buddhir avyaktam eva ca
indriyāṇi daśaikaḿ ca
icchā dveṣaḥ sukhaḿ duḥkhaḿ
sańghātaś cetanā dhṛtiḥ
etat kṣetraḿ samāsena
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 13.6-7
The five great elements, false ego, intelligence, the unmanifested, the ten senses and the mind, the five sense objects, desire, hatred, happiness, distress, the aggregate, the life symptoms, and convictions—all these are considered, in summary, to be the field of activities and its interactions.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
From all the authoritative statements of the great sages, the Vedic hymns and the aphorisms of the Vedanta-sutra, the components of this world can be understood as follows. First there are earth, water, fire, air and ether.
These are the five great elements (maha-bhuta). Then there are false ego, intelligence and the unmanifested stage of the three modes of nature. Then there are five senses for acquiring knowledge: the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. Then five working senses: voice, legs, hands, anus and genitals. Then, above the senses, there is the mind, which is within and which can be called the sense within. Therefore, including the mind, there are eleven senses altogether. Then there are the five objects of the senses: smell, taste, form, touch and sound. Now the aggregate of these twenty-four elements is called the field of activity. If one makes an analytical study of these twenty-four subjects, then he can very well understand the field of activity. Then there are desire, hatred, happiness and distress, which are interactions, representations of the five great elements in the gross body. The living symptoms, represented by consciousness and conviction, are the manifestation of the subtle body—mind, ego and intelligence. These subtle elements are included within the field of activities.
The five great elements are a gross representation of the false ego, which in turn represents the primal stage of false ego technically called the materialistic conception, or tamasa-buddhi, intelligence in ignorance. This, further, represents the unmanifested stage of the three modes of material nature. The unmanifested modes of material nature are called pradhana.
One who desires to know the twenty-four elements in detail along with their interactions should study the philosophy in more detail. In Bhagavad-gita, a summary only is given.
The body is the representation of all these factors, and there are changes of the body, which are six in number: the body is born, it grows, it stays, it produces by-products, then it begins to decay, and at the last stage it vanishes. Therefore the field is a nonpermanent material thing. However, the kshetra-jna, the knower of the field, its proprietor, is different.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
In this verse the nature of the field is described. Mahabhutani refers to ether, air, fire, water and earth. Ahankara refers to false ego, the cause of the mahabhutas. Buddhi refers to mahat tattva, composed of vijnana, the cause of ahankara. Avyakta refers to prakrti, the cause of mahat tattva. Indriyani refers to the ten senses: eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, hands, feet, genital, anus and voice. Eka refers to the mind. The five indriya-gocard are the sound, touch, form, taste and smell. The field is made of these twenty four elements.
Sanghata is the body, evolving from the twenty four elements. Iccha, dvesa, sukha and duhkha are well known. Cetana is a mental function constituted of knowledge. Dhrti is perseverance. Iccha and other qualities mentioned here are qualities of the mind not the soul, and thus they are included in the field. These are representative of sankalpa and other qualities mentioned in the sruti(not being an exhaustive list of the qualities of the mind):
kamah sankalpo vicikitsa sraddha dhrtir hrir dhir bhir ity etat
sarvam mana eva
Desire, determination, uncertainty, faith, lack of faith, perseverance, lack of perseverance, humility, intelligence, and fear are all products of the mind. Brhad Aranyaka Upanisad 1.5.3
By this list, the qualities of the field which was previously promised by the word yadrk in verse 3 have been shown. This field with its six transformations (savikara), such as birth and growth, has thus been briefly described (udahrtam).
