Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 13 verse 14-21

sarvataḥpāṇi-pādaṃtat sarvato’ kṣiśiro-mukham |
sarvataḥ śṛutimalloke sarvam-āvṛtya tiṣṭhati || 14 ||

14. Everywhere are Its (Brahman's) hands and feet; Its eyes, heads and faces are everywhere; Its ears are on all sides; and It exists enveloping all things.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna begins this verse with sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṃ tat meaning the Supreme Lords has hands and feet everywhere.

This denotes that by His potency the Supreme Lord is capable of doing everywhere what all hands and feet do in the embodied state.

Similarly He speaks sarvataḥ śṛutimal loke meaning He hears everything in all directions internally and externally. This denotes that He is capable of performing the functions of the senses such as hearing and seeing without the need of any physical sense organ.

The Supreme Lord known as Parabrahman although possessing no hands and feet is able to perform the activities of hands and feet.

The Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad III.IXX beginning apani pado jivana grihita meaning:

“Footless and handless He moves and grasps; eyeless and earless He sees and hears”,

That the ātma or immortal soul of every sentient being even situated as an infinitesimal particle of Parabrahman also has the capacity of performing functions without organs as well.

This is confirmed in the Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad III.I.VIII beginning tatha vidva punya-pape vidhuya niranjana param samyam upaiti means:

“The ātma casting off the dross of merit and demerit becomes purified attaining qualitative sameness in transcendence as the Brāhman”.

So in conclusion the Kṣetrajña abides throughout all creation encompassing everything.

This means that the ātma pervades all things in creation without exception for the ātma has no limitations of time and space. The ātma is qualitatively equated to Parabrahman but quantitatively it is minuscule similar to a ray of light from the sun.

sarvendriya guṇābhāsaṃsarvendriya vivarjitam |
asaktaṃsarva bhṛccaiva nirguṇaṃguṇabhoktṛca || 15 ||

15.  Illuminating  the  functions  of  the  senses  while  unconnected  with  the  sense  organs,  detached and yet supporting all, free from the Guṇas and yet experiencing the Guṇas;

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The words sarvendriya guṇābhāsaṃ means that the source of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence known as Parabrahma or the Supreme Being

who is capable of illuminating all the senses with consciousness along with their faculties such as sight, sound, smell, taste and touch, etc.

But devoid of all material qualities Parabrahma is capable to perform all the activities of the senses without the need of physical sense organs.

The same holds true for the ātma or immortal soul which is capable of experiencing the activities of the senses without sense faculties and which by its own virtue has the capacity of omniscience like Parabrahma.

The word asaktaṃ means indifferent or unattached to the material and yet is sarva-bhṛt ca or capable of assuming all physical bodies and is the maintainer of all physical bodies.

The Chāṇḍogya Upaniṣad VII.XXV beginning sa eva dhastat meaning: “the Supreme Lord is everywhere in all directions”.

The Supreme Lord is nirguṇam meaning transcendental to the three modes of material nature pervading material existence which are goodness, passion and ignorance and yet the Supreme Lord is the ultimate experiencer of these three modes.

bahir-antaśca bhūtānām acaraṃcaram eva ca |
sūkṣmatvāt tad avijñeyaṃdūrasthaṃcāntike ca tat || 16 ||

16. It is within and without all beings; It is unmoving and yet moving; It is so subtle that none can comprehend It; It is far away, and yet so very near.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word bahi means outside, this refers to the ātma or immortal soul which still exists even when it departs a physical body at death and abandons the subtle body along with the five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether, although it is present within them as well.

As confirmed in the Chāṇḍogya Upaniṣad VI.VII.VII beginning sa ya esho animaitad means:

“The source of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence is Parabrahma, who eternally exists in everything by His transcendental potency”.

By nature it is acaram or stationary and unmoving but it is caram or moving in its embodied state.

Due to being supra-subtle without material, mundane qualities it is avijñeyaṃ or incomprehensible.

The ātma or immortal soul possesses all powers and knowledge although it occupies and inhabits a bodily form.

Because it is subatomic it cannot be perceived by technological methods and remains a mystery. Therefore it is extremely difficult for worldly people of logic and reason to understand it being separate and distinct from the physical body.

The words dūrasthaṃ cāntike ca tat means that the ātma although present within their own bodies is very far away from those who are arrogant, ostentatious, irreverent, etc.,

who do not possesses the 20 virtues of righteousness given in verses 8 to 12 such as humility, reverence and nonviolence.

