Text of the Bhagavagd Gita (Mother's Institute of Research) - Session 37: Chapter 13—Verses 18-26 (20 May 2000)

Summary of Session 36

I think since there was a long interval, I shall just repeat a little of what we had done last time.

As I had said we are now in the last portion of the Bhagavad Gita, the last 6 chapters, from 13th to 18th. Although the message that was to be given by Sri Krishna to Arjuna has been delivered, the questions of Arjuna have been answered, in some he has been told that all his arguments are based upon a want of most important premise. In his argument there is no reference to the immortal soul, no reference to the supreme Divine. And without these two premises, all his arguments proved to be inconclusive and results in dilemmas, perplexities, bewilderment, and therefore if you supply these two premises, the answer is that that action is the right action which is determined by the supreme Divine. The supreme Divine has decided in favour of this war, He has decided the role Arjuna has to play in that war, and in the obedience to this will, there is a supreme Good, therefore he should fight: this is the basic answer that is now given already at the end of the 12th chapter. In doing so Sri Krishna has expounded in detail, in an ascending manner, the exposition of the Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga and the synthesis of all the three.

And He has proposed that it is only when the three are synthesised that one attains to the highest action, ‘amṛtam dharma’, the immortal Dharma. And one who is devoted to this amṛtam dharma, and this cannot be done without the supreme Bhakti, so one who is endowed with that supreme Bhakti, he is dearest to the supreme Lord. Others are dear, but dearer than all those is the one who performs amṛtam dharma, which synthesises karma, Bhakti and Jnana and devotes himself to this immortal Dharma, is the dearest.

What then now remains to be told? What then is the significance of the rest of the Bhagavad Gita? If the questions have been answered, what remains now? What remains is a full exposition of the psychological position, which is obtained when one attains to amṛtam dharma, that is the last word of the 12th chapter and that word requires a further definition and elucidation. How to expound this? If you study these last 6 chapters you will find that a very special stand point has been taken to expound this important concept of amṛtam dharma, the immortal Dharma. What is that standpoint?

First of all it summarises once again the totality of Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, very briefly, in a very compact manner. Secondly, in these last 6 chapters, some of the important secrets which have not been expounded earlier, some things which are of highest importance are stated in a manner which is very striking and which reveals the highest message ultimately which has to be delivered to Arjuna. Very often it is said that the highest message of the Gita is to do one's action without expecting the fruits of the action; but this is only the first message not the last message.

The last message comes only towards the end of the Bhagavad Gita, in the 18th chapter, when Sri Krishna says:

sarva dharman parityajya mam ekaṁ śaraṅam vraja, (18.66) this is the last and supreme message of the Gita, ‘Give up all the Dharmas’, amṛtam dharma is something that transcends all other Dharmas, because other Dharmas are not amṛtam, they are not immortal, they are transitory, temporary, provisional. So, all those Dharmas are to be renounced; they can be renounced only when you synthesise Knowledge, Action and Bhakti. Until you have crossed this path and synthesised all the three paths, you will not be able to give up all the Dharmas and then you realise that your total being gets submitted automatically to the supreme Lord. And in that condition, the divine action proceeds automatically.

In doing so, we have a very important concept which is also the theme of these last 6 chapters, the concept of mokśa, Mukti, liberation:

ahaṁ tvaṁ sarvapāpebhyo mokśyiṣyāmi, if you surrender yourself fully to the Divine, Sri Krishna says, I shall then deliver you from all the sins, ma śucaḥ, (18.66)do not worry”. What is this Moksha?

So, relationship between amṛtam dharma, the immortal Dharma and this concept of mokśa, this is described in full and without this, one of the innermost question of Arjuna would have been answered. Because if you read the 2nd chapter, the first chapter where Arjuna describes his question…he says: “If I do not follow a path of action which in his case was the path of withdrawal from the battle, if I do not withdraw from the battle and if I become the agent of the war, then there is a danger of the ruin of the kuladharma, the entire Dharma of the kula will be destroyed and then he says that one who destroys or one who become the agent of the destruction of this Dharma, of kuladharma, he himself is destroyed and there is no hope for him of mokśa, of liberation.”

So, this question needs also to be answered in the terms in which Arjuna had raised this question of mokśa. Now, this concept of mokśa is also discussed in these last 6 chapters in detail. How to expound this? We ask again, how to expound this?

Sri Krishna goes back to the 7th chapter. If you remember 7th chapter is entitled “jñāna vijñānayoga”. It is the title where knowledge and vijñāna, not only Jnana but vijñāna, ‘knowledge in all the details, without remainder, having known which nothing more remain to be known’. In fact this entire knowledge without remainder is the subject of all the 6 chapters from 7th to 12th; but the starting point and the major point is given is in the 7th chapter itself, where Sri Krishna says: “The supreme Lord has two natures, the higher nature and the lower nature: the Apara Prakriti and Para Prakriti.”

Now it is with this concept that Sri Krishna starts His exposition in the 13th chapter and we have to keep in mind constantly this basic proposition: the supreme Lord has two natures: the higher nature and the lower nature. Now, in expounding therefore this proposition of the supreme Lord having higher nature and the lower nature, the starting point is the distinction between kṣetra and kṣetrajña: the field and the knower of the field. The Purushottama is the knower of the field and all the rest, the supreme Lord who presides over the higher nature and the lower nature, for Him this Prakriti is the field, is the kṣetra.

