"Self-realization is meant to ensure fulfilment for one’s own self. It is not reaching somewhere or getting at something external, like going to the peak of a mountain. The attainment is in dissolving the mind and intelligence, and getting into the very core of oneself. In other words, it is like multiplying everything with zero."

The Guiding force of Narayanashrama Tapovanam & Center for Inner Resources Development

Swami Bhoomananda Tirtha

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Any instruction in the field of spiritual wisdom must focus on the body-different Soul – its supremely unaffected and uninvolved nature. The universal magnitude of the Soul must also have its supreme place in spiritual instruction.

Non-doership leads to Universal dimension

This is to enable the seeker to understand and imbibe these qualities so that he begins to express both unaffectedness and the universal dimension of the mind. Only when these are amply present, the evil called bondage will cease, gracing the seeker with freedom and contentment. It is such mental and intelligential freedom and contentment that go by the name mukti or liberation.

Thus, Krishna’s spiritual instruction, like that of any other Knower, includes and details the crucial spiritual quest and fulfillment:

प्रकृत्यैव च कर्माणि क्रियमाणानि सर्वशः ।
यः पश्यति तथात्मानमकर्तारं स पश्यति ।।
prakṛtyaiva ca karmāṇi kriyamāṇāni sarvaśa: |
ya: paśyati tathātmānam-akartāraṃ sa paśyati ||

He who ‘sees’ all activities as instrumented by prakṛti alone, and likewise sees the Self as ever the non-doer, is the true Seer.

The whole creation is governed by laws and processes that are universal. Krishna calls this wholesome operative process prakṛti, Nature. Every one has an individual body together with the individual ego it gives rise to. This feeling of individuality produces a strong sense of separateness and of being the kartā – the actor.

But, Krishna emphatically declares that activities of any kind whatsoever are done by prakṛti alone. This is a point he has been repeatedly stressing (3.5,27,29,33). While ceaseless activity prevails everywhere and in everything, there is a core in everyone that remains untouched by the cyclone of vibration and activity. Krishna calls it the akartā, the non-doer.

As the earth is rid of gravity in its centre, quite unlike what it generates all over its periphery, within every individual abides a core existence, which is truly beyond prakṛti and hence untouched by all activities. The one who knows this central identity within him becomes free. For him there will not arise any conflict or contradiction, religious or spiritual, from any action.

Once this central core perception is gained, there results an expansion in the mind and intelligence, raising the seeker’s vision to a universal dimension.

यदा भूतपृथग्भावमेकस्थमनुपश्यति ।
तत एव च विस्तारं ब्रह्म सम्पद्यते तदा ।।
yadā bhūta-pṛthag-bhāvam-ekastham-anupaśyati|
tata eva ca vistāraṃ brahma sampadyate tadā.
(Bhagavad Gita 13.30)

Then is the Brāhmic vision attained when all the diverse existence is clearly perceived as inhering in the same single source, and everything else is viewed as but its own extensive expression.

It is the physical law that material bodies are born of or evolved from other material bodies, as pots from clay or nails from steel. But when you begin to think of how the material universe, as a whole, has been evolved, the premise is altogether different. The entire materiality is an expansion from something inmost to it. The entire visible materiality, says Krishna, inheres in the one single source. Not only it inheres so, all the variety and diversity called the visible universe has merely sprung from it.

When the seeker is able to realize in himself the Truth of Oneness with regard to the plurality that senses display around, he attains Brāhmic dimension. The world continues to be various and extensive before the senses, but the Knower perceives it as a mere extension of what his body seemingly hosts within it as the core. In this light, the Soul is no more encased in the body, but becomes a universal permeation. With that arises the striking expansion gracing the seeker’s mind and intelligence.

