he vows to the Lord that he would strive to dedicate his present birth to Self-realisation. But as soon as he comes out of the mother’s womb, he forgets all and is lost in the pleasures and pains of earthly existence. Such is the power of Maya.
Let people not forget that they have had the same pleasures and pains during myriads of births, and when they realise this, they lose all taste and resort for worldly attachments and pleasures. Then comes true renunciation, and the march to their original state of perfection begins. So the Lord tells Arjuna that he (Arjuna) had several births in the past, though he is not able to recollect them on account of his mortal nature.
Swami Vivekananda Says —
“Both you and I have passed through many births; you know them not, I know them all.”[Source]
* With this verse Swami Vivekananda opened his writing on “Reincarnation”, contributed to the Metaphysical Magazine, New York (March 1895).