But contrarily it is extremely near to those dear ones who possess the 20 virtues.

This is because these 20 virtues facilitate a living entities ability to perceive internally and realize the ātma.

avibhaktaṃca bhūteṣu vibhaktam iva ca sthitam |
bhūtabhartṛca tajjñeyaṃgrasiṣṇu prabhaviṣṇu ca || 17 ||

17.  Undivided  and  yet  existing  as  if  divided  among  beings, this ātman is to be known  as the supporter of elements, It consumes and regenerates.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

By the Supreme Lord Krishna who is known as Parabrahma, intrinsic potency as the source of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence, it is devoid of all divisions abiding everywhere within all creatures, devas, humans etc.

But to the spiritually unaware there appears to be divisions and differences due to variegation of forms.

What Lord Krishna has stated in verse two of this chapter that those who are knowledgeable of the Kṣetrajña are spiritually enlightened about the ātma or immortal soul existing equally within all living entities distinctly separate from the physical body although residing within the etheric heart of all sentient beings.

When textural quotes are read as I am a deva, I am a man, etc. it is only referring to the body, the physical form shrouding the ātma due to karma, the resultant reactions from past life activities.

To comprehend the ātma as a distinct, separate immortal entity can be discerned by reflection and contemplation inasmuch as the ātma provides the support for the aggregate combination of the five fundamental elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether which in varying degrees make up the physical body.

So Parabrahma is known as bhūta bhartṛ, the maintainer of all beings as distinguished from the maintained.

Since Parabrahma exists after the time of universal destruction He is known as grasiṣṇu the annihilator of the material elements as distinguished from the annihilated.

Because Parabrahma is the causer of transformations He is known as prabha viṣṇu, the creator of universal manifestation as distinguished from the created.

Inasmuch as no such properties are ever present in a dead body it can be correctly concluded that mere matter possessed Kṣetra or field of activity is never capable of being the maintainer, the annihilator or the creator whereas the Kṣetrajña is capable.

jyotiṣām api tajjyotis tamasaḥparam-ucyate |
jñānaṃjñeyaṃjñāna-gamyaṃhṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam || 18 ||

18. The Light of all lights is this [Self], said to be beyond Tamas (darkness). It is consciousness, It is the knowable, It is to be attained by wisdom, It is present in the hearts of all.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lights are those found in the sun, the stars, fire, gems, etc.

The light of these lights denotes that which illuminates all these or that by which they are perceived denoting the light of consciousness by which all luminaries such as the sun and the stars are seen to shine.

As for human made lights such as lamps, torches and the rest, they only dispel the darkness intervening between the sense of sight and its object and their illuminating power is limited to the sense perception of sight.

But there is no limitation with the light and sight of the ātma once it has been realised.

The words tamasaḥ param means beyond darkness referring to the darkness of tamas or ignorance designating the subtle but limited conditions of prakṛti or the material substratum pervading physical existence;

but the ātma or immortal soul being eternal is transcendental to any conditions or limitations.

The words jñānaṃ jñeyaṃ means knowledge worthy of being known comprehensible by the intellect and characterised by consciousness.

The words jñāna-gamyaṃ means wisdom accessible through knowledge or that wisdom gained from embodying and living the 20 virtues given in verses 8 through 12 beginning with amānitvam or reverence.

These exalted virtues which constitute spiritual knowledge are the means to achieve the wisdom of the ātma.

As the ātma is situated within the heart of all sentient beings, the Supreme Lord Krishna known as Parabrahma is hṛdi sarvasya viṣṭhitam is situated in the heart of all sentient beings.

iti kṣetraṃtathājñānaṃjñeyaṃcoktaṃsamāsataḥ|
mad bhakta etad vijñāya mad bhāvāyopapadyate || 19 ||

19. Thus the Field, knowledge and the object of knowledge have been briefly stated. On realising this, My devotee becomes fit to attain My state of being.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Previously a concise description of what is to be known as constituting the Kṣetra or field of activity has been given by Lord Krishna

beginning in verse six with mahā-bhūtāni meaning the five fundamental elements of material nature

and in verses 8 through 12 beginning with amānitvam or reverence the 20 excellent are enumerated as the means for acquiring the knowledge of ātma-tattva or soul realisation up to perception of the eternal spiritual reality, knowing the Supreme Lord reside within the etheric heart of all living beings.