As we had seen last time kṣetra is described by Sri Krishna first in a very symbolic form and says: ‘This body is the kṣetra’. Then He moves forward and He says: ‘All that is known and done by the body is kṣetra’. And towards the end of the chapter He describes, there is a very important word ‘jñeyaṁ’: ‘That which is to be known’; ‘jñānam jñeyaṁ’: ‘The knowledge of that which is to be known’. And if you understand this argument, the kṣetra is not only this body but the entire world as we see it; and the entire world as we see it, through the body, is Apara Prakriti; but when we rise higher, then we see also the Para Prakriti. So, ‘that who knows’ and ‘that which is known’ and ‘that which is it to be known’, all the three together is the totality of existence: the supreme Lord, the lower nature, and the higher nature, all put together is the totality. This is the basic point in the 13th chapter.

In the 14th chapter, we have a fuller description of how in this world, we as individuals are caught: what are we; from where we emerge; and how we get entangled into this world. In other words there is an exposition of the soul, bondage of the soul to Prakriti and the means by which one is liberated from the lower Prakriti and enjoys the immortal Dharma, the higher Prakriti, the Para Prakriti. Therefore, the 14th chapter delves largely upon the means by which the soul gets bound: our present condition of bondage is described in the 14th chapter, and the means by which can be liberated is very briefly given: very briefly because the first 12 chapters were already an exposition of the liberation, (how to liberate by the three Yogas).

Therefore, here only a short reference is made to it, and by these three Yogas combined together in a synthetic manner will lead you to a liberation not only from nature, which is normally the understanding of the idea of liberation, but also when you are liberated in nature. it is a concept of a liberation, a concept of immortality and both these words are used quite often in this chapter: ‘amṛitam aśnute’ is a question of enjoyment of immortality, is a liberation which gives you enjoyment of immortality. It’s reminiscent of the Isha Upanishad where we are told:

विद्याञ्चाविद्याञ्च यस्तद्वेदोभयं सह।
अविद्यया मृत्युं तीर्त्वा विद्ययाऽमृतमश्नुते

avidyayā mṛtyuṁ tīrtvā vidyayā ’mṛtamaśnute

The Upanishads 1.11

By avidya you cross the death and then by vidya you enjoy immortality.

So, amṛtamaśnute: enjoyment of immortality. In other words: how you transcend Apara Prakriti and go into Para Prakriti. And it is only when you are seated into Para Prakriti that you are really liberated. It’s a very important concept of liberation.

We shall come to this when we come to this 14th chapter, but we are only noting down here the main points which are made in these last 6 chapters. What is bondage? What is liberation? What is immortality? What is the passage from Apara Prakriti to Para Prakriti? And how liberation really means entering into Para Prakriti and arrival at amṛitam Dharma? The important word which is used is ‘sādharmya mukti’, the liberation which is a liberation by attaining oneness not only with the supreme Lord in His silence, in His utter Peace, not only in enjoyment in the embrace of the Lord, but even in action, in the processes of action, so in every movement, action does not bind you, just as the supreme Lord Himself acts but is not bound by any action, similarly you participate in the same status of the Supreme Lord, just as He acts and does not get bound, even so, you as an individual attain to the same status, you act and you do not get bound.

Now, this again is very important in the context of Arjuna’s questions. Sri Krishna asks him to fight and therefore to act. Therefore, the question is: does action necessarily imply some kind of bondage? So, here is Sri Krishna’s answer that “even if you act, you are free”.

How can one perform free action? mokṣa does not mean negation of action as very often it is understood by many people; mokṣa means to be like the supreme Lord who is akartāram kartāram api, (4.13) ‘who is the doer and yet the non-doer’, who acts and yet remains non attached by the action. It is that condition that the 14th chapter describes; it is called the condition of triguṇātīta.

The 14th chapter describes all the three Gunas, Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas, by means of which the soul gets bound to the Prakriti, Apara Prakriti, lower Prakriti and then by the performance of the three fold Yoga, (Karma, Jnana and Bhakti), you can rise from Apara Prakriti and enter into Para Prakriti and then you attain to mukti, the liberation, but the sādharmya mukti. The liberation which is so permanent that even when you act you do not get bound, so that in the very battle field…(not running away from the battlefield and going to Sannyasa), in the very battlefield itself, you attain to Sannyasa and at the same time you become the real warrior and fight.

Now, this description raises some deeper questions. These deeper questions are answered in the 15th chapter. This whole question of bondage and liberation is one of the most subtle subjects in the entire world. There is no subject which is subtler than this subject “How does one get bound?” “How does one get liberated?”: sūkṣmati sūkṣma,subtler than the subtle’.

And this cannot be fully understood unless you know the nature of the supreme Lord Himself and therefore the 15th chapter describes once again the supreme Lord which has been described already efficiently earlier also; from the 7th chapter to the 12th chapter is a detailed description of the supreme Lord. Even the 13th chapter repeats in brief, in different terms the nature of the supreme Lord. But the 15th chapter once again, in different terms speaks of supreme Lord as three fold, as Purusha, supreme Lord as Purusha who is three fold: the Akshara Purusha, Kshara Purusha and Purushottama. The supreme Lord is at once inactive, active and that which transcends both and embraces both at the same time: Purushottama.

It is only in the context of the supreme Nature of the Lord who is at once Akshara, Kshara and parama, paraḥ puruṣa, only in that context can we really understand the mystery of the soul, of its entry into the Apara Prakriti, its bondage into the Apara Prakriti, and the possibility of Its liberation. That is the importance of the 15th chapter.

In the rest of these chapters 16th, 17th and 18th we have a further elucidation of nature: by nature we mean Apara Prakriti and Para Prakriti. This is very necessary because when we begin to understand the process of development from lower to the higher, very important questions arise in our consciousness, in our process on the path. We come across what Sri Krishna calls Asuric saṁpatti and Devi saṁpatti, the demoniac powers and qualities and forces, and divine forces.

