Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Ramanuja | Discourse 13 verse 22-35

puruṣaḥprakṛtistho hi bhuṅkte prakṛtijān guṇān |
kāraṇaṃguṇa saṅgo’sya sadasad yoni janmasu || 22 ||

22. Indeed, the Puruṣa (Self) situated in Prakṛti (Material Nature) experiences the effects (Guṇas) that arise from Prakṛti. Its attachment to these Guṇas is the cause of birth in higher and lower species.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The ātma or immortal soul is compelled to accept unlimited varieties of physical bodies from all levels of creation - Sometimes as a deva, sometimes as a human, sometimes as an animal etc.

These forms are neutrally awarded according to the guṇas or three modes of goodness, passion and ignorance which adhere in strict accordance to the karma or reactions from past actions in proportion to the degree of attachment and cravings one is predisposed to pursue in order to procure pleasure and enjoy sense gratification.

Taking birth one launches into activities pursuing good and evil in order to satisfy and gratify ones desires and propensities.

Hence is order to exhaust the karma one is incessantly creating by innumerable actions one is born into wombs of good and evil perpetually in material existence. That is why it is stated that attachment to the guṇas is the cause of birth in good and evil wombs.

Born one performs actions and from the reactions one is forced to take birth again and again without cessation.

This circumvolution never ends until by the aggregation of sukriti or pious activities one seemingly by chance has the auspicious opportunity to attain the association of a Vaiṣṇava devotee of the Supreme Lord Krishna

and being blessed by them alters the course of their destiny and upgrades their karma as Lord Krishna Himself confirms in chapter seven verse 19 beginning bahunam janmanam ante meaning:

“after many births a knowledgeable living entity gets association of a mahātma or great soul”.

upadṛṣṭānumantāca bhartābhoktāmaheśvaraḥ|
paramātmeti cāpyukto deho’smin puruṣaḥparaḥ|| 23 ||

23. The embodied Self is called the witness, the sanctioner, supporter, experiencer, the great lord and likewise the supreme person.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Puruṣaḥ or the manifestation of the Supreme Lord Krishna transcends both the body and the mind dwelling within all sentient beings as paramātma the Supreme Soul

and is upadṛṣṭa or the impartial witness who by means of the will directs the operations pertaining to the physical body and

anumanta or sanctions the activities performed by all Jīvas or embodied beings that lead to joy and grief in pursuing activities in material existence.

Thus by virtue of ruling, supporting and guiding the Jīvas the Puruṣaḥ is the Maheśvaraḥ, the Supreme controller of the physical body, the senses and the mind of all Jīvas.

The conjunctive particle api meaning also refers to the epithet of great lord which denotes that as far as the body is concerned it applies to paramātma as well.

The phrase puruṣaḥ paraḥ means that the Supreme Being as paramātma is to be differentiated and separate due to its unlimited omnipresence within all Jīvas, from the ātma or individual soul which is localised within each Jīva,

Although both are immortal and possess the omniscient propensities of infinite cognizance and divine consciousness.

ya evaṃvetti puruṣaṃprakṛtiṃca guṇaiḥsaha |
sarvathāvartamāno’pi na sa bhūyo’bhijāyate || 24 ||

24. One who understands the Puruṣa (Self) ) and the Prakṛti (body) thus, along with the Guṇas [to be described], is not born again, regardless of one’s (material) situation.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The word eva means in this way refers to the manner previously described.

One must intelligently comprehend the nature of the Puruṣaḥ or manifestation of the Supreme Lord Krishna and prakṛti, the material substratum pervading physical existence

and understand the three components of prakṛti known as the guṇas which are the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance which are inclusive of everything in material existence.

They will be fully elaborated on in the next chapter.

The word sarvathā means in any way or condition and refers to whatever physical body one finds themselves forced to accept whether deva, human, demon, etc. due to the dictate of karma or reactions to actions.

