adhiṣṭhānaḿ tathā kartā
karaṇaḿ ca pṛthag-vidham
vividhāś ca pṛthak ceṣṭā
daivaḿ caivātra pañcamam
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 18.14
The place of action [the body], the performer, the various senses, the many different kinds of endeavor, and ultimately the Supersoul—these are the five factors of action.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The word adhisthanam refers to the body. The soul within the body is acting to bring about the results of activity and is therefore known as karta, “the doer.” That the soul is the knower and the doer is stated in the shruti. Esa hi drasta srasta (Prasna Upanishad 4.9). It is also confirmed in the Vedanta-sutra by the verses jno ’ta eva (2.3.18) and karta shastrarthavattvat (2.3.33). The instruments of action are the senses, and by the senses the soul acts in various ways. For each and every action there is a different endeavor. But all one’s activities depend on the will of the Supersoul, who is seated within the heart as a friend. The Supreme Lord is the supercause. Under these circumstances, he who is acting in Krishna consciousness under the direction of the Supersoul situated within the heart is naturally not bound by any activity. Those in complete Krishna consciousness are not ultimately responsible for their actions. Everything is dependent on the supreme will, the Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
The five causes are listed. Adhisthanam means the body. Karta means the ahankara, which ties together the soul with the body. Karanam means the senses such as eyes or ears, of many types (prthak vidham). Cesta refers to the life airs such as prana and apana, which have various functions (prthak). Daiva refers to the antaryami who sets everything in motion.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
18.14 – 18.15 For all actions, performed through body, words or mind, whether they be authorized by the Sastras or not, the causes are these five. (1) The body, which is a conglomeration of the ‘great elements,’ is known as the seat, since it is governed by the individual self. (2) The agent is the individual self. That this individual self is the knower and the agent is established in the Vedanta-Sutras: ‘For this reason, (the individual self) is the knower’ (2.3.18) and ‘The agent, on account of the scripture having a purport’ (2.3.33.). (3) The organs of various kinds are the five motor organs like that of speech, hands, feet etc., along with the mind. They are of various kinds, viz., they have different functions in completing an action. (4) The different and distinctive functions of vital air — here the expression ‘functions’ (Cesta) means several functions. Distinctive are the functions of this fivefold vital air which sustains the body and senses through its divisions of Prana, Apana etc. (5) Divinity is the fifth among these causes. The purport is this: Among these, which constitute the conglomeration of causes of work the Divinity is the fifth. It is the Supreme Self, the Inner Ruler, who is the main cause in completing the action. It has been already affirmed: ‘I am seated in the hearts of all. From Me are memory, knowledge and their removal also’ (15.15), and He will say further: ‘The Lord, O Arjuna, lives in the heart of every being casuing them to spin round and round by His power as if set on a wheel’ (18.61). The agency of the individual self is dependent on the Supreme Self as established in the aphorism: ‘But from the Supreme, because the scripture says so’ (B. S., 2.3.41). Now an objection may be raised in this way: If the agency of the individual self is dependent on the Supreme Self and the individual self cannot be charged with moral responsibility, then the scriptures containing injunctions and prohibitions become useless, as the individual self cannot be enjoined to act in regard to any action. The objection is disposed off by the author of the Vedanta-Sutras in the aphorism: ‘But with a view to the effects made on account of the purposelessness of injunctions and prohibitions’ (2.3.42). The purport is this: By means of his senses, body etc., granted by the Supreme Self — having Him for their support, empowered by Him, and thus deriving power from Him — the individual self begins, of his own free will, the effort for directing the senses etc., for the purpose of performing actions conditioned by his body and organs. The individual self Itself, of Its own free will, is responsible for activity, since the Supreme Self, abiding within, causes It to act only by granting His permission, just as works such as moving heavy stones and timber are collectively the labour of many persons and they are together responsible for the effect. But each one of them (severally) also is responsible for it. In the same way each individual is answerable to Nature’s law in the form of positive and negative commandments.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
The question may be submitted how is it possible that one performing actions derives no reactions from their activities. Apprehending such a doubt Lord Krishna in order to exemplify that for one who has given up attachment to the reward of actions and who is free from the ego sense of I and mine there is no connection to reactions from any action. This he elaborates in this verse and the next four. He says to understand the meaning of His words, learn the five causes that are about to be given regarding the accomplishment and production of all actions. To imbibe the cessation of the conception as the doer of actions it is necessary to comprehend these five causes. So to emphasise them Lord Krishna states as declared etc. Here the word sankhya refers to Vedantic philosophy of analytical rationalism established by Kapila Deva, an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna. That by which the atma or immortal soul is thoroughly known is declared sankhya or wisdom of the ultimate truth which is the final point and apex of all knowledge which is the ultimate conclusion found in the Vedic scriptures.
The five causes of all actions to manifest are the body, the ego which is the juncture of spirit and matter, the life airs which automatically function and pervade throughout creation, the senses such as the eyes which include the diety of the sun which presides over the eyes and also the other four senses with their presiding dieties and finally the inner ruler and controller of them all as the atma or soul which is powered by paramatma the Supreme Soul.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
In this verse Lord Krishna again reiterates sannyasa or renunciation by abandonment of actions. The words sankhye kritante refers to the system of analysis established in the sankhya philosophy of analytical conclsion by Kapila-deva, who appeared as the son of Kardama Muni from the womb of Devahuti and who is an empowered incarnation of the Supreme Lord Krishna. His is the original sankhya philosophy acknowledging the existence of the Supreme Lord as the goal and is in full accordance with the Vedic scriptures. It should not be confused by an imitation sankhya philosophy by a Kapila Muni which bases its precepts on analysis of matter and is atheistic, not accepting the reality of the Supreme Lord hence contrary to the Vedic scriptures and unacceptable.
