jñeyaḿ yat tat pravakṣyāmi
yaj jñātvāmṛtam aśnute
anādi mat-paraḿ brahma
na sat tan nāsad ucyate
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 13.13
I shall now explain the knowable, knowing which you will taste the eternal. Brahman, the spirit, beginningless and subordinate to Me, lies beyond the cause and effect of this material world.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The Lord has explained the field of activities and the knower of the field. He has also explained the process of knowing the knower of the field of activities. Now He begins to explain the knowable, first the soul and then the Supersoul. By knowledge of the knower, both the soul and the Supersoul, one can relish the nectar of life. As explained in the Second Chapter, the living entity is eternal. This is also confirmed here. There is no specific date at which the jiva was born. Nor can anyone trace out the history of the jivatma’s manifestation from the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is beginningless. The Vedic literature confirms this: na jayate mriyate va vipascit (Katha Upanishad 1.2.18). The knower of the body is never born and never dies, and he is full of knowledge.
The Supreme Lord as the Supersoul is also stated in the Vedic literature (Shvetasvatara Upanishad 6.16) to be pradhana-kshetrajna-patir gunesah, the chief knower of the body and the master of the three modes of material nature. In the smriti it is said, dasa-bhuto harer eva nanyasvaiva kadacana. The living entities are eternally in the service of the Supreme Lord. This is also confirmed by Lord Caitanya in His teachings. Therefore the description of Brahman mentioned in this verse is in relation to the individual soul, and when the word Brahman is applied to the living entity, it is to be understood that he is vijnana-brahma as opposed to ananda-brahma. Ananda-brahma is the Supreme Brahman Personality of Godhead.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Thus, by the methods mentioned above, one should know the jiva and paramatma. The paramatma however is present in all beings and is known as brahman. That brahman is worshiped by the devotees as personal, with qualities, and by the jnanis as impersonal, with no qualities. As the object of meditation with four hands situated within the body, brahman is known as paramatma. This verse speaks of that brahman first.
That form has no beginning (anadi). That means that since it is his svarupa, it is eternal. Mat param means “of which I alone am the supreme shelter.” What is it? It is called brahman of which I alone am the supreme shelter, which is beyond cause and effect (na sad na asad). The Lord will later say brahmano hi pratistham: I am the basis of brahman.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
13.13 I shall declare that nature of the individual self (brahman) which is the object to be known, namely, what is to be gained by means of virtues like modesty etc., by knowing which one attains to the self which is immortal, birthless, free from old age, death and such other material qualities. [The expression is split up as — Anadi = beginningless; Mat-param = having Me as the Highest.] Anadi means that which is beginningless. Indeed, there is no origination for this individual self (brahman) and for the same reason, It is endless. The Sruti also declares: ‘The wise one is not born, nor dies’ (Ka. U., 2.18). ‘Matpara’ means having Me for the Highest. Verily, it has been told: ‘Know that which is other than this (lower nature), which is the life-principle, to be the highest Prakrti of Mine’ (7.5). By virtue of being the body of the Lord, the nature of the self finds joy in being completely subsidiary to Him. So the Sruti declares: ‘He who, dwelling in the self, is within the self, whom the self does not know, whose body the self is and who controls the self from within …’ (Br. U. Madh., 5.7.22). Similarly do the texts declare: ‘He is the cause, Lord of Lords and of sense organs. He has no progenitor, nor lord’ (Sve. U., 6.9); and ‘He is the Lord of the Pradhana and of the individual selves, and the Lord of qualities (Ibid., 6.16). That which is conjoined with the quality of infinite dimension or extensiveness can be designated as brahman. It is different from, and not circumscribable by, the body etc. The meaning is, It is the principle which apprehends the Ksetra. Sruti also declares: ‘He (i.e., the individual self) partakes of infinity’ (Sve. U., 5.9). By its Karma It is circumscribed. It assumes Its infinite nature only when It is freed from the bonds of Karma. The term brahman is applied to designate the individual self as in: ‘He, crossing beyond the Gunas’, becomes fit for the sake of brahman’ (14.26), ‘I am the ground of the brahman, who is immutable and immortal’ (14.27), and ‘Having attained to the state of brahman, tranquil, he neither grieves nor craves; regarding all beings alike, he attains supreme devotion to Me’ (18.54). It (brahman) is said to be neither being nor non-being. The terms ‘being’ and ‘non-being’ cannot signify the nature of the self because It is neither effect nor cause. For It is called ‘being’ (Sat) in the