One of the most interesting, illuminating and thought provoking concepts mentioned in the Bhagwad Gita is that of the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna about the Field and The Knower Of The Field.
For those of you who do not know, the Bhagwad Gita is an ancient Hindu text which is basically a long conversation between Arjuna(a warrior) and Lord Krishna(God), which was more like a sermon given to him before a battle he was going to fight(The Mahabharat) on the battlefield of Kurukshetra (a place in North India).
The part I have chosen to write about is one of the most interesting parts of the book and one that opened my eyes -“The Field” and “The Knower Of The Field”.
Arjuna asks Krishna for more Knowledge. He beginsby asking for an understanding of Prakriti, which is the Field and material nature – and Purusha, the pure consciousness that dwells within and is the knower of the Field.
” I wish to learn about Nature (matter) and the Spirit (soul), the Field and the Knower of the Field, knowledge and that which ought to be known.”
Lord Krishna said:
“This body, O Arjuna, is called the Field; he who knows it is called the Knower of the Field by those who know of them, that is, by the sages.
Do thou also know Me as the Knower of the Field in all fields, O Arjuna! Knowledge of both the Field and the Knower of the Field is considered by Me to be the knowledge.
What the Field is and of what nature, what its modifications are and whence it is, and also who He is and what His powers are—hear all that from Me in brief.
Sages have sung in many ways, in various distinctive chants and also in the suggestive words indicative of the Absolute, full of reasoning and decisive.
The great elements, egoism, intellect and also unmanifested Nature, the ten senses and one, and the five objects of the senses
I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.
Everywhere are His hands and legs, His eyes, heads and faces, and He has ears everywhere. In this way the Supersoul exists, pervading everything.
The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all the modes of material nature.
The Supreme Truth exists outside and inside of all living beings, the moving and the nonmoving. Because He is subtle, He is beyond the power of the material senses to see or to know. Although far, far away, He is also near to all.
Although the Supersoul appears to be divided among all beings, He is never divided. He is situated as one. Although He is the maintainer of every living entity, it is to be understood that He devours and develops all.
He is the source of light in all luminous objects. He is beyond the darkness of matter and is unmanifested. He is knowledge, He is the object of knowledge, and He is the goal of knowledge. He is situated in everyone’s heart.
Thus the field of activities [the body], knowledge and the knowable have been summarily described by Me. Only My devotees can understand this thoroughly and thus attain to My nature.
Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginning less. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature.
Nature is said to be the cause of all material causes and effects, whereas the living entity is the cause of the various sufferings and enjoyments in this world.
The living entity in material nature thus follows the ways of life, enjoying the three modes of nature. This is due to his association with that material nature. Thus he meets with good and evil among various species.
Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.
One who understands this philosophy concerning material nature, the living entity and the interaction of the modes of nature is sure to attain liberation. He will not take birth here again, regardless of his present position.
Some perceive the Supersoul within themselves through meditation, others through the cultivation of knowledge, and still others through working without fruitive desires.
Again there are those who, although not conversant in spiritual knowledge, begin to worship the Supreme Person upon hearing about Him from others. Because of their tendency to hear from authorities, they also transcend the path of birth and death.
O chief of the Bharatas, know that whatever you see in existence, both the moving and the nonmoving, is only a combination of the field of activities and the knower of the field.
One who sees the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies, and who understands that neither the soul nor the Supersoul within the destructible body is ever destroyed, actually sees.
One who sees the Supersoul equally present everywhere, in every living being, does not degrade himself by his mind. Thus he approaches the transcendental destination.
One who can see that all activities are performed by the body, which is created of material nature, and sees that the self does nothing, actually sees.
When a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies and he sees how beings are expanded everywhere, he attains to the Brahman conception.
Those with the vision of eternity can see that the imperishable soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite contact with the material body, O Arjuna, the soul neither does anything nor is entangled.
The sky, due to its subtle nature, does not mix with anything, although it is all-pervading. Similarly, the soul situated in Brahman vision does not mix with the body, though situated in that body.
O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness.
Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.”
The Sanskrit word Kshetra means ‘field’ and the use of this word in the Bhagavad Gita is intriguing considering how the term field is applied to physics. The search for a grand Unified Field Theory is well known and the term was coined by Einstein who sought to reconcile the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ‘field’ in physics as the region in which a force such as gravity or magnetism is effective. These fields are now considered to be ‘quantum fields’ which interact according to the laws of quantum mechanics.
Krishna explains that the body (sariram) is the Field (kshetra)
First there are earth, water, fire, air and ether. These are the five great elements (maha-bhuta). Then there are false ego, intelligence and the unmanifested stage of the three modes of nature. Then there are five senses for acquiring knowledge: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. Then five working senses: voice, legs, hands, anus and genitals. Then, above the senses, there is the mind, which is within and which can be called the sense within. Therefore, including the mind, there are eleven senses altogether. Then there are the five objects of the senses: smell, taste, form, touch and sound. Now the aggregate of these twenty-four elements is called the field of activity. If one makes an analytical study of these twenty-four subjects, then he can very well understand the field of activity. Then there are desire, hatred, happiness and distress, which are interactions, representations of the five great elements in the gross body. The living symptoms, represented by consciousness and conviction, are the manifestation of the subtle body—mind, ego and intelligence. These subtle elements are included within the field of activities.
