ṛṣibhir bahudhā gītaḿ
chandobhir vividhaiḥ pṛthak
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 13.5
That knowledge of the field of activities and of the knower of activities is described by various sages in various Vedic writings. It is especially presented in Vedanta-sutra with all reasoning as to cause and effect.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, is the highest authority in explaining this knowledge. Still, as a matter of course, learned scholars and standard authorities always give evidence from previous authorities. Krishna is explaining this most controversial point regarding the duality and nonduality of the soul and the Supersoul by referring to a scripture, the Vedanta, which is accepted as authority. First He says, “This is according to different sages.” As far as the sages are concerned, besides Himself, Vyasadeva (the author of the Vedanta-sutra) is a great sage, and in the Vedanta-sutra duality is perfectly explained. And Vyasadeva’s father, Parashara, is also a great sage, and he writes in his books of religiosity, aham tvam ca tathanye. .. “we—you, I and the various other living entities—are all transcendental, although in material bodies. Now we are fallen into the ways of the three modes of material nature according to our different karma. As such, some are on higher levels, and some are in the lower nature.
The higher and lower natures exist due to ignorance and are being manifested in an infinite number of living entities. But the Supersoul, which is infallible, is uncontaminated by the three qualities of nature and is transcendental.”
Similarly, in the original Vedas, a distinction between the soul, the Supersoul and the body is made, especially in the Katha Upanishad. There are many great sages who have explained this, and Parashara is considered principal among them.
The word chandobhih refers to the various Vedic literatures. The Taittiriya Upanishad, for example, which is a branch of the Yajur Veda, describes nature, the living entity and the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
As stated before, kshetra is the field of activities, and there are two kinds of kshetra-jna: the individual living entity and the supreme living entity. As stated in the Taittiriya Upanishad (2.9), brahma puccham pratishtha. There is a manifestation of the Supreme Lord’s energy known as anna-maya, dependence upon food for existence. This is a materialistic realization of the Supreme. Then, in prana-maya, after realizing the Supreme Absolute Truth in food, one can realize the Absolute Truth in the living symptoms or life forms. In jnana-maya, realization extends beyond the living symptoms to the point of thinking, feeling and willing. Then there is Brahman realization, called vijnana-maya, in which the living entity’s mind and life symptoms are distinguished from the living entity himself. The next and supreme stage is ananda-maya, realization of the all-blissful nature. Thus there are five stages of Brahman realization, which are called brahma puccham. Out of these, the first three—anna-maya, prana-maya and jnana-maya—involve the fields of activities of the living entities. Transcendental to all these fields of activities is the Supreme Lord, who is called ananda-maya. The Vedanta-sutra also describes the Supreme by saying, ananda-mayo ’bhyasat: the Supreme Personality of Godhead is by nature full of joy. To enjoy His transcendental bliss, He expands into vijnana-maya, prana-maya, jnana-maya and anna-maya. In the field of activities the living entity is considered to be the enjoyer, and different from him is the ananda-maya. That means that if the living entity decides to enjoy in dovetailing himself with the ananda-maya, then he becomes perfect. This is the real picture of the Supreme Lord as the supreme knower of the field, the living entity as the subordinate knower, and the nature of the field of activities. One has to search for this truth in the Vedanta-sutra, or Brahma-sutra.
It is mentioned here that the codes of the Brahma-sutra are very nicely arranged according to cause and effect. Some of the sutras, or aphorisms, are na viyad asruteh (2.3.2), natma sruteh (2.3.18), and parat tu tac-chruteh (2.3.40). The first aphorism indicates the field of activities, the second indicates the living entity, and the third indicates the Supreme Lord, the summum bonum among all the manifestations of various entities.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
“You are describing this briefly. Who then has described this in detail?”