Here Lord Krishna states mad bhakta meaning His devotees are knowledgeable of the reality regarding the Kṣetra,

knowledgeable of the means by which to realise the ātma or immortal soul which is of the nature of Kṣetrajña or knower of the sphere of activity and distinctly different from the Kṣetra.

Only His devotees are those situated in such knowledge and mad bhāvāyopapadyate meaning qualified to attain exclusive loving devotion to Him which is everlasting and eternal and which is different from samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Next Lord Krishna will explain the beginningless state of the two distinct natural verities of matter and soul conjoined together and the different functions each is engendered to perform as well as how these two verities came to be situated in this condition.

prakṛtiṃpuruṣaṃcaiva viddhyānādīubhāvapi |
vikārāṃśca guṇāṃścaiva viddhi prakṛti saṃbhavān || 20 ||

20. Know that both Matter (Prakṛti) and Spirit (Puruṣa) are without beginning, and know that the modifications and the qualities arise from the Prakṛti.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Here Lord Krishna explains that from the beginning of time Puruṣa or the immortal soul and prakṛti the material substratum pervading physical existence have been existing united together.

The word vikārāṃś means modifications and transformations, this denotes non-spiritual material attributes and passions.

The word guṇas or three modes of material nature being sattva or goodness with its virtues, rajas or passion with its desires and tamas or nescience with its ignorance are all by products of prakṛti.

Virtuous qualities such as reverence and humility are situated in sattva and effectuate Mokṣa or liberation from material existence.

The qualities of passion with their desires and attachments are situated in rajas and effectuate bondage to material existence.

The qualities of ignorance with sense gratification as the goal of existence is situated in tamas and effectuates degeneration into less evolved species next life.

Puruṣa uniting with prakṛti has been perpetuating since the beginning of time and expresses itself as a Kṣetra or field of activity which is a physical body.

The Jīva or embodied being influenced by the modifications of rajas and tamas in the form of desire and attachment, attraction and aversion, shrouds the ātma or immortal soul and keeps it in bondage.

Contrarily the Jīva being influenced by the modifications of sattva in the form of the 20 super excellent attributes of spiritual endowment given in verses 8 to 12 headed by reverence and humility constitutes the cause of the ātma attaining Mokṣa.

kārya kāraṇa kartṛtve hetuḥprakṛtir ucyate |
puruṣaḥsukha-duḥkhānāṃbhoktṛtve hetur ucyate || 21 ||

21. Prakṛti (Material Nature) is said to be the causal agent of the body (kārya) and sense organs (kāraṇa). The Puruṣa (Self) is said to be the cause of the experience of pleasure and pain.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word kārya meaning effect refers to the physical body.

The word kāraṇa means the instrument of action, denoting the senses of perception, the organs of action and the mind.

In the activation of both kārya and kāraṇa to function the ātma or immortal soul alone is the cause.

This confirms that all manifest activity by which the Jīva or embodied being experiences existence is dependent upon prakṛti or the material substratum pervading physical existence which is predicated by the impulses of the ātma.

The ātma merely performs its natural function as monitor and director of the Jīva in all respects.

Affirmation of this is given in the following Vedic aphorism found in the Vedānta Sutra II:III.XXXX beginning krita prayatna apekesah meaning:

“the Supreme Lord induces the ātma to act according to the effects experienced by the Jīva”  so that there is no contradiction in the prohibitions and injunctions of the Vedic scriptures.

The function of the ātma is to witness the karma or reactions to one's actions and govern the Jīva effects of karma as they evolve and grow.

The ātma being embodied is the sole cause for a Jīva to experience joy and grief through the medium of matter.

Thus the difference in function in regard to both the ātma and the physical body has been briefly elaborated separately and in conjunction.

The process by which the inherently pure and spiritual ātma which is most blessed comes to experience pleasures and pain derived from contact with products of matter is through the three guṇas, being modes of goodness, passion and ignorance,

which are effects of prakṛti and figuratively symbolise all derivatives of matter, as all matter is within the purvey of the three guṇas.

Here in this verse the word Puruṣa is referring to His expansion as the ātma within the heart of all living entities which by its own intrinsic nature is liberated and blissful,

but by the influence of karma and prakṛti is entangled in the material existence undergoing experiences of enjoyment and suffering based on this relationship,

which manifest according to the dictates and constraints of the adventitiously and contrary circumstances of past actions from which arise effects known as karma. The word bhoktṛtve meaning the experience of happiness and distress confirms this.