And we have to understand them so that we can distinguish between them very properly, we may not be snared by Asuric saṁpatti, that even when we enter into them, we recognise them and we know how to avoid them and how we can transcend into Devi Prakriti.

In this process we come across the pursuit of Dharma, therefore we have a good description of Dharma: in all processes of development, Dharma is one of the most important concepts. Dharma is the law of development of life. So, when we make an ascent, there is a development. In this process of development there is a law which inevitably comes, therefore we have to recognise what is Dharma.

In this pursuit there is also the question of Shraddha, of faith. This idea of faith is very often misunderstood, we have dealt with this question earlier but we can repeat by saying that faith does not mean unquestionable belief as very often it is understood. Shraddha is unproved conviction, (not belief), un-proved conviction which insists upon pursuit until it is proved and realised: that is Shraddha.

It is not merely an accepted unquestionable belief, it is of course un-proved therefore as yet not questioned, (not unquestionable), unquestioned as yet, it is not a belief, it is a conviction, and pursuit of this un-proved conviction to the extreme point where this conviction is proved and realised: that is the movement of Shraddha.

So, since there is a question of pursuit, moving from down to the highest level, we have got to understand the fundamental impulse: how do we at all move forward? Why does all humanity move forward? We are actually all blind moving in the world blindly and yet we are moving forward, it is because of Shraddha, un-proved conviction. Each one of us has one kind of unproved conviction. If you go into your deepest being, we shall discover Shraddha in us by which we are really moving.

So, Sri Krishna describes what is Shraddha, what are the different kinds of Shraddha and then a very important question is raised by Arjuna because in this pursuit of movement there is of course the pursuit of Dharma, the law of development, but in this development of Dharma, since a given Dharma is limited, and although one is enjoined always to follow Dharma, an individual raises a question or rises to a point where he revolts against Dharma.

One wants to give up one Dharma and takes up another Dharma, (not religion), but Dharma is the law of development: I have moved up to a certain point, under one law of development, that cycle is finished, I have got to pursue now another line of development and another Dharma therefore arises and therefore I give up one Dharma and go to another Dharma, another law of development; so, sometimes it is done by a revolt against the previous one.

Today’s children, for example, are in a mood of revolt and we say it’s a revolt against Dharma: all our routines, methods, practises, all the things that we are doing today are being questioned by the young people: there is a revolt as it were. There is a search for another, there is another Shraddha in the children today and they want to move forward with that Shraddha and the present Dharma collides with that Shraddha. So, although they have a Shraddha, they revolt against the present Dharma.

So Arjuna puts this question that “if somebody deviates from Dharma, but still has Shraddha, then what kind of Shraddha is it?” And Sri Krishna answers that question. It is a question which is extremely relevant to the present times. It is in answer to this question that Sri Krishna describes what is Dharma, what Swabhava is, and what is Swadharma, some of the things which are of highest importance which have not yet been discussed in the first 12 chapters at all, except very briefly and by hint somewhere.

And then finally there are two very important questions: the role of the mind, since we are all proceeding upwards through the instrument of the mind, what is the nature of the mind? And since this path is a path of works, along with a path of knowledge and devotion, what exactly is work? On this, Sri Krishna throws a flood of light in these chapters.

Until you come finally to the question of renouncing all Dharmas and arriving at the climax of Knowledge, Devotion and Action and a complete submission from where the divyam karma, the divine work proceeds. In the 4th chapter we had an idea of divyam karma, of the divine action; but the psychology of divine action was not described in the 4th chapter, it is now here, in these last 6 chapters that we really have the psychological analysis of divyam karma: the Karma which is not bound by any Dharma; the Karma which proceeds directly from the Divine; the Karma which is not acted from the lower nature, Apara Prakriti; the Karma which is done in divya prakriti, in the divine nature, Para Prakriti. This is the main content of these 6 chapters.

As we said there are things in these chapters which are of highest importance and the last message is even greater and of the supreme importance. So, it is with this background that we were reading the 13th chapter and we have already finished…I think the first 18th verse, no?

Now, we have from the 19th verse the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti is described. This is still in the context of the concept kṣetra of and kṣetrajña.

The 18th verse…we shall repeat the last verse that we had done last time:

iti kṣetraṁ tathā jñānaṁ jñeyaṁ coktaṁ samsataḥ |
mad-bhakta etad vijñāya mad-bhāvāyopapadyate ||13.18||

He has described already what is kṣetra, what is the field, what is knowledge and what is to be known, in all totality, samsataḥ; it has been described already in the first 18 verses.

etad vijñāya, having known this; mad-bhakta, My devotee; mad-bhāvāyopapadyate, mad-bhāvā: mad and mad-bhāvā there is a difference, he arrives at Me…that is, maybe he arrives at Me in essence, but here mad-bhāvā, he also arrives in My becoming. ‘To arrive at Me’ may be to arrive only in the essence of the Supreme, but to participate in the Divine’s action, in the movement, in the divine Dharma, amṛtam dharma, madbhāvā is amṛtam dharma, “he arrives at My own Dharma, My own becoming”.

Now it is this which is further explained in the remaining part of this chapter:

prakṛtiṁ puruṣaṁ caiva viddhy anādī ubhāv api |
vikārāṁś ca guṇāṁś caiva viddhi prakṛti-sambhavān ||13.19||

“Know for certain that there are two things which are both original: Purusha and Prakriti. All the modifications, all the qualities and powers, understand they are all born from Prakriti.”

The distinction of Purusha and Prakriti is that all the modifications and Gunas and properties and powers, they don’t belong to Purusha. The modifications, all the becomings, they belong to Prakriti, they derive from Prakriti.

