The Field & the Knower of the Field - Prakriti & Purusha
Sin is moving away from the Real. As the Cycles of Time slowly ‘cook’ our consciousness and move us ever more into density and delusion, we forget the God within us. We identify more and more with the small temporal ego-self we created to enjoy this universe.
The small ego-self is that aggregate of guna-maya we imagine to be us - the data-collecting vehicle we call ‘susie’ or ‘billy’ or whatever name fate has given us in any fleeting lifetime. In fact we are not that temporal identity. We are the greater eternal Self (Atman) within.
Ignorance of Wisdom Knowledge (jnana) moves us further and further away from what is real into the frequency waveform described as sin. Knowledge of the Self will brings us back into the higher frequencies and purify our consciousness.
The act of attaining the Wisdom Knowledge of the Real is in itself a kind of sacrificial rite. We sacrifice our ignorance into the flames of Truth.
Arjuna now asks Krishna for more Knowledge. He begins Book XIII by 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.
KSHETRA - The Field
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.
Sanskrit is a sacred language
The M.Monier-Williams Sanskrit to English Dictionary defines Kshetra as the land and soil as property. A field is a place where crops are grown that are necessary for life. Kshetra is also defined as a sphere of action, a sacred place such as a Hindu temple, a portion of space, a plane figure (as a triangle, circle, etc.) enclosed by lines, the fertile womb or fertile soil, a planetary orbit, and the human body which is considered the field of the indwelling soul.
It is this last definition that pertains to Arjuna’s question. I list the others to give you a feeling for the depth, complexity and richness of this one Sanskrit word. Sanskrit is a sacred language. One word often contains multiple meanings on many different levels that convey primordial metaphysical principles.
These timeless gems are difficult to express in English, because English is a language designed to facilitate commerce. I have included many Sanskrit words in my comments on the Gita because I feel that reading, learning, and studying these words can give you access to an entirely different way of thinking and to higher consciousness.
The Body is the Field
Krishna explains that the body (sariram) is the Field (kshetra). I have given the body my nickname of data-collecting vehicle, but this attempt on my part to update metaphysical terms to our technological times does not encompass many of the more subtle interactions that occur. However it is correct in the sense that Prakriti’s guna-maya is preprogrammed at birth and tends to behave in an automatic repetition of patterns.
The body is the Field (kshetra) wherein the results of acts (karma) are sown, grown and harvested. The one who is conscious of this knowledge is called the ‘Knower of the Field’ (kshetrajna) because of the enlightened awareness of a distinction between the Field and the Self (jivatma) that dwells within the body. The Knower of the Field, the pure consciousness Purusha, is a witness (Gambhirananda).
Once the Self (atman) enters into a body and is therefore in a self-created state of limitation, it is described by the Sanskrit word jivatma. The unlimited form is termed Paramatman, meaning the Supreme Self (B.Marjanovic). Sanskrit has various wondrous words which not only describe the subtle states assumed by the Creator, but also states of consciousness for which there are no words in English. English is the product of the deification of commerce in the latter days of our current Kali Yuga - days where thieves are kings and people prefer false ideas (Linga Purana).
The Knower of the Field
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna speaks as Paramatman because he is God fully Realized in man. He tells Arjuna that, as the Supreme Self, Krishna is the Knower of the Field (kshetrajna) in all the fields (XII.2). The God within Krishna is the same Supreme Self (Paramatman) that dwells within the Heart of all beings. This gives us insight into the vast limitless awareness and knowledge brought by enlightenment. Once you Become one with the All, you may acquire the siddhic powers which are so often held out rather like carrots in front of our donkey-like stubborn resistance to Remembering who we are.
The Creator enters all fields (body/kshetra) with a small portion of Its Self and assumes the temporal appearance of Separation for the adventure of a journey into multiplicity. In our deluded ‘time-cooked’ consciousness, we imagine we see ‘susie & billy’ in black, brown, yellow, red and white as people so different, unique, even peculiar, and perhaps incomprehensibly foreign.
Yet beneath the curtain of all appearances, all beings are the Supreme Self playing in Time and Space in a multitude of disguises. God, the Supreme Self, can be Realized by those who Know this Truth, who have Knowledge of the Field (kshetra) and the Knower of the Field (kshetrajna).
The Elements - Bhutas
Krishna tells Arjuna that through the ages, sages (Rishis) have sung (gitam) sacred hymns about the Field (kshetra) and its Knower (kshetrajna). Krishna will teach his friend exactly what the Field is and who the Knower is. The Field (kshetra) is made up of the five great (maha) elements (bhutas) and their correlates:
Ether - Akasha: the primordial element is sonorous (shabda) and corresponds to the sense hearing (shrota).
