arjuna uvāca
prakṛtiḿ puruṣaḿ caiva
kṣetraḿ kṣetra-jñam eva ca
etad veditum icchāmi
jñānaḿ jñeyaḿ ca keśava

śrī-bhagavān uvāca
idaḿ śarīraḿ kaunteya
kṣetram ity abhidhīyate
etad yo vetti taḿ prāhuḥ
kṣetra-jña iti tad-vidaḥ

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 13.1-2

Arjuna said: O my dear Krishna, I wish to know about prakriti [nature], purusha [the enjoyer], and the field and the knower of the field, and of knowledge and the object of knowledge.

The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: This body, O son of Kunti, is called the field, and one who knows this body is called the knower of the field.

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Arjuna was inquisitive about prakriti (nature), purusha (the enjoyer), kshetra (the field), kshetra-jna (its knower), and knowledge and the object of knowledge. When he inquired about all these, Krishna said that this body is called the field and that one who knows this body is called the knower of the field. This body is the field of activity for the conditioned soul. The conditioned soul is entrapped in material existence, and he attempts to lord it over material nature. And so, according to his capacity to dominate material nature, he gets a field of activity. That field of activity is the body. And what is the body? The body is made of senses. The conditioned soul wants to enjoy sense gratification, and, according to his capacity to enjoy sense gratification, he is offered a body, or field of activity. Therefore the body is called kshetra, or the field of activity for the conditioned soul. Now, the person, who should not identify himself with the body, is called kshetra-jna, the knower of the field. It is not very difficult to understand the difference between the field and its knower, the body and the knower of the body. Any person can consider that from childhood to old age he undergoes so many changes of body and yet is still one person, remaining. Thus there is a difference between the knower of the field of activities and the actual field of activities. A living conditioned soul can thus understand that he is different from the body. It is described in the beginning—dehino ’smin—that the living entity is within the body and that the body is changing from childhood to boyhood and from boyhood to youth and from youth to old age, and the person who owns the body knows that the body is changing. The owner is distinctly kshetra-jna. Sometimes we think, “I am happy,” “I am a man,” “I am a woman,” “I am a dog,” “I am a cat.” These are the bodily designations of the knower. But the knower is different from the body. Although we may use many articles—our clothes, etc.—we know that we are different from the things used. Similarly, we also understand by a little contemplation that we are different from the body. I or you or anyone else who owns the body is called kshetra-jna, the knower of the field of activities, and the body is called kshetra, the field of activities itself.

In the first six chapters of Bhagavad-gita the knower of the body (the living entity) and the position by which he can understand the Supreme Lord are described. In the middle six chapters of the Bhagavad-gita the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the relationship between the individual soul and the Supersoul in regard to devotional service are described. The superior position of the Supreme Personality of Godhead and the subordinate position of the individual soul are definitely defined in these chapters. The living entities are subordinate under all circumstances, but in their forgetfulness they are suffering. When enlightened by pious activities, they approach the Supreme Lord in different capacities—as the distressed, those in want of money, the inquisitive, and those in search of knowledge. That is also described. Now, starting with the Thirteenth Chapter, how the living entity comes into contact with material nature and how he is delivered by the Supreme Lord through the different methods of fruitive activities, cultivation of knowledge, and the discharge of devotional service are explained. Although the living entity is completely different from the material body, he somehow becomes related. This also is explained.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

Text 1: Let me offer my respects to the Lord’s bhakti, which, by its mercy, resides within jnana and other processes to a small degree in order to bring about success in those processes. In the last six chapters of the Gita, jnana mixed with bhakti is delineated. Within these six chapters, kevala bhakti also is shown as supreme, indirectly. In the thirteenth chapter, the body where jiva and paramatma reside, the practice of jnana, the jiva and prakrti are described.

In the middle six chapters, it was mentioned that by kevala bhakti one attains the Lord, bhagavan, and three other methods of worship, starting with those who worship themselves, were then described. Liberation arising from jnana mixed with bhakti practiced by followers of niskama karma yoga and the process of jnana were briefly described in the first six chapters. The third six chapters commence to explain this jnana in detail by first examining the field, the knower of the field, the process of knowledge and the object of knowledge.

