(Other Beaches: 1 2 3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10 )




[ OTHER WAVES ON THE SAME BEACH:      1    2    3    4   5    6    7   8   9    11    12  ]


This chapter may look like a digression. But it is necessary and serves two purposes. One, to talk about the second secret out of the three secrets of the Gita; second, to lay the technical foundations for the next two chapters, namely ‘Actionlessness’ (the proper consummation of karma yoga) and ‘Surrender theory’ (the final secret of secrets).  Also hereafter we shall be mostly following the advaita school of Shankara, because we are getting into the deeper nuances of philosophy and it is advisable to follow one Master.


Behind the body-mind-intellect (BMI) there exists something which gives it life.  Without this, the BMI cannot express itself. We call this the JIva. The corresponding English word ‘soul’ would not suffice because it does not have all the connotations which ‘JIva’ has. This JIva is nothing but a spark of the Absolute. (VII-5; XV–7). The Lord introduces this in the seventh chapter.  His own divine Energy – called Cosmic PrakRti – is two-fold, says He. One is ParA (Superior) and the other is aparA (inferior). This latter is the source of all matter. It manifests actually as eight-fold matter, namely, the five elements, plus mind, plus intellect, plus ego (ahamkAra).


PrakRti is nothing but the Shakti or potential of the Absolute Brahman. Brahman by itself undergoes no change and has no action. But its potential expresses itself as ParA-shakti (or ParA-prakRti) and aparA-shakti (or aparA-prakRti). What is the reason for this manifestation? Nobody knows. This is one of the few questions which has no answer. Nor is the answer goling to be relevant. But one thing is certain. But for this manifestation, we would not be sitting and talking here. In fact neither we nor this universe would exist.


So parA-prakRti is what becomes all the jIvas. Each JIva takes several bodies (physical appearances) one after the other.


vAsAmsi jIrNAni  yathA vihAya navAni gRhNAti naro’parANi /

tathA sharIrANi vihAya jIrNAny-anyAni samyAti navAni dehI//II-22


But in all these different appearances of the JIva, though it takes different bodies, the same mind sticks on to it. (XV – 7, 8). In each such life of the JIva, the mind accumulates vAsanAs and samskAras that go on with it into succeeding lives. It is these vAsanAs that give a character to the mind. This character is a mixture of satva, rajas and tamas.


Without BMI the jIva cannot express itself as an individual. Without the sentient JIva, mind is just inert matter. But when it sticks on to the JIva in the latter’s physical expression through BMI, it gets sentience. Now the JIva interacts with the universe of matter as well as with the other living beings.  But even this interaction has to take place  only through the medium of the BMI.


This is therefore a seemingly endless play of the sentient Consciousness within and the insentient universe of matter outside through the medium of the BMI.  This is the cit-jaDa-granthi that Maharshi Ramana talked about (Ref. Ch.4) The sentient Consciousness within, which is nothing but a spark of the parAshakti, is called Purushha. Everything else, including the interaction with other beings,  is of course prakRti.  This interplay of Purushha and prakRti is what constitutes our passage through life.

Now the Lord says: There are two Purushhas.


dvAv-imau purushhau loke kshharashcA-kshhara eva ca  /

kshharas-sarvANi bhUtAni kUTastho’kshhara ucyate // XV – 16 //


They are kshhara-purushha  (the perishable purushha) and akshara-purushha (the imperishable purushha). The kshhara is the familiar JIva.  It is expressing itself through the BMI. But in so expressing itself, it invariably makes the mistake of thinking it is just BMI and nothing more. In other words, the kshhara-purushha commits the colossal error of identifying itself with the BMI. This colossal error is called ‘anAdi avidyA’ (Beginningless Ignorance). And here starts all the problems of life. All the pleasure and pain, ups and downs, light and darkness, good and bad, that the BMI suffers through, are mistakenly assumed by the kshhara-purushha as its own experiences. Not only this. All the actions of the BMI are also appropriated by the kshhara. Thus arises the common expression: ‘I am the doer (kartA)’ and ‘I am the experiencer (bhoktA)’.


The kshara purushha is involved in the actions of Nature.  He reflects the varied workings of the Gunas of prakRti.  He is saguNa, personal.  He associates himself with the doings of prakRti and thinks he is the doer.  He identifies himself with the play of personality and clouds his self-knowledge with the ego-sense in PrakRti so that he thinks himself as the ego-doer of works. (III - 27):

prakRteH kriyamANAni guNaiH karmANi sarvashaH /

ahamkAra-vimUDhAtmA kartA’ham-iti manyate //


Some one pinches my body. It hurts. Who feels this hurt? I feel the hurt.  Who is this I that is speaking? It is the kshhara-purushha. Why does the kshhara-purushha feel the hurt? Because it has identified itself with the BMI. Therefore it becomes the ‘bhoktA’ the experiencer.


