Bhagavad Gita with Commentaries of Shankara | Discourse 13 verse 4-11

The Doctrine extolled.

The Lord now extols what He has proposed to teach,— namely, the doctrine of the true nature of Kshetra and Kshetrajna,—with a view to interest the mind of the hearer:

4. Sung by sages, in many ways and distinctly, in various hymns, as also in the suggestive words about Brahman, full of reasoning and decisive.

Shankara's commentary:

Sages (Ṛishis): such as Vāsishṭha. Hymns: such as the Rik.

The true nature of Kshetra and Kshetrajna has also been taught in the Brahma-sūtras, i.e., in the passages treating of Brahman,

—such as “Only as the Self, let a man contemplate Him” (Bri. Up. 1-4-7),

—in the words through which alone Brahman is known. They are full of reasoning. They admit of no doubt, i. e., they are productive of certain knowledge.

Matter in all its forms.

To Arjuna who has, by this praise (of the doctrine), been prepared to hear it, the Lord says:

5. The Great Elements, Egoism, Reason, as also the Unmanifested, the ten senses and one, and the five objects of the senses;

Shankara's commentary:

The Great Elements (Mahābhūtas) are so called because they pervade all vikāras, all modifications of matter.

The elements here referred to are the subtle ones (sūkṣma), not the gross (sthūla) elements, which latter will be spoken of as “the objects of the senses.”

Egoism (Ahaṁkāra): self-consciousness, consciousness of ego, the cause of ‘the Great Elements’.

Reason (Buddhi) is defined by determination and is the cause of Ahaṁkāra.

The cause of Reason (Buddhi) is the Avyakta, the Unmani­fested, the Avyākṛta or Undifferentiated, the Energy of the Lord (Īśvara-Śaktī) spoken of in vii. 14.

So much alone is Prakriti, divided eightfold.

The ten senses are made up of the five “buddhi-iṅdriyas”, senses of knowledge

—such as hearing,—so called because they produce knowledge, and of the five “karma-iṅdriyas,” senses of action such as speech and hand, so called because they bring about action.

And the one: the manas, which is composed of thoughts and purposes (saṁkalpa) and so on, is the eleventh sense.

The five objects of the senses are sound, etc. The Sānkhyas speak of these as the twenty-four principles (tattvas).

6. Desire, hatred, pleasure, pain, the aggregate, intelligence, courage;—the Kshetra has been thus briefly described with its modifications.

Shankara's commentary:

Now, the Lord proceeds to teach that even those which the Vaiśeṣikās speak of as the inherent attributes of Ātman (the Self) are merely the attributes of Kshetra (matter), but not the attributes of Kshetrajna (the knower of matter).

Desire (Ichchhā) is that which impels a person who has once experienced a certain object of pleasure to seek—on again perceiving an object of the same class,—to get hold of this latter as conducive to pleasure.

This, namely desire, is a property of the inner sense (antaḥ-kāraṇa); and it is Kshetra (matter) because it is knowable.

So also, hatred is that which leads a person, who once experienced a certain object of pain, to dislike an object of the same class on perceiving this latter. This, namely hatred, is only Kshetra (matter), be­cause it is knowable.

Pleasure is the agreeable, the tranquil, made up of the Sattva principle. Even this is Kshetra, because it is knowable.

Pain is the disagreeable; and it is Kshetra because it is knowable.

The aggregate is the com­bination of the body and the senses.

Intelligence is a mental state which manifests itself in the aggregate—just as fire manifests itself in a burning metallic mass,—pervaded by the semblance of the consciousness of the Self. It is Kshetra, because it is knowable.

Courage is that by which the body and the senses are upheld when they get depressed; and it is Kshetra because it is knowable.

—Desire and other qualities mentioned here stand for all the qualities of the inner sense (antaḥ-kāraṇa).

The Lord concludes the present subject as follows: the Kshetra has been thus briefly described, with its modifications such as Mahat (Buddhi).

Virtues conducive to Self-knowledge.

The Kshetra, of which the various modifications in their totality have been spoken of as “this body” (xiii. i), has been described in all its different forms, from ‘the Great Elements’ to ‘courage’ (xiii. 5-6).

The characteristic marks of Kshetrajna will be shortly described.

In xiii.12, the Lord Himself will describe Kshetrajna in detail,—that Kshetra­jna through knowledge of whose powers immortality can be attained.

But, now, the Lord prescribes, as means to that knowledge, virtues such as humility, which qualify a person for knowledge of the Knowable,

intent on which a sannyāsin is said to be a jñāna-nishṭha, a firm devotee in the path of knowledge, and which are designated as knowledge (jñāna) because they are the means of attaining knowledge.

