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79. Who is the kshetrajna?:

In this chapter there is a description of the field (kshetra) and the knower of the field (kshetrajna). The entire universe of gross matter (Prakriti) and all modifications of it is the field. Generally, whatever that has been pervaded by the Lord is called the 'kshetra' and since He pervades the whole universe, the entire creation is the 'kshetra'. The universe stands like a body to God. He is its soul as it were. As it is necessary for every activity of the body to spring from the soul, all activities of the cosmos are possible since the Lord enters into each of them.
#d< zrIr< kaENtey ]eimTyi-xIyte,
ida arra kaunteya ketram-ity-abhidhyate -- XIII-1
]e}< caip ma< ivi svR]ee;u -art,
ketraja cpi m viddhi sarvaketreu bhrata -- XIII-2
(This body, Arjuna, is called the kshetra; understand that I am the knower of the kshetra.)

The whole universe which is like the body of the Lord is called the kshetra. God who knows everything thoroughly of this universe, the omniscient, is called the 'knower of the field'. He is God and Sri Krishna says that He is Himself the incarnation of that Supreme God.

Some people say that our body is the field and our soul is the knower of the field and that there is no difference between our soul and the Supreme Soul. When we critically look at the meaning of the word 'field' as given in the Gita itself, it is clear that we cannot limit the word to mean our body only.
mha-UtaNyh<karae buirVyKtmev c,
mah-bhtny-ahakro buddhir-avyaktam-eva ca -- XIII-5
@tT]e< smasen sivkarmudatm!.
etat-ketra samsena sa-vikram-udhtam -- XIII-6
(The five elements, the intellect and the principle of Prakriti -- these in short are called the field which is subject to modifications.)

It is explained here that the word 'field' extensively embraces nature, the ahamkara principle, the fire and all the several modifications of the gross matter, elements, the entire movable and the immovable creation. One who pervades the whole universe as its indwelling controller and knows the ins and outs of the whole cosmos alone is the Supreme God and He alone can be the 'knower of the field.' It is obvious that the individual soul, poor thing, which does not know fully its own body could never be called the 'knower of the field.' The Bhagavata also says:
]e} AaTma pu;> pura[> sa]at! Svy<Jyaeitrj>prez>,
naray[ae -gvan! vasudev> Svmayya==TmNyvxIyman>.
ketraja tm purua pura skt svayajyotirajaparea
nryao bhagavn vsudeva svamyay''tmanyavadhyamna
(The omniscient Lord is the kshetrajna ... ... ... ) In unequivocal terms, the Lord Narayana who is omniscient and is different from the individual soul, alone is the 'knower of the field.'

80. The Knower, the Thing to be Known and their Characteristics:

After expounding the nature of the field and the knower of the field, the Gita turns to the exposition of the things to be known and the qualities required in the knower who is worthy of the knowledge.

The all-pervading soul of the whole cosmos, the Supreme Lord is the 'thing to be known.' He is the one and the only entity to be chiefly known. After spending twelve years in the Guru's house, Shvetaketu returns home but his father Uddalaka does not see any sign of knowledge beaming on his face. Instead he becomes sorry to find in his son conceit and egoism, and in dejection asks him:
%t tmadezmay>.
yena< ut< ut< -vTymt< mtmiv}at< iv}at<,
uta tamdeamaprkya
yen ruta ruta bhavatyamata matamavijta vijta -- Chandogya Upanishad 6:1:2-3
(He verily asked him: "What is it that by knowing which the unheard becomes heard, the unknown becomes known and the understood, understood? Have you studied that, which when known makes everything else also known.")

Shvetaketu could not answer this question. Such a question itself appeared like a riddle to him. The father enlightens his son: "Such is the knowledge of the Supreme God. Knowing Him, we know the whole universe. One who eats a mango need not eat its stone and skin. Sucking its juice is as good as eating the whole mango. If you get the knowledge of the Almighty Lord who is the essence of everything in this universe, is there any need to know the rest separately? You have not acquired the knowledge of the Lord who is the ultimate essence of the universe. Having acquired some knowledge of the contemptible world which is but like that of the stone and the skin of the mango, you have grown proud. That humility which flowers from true knowledge is missing in your face." Thus does the father open the eyes of the son. From these words of Uddalaka, we understand that the thing to be known in the whole universe is the supreme Godhead. Our aim in life should be to acquire the knowledge of the Supreme God who pervades every object in the universe with his organs transcending the gross ones, who knows the ins and outs of every object, who covers the whole cosmos and still extends beyond it, who, though far from us, is still very close to us, who is beyond nature and its qualities, who is of infinite auspicious qualities and has a cosmic form.

To acquire this knowledge we must specially bear in mind the necessity of certain basic requirements. We must eschew self-praise, violence and hypocrisy from our lives and cultivate forgiveness, integrity, service to the Guru, purity, self-control, non-attachment to worldly pleasures, humility, critical insight into what is good and bad, mental equilibrium and undivided devotion to God. These are some of the virtues which must be developed if we wish to discover such knowledge of the Lord.

By his uprightness and integrity alone, the guru identified Satyakama Jabali's deservedness for knowledge. Nachiketa was offered enjoyment of all worldly pleasures by Yama. But he spurned it as trash and asked only for true knowledge of God. Yama was amazed by the renunciation and spirit of sacrifice of the young aspirant and taught him, thoroughly pleased, the highest knowledge of God. Aruni and Upamanyu served their teacher sincerely and with great obedience, enduring all hardship and humiliation, and then acquired knowledge. In the modern system of education, there is utterly no place or sanctity for Guru-worship. In the present university environment the teachers are in mortal fear of the students. There is only a commercial relationship between the teacher and the taught. It would not be far from right if we compare their relationship to that between the management and the workers in a factory.