Not only do I feel the hurt, but I flare up at the other person. Who is this I that is flaring up now? It is again the kshhara-purushha.  Why does the kshhara-purushha flare up? Because it has identified itself with the BMI. As a consequence of this identification, it not only experiences the hurt, but falls into the trap of the gang of thirteen, particularly krodha (anger) and ahamkAra (ego)  and flares back. So it becomes the ‘kartA’ (doer).


What does the Lord say on this now? He says there are two purushhas – kshhara and akshhara. The akshhara is never hurt and can never be hurt, says He.

acchedyoyam adAhyoyam akledyo’shoshhya eva ca” (II – 24).

This cannot be cut into pieces; this cannot be burnt; this cannot be tainted; this cannot be dried.


So He says: “My dear Arjuna, You (the kshhara-purushha / JIva) are wrongly identifying yourself with this BMI. Don’t do this. Identify yourself with the akshhara-purushha within you. Then there will be no hurt. Only Happiness”


This is the bottom line. This is the essential philosophical content of the entire teaching of the Gita. This is the message of all spiritual teaching. This is the grand recipe for Happiness.


Now let us come to the two charts. The first is the Cosmology chart.


Matter came from the aparA Shakti  or aparA prakRti. That is why prakRti is also called pradhAna,  the Fundamental. It is also called kshhetra, the Field, because it is the base of all action. It is jaDa, because it is insentient. It is avyakta, the unmanifest, because it is not  perceptible  to the senses. It is kshhara, the Perishable, because it alternates between manifestation and non-manifestation.

It is mAyA because it deceptively hides the Spirit behind Matter and projects falsity.


jIva the spirit component is a fragment of the cit-Shakti of Brahman.  cit-Shakti functioning through a matter envelopment becomes the living organism. To quote Swami Chinmayananda, "'That' dressed up in matter becomes the  egocentric 'Thou'.   Man undressed of Matter is the eternal and ineffable spirit".   When spirit is thus enveloped by  matter it is called jIva.   He is the purushha with all his individuality.  Without the interaction of the purushha the experiencer, and prakRti that is, without the interaction of Spirit and Matter, there is no expression, no experience.  When man looks inward of his insentient matter-layer he is nothing but sentient vital consciousness.


Mind itself is matter. It is the effect of the play of prakRti.  The latter, individualised  to each soul is the unmanifested factor, (the individualised prakRti for each person cf.Ch.2) which, in consequence of the good and bad performances in the previous lives, has begun to give fruition in this life.  That which rules the functions of a given mind and intellect and determines its reactions to the world outside is the  unmanifested factor, also referred to in the literature, as the vAsanAs.  Incidentally, the gItA never uses the word vAsanA.  It uses the word avyakta for the unmanifested factor standing for the totality of vAsanAs, either individual or collective.  In its macrocosmic aspect, the total universe of men and things spring from the aggregate of vAsanAs of all living beings.  This totality is the source of the whole universe at the beginning of the kalpa  (IX - 7, 8).   It is because of this that jIva is under the spell of mAyA or prakRti -- through whcih Brahman functions to bring about the universe of men and things.   The play of matter and spirit in this manner is Samsâra.


All forms and qualities, changes and modifications belong to the realm of matter.  Atman or Brahman is the changeless substratum in the presence of which this interplay takes place.  The movie screen is the only basic presence and inherent reality whereon all the turmoil and turbulence of the actions of the movie take place. The screen by itself is untainted by any of that action. The purushha by himself has no samsAra.  But when He identifies himself with the body and the senses which are the effects of prakRti, he becomes the  experiencer.


As the all-pervading space is not tainted because of its subtlety, so also the Atman permeating the entire body, is not tainted by anything that the body, mind or intellect does.  (XIII – 32).

yathA sarva-gatam saukshhmyAd-AkAshaM nopalipyate /

sarvatra-avasthito dehe tathAtmA nopalipyate //

The Atman is like the Sun which illuminates the whole world but is at the same time uncontaminated by anything of the world. Every action of the world as well as of the body, mind and intellect is dominated by prakRti. 


We said of the purushha that when he identifies himself with the body and the senses he is the experiencer.   He it is that enjoys and suffers, he it is that is subject to pleasure and pain and he it is that thinks he is the doer and the experiencer.   But deep within him, within this purushha, there is another purushha, the changeless, non-participating witness, the Sakshi. (XV - 16)  Beyond the kshhara there is the silent, immutable, all-pervading motionless self-existent Self -- <sarvagatam achalam (II-24).  He is the akshhara purushha -- <purushha, the Imperishable.   He is nirguNa, impersonal.  The guNas have fallen now into a state of equilibrium.   He is therefore dissociated from the doings of the guNas.   He is the inactive non-doer and witness.  He is aware that prakRti is the doer and himself only the witnessing self  (XIII - 29).


