adhibhūtaḿ kṣaro bhāvaḥ
puruṣaś cādhidaivatam
adhiyajño ’ham evātra
dehe deha-bhṛtāḿ vara

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 8.4

O best of the embodied beings, the physical nature, which is constantly changing, is called adhibhuta [the material manifestation]. The universal form of the Lord, which includes all the demigods, like those of the sun and moon, is called adhidaiva. And I, the Supreme Lord, represented as the Supersoul in the heart of every embodied being, am called adhiyajna [the Lord of sacrifice].

Commentary by Sri A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

he physical nature is constantly changing. Material bodies generally pass through six stages: they are born, they grow, they remain for some duration, they produce some by-products, they dwindle, and then they vanish. This physical nature is called adhibhuta. It is created at a certain point and will be annihilated at a certain point. The conception of the universal form of the Supreme Lord, which includes all the demigods and their different planets, is called adhidaivata. And present in the body along with the individual soul is the Supersoul, a plenary representation of Lord Krishna. The Supersoul is called the Paramatma or adhiyajna and is situated in the heart. The word eva is particularly important in the context of this verse because by this word the Lord stresses that the Paramatma is not different from Him. The Supersoul, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, seated beside the individual soul, is the witness of the individual soul’s activities and is the source of the soul’s various types of consciousness. The Supersoul gives the individual soul an opportunity to act freely and witnesses his activities. The functions of all these different manifestations of the Supreme Lord automatically become clarified for the pure Krishna conscious devotee engaged in transcendental service to the Lord. The gigantic universal form of the Lord called adhidaivata is contemplated by the neophyte who cannot approach the Supreme Lord in His manifestation as Supersoul. The neophyte is advised to contemplate the universal form, or virat-purusha, whose legs are considered the lower planets, whose eyes are considered the sun and moon, and whose head is considered the upper planetary system.

Commentary by Sri Vishvanatha Chakravarthi Thakur of Gaudiya Sampradaya:

The word adhibhuta refers to temporary objects (ksara bhavah) such as pots and cloth. The word adhidaiva refers to the person representing the totality of the universe, understood from the derivation of the word adhidaiva as “he within whom all the devatas exist as his subjects”. In the body (atra), I, the paramatma, am the adhiyajna, the person who induces others to perform actions like yajna.

But why should the word eva (for emphasis) be used with aham, since the paramatma, antaryami, is only my expansion or amsa? Because this antaryami, though amsa, is not different from me, whereas the other items such as adhyatma (jiva) are different from me. O best person (vara) with a body (dehe), among those having bodies (dehabhrtam), you are the best of all, because you have a direct relationship as friend with me.

Commentary by Sri Ramanuja of Sri Sampradaya:

8.4 The perishable existences which have been declared as fit to be known by the seekers of wealth, power etc., form the Adhibhuta. They are superior material entities that remain in ether or space and other elements. They are the evolutes of material elements and are perishable in their nature. They are also of the nature of sound, touch etc., supported by their basic subtle elements but different from, and finer than, ordinary sound etc., and are of many kinds. Sound, touch, form, taste and smell on this kind, which are manifold and rooted in their several bases, are to be gained by the seekers after prosperity and should be contemplated upon by them. Adhidaivata connotes Purusa. The Purusa is superior to divinities like Indra, Prajapati and others, and is the experiencer of sound etc., which are different from, and superior to, the multitude of enjoyments of Indra, Prajapati etc. The condition of being such an enjoyer is to be contemplated upon by the seekers after prosperity, as the end to be attained. I alone am connoted by the term Adhiyajna (sacrifice). Adhiyajna denotes one who is propitiated in sacrifices. Indra and others, to whom sacrifices are made, form My body. I dwell as their Self and I alone am the object of worship by sacrifice. In this manner the three groups of qualified devotees should contemplate at the time of the practice of periodical and occasional rituals like the great sacrificies. This is also common to all the three groups of devotees.