It has been described by rsis such as Vasistha in the scriptures dealing with yoga, by the Vedas (chandobhih) and by the words of the Brahma Sutras. The Brahma Sutras, through their words (padaih) such as athato brahma jijnasa (Vedanta Sutra 1.1) make known (padyate) Brahman. But what type of words are they? They are words of logic (hetumadbhir), which are very decisive (visesatah niscitaih). Examples are as follows:
Brahman is not inexpressible by words, because it is seen that he is conveyed through the words in the Vedas. Vedanta Sutra 1.1.5
The word anandamaya refers to para brahman because of the repeated use of the word brahman in relation to it. Vedanta Sutra 1.1.13
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
13.5 It is this truth regarding the Kestra and Ksetrajna that has been sung in various ways by Parasara and others seers. For example, ‘I and you and others are composed of the elements; and the elements, following the stream of qualities, assume a shape; these qualities, Sattva and the rest, are dependent on Karma; and Karma, accumulated by nescience, influences the condition of all beings. The self is pure, imperishable, tranquil, void of qualities and is pre-eminent over Prakrti’ (V. P., 2.13.69-71). Similarly: ‘The body, characterised by head, hands, feet and the like is different from Purusa.’ Which of these can I designate by the name I?’ (Ibid., 2.13.89). And also: ‘Are you the head or the belly? Are you indeed the feet and other limbs, or do they belong to you, O King? You are distinct in your nature from all your members, O King. Know, O King, and understand “Who am I” ‘. (Ibid., 1.13.102-3). Moreover they state that Vasudeva constitutes the Self of the distinct entities (Ksetra and Ksetrajna): ‘The senses, Manas, Buddhi, vigour, splendour, strength, courage, both Ksetra and Ksetrajna have Vasudeva for their self. (Ma. Bha. Sa., 149.136). In various distinctive hymns, namely, in the Vedas, Rg, Yajus, Saman and Atharvan, the distinction of body and the self has been sung. The nature of the body is described in the following text: ‘From this Self, verily, ether arose; from the ether, air; from air, fire; from fire, water; from water, the earth; from the earth, herbs; from the herbs, food; from food, the person. The same person, verily, consists of the essence of food’ (Tai. U., 2.1.2). Afterwards that which is inner than this (body) and which consists of Prana (or the vital breath), and that which is inner than this and which consists of mind are described. The nature of Ksetrjna is stated in the passage: ‘Verily, other than, and within, that one that consists of mind, that (the individual Self) consists of understanding’ (Ibid., 2.4.2). Later, the Supreme Brahman is stated in the text; ‘Verily, other than, and within, that one consisting of understanding, is the Supreme Self that consists of bliss’ (Ibid., 1.5.2). This is stated to be the Surpeme Self, consisting of bliss, as forming the inner Self of the individual self. Similarly in the three Vedas, Rg, Saman and Atharvan, here and there, the distinctive existence of the Ksetra and the Ksetrajna is affirmed with Brahman for their Self. Likewise, the same purpose is taught in the words of the Brahma-sutras, namely, the aphorisms about Brahman, known also as the Sariraka-sutras, which are characterised by reasoning, decision and conclusion. In the Sutras commencing with, ‘Not ether, on account of the absence of the Sruti’ (B. S., 2.3.1), the nature and the mode of the Ksetra is determined. In the Sutras commencing with ‘Not the self, on account of the Sruti and on account of the eternity, (which is made out) from them’ (Ibid., 2.3.18), the true nature of the Ksetrajna is determined. In the Sutras ‘But from the Supreme, this being declared by Sruti’ (Ibid., 2.3.40), that Ksetrajna has the Lord for Its Self on account of Its being under the control of the Lord, is declared. It has been sung in various ways; the meaning of this Sloka is this: Listen about the truths of the Ksetra and the Ksetrajna which have been expounded in numerous ways and declared by Me in a lucid and brief manner.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The question may be raised as to whose elaborate teachings will Lord Krishna briefly summarise. Here it refers to rishis or holy sages such as Vasistha and Parasara etc. who have described it in various ways as objects of meditation and concentration of the cosmic mind and also what has been variously sung in propitiation to the Supreme Lord and the various yagnas or rites of propitiation offered to Him both daily and occasional is indicative of the brahman or spirirtual substratum pervading all existence. Upanisadic texts such as Taittriya Upanisad III.I state: That from which all these things are born. This indirectly describes the brahman. Whereas the Taittriya Upanisad II.I states: Existence, knowledge, infinity is the brahman. This defines the brahman and helps to attain it directly in its true essence. Other scriptures such as the Chandogya Upanisad VI.II.I and II state: This creation was only existence in the beginning. How can existence manifest from non-existence? Who would be able to inhale and live had not the joy of bliss existed in the ether of the heart? The Taittirya Upanisad II.VII states: It is this that verily bestows bliss. The words anyat and pranyat from the previous verse denote who would be able to perform the functions of apana or inhalation and exhalation resulting in vital force. Decisively establishing an indisputable explanation through a thesis of erudite and conclusive statements; whatever has been explained elaborately by sages and definitively in Vedic scriptures and is difficult of to summarise Lord Krishna will give the essence.
