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CHAPTER 13

THE SHPERE OF ACTION AND ITS KNOWER

At the very outset of the Geeta Dhritrashtr asked Sanjay what had been done by his and Pandu’s sons assembled at Dharmkshetr, at Kurukshetr, for combat. But it has not been made clear so far where that field or sphere is. It is only in the present chapter that Krishn makes a precise declaration of the location of the sphere.

1. "The Lord said, This body is, O son of Kunti, a battlefield (kshetr) and the men who know it (kshetragya) are called wise because they have grown spiritually dexterous by perceiving its essence.’’

Instead of being involved in this sphere, the kshetragya dominate it. So it has been said by sages who knew and comprehended its reality.

When the body is only one, how can there be two spheres-Dharmkshetr and Kurukshetr-in it? In truth, within the one body there exist two distinct, primeval instincts. There is first the pious treasure of divinity that provides access to the Supreme Spirit who stands for the most sublime dharm. On the other hand, there are the demoniacal impulses made up of impiety which lead a man to accept the mortal world as real. When there is abundance of divinity in the realm of the heart, the body is transmuted into a Dharmkshetr (field of dharm), but it degenerates into a Kurukshetr when it is dominated by devilish forces. This process of alternate rise and fall, of ascent and descent, operates at all times, but a decisive

war commences between the two opposing impulses when an earnest devotee engages in the task of worship in association with a sage who has perceived the reality. Gradually, then, while the treasure of divinity grows, impious impulses are enfeebled and destroyed. The stage of God-realization is reached only after the complete elimination of the ill-gotten hoard of unrighteousness. And even the utility of the treasure of divinity is dispensed with after the stage of perception, for it is also then subsumed in the revered God. In Chapter 11, Arjun saw after the Kaurav also the warriors of his own army plunging and vanishing into the mouth of the all pervading God. Kshetragya is the character of the Self after this final dissolution.

2. "And be it known to you, O Bharat, that I am the all-knowing Self (kshetragya) in all spheres; and to me awareness of the reality of kshetr and kshetragya, of mutable nature and the Self, is knowledge.’’

The one who knows the reality of the sphere of the body is a kshetragya. This is vouched for by sages who have known the essence of this sphere by direct experience. Now Krishn proclaims that he too is a kshetragya. In other words, he too was a yogi-indeed a Yogeshwar. Perception of the reality of kshetr and kshetragya, of nature with its contradictions and the Soul, is knowledge. Knowledge is not mere dispute.

3. "Listen to me briefly on the whence and what of that sphere and its variations and properties, as well on the kshetragya and his abilities.’’

The sphere of action, of life and death, is mutable because it has evolved from some cause, whereas the kshetragya is possessed of authority. It is not only Krishn who says this; other sages have also said the same.

4. "This has (also) been said in various distinct ways by sages in different scriptural verses and well-reasoned, definitive aphorisms on the knowledge of the Supreme Spirit (Brahmsutr)."

That is so say that Vedant, great sages, Brahmsutr, and Krishn all say the same thing. Krishn is, therefore, only saying what others have already said. Is the corporal body just what is visible of it? The question is taken up in the following verse.

5-6. "Speaking briefly, mutable physical body is the aggregate of the five elements, ego, intellect, even the unmanifest, the ten sense organs, mind and the five objects of sense, as well as desire, malice, pleasure and pain, and intelligence and fortitude."

Summarizing the constitution of the body which is kshetr with all its variants, Krishn tells Arjun that it is made up of the five great elements (earth, water, fire, ether, and air), ego, intellect and thought (which, instead of being named, has been called the unmanifest, metaphysical nature), and thus throws light upon primal nature with its eight parts. Apart from this the other components are the ten senses (eyes, ears, nose, skin, tongue, organ of taste, hands, feet, genital organ, and anus), mind, the five objects of sense (form, taste, smell, sound, and touch), desire, malice, pleasure and pain, and consciousness and calm courage. The body, the gross corporal frame, is the composite of all these parts. This in brief is kshetr and the good or bad seeds sown in it sprout as sanskar. Made up of components which have evolved from a previous source or nature (prakriti), the body must exist so long as these components survive.