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
13.6 – 13.7 The ‘great elements, the Ahankara, the Buddhi and the Avyakta’ are substances that originate the Ksetra. The ‘great elements’ are the earth, water, fire, air and ether. The ‘Ahankara’ here means Bhutadi (primeval element). The ‘Buddhi’ is called Mahat; the ‘Avyakta’ is known as the Prakrti. The ‘ten senses and the one’ and the five objects of senses are principles depending on the Ksetra. The ‘five sensorial organs’ are ear, skin, eye, tongue and nose. The five motor organs are speech, hands, feet, and the organs of excretion and reproduction. These are the ten senses. The Manas is the additional ‘one’ moe. The ‘objects of the senses’ are five — sound, touch, form, taste and smell. Desire, hatred, pleasure and pain, being the transformation of the Ksetra, are said to be the modifications of the Ksetra. Though desire, hatred, pleasure and pain are the qualities of the self, yet they originate from the association of the self with the Ksetra. Sri Krsna will state that they are the attributes of the self; ‘In the experience of pleasure and pain, the self is said to be the cause’ (13.20). The combination of elements serves as the support (Adhrti) of the intelligent self. As such, the word Adhrti means substratum. The combination of material elements has arisen as the substratum for the self to experience pleasure and pain, and for acquiring worldly experiences and the final release. The combination of elements is formed by substances commencing from the Prakrti and ending with the earth; it is the basis of senses which are endowed with the modifications of the nature of desire, hatred, pleasure and pain. These form a Sanghata or an association of elements. It serves as the basis of the experience of pleasure and pain by the individual self. This is what is said of the Ksetra. This Ksetra has been explained briefly with its modifications and effects. Now certain qualities, the effects of the Ksetra, worthy of being acquired as being the means for securing the knowledge of the self, are enumerated.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The characteristics and components of the ksetra are being elucidated by Lord Krishna beginning with the five fundamental elements which are earth, water, fire, air and ether. The false ego, the intellect, the unmanifest element of existence, the five perceptual senses being the eye, ear, nose, tongue and sense of touch. The five objects of the perceptual senses being sight, sound, smell, taste and form The five senses of activity being the voice, the hands, the legs, the genitals and the anus. The internal sense being the mind. Desire, aversion, happiness, unhappiness, the body, the intuition, patience and the six material modifications being birth, sustenance, growth, maturity, declination and destruction. Thus the Supreme Lord Krishna has enumerated the 24 categories which comprise the field of activity known as the ksetra.
The physical body is an aggregate of these 24 elements. Intelligence which is a cognitive function of the mind is imbued with patience and fortitude. Desire, aversion, etc. are merely effects of cognition and included as part of the ksetra as attributes solely of the mind and not of the atma or eternal soul. The qualities mentioned also include by implication other qualities of the mind as well such as reflection and introspection. Brihadaranyaka Upanisad I.V.III states: Desire, reflection, doubt, faith, lack of faith, patience, impatience, modesty, intelligence and fear are all products of the mind. In this way the qualities of the ksetra are introduced and enumerated by Lord Krishna. Thus the ksetra along with its modifications such as the perceptual senses, etc. has been described in brief and this concludes the topic regarding the ksetra.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Desire, repugnance, joy, misery, etc. are known as the modifications of the ksetra. The word cetana meaning awareness refers to the entire perceptual faculties of the mind. The word sanghata preceding it includes perception of the physical body and cetana refers to the total aggregate of mental facilities which includes modifications such as ego and patience.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Now Lord Krishna speaks of the characteristics and nature of the ksetra or field of activity beginning with the words maha-bhutani meaning the five fundamental elements being earth, water, fire, air and ether. These are the elements comprising material existence and these are the elements that constitute the physical body. Ahankarah is the false ego, buddhi is the intellect, avyaktam is the unmanifest nature known as prakriti the material substratum pervading all physical existence. The five organs of perception for the senses being the five senses: eye, ears, nose, tongue and skin. The five objects of the senses being sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and the five organs of action being the hands, the legs, the voice, the genitals for procreation and the anus for evacuation. These 24 elements have already been iterated by Lord Krishna millenniums before in His lila avatar or pastime incarnation as Kapila deva; but here He also names the modifications such as desire and aversion as well. Desire is attachment to that which gives happiness and repugnance is aversion to that which gives misery. Both are mental tendencies formed from a conditioned perception of what is favourable and unfavourable relegated by the karma or reactions to one’s meritorious and unmeritorious actions and as they are caused by the actions of the physical body they are experienced by the jiva or embodied being through contact of the physical body as it is the receptacle of feeling for all jivas. The word cetana meaning awareness is apparent in all forms and species of life relative to their individual consciousness. This starts with being conscious of food only to being conscious of life with its six transformations of birth, infancy, youth, maturity, old age and death; to being conscious of the atma or the immortal soul, to being conscious of a Supreme Lord to being conscious of loving devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna. All these things have been explained in brief as being part of the ksetra along with the mind, the senses, the objects of the senses and the modifications of dsire and aversion which causes the sensations of pleasure and pain for the jivas.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