The word adhisthanam means the body, the life airs, the ego, the senses, and their inner director the atma or immortal soul controlled by paramatma the Supreme Soul residing simultaneously in the individual etheric heart of all living entities. Paramatma is an effortless expansion of the Supreme Lord Krishna’s purusa avatar known as Ksisirodaksayi Vishnu. All embodied beings acesta refers to actions both involutary such as the heart beating and breathing as well as volutary actions such as using the hands to perform yagna or ritualistic propitiation and worship of the Supreme Lord or utilising the mind to meditate upon the Supreme Lord. By such actions impressions are established which impel one towards the divine. The divine is transcendental and cannot be seen although the liberated can perceive it in their consciousness it is not visible. It has been said that the body, the life airs, the ego, the senses and the atma are the instruments of all activities with paramatma as the unseen controller of them all.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Lord Krishna previously clarified that those who perform actions motivated by desire incarnate and take birth in either the heavenly, hellish or human worlds; but those who have renounced the desire for rewards are not subject to this karma or reactions to actions. Now in order to establish the fact that egoism and non-egoism are the cause of actions influenced by indiscrimination and discrimination, Lord Krishna revals the five factors which cojointly contribute to the accomplishment of all action. These five factors accomplish all actions and must be understood by the aspirants for moksa or liberation from material existence in order to achieve the discriminative knowledge that dissolves the sense of egoism while performing actions. These five factors to be presented will remove any doubt regarding the liberating or binding effects of actions. The Sankhya philosophy of analytical rationalism established by Kapila Deva an incarnation of Lord Krishna, explains these five factors in detail as a method of eradicating the effects of all actions. This method is by precise analytical ascertainment of the cause and effect of all actions. Such analysis includes atma the immortal soul, maya the illusory potency, prakriti or the material substratum pervading physical existence, paramatma the Supreme Soul etc. and illustrates how a jiva or embodied beings relationship with each liberates or binds one in the material existence and thus is understood to be included in Vedanta.
The five factors are the physical body, the five senses such eyes, ears, etc., the ego, the life airs which govern breathing and the atma the controller of them all. The Vedanta Sutra II.III.XXXIII beginning upadanat states: The atma of the jiva or embodied being at the death of the physical body takes the pranas along with it; therefore the atma is the controller. Some assert without any basis that the controller is the insentient ego but this opinion should be rejected based upon the evidence cited above. For how can the insentient ego be responsible for the physical body, the senses, the life airs and itself as well along with the atma. It is not possible for the insentient to control the sentient, The controller of the five factors is atma the individual immortal soul and the controller of all atmas simultaneously is paramatma the Supreme Soul residing with the atma within the etheric heart of all living entities. Srila Vedavyasa has confirmed this in Vedanta Sutras II.III.XXXXI beginning amso nana vyapadesa:The atma is vibhinamsa an infintessimal expansion of paramatma like the rays of the sun.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
18.14 Adhisthanam, the locus, the body, which is the seat, the basis, of the manifestation of desire, hatred, happiness, sorrow, knowledge, etc.; tatha, as also karta, the agent, the enjoyer [The individual Self which has intelligence etc. as its limiting adjuncts, due to which it appears to possess their characteristics and become identified with them.] who has assumed the characteristics of the limiting adjuncts; prthak vidham, the different kinds of; karanam, organs, the ears etc. which, twelve [The five organs of knowledge (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin), the five organs of actions (hands, feet, speech, organ of excertion and that of generation), the mind and the intellect.] in number, are of different kinds for the experience of sound etc.; the vividhah, many; and prthak, distinct; cesta, activities connected with air-exhalation, inhalation, etc.; ca eva, and; daivam, the divine, i.e. the Sun and the others who are the presiding deities of the eye etc.; is atra, here, in relation to these four; pancamam, the fifth-completing the five.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
18.13-17 Panca etc. upto na nibadhyate Conclusion : the established end, because here a decision is arrived at. Basis : the material object Destiny : the good and bad result [of actions] previously accumulated. These five viz., the basis etc., constitute the entire assembly of factors and hence they are the causes for each action. But other [commentators give an etymology of] adhisthana ‘basis’ to mean ‘That by which all actions are governed’; and on that ground they believe that it denotes that action which exists in the intellect; which comes ot be due to the Rajas, and is being prone to transform itself into the pentad of (the mental dispositions viz.) the content, the faith, the happiness, the desire to know and the aversion to know; which is referable by the term karma-yoga (that which yokes man into activity); and which is described at times by the term prayatna ‘effort’. Agent : the ascertainer characterised by the intellect. Instrument : [the personal instruments viz.] the mind, the eye etc., and also the external ones like sword etc. Activity : the activity of upper life-breath, nether life-breath etc. The effects of the righteous and unrighteous acts are indicated by the term Destiny. All the dispositions located in the intellect are indicated by these two. Still other commentators, however, take Basis to be the Absolute Lord. Due to his imperfect intellect : because of his having indecisive knowledge. But he, who performs actions with the stability due to disappearance of th I-sense (limited) and [a stability] refined by hundreds of reasoning, as detailed earlier – he does not get the fetter, because he is a man of perfect intellect. This is what is intended [in the passage under study].
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
adhisthanam tatha karta
karanam ca prthag-vidham
vividhas ca prthak cesta
daivam caivatra pañcamam
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
adhiṣṭhānam — the place; tathā — also; kartā — the worker; karaṇam — instruments; ca — and; pṛthak-vidham — of different kinds; vividhāḥ — various; ca — and; pṛthak — separate; ceṣṭāḥ — the endeavors; daivam — the Supreme; ca — also; eva — certainly; atra — here; pañcamam — the ﬁfth.