Non-doership implies unaffectedness

This is so far as the inner expansion of the Knower is concerned. The quality or excellence called unaffectedness is something distinct:

अनादित्वान्निर्गुणत्वात्परमात्मायमव्ययः ।
शरीरस्थोऽपि कौन्तेय न करोति न लिप्यते ।।
anāditvān-nirguṇatvāt-paramātmāyam-avyaya: |
śarīrastho’pi kaunteya na karoti na lipyate ||
(Bhagavad Gita 13.31)

The inmost Soul, being beginningless and free of any attribute, is Imperishable. Though dwelling in the body, it neither does anything nor gets tainted the least.

Transcending all materiality and its laws and processes, this inner Soul, the paramātmā, is truly without any kind of involvement or affectation. Being so, it remains imperishable, untouched by anything whatsoever, be it activity or otherwise. Though it is found to be associated with the body, unlike the body it acts not, and hence is not tainted at any time. Complete blemishlessness is its nature.

What does this mean? The description of the inmost Soul becomes characteristic of the Knower. Knowing his own core to be like this, the Knower thus is able to disengage himself from identification with his body, and view it as any other object. Thereby he becomes free of all kinds of bondage and involvement.

Birth is what the body undergoes. The Knower knows that he is devoid of birth. Consequently he is equally devoid of growth, actions and their consequences. Where is then any question of bondage or stain? Let the body be. But all it does has hardly anything to do with the supra-material core within.

Earlier also Krishna had referred to the same unaffectedness (5.8,9): Whether seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, eating, walking, sleeping, speaking, leaving, holding, winking or opening – it is all an interplay of the senses and the sense-objects. The Soul, as different from the body, remains different all the time and hence is not touched or tainted at all!

Spatial dimension of the Subject

Spiritual wisdom has the sole aim of ridding the mind of all its troublesome constrictions, freeing the intelligence of its limited perceptions, leading them both to ample expansion and freedom. The next two verses are an ecstatic flow bringing forth the singular and supreme nature of the inmost Soul. Krishna likens the Soul with the invisible space on the one hand and the splendorous sun on the other:

यथा सर्वगतं सौक्ष्म्यादाकाशं नोपलिप्यते ।
सर्वत्रावस्थितो देहे तथात्मा नोपलिप्यते ।।
यथा प्रकाशयत्येकः कृत्स्नं लोकमिमं रविः ।
क्षेत्रं क्षेत्री तथा कृत्स्नं प्रकाशयति भारत ।।
yathā sarva-gataṃ saukṣmyād-ākāśaṃ nopalipyate |
sarvatrāvasthito dehe tathātmā nopalipyate ||
yathā prakāśayaty-eka: kṛtsnaṃ lokam-imaṃ ravi: |
kṣetraṃ kṣetrī tathā kṛtsnaṃ prakāśayati bhārata ||
(Bhagavad Gita 13.32,33)

Just as the sky, pervading all through, does not court any stain at all, the Soul, permeating throughout the body, is not tainted by anything whatsoever.

As the one sun illumines the whole world, so does the one Subject make the entire objective world known.

Of the five elements (pañca-bhūtās), the grosser and perceptible earth, water, air and fire, do ‘inter-act’ with and influence each other. But the fifth, namely space, remains absolutely free from all this. The space is not tainted by whatever transpires in the transforming world. All that the space does, is to enable and empower the other four elements to manifest their properties, allowing them to interact with each other. The inmost Soul, though within the body, also reigns likewise. It enables the body-aggregate to be what it is, facilitating all its actions and interactions ceaselessly. In the process, the Soul remains absolutely aloof and free.

Look at the sun. Just as it illumines the whole world, the indwelling Soul also enables one to perceive the entire objective world. This perception is possible only because of the subjectivity the Soul provides and preserves within the body.

Knower of the Supreme attains the Supreme

Why did Krishna take up the discussion of kṣetra and kṣetrajña at all? It cannot be of mere academic interest. Listen to what he says in conclusion:

क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोरेवमन्तरं ज्ञानचक्षुषा ।
भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च ये विदुर्यान्ति ते परम् ।।
kṣetrakṣetrajñayorevamantaraṃ jñānacakṣuṣā |
bhūtaprakṛtimokṣaṃ ca ye viduryānti te param ||
(Bhagavad Gita 13.34)

Those who are able to understand with the eye of wisdom the distinction between kṣetra and kṣetrajña, as also the redemption from the hold of prakṛti, do attain the supreme Abode.