condition of effect when It has the form of gods etc. As It cannot possess names and forms in the condition of cause, It is said to be ‘non-being’ or Asat. So the Sruti texts declare: ‘In the beginning, verily, this (brahman) was non-existence; therefrom the being was born’ (Tai. U., 2.7.1) and ‘Verily, this (brahman) was then undifferntiated. It became differentiated by names and forms’ (Br. U., 1.4.7). The self’s conditions as effect and cause have arisen on account of veiling by Avidya or ignorant in the form of Karma. It is not an expression of Its real nature. So, the terms ‘being’ and ‘non-being’ do not signify the nature of the self, If it is argued that, in the passage ‘In the beginning, verily, this (Brahman) was non-existence’ (Tai. U., 2.7.1), it is the Supreme Brahman in the state of cause that is described — even then it can be pointed out that the Supreme Brahman in causal condition has, for His body, the conscient and non-conscient entities in a subtle state, incapable of being differentiated by names and forms. Such a description is therefore valid. On the same principle the nature of Ksetra (body) and Ksetrajna (individual self) in the state of cause can also be indicated by the term ‘non-being’. But this condition of the individual self has arisen due to Karma and such descriptions as ‘being’ and ‘non-being’ are applicable to the self only in the state of bondage. Its pure form cannot be signified by the terms ‘being’ and ‘non-being’.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
That which is to be known by imbibing the previous 20 virtues is being declared by Lord Krishna in this verse. The resultant consequence of embracing these virtues is being proclaimed now and emphasised in order to exemplify to the hearer that these 20 virtues truly constitute knowledge and are indispensable to realising the brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Realising the brahman one achieves moksa or liberation from material existence. The brahman has no beginning, is unsurpassed, and eternal. Although the word anandi meaning without beginning and eternal would convey the same meaning alone by adding the suffix mat to it utilises it as a bahuvrihi compound which is a metrical ornament and so it is spoken anandimat which denotes subordination to param being the Supreme Lord. If it were spoken as anandi matparam it would mean Lord Krishna’s supreme, attributeless form but that would not validate the words na sat tan nasad which states it is beyond both the cause and the effect. That which is the object of activation is expressed as existing and that which has no activation is expressed as non-existing. But the brahman is beyond both because it is not subject to the material existence.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
The brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence is the brahma referred to here. This is given as a reminder of the dependence of the Supreme Lord Krishna by whose energy everything is transpiring. The word anadimat means without any origin and beginning and denotes that the Supreme Lord is without origin and beginning also. If only anadi was used a doubt might arise that there is an origin for Him and so how can He manifest something without beginning if He is not as well. So the word anadimat is used as a matter of clarification. Due to being complete in fullness with all transcendental attributes the Supreme Lord is called param brahman meaning the Supreme brahman and is both sat or eternal existence and asat or non existence possessing a transcendental spiritual form and formless being without a physical form. Yet since He can be discerned by outward elements such as earth, fire, water etc. and since He is emphatically eulogized in the Vedic scriptures. The resplendent Supreme Lord Krishna, the immutable one is especially known both as sat and asat.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
After describing the 20 indispensable attributes that are required to achieve the Supreme Ultimate Truth now Lord Krishna explains at length the nature of the ksetra-jna or knower of the field of activity with reference to the individual atma or immortal soul which is well worth knowing and of great value. Understanding that the atma is eternal and completely different from the perishable physical body and is not subject to mundane modifications like birth, old age, disease and death one begins to taste supreme bliss. The atma is beyond all the qualities and potencies of material existence no matter how powerful they may be. The Prasna Upanisad V.V beginning yah punaretam trima trenomiti meaning: One beholds the Supreme Being residing within the etheric heart and is higher than the highest living reality. Then access to the realm of the Supreme Lord is achieved which is permeated by the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and is the prime cause of primordial matter, the jiva or embodied being and eternal time. The true nature of the brahman the innermost self as the atma is revealed and all nescience is completely removed. This is known to be neither sat or existence and neither asat or non-existence.
