Wednesday August 22, 2018

Kshetra & Kshetra-Jna: Working of Nature and Consciousness as per Vedic thought

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By Gaurav Sharma

Why read the Gita?

It is said that the essence of all Upanishads is the Gitopanishad, Bhagavad Gita (The Song of God). A beautiful analogy describes the Gita as a cow which is being milked by Lord Krishna and Arjuna, as a calf, drinking milk from the cow (Gita Mahatmya 6). 

Photo Credit: theosophynexus.com
Photo Credit: theosophynexus.com

People who are seeking self-realization will relish drinking the nectar-like milk of Bhagavad Gita in the same way as Arjuna did, without personal interpretations.

After deriding Arjuna’s reluctance to fight as degrading impotence, explaining the methods of executing variegated branches of Yoga and manifesting the Universal form, Lord Krishna enlightened Arjuna on the philosophical meaning of Kshetra (the field) and Kshetra-jna (the knower of the field) and finally satiated Arjuna’s inquisitiveness.

The one tree of material existence appears in many forms of attaining heaven, hell and liberation. Since it is born from the Lord’s external energy, it is called maya-mayam. By the grace of spiritual masters one can understand this tree. Those who are in knowledge of Kshetra and Kshetra-Jna actually know the Vedas.

The Field of Activity vs the Knower of the Field

The body is called Kshetra, the field and one who owns the body is called the Kshetra-Jna, knower of the field. The material body is the field of activity for the conditioned soul. This body is the ground for material contact and is the so-called field because it is the ground on which the material existence grows.

The jiva who knows this body is called the Kshetra-Jna, both in the conditioned and the liberated stage. The fundamental difference between the two is that the body undergoes changes but the Self remains the same.

The body transforms from childhood to youth to old age. The Self, on the other hand does not pertain to ephemeral designations of religion, caste, profession, nationality, body etc. but to the owner of the body. The field is thus, a non-permanent material thing whereas the knower of the field is an eternal factor.

Composition of the Field of Activity

Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Ether, known as the five great elements (maha-bhuta), are the primordial components of the world. There is false ego, intelligence, and unmanifested modes of material nature (pradhaan).

Then there are the five working senses: hands, legs, voice, genitals and anus and the five senses for acquiring knowledge: eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin along with the deeper inner sense, the mind.

Finally, there are the five sense objects: sound, touch, smell, taste and form.

Desire, hatred, happiness and distress emerge through the interaction of maha-bhuta of the gross body. The symptoms of life, consciousness and conviction are the natural expressions of the subtle body (mind, ego, intelligence).

The body is, thus, a combination of the twenty-four material elements and the subtle manifestation of the symptoms of life. This is also confirmed by the aphorisms of Vedanta-Sutra. There are different bodies because each soul has a different capacity to lord over the material nature.

Knowledge and the Super-Knower of the Field

After describing the field of activity, Lord Krishna unfolded the mystery of the knower of the field.  He defines Jnana or knowledge as proper understanding of the body and its knower. The realization that one is not the body but the soul constitutes knowledge. However, at its best, this is incomplete knowledge.

For attaining the liberated platform (brahma-bhuta), one needs to understand the other kind of knower: the Supersoul or Paramatma.

Photo Credit: gitatherapypranakishore.wordpress.com
Photo Credit: gitatherapypranakishore.wordpress.com

In every field or body, there are two souls, like two birds on a tree: the individual soul (atma) and the Supersoul (Paramatma). Just like a farmer may know about his individual patch of land but the government official knows about all the patches of land, in the same way, the individual soul is the knower of his particular body but the Supersoul is the knower of all the fields.

By explicitly stating “I am also the knower in all bodies” the Lord quelled the impersonalist misconception of oneness. After all, how can one aspect of the ‘one’ which is by definition undifferentiated, give knowledge to the other aspect of the ‘one’?  How could something undifferentiated even possess an aspect?

Although Lord Krishna is the Supreme Truth himself, he corroborates the distinction between the Soul and the Supersoul by referring to the Vedanta-Sutra. The aphorisms na viyad ashruteh, natma shruteh and paraat tu tac-chruteh indicate the field of activity or body, the living entity or soul, and the Supreme.

The Vyashti system mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad, in which a person directs the meditation towards the self and thus seeks to understand the absolute by considering himself a fragment of the Supreme, also confirms this.  In this system, one observes the different layers or sheaths (Koshas) of consciousness that are encased within a living entity, also known as the five different stages of Brahman realization (brahma puccham).

The fourth and fifth stages highlight the difference between the two. In the vigyana-maya stage, the platform of transcendental knowledge, one realizes himself as an eternal spirit separate from his gross and subtle body. In the ananda-maya stage of consciousness one realizes the all-blissful nature of the Lord and engages himself in his service.

Thus, the crux of all the Vedic injunctions is that the Supersoul is the super-knower of the field, the living entity is the subordinate knower, and the body or nature is the field of activity.
*Based on commentaries of Vaishnava Acaryas.

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Hinduism Should Not be Viewed Through the Narrow Prism of Marxism

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies

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Hinduism
Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male.