Wisdom or knowledge is unlike matter or energy. It is a subjective enrichment, inner fruition or dawning, transpiring in and instrumented by Consciousness, which is distinct from matter and energy. Like thought, feeling, emotion and memory, wisdom too transpires in intelligence. The factor to precede it, if at all, is the knowing process, the effort intelligence makes to acquire wisdom.

For the intelligence to take up the knowing process, wisdom pursuit, some specific targets and props are necessary. Quests, interrogations or investigations are presented for this purpose. As part of these, some concepts or postulates have to be instituted. Based upon them alone can the intelligence begin its exploration. The spirit and purpose will lead it to deeper and loftier levels and dimensions. Every step will be one of knowing and knowledge.

Philosophy has the aim of discovering the ultimate Reality. It is equally an exploration into the very Source of Knowledge. By presenting the concepts of kṣetra and kṣetrajña, Krishna intends to help and guide the seeker’s intelligence to probe deeply and subtly into the inner layers of Consciousness itself. The result will be inner expansion, greater skill and subtlety for intelligence itself.

When such refined intelligence begins to think of the kṣetrajña (the Indwelling Soul) in all its dimension and permeation, it gets assimilated into it. This is precisely the purpose. The intelligence captures the characteristics or dimensions of the qualities it dwells upon. The intelligence reflects as well as radiates these qualities in its functions.

Krishna conveys it very nicely. He says that they attain the supreme Abode. Who? Ye viduḥ jñāna-cakṣuṣā – those who know the distinction between kṣetra and kṣetrajña, namely the range and magnitude of the kṣetra as well as the dimensions of the kṣetrajña, using the eye called wisdom. What does this mean?

The intelligence, by embarking upon the inner knowing process, gets refined, sharper and more perceptive. As a result, it gets relieved of its constrictions like selfishness, doubt, diffidence, fear and greed. Confidence and clarity, expansion and enrichment that grace the personality represent moksha (freedom) the seeker aims at. What greater or more desirable than this is there?

Unlike objective scientific investigation, spiritual science aims at probing into one’s own personality. How, without any laboratory experiment, does the intelligence accomplish this? Distinction between kṣetra and kṣetrajña stands as the answer. Engage the intelligence in their study and contemplation and see what happens.

Truly, the dimension of the jñeya is very great, profound and vibrant. The intelligence listening to it gets inspired and starts imbibing its majesty and profundity. The more the seeker listens to and reflects on these thoughts, the more will be the growth of the jñeya dimension in him. The process is subjective.

Thus Krishna says that the whole purpose of spirituality is to develop the eye of wisdom, jñāna-cakṣuḥ. For this, the only means is to make the intelligence embark on the voyage of knowing, through concepts like kṣetra and kṣetrajña.

Ye viduḥ te yānti – the phrase is singular in its import; those who know the kṣetrajña will also attain its status. To know is to become. Whatever one knows, that indeed he becomes. This is how the seeker becomes a siddha.

With this is concluded the inaugural chapter of the 3rd and last section of the Bhagavad Gita. Known as the wisdom-section, these six chapters are specially devoted to enlighten the seeker about the gross and subtle notes of sādhanā. They contain enumeration and enunciation of a number of sādhanā elements.

In this chapter, Krishna, presenting kṣetra, kṣetrajña, jñāna and jñeya, has dwelt upon the intricacies of wisdom pursuit. Including the material universe together with the mind, intelligence and ego as the kṣetra, then pointing out kṣetrajña as distinct from all these, he emphasized that spiritual wisdom is not a single point but a beautiful expanse consisting of qualities,refinement and enrichment. He then discussed the jñeya (the One to be known) with all its transcendental dimensions. Any seeker who reflects upon these cannot but grow in his intensity and enlightenment to reach where he aspires to.

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(From Essential Concepts of Bhagavad Gita - Volume 5)