raso ’ham apsu kaunteya
sabda? khe pauru?a? n??u
Translation of Bhagavad Gita 7.8
O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.
Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
This verse explains how the Lord is all-pervasive by His diverse material and spiritual energies. The Supreme Lord can be preliminarily perceived by His different energies, and in this way He is realized impersonally. As the demigod in the sun is a person and is perceived by his all-pervading energy, the sunshine, so the Lord, although in His eternal abode, is perceived by His all-pervading diffusive energies. The taste of water is the active principle of water. No one likes to drink sea water, because the pure taste of water is mixed with salt. Attraction for water depends on the purity of the taste, and this pure taste is one of the energies of the Lord. The impersonalist perceives the presence of the Lord in water by its taste, and the personalist also glorifies the Lord for His kindly supplying tasty water to quench man’s thirst. That is the way of perceiving the Supreme. Practically speaking, there is no conflict between personalism and impersonalism. One who knows God knows that the impersonal conception and personal conception are simultaneously present in everything and that there is no contradiction. Therefore Lord Caitanya established His sublime doctrine: acintya bheda-and-abheda-tattva—simultaneous oneness and difference.
The light of the sun and the moon is also originally emanating from the brahmajyoti, which is the impersonal effulgence of the Lord. And pranava, or the omkara transcendental sound in the beginning of every Vedic hymn, addresses the Supreme Lord. Because the impersonalists are very much afraid of addressing the Supreme Lord Krishna by His innumerable names, they prefer to vibrate the transcendental sound omkara. But they do not realize that omkara is the sound representation of Krishna. The jurisdiction of Krishna consciousness extends everywhere, and one who knows Krishna consciousness is blessed. Those who do not know Krishna are in illusion, and so knowledge of Krishna is liberation, and ignorance of Him is bondage.
Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:
Just as I have entered into the universe, my effect, in the form as paramatma, also I exist in the form of the cause of those effects (as sound in ether), or in the form of the essence of those things (as in success in man). This is expressed in four verses. The water’s taste, which is its cause, is a manifestation of my power (vibhuti). Likewise one can find a similar meaning in the items following. I am light itself which gives light to the sun and moon. I am omkara, the source of the Vedas. I am sound in the ether, the cause of the ether. I am the distinguishing efforts (paurusam) of men, the essence of humans.
Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:
7.8 – 7.11 All these entities with their peculiar characteristic are born from Me alone. They depend on Me; inasmuch as they constitute My body, they exist in Me alone. Thus I alone exist while all of them are only My modes.
Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:
Exactly how Lord Krishna is the cause of the sustenance of creation is being described in five verses commencing here. His being the sapidity or essence in water means He exists in the molecular substratum of water as the essence of sapidity. Likewise He is the luster in the sun and moon, meaning He exists in them as there wonderful illuminating substratum. The other examples that follow are also to be explained in a similar manner. In all the Vedas representing enlightened and articulate sound, He is the root syllable OM which is His personal transcendental sound vibration. He is the essence of all sounds in ether and He is the potency of competence in man. Verily man excels and flourishes by the potency of competence.
Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:
Here we are receiving jnana or knowledge that Lord Krishna is the essence of specific things. Super sensory illuminating perception is vijnana. The greatness of the Supreme Lord is revealed later but now even the inherent nature of and His being the essence of along with the natural qualities and attributes of different substances are being described as being special potencies and representations of the Supreme Lord. The fact that these special essences and attributes do not manifest on their own is shown by the mentioning of special words such as raso’ham apsu meaning He is the essence in water. This essence is to be understood in the case of upasana or spiritual practices. It has been mentioned in the Gita Kalpa that: The attribute of essence in various flavours and its inherent nature are basically due to the perennial principle of dharma or eternal righteousness. The provider and enjoyer of the essence is always solely the Supreme Lord Krishna, who as the essence resides in all living entities. All the empowered demigods are mere reflections of His splendour. The Supreme Lord is the essence of all and should be earnestly sought by those who seek the essence of life. The inherent energy of Prakriti or material nature and all jivas or embodied beings is all ordained by the Supreme Lord and all natural propensities and inherent tendencies are bequeathed by His grace alone. There is nothing whatsoever animate or inanimate throughout all of creation that does not contain the Supreme Lords essence.
The Gita Kalpa has stated that: Desires not contrary to righteousness should be engaged in by an aspirant of moksa or liberation from the material existence. For the purpose of elevating one’s spiritual development one should only perform activities which are not contradictory to dharma but even the renunciation of such authorised activities are recommended to be relinquished for advanced aspirants. Strength without the debilitating influence of desires and attachments should be achieved. Then by the grace of the Supreme Lord perfection will be attained and the desired goal will be reached.
Now begins the summation.
Residing in water as sapidity, the Supreme Lord is known as the essence. Residing in the sun and the moon as luster, He is known as illumination. Residing in the Vedas as His very self, He is known as the pranava original sound vibration OM. Residing in the ether as sound Lord Krishna is known as the word.
Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:
Now to illustrate that He is the form of all because He is the atma or soul of all, Lord Krishna reveals in the next five verses how He is situated as the core essence of all properties beginning with that He is the essence of water in its subtle casual form as sapidity. He is the essence of the sun and moon being illumination. He is the supremely sacred sound vibration OM. He is the origin of all the Vedas and the source of the Vedic utterances which become objects of hearing. He is the subtle casual form in ether and the potency of competence in men.
Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:
7.8 Kaunteya, O son of Kunti, aham, I; am rasah, the taste, which is the essence of water. The idea is that water is depedent on Me who am its essence. This is how it is to be understood in every case. Just as I am the essence of water, similarly, asmi, I am; the prabha, effulgence; sasi-suryayoh, of the moon and the sun; pranavah, (the letter) Om; sarva-vedesu, in all the Vedas. All the Vedas are established on Me who am that Om. So also (I am) sabdah, the sound; khe, in space, as the essence. Space is established on Me who am that (sound). In the same way, nrsu, in men; (I am) paurusam, manhood- the quality of being man, from which arises the idea of manhood. Men are established on Me who am such.
Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:
7.8 Raso ‘ham apsu etc. I am that [basic] taste which has not yet devolped as to have the classification of sweetness and so on, and which is being tasted in all waters. Similarly, the light : That [light] which is devoid of gentleness and fierceness etc. (The sound that exist] in the ether in the sky. The sound that etc. Here the emphasis is on all sounds, as they are attributes of the ether. Or, the passage denotes that empty basic sound which, being exclusively an attribute of th ether; which does not depend on any other external cuases like union and partition [of some objects]; which exists in the ether within the cave of the Brahman; which is quite intelligible to the groups of Yogins with attentive heart (mind); which bears the name Anahata; and which pervades the entire groups of the Vedas – that sound represents the Absolute. Manly vigour ; that lusture by means of which one is identified as a man throughout the earth.
Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:
raso ’ham apsu kaunteya
sabdah khe paurusam nrsu
Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:
rasa? — taste; aham — I; apsu — in water; kaunteya — O son of Kunti; prabha — the light; asmi — I am; sasi-suryayo? — of the moon and the sun; pra?ava? — the three letters a-u-m; sarva — in all; vede?u — the Vedas; sabda? — sound vibration; khe — in the ether; pauru?am — ability; n??u — in men.