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Ksetraksetrajnayogah: Bhagavad Gita 13 Randhyashya (Explanation oI Chapter 13)

The Field and the Knower-oI-the-Field (Ksetra and the Ksetrajna),

From Book 13 oI the Bhagavad Gita
Randolph Thompson Dible II
PHI 386.02, The Bhagavad Gita
ProIessor Andrew Nicholson

Background: Yoga and Sankhya; The Field and the Knower oI the Field` is an ancient allegory
Iound the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 13), in Krishna Vasu-deva`s explanation to Prince Arjuna oI the
ultimate distinction to be made in a soteriology oI knowledge known as the yoga oI knowledge, jnana-
yoga, or the yoga oI the intellect, buddhi-yoga. In Patanjali`s systematization oI Yoga, the Yoga Sutras
(200 CE), as well as Isvarakrsna`s Sankhya Karika (third century CE), this practice oI intellectually
separating the transcendental SelI called Purusha` Pure Consciousness, or more literally universal
Man`, in the sense oI an Unseen Seer` (witness, saksitva) or spectator, drastrtva Irom the psycho-
physical matrix oI the conditional reality oI mechanically interdependent parts themselves all derived
Irom the unmaniIest principle oI material being called Prakriti`, is called Discriminative Discernment
(Viveka-Khyati). This categorical dualism oI Pure Consciousness` (Purusa), and Nature` or
Materiality-in-Principle` (Prakriti) the latter may include the 'evolutes oI Prakriti, the constituents oI
the world, which the Iormer animates or gels with is the ground oI a categorical schematization oI
(non-ultimate) reality which developed Irom a motive oI understanding the revelations oI the Jedas, into
a perspective on the Jedas and the Upanisads ('covert concordances or connections), called Samkhya
(literally, the perspective oI 'enumeration, that is, oI the constituents oI ordinarily experienced reality as
well as the psychological devices Irom which they come). The Classical School oI Yoga`, that oI
Patanjali`s Yoga Sutras, is the more practical` or better yet, experiential, school oI systematic attainment
and application oI the original state oI inner being called Samadhi, deIined by the ebbing and cessation oI
the undulations oI consciousness, wherein the phenomenal realmPrakriti, including its initial and
organically innate evolutes oI the identity, ego, and inner devices oI cognition, volition, sensation, and the
subtle elements oI sense objects are gone beyond to reach Samadhi, which in its purest state leaves
Purusa all alone (Kaivalya), liberated (Moksha) Irom the pathways oI Prakritic perturbation, realizing the
salviIic goal aIter complete in-volution` oI the once-e-volved` mani-Iold and its Iodder (contents).
Samadhi is attained by means oI concentration and meditation, and the school oI Classical Yoga` reIers
to this proemial praxis or arche-techne oI entering-via-centering or access-via-the-central-axis-oI-praxis,
to liberate the entangled selI-habit, to achieve Purusha Kaivalya, beyond even the purest bliss (ananda-
samprajnata-samadhi) and identity (asmita-samprajnata-samadhi). Sankhya and Yoga are two distinct
darshanas (schools, or more literally perspectives, Irom the root 'drst which means 'to see) oI Vedic
religion (Hinduism), although the 'tree oI Sankhyaits metaphysical structureis the basic architecture
Classical Yoga` was Iounded upon. Patanjali`s Yoga is also called cessation-Yoga (Nirodha-Yoga) due
to its deIinition oI Yoga as Nirodha (Citta-vritti-nirodha: cessation oI the vrttis, oI the undulations oI citta,
mindstuII, YS 1.2), and is an experiential philosophy or spiritual practice (abhyasa), whereas Classical
Samkhya` has an emphasis on discrimination (viveka) and knowledge (fnana) as the mode oI achieving
liberation. The two darshanas have diIIerent orientations toward the same goal, generally construed.