Text 2: This verse answers the question of what is the field and who is the knower of the field. This body with senses, the abode of enjoyment, is the field, since it is the basis for sprouting the tree of repeated births. He who knows that body in terms of “I and mine” in the conditioned state due his attachment to that body, and who, being devoid of the conception of “I and mine” in the liberated state, knows that he is not attached to that body, is the jiva, He is called the knower of the field, situated in these two conditions. Like one who ploughs the field, he is the knower of the field, and is the enjoyer of the fruit. The Lord says:

adanti caikam phalam asya grdhra
grame-cara ekam aranya-vasah
hamsa ya ekam bahu-rupam ijyair
maya-mayam veda sa veda vedam

Those lusty after material enjoyment and dedicated to family life enjoy one of the tree’s fruits, and swanlike men in the renounced order of life enjoy the other fruit One who with the help of the bona fide spiritual masters can understand this tree to be a manifestation of the potency of the one Supreme Truth appearing in many forms actually knows the meaning of the Vedic literature. SB 11.12.23

The meaning of this verse from Bhagavatam is as follows. Grdhrah means “those who desire.” Those who have desire, who move in the village, the conditioned jivas, eat one fruit of the tree called distress, because the tree has the ability to generate distress, even in ripening into svarga. The swans, which live in the forest, the liberated jivas, eat another fruit called happiness, because the tree has ability to generate happiness in the form of liberation. Thus, the one tree of samsara has many forms since it has the capacity to let one attain hell, svarga, and liberation. It is called maya mayam, made of maya, because it is generated from the Lord’s maya sakti. He who knows this tree with the help of the worshipable gurus (ijyaih) knows the Vedas.

Tad vidah in the Gita verse refers to those who know the field and the knower of the field.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

13.2 The body which is cognised in identity with the experiencing self by co-ordinate predication (Samanadhikaranya) in the propositions, ‘I am a god, ‘I am a man,’ ‘I am fat,’ ‘I am slender’ etc., is described by those who know the real nature of the body as only the Field (Ksetra) of experience for the experiencing self, who is distinct from the body. Those who know this, namely, those who know the exact nature of the self, call It the Field-knower (Ksetrajna). That knower who knows the body, as divided into its different members and as their collectivity, can say ‘I know it, the body, as an object.’ The person with this perception is the one who is called the Ksetrajna or the Field-knower, who must necessarily be different from the Field (Ksetra), which is the object of this knowledge. It is true that at the time of perceiving an object like a pot which is different from one’s body, the seer who thinks ‘I am a god who sees it’ or ‘I am a man who sees it’ etc., is putting himself as identical with the body through co-ordinate predication. In the same way he experiences the body as an object of knowledge when he says ‘I know this body.’ Thus if the body is an object of knowledge, it must be different from the knowing self. Therefore, the Field-knower (Ksetrajna). The knower, is other than the body which is an object of knowledge like a jar, etc. But this knowledge which arises by way of co-ordinate predication is justified on the ground that the body is inseparable from oneself; for it constitutes an attribute of the self like ‘cow-ness’ of the cow etc. The knowing self is however unique in being an eternal and subtle form of knowledge. But this is inaccessible to the ordinary man’s organs of vision; it is accessible only to a mind refined by Yoga. The ignorant see the knower only in the form of Prakrti because of close proximity to or union with Prakrti. Sri Krsna thus declares later on: ‘When in identiciation with the Gunas he departs or stays or experiences, the deluded perceive him not. They, who have the eye of knowledge, see’ (15.10).

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

In verse seven of the previous chapter Lord Krishna declares sammuddharta mrtyu-samsara sagarat meaning saves them from the perpetual cycle of birth and the death which is like an ocean because in a day of Brahma every human being has approximately 43,000 separate births and life cycles. So the figure is astronomical if one calculates how many human lifetimes transpire in a only year of Brahma’s lifetime. So in this present chapter the truth about redemption from this transmigration from the cycle of birth and death is being revealed for this fulfilment. As it is not even remotely possible to achieve the fulfilment of redemption without atma-tattva or realisation of the eternal soul within. So in order to inoculate this knowledge of truth this chapter will delineate the relationship between prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence and the Pususa or the Supreme Consciousness pervading spiritual existence that is the source of all existence. It is the lack of discrimination and discernment between the prakriti and Purusa which causes delusion and binds the atma or eternal soul which is an infinitesimal spark of the Purusa within the etheric heart of the jiva or embodied being, keeping them in bondage locked by samsara or the perpetual cycle of transmigratory existence birth after birth, life after life. It is by the power of first Purusa and then prakriti that the Supreme Lord Krishna manifests all creation and they are distinctly different from each other. Prakriti is related to the ksetra or the field and the Purusa is related to ksetrajnam or knower of the field. The ksetra is the material body which is the basis for all physical enjoyment and the sprouting ground for endless transmigration. The ksetrajnam is that which is conscious of itself and thinks in terms of I and mine and is called the jiva by those who have factual discriminative knowledge of both. This is because the jiva is the beneficiary of the results of the actions performed by the body like the farmer who reaps the harvest of his field.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

Hari OM! In this chapter whatever has been previously stated about knowledge, the object of knowledge, prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence and the Purusa or the Supreme eternal consciousness is herein being categorically collated and elucidated by Lord Krishna. The means of developing spiritual intelligence through karma or activities was given by Lord Krishna in the first six chapters known as the Karma Yoga section and the means of achieving bhakti or exclusive loving devotion to Lord Krishna was revealed in the subsequent six chapters known as the Bhakti Yoga section along with the different manifestations of the Supreme Lord have all been arranged here together in summation.