Now in order to understand this one sentence, we have to stop here for quite some time, because this is one of the most important statements in the Gita and therefore I don’t want to hurry up in order to move forward. The reason why it is important to halt here is that it deals with the totality of the understanding of the universe as you find in the development of human thought and particularly in Indian thought. In India almost every religious thought speaks of Purusha and Prakriti. I don’t think anybody in this country does not use these two words at least once or twice in his life: Purusha and Prakriti. And there is so much of confusion on this subject, even in the Indian philosophical thought, there is considerable confusion. It is for that reason that we have to understand in a greater clarity this very important statement.

To start with we take up what is called the concept of Purusha and Prakriti in Sankhya. There is a philosophical system which is called the Sankhyan philosophy. The word Sankhya also means ‘the philosophy which deals with Sankhya’, which deals with numbers. It is because this philosophy enumerates the most essential elements of the world and comes to the conclusion that there are 25 of them. Since it gives a detail of this enumeration and arrives at 25, gives a number, (Sankhya), therefore also this is called ‘Sankhya’.

The first among them is ‘Purusha’; it is one, one principle. The rest 24 all belong to Prakriti. Prakriti gives rise to mahat (or Buddhi), which gives rise to ahaṁbhāva (egoism), which is three fold: Sattwic ahaṁbhāva, Rajasic ahaṁbhāva, Tamasic ahaṁbhāva, because Prakriti itself is threefold (Sattwic, Rajasic, Tamasic). And everywhere in the world these three are pervading, universal pervasion.

From them arise 6 senses: manas first which is the real 6th sense, and the real sense and 5 senses of knowledge and 5 senses of action. From there arise the essences, which are called tanmātrā(s), of five pañca mahabhūta(s) of the five great elements: ether, air, fire, water, and earth. They all come to 24 and Purusha is 25th.

Now, according to Sankhya philosophy, this knowledge is necessary because through this knowledge one knows what is bondage, and what is liberation (what is mokṣa). The Purusha according to this philosophy is by nature inactive: it is quiet, but luminous, (full of consciousness). There is not one Purusha but many Purushas: each one of us is a Purusha. The word Purusha is puri vasati yaḥ saha puruṣaḥ, that which lives in town, (the body is a town), that which lives in the body is Purusha.

So, everyone is Purusha; every one of us, basically, is Purusha, that is to say ‘body is not Purusha’, body is the ‘town’ in which we live. The ‘one’ who lives dehi, not deha, dehi one who lives in the deha is Purusha.

Question: Puruṣa, would this be different from kṣetrajña?

kṣetrajña is Purusha but more than that.

Purusha in the Sankhya is not Purushottama. In the Bhagavad Gita, the word Purusha is used also in the sense of Purushottama, therefore in the Bhagavad Gita kṣetrajña would certainly be Purusha, but Purushottama is also kṣetrajña: one who knows the field, Purushottama Himself, the supreme Lord is the kṣetrajña.

In Sankhya there is no concept of Purushottama at all, there is only the concept of Purusha.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the many Purushas are not original. The multiplicity of Purushas is a result of Purushottama. Therefore Purusha basically is only one according to Bhagavad Gita.

Sankhya is called pluralistic philosophy, according to it, ultimate Reality is multiple, many Purushas, so it is called a philosophy of pluralism. Bhagavad Gita maintains that ultimate Reality is only one, therefore Gita’s philosophy is called ‘monism’, it is therefore ‘advaita’ (not two), Adwaita it is one without duality, ultimate Reality is one without the second: there are not two ultimate realities.

So, according to Sankhya…(I am just now discussing only Sankhya, but since your question was very important, I expounded immediately the Bhagavad Gita’s position vis à vis the position of the Sankhya)…the Bhagavad Gita very often uses the word Sankhya, throughout the book we have seen the word Sankhya, and it seems as if Sri Krishna describes this Sankhya’s philosophy which I am just now describing, but that is not true, the word Sankhya wherever used by the Bhagavad Gita is the “Vedantic Sankhya”, it is not the Sankhya which is known ultimately by the name of “Sankhya philosophy” in Indian philosophy.

One of the reasons why people get confused by reading the Gita is that they do not make a distinction between Sankhya which is known as Sankhya in the history of Indian philosophy and Sankhya which is “Vedantic Sankhya” to which Sri Krishna refers in this book. And very often the term being common, this confusion becomes further confounded, as here also, that is why I am taking your time to describe this, so that it becomes clearer.

So, according to Sankhya, Purusha is original, many Purushas are original, not one Purusha, there are many Purushas, all the Purushas are original, Prakriti is one, Purushas are many, Prakriti however is one, but many modifications. Purusha has no modification: each Purusha is without modification because Purusha is inactive; where there is no activity there can be no modification. Prakriti is full of modifications, right from mahat,(or buddhi), ahaṁkāra, and manas, and senses of knowledge, senses of action, tanmātrā(s), and (pañca mahabhūta(s)). All are modifications, but modifications of one principle called Prakriti. So, this Prakriti is also original.

According to Sankhya, Purusha, who is inactive, happens to glance at Prakriti, (this is a kind of a story of creation according to Sankhya). Prakriti to begin with is unfolded, at a particular moment it is unfolded, then it becomes folded that is to say that equilibrium is reached: Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas when they reach an equilibrium, then it becomes folded up: it is called pralaya (when Prakriti becomes folded up). Now, in this state of folding up, what is it that causes the unfolding of Prakriti? If you reach a state of equilibrium, it means that Sattwa, Rajas, and Tamas have reached a point of equal strength and therefore there is no movement, no unfolding.

