The Essence of Bhagavad Gita Chapter 13:
The Classification of the Field and the Knower of the Field
In this chapter, Shri Krishna, with his deep insight, has classified the material and the non-material part of beings and of the universe.
Shri Krishna explains the following: (1) what is the field, (2) who is the knower of the field, (3) the spiritual practices to attain the knowledge of the field, (4) what has to be known, and (5) the view of the Sankhya Philosophy.
Sri Krishna said that according to him, the knowledge of ‘the field and the knower of the field’ is the Supreme Knowledge.
The Field (Body & Universe)
Shri Krishna said that he would briefly describe the field which has been described by the Rishis (the Seers of the Ultimate Truth) and the Upanishads, and which has been logically established by the Brahma Sutras.
The field is made of the following parts:
(1) Five elements: Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth.
(2) Ten Senses: Five senses to comprehend the universe, which are represented in the body as ears (hearing), skin (touch), eyes (vision), tongue (taste), and nose (smell), and five senses of action, namely mouth for speech, hands, legs, sense of generation and sense of evacuation.
(3) Five objects of the senses: This includes sound, the objects we know by touch, all forms we perceive through the eyes, all kinds of tastes, and all kinds of smells.
Note: The items in (1), (2), and (3) are connected and there is an underlying order. In the creation of the universe, first Space was created. Sounds need space. So, to perceive the sound the sense of hearing was created. Then, Air was created. To perceive air, the sense of touch (i.e. the skin) was created. Air has a sound and touch. Then, Fire was created. Fire has a form. To perceive the form, the sense of sight (i.e. the eyes) was created. Fire also has a sound and it can be perceived through touch. Then, Water was created. Water has a taste. Hence the sense of taste (i.e. the tongue) was created. Water also has a sound, it can be felt by touch, and has a form. Finally, the Earth was created. It has a smell. For this the sense of smell (i.e. the nose) was created. Earth also has a sound, can be perceived through touch, has a form, and has a taste.
We perceive ourselves and the universe with these senses.
(4) Mind: Our senses perceive when the mind is connected with them.
(5) Intellect: The intellect, which is the analytical part of the mind, classifies all that we have perceived through our mind and senses.
(6) Desire and hatred: Somehow every mind has likes and dislikes. It desires what it likes and hates what it dislikes.
(7) Joy and sorrow: We are happy when we get what we like and sad when we get what we dislike.
(8) Fortitude: The mind makes resolves to obtain what it likes. The stronger our desire for something, the more intense will be our determination to get it.
(9) Physical Body: Our body or the universe is a structure which is needed to hold all of these things.
(10) Consciousness: Nothing is perceived or functions without the consciousness.
(11) The soul: As long as there is a soul in the body, there is consciousness. This soul is un-manifested, meaning it cannot be perceived through our senses.
All these constitute our body. Also, these things constitute the universe. The knowledge of this field is the Supreme Knowledge.
Knower of the Field: Shri Krishna says that the Almighty God (the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe residing within us) is the knower of the field.
What is Knowledge?
How do we know if we have that Supreme Knowledge? What are the characteristics of a person who has acquired this Supreme Knowledge? Another way of looking the following is to find out what kind of virtues we acquire or practice to have the supreme knowledge.
(1) Humility (2) Modesty (3) Non-violence: not to hurt anyone with thought, speech, or action (4) Forgiving nature (5) Simple mindedness (6) Giving respect and rendering service to all from whom one has learned something (7) Purity: maintaining internal and external purity (8) Whose mind and intellect are steady (9) Has control of one’s senses and mind (10) Understands that the pleasures of the senses are limited and they are followed by suffering (11) Not egotistic (12) Understands that life has few joys, but it has the unavoidable suffering of birth, disease, old age, and death (13) Understands that family members and wealth have been given by God, and he/she is simply a caretaker of the loved ones and the wealth. (14) Keep the mind balanced in favorable and unfavorable circumstance (15) Realizing that the goal of human life is to realize the God lying within (inner divinity of the Self) and loves God intently (16) Loves to be in solitude to reflect upon the meaning of life and the importance of realizing God (17) Avoids gossip (18) Always keeps focused on and makes efforts to achieve one’s own spiritual development and (19) Understands the essence of the scriptures.
Shri Krishna says that anything other than the virtues described above is a sign of ignorance.
What has to be known?
Shri Krishna says, “I will tell you what has to be known, by knowing which one attains immortality.”
(1) It is the Supreme Brahman which is without beginning and is beyond being and non-being.
(2) It works through all hands, walks through all feet, sees through all eyes, listens through all ears and thinks through all heads. Its existence envelops all.
(3) It shines through the functions of all senses, but It is devoid of senses.
(4) It is unattached, but It nourishes all. It is beyond all three gunas, but It enjoys the gunas. It is inside and outside of all beings. It is movable and also immovable. It is far as well as near. It is Indivisible, but appears as divided in beings. It is subtle. Therefore, It is difficult to comprehend.
(5) This Supreme Brahman is the Light of all lights. It is the Creator, the Nourisher, and the Dissolver of the universe.
(6) It is Knowledge, the object of Knowledge, and attainable through Knowledge. It resides in the hearts of all.
One who knows the field, the knowledge, and the object of knowledge becomes one with Brahman.
View of Sankhya Philosophy:
Know that the Purusha (the Consciousness) and the Prakruti (the matter, the divine power of Purusha) are without beginning and all the modifications and gunas are created by Prakruti.
Know that the Prakruti is the cause of the creation of the body and the sense organs while the Purusha is the cause of the experience of happiness and suffering.
Purusha embodied in Prakruti (as the Jiva who thinks: “I have a body and mind”) experiences the results of actions initiated by the three gunas. As a consequence of the results of these actions, the Jiva takes birth in favorable or unfavorable environments.
Actually, the Jiva without the consciousness of the body and the mind is the Supreme Purusha, the Pure Consciousness or the Absolute Existence which is called Paramatma, the Supreme Self. It is the Brahman, the Nourisher of all. It is the witness consciousness. By Its will, everything happens. It is the cause of all our experiences.
One who knows Purusha and Prakruti along with its three gunas as described above will not get deluded again in this life while performing his/her responsibilities.
How can people get such knowledge?
Some people acquire this knowledge through meditation on the Supreme Purusha residing within. Some acquire this knowledge through Pure Reasoning, while some acquire through unselfish service.
Some people acquire this knowledge through properly listening and following the teachings of the people who had acquired this knowledge.
Know that whatever has been created, whether living or non-living, is the combination of the Field (the Prakruti) and the Knower of the Field (the Purusha).
The Right View:
One who has realized the following has acquired the right understanding:
The Paramatma (the Supreme Self) is abiding alike in all beings and does not perish when the body perishes. Prakruti is the doer of all actions and not the Paramatma who resides in all.
Note: It is like electricity, which does not do anything, but which allows a fan, heater, or cooker to perform its action when plugged in.
The Paramatma is imperishable, beginning-less, and devoid of the three gunas. That is why it resides in the body, but is not performing any actions and does not get affected by the actions of the body. As the subtle space is everywhere, but is not affected by the things residing in the space, similarly the Paramatma is not affected by the functions of the body.
As one sun illumines the whole universe, the Paramatma illumines the field, the body, mind, intellect and the universe.
One who realizes that all various beings are in One Brahman (Paramatma, the Supreme Self) and that everything is created by the Brahman, becomes one with Brahman.
With the eye of wisdom, those who perceive the distinction between the field and the knower of the field and know how to be free from the Prakruti become one with the Paramatma, the Supreme Self.
(Thanks to Sonali Tatapudy for editing this post)