The Thirteenth Teaching | Madhu Bazaz Wangu
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The Thirteenth Teaching

The Thirteenth Teaching

The Thirteenth Teaching
The Field and the Field Knower

What is the Self–the “Knower of the field?”
What is the “field?”

The body is the field; the one who watches whatever happens within it is called the Knower.

Know me as the field-knower in every body; genuine knowledge is knowing both the field and its Knower.

Listen from me the summary of the field; what changes take place in it, who is the Knower and what his powers are.

Ancient seers have sung of this in many powerful ways, with varied meters and well argued with reasoning.

The field contains the five elements, “I”-sense, the understanding, the ten senses, the mind and the five sense realms.

Longing, hated, happiness, suffering, bodily form, consciousness, resolve-all these components make up the field, with its various changes.

Knowledge means humility, sincerity, nonviolence, patience, honesty, and reverence for one’s spiritual teacher, purity, stability, and self-restraint.

dispassion toward sense objects and absence of I-sense, seeing the evils of birth, death, old age, sickness, and suffering;

detachment, absence of clinging to son, wife and home, and unshakable equanimity in good fortune and in bad,

an unwavering devotion to me above all things; an intense love of solitude, un-involvement in worldly affairs;

persistence in knowing the Self and awareness of the goal of knowing -all this is called true knowledge; what differs from it is the opposite-ignorance.

I will teach you what is to be known; knowing it, you attain immortality; it is the supreme reality, which transcends both being and nonbeing.

Its hands and its feet reach everywhere; its head and face see in every direction; its ears hear everything, it dwells in all worlds, enveloping all.

Though lacking sense organs, it shines through the working of the senses; unattached it supports everything, enjoying the gunas (qualities), yet above them.

outside yet within all beings, inanimate but still animate, subtle beyond being known, distant yet nearer than near.

indivisible, though it seems, divided in separate bodies; it is what sustains all things, what devours them and creates them.

It is the light of lights, beyond all darkness it is knowledge, the object and goal of knowledge; it is seated in the heart of everyone.

This, in summary, is the field, knowledge and the object of knowledge; a devotee who understands this is ready to enter into my being.

Know that both Nature and Self have no beginning, and know that Nature gives rise to attributes and to changes in the field.

Nature is the cause of activities in the body; the Self is the cause of feelings of pleasure and pain.

The Self, set in nature, experiences the attributes; its attachment to attributes causes its birth wombs of good and evil.

It is called witness, consenter, sustainer, enjoyer-the great lord, and also the highest Self, man’s true spirit in this body.

He, who knows the Self as separate from Nature and knows the attributes of nature, will never be born again-whatever path he may follow.

By meditation some men see the Self in the self; others by yoga of knowledge; others by the selfless action.

Still others, only know about it and revere what they hear; they too cross beyond death, trusting what they have heard.

Arjuna, know that anything inanimate or animate is born from the union of field and its Knower.

He who sees that the great lord is equally in all beings, deathless amid death, that man truly sees.

Seeing the great lord everywhere, he knows without doubt that the self cannot harm the Self and he reaches the highest goal.

He really sees who sees that all actions are performed by nature alone and that the self is not an actor.

He who perceives that all actions are performed by Nature alone and thus the self is not the doer-that man sees truly.

He who perceives that the myriad beings emanate from the one unity, that one attains the absolute freedom.

The supreme self is beginningless, deathless, and unconfined; although it abides in bodies, it neither acts, nor is defiled.

Just as all-pervading space remains unsullied in its subtlety, so the Self remains unsullied dwelling within a body.

Just as the sun by itself illumines the entire world, so the master of the field illumines the entire field.

He whose inner eye sees how the Knower is distinct from the field, and how men are set free from Nature, arrives at the highest state.

As I Understand It:
The chapter introduces two categories namely “field” and “Knower of the field.” The term prakriti is used for the “field” and Purusha for the “Knower of the field.” According to the Sankhya philosophy Purusha is the spiritual basis of every being and prakriti is its manifest form. The teachings of the Gita are deeply influenced by the Sankhya from which the two terms are borrowed.

“Field” includes both mental and physical forces-body, mind and ego-self that makes a person aware of his separateness from the rest of creation. “Self” is “Knower of the field.” Krishna is the “Self” and Arjuna the “field” or the ego-self.

Good thoughts, words and actions bear fruit. Our attitude, decisions we make and our desires shape our lives. If we sow selfless actions, words and thoughts in our “field” we reap the results.

The chapter portrays the wise person who understands his true nature. The wise knows the difference between his finite self and deathless Self that dwells within him. But unwise confuse the infinite Self with finite self or is unaware that there is a Self. Such individual has no spiritual direction. He is only aware of his separate “I.”

Even though the Self dwells in all things it remains completely pure and separate. This “Knower” is hidden in the heart of every being.

Recommended Reading:
The Bhagavad Gita, Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran, Nilgiri Press, Blue Mountain Center of Meditation, California. Second Edition, 2008. (1st Pub. 1985).

The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna Counsel in Time of War, Translation and Introduction by Barbara Stoler Miller. Bantam Doubleday Dell Group, Inc. New York. Bantam Books, 1986.

Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation, Stephen Mitchell, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000.

1 Comment
  • I’m very glad to have your interpretation of these passages, because I found them really hard to grasp. Thank you.

    July 28, 2010 at 11:44 am

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