What Sustains Ignorance of Self (Atman)? & 5 Stages of Spiritual Progress (147)


Lesson 147 shows 5 stage of spiritual progress. Universal cause for ignorance (not knowing Self). 1st benefit of self-knowledge (balanced perspective).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 24, 26, 26, 27, 28


  • CH 13 is extension of CH 7 and 9.
  • Up to V23, Krishna unfolded 6 words which Arjuna asked start of CH13.
    1. Kṣetra: Relating specifically to body-mind (anything seen, heard, felt, smelt, tasted / memories / karma / karma-phalam).
    2. Kṣetrajña: Knower of the field. The presence because of which the sensations of kshetram are Known.
    3. Jñānam: 20 values for fine-tuning the defaulted gross/extroverted mind.
    4. Jñeyam: What is to be known. Without knowing this, I have technically committed the greatest sin unto myself… despite living a successful, happy worldly life. Brahman.
      • It’s neither an existent, nor non-existent object. But an independent reality that Awares the fact of existent/non-existent states of objects.
    5. Prakṛti: Space-time and objects accommodated by them. Upādana kāraṇam.
    6. Puruṣa: Name given to Brahman from standpoint of manifest universe. Takes role of nimitta karanam when associated to prakriti. This is why Ishvara is defined as nimita & upadana-karanam (since Ishvara is purusha-prakriti mixture).
  • VERSE 24-26 discusses spiritual practices (culminating to jnana-yoga).
  • VERSE 24: 5 stages every seeker of absolute Truth, goes through, at varying degrees.
    • STAGE 1: Karma-Yoga:
      • Easiest because it’s asking person to continue acting (it assumes one’s belief, “I am karta”, I am a doer). Purpose of practice to absorb the mind into thoughts of divinity.
      • Involves:
        • Changing attitude towards one’s actions. Actions become a means of worship to the Lord. “I am employee of Lord alone… and not my boss, family, country”.
        • When pleasant/unpleasant results come, remember they’re coming from the incomprehensible Intelligence that’s upholding the universe, and will continue to do so even your body is gone.
      • In time, K.Y spirit converts “What can I get out of this?”, into “How can I serve? Where and what little can I contribute? How can I make the best of what I’ve been given by the Lord?”.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 24:

dhyānena ātmani paśyanti kecit ātmānam ātmanā ।
anye sāṅkhyena yogena karma-yogena ca apare ॥ 13-24 ॥
Some (seekers) see the Self in the mind with the mind through meditation. Some others (see) through Jñāna-yōga. Some others (see) through Karma-yōga.



  • STAGE 2: Upāsana
    • Meditation upon some object that reminds you of Īśvara.
    • Helps in reducing extroversion of mind. Helps turn mind towards own processing.
    • EG: Asthanga-Yoga, Kriya-Yoga, Tai Chi Chuan, Hatha Yoga.
  • STAGE 3: Śravaṇam
    • Systematically and consistently studying Upanishadic/Vedantic scriptures for length of time under guidance of competent ācārya.
    • Removes false notions of Self.
  • STAGE 4: Mananam
    • Asking whether you’re convinced by the teachings of scriptures/teacher. Then resolving by yourself or asking teacher.
    • If there’s 0.01% doubt, it’s good as 100% ignorance. Because puruṣa has no connection with prakṛti. EG: Snake-rope.
  • STAGE 5: Nididhyāsanam
    • Deliberately looking at world through Upanishadic eyes. Because old stubborn habits WILL persists despite educated buddhi.
    • Involves: Seeing how intimately you relate with words pointing to ātmā.
      • EG:
        1. Atman can never be object of my buddhi, because the buddhi is awared in presence of Ātmā.
        2. Puruṣa is always the witness (sakshi) in reference to something witnessed.
        3. Whatever happens to this body-mind is not happening to Me.
        4. Just like every note of a flute, one is reminded of the flute. Similarly, in the presence of endless thoughts, one is reminded their content is sat-cit.
    • How to know when nididhyāsanam is complete?
      • Will know same as when to stop eating, or exercising, or when satisfied with partners explanation/apology.
      • Process will automatically cease without personal decision. Because no further inquiry will reveal Self more then it’s already evident.
  • What happens if born anyway? Next life come with competency to continue the stage. Reason why some easily get it, while others struggle.
    • EG: Ramana didn’t even need a teacher. A single inquiry sparked nididhyāsanam (Stage 5).
  • NEXT VERSE: Says, even those who lack all qualifications, ultimately succeed.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 25:

anye tu evam ajānantaḥ śrutvā anyebhyaḥ upāsate ।
te api ca atitaranti eva mṛtyum śruti-parāyaṇāḥ ॥ 13-25 ॥
Not knowing thus, some others pursue (self-knowledge) by hearing from others. Being committed to listening, they also definitely cross over mortality.


  • Even if one doesn’t have access to original scriptures, as long as ācārya studied the originals and is capable of systematically unfolding, in any language, the śiṣya can still comprehend the truth.
  • In short: Source is not as important, as is the content.
  • NEXT VERSE: Reality is kṣetra-kṣetrajña mixture.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 26:

yāvat sañjāyate kiñcit sattvam sthāvara-jaṅgamam ।
kṣetra-kṣetrajña-saṃyogāt tat viddhi bharatarṣabha ॥ 13-26 ॥
Whatever being, moving or stationary, is born — know that to be out of the union of kṣētram and kṣētrajña, Oh, Arjuna !


