asaktaḿ sarva-bhṛc caiva
nirguṇaḿ guṇa-bhoktṛ ca
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 13.8-15
The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all the modes of material nature.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The Supreme Lord, although the source of all the senses of the living entities, doesn’t have material senses like they have. Actually, the individual souls have spiritual senses, but in conditioned life they are covered with the material elements, and therefore the sense activities are exhibited through matter. The Supreme Lord’s senses are not so covered. His senses are transcendental and are therefore called nirguna. Guna means the material modes, but His senses are without material covering. It should be understood that His senses are not exactly like ours.
Although He is the source of all our sensory activities, He has His transcendental senses, which are uncontaminated. This is very nicely explained in the Shvetasvatara Upanishad (3.19) in the verse apani-pado javano grahita. The Supreme Personality of Godhead has no hands which are materially contaminated, but He has His hands and accepts whatever sacrifice is offered to Him. That is the distinction between the conditioned soul and the Supersoul. He has no material eyes, but He has eyes—otherwise how could He see? He sees everything—past, present and future. He lives within the heart of the living being, and He knows what we have done in the past, what we are doing now, and what is awaiting us in the future. This is also confirmed in Bhagavad-gita: He knows everything, but no one knows Him. It is said that the Supreme Lord has no legs like us, but He can travel throughout space because He has spiritual legs. In other words, the Lord is not impersonal; He has His eyes, legs, hands and everything else, and because we are part and parcel of the Supreme Lord we also have these things. But His hands, legs, eyes and senses are not contaminated by material nature.
Bhagavad-gita also confirms that when the Lord appears He appears as He is by His internal potency. He is not contaminated by the material energy, because He is the Lord of material energy. In the Vedic literature we find that His whole embodiment is spiritual. He has His eternal form, called sac-cid-ananda-vigraha [Bs. 5.1]. He is full of all opulence. He is the proprietor of all wealth and the owner of all energy. He is the most intelligent and is full of knowledge. These are some of the symptoms of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the maintainer of all living entities and the witness of all activity. As far as we can understand from Vedic literature, the Supreme Lord is always transcendental. Although we do not see His head, face, hands or legs, He has them, and when we are elevated to the transcendental situation we can see the Lord’s form. Due to materially contaminated senses, we cannot see His form. Therefore the impersonalists, who are still materially affected, cannot understand the Personality of Godhead.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
He illuminates all the senses and sense objects (guna). The sruti says tac caksusas caksuh (Kena Upanisad 1.2): He inspires the sight of the eye. Or the meaning can be “He shines forth or exists with all the senses and objects of the senses such as sound.” He however is also without all senses (sarvendriya vivarjitam). This means he is without material senses. This meaning is valid because it is well known in the srutis that he is the abode of the svarupa sakti, his spiritual energies. The sruti says:
apani-pado javano grahlta pasyaty acaksuh sa srnoty akarnah.
Without hands and feet he moves and receives. Wthout eyes he sees. Without ears he hears. Svetasvatara Upanisad 3.1
parasya saktir bahudhaiva sruyate svabhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca
The energy of the Lord is divided into jnana, bala and kriya saktis.
Svetasvatara Upanisad 6.8
He is without attachment (asaktam), and also maintains everything within his form of Visnu (sarva bhrt). He has a form without the material gunas of sattva, rajas and tamas (nirguna). But he is the enjoyer or taster of the six gunas or bhagas known as aisvarya, virya, yasas, sri, jnana and vairagya (guna bhoktr).