Question: Is this triguṇātīta?*

It is not triguṇātīta, no. triguṇātīta would be a condition where three Gunas are transcended. Here three Gunas are simply clubbed together but in an equilibrium. It is like two strengths as it were opposed to each other therefore this is now not moving. But because of the three forces together, (they are not transcended), the three Gunas are now in equal strength, each moving in an opposite direction as a result of which there is no movement, it’s jamming, the three forces are jammed together, therefore there is no movement.

So, the story starts with this condition when Prakriti is folded up in a jammed condition. Now, the question is: by what this jamming will be dissolved? Or disturbed? If it remains continuously like this, it can remain forever like that. The three forces have reached such a point they can never be…now it’s jammed! Something else must happen; something must happen from outside because the three are inwardly…they are all jammed.

So the answer of Sankhya is that ‘glance’ of Purusha on Prakriti, the Purusha which is absolutely inactive ‘glanced’ at Prakriti, of course glancing is an action, if it is really inactive it cannot glance at Prakriti, but this is the contradiction of Sankhya. It’s why this philosophy is not ultimately accepted by the Bhagavad Gita and by Vedanta because at the very starting point there is a contradiction: if Purusha is entirely inactive and if Prakriti which is absolutely folded up cannot be moved only by the glance of Purusha that means that Purusha must be active, glances is an action.

So, somehow we go back to the story of Sankhya with this contradiction accepted that Purusha glances at Prakriti and with this glancing, this equilibrium is broken. As a result Prakriti begins to unfold itself. In a poetic manner, it has been described as a dance of a dancer who dances at the command of the viewer. The Purusha wants to know what Prakriti is, it glances, glances for observation. And to satisfy this desire of Purusha, the Prakriti unfolds itself.

Question: The desire also would become an action,

…an action, this is also a contradiction. Why should Purusha at all glance first of all? Glance itself is an action and even the motive of glancing also is an action.

In spite of this contradiction, Sankhya philosopher have continued to say what they are saying, the result being that in spite of this contradiction, it explains quite well the whole world; granted that this is a contradiction but ultimately, it explains the whole world; so anything that explains the whole world, even with contradiction has to be accepted, this is the argument of the Sankhya philosophers.

So, we go with them for the time being. So, according to Sankhya, the Purusha glances at Prakriti to observe it and Prakriti answers it by unfolding itself, so gradually unfolds itself for the sake of the enjoyment of Purusha. Purusha glances for the sake of observing. To satisfy this motive Prakriti unfolds.

So, one of the principles in Sankhya is that Purusha is the enjoyer: bhoktā. All this world is dependent upon the wish of Purusha, a very important statement which is valid although inconsistent with the Sankhya philosophy. In itself it is valid. If you have another system of philosophy then this element would be very important and we shall see how it is important.

Now, when Purusha glances at Prakriti it becomes absorbed in Prakriti. This also is an action: to be absorbed. It becomes absorbed in Prakriti. As a result it forgets itself. Because of absorption it forgets itself and by absorption it becomes identified with Prakriti, it becomes one with the objects that it perceives. This identification is what is called bondage: bandhana.

It’s like a child who is given a toy and then the child falls in love with the toy and attributes to the toy all the needs that the child feels for himself. It wants a toy to go to sleep, it needs a bath, it needs food, it needs all cradle songs, similarly now Purusha becomes identified with Prakriti, forgets itself and becomes itself like Prakriti. He doesn’t know itself, that it is different from Prakriti. It only knows Prakriti, nothing else.

It is only when there is experience of pain, experience of suffocation, a feeling of real bondage that now Purusha begins to wonder: what is it that is happening? What is the remedy for this? Then he makes a study of everything and through this study it discovers that it is identified with Prakriti. That is the real reason for all the misery, suffering, suffocation.

Then it enquires as to how to come out of it. That examines all the movements of Prakriti and finds that there is one faculty called ‘Buddhi’, intellect which is capable of discrimination. Now, discrimination means a movement opposed to identification: identifying is to mix up things together; discrimination means that you can distinguish one from the other. So, by the virtue of the capacities and activities of Buddhi, Purusha can discriminate itself from Prakriti. And if it continues to dwell upon the distinction between Purusha and Prakriti by the help of Buddhi constantly then Purusha withdraws from Prakriti, becomes free, liberated from the clutches of Prakriti and attains back to its original condition of peace, tranquillity, inactivity, luminosity: that is mokṣa.

Question: In Sankhya is there Purushottama state?

No, in Sankhya there is no Purushottama at all. According to Sankhya, you don’t need God to explain the world: it is called niṛśvara sāṁkhya, Sankhya which does not accept iśvara. So, there is no Purushottama concept at all in the Sankhya. According to Sankhya you can explain all the experience in the world only by two principles: Purusha and Prakriti and both are original. Original means ‘nothing beyond’, Supreme is not beyond, whatever is supreme is Purusha and Prakriti.

Now here also the very first sentence in the verse 19, it says:

prakṛtiṁ puruṣaṁ caiva viddhy anādī ubhāv api, it is as if Sri Krishna accepts Sankhya philosophy, because He says: “know, viddhy, understand that there are two thing Purusha and Prakriti; ubhāv api, both of them are anādī, are original.” It is as if Sri Krishna accepts the Sankhya philosophy.

According to Sankhya, Prakriti is independent although when the bondage takes place, when the Purusha glances Prakriti begins to be operative part because it follows the dictate of the Purusha, but philosophically, the Purusha and Prakriti are independent of each other. Purusha is many, Prakriti is one.

…Purusha is luminous, Prakriti is jaḍa, unconscious, according to Sankhya.