The Bhagavad Gita is thought to have been composed around the second or third century CE,
around the same times Yoga (200 CE) and Samkhya (third century CE) were systematized by Patanjali
and Isvarakrsna, respectively. SpeciIically in reIerence to the isolated (kaivalya) Seer (Purusa,
drastrtva), which is One (the ksetfna, Knower oI the Field) oI the two themes oI this paper (the ksetra and
the ksetrafna), Samkhya and Yoga are systematically consistent, according to Chapple (Forman, pp. 62,
Problems of Pure Consciousness, OxIord University Press, 1990), despite the discernible diIIerences
Erich Frauwaller Iound in the other elements oI these systems (Ibid.). In the Bhagavad Gita (5.1-12),
Arjuna asks Krsna to explain the diIIerence between the two paths oI the renunciation oI actions
(sanyasam) and oI activity (karmanam), both oI which Krsna praises beIore Arjuna. Clearly,
renunciation and activity are notions at odds with one-another, but Arjuna`s plight as to Iight-or-Ilight
(the whole set-up oI the Bhagavad Gita) has a very serious spiritual level oI meaning to which Krsna
responds. For this reason, these two notions are taken to be representations oI diIIerent yogic pathways to
spiritual liberation, and to the solution to Arjuna`s problematic, itselI representative oI just motivation in
general. Krsna responds to Arjuna in slightly modiIied terms; reIerence is made not to renouncer-
traditions versus more practical and ritualistic traditions, but speciIically to sankhya and yoga. In 5.5,
Krsna clearly explains that sankhya and yoga have the same goal, and 'are one (eka, one). In 5.4 he says
that only the childish or Ioolish ones (the balas) say that they are diIIerent, certainly not the learned-ones
(the pandits). In the adjacent passages, Krsna explains that the 'yoga oI action is superior to
renunciation, but only because it may be construed in such a way as to incorporate renunciation via the
perIormance oI activity externally while the renunciation oI the Iruits (phala) oI that activity internally.
One can conceive this construal in terms oI other parts oI the Gita and other Vedic allegories, such as the
Lord yoked-and-bound-in-leg-locked-lotus stationed in the heart oI the active organism (the earlier part oI
18.61, and the latter part oI 13.17), or the potter`s wheel (the latter part oI 18.61) which once mad-
spinning about the center is leIt to spin unpressed, continues its immediate destiny, but the mad potter`s
legs may relax and even enter the lotus while the potter allows the spin to run its course (or Ilow aIield, as
does the kestra) and just watches (the ksetrafna). In the last chapter (18.45), Krsna explains that
perIection comes to the one who Iollows the course oI his own-action (sva-karma), and in 3. 35 he tells
Arjuna that it is better to just die than to stray Irom one`s own-duty (sav-dharma), even iI the duty oI
another is done very well. This is the way oI construing the simultaneous praise oI renunciation
(renunciation oI attachment to the fruits oI action: doing what is multimodally or polyvalently 'right in
the immediate context, but not even getting hung-up on such worldly success), and oI action (one`s own-
duty, one`s 'destined pathway in the bigger-picture: tranquility in getting-along in the cosmic spheres),
succinctly called 'action-inaction or 'inaction in action. Also, as a means oI loving devotion (bhakti),
the Iruits (phala) oI one`s own (sva) well-perIormed (sattvic) actions (karma) or duties (dharma) are best
relinquished to Lord Krsna (18.57, and adjacent passages).