13.6 Mahabhutani, the great elements: Those elements which are great owing to their pervasion of all midifications, and which are subtle. As for the gross elements, they will be spoken of by the word indriya-gocarah, objects of the senses. Ahankarah, egoism, which is the source of the great elements and consists of the idea of ‘I’. Buddhih, intellect, the source of egoism and consisting of the faculty of judgement; ca, and; its cause, the avyaktam eva, Unmanifest itself, the Undifferentiated, the power of God spoken of in, ‘Maya of Mine…difficult to cross’ (7.14). The word eva (itself) is used for singling out Prakrti (Nature). The Prakrti divided eightfold [The undifferentiated (avyakta), mahat, egoism and the five uncompunded subtle elements] is this much alone. The word ca (and) is used for joining the various categories. The dasa, ten; indriyani, organs : The five, organs ear etc., which are called sense-organs since they produce perception, and the (other) five organs-organ of speech, hands, etc.-which are called motor-organs since they accomplish actions. They are ten. Ekam ca, and the one-which is that?-the mind, the eleventh, possessed of the power of thinking etc. (see fn. on p. 173). Ca, and; the panca, five; indriya-gacarah, objects of the senses-such objects as sound etc. The followers of the Sankhya call these which are such the twenty-four categories. Thereafter, the Lord now says that even those qualities which the Vaisesikas speak of as the attributes of the sould are certainly the attributes of the field, but not of the Knower of the field:
13.7 Iccha, desire: Having experienced again an object of that kind which had given him the feeling of pleasure earlier, a man wants to have it under the idea that it is a source of pleasure. That is this desire which is an attribute of the internal organ, and is the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge. So also dvesah, repulsion: Having experienced again an object of that kind which he had earlier felt as a cause of sorrow, he hates it. That is this repulsion, and it is surely the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge. Similarly, sukham, happiness- which is favourable, tranquil, having the quality of sattva-is the ‘field’ since it is an object of knowledge. Duhkham, sorrow-which is by nature adverse-, that, too, is the ‘field’ since it is a knowable. Sanghatah is the aggregate, the combination, of body and organs. Cetana, sentience, is a state of the internal organ, manifest in that aggregate like fire in a heated lump of iron, and pervaded by an essence in the form of a semblance of Consciousness of the Self. That too is the ‘field’ because it is an object of knowledge. Dhrtih, fortitude, by which are sustained the body and organs when they get exhausted-that too is the ‘field’ becuase it is an object of knowledge. Desire etc. have been selected as suggestive of all the qualities of the internal organ. The Lord concludes what has been said: Etat, this; ksetram, field; savikaram, together with its modifications beginning from mahat (buddhi); has been samasena, briefly; udahrtam, spoken of. That ‘field’ which was referred to as, ‘This body is called the field’ (1), and is constituted by the aggregate of the constituents of the field has been explained in its different forms beginning from the great elements etc. ending with fortitude. The Knower of the field whose qualities are going to be described, and by realizing which Knower of the field along with His majesty Immortality follows-of Him, togehter with His attributes, the Lord Himself will narrate in the verse, ‘I shall speak of that which is to be known’ (12). But, for the present, the Lord enjoins the group of disciplines characterized as humility etc. which lead one to the knowledge of That (Knower of the field)-that group of humility etc. which are referred to by the word Knowledge since they lead to Knowledge, and owing to the existence of which one becomes appropriately competent for the realization of that Knowable, and being endued with which a monk is said to be steadfast in Knowledge:
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
13.6-7 Mahabhutani etc. Iccha etc. The Unmanifest : the [prime] material cause. The organs : together with the mind, they are eleven in number. The object of the snese – organs : the colour etc., that are five in number. Sensibility : the perceiving energy i.e. the Individual Soul. Feeling of satisfaction (or self-command) : It is well known that at the last moment, when a given action is [just] begun or accomplished and desire, anger etc. (come up and accomplished) there arises – in the case of everone from Brahma (personal god) down to the worm-a feeling of satisfaction (or self-command) as ‘This much is quite sufficient for me; what is the use of another one ? Let me always be in this manner’,-a feeling which upholds one’s life, and is in the form of consolation and which is called by the expression raga in the highly secret commandments. (5-6) The Field has been explained as above; so also the Field-sensitizer. Now [what conduces to the true] knowledge is mentioned as-
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
buddhir avyaktam eva ca
indriyani dasaikam ca
iccha dvesah sukham duhkham
sanghatas cetana dhrtih
etat ksetram samasena
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
mahā-bhūtāni — the great elements; ahańkāraḥ — false ego; buddhiḥ — intelligence; avyaktam — the unmanifested; eva — certainly; ca — also; indriyāṇi — the senses; daśa-ekam — eleven; ca — also; pañca — ﬁve; ca — also; indriya-go-carāḥ — the objects of the senses; icchā — desire; dveṣaḥ — hatred; sukham — happiness; duḥkham — distress; sańghātaḥ — the aggregate; cetanā — living symptoms; dhṛtiḥ — conviction; etat — all this; kṣetram — the ﬁeld of activities; samāsena — in summary; sa-vikāram — with interactions; udāhṛtam — exempliﬁed.