The Bhagavad Gita – Chapter 13

The Bhagavad Gita translated by Antonio T. De Nicolas

The Bhagavad Gita - Chapter 13

The Yoga of Discriminating the Field and the Knower of the Field


Arjuna said:
O Kesava, (Krsna), I wish to know Prakrti and Purusa
The field and the knower of the field, 
What is knowledge and what is to be known 
(This stanza is not found in all the editions of the Gītā, so it is kept unnumbered.)

The Blessed One said:
1. This body, O Son of Kuntī, is called the field, 
And he who knows it, 
Those who know, call the knower of the field.

2. Know me, O Bhārata, to be the knower of the field in all fields; 
The knowledge of the field and of the knower of the field: 
This I hold to be (real) knowledge.

3. Hear from me briefly what this field is, 
What it is like, what its modifications, and whence it comes, 
As well as who he (the knower) is and what his powers.

4. This has been sung many times by sages,
In various hymns separately, 
And also in the well-reasoned
and definitive aphorisms about Brahman.

5. The (five) gross elements, the sense of I, 
Understanding, the unmanifested, the ten senses 
And one (mind) and the five sensory realms;

6. Desire and aversion, pleasure and pain, 
The bodily aggregate (samghata), knowledge (cetanā), will (dhrti): 
This, in brief, is the field with its modifications.

7. Lack of arrogance and deceit, nonviolence, patience, 
Uprightness, service to one’s teacher, cleanness, 
Steadfastness, self-control.

8. Dispassion toward sense objects, lack of identification with the I, 
Perception of the evils of birth and death 
Of old age and sickness and pain,

9. Nonattachment, lack of clinging to son, wife, home, and the like, 
Constant even mindedness in desirable and undesirable occurrences,

10. Unfailing dedication to me
and unswerving dedication to yoga, 
Resort to isolated places, dislike for crowds of people,

11. Constancy in knowledge of the self, 
Vision of the purpose of essential knowledge: 
This is declared to be wisdom, 
And whatever is other than this, is non-knowledge.

12. I will describe which is to be known, 
And by knowing which one gains immortality. 
This is the beginningless supreme Brahman, 
Who is said to be neither existent nor nonexistent.

13. With hands and feet everywhere, 
Faces and heads, eyes and ears on every side,
It stands, encompassing all, in the world.

14. Appearing to have qualities of all the senses,
Yet free of all the senses, 
Bearing all yet unattached, 
Enjoyer of the gunas yet free from the gunas,

15. Both outside and inside beings,
both moving and unmoving, 
Too subtle to be discerned;
far away yet it is also near.

16. Undivided, yet standing as if divided among beings, 
And as destroyer and producer of beings.

17. Light of Lights, it is said to be beyond darkness; 
It is knowledge, what is to be known,
and the goal of knowledge, 
It is seated in the heart of all.

18. Thus the field, knowledge, and what is to be known has been briefly stated. 
Devoted to me, having understood this, 
One arrives at this state of mine (madbhāvāya).

19. Know that prakrti and purusa are both beginningless; 
Know also that the modifications and gunas are born of prakrti.

20. Prakrti is said to be cause of the generation of causes and agents; 
Purusa is said to be cause in the experience of pleasure and pain.

21. For purusa, dwelling in prakrti,
experiences the gunas born of prakrti.
Attachment to the gunas is the cause
of births in good and evil wombs.

22. The supreme spirit in this body is also called: 
Witness, and Consenter, Sustainer, Enjoyer, Great Lord, Supreme Self.

23. He who knows the purusa and prakrti with its gunas, 
Is not born again, whatever turns his existence takes.

24. By meditation some see the self in the self by the self; 
Others do this by the yoga of Sāmkhya,
Still others by the yoga of action.

25. Others, however, without knowing this, 
Worship it, having heard (of these things) from others; 
And they too, taking refuge in what they have heard, 
Cross beyond death also.

26. Whatever being is born, movable or immovable, 
Know it to be born from the union of field
And the knower of the field, O Best of the Bhāratas.

27. He who sees the Supreme Lord
standing the same in all beings, 
Not perishing when they perish, 
He sees indeed.

28. For seeing the same Lord standing everywhere equally, 
He does not injure the self through the self; 
Thus he goes to the supreme goal.

29. He who sees that actions are everywhere done by prakrti 
And who likewise sees his self not to be the doer, 
He sees indeed.