The Ksetrafna, the Knower-oI-the-Field, is Purusa. According to Patanjali`s Yoga Sutras, the
Lord or God is a 'special Purusa (YS 1.24) and this word Ior Lord or God is Isvara. This is oIten taken
in the Vedic context to reIer to Brahman, above the trinity oI Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. In the atheistic
Advaita Jedanta oI Sankara, Brahman is divided into the cataphatic Iorm oI Saguna` Brahman
(Brahman with attributes`, reIerring to personal deities, such as Vishnu, Brahma, Soma, or Krsna, Ior
instance), and the apophatic 'Iorm (the reIerend is Iormless in the case oI apophasis, but the reIerent is
the Iorm oI expression, which is negative) oI Nirguna` Brahman, which is highest and ultimate in
Sankara`s atheistic species oI Advaita Jedanta. Krsna is an avatar oI Visnu, but in the Bhagavad Gita,
Krsna says that he is the very Ioundation oI even Brahman (14.27)! This 'special Purusha may be read
not as a species oI the category oI 'purusha which includes the individual purushas (the jiva, the
jivatmas), but their basis, the transcendent Purusha as pure consciousness, as ultimate Reality, and as
Isvara. In this case, the modiIied term 'Maha Purusha or 'Parama Purusha could indicate the
distinction oI this use oI Purusa. In any case, there is a diversity oI theistic and atheistic darshanas, but in
the Bhagavad Gita Krsna says that he is Ioundation even oI Brahman, which implies that Krsna is Isvara
and Ultimate Reality.
Chapter 13 begins with Arjuna stating that the Field, Ksetra, and the Knower oI the Field,
Ksetrajna, correspond to Prakriti and Purusa. He wants Krsna to explain this to him. The Iield is the
body, Krsna explains, and He who knows this is the Knower oI the Field (13.1). Next he explains that He
HimselI is the Knower oI the Field, and that in all Iields, knowledge oI the distinction between the Ksetra
and the Ksetrajna is true knowledge (13.2). 13.18 explains that the Bhakti Yogis (His devotees) who so
Know, approach His state. 13.33 has it that just as the Sun illuminates the world, so the Lord oI the Iield
illuminates the Iield. 13.12 states that this highest knowledge, knowing the diIIerence between
knowledge itselI and the selI itselI which is the knower oI knowledge, brings one to immortality, to the
beginningless supreme Brahman, which is said to be 'neither existent nor nonexistent.
13.13 is perhaps the entry point in the text to placing the amazing description oI Lord Krsna`s
true Iorm oI the theophanic Chapter 11 in its proper place:
|This| 'everywhere hands-and-Ieet
'everywhere having-eyes-heads-Iaces
'everywhere having-heard in-the-world
'everywhere pervasive it-is-persent;
This interpretation is still Iurther supported by later verses which reIlect the scene oI the
superlative Iorm revealed in Chapter 11. 13.16 is a selI-description oI the creator and devourer, 13.18
says He is seen everywhere, Ior instance. But this superlative Iorm is indeed known by the Knower oI the
Field, whatever the Field. For littered throughout Krsna`s messages we Iind the the panentheistic
perspective that God (Krsna) is the non-exclusive beyond. This perspective is summed up in certain
'On Me all this universe is strung/ Like pearls on a thread. (7.7) '.but I am not in them; they
are in Me.// All this universe is deluded by these three states oI being,/ Composed oI the qualities./ It
does not recognize Me,/ Who am higher than these and eternal. (7.12-13)
'This whole universe is pervaded/ By Me in My unmaniIest aspect./ All beings abide in Me;/ I
do not abide in them.// And yet beings do not abide in Me./ Behold my divine yoga!/ Sustaining beings
and not dwelling in beings/ Is my SelI, causing beings to be. (9.4-5).
This Action-inaction ('Karmakarma) structure applies to all activity, even the Actus Purus
(Purusa Parama) oI Ultimate Reality distinguishing Ultimate Reality, ItselI Irom ItselI, in the Act oI Pure
SelI-ReIerence, drawing the First Distinction` (George Spencer-Brown, aws of Form, Allen and Unwin,
1969) in the otherwise Unmarked State, which is the very 'to be or 'be-ing (the verbation oI
noumination) oI on-to-logy (process ontology, being as being ever-becoming being) and the 'being seeing
being oI the epistemological distinction between subject (Ksetrajna) and object (Ksetra). The Ksetra
(Product, Art, Matter) is the Ksetrajna (Conduct, Act, Manner) ananda the Ksetrajna is the Ksetra,
ultimately. Tat Tvam Asi. Om Tat Sat.
Behold my divine yoga!