Let us now see the attributes of the kshetragya who is uninvolved in and free from this kshetr:

7. "Absence of pride and arrogant conduct, disinclination to do injury to anyone, forgiveness, integrity of thought and speech, devoted service to the teacher, outward as well as inner purity, moral firmness, restraint of the body along with the mind and senses, ...’’

These are only some of the attributes of the kshetragya: indifference to honour and dishonour, freedom from vanity, and reluctance to hurt anyone (ahinsa). Ahinsa does not only mean desisting from acts of physical violence. Krishn told Arjun earlier that he ought not to degrade his Soul. To lead the Soul to degradation is true violence (hinsa), whereas to elevate it is non-violence (ahinsa). A man who is inclined to the amelioration of his own Soul is also actively devoted to the well-being of other Souls. It is true, though, that this virtue has its inception from not hurting others; the one is but a necessary concomitant of the other. So ahinsa, mercy, honest thought and speech, faithful service to and worship of the teacher, purity, firmness of mind and heart, and control of the body along with the mind and senses, and-

8. "Disinterest in pleasures of both the world and heaven, absence of ego, constant reflection over the maladies of birth, death, old age, sickness, and pain,...’’

9. "Detachment from son, wife, home and the like, freedom from infatuation, bearing with both the pleasant and the unpleasant with equanimity,...’’

10. "Unswerving devotion to me with a single-minded concern for yog, fondness of living in sequestered places, distaste for human society,..."

Fixing the mind firmly on Krishn, a Yogeshwar, or on some sage like him, so that there is remembrance of nothing else except yog and devout contemplation of nothing besides the desired goal, dwelling in solitary places, disinterest in the company of men, and-

11. ‘‘Constantly resting in the awareness that is called adhyatm and perception of the Supreme Spirit who is the end of realization of truth are all knowledge and whatever is contrary to them is ignorance.’’

Adhyatm is knowledge of God’s dominance. The awareness that is derived from a direct perception of the Supreme Spirit, the ultimate essence, is knowledge. Krishn said in Chapter 4 that the man who tastes the manna of knowledge generated by the accomplishment of yagya becomes one with the eternal God. Here, too, he says that apprehension of the reality that the Supreme Spirit is knowledge. Whatever is opposed towards it is ignorance. The aforesaid attributes such as an equanimous attitude to honour and dishonour complement this knowledge. The discussion of the problem is now concluded.

12. ‘‘I shall discourse (to you) well upon the God without a beginning or end, who is worthy of being known and after knowing whom the stuff of immortality is gained and who is said to be neither a being nor a non-being’’

Krishn promises to enlighten Arjun well on that which ought to be known and after knowing which the mortal man achieves the quality of deathlessness. The ultimate God who is without a beginning and end is said to be neither a being nor a non-being, because so long as he is removed he is an entity, but who can say what he is when a worshipper-a-sage-is assimilated in him. Now there is only a single entity and the consciousness of otherness is obliterated. In such a state God is neither an entity nor a non-entity; he is only that which is spontaneously perceived.Krishn now elaborates the ways of this great Soul:

13. "He has hands and feet, eyes, heads, mouths, and ears on all sides, because he exists pervading all in the world.’’

14. "Knowing the objects of all senses he is yet without senses; unattached to and beyond the properties of nature he is yet the sustainer of all; and he is also the one into whom all the properties merge.’’

Devoid of senses, unattached, and beyond the properties of matter, he yet sustains all and is the enjoyer of all properties. As Krishn has said before, he is the enjoyer of all yagya and penances. All the three properties are thus dissolved in him at last.

15. "Existing in all animate and inanimate beings, he is both animate and inanimate; he is also unmanifest because he is so subtle, and both distant and close.’’

He is all-pervading, both animate and inanimate, imperceptible because of his fineness, beyond knowing by the mind and the senses, and both close and far away.

16. "The Supreme Spirit who is worth knowing, and who appears to be different in different beings although he is one and undivided, is the begetter, sustainer, and destroyer of all beings.’’

