Chapter 13The Individual Consciousness and The Ultimate ConsciousnessVerse 20


Sanskrit Vocal





Commentaries of the Four Authorized Vaisnava Sampradayas

as confirmed in the Garga Samhita Canto 10, Chapter 61, Verses 23, 24, 25, 26
Rudra Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Sridhara Swami's Commentary

Thus the ksetra or field of activity along with its qualities and attributes has been concisely described up to this point. Now Lord Krishna by affirming the beginingless nature of prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence and the Purusa or the Supreme Lord both are the cause of transmigratory existence. What are the ksetra's modifications, from whence does it arise and what are its forms. Also what is the nature of the entity known as the ksetra-jna or knower of the field of activity and what are its powers and potencies. All these things are eruditely explained in this verse and the next four. If prakriti were to have a beginning then we would have to accept that there must be another prakriti as the cause and then another as that cause and another as that causes and on and on. Therefore Lord Krishna elucidates this point by declaring that both prakriti and the purusa are without beginning. Prakriti is a modification into the material of the Purusa which is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord. It should be understood that the evolution of the body, the senses, the gunas or modes of material nature of goodness, passion and ignorance and their modifications such as happiness, misery, delusion all arise from prakriti.

Brahma Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Madhvacarya's Commentary

Before Lord Krishna explained in detail the questions posed in verse four concerning the characteristics and nature of the ksetra. Now He describes in brief the modifications of prakriti or the material substratum pervading material existence and purusa the supreme in the form of the atma or immortal soul. The modifications of prakriti are the three gunas or modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. At the time of universal dissolution whatever accumulation is remaining from prakriti a small part of that will be from these gunas. In the Madhuchanda section it has been mentioned that this small portion of accumulation will constitute action as well as inaction. As desires are modifications of the jiva or embodied being the gunas are modifications of prakriti. Even though prakriti is the source of the gunas it is uninfluenced by them as they are in seed form and ready to burst into sprout once they enter the material manifestation. They do not come into existence like transient desires but are potentially established in the act of dissolution. The entire material creation which cyclically manifests and dissolves has inherent within it traces of the potentiality of recreation programmed into its atomic substratum. Thus all phenomena in manifestation and dissolution is influenced by the gunas and reabsorbed by its potentiality back into the matrix of existence exactly the way it was previously.

Now begins the summation.

The separation of the words prakritim purusancaiva differentiates the animate and sentient purusa and its immortal soul from the inanimate and insentient prakriti. The modifications such as desire and attraction along with the attributes of goodness, passion and ignorance being different are mentioned separately although both arise solely from prakriti. The purusa which exemplifies the Supreme Lord is completely independent of prakriti and thus is exclusively referred to as the witness, the monitor, the ordainer, etc.

Sri Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Ramanuja's Commentary

Here Lord Krishna explains that from the beginning of time purusa or the immortal soul and prakriti the material substratum pervading physical existence have been existing united together. The word vikarams means modifications and transformations this denotes non-spiritual material attributes and passions. The word gunas 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 prakriti. Virtuous qualities such as reverence and humility are situated in sattva and effectuate moksa or liberation from material existence. The qualities of passion with their desires and attachments are situated in rajas and effectuates 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. Purusa uniting with prakriti has been perpetuating since the beginning of time and expresses itself as a ksetra or field of activity which is a physical body. The jiva or embodied being influenced by the modifications of rajas and tamas in the form of desire and attachment, attraction and aversion, shrouds the atma or immortal soul and keeps it in bondage. Contrarily the jiva 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 atma attaining moksa.

Kumara Vaisnava Sampradaya:


Kesava Kasmiri's Commentary

It can be seen that Lord Krishna's two-fold potency consisting of the inferior external energy and the superior internal energy as described in chapter seven, verse five is non-different from the ksetra or filed of activity and the ksetra-jna the knower of the field of activity. Here Lord Krishna refers to matter as prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence and purusa or the supreme eternal spirit of all as the atma or immortal soul are both beginingless and attached to each other from time immemorial. It should be understood that prakriti is the lower form of existence known as the ksetra which is insentient containing the three modes of material nature and is the cause of all modification and transformations on the physical plane of existence. The purusa is the higher potency of existence known as the ksetra-jna and is completely different in nature being sentient. Both are beginningless and have no cause due to the fact they are both potencies of the Supreme Lord and thus they themselves are their own cause. It is not possible for any other prime cause to exist other than the Supreme Lord and an endless succession of causes and effects makes such a hypothesis untenable. There is no need to discuss the position of the atma or immortal soul as it is eternal and unborn. The Katha Upanisad I.II.XVIII beginning na jayate mriyate va meaning: The atma is never born neither does it ever die. Nor is the atma ever subject to any modifications or transformations of prakriti such as attraction and aversion, desire and repulsion, etc. which are the cause of endless bondage to the jiva or embodied self. Also the 20 super excellent virtues given in verses 8 to 12 commencing with reverence and humility which become the cause of liberation through knowledge also arise from prakriti. The purport is that matter is constituted of beginningless actions while insentient by modification force the jiva to endlessly revolve in samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth and death. Yet this matter when possessing the super excellent virtues of spiritual endowment can liberate the jiva as well.

Thus ends commentaries of chapter 13, verse 20 of the Srimad Bhagavad-Gita.

Verse 20

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