Essence of Non-Duality: BG, CH13 Summary & CH14 Verse 1-5 (149)


Lesson 149 brings out the crux of non-duality of Upanishads. Summarizes CH13 into 3 categories: Anatma, Atma, Values. Then begins CH14, the topic of 3 gunas (nature of prakriti).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13 Summary + Chapter 14, Verse 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

CH13 Summary:

  • CH13-18 emphasises jnana-yoga. Especially CH13-15, which brings out the essence of Upanishads.
  • Title of CH13: Topic of Discerning the Knower and the Known. Kṣetra-kṣetrajña-vibhāga-yoga.
  • In CH13, Verse 1, Arjuna asked about 6 Upanishadic terms to be elaborated: Kshetra, Ksetrajna, Jnanam, Jneya, Prakriti, Purusha.
    • Can be reduced to 3 categories:
      • CATEGORY 1: Kṣetra / Prakṛti. For simplicity: Anātmā.
      • CATEGORY 2: Kṣetrajña / Puruṣa / Jñeyam. For simplicity: Ātmā.
      • CATEGORY 3: Jñānam: 20 universal values.
      • All 3 covered in VERSE 1-23: Ātmā, Anātmā, Jñānam.
  • CATEGORY 1: anātmā: (Matter)
    • Whatever can be experienced / objectified. Includes: BMI, any kind of discovery (past, present, future), anything known and unknown, 3 states.
    • Features of anātmā:
      • Acetana: inert/insentient.
        • EG: Body-mind’s sentiency is borrowed from Consciousness, just as computer’s capacity to operate is borrowed from electricity (flowing through it). Thereafter, mind gains capacity to know the world because the mind’s contents are reflected on you (consciousness). Just like projector is reflected on (suppose a conscious) canvas.
          • Thereafter, consciousness (you) identifying with the mind, becomes the knower & enjoyer of that mind’s contents (like thoughts & emotions).
      • Saguna:
        • Has 5 types of objects: Space (sound), air (tactile feedback), fire (color-shape-form), water (taste), earth (smell).
        • Space being the subtlest which accommodates everything after.
In figure “a” (green circle), there is 3 lighter (nitrogen atoms) and 3 darker (boron atoms). In center (darkest) is space. Figure “b” is improved ver of “a”. Purpose of this diagram is to demonstrate, no matter how small we discover, the discovered-object is always accommodated by something even smaller (space). Space is the subtlest element in existence. What's even subtler then space? Consciousness. Source
      • Savikara: Subject to evolution/modification/transformation/reformation within time.
    • Anatma further undergoes 2 major changes:
      • Sat: (1) Manifestation within the manifest universe (EG: cell-division) and (2) big-bang (manifestation of the universe).
      • Asat: (1) Unmanifest within the manifest universe (EG: water changing into vapour, caterpillar into butterfly) and (2) big-crunch (singularity).
  • CATEGORY 2: ātmā: (Awareness, Consciousness)
    • Discovered by inquiry into one’s experience:
      • EG: Any objects-of-experience indirectly reveals a Conscious subject.
        • Just as photograph indirectly reveals the camera. Or ink indirectly communicates “There must be a background for me (ink) to be seen”.
    • The conscious-subject can never be an object-of-experience (can never grasp itself), because:
      • There still remains an ungraspable conscious-subject watching the failed-attempt (of trying to grasp itself).
      • Metaphor: Very perception of form/shape/color… indirectly proves presence of eyes (a means of knowledge).
        • The only reason why eyes can see is because they don’t see themselves. If eyes saw themselves, then they would interfere with seeing (objects that are not-eyes).
          • Meaning eyes are free of attributes of the perceived .
    • Features of ātmā:
      • Neither a part, product, property of body. Not found in any brain section.
      • Not a state-of-mind (no matter how subtle, radiant, appealing, delightful, graceful, exquisite).
      • In other words, you don’t need anyone to validate your existence. Instead, your existence validates the existence of everything else.
      • Remains complete of itself. Ātmā is it’s own support.
      • Pervades and enlivens the inert body-mind, just as electricity enlivens the computer hardware & software.
      • Consciousness is like space / light: One (indivisible). Not contaminated by what it accommodates or illumines.
  • CATEGORY 3: jñānam (20 Values)
    • Certain values are universal such as honesty and  empathy. They are inherent and do not have to be taught. Whereas their opposites (dishonesty and excessive-pride) are learnt. Hence they can be unlearnt.
    • The 20 values were selected based on observation of human-nature. For example, how we want others to be with us, is what we value. EG: We want others to accommodate our weirdness (kshanti) and be straightforward with us (arjavam).
    • We also saw that we will only follow ethical values if we CLEARLY recognize the positive benefit of doing so. Until then, person will continue lying, cheating, cursing.
    • Point is to select one value that captures you, and practice it for some weeks. Eventually, they become the new normal.
      • EG: Yudhishthira lamented when he was instructed (by Lord Krishna), to lie to Dronacharya that his son Ashwatthama was killed. Felt guilty even if prompted by the Lord.
    • Without values, even if get ātmā-anātma-viveka, it’ll be academic level.
      • Transformation              = ātmā-anātma-viveka + Values.
      • Academic information = ātmā-anātma-viveka – Values.
  • VERSE 24-34:
    • 5 stages of spiritual practices. Discussed in CH12 (Karma-Yoga Level 1/2. Upasana-Yoga Level 1/2. Jnana-Yoga 3 levels)

