Krishna has already explained to Arjuna what is meant by kshetra, kshetrajna, jnana and jneya. Krishna’s exhaustive description stands unique in the field of spiritual exposition and literature. How our ancient thinkers have presented abstract and wholesome truths without any ambiguity in a rational manner should be a matter of unreserved appreciation for all.
What we read is a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna. But many do not bear in mind the fact that whatever might have been the original dialogue, Vyasadeva is the author who has presented it in eternal terms. The depth and style of epic writing are so overwhelming that most people are led to see only Krishna before them, not the author Sage!
The spiritual thoughts of our land are eternal. Every Knower who exposes them pronounces his indebtedness to the earlier thinkers. Thus, nowhere is their beginning claimed or displayed. This is an exquisite impersonal note that adorns our thinkers. Krishna stands no exception to this hallowed tradition. How well does Krishna refer to the ancient Sages, who had revealed their thoughts in the matter:
“Rishis (Seers) have spoken variously in the matter. Vedas also have their pronouncements on it. Brahma-sutras too in their own way, upholding relentless rationality, tried to ascertain the proposition with distinct clarity.” – It is with such a striking preface that he sets forth his analysis (13.4).
In exposing the truth of karma, he brings divergent considerations and then expresses his own view (4.16-18). Also, in the concluding chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, he refers to the views of others on yajna, tapas and dana before revealing what he considers to be the faultless and fruitful way of pursuing these (18.4-6).
To present first the general perceptions on a subject matter, and then discuss their own considered view on it, is a very special characteristic of our Knowers. It instantly brings to focus how Hindu Dharma has survived with intrinsic merit and superiority. At no time are the divergent views derided or kept at untouchable distance. Each is given its position. Then their merits and demerits, if any, are considered impartially. Only then the right view is evolved for the acceptance of the thinking minds.
Kshetra, though a reference to our body, signifies infinitely more than the mere body-aggregate. It extends to and includes all external material substances, nay the entire world. It also comprehends all internal experiences and reactions – generated by the mind, intelligence and ego. Krishna includes ‘consciousness’ also in the kshetra. So, the word comprehends the entire ‘objectude’.
The purpose of describing the kshetra thus, in such exhaustive manner, is to draw attention to that which is distinct from all its constituents. That distinct entity is jneya, the One to be known. While the kshetra or objective existence consists of multiple factors or constituents, the jneya signifies but one entity with manifold qualities and powers. It is all-pervading.
In order to discriminate matters and get at the jneya, the supreme Reality, the seeker must embody a set of qualities, refinements and sublimations. Krishna listed them quite elaborately under jnana – the Knowledge – so that there will be no doubt whatsoever in the matter, in understanding what sadhana the seeker has to pursue to attain the jneya.
After having made his own distinct contribution by describing kshetra (objectude), jnana, and jneya, the supreme Reality, Krishna now advances parallel thoughts in the matter, aligning them with his exposition, to avoid confusion or difficulty for the seeker. But he assures that a devotee fond of him will attain to His nature, if he but knows the kshetra, jnana and jneya (13.18). A proper knowledge of these three will complete spiritual wisdom in both its theoretical and practical aspects.
Prakrti and Purusha
Prakrti and purusha, says Krishna, are both beginningless. Of the two, prakrti is the one that instruments and embodies all the changes or transformations through cause and effect chain (13.19). All changes caused within prakrti are material and energial in content. Being so, they themselves have no power or potential to give rise to any kind of living experience or response. Experiences in the form of pleasantness and unpleasantness, sukha and duhkha, belong to purusha (13.20).
Materiality has no power to cause experiences. Purusha’s glory alone acts in bringing about experiences.
Purusha is beyond matter and energy. It is transcendent and so is not subject to any kind of change or transformation. Yet, in conjunction with the ever-changing prakrti, purusha displays a variety of qualities and fates caused by prakrti. In the process, purusha falls into a fate of identity with prakrti, which in turn, results in taking birth in good and bad wombs (13.21).
This is a very comprehensive analysis. Despite prakrti’s operative effects, within the human body shines the Supreme, Transcendent Self. This inmost presence must be the sole focus in spiritual seeking – a point every one should pay sufficient attention to. However imposing and endless be the prakrti and its expression, namely the visible existence, the seeker’s concern should constantly be the supreme Self within. Krishna’s words emphasizing this are of great importance to the seeker.
In one sense, Krishna explained and described the same supreme Reality as jneya – the One to be Known (13.12 to17). The seeker should study that description, as we have discussed it, and then reflect upon what Krishna speaks now about the purusha.
Purusha and prakrti were general concepts, prevalent far before Krishna’s Kurukshetra dialogue came to be. Therefore, he wants to relate his description with the age-old concepts and make them, as well as his own words coherent and effective. Krishna’s method is not one of divergence but integration. He does not want to dislodge any belief or tradition as such. His effort is only to bring about a re-evaluation and correction, wherever necessary. In fact, the jneya he dealt with earlier and the purusha he deals with now are one and the same.