Question: If Purusha withdraws its glance on Prakriti, then what happens to Prakriti?

Prakriti, as far as that Purusha is concerned does not bind Purusha, but for others it continues. For that Purusha, he is liberated. Now, Purusha does not get deluded, does not get identified, it has known what this Prakriti is, it has come out of it.

Question: According to Sankhya the Purushas are many, but are they identical or are they different?

They are all different, but in what the difference lies Sankhya does not tell us. They are different because even when I am liberated others may not be liberated therefore I must be different from the others.

Question: The stage of development of the Purusha could be different, but Purusha originally…

…are of the same kind. Each Purusha is inactive; each Purusha is luminous, conscious.

Question: Luminosity gets lost when it gets bound.

That’s right. Prakriti is just the opposite of Purusha. Purusha is many, Prakriti is one. Purusha is luminous, Prakriti is unconscious. Purusha is inactive, Prakriti is active. The easy way by which the two are contrasted is the blind man and the lame man. Prakriti is compared to the blind man. And Purusha is compared to the lame man. Lame man cannot walk therefore he is inactive. The blind man can walk. The lame man is not blind, but the one who walks is blind, Prakriti is blind; therefore lame man can ask the blind to walk on this side or this side, so he has a commanding position. Although he cannot walk he can direct. This is the analogy which is very often given to explain the relationship between Purusha and Prakriti of Sankhya.

Now, according to the Bhagavad Gita, Purusha and Prakriti are not two different principles. According to Bhagavad Gita, Purusha is only one, and Prakriti is one with the Purusha, is not different from Prakriti, and Purusha is original, therefore Prakriti is also original, If Purusha and Prakriti are one. So although this statement may seem to be identical with the Sankhyan proposition, in the terms of the Gita this proposition also can stand, that both Purusha and Prakriti are anādī, are original because Purusha is one and original and Prakriti is one with Purusha, so Purusha and Prakriti both are one and both are original.

According to Bhagavad Gita, Prakriti is not unintelligent. According to Sankhya, Prakriti is unintelligent, unconscious, it’s jaḍa. According to Bhagavad Gita, Prakriti is intelligent, conscious; it is what is called in the Gita Para Prakriti, the divine nature, higher nature, because the lower nature originated from the higher Prakriti. So, lower nature is not anādī, it is not original. So, when Sri Krishna says ‘it is anādī’, it does not refer to the Prakriti which is lower: lower Prakriti is derived Prakriti. So, that which is anādī, is one with Purusha.

Now, here one very important term is not used, but it should be utilised to explain this proposition. The Vedic conception, or Vedantic conception of the Divine is ‘saccidānanda’, sat-cit-ānanda. Now, if you examine the meaning of Sachchidananda you will find that sat is existent; cit is consciousness, but all consciousness is ‘Force’; there can be no action without consciousness behind it: this is the basic proposition of the Vedanta; all action is a result of consciousness. The greater the consciousness you have, the greater the potency of action.

We are all incapable of action to the highest level that is necessary or possible; it is because we are hardly conscious. The more conscious you become, the greater is the potency of action. All our incapacity of action can be traced to the fact that we are highly ignorant. If you become fully conscious, full of knowledge, then your action will spread out like a thousand suns-rays. The rays can spread out only from the light. Where there is no light there can’t be rays; so action always proceeds from the sunlight, sunlight of knowledge.

Now, Sat and Chit: Sat is that which exists. It is this concept of Sat which is translated as the concept of Purusha: Sat is Purusha. And Chit which is consciousness and Force is Prakriti. The union of Sat and Chit is Ananda. The ultimate Reality is Sat, Chit, and Ananda. It is only one but its nature is complex and this complexity means that it is within itself, it is at once Purusha and Prakriti.

Therefore Sri Krishna says ‘Prakriti and Purusha are original’, Sachchidananda is original: Sat is Purusha, Chit is Prakriti. Chit-Shakti, Para Prakriti is the same word. We have the concept of ardhanariśvara, Ishwara is himself half male and half female, it is Sat and Chit at the same time. This identity of Sat and Chit that both are original, but both are one: this is the Gita’s view. Sat and Chit are identical and yet so identical that there can be a relationship between the two.

Question: Chit depends on Sat and Sat does not depend upon Chit?

…such is the relationship between the two. The Sat is a support, without it Prakriti cannot exist at all; but Sat cannot act without the Prakriti: such is the dependence of the two, interdependence. Without Sat Prakriti cannot exist, but without Prakriti Sat remains unmanifest. For manifestation Sat is necessary.

Therefore it is only by Purusha and Prakriti that the whole world moves. It is in this sense that Sri Krishna speaks of Purusha and Prakriti ‘both as original’, (not in the sense in which Sankhya philosophy regards it where both are different from each other and different from each other, both are original). Whereas here the two principles are original, but the two principles are one, although having inter relationship between the two.

That is why the concept of the Bhagavad Gita is of a substance of a Reality which is complex: it is one, but it is a complex reality. It is like one ray of light and you can see that ray of light which is white when you pass it through the spectrum, you see that there are seven colours in it: so what is the original colour of that ray? It is very difficult to describe, seven colours combined together, it is one colour having seven colours. This is an example to show what is this oneness, − which is complex. Just as whiteness consists of seven colours, similarly this reality which is one is double…and actually triple because Sat and Chit combined together is Ananda and they are always together, Sat and Chit are always together therefore there is always Ananda: therefore the reality is Sachchidananda.

It is this concept which is behind the Bhagavad Gita, (the word is not in the Gita: Sachchidananda), but it is a very prevalent idea in the Vedantic philosophy that ultimately Reality is Satchitananda.