Both external and inner phenomena have been indicated here: for instance, external birth and inner awakening, external sustenance and inner adherence to the beneficial yog, external change of body and inner dissolution of all, that is, the disintegration of the causes

17. "The light among lights and said to be beyond darkness, that God, the embodiment of knowledge, worthy of being known, and attainable only through knowledge, dwells in the hearts of all.’’

The awareness that comes with intuitive perception is knowledge. And by this knowledge alone can there be realization of God. He dwells in the hearts of all; the heart is his dwelling and we cannot find him if we search for him anywhere else. Therefore, it is laid down by the canon that God can be attained only through inner contemplation and conduct of yog.

18. "Knowing the truth of what has been briefly said of kshetr, knowledge, and of God, who ought to be known, my devotee attains to my state.’’

Krishn now makes use of the terms "nature" (prakriti) and "Soul" (purush) for what he earlier described as kshetr and kshetragya.

19. "Be it known to you that both nature and Soul are without beginning and end, and also that maladies such as attachment, revulsion, and all the objects that are possessed of the three properties are born from nature.’’

20. "Whereas nature is said to be the begetter of deed and doer, the Soul is said to be begetter of the experience of pleasure and pain.’’

Nature is said to generate deed and the agent by whom a deed is accomplished. Discrimination and renunciation are the doers of good, while passion and anger are the doers of evil deeds. On the contrary, the Soul engenders feelings of pleasure and pain. Will man always continue to suffer, we may well ask, or will he also ever be rid of it? How can one be liberated from nature and Soul when both of them are eternal? Krishn speaks of this.

21. "The nature-based Soul experiences nature-born objects which are characterized by the three properties and it is association with these properties that is the cause of his birth in higher or lower forms.’’

That means that liberation from birth and death is to be had only after the cessation of the properties of nature which prompt them. Krishn then tells Arjun how the Soul dwells amidst nature.

22. "Although residing in the body, the Soul is transcendental and said to be the witness, the granter, the enjoyer, and the great God and Supreme Spirit."

The Soul dwelling in the sphere of the heart is even closer than one’s hands, feet, and mind. Whether we do good or evil, he is unconcerned. He just stands as a witness-an onlooker (updrashta). When the right course of worship is taken and the wayfarer rises a little higher, the approach of the witnessing Soul changes and he becomes the granter (anumanta). Now he begins to grant and confer intuitions. When the seeker is yet closer to the goal by further spiritual discipline, the Soul begins to support and sustain (bharta). Now he also provides the propitious yog. Then he turns into the enjoyer (bhokta) when the worship is even more refined. He accepts whatever yagya or penance is performed, and at the stage after this acceptance he is transformed into the great God (Maheshwar). He is now master of nature, but since he is master of nature it follows that nature yet abides in some part

23. "In whatever manner he conducts himself, the man who knows the truth of the Soul and nature with its three properties is never born again.’’

This is salvation. Yogeshwar Krishn has so far spoken to Arjun on the freedom from rebirth which is the final outcome of the intuitive knowledge of God and nature. But he now stresses yog whose mode is worship, for attainment is impossible without the accomplishment of this action.

24. "While some perceive the Supreme Spirit in their heart by contemplation with their refined mind, some others know him by the yog of knowledge, and yet others by the yog of action."

Some men perceive the Supreme Spirit in the realm of their heart by inner remembrance and meditation. Some others engage in the same task by Sankhya Yog or the Way of Discrimination and Knowledge after a due appraisal of their strength. And yet others see him by the Way of Selfless Action. The chief means pointed out in the verse above is meditation. The Way of Knowledge and the Way of Selfless Action are the two modes of embarking on this deed of meditation and worship.

25. "But ignorant of these ways, there are yet others who worship by just learning the truth from accomplished sages and, relying upon what they hear, they also doubtlessly steer across the gulf of the mortal world.’’

So, if we can do nothing else, we should at least seek the company of accomplished sage.

26. "Remember, O the best of Bharat, that whatever animate or inanimate being exists is born from the coming together of the insentient kshetr and the sentient kshetragya,"

On the state in which the final attainment is made, Krishn has this to say:

27. "He alone knows the truth who steadily sees the imperishable God in all animate and inanimate beings that are destructible.

