Chapter 13

??In this chapter Sri Krishna illumines Arjuna with the knowledge of the cosmos.

Arjuna wants to know more about Prakrti (matter), and Purusa (spirit) or the field and the knower of the field. Sri Krishna says that the body is the field and the soul the knower of the field. True wisdom lies in realising the Knower Supreme and the cosmos. To know that the Lord is within the cosmos, without the cosmos and beyond the cosmos is to know everything. This is true knowledge.

Krishna speaks about the composition of the field. There are twenty-four principles that go to form the field. The first group of elements is earth, water, fire, air, and ether. The field also houses the ego and the earth-bound mind, the intellect; the five organs of action – hands, feet, tongue and the two organs of elimination; also the sense organs – nose, mouth, eyes, ears, and so on. The five spheres of the senses are sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch.

Krishna says that Prakrti and Purusa are beginless. Matter is ever changing. Spirit is always static. Matter is the possessor of infinite qualities. Spirit sees and sanctions. Matter does, grows and becomes. Spirit is consciousness. Spirit is the witness. Matter is the creative infinite. Spirit is the Reality in man. Spirit is the perceiver of matter. He who knows of the spirit and the matter is not born again. There are some who realise the Self in meditation; others by knowledge. There are also others who realise the Self by the selfless service. There are others who are not aware of the Self but have heard about the Self from others and who have started worshipping it in devotion. They also pass on beyond mortality and death.

To know that Purusa and Prakriti are one and inseparable is to know the truth. ?When he sees that the manifold state of beings is centered in the One and from which alone they spread out, then he attains Brahman.? (13.30)

(The following English translation is taken from ‘A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy’ Edited by S. Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. 1957 Princeton University Press)

Chapter 13: The Body Called the Field, The Soul Called the Knower of the Field, and the Discrimination Between Them

The field and the knower of the field

Arjuna said:
Prakrti and purusa, the field and the knower of the field*, knowledge and the object of knowledge-these I should like to know, 0 Kesava (Krsna)**.

The Blessed Lord said:
1. This body, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), is called the field, and him who knows this those who know thereof call the knower of the field.

2. Know Me as the Knower of the field in all fields, 0 Bharata (Arjuna). The knowledge of the field and its knower do I regard as true knowledge.

3. Hear briefly from Me what the field is, of what nature, what its modifications are, whence it is, what he [the knower of the field] is, and what his powers are.

4. This has been sung by sages in many ways and distinctly, in various hymns and also in well-reasoned and conclusive expressions of the aphorisms of the Absolute [Brahma Sutra]***.

5. The great [five gross] elements, self-sense, understanding, as also the unmanifested, the ten senses and mind, and the five objects of the senses,

6. Desire and hatred, pleasure and pain, the aggregate [the organism], intelligence, and steadfastness described-this in brief is the field along with its modifications.


7. Humility [absence of pride], integrity [absence of deceit], nonviolence, patience, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity of body and mind, steadfastness, and self-control,

8. Indifference to the objects of sense, self-effacement, and the perception of the evil of birth, death, old age, sickness, and pain,

9. Non-attachment, absence of clinging to son, wife, home, and the like, and a constant equal-mindedness to all desirable and undesirable happenings,

10. Unswerving devotion to Me with wholehearted discipline, resort to solitary places, dislike for a crowd of people,

11. Constancy in the knowledge of the Spirit, insight into the end of the knowledge of Truth-this is declared to be true knowledge, and all that is different from it is non-knowledge.

12. 1 will describe that which is to be known and by knowing which life eternal is gained. It is the Supreme Brahman who is beginningless and who is said to be neither existent nor non-existent.

The knower of the field

13. With his hands and feet everywhere, with eyes, heads, and faces on all sides, with ears on all sides, He dwells in the world, enveloping all.

14. He appears to have the qualities of all the senses and yet is without any of the senses, unattached and yet supporting all, free from the gunas [dispositions of prakrti] and yet enjoying them.

15. He is without and within all beings. He is unmoving as also moving. He is too subtle to be known. He is far away and yet is He near.

16. He is undivided [indivisible] and yet He seems to be divided among beings. He is to be known as supporting creatures, destroying them and creating them afresh.

17. He is the Light of lights, said to be beyond darkness. Knowledge, the object of knowledge, and the goal of knowledge-He is seated in the hearts of all.

The fruit of knowledge

18. Thus the field, also knowledge and the object of knowledge have been briefly described. My devotee who understands thus becomes worthy of My state.

Nature and spirit

19. Know thou that prakrti [Nature] and purusa [soul] are both beginningless; and know also that the forms and modes are born of prakrti+.

20. Nature is said to be the cause of effect, instrument, and agent(ness) and the soul is said to be the cause, in regard to the experience of pleasure and pain.

21. The soul in nature enjoys the modes born of nature. Attachment to the modes is the cause of its births in good and evil wombs.

22. The Supreme Spirit in the body is said to be the Witness, the Permitter, the Supporter, the Experiencer, the Great Lord and the Supreme Self.

23. He who thus knows soul (purusa) and Nature (prakrti) together with the modes (gunas)-though he act in every way, he is not born again.

Different roads to salvation

24. By meditation some perceive the Self in the self by the self; others by the path of knowledge and still others by the path of works.

25. Yet others, ignorant of this [these paths of yoga], hearing from others, worship; and they too cross beyond death by their devotion to what they have heard.

26. Whatever being is born, moving or unmoving, know thou, 0 Best of the Bharatas (Arjuna), that it is sprung through the union of the field and the knower of the field.

27. He who sees the Supreme Lord abiding equally in all beings, never perishing when they perish-he, verily, sees,

28. For, as he sees the Lord present, equally everywhere, he does not injure his true Self by the self and then he attains to the supreme goal.

29. He who sees that all actions are done only by Nature (prakrti) and likewise that the self is not the doer-he verily sees.

30. When he sees that the manifold state of beings is centred in the One and from which alone they spread out, then he attains Brahman.

3 1. Because this Supreme Self, imperishable, is without beginning, without qualities, so, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), though It dwells in the body, It neither acts nor is tainted.

32. As the all-pervading ether is not tainted, by reason of its subtlety, even so the Self that is present in every body does not suffer any taint.

33. As the one sun illumines this whole world, so does the Lord of the field illumine this entire field, 0 Bharata (Arjuna).

34. Those who perceive thus by their eye of wisdom the distinction between the field and the knower of the field, and the deliverance of beings from Nature (prakrti)-they attain to the Supreme.

This is the thirteenth chapter, entitled ? The Yoga of the Distinction between the Field and the Knower of the Field.?

* Prakrti (Nature) is unconscious activity, and purusa (the self) is inactive consciousness. The body is called the field in which events happen; all growth, decline, and death take place in it. The conscious principle, inactive and detached, which lies behind all active states as witness, is the knower of the field.

* * This verse is not found in some editions. If it is included, the total number of verses in the Bhagavad-gild will be 701 and not 700, which is the number traditionally accepted. So we do not include it in the numbering of the verses.

** * The Gita suggests that it is expounding the truths already contained in the Vedas,the Upanisads, and the Brahma Sutra or the aphorisms of Brahman later systematized by

+The pursa described in this section is not the multiple purusa of the Samkhya (see below, Chapter X11). The Gita does not look upon prakrti and purusa as two independent elements as the Samkhya does, but looks upon them as the inferior and the superior forms of one and the same Supreme.