Thus, the Parabrahma is conducting the activities of the universe in three forms — prakṛti, jīva and Īśvara.
yāvatsaṃjāyate kiñcit sattvaṃ sthāvarajaṅgamam ॥
kṣetra-kṣetrajña-saṃyogāt (tad-viddhi bharatarṣabha) ॥
Whatever is born in this world — whether it is a living being or an inanimate object — the instrument of its birth is the union of kṣetra and kṣetrajña, prakṛti and puruṣa, or the universe and jīva. They are both equally responsible for the activities of the universe.
Isn’t the universe of innumerable forms? Therefore, the types of unions of prakṛti and jīva are also innumerable. There is no limit to the forms, hustle and bustle of prakṛti. As a result, there is no limit to the complementing forms and activities of the jīva as well. Hence, there are innumerable animals of extraordinary variety. These myriad objects and organisms appear as though they are different from one another, as though they originate from different sources. Because of this seeming diversity, we see dualities such as us and them, loved and hated. From this arise love and hatred, puṇya and pāpa. Thus was born, the ocean of samsāra. Amidst the beating waves of this ocean, where is peace for the jīva?
yadā bhūta-pṛthag-bhāvaṃ ekastham anu-paśyati ।
tata eva ca vistāraṃ brahma sampadyate tadā ॥
“When man sees the innumerable and diverse forms of animate beings as the manifestations of the same, single supreme energy — as though they are different waves and vortices of the same ocean — then he will see and experience the vast expanse of Brahma”.
That is unity in diversity.
samaṃ sarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantaṃ parameśvaram ।
vinaśyatsv—avinaśyantaṃ yaḥ paśyati sa paśyati ॥
“The ātmā who is the master is present in all beings equally. Inside the body that undergoes changes and destruction, it does not change in any way and remains the same. One who sees that, understands the true tattva”.
samaṃ paśyan hi sarvatra sam-avasthitam īśvaram ।
ṇa hinastyātmanā’’tmanaṃ tato yāti parāṃ gatim ॥
“One who sees Īśvara everywhere, equally — one who experiences nearness with Īśvara everywhere in the same way — cannot harm anyone. This is because he sees and experiences all jīvas that appear different, as the manifestations of the same Brahma. That is the way to the best state”.
We saw above that all the motions of the universe every day and every second, birth, death and other changes, the interactions between various animate and inanimate beings in the universe are the result of the united working of prakṛti and puruṣa, the universe and jīvas and the body and the embodied jīva. What is the role of the Paramātmā in this constant flurry of activities? Indeed, the ātmā does not have any role. It is without any attachment, and is aloof.
anāditvāt nirguṇatvāt paramātmā’yam avyayaḥ ।
śarīrastho’pi kaunteya na karoti na lipyate ॥
“The paramātmā is without beginning, middle or end. He is without alities or alterations. Even if he is present in the body amidst its various attributes, he does not perform anything. Nothing attaches to him”.
The interactions between kṣetra and kṣetrajña, etc. described above, are for prakṛti and jīva only. Paramātmā is separate from these both.
In the seventh chapter, we saw that the sadvastu is understood in three ways —
- Aparā-prakṛti or the inanimate universe
- Parā-prakṛti or the animate energy
- Parabrahma, which is the shelter for both the prakṛtis, and is yet different from both of them.
Let us recall those sentences again.
Bhūmir-āpo’nalo vāyuḥ khaṃ mano buddhir-eva ca।
Ahaṅkāra itīyaṃ me bhinnā prakṛtir-aṣṭadhā ॥
This is the physical nature. It is inanimate. Ātmā or energy is separate from this.
Itastvanyāṃ prakṛtiṃ viddhi me parāṃ ।
jīvabhūtāṃ (mahābāho) yayedaṃ dhāryate jagat ॥
This is the part of Bhagavān’s prakṛti that is animate.
Ahaṃ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ prabhavaḥ pralayas-tathā ।
mayi sarvam idaṃ protaṃ sūtre maṇigaṇā iva ॥
This is the nature of paramātmā, the thread that holds all these together.
Thus the supreme being is understood as —
- The universe made of five elements
Thus, we think that the real or sadvastu is one or many. How do we get this understanding? Where is the source of this jñāna?
When we set out to learn a subtle and deep matter, it is easier if we start from a direct and perceptible concept and then move towards more subtle and abstract thoughts. Therefore, the Svāmī starts with the following —
- idaṃ śarīraṃ kaunteya kṣetram ityabhidhīyate ॥ - BG 13.2
- etad yo vetti taṃ prāhuḥ kṣetrajña iti tad-vidaḥ ॥ - BG 13.2
- kṣetrajñaṃ cāpi māṃ viddhi sarva-kṣetreṣu bhārata । - BG 13.3
As we saw above, the subject here is of the body, the embodied jīva, and paramātmā. We shall look at these from the point of view of acquiring knowledge. Initially, “idaṃ śarīraṃ” — this body — is kṣetra, fundamental, base, field. All growth and prosperity starts from there. There is no jīva without the body. The instrument that is the body has three sheaths — sthūla, sūkṣma and laiṅga. The ātmā resides inside these as jīva. Thus, the most fundamental object that is necessary for the sustenance of all animate objects is the body. That is prakṛti. The aparā-prakṛti is the womb and paramātmā is the seed.
etad-yonīni bhūtāni ॥ (BG 7.6)
bījaṃ māṃ sarva-bhūtānām ॥ (BG 7.10)
Prakṛti is the womb; paramātmā is the seed. Prakṛti is the field where the plant of samsāra grows; paramātmā is the kṣetrajña or the farmer.