The use of the term innermost self to refer to the brahman does not create any contradiction because when the atma is realised its veil is removed and nescience is removed with it and the extensive and unlimited nature it is endowed with is revealed. The Mundaka Upanisad III.I.III beginning yada pashyah pashyate meaning: When moksa or liberation is achieved one cuts asunder the knots of worldly bondage and attains proximity to the Supreme Lord. Also one who has achieved moksa is known to be omnicient as is shown in the Chandogya Upanisad VII.XXVI.II beginning na pashyo myritam pashyati na means: The enlightened one realising the Supreme Lord has realised the atma and all else. The Supreme Reality is called sat eternal existence in its state of being because of its capacity to divide itself into names and forms. The Supreme Reality is also called asat or non-existence because of its incapacity to divide itself into names and forms. This is also given in the Taittiriya Upanisad II.VII beginning asadva idamagre asit meaning: Verily in the beginning this creation was non-existent. Also in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad I.IV.VII beginning taddedam tarhayavaya meaning: Verily before the demigod Brahma became the secondary, instrumental cause of creation, the whole creation was dormant in its unmanifested form under the sway of the primary efficient cause. So because the Supreme Reality of the atma is beyond both sat and asat it is known as being and non-being. The Katha Upanisad I.II.XVIII beginning na jayate mriyate va means: The soul is unborn, eternal unchangeable and never subject to death.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
13.13 Pravaksyami, I shall speak of, fully describe just as it is; tat, that; yat, which; is jenyam, to be known. In order to interest the hearer through inducement, the Lord speaks of what its result is: Jnatva, by realizing; yat, which Knowable; asnute, one attains; amrtam, Immortality, i.e.; he does not die again. Anadimat, without beginning-one having a beginning (adi) is adimat; one not having a beginning is anadimat. What is that? The param, supreme, unsurpassable; brahma, Brahman, which is under discussion as the Knowable. Here, some split up the phrase anadimatparam as anadi and matparam because, if the word anadimat is taken as a Bahuvrihi compound, [‘That which has no (a), beginning (adi) is anadi.’ Matup is used to denote possession. Since the idea of possession is a already implied in anadi, therefore matup, if added after it, becomes redundant.] then the suffix mat (matup) becomes redundant, which is undesirable. And they show a distintive meaning: (Brahman is anadi, beginningless, and is) matparam, that of which I am the supreme (para) power called Vasudeva. Trully, the redundance could be avoided in this way if that meanig were possible. But that meaning is not possible, because what is intended is to make Brahman known only through a negation of all attributes by saying, ‘It is called neither being nor non-being.’ It is contradictory to show a possession of a distinctive power and to negate attributes. Therefore, although matup and a bahuvrihi compound convey the same meaning of ‘possession’, its (matup’s) use is for completing the verse. [The Commentator accepts anadimat as a nan-tatpurusa compund. If, however, the Bahuvrihi is insisted on, then the mat after anadi should be taken as completing the number of syllables needed for versification. So, nat need not be compounded with param.] Having aroused an interest through inducement by saying, ‘The Knowable which has Immortality as its result is beeing spoken of by Me,’ the Lord says: Tat, that Knowable; ucyate, is called; na sat, neither being; nor is it called asat, non-being. Objection: After strongly girding up the loins and declaring with a loud voice, ‘I shall speak of the Knowable,’ is it not incongruous to say, ‘That is called neither being nor non-being’? Reply: No. What has been said is surely consistent. Objection: How? Reply: For in all the Upanisads, the Knowable, i.e. Brahman, has been indicated only by negation of all attributes-‘Not this, not this’ (Br. 4.4.22), ‘Not gross, not subtle’ (op. cit. 3.3.8), etc.; but not as ‘That is this’, for It is beyond speech. Objection: Is it not that a thing which cannot be expressed by the word ‘being’ does not exist? Like-wise, if the Knowable cannot be expressed by the word ‘being’, It does not exist. And it is contradictory to say, ‘It is the Knowable’, and ‘It cannot be expressed by the word “being”.’ Counter-objection: As to that, no that It does not exist, because It is not the object of the idea, ‘It is non-being.’ Objection: Do not all cognitions verily involve the idea of being or non-being? This being so, the Knowable should either be an object of a cognition involving the idea of existence, or it should be an object of a cognition involving the idea of non-existence. Reply: No, because, by virtue of Its being super-sensuous, It is not an object of cognition involving either, of the two ideas. Indeed, any object perceivable by the senses, such as pot etc., can be either an object of cognition involving the idea of existence, or it can be an object of cognition involving the idea of non-existence. But this Knowable, being supersensuous and known from the scriptures, which are the sole means of (Its) knowledge, is not, like pot etc., an object of cognition involving either of the two ideas. Therefore It is called neither being nor non-being. As for your objection that it is contradictory to say, ‘It is the Knowable, but it is neither called being nor non-being,’-it is not contradictory; for the Upanisad says, ‘That (Brahman) is surely different from the known and, again, It is above the unknown’ (Ke. 1.4). Objection: May it not be that even the Upanisad is contradictory in its meaning? May it not be (contradictory) as it is when, after beginning with the topic of a shed for a sacrifice, [Cf. ‘Pracinavamsam karoti, he constructs (i.e. shall construct) (the sacrificial shed) with its supporting beam turned east-ward’ (Tai, Sam.; also see Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Monier Williams).-Tr.] it is said, ‘Who indeed knows whether there exists anything in the other world or not!’ (Tai. Sam. 6.1.1)? Reply: No, since the Upanisad speaking of something that is different from the known and the unknown is meant for establishing an entity that must be realized. [The Upanisadic text is not to be rejected on the ground that it is paradoxical, for it is meant to present Brahman as indentical with one’s own inmost Self.] But, ‘…whether there exists anything in the other world,’ etc. is merely an arthavada [See note on p. 40. Here, the passage, ‘…whether there exists…,’ etc. is to be interpreted as an arthavada emphasizing, the need of raising a shed, irrespective of any other consideration.-Tr.] connected with an injunction. From reason who it follows that Brahman cannot be expressed by such words as being, non-being, etc. For, every word used for expressing an object, when heard by listeners, makes them understand its meaning through the comprehension of its significance with the help of genus, action, quality and relation; not in any other way, because that is not a matter of experience. To illustrate this: a cow, or a horse, etc. (is comprehended) through genus; cooking or reading, through action; white or black, through quality; a rich person or an owner of cows, through relation. But Brahman does not belong to any genus. Hence it is not expressible by words like ‘being’ etc.; neither is It possessed of any qualitity with the help of which It could be expressed through qualifying words, for It is free from qualities; nor can It be expressed by a word implying action, It being free from actions-which accords with the Upanisadic text, ‘Partless, actionless, calm’ (Sv. 6.19). Nor has It any relation, since It is one, non-dual, not an object of the senses, and It is the Self. Therefore it is logical that It cannot be expressed by any word. And this follows from such Upanisadic texts as, ‘From which, words trun back’ (Tai. 2.4.1), etc. Therefore it is logical that It cannot be expressed by any word. And this follows from such Upanisadic texts as, ‘From which, words turn back’ (Tai. 2.4.1), etc. Since the Knowable (Brahman) is not an object of the word or thought of ‘being’, there arises the apprehension of Its nonexistence. Hence, for dispelling that apprehension by establishing Its existence with the help of the adjuncts in the form of the organs of all creatures, the Lord says:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
13.13-18 Jneyam etc. upto visthitam. Beginningless is the Supreme Brahman : by means of the attributes (descriptions) like these, [the Bhagavat] describes the Brahman as being not separate from the Supreme Consciousness (or action) expressed in every utterance and [thus] gracing [the seeker] to infer his [or Its] own nature. These attributes however have already been explained. Hence what is the use of a fruitless repetition ?
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
jñeyam yat tat pravaksyami
yaj jñatvamrtam asnute
anadi mat-param brahma
na sat tan nasad ucyate
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
jñeyam — the knowable; yat — which; tat — that; pravakṣyāmi — I shall now explain; yat — which; jñātvā — knowing; amṛtam — nectar; aśnute — one tastes; anādi — beginningless; mat-param — subordinate to Me; brahma — spirit; na — neither; sat — cause; tat — that; na — nor; asat — effect; ucyate — is said to be.