    • Jñāna-phalam. Fruits of self-knowledge.


* Starts at 37:38

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14,  Intro:

  • In CH13, we learnt about the essence of Vedanta pramana (means of knowledge) that leads to liberation; kṣetra-kṣetrajña-viveka (discernment of known [objects] and knower [subject, “I”]).  In CH14, we will see further the nuances of kṣetra (anātma, prakṛti) traits which go unnoticed. That way, our clarity and confidence increases of “what-I-am-not”.
  • Another way to intro CH14 is we will learn about mind-management. What governs our states-of-mind at any moment. What gives rise to certain perceptions over others. We’ll uncover the ultimate cause that impels us to act/think in rational-irrational ways which has undesirable consequences.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 1:

param bhūyaḥ pravakṣyāmi jñānānām jñānam uttamam ।
yat jñātvā munayaḥ sarve parām siddhim itaḥ gatāḥ ॥ 14-1 ॥
Śrī Bhagavān said: I shall again tell clearly the ultimate, the most exalted knowledge among all forms of knowledge, gaining which all the sages had reached the ultimate success (release) from this (body).

  • SUMMARY: Brahma-vidya is the ultimate knowledge.
  • Bhuyaḥ pravakṣyāmi param uttamam jñānam: Arjuna, I shall impart the greatest-greatest knowledge.
    • First “greatest”: Deals with absolute Truth (the imperishable Brahman).
    • Second “greatest”: Has the greatest benefit (claim infinity vs finitude). Other branches = perishable/relative benefits.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 2:

idam jñānam upāśritya mama sādharmyam āgatāḥ ।
sarge api na upajāyante pralaye na vyathanti ca ॥ 14-2 ॥
Resorting to this knowledge, those who have gained oneness with Me, do not come to be born even when there is creation, and they do not perish in the dissolution (of creation).

  • SUMMARY: Krishna glorifies Brahma-vidya.
  • For one who has actualized (and continues to actualize) the knowledge, what happens thereafter? A deep sense of existential insecurity is resolved. Unsurpassed confidence is directly experienced.
    • For instance, pressures to make-it or to-become, are resolved. Although relative insecurity may continue (EG: Concern about relatives, income).
  • Upon death, videhamukti, self remains as (unconditioned) Brahman.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 3 & 4 Combined:

mama yoniḥ mahat brahma tasmin garbham dadhāmi aham ।
sambhavaḥ sarva-bhūtānām tataḥ bhavati bhārata ॥ 14-3॥
VER 1: The great Prakriti is My womb. I place the seed in that. There upon takes place the origination of all beings, Oh Arjuna! (Swami Paramathananda)
VER 2: My māyā (prakṛti) is the primordial cause out of which (everything) grows and which sustains (everything). That I impregnate. From that occurs the manifestation of all beings. (Swami Dayananda)

sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ ।
tāsām brahma mahat yoniḥ aham bīja-pradaḥ pitā ॥ 14-4॥
Kaunteya (Arjuna)! The great (māyā / prakṛti) is the original (material) cause for those forms which are born in all wombs. I  am the one who gives the seed, the father.