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
13.15 Sarvendriya-gunabhasam i.e., shining by the functions of the senses — means that which is shedding light on the functions of all the senses. The ‘Gunas’ of the senses means the activities of the senses. The meaning is that the self is capable of knowing the objects with the functioning of the senses. ‘Yet devoid of the senses’ i.e., It is capable by Itself, of knowing everything. Such is the meaning. It is ‘detached’, namely, It is free, by nature, from attachment to the bodies of gods etc. ‘Yet supporting all,’ yet capable of supporting all bodies, such as of gods etc., as declared in the Sruti. ‘It is one, is threefold …’ (Cha. U., 7.26.2). It is devoid of Gunas, i.e., by nature It is devoid of Sattva etc., and yet It is the experiencer of the Gunas’ — It has the capability to experience Sattva etc.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna is the source of the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence known as Parabrahma and is the illuminator of the functions of the senses and their objects in the form of colour, sound and scents, etc. maintaining all of the sense organs and their functions while still bereft of any material organ. The Svetasvatara Upanisad III.IXX states: Without hands and feet Parabrahma the Supreme Being moves and grasps. Unattached and devoid of all desires yet the substratum of everything, maintaining and sustaining all. That Parabrahma transcendental to the three gunas of goodness, passion and ignorance and possess no material qualities or attributes; yet through out creation He is the preserver and protector of these qualities and attributes.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Since the Supreme Lord supports the attributes of all the senses, He is always conscious of the functions of all the sense organs; yet He, Himself possesses no material sense organs. This is what Lord Krishna is stating here.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
The source of the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence is the Supreme Lord known as Parabrahma, who perceives all sense objects and activities of the senses such as perception of sound, sight, smell, the perception of speech etc. of the external organs. Also He perceives thinking, reflecting, determining of the internal organs such as the mind and intellect and omniscience of the intuition. Although to experience these things in a material body a being requires the physical organs such as ears for sound, eyes for sight, nose for smell, etc. it is not the case for the Supreme Lord who is nirgunam or devoid of all material qualities; yet at the same time being the sustainer and nourisher of all living entities He is guna-bhoktr or the ultimate enjoyer of all spiritual qualities through the auspices of the atma or immortal soul within all sentient, living beings.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
13.15 Sarvendriya-guna-abhasam, shining through the functions of all the organs: By the use of the words all the organs are understood ears etc., known as the sense-organs and motor-organs, as also the internal organs-the intellect and the mind, for they are equally the limiting adjuncts of the Knowable. Besides, the organs of hearing etc. become the limiting adjuncts from the very fact of the internal organ becoming so. Hence, the Knowable gets expressed through determination, thinking, hearing, speaking, etc. that are the functions of all the organs, internal and external, which are the limiting adjuncts. In this way, It is manifest through the functions of all the organs. The idea is that, that Knowable appears to be as though active owing to the functions of all the organs, as it is said in the Upanisadic text, ‘It thinks, as it were, and shakes, as it were’ (Br. 4.3.7). For that reason, again, is It not perceived as being actually active? In answer the Lord says: It is sarva-indriya-varitam, devoid of all the organs, i.e. bereft of all the instruments of action. Hence the Knowable is not active through the functioning of the instruments of action. As for the Upanisadic verse, ‘Without hands and feet He moves swiftly and grasps; without eyes He sees, without ears He hears’ (Sv. 3.19), etc.-that is meant for showing that that Knowable has the power of adapting Itself to the functions of all the organs which are Its limiting adjuncts; but it is not meant to show that It really has such activity as moving fast etc. The meaning of that verse is like that of the Vedic text, ‘The blind one discoverd a gem’ (Tai, Ar. 1.11). [This is an artha-veda (see note on p.530), which is not to be taken literally but interpreted in accordance with the context.] Since the Knowable is devoid of all the instruments of actions, therefore It is asaktam, unattached, devoid of all associations. Although It is of this kind, yet it is ca eva, also verily; the sarva-bhrt, supporter of all. Indeed, everything has existence as its basis, because the idea of ‘existence’ is present everywhere. Verily, even mirage etc. do not occur without some basis. Therefore, It is sarva-bhrt, the supporter of all-It upholds everything. There can be this other organs as well for the realization of the existence of the Knowable: Nirgunam, without quality-the qualities are sattva, rajas and tamas; that Knowable is free from them; and yet It is the guna-bhoktr, perceiver of qualities; i.e., that Knowable is the enjoyer and experiencer of the qualities, sattva, rajas and tamas, which, assuming the forms of sound etc., transform them-selves into happiness, sorrow, delusion, etc. Further,
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:
asaktam sarva-bhrc caiva
nirgunam guna-bhoktr ca
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
sarva — of all; indriya — senses; guṇa — of the qualities; ābhāsam — the original source; sarva — all; indriya — senses; vivarjitam — being without; asaktam — without attachment; sarva-bhṛt — the maintainer of everyone; ca — also; eva — certainly; nirguṇam — without material qualities; guṇa-bhoktṛ — master of the guṇas; ca — also.