So this statement, although it may seem to be confirming Sankhya’s view is actually Vedantic Sankhya: it is not purely Sankhya as we know it now, it’s a Vedantic Sankhya which says ‘The Prakriti and Purusha are both original’. Now, we can move forward.

Having said this now He says:

“All the modifications, all the qualities and properties are all produced by Prakriti.” (13.19)

Now the description that follows gives you the right relationship between Purusha and Prakriti without contradiction. That, in Sankhyan philosophy, would be a contradiction. Then, since Purusha and Prakriti are one, but interrelated, now this proposition will stand much more rational:

kārya-karaṇa-kartṛtve hetuḥ prakṛtir ucyate |

“All the movements in which cause and effect are produced is called Prakriti.”

puruṣaḥ sukha-duḥkhānaṁ bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate ||13.20||

“Purusha is that which experiences happiness and misery and therefore He is called the enjoyer.”

So, actually Purusha is the enjoyer: the sukha-duḥkha arises only at a later stage when the Para Prakriti becomes Apara Prakriti.


puruṣaḥ prakṛti-stho, “Purusha stands in Prakriti”, Purusha is existent; Prakriti is Conscious-Force, so in this Conscious-Force, it is in that Conscious-Force that Purusha stands, He is stable even in movement, He does not become shaken even in movement, He remains the same in all movement.

puruṣaḥ prakṛti-stho bhuṅkte, He enjoys; prakṛtijān guṇān, all the movements, all the properties and qualities which are born from Prakriti are enjoyed by Purusha.

Now, comes the question: how does Purusha get bound to Prakriti?

The answer that Arjuna gets from Sri Krishna is:

kāraṇaṁ guṇa-saṅgo ’sya sad-asad-yoni-janmasu ||13.21||

What is the kāraṇa? What is the reason? guṇasaṅg yoga, “It is by attachment, by identification with the Gunas”. Now on this question, the Bhagavad Gita, not being a philosophical work, does not dilate. How does Purusha, who is fully conscious, how does He fall into attachment with the Gunas? The only short answer is “saṅga”, it is by attachment, but how does He come to be attached? Why should it get attached? These are philosophical questions which Bhagavad Gita, not being a philosophical work, does not enter into.

When I studied the Bhagavad Gita for the first time, I got dissatisfied with the Bhagavad Gita because of this sentence where it does not explain “guṇasaṅgaḥ”. How does Purusha get attached to Prakriti? By what? By what process? And I read the Gita again and again to find out the answer to this question. I never got it because Bhagavad Gita is not a philosophical work. It is a work of Yoga. It is stated as an answer to a question and many things are assumed in the Bhagavad Gita. If it is a philosophical work then all these questions have to be expounded fully.

Question: Is the multiple Purusha – Purushottama?

That’s right. Purushottama is multiple.

So, here only one word is given: *guṇasaṅgo ’sya kāraṇaṁ sad-asad-yoni-janmasu ||, “That is the reason why so many births are taken by Purusha because of the attachment to the Gunas.”

Now, comes the most important statement which brings out the speciality of Bhagavad Gita’s philosophy, as distinguished from Sankhya:

upadraṣṭānumantā ca bhartā bhoktā maheśvaraḥ |
paramātmeti cāpy ukto dehe ’smin puruṣaḥ paraḥ ||13.22||

“This Purusha which gets entangled with Prakriti, beyond that there is puruṣaḥ paraḥ, beyond that there is a Para Purusha. And the nature of Para Purusha is upadraṣṭa, He oversees; anumantā, He gives a sanction; He is bhartā, He is the Lord; He is bhoktā, He is the enjoyer; He is maheśvaraḥ, He is the supreme Lord; paramātma, He is the highest soul; eti ukto dehe ’smin, He is also in the body.

Now, you have a concept of Purusha which gets attached to Prakriti, but here there is puruṣaḥ paraḥ, there is also Para Purusha; this idea is not in the Sankhya philosophy: paraḥ puruṣaḥ. There is no Para Purusha in the Sankhya. It is in the Gita that we have this Para Purusha.

ya evaṁ vetti puruṣaṁ prakṛtiṁ ca guṇaiḥ saha |
sarvathā vartamāno ’pi nasa bhūyo ’bhijāyate ||13.23||

“One who knows Purusha in this fashion…,” that is to say ‘Para Purusha and the Purusha that gets bound’, there are 2 states of Purusha: Purusha which is parameśvaraḥ, paramātmā, the same Purusha is also one which gets attached.

Now, this also is a mystery: how the one Purusha which is above, who is the bhartā, who is maheśvaraḥ, how is that same Purusha becomes attached to Prakriti? This is the question which is answered only in the 15th chapter when Sri Krishna says that Purusha is three fold: Purushottama, the same Purusha is Purushottama, is Akshara Purusha and is Kshara Purusha. It is Kshara Purusha which gets attached to Prakriti. The Akshara, the same Purusha has got three states as it were; Purushottama, the same Purusha is complex in nature, He is inactive and active; it is the active Purusha which gets entangled into Prakriti; that comes in the 15th chapter.

So, one who knows this Purusha and this Prakriti with all its modifications and qualities, that one becomes liberated: “One who knows Purusha and Prakriti in all the entirety, it is he, vartamāno ’pi, even though he exists, he does not take birth again.”

So, in short the whole thing is described here and now Sri Krishna says: how do you come to realise this knowledge: Para Purusha, Purusha, Prakriti, attachment, the entire gamut of all our experience, which is described in three lines.