30. When he sees the various states of beings 
Abiding in the One and refracting out from it, 
Then he attains Brahman.

31. Because this supreme self, imperishable, without beginning or qualities, 
Neither acts nor is tainted,
Even though embodied, O Son of Kuntī,

32. As the omnipresent ether
is not defiled because of its subtleness, 
So the self, abiding in every body, is not affected.

33. As the one sun illumines this entire world, 
So does the field-knower illumine the entire field, O Bhārata.

34. They attain the supreme, who, with the eye of knowledge, 
Know in this way the difference of the field and the knower of the field, 
And the liberation of beings from prakrti.

This is the end of the thirteenth chapter, entitled
“The Yoga of Discriminating the Field and the Knower of the Field”

About Sunday morning

Sunday Morning Contemplation is informed by Eastern and Western contemplative traditions. The first, lectio divina has its origins in 6th century Europe. It unfolds in four steps or stages: reading (lectio), reflecting (meditatio), responding (oratio), and silent abiding (contemplatio). Our Eastern inspiration come from the Indian Upanishads (800-200 BCE), where contemplative practice consists of three steps or stages: listening (śravana), reflecting (manana), and meditating (nididhyāsana or dhyāna). Our contemplative practice on Sundays embraces both approaches, and each contemplation will be based on a reading from either tradition.

The texts and teachers I have chosen played a significant role in my life and I believe have much to offer. I will read presellected texts, slowly, with pauses between verses or quotes. The readings will be accompanied by soothing background music. To lessen distraction, I suggest participants close their eyes and listen. However, the screen will display the text so that people can choose to read along or mute the sound and read on their own. If there is time remaining after the contemplative period, participants can choose to either leave or stay for a short discussion.

As a preface to the reading, I will provide a 10-15 minute introduction to the text. When relevant, I’ll review facts about the author/teacher’s life. I will also present a brief explanation of the terms and language encountered in the reading.

Finally, when the contemplation is over, all texts read will be available online to read and/or download at any time on the website.

What I mean by
The Symbolic Life

This website makes liberal use of classical Indian visual art and refers mostly to traditional Indian texts (for example, the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras) in the courses, seminars, and discussions on offer. However, I am not presenting lessons in Hinduism; in fact, teaching mainstream Hinduism is neither my area of interest nor expertise. Rather, my interest in Yoga and Tantra is grounded in the concrete situation in which we find ourselves, in the places where we arrive and from which we depart. Beginning in the here and now, we will explore the underlying meaning of the symbols, stories, images, philosophies, and techniques found in Indian philosophical texts and practice, in light of our world and our current circumstance. We will excavate the meaning of the aphorisms and teaching stories; the symbolic figures of gods, people, and nature; and the sometimes terse, sometimes poetic, philosophy of the texts. Thus, in referring to the Symbolic Life of Yoga and Tantra, I mean not just the symbols themselves, but the rich explication of life that the symbols represent.

Our lived, concrete situation is wonderfully captured in the Sanskrit word loka, whose ancient meaning is “the world.”  The root meaning of both the Sanskrit loka and the English locate (and local, locale, and location) is identical. In the ancient Indian mind, the world is where we are located, in our current circumstance. Thus, the meaning of the symbols of Yoga and Tantra can occur only in the now, in the places where we find ourselves, and not in any imagined ancient and/or foreign world.

To emphasize our place of origin and return, I use the terms “archetypal” and “symbolic” quite frequently. Archetypal meaning is associated with the universal and collective aspects of human experience—what we intimately share with all others regardless of culture or era or epoch—while symbolic language forms a bridge between the realms of the universal with the culturally specific and local. Symbols are the scaffolding upon which human beings build a world and imbue it with meaning.

Think for a moment of pain and pleasure, sorrow and joy, hatred and love, and greed and generosity—universal experiences that ancient Indian thinkers called the dvandva-s. This Sanskrit term is a combination of two words, or rather, one word spoken twice: the word dva (meaning the same as the English “two”) duplicated. Dvandva is commonly translated as “the pair of opposites” or literally “the two-twos” (dvadva). The ancients who coined this compact symbol gave voice to an archetypal human experience that can be further unpacked to reveal deep insights into the human condition. Once we gain an understanding of the various symbols of Yoga and Tantra, we can further excavate their meaning and the archetypes they convey, and thus gain access to, in a practical and meaningful way, the vision of life experienced by the sages. These insights are available to us and are still relevant today, as are the resilient and adaptable techniques and forms of practice that can help us lead richer and more fulfilling lives