The inmost Presence
See how he describes the inmost presence within:
In this very body dwells the supreme Purusha. It is transcendent. Remaining the Witness all the time, It guides whatever transpires in one’s personality. Thus, It is the wielder or sustainer. It is the enjoyer and sufferer alike. It is the supreme Lord, the Great Soul.
Stupendous universe, consisting of innumerable planets and heavenly bodies, should not the least delude and unsettle the seeker. Let the visible existence be endless, infinitely various and powerful. But it only points to something still loftier and transcendental, in whose light and glory the manifestation thrives. And that Supreme verily dwells within one’s own body, is the message of spirituality.
Thus rises the question: Which of the two should the discerning seeker cling to, both by way of attraction and refuge? Should the seeking mind have its focus on the inferior or the Superior? The thinking mind explores, experiments and soon comes to the conclusion that there is nothing substantial and lasting to gain from the world of sensory perceptions:
Having investigated the world of actions, the man of discretion should develop dispassion (to the fruits of actions, which are caused and hence, ephemeral). Through actions one cannot attain the ‘uncaused’ (i.e., the supreme Reality).
Thus the choice is the superior inner field. For this, one has to discreetly turn to his own within. Krishna lists the characteristics of this inmost transcendent Spirit:
Upadrashta - The Inmost Presence merely ‘witnesses’ everything that takes place, be it any event, transformation or experience, whether in oneself or in the outside world. Do not think that the Witness gets involved in any process whatsoever.
Anumanta - As He is the witness, He also permits and guides all the phenomena that transpire in the material body, and the experiences within, namely in mind, intelligence and ego.
Bharta - He alone supports all the movements in the individual body as well as in the extensive universe. All together His task is complex and comprehensive.
Bhokta - As He sustains and guides all processes, He also experiences varied enjoyments and sufferings. Being unaffected by both enjoyment and suffering, His is a continuous experience of both. To enable and afford all this, what should be the magnitude of bhoktrtva of the Indwelling Spirit?
Mahesvarah - On this account, the Indwelling Presence is to be regarded as Mahesvarah, the supreme Lord. Ìsvarah is a term applied to God, who is generally considered as present somewhere outside. Krishna says the actual Ìsvarah, the Mahesvarah, is within one’s own body. He is the inmost Self, the supreme Purusha.
Paramatma - Yes, the inmost presence, the indwelling Spirit, is the Paramatma, the supreme Source of infinitude in every way. Atma is that which is denoted by the term ‘I’ by every one. The same in its full magnitude and potential becomes Paramatma.
The seeker should not miss the focus Krishna provides here. He speaks about the complex and infinite Nature which keeps changing ceaselessly. And through all the transformations, sukha and duhkha are the only two resultants that the humans encounter or undergo. But these are sufficient to lead the seeker to delve within himself and unearth the inmost source, the Mahesvarah and the Paramatma.
The body alone cannot cause any experience. If the body were competent to cause experience, then how does it get totally forgotten in the sleep state? Experience verily rests upon something different from the body. All perceptions originate from the transcendental Spirit within the body. Krishna has enumerated its nature, qualities and status. To realize them properly the seeker must reflect upon them with discrimination and steadfastness.
Knowledge leads to freedom from shackles
What Krishna states next is quite wholesome and fulfilling:
Whoever knows thus the purusha and prakrti along with its (prakrti’s) attributes, will not court a further birth, no matter how he lives.
Usually the body and its inner framework are considered to constitute one’s individual personality. No further thought or imagination is occasioned in the matter. Animals have their body. The human has his. That is all. But, if the same individuality is adjudged with spiritual vision or insight, it becomes the ground for a complete, comprehensive vision, elevating the mind and intelligence to a transcendental and universal level. Then one finds the whole prakrti manifest in his body, mind and intelligence.
What more? He perceives the purusha as manifest in the ‘I’ in him, the paramatma. The usual idea of body and life changes completely.
Embodiment becomes more a mirror to reflect the whole prakrti and purusha. The ego, with all its offshoots like possessiveness, passion, prejudice and competition vanishes. A beautiful expansion, an all-embracing attitude, adorns the seeker.
He no longer remains a mere individual. His body becomes a vehicle that carries a universal vision. The mind and intelligence become freed of their shackles and begin to think and perceive with a lofty impersonal dimension. The expanse spontaneously brings redemption. Krishna lived and moved with the gifts of such redemption. The seeker too will be able to be alike, assures Krishna in Bhagavad Gita.
The subject discussed is kshetra, kshetrajna, jnana, jneya, prakrti and purusha. But the effect of the discussion is freedom of the mind and intelligence from their shackles, leading to expansion and ecstasy. What a beautiful process! How efficiently and well does it work and bestow the outcome, otherwise very hard to conceive and achieve.
(From Essential Concepts in Bhagavad Gita - Volume 5)