Chapter 13 – Distinguishing between Matter and Spirit

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Arjuna said, Krishna, would you please tell me about material nature; the enjoyer; the field and the knower of the field; knowledge and the object of knowledge.

Lord Krishna said, This body is the field, and one who knows this body is the knower of the field. I am also the knower in all bodies. In my opinion to understand this body and its knower is true knowledge.

Now please hear briefly from me about the field of activity and its composition, its transformations and its causes and effects; who the knower of the field of activities is, and what his powers are. This knowledge has been taught in various Vedic literatures along with its conclusive logic.

In summary, the field of activity and its transformations consists of:

– The five gross elements (earth, water, fire, air and ether)

– The mind, intelligence and contaminated ego

– The invisible material nature

– The five senses for gathering knowledge (nose, tongue, eyes, touch, ears)

– The five working senses (voice, legs, hands, anus and the genitals)

– The five objects of the senses (smell, taste, vision, touch and sound)

– Desire, hatred, happiness and unhappiness

– The aggregate, consciousness and convictions

All the following qualities are called knowledge and whatever is contrary to this is ignorance:

– Humility and lack of desire for honour

– Non-violence and tolerance

– Honesty and simplicity

– Cleanliness

– Steadiness and self-control

– Service to the spiritual master

– Detachment from the objects of the senses

– Absence of egoism

– Perception of the miseries of birth, death, old age and disease

– Non-attachment to children, spouse, home etc

– Even-mindedness in desirable and undesirable circumstances

– Undeviating pure devotion to me

– Residing in a solitary place

– Indifference to association with the general mass of people

– Accepting the importance of self-realisation and the philosophical search for the Absolute Truth.

I shall now describe the object of knowledge, knowing which you will attain immortality. It is known as spirit. It has no beginning and is eternal. It is subordinate to me and transcends the cause and effect of this material world.

He pervades the entire universe as the Supersoul. His hands, feet, eyes and faces are everywhere and he hears everything. The Supersoul illuminates all the senses, yet he is without material senses.

He is completely aloof from everything although he is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of material nature, yet he is the master of them.

The Supersoul exists within and without both the moving and the stationery. He is subtle and very difficult to comprehend. Although he is distant, he is also near. Although he is indivisible, the Supersoul appears divided in all beings.

He manifests, maintains and devours all living beings. He is the light source in all luminous objects and beyond darkness. He is knowledge, the object of knowledge, and he can be reached by knowledge. He dwells in the heart of all living beings.

I have briefly described the field of activities, knowledge and the object of knowledge. Those who are devoted to me can realise these truths and attain love for me.

The material energy and the living beings have no beginning. The changes they undergo are produced by the material energy. The material energy is the cause of all the material activities and effects, but the living being is the cause of the feelings of pain and pleasure and the various sufferings and enjoyments in the world.

The living being within the material world enjoys the different forms arising from the material energy. Attachment to these material forms causes the living being to undergo repeated births, sometimes in higher species and sometimes in the lower species of life. 

Within these bodies, there is also the Supersoul. He is the Supreme Person, the witness, the sanctioner, the supporter and the guardian.

Anyone who understands material nature, the living being and the interactions of the modes of nature is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Regardless of their present circumstances, they will not take birth again.

Some perceive the Supersoul through meditation, some through the cultivation of knowledge, and others through selfless action. Some, who do not know about these methods hear about this from others and so begin to worship me. They also transcend death.

Everything animate and inanimate in existence is a combination of the field of activities and the knower of the field. Those who see the Supersoul accompanying the individual soul in all bodies as the imperishable within the perishing, see with perfect vision.

Those who see the Supersoul in every living being, do not deceive themselves and so reach the supreme destination. Anyone who sees that the material energy performs all activities, and the soul does nothing and has no material qualities at all, sees the truth.

Those who can perceive the truth see that the different bodies of the different species of life arise from the material nature and that all living beings are situated within and originate from the one spiritual nature.

Thus they see with spiritual vision and know that the soul and the Supersoul are eternal and beyond the modes of nature. Although present within the body, the soul does not act, nor does any action affect the soul.

The most subtle of the material elements is space, which pervades everything although it does not combine with anything. Similarly, the soul pervading the body does not combine with the body. As the sun pervades and illuminates the entire universe, the living being pervades and illuminates the entire body with consciousness.

Those who can distinguish between the body and the knower of the body can understand the process of liberation from material nature and they reach the spiritual realm.

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