Swami Ranganathananda Bhagavad Gita 13.pdf: An Enlightening Voyage of Discovery through the Gita and Beyond
Swami Ranganathananda Bhagavad Gita 13.pdf: An Exposition of the Gita in the Light of Modern Thought and Modern Needs
The Bhagavad Gita is one of the most revered scriptures of Hinduism, which contains the essence of Vedanta, the philosophy of life and action. It is a dialogue between Lord Krishna, the supreme teacher, and Arjuna, the warrior prince, on the eve of a great war. The Gita addresses the universal questions of human existence, such as the nature of reality, the purpose of life, the role of duty, the meaning of freedom, and the path to liberation.
Swami Ranganathananda Bhagavad Gita 13.pdf
Among the many commentaries on the Gita, one that stands out for its depth, clarity, and relevance is that of Swami Ranganathananda, a renowned monk of the Ramakrishna Order and a former president of Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission. Swami Ranganathananda delivered a series of lectures on the Gita in various parts of India and abroad from 1956 to 1999, covering all the 18 chapters in detail. These lectures were later compiled into a three-volume book titled Universal Message of the Bhagavad Gita: An Exposition of the Gita in the Light of Modern Thought and Modern Needs.
In this article, we will focus on one chapter of this book, namely Chapter 13, which deals with the discrimination between nature and Atman, or matter and spirit. This chapter is also known as Kshetra-Kshetrajna Vibhaga Yoga, or the Yoga of Distinction between Field and Knower-of-the-field. We will explore the main theme, concepts, teachings, and implications of this chapter in a simple and engaging way.
The main theme of Chapter 13
The main theme of Chapter 13 is to show how one can transcend the limitations and sufferings imposed by nature or matter by realizing one's true identity as Atman or spirit. This is done by discriminating between Kshetra and Kshetrajna, or field and knower-of-the-field.
Swami Ranganathananda explains that Kshetra means "the field where activity takes place" and Kshetrajna means "the knower who knows what happens in that field". In other words, Kshetra refers to "the objective world" and Kshetrajna refers to "the subjective self". He says that this distinction is "the very foundation of all spiritual life".
He further says that "the whole purpose of religion is to make us aware that we are not this body-mind complex which we call 'I', but something beyond it". He quotes Sri Ramakrishna, who said that "the essence of religion is to know oneself". He also quotes Swami Vivekananda, who said that "religion is not going to church or temple or mosque; religion is realizing God in your own soul".
The definition of Kshetra and Kshetrajna
The definition of Kshetra and Kshetrajna is given by Lord Krishna in verses 2 to 6. He says:
This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field; he who knows it is called the knower-of-the-field by those who know of them. And know Me also, O descendant of Bharata, as the knower-of-the-field in all fields; and the knowledge of the field and the knower-of-the-field, I deem to be true knowledge. What that field is, and of what nature, what its modifications are and whence it is, and also who he is and what his powers are-hear that briefly from Me. The great sages have sung of this in various ways, in various distinctive chants, and also in the suggestive words indicative of the Absolute. The five great elements, egoism, intellect, and also the unmanifested Nature, the ten senses and one, and the five objects of the senses; desire, hatred, pleasure, pain, the aggregate, intelligence, fortitude-the field has thus been briefly described with its modifications.
Swami Ranganathananda comments that these verses give a comprehensive description of Kshetra or nature or matter, which includes not only the physical body but also the subtle body consisting of mind, intellect, ego, and impressions. He says that Kshetra is "the totality of our experience" which is constantly changing and evolving. He also says that Kshetrajna or Atman or spirit is "the witness of all these changes" which is eternal and unchanging. He says that Atman is "the source of all consciousness" which pervades all fields.
The characteristics of Kshetra
The characteristics of Kshetra or nature or matter are further elaborated by Lord Krishna in verses 7 to 11. He says:
Absence of pride, sincerity, non-injury, forgiveness, uprightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadfastness, self-control; indifference to the objects of the senses and also absence of egoism; perception of the evil of birth, death, old age and sickness; non-attachment; non-identification of self with son, wife or home; and constant even-mindedness on attainment of the desirable and the undesirable; unswerving devotion to Me by yoga without other objects; resorting to solitary places; distaste for the society of men; constancy in Self-knowledge; perception of the end of true knowledge-this is declared to be knowledge; what is opposed to it is ignorance.
Swami Ranganathananda explains that these verses describe "the 24 elements" that constitute Kshetra or nature or matter. He says that these elements are "the building blocks" of our personality and our world. He says that these elements are "the products of evolution" which have both positive and negative aspects. He says that we need to cultivate "the positive aspects" such as purity, self-control, non-attachment, etc., which lead to knowledge; and avoid "the negative aspects" such as pride, egoism, attachment, etc., which lead to ignorance.
The characteristics of Kshetrajna
The characteristics of Kshetrajna or Atman or spirit are revealed by Lord Krishna in verses 12 to 18. He says:
I shall speak to you briefly of that which has to be known and by knowing which one attains immortality-the beginningless supreme Brahman which is said to be neither existent nor non-existent. With hands and feet everywhere; with eyes and heads and mouths everywhere; with ears everywhere; It exists in all beings enveloping them all. Shining through the functions of all senses yet without any senses; unattached yet supporting all beings; devoid of qualities yet enjoying qualities. Without and within all beings; unmoving yet moving; so subtle that It cannot be perceived; so far yet so near It is. Undivided yet existing as if divided in beings; It is to be known as the supporter of beings; It destroys them and creates them again. The Light even of lights is said to be beyond darkness; knowledge itself as well as what can be known by knowledge; seated in the hearts of all It can be reached by knowledge.
Swami Ranganathananda comments that these verses describe "the witness consciousness" that is Kshetrajna or Atman or spirit. He says that this consciousness is "the essence" of our being which transcends all limitations and dualities. He says that this consciousness is "the reality" behind all appearances which illumines everything but cannot be illumined by anything else. He says that this consciousness is "the goal" of our life which can be realized by knowledge.
The means of attaining Kshetrajna
The means of attaining Kshetrajna or Atman or spirit 71b2f0854b