The five great elements are a gross representation of the false ego, which in turn represents the primal stage of false ego technically called the materialistic conception, or tamasa-buddhi, intelligence in ignorance. This, further, represents the unmanifested stage of the three modes of material nature. The unmanifested modes of material nature are called pradhana.
One who desires to know the twenty-four elements in detail along with their interactions should study the philosophy in more detail. In Bhagavad-gita, a summary only is given.
The body is the representation of all these factors, and there are changes of the body, which are six in number: the body is born, it grows, it stays, it produces by-products, then it begins to decay, and at the last stage it vanishes. Therefore the field is a non permanent
material thing. However, the ksetra-jna, the knower of the field, its proprietor, is different. It is the unending soul.
‘A worldly creator also follows such process. He creates only that thing outwardly which is initially created by him in his own self. A painter creates initially a wonderful form in his own will and then he illuminates it thoroughly while forming a clear idea about it in his mind and afterwards he starts to paint it actually on a board. So does the Lord create the phenomena in His own subjective self before manifesting it outwardly and objectively’
Thus as Krishna explains we are experiencing the grander field (our earth and the cosmos) through the field(our body) and knowing this we are the knower of the field. We are the purusha(spirit) experiencing the prakriti(the earth). Or the field inside a field or as Edgar Allan Poe puts it “Is all that we see or seem, But a dream within a dream?”
What Krishna is trying to say here is that in order to understand the divine knowledge we must first understand the self and the world we live in. We observe our world through our senses and to know that and not get attached to the worldly desires, suffering, relationships etc is a way of attaining the divine knowledge.
“Thus the field, knowledge, and the object of knowledge have been briefly described. My devotee, understanding this, enters into My state of being”
Thus by knowing this concept we realise the self is but a cumulation of sensory experiences but our soul (the atman) or purusha(spirit) is the never ending, like lord krishna himself,infinite(without a beginning and an end).
Knowing this concept of the field and the knower of the field we are one step closer to transcending this world and reaching the adobe of the almighty or the Brahma Lok(Lok is a sphere where life exists and the Brahma Lok is the adobe of the Gods or heaven).
Thus to attain moksha(nirvana) we must first start with understanding this concept and align ourselves with the vibration of the almighty.
He goes on to say that God lives within us and to attain liberation from the cycle of births and deaths we must align ourselves with the vibration of God within us. Knowing this that we are but mere spectators(purusha) experiencing the effects of the senses through our body we are closer to attaining that liberation.
He continues to say that some attain this knowledge through penance and meditation while others attain it through knowledge and some attain this through acting selflessly in service of others.
He goes on to say – and this is my favourite line -“know that whatever you see in existence, both the moving and the nonmoving, is only a combination of the field of activities and the knower of the field.”- that all that we see or experience is nothing but a combination of the moving field and the knower of the field.
Which means that our world and all our interactions with it are just a combination of our body interacting with the quantum particles within our universe. Or in other words our senses interacting with the quantum particles.
The super soul is God and Krishna goes on to say that a person who sees God in all bodies and who understands that God is within us and is indestructible and unending truly sees the world for what it is.
Thus the person who sees God in all objects and does not degrade himself is one step closer to liberation or moksha.
Krishna then says that all that we do or our bodies do is made of material nature and a person who realises that the soul or the self does nothing truly sees.
He goes on to say that a sensible person stops seeing everything and everyone as different entities and realises that they are all part of God being expanded everywhere, he realises Brahman conception – or the ultimate truth.
Krishna explains that the soul is transcendental and does not take part in anything although being attached to the body, he gives a beautiful example of the sky and how the sky does not mix with anything and is all pervading similarly the soul is situated within the body but does not mix with the body or do anything.
He goes on to explain that in the same way the sun illuminates the solar system, in the same way does the soul illuminate the body with its consciousness.
To end he says that those who see with knowledge that the world and the body and the knower of the body and understand its difference can also understand the liberation from bondage of material nature or liberation from the cycle of births and deaths in the form of human beings.
Thus to end all I would like to say is I do not completely understand these concepts or else I would have transcended a long time ago(Haha) but to understand the main difference between the body and the soul and the understanding that my soul and yours are all part of the divine supreme God and to also understand that the soul does not mix with the body although giving our body its life – is useful knowledge to understand the grander scheme of things. Also per se I am not a very religious person but I do acknowledge that the universe we live in is too complex to have come out of nothing, hence the supersoul or God might exist. Or maybe they were just beings of higher consciousness, whatever, we will never know
On our paths towards the ultimate truth – or attainment of it we must understand these concepts and accordingly live.
For simply – ” We are all one”
For those of you who are skeptics or atheists – I used to be one as well but I believe in a higher energy simply because theoretical physics cannot explain everything and the world is too complex to have come out nothing- anyway these are actually the words written in our ancient texts so it must mean something or perhaps be a clue in realising our soul’s ultimate purpose i.e moksha. I do not understand these things completely but the bits that I do understand certainly makes me feel even more in tune with everything and make everything lesser about myself.
For I am nothing but a soul inside this body experiencing this life. Just to know that makes me feel much more liberated.
I have tried to break it down in as simple words as possible.
I hope that you were enlightened by this post as I feel it is knowledge that we all must understand and learn amidst drowning ourselves in this chaos ( all our commitments, burdens, work and duties)- I hope you have found some serenity after reading this.
Read in more detail the explanation here – http://harekrishna.com/col/books/BG/gita/chapter13.html
Here is a track
Enjoy it – it’s very peaceful
Have a great week!