Now, Sri Krishna says how one comes to know it.

dhyānenātmani paśyanti kecid ātmānam ātmanā |
anye sāṅkhyena yogena karma-yogena cāpare ||13.24||

“Different people come to learn of this in different ways; some see the self, ātmani…if you meditate upon the self, dhyānena, by meditation upon the self some people see it; kecid ātmānam ātmanā, some people realise the self through the self; anye sāṅkhyena, some of them learn through Sankhya; yogena karma-yogena cāpare, and others see it through Karmayoga, Yoga which is Karmayoga. These are the different ways by which the Supreme is seen.”

Question: Could you give a little more elaboration on ‘self’, because here you say ‘self’ twice?

The word ‘self’ is used in Indian thought in such a confusing manner, so let us define the word ‘self’. The word ‘self’ means basically the substance without which nothing can exists, such a substance, when…for example, when you are in tremendous love for somebody, you say “my soul, you are myself”. What does it mean?...that what I am, is derived from you: you are the real substance. And that is the real meaning in which even in philosophy, the same word is used: when you say ‘Atman’, Atman is the real substance, the real self; that from which everything derives, from which everything flows: the flow cannot exist without that. So, that is the real meaning of Atman. In India the word Atman is also used for Brahman; very often the distinction is made but actually, philosophically, there is no distinction between Atman and Brahman: the two words are the same. Brahman is Atman, or Atman is Brahman.

Comment: That is unmoving.

Don’t say ‘unmoving’. Brahman is that substance of which everything is made, the ‘stuff’ of everything. You might say ‘stuff’ which remains the same stuff even when there is a movement, so not ‘unmoving’. Even when it is not moving, or moving, it remains the same.

Question: It is different from the Sat,

It is Sat, exactly, it is Sat.

Question: What is Purushottama, the same?

Because this Purusha is also Akshara and Kshara, therefore only in psychological terms you can put the term ‘Purushottama’, but actually Sat is Purushottama.

Question: So like the self, the difference between the two selves, one is the real self, that is Purushottama, and one is the mere self, which is the Purusha.

The Purushottama is the real Atman, so therefore he is also called ‘Paramatman’, the same word is also used for Paramatman: Purushottama, Atman, Brahman, Parabrahman, all these have the same meaning: the self without which nothing can exists, pure Sat, you can use the word Sat, Atman, Brahman, Parabrahman, Paramatman, Purushottama, all these words have the same meaning basically.

You can see the self through the self, that is to say: in meditation, very often you have to have the process of movement, development of ideas, but in this second one you, as it were ‘mirror yourself through yourself’, there is no movement, you just know yourself by knowing yourself, by looking at yourself. It is also a way of knowing the Supreme, you don’t follow any particular method of movement. In Dhyana there is a movement: you sit down, be quiet, gradually develop an idea, then the idea is luminous and then in luminosity, through that luminosity, you perceive the reality: this is the process of Dhyana.

But in “ātmanā ātmānam” you just concentrate on the self, and you concentrate and you know it, through itself. The reality known through itself is the process of “ātmanā ātmānam”. Because you are yourself, how do you know yourself? Actually speaking, even in our ordinary life, we use the word “I”. How do you know “I”? Even the ordinary “I” is known only through itself. You don’t compare, contrast with something else to know yourself. “I” is known through itself.

Now, this word ‘Atman’ or ‘Brahman’ is used whenever we want to use the word ‘stuff-of -which-things-are-made’. This word is also called Purusha, but the word Purusha is reserved for another sense, (You can call it Purusha, there is no problem), but whenever you refer to Atman as the originator, the motivator, then you use the word Purusha for the same Atman. The same word Atman is used as Purusha when you refer to Atman as the originator, then you can call Purusha. When the same Atman is used in the sense of ‘Lord’, then you use the word Ishwara, Parameshwara, or Maheshwara, as it has come earlier.

So, in Indian thought, we have to see in what sense the word is used. Atman basically is used to indicate the ‘stuff’ of which other things are made. The same when used as the originator of things is called Purusha. Also, when you use the word, the same word, for witnessing what is produced, it is also called Purusha. When you use the word ‘Enjoyer’ then also it is ‘Purusha’.

When you use the word ‘Lord’, then the same thing is called Parameshwara, or Maheshwara, or Ishwara. So, in which sense do you use the word that makes a distinction between Atman, or Brahman, Purusha and Ishwara.

Comment: Is it the statuses of the same principle?

…the same reality is named differently according to the sense you want to attach to it. It is the same reality, but when you want to refer to the reality of the ‘stuff’ of which everything is made, you call it ‘Atman’ or ‘Brahman’. When you use the same thing for indicating He is the originator, or witness, or enjoyer, you call it Purusha. When you use it for the Lord, as the sense of Lord of things that are produced, you call it Ishwara. It is the same reality but having these 3 aspects and therefore 3 names are given, so whenever the name is given you can find out in what context the word is used.

So, there are different ways by which reality is known.

Then, there are others:

anye tv evam ajānantaḥ śrutvānyebhya upāsate |

“Others who do not follow these methods they śrutvā, it is only by hearing they come to know of it, not by Dhyana, not by Karmayoga, not by Sankhya, only by hearing about Him people come to know of Him.

te ’pi cātitaranty eva mṛtyuṁ śruti-parāyaṇāḥ ||13.25||

“Even they only hear, even they can cross the death.” So, this is also a method. You just listen, by hearing about Him, also you can cross over, but they should be śruti-parāyaṇāḥ, they should be concentrated in the listening, parāyaṇāḥ, they should be…it’s not listening once and then forgetting about it. You have to become parāyaṇāḥ, you have to be absolutely absorbed in listening. Merely by listening with absorption, continuous absorption you arrive at immortality.

I think we will stop here today; we shall finish it next time.