7. Humility, modesty, innocence, patience, up­rightness, service of the teacher, purity, steadfast­ness, self-control;

Shankara's commentary:

Humility: absence of self-esteem. Modesty:  not pro­ claiming one’s own virtues. Innocence: doing no injury to any living being. Patience: not being affected when others have done any injury.

Service of the teacher: doing acts of service to the preceptor (āchārya) who teaches the means of attaining moksha.

Purity: washing away the dirt from the body by means of water and earths,—the inner purity of mind consisting in the removal from it of the dirt of attach­ment and other passions by cultivating the idea that is inimical to them.

Steadfastness: concentration of all efforts exclusively in the path of salvation.

Self-control: control of the self, of the aggregate of the body and the senses. This aggregate is spoken of as the self, because it is of some service to the true Self.

Self-control consists in directing exclusively to the right path the body and the mind which are by nature attracted in all directions.


8. Absence of attachment for objects of the senses, and also absence of egoism; perception of evil in birth, death and old age, in sickness and pain;

Shankara's commentary:

Absence of attachment: for sense-objects such as sound, for pleasures seen or unseen.

Perception, etc.: thinking of what evil there is severally in birth, etc. Thus the evil in birth lies in having to dwell in the womb and to issue out through the uterus. Similarly in death.

The evil of old age consists in the decay of intelligence, power and strength, and in being treated with contempt. So also may be seen the evil caused by sickness such as head-disease;

or the evil caused by pain, whether ādhyātmika, i.e., arising in one’s own person, or Ādhibhautika, i.e., produced by external agents, or Ādhidaivika, i.e., produced by supernatural beings.

Or, the passage may be thus interpreted:

—Pain itself is evil. Birth, etc., should be regarded as painful, as shown above. Birth is a misery; death is a misery; old age is a misery; and sickness is a misery.

Birth, etc., are all miseries, because they produce misery; they are not miseries in themselves.

From this perception of the evil of pain in birth, etc., there arises indifference to the pleasures of the body and of the senses; and then the senses turn towards the Innermost Self to obtain a glimpse of the Self.

Because the percep­tion of the evil of pain in birth, etc., conduces to knowledge, it is itself spoken of as knowledge.

9. Unattachment, absence of affection for son, wife, home and the like, and constant, equanimity on the attainment of the desirable and the unde­sirable;

Shankara's commentary:

Unattachment: absence of liking for things which may form objects of attachment.

Affection is an intense form of attachment and consists in complete identification with another, as in the case of a man who feels happy or miser­able when another is happy or miserable and who feels himself alive or dead when another is alive or dead.

The like: others who are very dear, other dependants. Un­attachment and absence of affection are termed knowledge because they lead to knowledge.

Constant equanimity con­sists is not being delighted on attaining the desirable, and in not chafing on attaining the undesirable. This equani­mity also is (conducive to) knowledge.

10. Unflinching devotion to Me in Yoga of non­-separation, resort to solitary places, distaste for the society of men;

Shankara's commentary:

Yoga of non-separation: apṛthak-samādhi, a steady un­flinching meditation on the One with the idea that there is no Being higher than the Lord, Vāsudeva, and that therefore He is our sole Refuge. And this devotion is (conducive to) knowledge.

Solitary places: which are naturally free, or made free, from impurities, as also from fear of serpents, thieves and tigers: such as a jungle, the sandbank of a river, the temple of a God, and so on.

It is in solitude that the mind becomes calm; so that meditation of the Self and the like is possible only in a solitary place. Wherefore resort to solitude is said to be (conducive to) knowledge.

Society of men: of the ordinary unenlightened and undisciplined people, not of the enlightened and disciplined men, be­cause the society of these latter is an aid to knowledge.

Distaste for the society of ordinary men is knowledge, because it leads to knowledge.


11. Constancy in Self-knowledge, perception of the end of the knowledge of truth. This is declared to be knowledge, and what is opposed to it is ignorance.

Shankara's commentary:

Self-knowledge: knowledge of the Self and the like.

Percep­tion, etc.: Knowledge of truth results from the mature development of such attributes as humility (xiii.7), which are the means of attaining knowledge.

The end of this knowledge is moksha, the cessation of mortal existence, of saṁsāra.

The end should be kept in view; for, it is only when one perceives the end of the knowledge of truth that one will endeavour to cultivate the attributes which are the means of attaining that knowledge.

These attributes— from ‘humility’ to ‘perception of the end of the knowledge of truth ’—are declared to be knowledge, because they are conducive to knowledge.

What is opposed to this—i.e., pride, hypocrisy, cruelty, impatience, insincerity and the like -is ignorance, which should be known and avoided as tending to the perpetuation of saṁsāra.