The jiva or embodied being is by itself eternal because it possesses an atma or eternal soul bestowed by the Lord Krishna which is an infinitesimal spark from Him; but the physical body although energized by the Supreme Lord is not eternal and disintegrates with time. Therefore the physical body is called sharira because it appears to die and since the Supreme Lord resides within all jivas as the atma He is known as ksetrajna or the consciousness within the ksetra or field of activity. This consciousness envelopes the physical body and is the source of the material senses which display their perceptions of duality in the ksetra of the physical body with emotions of like and dislike, happiness and misery, pleasant and unpleasant, love and hate etc.

Now begins the summation.

One who is freed from the modulations of desires and the bewilderment of attractions is able to unite with pure thoughts of spiritual consciousness. Such a jiva or embodied being is considered to have achieved moksa or liberation from material existence. The Narayana Scripture states that there are two manifestations of moksa. The superior form of moksa is known as suddha or pure liberation and its consciousness is always attuned and in harmony with dharma or eternal righteousness and the Supreme Lord Krishna or any of His authorized avatars or incarnations and expansions as revealed in Vedic scriptures. This consciousness has an all comprehensive knowledge about the atma or eternal soul and following the injunctions and ordinances of the Vedic scriptures is always engaged in performing different levels of bhakti or devotion to the Supreme Lord which eventually results in direct communion with the Supreme Lord eternal association with Him.

The inferior form of moksa is known as asuric or demoniac liberation and its consciousness is antagonistic to dharma or eternal righteousness, it is addicted to perverse pleasures of the physical body, it has a distorted conceptions of the atma and is always desiring to perform degraded and prohibited activities. Its mentality is adverse to engaging in any service of the Supreme Lord and eventually without fail end up in the most fallen of species in the lowest hellish realms due to offenses made against the devotees of the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

In the first six chapters of Srimad Bhagavad-Gita known as the Karma Yoga section, Lord Krishna described the true nature of the atma or eternal soul, which is the sole objective of realisation and the means to perceive it by either jnana yoga or the path of spiritual knowledge or karma yoga the path of spiritual activities. In the second six chapters known as the Bhakti Yoga section, Lord Krishna explains the true nature of the Supreme Lord, who is the ultimate goal of attainment along with precise knowledge of His glory, majesty and supremacy revealing in conclusion that bhakti or exclusive loving devotion is the most superior of processes for attaining the Supreme Lord as it is the most profound means as well as the topmost goal of human existence. Now in the final six chapters known as the Jnana Yoga section, Lord Krishna expands on the topics of penance, detachment, the three types of sacrifice, etc. that were not fully delineated in the previous 12 chapters. The true nature of god-realisation achieved by the those qualified by bhakti possessing godly endowments of spiritual attributes as well as knowledge and renunciation are exclusively enraptured by and devoted to the Supreme Lord Krishna.

Now in this chapter Lord Krishna begins describing the discriminative knowledge of matter and spirit along with the process of assisting His devotees transcend the ocean of samsara or the perpetual cycle of birth death. Lord Krishna declared in chapter 12 verse 7 that He quickly delivers His unalloyed devotees from samsara. Although He has previously spoken of the physical body as the inferior part and the atma or eternal soul as the superior part as given in chapter 8, verse 5, He now describes the combined nature of both with the words idam sariram meaning the material body, which is constituted of the five elements, five senses, mind and false ego and is the source of enjoying material delights for jivas or embodied beings, who being bewildered by illusion think of themselves as male or female or as old and young, etc. thinking themselves to be the physical body oblivious that the atma is distinctly different and separate from the physical body they inhabit. This physical body is known as the ksetra or field which is the source of enjoying the harvest of pleasures and pain as the reactions to good and evil actions by the doer. Just as a well planted field yields abundant results and a poorly planted field yields poor results. One who has realised that the atma is not the same and different from the ksetra is factually a ksetra-jna one who is a knower of truth. This is the conclusion of knowledgeable persons well versed in the spiritual truths of the Vedic scriptures. Although ordinary beings are under the misconception that they are the physical body, believing themselves to be male or female, young or old etc., and convinced that when their physical body feels happiness they are joyful and when their physical body feels unhappiness they are sad. The word sariram meaning the physical body denotes etymologically as that which decays. Still there are many in this world that are competent to discriminate between the two and this Lord Krishna emphasises with the words tat-vidah meaning persons endowed with knowledge of the absolute truth. So the conclusion is that although ordinary beings who are steeped in ignorance do not have the qualification to discriminate between the external physical body and the internal atma; the devotees of Lord Krishna have qualified themselves by hearing from the bonafide spiritual master and studying the Vedic scriptures are able to discriminate between the ksetra and the atma.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