The purity which is one of the characteristics to be developed is not of the body only. Inner purity is the chief concern. However much a person may dip in water wash his body, purify it with the soil, unless the mind is purified he will not be fit to receive the knowledge of God. Uttanka, the disciple of Baidara, is the best example of self-control. Baidara had a beautiful and young wife. When Baidara was away on tour, the disciple Uttanka was never fascinated by her alluring beauty and by his great self-control earned the gratitude and blessings of his Guru. Vanity and egoism are the mortal enemies of knowledge. Water never climbs up a higher level; it always flows to a lower level. Knowledge does not climb the heights of pride. It flows rapidly into the heart deepened by humility. Hypocrisy is in posing superior to one's ability. We see such artificial life all around us. An individual's face in solitariness differs from the face he puts up before the society. But the real face perhaps is different from both! Thus, under the name of selfishness or prestigious living the kingdom of hypocrisy and deceit has been reigning everywhere in our society. Only by fighting these aberrations of the mind, tooth and nail, and continuously, and by developing our real virtues can we ever hope to be worthy of reaching the final goal of humanity, the ultimate knowledge.

81. The Study of Fundamental Principles:

Sri Krishna now analyses the various fundamental principles governing the universe in order to facilitate a decisive knowledge. There are two eternal fundamental principles. One is inert matter (jaaprakti jfkit) and another, individual soul (jvsa jIvas). The former, even though eternal, undergoes modifications. This material universe is a product of this substance. While matter is the basis of all modifications, the individual soul is the being which partakes of pleasure and pain which proceed from matter.
kayRkr[kt&RTve hetu> kitCyte,
pu;> suo>oana< -aeKt&Tve hetuCyte.
krya-karaa karttve hetu praktir-ucyate
purua sukha-dukhn bhokttve hetur-ucyate -- XIII-20
(Prakriti is said to be the cause of the body and the organs; the Lord said to be the cause of the experience of joy and sorrow)

There is another Great Being who is higher than both and who is beyond these two entities. He is the Supreme Lord. In Him there are no changes as in the inert matter and no joy or grief as in individual souls. Changeless and eternally blissful, the Supreme Lord, quite different from inert matter and individual souls, pervades both the human body and the great universe.
prmaTmeit cPyuKtae dehe=iSmNpu;> pr>.
paramtmeti capy-ukto dehe'smin-purua para -- XIII-22
(The one who dwells in the body, the Supreme Person, is called the Paramatma.)

There is another inside our body, who is different both from matter and individual soul and who moves all the actions of the body. He is the Supreme Soul. Like the ether He is unaffected by anything He comes in contact with. Just as the whole world is illumined by the sun, the whole universe is made visible to us by His power. It is therefore clear that these are the three sole principles, the inert matter, the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. Based on this division only, Sri Madhvacharya has propounded his theory of five types of mutual differences.

Some people do not see any cause to analyse things philosophically. They ask, in our practical life, what do we get out of mere philosophic discussion as to the number of fundamental principles ruling the world and whether a particular principle is fundamental or not? Such a discussion would be as useless an exercise as counting the sand particles on the seashore under the scorching sun. It is enough if we preach good conduct in men which is necessary for the orderly development of society. The more we keep away from dry logic and philosophy better it is, they think. There is a story narrated by Lord Buddha which can be cited in this connection. A disciple, tired of family life, came to the Buddha for some spiritual lessons and asked him some questions on the relationship between the individual soul and inert matter and insisted on an answer. For this Gautama Buddha gave him a parable. A poisoned arrow pierced a person and suffering with unbearable pain he ran to a doctor. Instead of submitting to his treatment and swallowing the medicine given to him by the doctor, the patient put forward a number of questions such as, what was the shape and colour of the arrow, what was it made of and told him that he must get the answers to these questions before he took the medicine. The Buddha's lesson is that philosophic discussion is as irrelevant in our day-to-day life as the queries of the patient. There are many, even now, who subscribe to this view. But the very same people admit the necessity of deep inquiry in economic and political matters before attempting any solution. Everyone accepts that a solution, without a thorough analysis of the basic problems, might lead to an opposite consequence. No patient would approach a doctor who is not familiar with anatomy and physiology and the chemical composition and potency of the medicine. When we are eager to consider all the pros and cons even in trivial matters, do we feel it irrelevant to critically examine the true meaning and significance of our existence? Only by considering the reality behind our life and the world around us shall we able to know how to shape our lives. We will come to know wherein lies the root of our misery in life. There is a world of difference between the life shaped in the light of the realisation of God's existence, and the life lived without faith in God and materialistically. It is not proper to scorn the philosophical analysis which can give new values to our existence. Man must have an opportunity and freedom to follow a determined path after a critical analysis of the whole foundation of human existence. That is why there is room in India for several independent philosophical systems. It is from this point of view that Sri Krishna has described with his comprehensive vision the true nature of matter, the individual soul and the Supreme Soul, the mutual difference and also the relationship between them.

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This page prepared by  Ramadas
Created March 02, 2000; last modified March 08, 2000