You are nothing but limitless awareness...

You are nothing but limitless awareness…

The last six chapters of the Gita, starting from Chapter 13, focus on self-knowledge in terms of discovering your identity between jiva and Ishwara, the identity that is always there. The first six chapters are focused on the Reality from the standpoint of the individual, the next six on the Reality from the standpoint of the total, of Ishwara, and the last six chapters focus predominantly on the identity between jiva and Ishwara and on what is necessary to gain this knowledge. It starts with a question from Arjuna. (Please note–all versions of the Gita may not have this question.) The question goes something like this:

Arjuna uvaca

Prakrtim purusam caiva ksetram ksetrajnam eva ca

Etad veditum icchami jnanam jneyam ca kesava  

Basically, he’s asking for the meaning of three pairs of words:

What is Purusha and Prakriti?

What is kshetra and kshetrajna?

What is jnanam and jneyam?

Krishna answers the question, but he picks up `kshetra’ and `kshetrajna’ first. He starts by saying in the first verse, `This body is called kshetra’. Later, he elaborates by saying, `Anything that you can objectify, anything you are aware of is called kshsetra’. He starts with the body as kshetra, because as far as the world is concerned there is no confusion whether the world is me or not. Even a dog knows that the cat is different from it, that the food he eats is different from it, etc etc. Every being from the dog onwards till the human being takes the body as himself/herself. `The body is me’ is a natural conclusion that everybody makes. Therefore, Krishna starts by saying, `This body is an object of your awareness’. And to this you could add your mind, your emotions, your thinking, your memory, your reasoning, your ignorance. From here, Krishna moves on to the external world—all the great elements, the unmanifested, all desires, pain, pleasure, Krishna mentions all of them. All that you are aware of, therefore, is called kshetra. In fact, kshetra is often translated in English as `field’, but it need not mean `field’, it means `object of awareness’.

Now that we know what kshetra means, we come to the second part of the question: Who’s the kshetrajna? The one who is aware of all this; the sakshi, the witness that I am is called kshetrajna, the `awar-er’. I am the witness of all this–from ignorance and knowledge onwards into the body and into the world, I am the witness of everything. Now this seems pretty straightforward, it doesn’t seem to have any great wisdom, but remember that what Krishna’s trying to say here is that we have had this erroneous cognition that the seen is the seer, the self. …He’s saying that the body is, really speaking, an object of my awareness….It is not me but I take it as me. Having done that, I suffer all my limitations as a body and I have a lot of self-judgement  about me based on my body—I’m too tall, too fat, too thin, etc., and these judgements that I have, based on my body, create a sense of limitation. All my existential problems start from here and the same argument applies to my mind, etc. To sum up, Krishna is saying, `You are the sakshi, the witness, the awar-er who is aware of this whole world starting from your knowledge, your ignorance….’ Once you have understood this and are clear about this, and we have talked about this in the earlier posts, you can take the next step by saying that I’m the one who is aware-ful, that aware-ful being….That pure awareness is what I really am.[pullquote]Even a dog knows that the cat is different from it, that the food he eats is different from it, etc etc. Every being from the dog onwards till the human being takes the body as himself/herself. `The body is me’ is a natural conclusion that everybody makes. Therefore, Krishna starts by saying, `This body is an object of your awareness’. [/pullquote]

In the second verse he says,

Ksetrajnam capi main viddhi sarvaksetresu bharata

Ksetraksetrajnayorjnanam yattajjnanam matam mama (Verse 2)

You take yourself as kshetrajna, the witness, and that is also only a part of the truth. Because that witness is actually nothing but me. In the Gita, whenever Krishna talks about himself, he’s talking from the standpoint of Ishwara. Therefore, he’s saying that the kshetrajna– the witness– is Ishwara. As explained earlier, Ishwara is awareness manifest as the totality (Awareness manifest as the individual is jiva). Krishna has shifted your understanding of you from the jiva now to the witness, the `awar-er’….Similarly, now you have to shift your attention from Ishwara, the manifestation, to the content i.e. limitless awareness. The kshetrajna, he’s saying, is you and you are nothing but pure limitless awareness.

In the beginning, one knows of the  difference between oneself and Ishwara. From there, one rises with the help of karma-yoga to a more contemplative mind. When the mind is more contemplative, you focus and centre more on the fact that you are a witness. This is where Vedanta comes in and says that `witness’ is nothing but limitless awareness. By equating the witness and Ishwara with the mahavakya `Tatvam asi’, Krishna is equating the individual with Ishwara. This is not to be taken literally because functionally you are not Ishwara.  All functioning is based on my mind and body (ego/jiva) and the universal structure (Ishwara). The mahavakya `Tat twam asi’ equates the individual to Ishwara. Thi is the height of Vedic wisdom. Krishna does the same thing here by saying that the kshetrajna (individual) is me (Ishwara). We have seen in previous posts that the body mind etc., is mithya (apparent) depending on Existence-Awareness. Similarly the world too is mithya depending on the same Existence-Awareness (Chapter 2 Verse 16).  Awareness-Existence manifest as the Universe is Ishwara. So to understand what Vedic wisdom and Krishna are saying, you have to drop the mithya and focus on the Reality i.e. Existence-Awareness. Here he’s shifting your attention to the Reality behind both jiva and Ishwara, and that Reality is one pure awareness. What is the benefit of this? Only this can be called real jnanam, spiritual knowledge

This is what your spiritual knowledge has to culminate in. All your spiritual wisdom, knowledge, practice, etc., has to complete itself, fulfil itself in your understanding that you are nothing but limitless awareness. Once you understand that you are limitless awareness, you’ve got out of the game of samsara. There’s no more sense of limitation, there’s no more a sense of frustration with life, there are no more existential issues troubling you. Therefore, he says, this is the real knowledge everyone needs to discover. These are the most important verses in the Gita. In fact, this is the message of the Gita… the kshetrajna is nothing but Ishwara… are nothing but limitless awareness. This is the same knowledge unfolded in the Upanishads too. That is why we are calling this body of knowledge Vedic Wisdom.



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    • Nisha

      Swamiji, You have said that Kshetra includes unmanifest. What do you mean by unmanifest here?

    • Swami Brahmavidanada

      At the individual level unmanifest will include your unconscious i.e. your deep rooted samskaras formed before the age of 5 and ignorance specially regarding the self and the ignorance into which your personality is resolved into in deep sleep. At the total level it refers to the maya shakti of Ishvara.