13.1 Inclusion of this sloka, spoken by Arjuna, brings the total number of slokas in the Bhagavadgita to 701. Many versions of the Bhagavadgita, including the current commentary by Dr. S Sankaranarayan, do not include this sloka.

13.2 The Lord specifies the body as the object referred to by the pronoun idam (this). O son of Kunti, (this body) abhidhiyate, is referred to; ksetram iti, as the field-because it is protected (tra) against injury (ksata), or because it perishes (ksi), wastes away (ksar), or because the results of actions get fulfilled in the body as in a field (ksetra). The word iti is used in the sense of ‘as’. They-who?-tadvidah, who are versed in this, who know the ‘field’ and the ‘knower of the field’; ahuh, call; tam, him, the knower; yah, who; vetti etat, is concious of, knows, it, the body, the field-makes it, from head to foot, an abject of his knowledge; makes it an object of perception as a separate entity, through knowledg which is spontaneous or is acquired through instruction; ksetrajna iti, as the knower of the field. As before, the word iti is used in the sense of ‘as’. They call him as the knower of the field. Is it that the field and the knower of the field thus mentioned are to be understood through this much knowledge only? The answer is, no.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

13.1 Inclusion of this sloka, spoken by Arjuna, brings the total number of slokas in the Bhagavadgita to 701. Many versions of the Bhagavadgita, including the current commentary by Dr. S Sankaranarayan, do not include this sloka.

13.2-3 Somewhere in the scriputures it is heard that ‘The Field-sensitizer must be worshipped’. Is He the same as the Soul, or the Lord or an altogether different third entity ? On a doubt regarding this problem – The Bhagavat instructs-Idam etc. Ksetrajnam etc. For persons of wordly life their body is the Ksetra ‘Field’ where the seeds of action grow. That is why their personal Soul covered with incoming (or foreign, not-natural) dirt, is called Field-sensitizer. In the case of the enlightened persons, the self-same body is [again] the Ksetra, But there is difference in etimological meaning viz : It decays the fetters of the result of action by means of consuming [it]; and it protects [them] from the fear of birth-and-death [cycle]. With reference to these persons, the Supreme Soul, Vasudeva is the Field-sensitizer. He who sensitizes this Field : He who causes it to know. Here the root vid includes within itself, the meaning of the causal suffix ni. Therefore [the meaning is :] He, on account of Whose grace this insentient [body] attains the status of being sentient, He alone, an no one else, is the Field-sensitizer. But, the [only] difference is this : Taking into consideration th aspect of limited pervaisveness, He is taken to be Soul; and on account of [His] unlimited pervasiveness in all the Fields, [He is called] the Supreme Soul, the Bhagavat Vasudeva. Of Me : the Sixth Case here is in the objective sense. Hence the idea is : I may be known by means of this knowledge.

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

arjuna uvaca
prakrtim purusam caiva
ksetram ksetra-jñam eva ca
etad veditum icchami
jñanam jñeyam ca kesava

sri-bhagavan uvaca
idam sariram kaunteya
ksetram ity abhidhiyate
etad yo vetti tam prahuh
ksetra-jña iti tad-vidah

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

arjunaḥ uvāca — Arjuna said; prakṛtim — nature; puruṣam — the enjoyer; ca — also; eva — certainly; kṣetram — the field; kṣetra-jñam — the knower of the field; eva — certainly; ca — also; etat — all this; veditum — to understand; icchāmi — I wish; jñānam — knowledge; jñeyam — the object of knowledge; ca — also; keśava — O Kṛṣṇa; śrī-bhagavān uvāca — the Personality of Godhead said; idam — this; śarīram — body; kaunteya — O son of Kuntī; kṣetram — the field; iti — thus; abhidhīyate — is called; etat — this; yaḥ — one who; vetti — knows; tam — he; prāhuḥ — is called; kṣetra-jñaḥ — the knower of the field; iti — thus; tat-vidaḥ — by those who know this.