It is also possible to take the Brahma Sutra to mean the aphorism I.I.I which begins the scripture and states: Now therefore let us enquire into what is the brahman. What is descriptive of the brahman ascertains the nature of the brahman. Such aphorisms furnished with reasons embellish th understanding for example in Brahma Sutra I.I.V it states: On account of thinking the pradhana or material manifestation is not the primary cause as it is not based on the Vedic sriptures. Also the statement in Brahma Sutra I.I.XII stating: The atma or eternal soul consists of ananda or bliss. Though both emanating from the Supreme Lord the brahman is always put forth as being a separate potency from the atma on account that each has its exclusive function.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Sri Madhvacharya did not comment on this sloka.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
It is fine that the reality concerning the ksetra will be described in brief but the need may arise for further evidence in detail. Anticipating such queries Lord Krishna confirms that it is also eulogised by rsibhih the sages such as Vasistha and Parasara and is revealed in the Vedic scriptures in various precise and concise ways. The Taittriya Upanisad II.I states: Verily is the Supreme Lord the essence of food. The person consisting of food is the physical body of the jiva or embodied being, then the next is the breath followed by the mind. Further in verse II.IV it states: Verily after that within of the mind which consists of intellect there exists the atma or eternal soul which consists of consciousness. This is the nature of the jiva. These facts have been stated explicitly by Vedavyasa in the Rg, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas and and conclusively proven in Vedanta Sutras. All the conclusions from the Vedic scriptures are harmonious and clear to the Vaisnava devotees and the pandits or scholars in the Vedic culture as well. The Vedanta Sutras reveals the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence and the ultimate truth in an abbreviated form yet it is more exact and profound. The Vedas reveal it in explicit detail and the Upanisads reveal its nature, attributes and glories very elaborately. An aphorism is defined as concise, precise, unequivocal, understandable, eternal and free from illusion. The Vedanta Sutras are aphorisms on the investigation and knowledge of the atma or eternal soul and the ultimate truth.
It should not be assumed that the Vedanta Sutras discuss only about the brahman because that is not the case, for in order to impart knowledge of the brahman the atma, the jiva and the Supreme Lord must also be discussed as well, along with the invariable attributes of omnipresence, sustenance, purity, maintenance, etc. These things could not be comprehended correctly without understanding their relationship to the Supreme Lord. Neither could they be propounded properly without defining their relationship with the atma which is fully controlled and dependent and mercifully graced by the Supreme Lord. So descriptions of the embodied soul and its origin, nature and function are very beneficial regarding knowledge of the brahman and there is no contradiction anywhere in the Vedic scriptures in any way. For example ether is known not to be created as it is not stated it is in the Vedic scriptures. This is confirmed in Vedanta Sutras II.III.I. Also the atma being eternal is not created because no Vedic scripture has stated thus. The individual atma is the knower and omniscient as confirmed in Vedanta Sutras II.III.XVII. So for both examples the effect is established by understanding the cause. So this topic has been well spoken of in detail both generally and specifically of ksetra and the ksetra-jna but now Lord Krishna will concisely explain it further.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
13.5 Gitam, It has been sung of, spoken of; bahudha, in various ways; rsibhih, by the Rsis, by Vasistha and others; sung prthak, separately; vividhaih, by the different kinds of; chandobhih, Vedic texts-chandas mean the Rg-veda etc; by them; ca, and; besides, hetumadbhih, by the rational; and viniscitaih, by the convincing, i.e. by those which are productive of certain knowledge-not by those which are in an ambiguous form; brahma-sutra-padaih eva, sentences themselves which are indicative of and lead to Brahman. Brahma-sutras are the sentences indicative of Brahman. They are called padani since Brahman is reached, known, through them. By them indeed has been sung the true nature of the field and the Knower of the field (-this is understood). The Self is verily known through such sentences as, ‘The Self alone is to be meditated upon’ (Br. 1.4.7), which are indicative of and lead to Brahman. To Arjuna who had become interested as a result of the eulogy, the Lord says:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
13.4-5 Tat Ksetram etc. Rsibhih etc. Why it modifies : due to what this [Field] suffers modification. Collectively : not at all separately (one by one). [The Bhagavat] decides all the questions in a general way. Of course, many a time in many a way this has been declared by the seers and by the scritpures. But, let Me (the Bhagavat) explain this collectively (briefly).
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
rsibhir bahudha gitam
chandobhir vividhaih prthak
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
ṛṣibhiḥ — by the wise sages; bahudhā — in many ways; gītam — described; chandobhiḥ — by Vedic hymns; vividhaiḥ — various; pṛthak — variously; brahma-sūtra — of the Vedānta; padaiḥ — by the aphorisms; ca — also; eva — certainly; hetu-madbhiḥ — with cause and effect; viniścitaiḥ — certain.