Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canto XIII : the Knower of the Field

It is to such a loved and loving devotee that Krishna now offers insights into two of the subtlest concepts of Upanishadic philosophy : Purusha and Prakriti, and Kshetra and Kshetrajna. Loosely, one may translate the first pair as Male and Femal; or Spirit and Nature; or Soul and Matter; or Energy and Mass. The second can be Englished with greater precision : Field and the Knower of the Field.

Purusha informs, permeates, energises, and shines through Prakriti. Prakriti is primordial, undifferentiated nature. Under the influence of Purusha, Prakriti produces the universe, the raw and the refined, teeming, variegated life of the cosmos. However, Purusha the activating agent, itself remains unaffected. Like the sky that spreads everywhere, Purusha (or Brahman or, in differentiated form, the atman) remains pure. Paradoxically, though involved in Prakriti, Purusha is the detached, supreme witness. It is not a participant.

Another way of looking at it is to describe Prakriti, in its differentiated form, as the Kshetra, the Field, the Body, the Ground of Karma's Fruits. The Kshetrajna is the knower of the Body, the atman, the Witness, the Uninvolved Participant, the Bird Watching the Bird Eating, always pure, always free, so long as it knows the truth about itself and Prakriti. The key shloka 18 hymns this truth : 'It is the light of lights, shining through darkness, it is the only knowledge worth knowing; it is the end of knowledge; it exists in everyone's heart

Arjuna asked :

What is Prakriti and Purusha, what is the Field and the knower of the Field, what is knowledge and what is knowable ?

Krishna replied :

This body is the called the Field, and the man who masters it is called theKnower of the Field.

.I am the Knower of all Fields; what is knowable is knowledge of the Field and its Knower.

Listen to me well if you wish to know what the Field is, what its qualities are, what effects are born of what causes, and also who the Knower is and what his attributes are.

Variously have sages sung it, in delightful songs, in shlokas of clarity, for the glory of Brahman.

The qualities of the Field are these : the elements, egoism, the intellect and the invisible mind, the ten senses,

Lust, anger, pleasure and pain; intelligence, patience; and the sum of all these.

Knowledge of the Field consists of the following : humility, non-pride, ahimsa, dignity, tranquility, homage, chastity, self-control, and steadfastness;

Abandonment of sensual desires, absence of egoism; meditation on defects of birth, of age and death, sickness and sorrow;

Non-attachment even to son, wife and home, single-minded faith in me;

Pilgrimage to places of quiet, discontent with crowds;

Persistence in spiritual struggle, awareness of the end of knowledge. The opposite of all this is ignorance.

I will tell you what must be known : knowing which, immortality possible. What must be known is neither being nor non-being.

Its hand, feet and ears are everywhere; it stands, straddling the three worlds.

It is radiant with the senses, yet not sensual. It is despotic, yet it invigorates everything.

It is outside and inside life, it is the animate and the inanimate; it is ineffable, it is far and near.

It is one, yet split up into myriad beings : it is the sustainer of beings, their destroyer and creator.

It is the light of lights, shining through darkness : it is the only knowledge worth knowing ; it is the end of knowledge, it exists in everyone's heart.

This is the nature of the Field. This is the knowledge that must be known.

Prakriti and Purusha are without any beginning, and all the interplay of the senses is the result of Prakriti.

Prakriti is the cause of the body's senses' evolution, Purusha the cause of the feeling of of pleasure and pain.

Hidden in Prakriti, Purusha experiences the Prakriti-produced senses; his birth is pure or impure wombs is the result of this attachment.

The supreme Purusha is also the Witness, the Permitter, the Sustainer and the Enjoyer, the highest God, the Supreme Soul.

The man who understands Purusha and Prakriti exhausts his succession of births.

Some through devotion see the atman; others choose the path of knowledge; still others follow the path of action.

Others, unaware of this, worship by hearsay; they also are saved, for they have faith.

Whatever creature is born, animate or inanimate, is born of the union between the Field and the Knower.

His vision is clear w ho sees Brahman as equal in all being, as the non-material in the material.

And seeing Brahman equal in all beings, he takes care not to injure Brahman by the atman, and achieves the supreme goal.

His vision is clear, too, who sees all actions of Prakriti, and the atman as unaffected.

And when he sees in the scattered existences of all being an essential unity, he becomes Brahman.

Beginningless and feelingless, this unchangeable atman neither acts nor is affected by acts, though it is lodged in the body.

As the all-embracing sky is pure though it spreads everywhere, so the atman, so the atman, everywhere scattered, remains always pure.

As the single sun illluminates this vast earth, so he who lives in the Field illuminates the entire Field.

And those who can distinguish clearly between the Field and the Knower eventually reach the supreme goal.

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