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Water is both the ocean and the wave


The fifteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita gets its name from what Krishna says in the next couple of verses.

Dvavimau purushau loke ksharaschakshara eva cha |

Ksharah sarvani bhutani kutastho kshara ucyate || 15.16 ||

 These two persons, the perishable and the imperishable (exist) in the world. All beings and elements are called the perishable, the changeless (is called) the imperishable.

Krishna says you can look upon the word Purusha , generally translated as a being or an entity, in two ways. One is purau ushati iti , that which obtains in this body, and the other is purayati iti, that which fills up the entire universe. Therefore, he says, there are two Purushas– Ksharam and Aksharam. Ksharam means that which is perishable or time-bound. The sun , the moon, and the stars, the humans…in fact, all that is manifested is called Kshara Purusha. As it is a manifestation of Brahman/Ishvara we look upon it as live. Akshara Purusha is that which is responsible for Brahman to appear as the world. Avyaktam (unmanifest), Maya are the terms used for it. The word Akshara is predominantly used to indicate the Reality. Here, it is used to indicate Maya. Between Maya and manifestation, everything is covered. Maya, as we have seen before, is the inherent power in Brahman to manifest the whole universe. Now, by the term kshara, he has covered all the manifestation, and by the term akshara, he has covered the power, knowledge, skill etc; that is responsible for the manifestation. What is left is the substratum, the Reality that is behind the manifestation.

Then he says ‘Uttama Purushotvanyah’, which is different from these two. It is called Paramatma iti udahrtaha, the Paramatma who, pervading the other two, remains itself as Ishvara, the Lord, and, at the same time, the Reality. Krishna is playing a bit here with words just to draw your attention to the fact that what we call Ishvara and what we call Reality is, really speaking, one and the same. With respect to creation it gains a name called Ishvara, and with respect to itself it is called pure Brahman or Reality. That is why, he says, since I am behind both the manifested world (kshara) and Maya ( akshara), I am known as Purushottama both in the world and in the Vedas. It’s very common to refer to Krishna as Purushottama in India. Purushottama, in Sanskrit, also means the best among human beings. But, here, Krishna talks about himself as Purushottama in the context of the meaning of the words of kshara and akshara as being above both.

This brings us to an interesting note on how the Sanskrit language evolved. If you look at the Sanskrit language, prathama purusha means first person, but if you see how the words are conjugated in Sanskrit, first person does not refer to `I’ but always refers to the third person (he/it). In Sanskrit language, if the third person is not specified in the context, it will stand for Ishvara because he is the first one. The second person called madhyama purusha in Sanskrit remains as it is i.e. you, the person I am speaking to as in English too. But then what about I? I can’t put myself as the third person, I am the first person. Therefore, the terminology used for the conjugation (in Sanskrit) for the first person is uttama purusha, because, really speaking, all of us are nothing but pure awareness. The Sanskrit language also follows this probably to create a curiosity about the reason the first person is called uttama purusha.

Therefore, uttama purusha/ Purushottama is both Ishvara and the Reality, also spoken as satyam gyanam anantam (existence awareness limitlessness), Brahman. This is with respect to the manifested world. We will give it a name called Ishvara, which is all-encompassing, which pervades the whole universe, and remains as it is . It is not transformed to become the world. The world is only a manifestation and not a creation, like water, which is both the ocean and the waves. There is no change in that.

It is interesting to note here that when one says Ishvara, there is no need to add “and the world” as Ishvara includes the universe. So in Vedanta/Vedic wisdom the Reality, God, and World can all be indicated by the term Ishvara. It is wrong to say that Vedanta does not have a God in it. Yes, it does not have a God separate from the universe. However, it is Ishvara (translated as `God’ in English) that is manifest as universe. Another term used is Saguna Brahman, which means Brahman with all qualities, life, form, etc., and satyam gyanam anantam is Nirguna Brahman. Two standpoints, one Reality — vastu kevalam drishti dvayam.


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