Daily Readings from the Works of Swami Venkatesananda


Bhagavad Gita - Song of God - Chapter 13: 20-21

September 22, 2022

™kārya kāraṇa kartṛtve hetuḥ prakṛtir ucyate
puruṣaḥ sukhaduḥkhānāṁ bhoktṛtve hetur ucyate  (XIII-20)
puruṣaḥ prakṛtistho hi bhuṅkte prakṛtijān guṇān
kāraṇaṁ guṇasaṅgo ’sya sadasadyonijanmasu (XIII-21)

XIII/20. In the production of the effect and the cause,
nature is said to be the cause; in the experience
of pleasure and pain, the soul is said to be the cause.

XIII/21. The soul, seated in nature, experiences the qualities
born of nature;attachment to the qualities is the cause
of his birth in good and evil wombs.

Swamiji's Commentary

     Krishna’s genius is synthesis, and here is a synthesis of subjective idealism and materialism. There are those who say that the outside world is a projection of one’s own mind; and others who assert that matter alone is real and that the spirit is the fermentation of matter. Krishna points out that both spirit and matter exist, though of course not as two but as God and his nature.

     Our experiences of ‘pleasant’ and ‘unpleasant’ are merely subjective (to drink ice water is pleasant in summer yet agonizing if the teeth are sensitive). However, although butter and lime look alike, one is soothing and pleasant, the other caustic and irritating. There is a mysterious power in lime which distinguishes it from butter. That power is śakti or prakṛti or (God’s) nature. The entire universe is vibrant with life, prakṛti, and that nature functions. The nature of water is to flow; the nature of fire is to burn. Counterpart to this mysterious power is a mysterious consciousness in us which experiences that nature – puruṣa or the individual soul. The two, prakṛti and puruṣa, seem to understand each other very well indeed.

     Since Puruṣa was the experiencer, some philosophers accorded this a superior status and regarded nature as inert. Others saw that the qualities in nature were able to influence puruṣa and so declared that nature is para-śakti (supreme power) and puruṣa is  powerless  without  her.  (You,  the  puruṣa,  could  not  drink  water  and  enjoy  the sweetness of honey but for prakṛti.) Let us then accept both, together! For nature is God’s nature – they are not two but one! A clear understanding of this indivi(sible)duality frees us from confusion, likes and dislikes, cravings and aversion – the ‘ought to be’ and the ‘ought not to be’. Nature prevails in God’s sight.

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