Na sa bhūyo’bhijāyate means never takes birth again, never coerced to enter a womb again, never forced to take a material form again.

This means that at the time the physical body ceases to exist the ātma or immortal soul will be realized as the eternal essence of the Jīva or embodied being

and Mokṣa or liberation from material existence will be achieved promoting one to the everlasting spiritual worlds never again subject to birth and death.

dhyānenātmani paśyanti kecid ātmānam ātmanā|
anye sāṅkhyena yogena karma-yogena cāpare || 25 ||

25. Some perceive the Self within the self (body) by meditation by the self (mind), others by Sānkhya Yoga, and still others by Karma Yoga.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna expounds here that some humans having become perfect in yoga perceive by the lucidness of their mind the ātma or immortal soul within the physical body by means of dhyānena or devotional meditation.

Others who are novice in yoga develop their minds by jñāna or Vedic knowledge and sāṅkhyena or subtle discrimination between spirit and matter and applying it diligently soon perceive the ātma as well.

Still others who are unfit for the regiment of jñāna yoga and those who are fit but prefer an easier method and those whose duty it is to set an example for the common man –

they all follow the path of karma yoga or the path of actions devoted to the Supreme Lord that embody devotion and training their minds to control the senses become established in yoga and eventually perceive the ātma also.

anye tvevam ajānantaḥ śrutvānyebhya upāsate |
te’pi cātitarantyeva mṛtyuṃ śruti parāyaṇāḥ|| 26 ||

26. But some, who do not know these [methods], having heard [the teachings] from others, meditate accordingly —these too, being devoted to what they hear, pass beyond death.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Continuing further with this theme Lord Krishna reiterates that still others who are incompetent to follow the paths of yoga which lead to ātma tattva or realisation of the soul

– they must hear from the Vaiṣṇavas the devotees of the Supreme Lord and follow the teachings of the sages and munis who are established in truth and righteousness.

Then they can begin to traverse the path of karma yoga or devotional activities and then onto jñāna yoga perfecting in Vedic knowledge, etc. and commence actual contemplation of the ātma or immortal soul.

Also those who cannot even do that but are able to have faith in what they learn from superiors, they get purged of their sins and absolved can gradually embark upon the path of karma yoga and thus eventually surpass samsāra the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

The word api denotes the levels of competency that different gradations of human beings possess.

Next in order to discriminately comprehend the exact position of the ātma residing within the Jīva or embodied being perpetually within material existence

it is emphasised that whatever comes into existence either movable or immovable is the product of the union of the sentient and the insentient known as chit and achit.

yāvat sañjāyate kiñcit sattvaṃsthāvara jaṅgamam |
kṣetra kṣetrajña saṃyogāt tad viddhi bharatarṣabha || 27 ||

27. Whatever comes into being, whether it is moving or stationary, O Arjuna (Bharatarshabha), know that it is through the combination of the Kṣetra (body) and Kṣetrajña (knower of the Field).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna states yāvat kiñcit whatsoever meaning anything mobile or immobile regardless of how grandiose or infinitesimal that exists in any dimension of creation is the mutual combination of matter and spirit.

It is always a compound existence with interdependence upon each other and never independence from each other.

samaṃsarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantaṃparameśvaram |
vinaśyatsv-avinaśyantaṃyaḥpaśyati sa paśyati || 28 ||

28. Whoever sees the supreme ruler abiding alike in all bodies and never perishing when they perish, he indeed has insight.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna confirms with the words paśyati meaning perceives or discriminates that one who realises that paramātma or the Supreme Soul existing equally within all Jīvas or embodied beings is the Kṣetrajña or knower of the sphere of activity

and that it is distinctly distinguished from prakṛti the material substratum pervading physical existence which manifests as unlimited forms such as deva, human, animal, etc.

In other words recognising the Supreme Lord as the same omnipresent eternal consciousness localised within each and every living entity and realising that it is singular.