Air - Vayu: consists of transverse movement in which the guna rajas predominates and corresponds to the sense of touch (vach) and that which is tangible (soarsha).
Fire - Tejas: that luminous ascending force in which the guna sattva predominates and corresponds to sight (chahshus) and that which is visible (rupa - form).
Water - Ap: The guna tamas predominates in this descending and compressive force which physically corresponds to gravity or weight and to taste (rasana), that which is sapid, meaning a strong and pleasant interesting taste (rasa).
Earth - Prithivi: corresponds to smell (ghrana) and the olfactory (gandha) and here tamas again predominates (Rene Guenon - Studies in Hinduism).
Rene Guenon is one of the most brilliant of all metaphysical writers. Guenon says that Sanskrit has no word that can be translated precisely as ‘matter’. The five Elements (Bhutas) represent ‘different vibratory modalities of matter’ (ibid.) which are perceptible to the five senses. Each one of the five senses is attuned to a specific range of frequencies in the spectrum of pulsating waveforms that have been projected out into the temporal illusory hologram as the appearance of matter.
Metaphysical Principles Personified
The Bhutas can be approached as metaphysical principles, as Newtonian or quantum physics, or they can be personified as deities and understood through the concept of an embodiment.
For example, Vayu as the Air become the Wind god who is the vital force that rules the breath (prana), and links heaven to earth. Breath brings form to life. Other personifications of principles are the Creator deity as Brahma (rajas); the god that pervades, supports and sustains the universe as Vishnu (sattva); and the Destroyer as Shiva (tamas). The goddesses such as Lakshmi and Parvati (Uma) represent various aspects of the feminine principle as Shakti, Maya, and Prakriti.
The Supreme Self ‘reflects His own powers in His own psychic light and appears Himself as His reflections.’ Thus all appearances are consciousness in the form of the pulsating (spanda) emissions of the Absolute One. These appearances are perceived by the five senses of the ego-self as distinctly separate.
In reality all apparent pulsating vibratory waveforms are the ‘psychic luminosity of pure-consciousness and that is the basic form of the Absolute. Everything that ever appears, lies internally in the Absolute in the form of pure consciousness and the Absolute is thus compactly full of all phenomena ... the source of its infinite blissfulness’ (Paramarthasara.11).
The five elements are brought into being by the principle of Ahamkara, which is the Will to emit the appearance of Separateness in the One and takes the form of the “I” or the ego-self (XIII.5 or 6). The ahamkara is the will in the form that says, ‘I shall become the many.’ This concept is a part of the teachings in Samkhya. The greatness of the Bhagavad Gita is Krishna's power to synthesize and sort through 1000s of years of ancient teachings with clarity and purpose.
इन्द्रियाणि दशैकं च पञ्च चेन्द्रियगोचराः .. १३- ५..
mahābhūtāny ahaṃkāro buddhir avyaktam eva ca
indriyāṇi daśaikaṃ ca pañca cendriyagocarāḥ 13.6
This understanding which is in Samkhya is not accepted by all schools of thought. The more you study Hinduism in depth, you will realize that the processes of emitting the universe and their categorization into systems is bewildering in their diversity. However once again Krishna comes to our rescue and in the Uddhava Gita (Bhagavata Purana) Krishna tells us rather holographically that, ‘In any one part, the other parts are present.’
Each and every belief, doctrine, dogma, and understanding of IS-ness is the expression of the temporal identity-self that experienced it. It is a portion of the Totality. In our search for the return Home throughout time, we human beings have reflected IS-ness through the filtered lens of our own hearts and mind. These conflicting and clashing flavors of faith have emerged naturally over time within historical and cultural contexts. Every truth is truth --- and as such a joy to the Creator.
‘All such theories are mere suppositions & imaginary concepts of thinkers’
Abhinavagupta goes even further and states that, ‘All such theories are mere suppositions and imaginary concepts of thinkers.’ Why? Because – ‘No diversity is the real truth.’ It is useful to examine the systems as a sort of user’s manual to facilitate our own being and give us an idea of the mechanics of creation. It is quite natural that once you begin to consider the nature of your relationship to the universe and the origin of both, you would want to systematize your findings to both share and clarify. Ever since we lost the memory of our absolute nature, we began this process.
In the Hindu tradition this was done through the enlightened inner revelations of great seers, the Rishis and others. Samkhya is one amazing repository of such thoughts and has influenced almost every philosophical and metaphysical system in India’s great history. However, when you read these books you become aware that there are differences of opinion and arguments concerning the sequence and mechanics of the manifestation of the universe and Prakriti’s relationship to Purusha. One venerable scholar even calls another a blockhead!