The concept of the two purushhas -- or two poises or roles of the one purushha -- and a consequent grand design of a tripple purushha, is an essential contribution of the gItA to the understanding of the eternal Upanishads.  In order to explain this grand design to ordinary people different masters give different illustrations. Vidyaranya's Panchadasi gives a beautiful analogy in its 4th chapter. The analogy that Vidyaranya gives and sustains throughout his work is so graphic that no presentation of prakRti and purushha as adumbrated in  Advaita Vedanta can be complete without mentioning Vidyaranya's analogy. 


Imagine an empty pot. Even though empty, it encloses space  (= AkASha).  We may call this enclosed space, the pot-space (= GhaTAkAsha). This is not different from the universal space (= mahAkAsha) which is outside the pot -- except that the pot-space is space  enclosed, conditioned by the material of the pot, whereas the universal space  is unconditioned (= nirupAdhita).  Now fill up the pot to the brim with water.  The pot-space has vanished.  We only see water now but in the water we see the universal space reflected.  This reflection shows the sky, the stars or whatever there is in the sky or the space, like buildings, trees, clouds, etc. with all their different shades of colour. This reflected presentation of the outside space may be called water-space  ( = jalAkAsha).


Important remark: Water-space shall not mean  'the space occupied by water' but shall mean the reflection, in the water, of the mahAkAsha, which is everywhere. 


Now the water-space hides the real space, namely the pot-space within and projects a falsity of an outer space, inside.   This is the grand delusion in which we are all in. 


The water-space corresponds to the jIva  (the individual soul) or the kshhara-purushha.  It hides the presence of the pot-space within.  The pot-space is the akshhara purushha. Without the substratum of the pot-space there cannot be any water-space.  We in our delusion think that the water-space is all there is.  We forget that there is a pot-space within and it is the real space and that the water-space is only a false projection of the reality.  Without the substratum of the imperishable purushha within, the jIva or the kshara purushha or what we think as our personality has no existence.  The imperishable purushha is also called (XV-16) kUTastha, the immovable, or the immutable, that which remains like the unchanging iron-piece (anvil) on which the blacksmith does all his hammering.

[kUTastha also means the top of a mountain

which remains unchanged and undisturbed.

kUTa also means the changeable universe

amidst which the unchangeable remains fixed.]


The water in the pot is the mind or intellect. It is the reflection in our intellect of the universal consciousness that generates the feeling, an individualised feeling, in us, of 'I' and 'mine'.


The mind of Man has two alternatives -- either to be bound by prakRti in the mutations of quality and personality or to be free from Her workings in immutable impersonality.  On one side there is the status of the akshhara purushha or kUTastha and his immutability.   On the other there is the action of the kshhara purushha or JIva and its mutability in prakRti.   Both these coexist.   They coexist as two contrary sides, aspects or facets of a supreme reality (mahAkAsha) which is limited by neither of them.  This reality which is the Ultimate, is the uttama purushha, different from the other two.  (XV - 17 ).  He is the purushottama.  That is His param bhAvam. (supreme nature of existence).  He is the sarva-bhUta-maheSvara,  the great Lord of all beings.  People foolishly think that the visual manifestation is all there is (IX - 11 ).  They allow the water-space to hide the real pot-space within and revel in the virtual  glory of the water-space.   But deep within us, by clearing our minds of all its 'contents', -- by clearing the pot of all its water -- we must get to the pot-space, that is the akshhara purushha.  It is the substratum  which makes way for all the actions of the individual purushha.  The actions themselves are because of the prakRti -- its three strands -- which in the analoogy is the reflecting capability of the water-mind.  We should be able to transcend the mind and the reflections that it carries with it and delve deep into our real Self, the silent watching Self.  This latter is nothing but the all-pervading Space (brahman) except for the limitation by the material of the pot.  Thou art That!


In summary therefore, to answer our question as to who the doer is: It is one's self which has identified with oneself. This identification itself is due to the fact that the intellect has allowed the JIva to hold the fort rather than overcome them and turn the identification towards one's Self. PrakRti comes in the picture because the VasanAs  are one's prakRti. (See chart of The Self). Also see chart of The Self, as per advaita).