The jīvātmā was called the dehī, or the one who resides in the body. Now the word kṣetrajña is used. What is the difference? The difference is in the suffix “jña” (jña - avabodhane, to know, comprehend, understand). In the word “dehī”, the action of knowing is not stated. “Jña” means one who knows. One who thinks that “this field is mine; I rule over it; this is how it has to be ruled”, is kṣetrajña — the ātmā who is present inside the jīva.
4. kṣetrajñaṃ cāpi māṃ viddhi sarva-kṣetreṣu bhārata || (13.2)
Here kṣetra is the first object and kṣetrajña is the second. Knowledge is only possible when there are two objects. The activity of knowing needs two objects — the knower and the known. The knower is jñātṛ, the known is jñeya. If we stick to the words jñātā and jñeya, we can discuss the subject quickly without the strain of too many words.
How does the jñātā understand the jñeya? This is an important topic. Isn’t jñāna the relationship that is established between two objects through the activity of the mind and the intellect? What is the instrument that establishes this relationship? Now suppose I sit in the building of the Gokhale institute and talk to someone who is sitting in the Akashavani building. The relationship between us is established by the telephone wire between us. Let us call this instrument that transmits sound from me to him and back from him to me as the communicator. The communicator makes something known. The wire is attached to both sides and is equally related to both. In our present discussion, the body is the kṣetra and the ātmā is the kṣetrajña. If the ātmā has to understand the body, there should be a communicating cord between them. Which is that? The communicator should belong to both sides, should be equanimous towards both and should engulf both. What is this between the body and the jīva? That is the paramātmā.
Let us see another example. I am speaking now. You are all listening kindly. What is the communicator between us? “Sound” is not enough. If I speak Greek or Latin, only meaningless sounds will reach you. Then, the sound starting from my lips will reach your ears, but cannot reach your minds. My purpose will not be fulfilled if there is no communicator between my mind and yours. Kannada is that communicator. Kannada is the equal instrument for us both. Therefore it can establish a relationship between two minds. Therefore, common language is our communicator.
Similarly, what is the communicator between the kṣetra and the kṣetrajña, that is equally disposed towards both of them? That is the energy of the ātmā. Since this energy - the ātmacaitanya is equally disposed towards both sides, a kṣetrajña can know his kṣetra and also other kṣetras and kṣetrajñas. This is the meaning of the following line from the seventh chapter —
ṃayi sarvamidaṃ protaṃ sūtre maṇigaṇā iva ॥ (BG 7.7)
A thread strings beads of various shapes and colors and creates a necklace out of them. If the thread breaks, the beads will be strewn every which way. The various aspects of the universe are similarly arranged. The thread that strings them is paramātmā, and is the communicator that establishes the relationship of knowledge between them. Therefore, the śāstras call it the “sūtrātama”.
There are three concepts to keep in mind here.
- kṣetra — which is the prakṛti of the universe
- kṣetrajña — which is the jīvatma
- paramātma, The thread that extends equally amongst all kṣetras and kṣetrajñas
Bhagavān has given the description of all the above. Let us first look at prakṛti.
Mahā-bhūtāny-ahaṅkāro buddhir-avyaktam-eva ca ।
indriyāṇi daśaikaṃ ca paṃca cendriya-gocarāḥ ॥
These are twenty four objects together —
The five elements — (1) Earth, (2) Water, (3) Fire, (4) Air and (5) ākāśa
(6) ahaṇkāra (the concept of I, ego)
(8) avyakta (prakṛti that is in reserve — the creative energy that is hidden and beyond our imagination)
The five sense organs — (9) eyes (10) ears (11) Nose (12) tongue (13) skin
The five organs of action — (14) speech (15) hands (16) legs (17) anus (18) The gonads
(19) The manas, which is beyond senses
The five senses (20) sound (21) touch (22) sight (23) taste and (24) smell.
Here, Bhagavān lists the constituents of the type of prakṛti that is kṣetra. Among them, avyakta is one. Of the others, some — like the five elements, are perceptible by everyone, whereas some — like love and hatred — are understood only by experience. “Avyakta” belongs to neither category. What is it?
Avyakta is something that is not manifest. It is reality that is not clear. It is the hidden energy that is invisible in spite of existing, that exists in spite of being invisible. We can call that as the hidden treasure, the reserve of the energy of the Brahma. Let us see a couple of examples. We all see water daily. We have seen lakes and wells. But when we stand in front of the Jog falls or look at the ocean, we experience an extraordinary feeling that is not felt when a lake or a well is seen. The capability to bring about such a reaction in us exists in the waters of lakes and wells, but is avyakta. It becomes perceptible when it is seen amassed in the waters of rivers and seas.
To be continued...
The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.