‘No diversity is the real truth!’
While I was at first disturbed by these differences of opinion, I realized the truth from reading Abhinavagupta’s Paramarthasara, a Sanskrit word which means the real truth: ‘... all such theories are merely dialectical speculations useful in discussions and debates. None among such entities has a real existence, as all these are mere suppositions and imaginary concepts of thinkers’ (Paramarthasara.27).
‘In the same way that matters like piety and sin, heaven and hell, birth and death, pleasure and pain … and so on, do never exist in reality, but appear in the Self on account of delusion caused by Maya (ibid.29).’ The mechanics of apparent multiplicity can be described in many diverse ways depending on the consciousness of the experiencer.
Visualizing the Universe
Buddhi is another aspect of the Field. Buddhi is a Sanskrit word which is usually understood as intelligence, however Gambhirananda translates buddhi as visualizing and quotes the Chandogya Upanishad, VI.2.3:
‘It (Being or Brahman as the Creator principle) thought: May I be many.’
Here the word for ‘thought’ (aikshata) literally means ‘It saw’ and thus implies that thought is the process of visualizing.
Abhinavagupta describes this power as: ‘His will to create a particular phenomena presupposes its existence inside His awareness, because nothing particular could have otherwise become the object of His conation [the desire to perform an act; an endeavor], or creation. The phenomena appears initially in Him and that is due to His cognitive power. It shines clearly in Him as the object to be created ...
‘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’ (Paramarthasara.45).
Prakriti as the Unmanifest - Avyaktam
The Unmanifest also makes up the Field. Here the Sanskrit word avyaktam is used to refer to Prakriti in her state ‘the undifferentiated primordial substance’ (R.Guenon). Prakriti is the substance, ‘the uncaused cause’ and pure potential for what will be manifested, set forth and displayed via Maya’s gunas and the five senses in the temporal illusory hologram.
Prakriti is the feminine principle who in the presence of the powers of pure consciousness, Purusha the masculine principle, works through guna-maya to project the world in her womb, the Matrix.
But which comes first - Prakriti or Maya? In the west Maya is often defined as ‘illusion’ but this does not express the power of Maya which is a creative force - Shakti. Maya is the power of Shakti to create as an artist creates. Rene Guenon suggests that Maya as Shakti is ‘Divine Activity’ (Ichchha-Shakti) and therefore is ‘situated at an incomparably higher level than Prakriti’ (Studies in Hinduism).
Abhinavagupta’s Kashmir Saivism breaks it down thus:
*The divine power of the Absolute - Shakti - is projecting itself externally and covering the Absolute with pure creation. Manifesting diversity within unity, it hides the basic absoluteness and the perfect unity of the Absolute God ...
*The sphere of Maya pushes into oblivion the natural purity and divine potency of the Absolute, covers it with five sheaths or limiting elements (kancukas) and presents the Absolute as a finite being called Purusha (pure consciousness).
*The sphere of Prakriti covers Purusha with all psychic elements, senses, organs, subtle objective elements (tanmatras), the three gunas (rajas, sattva & tamas) ...
The substantive cause of numerous universes floating in it like bubbles in an ocean
On the highest level there is no difference between Prakriti and Purusha - both are aspects of the One. Prakriti is the creation and aspect of the Supreme Being who ‘desires to cover Himself in Maya to conceal His nature of absolute purity and divinity’ ( ibid.15).
The appearance of separation of Prakriti’s Maya from the Absolute emerges from ‘the divine power of the Lord, reflected by Him externally’ (ibid.). Prakriti’s creative power of Maya ‘serves as the inanimate objective substance out of which all other insentient elements evolve. It is thus the substantive cause of numerous universes floating in it like bubbles in an ocean’ (ibid.).
Continued in Part 2 ...
Man & His Becoming According to The Vedanta
Rene Guenon, 1925
Translated by Richard C. Nicholson
Sophia Perennis, 2001; Gent, NY
Studies in Hinduism
Rene Guenon, 1966
Translated by Henry D. Fohr
Sophia Perennis, 2001; Gent, NY
Translated by Swami Ambikananda Saraswati
Seastone, 2002; Berkley, CA
The Upanishads Volume Four
Translated by Swami Nikhilananda, 1959
Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1994; NY
Essence of the Exact Reality or Paramarthasara of Abhinavagupta
Translated by Dr. B.N. Pandit
Munishiram Manoharlal Publishers, 1991, Delhi
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