But both the purushhas are only the fragment of the Ultimate, which is the 'third purushha'.  XV – 17 says: 

uttamaH purushhas-tvanyaH paramAtmety-udAhRtaH /

yo loka-trayam-AviSya bibharty-avyaya IsvaraH //

Other than these two is that highest spirit called the Supreme Self, who enters the three worlds and upbears them, the imperishable Lord.


He transcends the perishabliliy as well as  the immutability. Therefore He is called the Ultimate, Supreme, Transcendental, purushha. The One word for this is purushottama. When we go to the analogy of VidyaraNya this becomes clear: The water-space is the perishable purushha; the pot-space is the immutable purusha; and the universal space is the purushhottama. And all of them are ultimately One.


The Purushhottama of the gItA is the controller of the other two purushhas as well as the prakRti. (He is just the all-pervading space of Vidyaranya's analogy).  It is He that appears as the other two purushhas and it is He that creates, sustains and dissolves, through His prakRti. In the kshara, He puts forth his own prakRti and manifests himself in the soul.  And each soul works out its own nature (= svabhAva ) according to the law of the divine being in it.   But it is worked out  in the egoistic nature by the bewildering play of the three guNas upon each other.   One can get beyond this play of the guNas only by transcending the guNas. 


As Purushhottama however, He is neither merely impersonal nor merely personal.  He is one and the same being in both aspects. Infinity of the Spirit does not just mean infinite immensity; it also  implies infinitesimal littleness. Though impersonal in its vastness, it has become personal also in creating individual beings.  He is the impersonal-personal,  nirguNo-guNI.   guNabRn-nirguNo mahAn,  says the VishNu-sahasra-nAma.


Man as the individual self owing to his ignorant self-identification with the work and the becoming is bewildered by his ahamkAra or egoism. (cf. ahamkAra-vimUDhAtmA --III-27).    ahamkAra is nothing but the notion that this conglomeration of the senses and the mind which are the cause for all the actions, is the Self ( Atman). This egoism, or ahamkAra, is not just the feeling 'I am'.  The feeling 'I am' is not wrong. But the feeling 'I am the body, I am the mind, I am the intellect' or the feeling 'I am a combination of these' is wrong. It is this attitude, this supposition, this feeling, this impression, that is wrong.  This ahamkAra is not just arrogance; it is far higher in the hierarchy of undesirable qualities - it is in fact at the top. For, the very nature of ahamkAra is that one does not know that one has ahamkAra. It is this false identification of the Self with the actions and the instruments of thought and action  that constitutes the root cause of all the trouble, called samsAra. 


Consequently one is enslaved by the guNas, now hampered in the dull ease of tamas, now blown away by the strong winds and currents of rajas, and now limited by the partial lights of satva.   Man has to distinguish and isolate himself from the prakRtic mind, by his discretionary intelligence.   If he allows himself to be mastered by the guNas, then he will have to suffer pain and pleasure, grief and happiness, desire and passion, attachment and disgust.  Thus he has no freedom.  If he wants freedom – and happiness --,  he must exist in oneness with the akshhara Purusha, the immutable and impersonal Self, tranquilly observing and impartially supporting the action, himself calm, indifferent, untouched, motionless, pure, one with all beings in their self, not one with prakRti and Her works.   This Self, though by its presence authorises  (cf. IX–10 : mayAdhyakshheNa prakRtiH sUyate sacarAcaraM ) the works of prakRti and supports them by its all-pervading existence, does not itself create works or the state of the doer or the linking of the works to their fruit.  (V - 14):

na kartRtvaM na karmANi lokasya sRjati prabhuH /

na karma-phala-samyogaM svabhAvastu pravartate //


It only watches prakRti in the kshhara.   It accepts neither the sin nor the virtue of the living creatures born into this birth. (V – 15: nAdatte kasyacit pApaM na caiva sukRtaM vibhuH ).  It always preserves its own spiritual purity. He who thus understands the purushottama  is no longer bewildered either by the appearances of the world or by the apparently contradictory purushhas; He is the whole-knower; He loves and worships in all the perfectly illumined ways - says the Lord in XV - 19: 

yo mAmevam-asammUDho jAnAti purushhottamaM /

sa sarvid-bhajati mAM sarva-bhAvena bhArata //

It is only at this point the Lord says that He has now given the greatest secret, the Secret of Secrets. This is the second time, of the three times He uses the same expression.  This is the second Secret of Secrets.


In the next chapter on ‘Actionlessness’ which is a kind of finale to the topic of Karma-yoga as adumbrated in the Gita, we shall further pursue this question of ‘Who is the doer?’  and actually resort to the 18th chapter for a closer look into the theory of Action and Doer.


Copyright  ©  V. Krishnamurthy    Feb.15, 2004


Contents page          Homepage

(To Wave 11)