That Soul alone apprehends reality who has a steady perception of the immortal God in the animate and inanimate beings that are annihilated in their own special ways. In other words, he is of the state of the Supreme Spirit only after the characteristic destruction of that nature, never before it. The same idea was expressed in the third verse in Chapter 8 when Krishn pronounced that the destruction of that condition of beings which generates good or evil impressions (sanskar) is the culmination of action. Action is then complete. He means the same when he now declares that only he knows the truth who is steadily aware of the presence of eternal God in perishable animate and inanimate beings.

28. "He achieves the supreme goal because, evenly perceiving the existence of the identical God in all beings, he does not himself degrade his Self."

He does not destroy himself because he constantly sees God as akin to his own Self. So he attains to the final bliss of salvation. Now the qualities of the accomplished Soul are pointed out.

29. "And that man knows the truth who regards all action as performed by nature and his own Soul as a non-doer.’’

Viewing all action as accomplished by nature implies that he sees the occurrence of action only as long as nature survives. He also sees the Soul as a non-agent and thus he comes by awareness of reality.

30. "He realizes God when he sees the whole variety of beings as resting upon and as an extension of the will of that one Supreme Spirit."

When a man sees the diffusion of God through all the various sates of beings and regards them as but an extension of the same God, he attains to him. No sooner is this stage reached than he realizes God. This, too, is an attribute of a sage-a great Soul-with a steady wisdom.

31. "Although embodied, the imperishable Supreme Spirit is neither a doer nor tainted because, O son of Kunti, he is without beginning or end and transcending all properties."

How it is so is illustrated in the following verse:

32. "As the all-extensive sky is unsullied because of its subtlety, even so the embodied Soul is neither a doer nor tainted because he is beyond all the properties.’’

It is further said of him:

33. "The Soul illuminates the whole kshetr just as the one sun lights up the entire world.’’

Then follows the final verdict:

34. "They who have thus perceived the distinction between kshetr and kshetragya, and the way of liberation from the maladies of nature, with the eye of wisdom attain to the Supreme Spirit."

Sages who know the difference between nature and Soul, as also the way of liberation from mutable nature, realize God. That is to say that knowledge is the eye with which one may see the reality of kshetr and kshetragya, and that knowledge here is a synonym for intuitive perception.

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Dharmkshetr and Kurukshetr were named right at the beginning of the Geeta but they were not located, and it is only in the present chapter that Krishn points out to Arjun that the human body itself is kshetr. And the one who knows it is a kshetragya. However, rather than being entangled in it he is liberated, and he provides direction to it.

Is the body, the kshetr, only so much as we see of it? Recounting its main components, Krishn has said that it is the sum of primal nature with its eight parts, the unmanifest nature, the ten sense-organs and mind, the five objects of senses, desire, greed and passion. So long as these components survive, the body must also be in some form or the other. This is the field on which the sown seeds, whether good or bad, grow as sanskar. The one who voyages successfully across this sphere is a kshetragya. Possessed of divine moral virtue, he is the one who determines the operations of kshetr.

The present chapter is thus mainly devoted to a detailed elaboration of kshetragya. The scope of kshetr is indeed wide and extensive. To speak the word "body" is so easy but what vastness is contained within this simple expression? It is coextensive with the primal nature of the entire universe. It is coextensive with endless space. It is thus the animating principle of life and no being can exist without it. This whole universe, this world, these countries and provinces, and this apparent human body are not even a fraction of that nature. Thus, besides kshetragya, the chapter also dwells at length on kshetr.

Thus concludes the Thirteenth Chapter, in the Upanishad of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta, on the Knowledge of the Supreme Spirit, the Science of Yog, and the Dialogue between Krishn and Arjun, entitled:

"Kshetr-Kshetragya Vibhag Yog,’’ or

‘‘The Sphere of Action and its knower.’’

Thus concludes the Swami Adgadanand’s exposition of the Thirteenth Chapter of the Shreemad Bhagwad Geeta in

"Yatharth Geeta"

HARI OM TAT SAT

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