Also distinguishing the fact that while all physical bodies decay and perish; the ātma or individual immortal soul does not ever decay or perish because it has an eternal, transcendental nature.

This is confirmed in the Vishnu Purāṇa: VI.VII.LVIII beginning pradhanadi viseshantam meaning: “the undecaying within the decaying”.

One who correctly comprehends the ātma in this manner properly perceives reality.

But one who thinks that the ātma is subject to birth and death and that it is modifiable and variable like the forms of living entities which are always changing;

then such a person will always remained confined in samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death in material existence.

samaṃpaśyan hi sarvatra samavasthitam īśvaram |
na hinasty-ātmanātmānam tato yāti parāṃgatim || 29 ||

29. For, seeing the ruler (Self) as equal and abiding alike in every place, one does not vitiate the Self by the self (mind) and therefore reaches the highest goal.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

The Supreme Lord Krishna is known as Īśvara and is residing samaṃ equally sarvatra within all beings. This includes devas, humans, animals, etc.

The word paśyati here meaning perceives denotes that the ātma or immortal soul is recognised wherever it may abide.

By thus comprehending the actual nature of the ātma one never degrades themselves and na hinasty never causes harm to oneself.

Contrarily if one insists on identifying the ātma in the same way as the physical body in the differentiating light of unlimited bodily forms one injures and degrades their eternal self.

This understanding saves one from acquiring karma or reactions to actions which is the main cause of confinement to samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

By gaining this basic realisation one achieves the goal of ātma- tattva or soul realisation and then becomes eligible for param gatim the supreme destination and highest attainment.

prakṛtyaiva ca karmāṇi kriyamāṇāni sarvaśaḥ|
yaḥpaśyati tathātmānam akartāraṃsa paśyati || 30 ||

30. One who sees that all acts are done universally by Prakṛti alone and likewise that the ātman is not the doer, indeed has insight.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna reveals that one who truly perceives, understands that all actions proceed from the agency of prakṛti or the material substratum that pervades physical existence.

One perceives that for creating effects and instruments insentient prakṛti is the cause.

One perceives that the ātma or immortal soul, although sentient, is not the doer.

One perceives that tamas or ignorance in the shape of karma or reactions to actions is the reason for forced confinement in the material existence,

the terms and conditions of the confinement and the experiences of pleasure and pain in correlation with the duration of the confinement.

One who comprehends all these truly perceives reality.

yadābhūta pṛthag bhāvam ekastham anupaśyati |
tathaiva ca vistāram brahma saṃpadyate tadā|| 31 ||

31. When one understands the independent individuality of all beings as being rooted in one basis, as also their evolution, then one attains to the Brahman.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna is stating that one must realizes that all the diversity of forms throughout creation is manifested by the medium of prakṛti or the material substratum pervading physical existence, which gives rise to unlimited bodies and their correlating senses.

All Jīvas or embodied beings whether devas, humans or animals are constituted of the dual natures of Puruṣa, the supreme spirit, and prakṛti.

The compound word eka-stham meaning situated in one refers to the singularity of prakṛti which the Kṣetra or sphere of activity exists within.

The word vistāram meaning expansion refers to the variegated myriads of differentiated existences in successive form manifestations such as children, grandchildren, great grandchildren all uniquely emanating from the same principle of prakṛti.

Whosoever understands that all external appearing differences have their origin in prakṛti and not in Puruṣa or the supreme spirit nor paramātma the supreme soul; such a person attains the realization of the Brāhman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence.

anāditvān nirguṇatvāt paramātmāyam avyayaḥ|
śarīrastho’pi kaunteya na karoti na lipyate || 32 ||

32. This supreme Self, though dwelling in the body, is immutable, O Arjuna, being without beginning. It neither acts nor is tainted, as it is free from the Guṇas.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

So now the eternal, omniscient and all-pervading nature of paramātma or the Supreme Soul is being revealed by Lord Krishna as being totally distinct from the physical body of the Jīva or embodied being.