By Salil Gewali

“A little knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance”. And far more dangerous is when that little knowledge is spread in the society being propelled by the fuel of “prejudices”.  This write-up is with reference to a number of articles by a certain class of writers published in the mainstream media. Those articles are intended to rake up the issues in order to push the sacred temple of “Sabarimala” of Kerala or Shani Shingnapur and the culture associated with it, into the mire of controversy. Tarnishing the image of Hinduism is the main goal. Not unexpectedly, some stories even proclaim that in India “women” are thus demonized and their menstruation is abhorred.

Having gone through some of them I immediately contacted a number of top scholars in Kerala for hands-on verification — whether “women” are being despised so heartlessly or not. Since one of my books is translated into their language I did that with all ease. Not a single scholar (women included) informed me suggesting that they, or temple management of Sabarimala, have ever “despised women”, or hated “menstruation”.  I rather got an earful for asking such absurd questions.  They instantly reiterated referring to Hindu scriptures which teach all and one to look upon women as “Motherly figures”. One scholar remarks, “this confrontation has actually been orchestrated by the politicians with the help of certain forces which want to demean our culture”.  I heaved a sigh of relief!

Indeed all ancient Hindu scriptures put the female on the same footing as the male. But some vested interests with an ulterior motive have been distorting the true history/legends of India and also merrily belittling or shrugging off the literary treasure troves of the country. It was first done by the British in order to divide and rule Indians, in which they were very successful. And later, the legacy has been faithfully and aggressively carried forward by the Indian intellectuals influenced by certain thinkers and writers of the West and their culture.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Well, the seers of ancient India not only knew as information but they “fully realized” that everything, in and out, is pervaded by “Brahman” (Almighty). The modern science too has arrived at the “same conclusion”. The father of Quantum Mechanics — Erwin Schrodinger has scientifically discussed this fact in his world-famous book – “What is Life?”.  All knowledge associated with the ONENESS of Universe and the “Unity in Diversity” is systematically enshrined in 108 Upanishads.  They expounded with a force that “Purusha” (male) and “Pratriki” (female) both combine themselves to put forth the infinite COSMIC CREATION. One without other is like the fire without the heat. They are mutually complementary, inter-dependent and inter-related. The “discrimination” of any kind, not just “against women”, but even against the tiny “insects” and “plants” are considered irreligious. I would also request such biased scholars to read between the lines from the literature authored by Sri Aurobindo and Vivekananda who just quote from them to gloss over the footprint of their agendas. One wonders when they will learn to shake off the baggage of prejudices against while getting down to study the literature of the home country.

Now about the legend Ayyappa of Sabarimala in brief. The story which is long and interestingly too drawn-out, says —  Lord Ayyappa, who was born out of Lord Shiva and the feminine energy of Lord Vishnu, had exceptional power. His birth on earth was in order to kill a female demon– Mahishi. After having been killed the demoness, the curse against her ends. She again takes birth, this time the Goddess incarnate. This is laws of karma works. When she grew up she approached Lord Ayyappa for the marriage. But Ayyappa, who was practicing celibacy, denied. But, he consoles her saying that he will only marry her when no “first timer” will visit his temple for blessings. However, Lord Ayyappa asks her to reside just near to his temple. Later, in her memory, the devotee constructed a temple known as Malikapurathamma just adjacent to the temple of Ayyappa.

Since Lord Ayyappa, who was known for his celibacy, and had promised to marry Malikapurathamma, it has become a sort of a tradition among women not to visit the temple.  It should not be  misunderstood that it is apparently as a mark of showing respect to both Lord Ayyappa and Goddess Malikapurathamma.

Hinduism
Representational image.

Regarding menstruation, the seers of ancient India set down certain dos and don’t. It is no exaggeration that they realized the subtle intricacies of not only the tangible body and but also various sheaths of spiritual bodies (five sheaths mentioned in Upanishads). The areas of study are very vast. They caution that a woman during her monthly cycle should abstain from the religious public rituals, but can perform the personal spiritual practice. In fact, contrary to the modern tradition and practice, the seers didn’t “limit themselves” to the personal and public hygiene alone, but they went further, and so taken the “spiritual aspect” into consideration. Of course, lot many such dos and don’ts are beyond the understanding of we mundane people with limited five senses and “scattered mind”. It is too absurd who interpret that it is a practice of “untouchability”. A medical doctor will never allow you to enter into ICU unless you are well washed. Is not everything there meticulously sterilized?  Do you say that the hospital is practicing “untouchability”? I don’t think any mother will allow her children to enter the kitchen and take food immediately after the latrine without washing hands and feet.

Going by such biased articles in the mainstream media intended to denigrate the culture and heritage of the country; and also literary books (who unfortunately receive “Sahitya Akademi” and “Padma Shree” awards), I fervently wish that one should have the deeper knowledge of the subjects. Here the crucial prerequisite is that they must first unlearn false history and start to learn the true history without being weighed down by the prejudices.  Moreover, the cosmic ocean of the Indian wisdom is so deep, even it has described many “inconceivable” laws and principles which are seemingly out-of-box and discriminatory. I humbly suggest not to selectively pick up a few odds and use them to demean this vast culture of knowledge. The Vedanta should not be view through the narrow prism of Karl Marx and LeninEven their favorite master Fredrick Hegel (front ranking philosopher of the west) cheerfully confessed the depth of ancient wisdom, –  “It strikes everyone in beginning to form an acquaintance with the treasures of Indian literature, that a land so rich in intellectual products and those of the “profoundest” order of thought”. How I wish that a dagger not be wielded by an untrained person or else it will be disastrous!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.