  • SUMMARY: Every experience is mixture of kṣetra (field) & kṣetrajña (knower).
    • Not knowing this = ignorance = saṃsāra. Because will be preoccupied with kṣetra alone, since one’s Identity is also placed in kṣetra.
      • Features of kṣetra:
        • acetana: Not conscious. If neuro-scientist doesn’t know about Kṣetrajña, he has no choice but put Consciousness into kṣetra category – which contributes to:
          • Neuro-science attempting to map out person’s consciousness in a computer.
          • Artificial intelligence (self-aware machines).
        • saguṇa, savikāra, mithyā.
    • What sustains ignorance? Unquestionable identification with kṣetra.
      • Just like identifying with dream body, one becomes ignorant of waking body. Consequently, suffers/enjoys whatever happens to dream body. Or identified with movie character, shares his/her pains/sorrows.
      • Similarly, ignorance of kṣetrajña – consequences are 2-fold:
        1. MORTALITY: I (the immortal kṣetrajña), take myself to be mortal/limited. Since I can’t stand limitation, I turn to “becoming”-acquiring-maintaining… falsely believing it’ll remove sense of limitation (imposed by kṣetram).
          • In this way, purpose of living becomes about removing limitation through countless means (depending on the age of person, age of history): Wars, Being right,  Conquering nations,  Having need to belong,  Being part of something bigger,  Promiscuity,  Save the world,  Go to mars,  Cryonics (life extension),  Need for opponents,  Consumerism, etc.
        2. REBIRTH: Because desire leads to actions (karma) > Actions lead to puṇya-pāpa >  Puṇya-pāpa generate sukha-duḥkha  >  Sukha-duḥkha  leads to new birth to continue receiving unfinished ones.
          • EG: One is born in healthy/stable family. And gains much joy within. That’s exhausting unfinished sukham from past life.
  • Because of fundamental mistake (“I am a body”), yāvat sañjāyate kiñcit sattvam sthāvara-jaṅgamam: Every being, moving or unmoving (like trees), is born and dies (again)… whether like it or not.
  • SOLUTION: Fundamental mistake can only be corrected by knowledge, just as darkness can only be removed by light. Therefore, there’s no question of “many paths to final liberation”. Jñāna-yoga alone is solution because it eliminates the superimposition (adhyāsa) of mithyā over satyam.
    • How does self-knowledge solve the problem?
      1. Thoroughly pointing out kṣetra/kṣetrajña’s IE: The closer you look into something, the more the Truth of that something is precisely revealed.
        • EG: Someone looks familiar. The closer approach, realize they’re not that person.
      2. Self-Knowledge shows that all objects are resolvable into smaller units (Mithyā). Until come to mere concepts in Awareness. Can’t further reduce Awareness, because who will be Aware of the fact that Awareness has been further reduced?
    • EG: Rāma’s countless arrows kept cutting Rāvaṇa’s heads (symbol of ignorance). They regrew. Rāma had to invoke Āditya-hṛdayam-mantra (essence of Vedanta) taught by Agastya. Thus Rāma strikes Rāvaṇa’s hṛdayam (heart).
      • Symbolism: Ignorance (which regrows) can only be destroyed where it’s located (hṛdayam/buddhi).
      • Only arrow of self-knowledge could put end to Ravavan (embodiment of ignorance).
  • NEXT VERSE: 1st benefit of actualized jñāna-yoga: Balanced perspective. Ever deepening perspective.




Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 27:

samam sarveṣu bhūteṣu tiṣṭhantam parameśvaram ।
vinaśyatsu avinaśyantam yaḥ paśyati saḥ paśyati ॥ 13-27 ॥
He who sees the supreme Lord who dwells alike in all beings and who is imperishable, (alone really) sees.


    • VERSE 1-24: 6 words answered.
    • VERSE 24-26: General discussion about Jñāna-Yoga.
    • VERSE 27-34: Jñāna-Yoga phalam. Benefits.
  • Body-mind complex are countless, each bound by birth-affiliations-sickness-old age-death. However, samam sarveṣu būteṣu parameśvaram: All the while, the changeless-most-attractive reality dwells in all those body-minds.
    • Jñāni is established in this reality, as this reality, in every moment (called sahaja samādhi). He/she is conscious of the impermanent instrument… while in background, the buddhi never wavers from puruṣa/ātma/kṣetrajña.
  • Therefore, FIRST BENEFIT: Balanced perspective, which neutralizes overpowering need to be enmeshed in ongoing worldly affairs. Likes/dislikes are redirected to devotion & self-knowledge.
  • What is balanced perspective?
    • In reference to self-inquiry, whole universe is mixture of puruṣa/prakṛti. If preoccupied with only 1 = unbalanced perspective.
    • Prakṛti: Material cause of everything. Makes wise person treasure mithyā, which is responsible for removal of ignorance and all things meaningful to you.
    • Puruṣa: Appreciate the Aware-ing principle because of which one says “I am a conscious, self-aware being”.
    • The tilakam symbolizes the third eye (ājñā cakra), which symbolizes puruṣa.
      • Meaning: ā: full, jñā: Thus full knowledge of puruṣa.
  • NEXT VERSE: 2nd benefit of actualized jñāna-yoga: Immortality.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 28:

samaṃ paśyan hi sarvatra samavasthitam īśvaram ।
na hinasti ātmanā ātmānam tataḥ yāti parām gatim ॥ 13-28 ॥
For, uniformly seeing the Lord who dwells everywhere alike, he does not ruin by himself. Thereby he attains the supreme goal.






Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 12 Oct, 2021


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