Although residing within the exhaustible physical body which is perishable, paramātma is inexhaustible and imperishable due to it being anāditvān of eternality.

It is infinite in time and infinite beyond time. It is nirguṇatvāt or possessing no material qualities or attributes and neither performs any actions nor is affected or implicated by any actions the physical body performs.

Next it will be explained how the paramātma although having constant association within the physical body is not degraded by any of the bodily properties.

yathāsarvagataṃsaukṣmyād-ākāśaṃnopalipyate |
sarvatrāvasthito dehe tathātmānopalipyate || 33 ||

33. As the all-pervading ether is not tainted because of its subtlety, even so, the ātman abiding in the body everywhere is not tainted.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna uses the word ākāśaṃ which means ether and denotes space.

As space prevails everywhere and encompasses all objects, yet by its extremely subtle nature, the properties of any object are not able to influence, taint or modify it.

In the same way the ātma or individual immortal soul being subatomic resides within the bodies of all Jīvas or embodied beings

but the physical properties, attributes and qualities that pertain to such bodies - be they devas, human, animal, etc. - are unable to influence, taint or modify it.

yathāprakāśayatyekaḥkṛtsnaṃlokam imaṃraviḥ|
kṣetraṃkṣetrītathākṛtsnaṃprakāśayati bhārata || 34 ||

34. As the one sun illumines this whole world, so does the Knower of the Field (the Self), O Arjuna, illumine the whole Field (the body).

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Another analogy is utilized by Lord Krishna in how the sun is able to solely illuminate the entire universe.

In the same way does paramātma or the Supreme Soul illuminate all the ātmas or immortal souls in creation and then each individual ātma illuminates with consciousness the tabernacle of the physical body of every Jīva or embodied being in which it inhabits in that lifetime.

This consciousness exists completely throughout the physical body surrounding it as well to some degree and definitively thinks that the physical body is its Kṣetra or field of activity.

It should be understood that just as the sun in its capacity of illumination differs from the universe it illuminates,

In the same way it should be understood that paramātma is supremely different from all individual ātmas even though it illuminates them all with consciousness

and in the same manner it should be understood that the localized ātma is uniquely different from its Kṣetra of the body.

kṣetra kṣetrajñayor-evam antaraṃjñāna-cakṣuṣā|
bhūta prakṛti-mokṣaṃca ye vidur-yānti te param || 35 ||

35. Those who thus discern with wise insight, the difference between the body (Field/Kṣetra) and the knower of the body (Field-knower /Kṣetrajña), and the means of deliverance from the manifested Material Nature (Prakṛti) —they attain the Supreme.

Rāmānuja’s Commentary

Lord Krishna concludes this chapter by revealing that those who by the vision of knowledge realise the distinction

existing between the Kṣetra or sphere of activity which is the physical body and the Kṣetrajña or knower of the sphere of activity,

which for the omnipresent paramātma, the Supreme Soul, includes each and every ātma or immortal soul and in the case of the ātma is the physical body.

Along with those who cultivate and realise the 20 virtues given in verses 8 to 12 of this chapter beginning with amānitvam or humility,

reverence which is the way and means of effecting escape from the degradation of mandated corporeal existence in samsāra or the perpetual cycle of birth and death.

Such persons realising their ātma achieve Mokṣa or liberation from material existence and attain param, the supreme transcendence.

hariḥ oṃ tatsat
iti śrīmad bhagavad gītāsūpaniṣatsu
brahma-vidyāyāṃ yoga-śāstre
śrī-kṛṣṇārjuna saṃvāde kṣetra-kṣetrajñā-vibhaga-yogo nāma
trayodaśo’dhyāyaḥ

Thus in the Upanishads of the Glorious Bhagavad Gita
The science of the Eternal, the Scripture of Yoga
The dialogue between Sri Krishna and Arjuna
Ends the thirteenth discourse entitled
“Differentiation between Spirit & Matter”