  • VERSE 3 & 4 summarizes process of creation dealt in CH13.
  • VERSE 3 & 4 combined: I impregnate my māyā (prakṛti)… thus arises all-this. Accordingly, prakṛti is the material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa) of sat (manifest) & asat (in potential).
  • EXPLANATION: Consciousness & matter (purusha & prakriti) existed since beginningless beginning. Mixture of both of them is called Īśvara (which is neither just purusha, nor just prakriti).
    • Mixture of both is compared to Father/Mother principle.
      • EG: Shiva & Parvati. Vishnu and Lakshmi occupying His chest. Brahma and Sarasvati occupying his tongue.
    • Both are the cause, hence pervade the effect. By this understanding alone, one’s need to put world into boxes, gradually resolves.
  • Krishna says, “I cannot create universe without my wife (as it were) named māyā (prakṛti) – the universal mother of the universe”.
    • When “time” is right for another cycle of creation, tasmin garbham aham dadhāmi; Just as male transfers seed to female, I bless māyā with power to project the universe within Her womb (yoni).
    • Subsequently, sambhavaḥ sarvabhūtānām: Origin of all beings takes place, governed by inherent laws and orders. Just as baby emerges at 9th/10th month. Teeth start to come on 6th month. On 6th year, baby/milk teeth start to fall.
  • NEXT VERSES: V5-18 speaks about the 3 standpoints/qualities of prakṛti (material cause) and how they bind the jīva.
Analysis of 3 guṇas divided in 5 sections:

  1. Definition of Guṇas. V5.
  2. How Guṇas bind. V6-9.
  3. Indication which Guṇa is dominant. V10-13.
  4. How Guṇa oriented mind affects afterlife. V14-15.
  5. Effects of Guṇas while living. V16-18.


TOPIC 1: Definition of Guṇas (Verse 5)


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 14, Verse 5:

sattvam rajaḥ tamaḥ iti guṇāḥ prakṛti-sambhavāḥ ।
nibadhnanti mahā-bāho dehe dehinam avyayam ॥ 14-5॥
Arjuna, the mighty armed! Sattva, rajas, and tamas, the qualities existing in prakṛti, bind (as though) the changeless indweller (puruṣa) of the body, to the body.

  • SUMMARY OF VERSE: Sattva-Raja-Tama guna (nature that makes up prakriti) is
    • (1) responsible for the association/bondage between atma-anatma and…
    • (2) their different mixture creates infinite variety of names-forms throughout the universe. Like 3 colors (RGB) mixed creates the whole color spectrum.
  • INTRO:
    • REMOVING CONFUSION: 3 Guṇas are not individual attributes of prakṛti, but nature of prakṛti.
      • In other words, prakṛti can be understood from 3 standpoints. The standpoints are identified by carefully observing the effects of worldly phenomena.
      1. In reference to Macrocosmic: Quality/nature.
        • Sattva nature: Knowledge / blueprint of laws-orders.
        • Raja nature: Putting together power. Also vikshepa-shakti (projecting power).
        • Tama nature: Also avarana-shakati (veiling power for sake of individuation of names-forms. EG: We see up only because down is veiled. We taste sweetness only because sourness is veiled).
      2. In reference to Individual: Rope / shackle. That which binds.
      1. By managing the 3 gunas, we can help cultivate sattvic-mind-orientation, which is most conducive for clarity, depth of perception, meditation, self-inquiry.
      2. By identifying the effects of each guṇa, we can reduce their pull on us, thus enjoy greater freedom and less anxiety.
      3. By pinpointing your guna composition, you can make adjustments, thereby reducing emotional, intellectual hindrances.
      4. To understand the world, environment & our odd behaviour.



Resources: Verse-by-Verse Essence

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

Recorded 9 Nov, 2021



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