Commentary by Sri Sridhara Swami of Rudra Sampradaya:

The perishable or destructible living entities with corporeal characteristics like the physical body is the same for all beings and therefore known as adhibhuta or of the material substratum. The cosmic being who resides in the center of the solar orb, the ruler of the 330 million demigods and all other dieties who are merely parts of His supreme being is known as adhidaiva the source of the demigods. The Supreme Lord Krishna is indeed the creator of the first embodied being and the first cause of all beings, existing before creation itself. He residing as the indwelling monitor within all sentient beings is known as adhiyagna the presiding deity of all propitiation in worship as the first acceptor of all actions and thoughts and the bestower of the rewards for actions. He is called the Purusha the original being. The answer to the question how from verse 2 is given in this verse. It can be discerned that paramatma the supreme soul and indwelling monitor within all living entities is uniquely different from the individual soul due to qualities like omniscience and non-attachment. The Mundaka Upanisad III.I.I states: Two birds of beautiful plumage closely united in friendship reside together in the same tree. One bird eats of the sweet fruits on the tree while the other watches but does not eat. By addressing Arjuna as deha bhrtam vara or the best of embodied beings, Lord Krishna is indicating that he too can realise paramatma the supreme soul by the method of discernment of one’s individual actions and the evaluation of the results. When one is dependent upon the Supreme Lord one activities are successful and are never contrary to dharma or eternal righteousness but when one acts in independence from the Supreme Lord whatever activities which may appear to be successful by worldly standards are inherently contrary to dharma.

Commentary by Sri Madhvacharya of Brahma Sampradaya:

The nature which elevates and is useful to all creatures both the jivas or embodied beings along with their physical bodies is adhibhuta which pertains to material nature. Its mutable characteristic is physical objects subject to dissolution. The nature of dissolution is included within the nature of the unmanifest. The Skanda Purana confirms that the Supreme unmanifest merges into space at the time of the end of creation. From the Supreme Lord manifested prakriti or the material substratum and from prakriti arise the three fold gunas being sattva or goodness, rajas or passion and tamas or ignorance. The modifications of the three gunas are verily the cause of creation in the material existence. Because of His abidance as paramatma the Supreme Soul in the pur or city known as the physical body of all living entities, the Supreme Lord Krishna is known as Purusa the original being. Directing and elevating all the 330 million demigods throughout myriad of universes He is known as Sankarsana the primal creator and He is Lord of all adhidaivam and the paramount principle of divinity.

Being the ultimate enjoyer of all propitiation and worship He is known as adhiyagna the goal of all worship and bestower of all rewards for such worship. Because the offerings of ghee or clarifed butter and havi or grain seeds are offered into the sacrificial fire, the demigod Agni in charge of fire is also sometimes called adhiyagna and this is why Lord Krishna uses the word dehe meaning residing in the physical body, which excludes Agni and denotes only Himself, who alone is the exclusive enjoyer of all yagnas and and recepient of all austerities. Those knowers of the essence of the Vedic scriptures realise the Supreme Lord Krishna’s paramount position, even the intelligent worshippers of other gods can comprehend this fact. Humans praise that which grants benedictions, the Supreme Lord who is the presiding deity of all gods. For whom is the spiritual world permanent? For whom is the most meritorious status? To clarify such queries Lord Krishna clarifies the dharma or eternal righteousness of moksa or liberation.

Even when it is established that the resplendent Lord Krishna is the ultimate enjoyer of all worship and propitiation answering the question of who; how this is manifested yet remains to be known and that is by paramatma the Supreme Soul within the heart of all living entities monitoring their activities and thoughts as the adhiyagna the Lord of all worship and propitiation. The word atra meaning within is used as an adjective before dehe meaning the body to denote that it is not His spiritual body which He is referring too but His manifested form as paramatma within all sentient beings. There is nothing within the transcendental spiritual body of Lord Krishna that is separate from Him or different from Him in any way,The brahman or the spiritual substratum pervading all existence is but a fraction of His potency. The Supreme Lord Krishna is the One to be inquired about and realized through the transcendental medium of the Vedic scriptures. To eliminate any doubts about regarding His absolute position, Lord Krishna emphasizes that He alone is not only the one to be propitiated and worship but that He, Himself is the adhiyagna in the form of the indwelling monitor witnessing all activities.

The Gita Kalpa states: The Supreme Being dwelling within the physical body of all sentient beings is known as adhiyagna. Creation is a natural propensity of the Supreme Lord. It is the manifestation of His Divine will. Adhibhuta is the manifestation of temporary physical forms in the material existence. The jivas or embodied beings are a manifestation of adhyatma. The Supreme Lord’s expansions such as Sankarsana or Hiranyagarbha are known as adhidaivam. The Supreme Lord Krishna is the Lord of all gods even Narayana the Lord of the spiritual worlds in Vaikuntha is an expansion of Lord Krishna. The Skanda Purana states: That which is dwelling within exercising complete authority over the atma or soul is called adhyatmam. That which is external and separate from the physical body is called adhidaivam. Everything else which is different are the cause of gross, physical creatures therefore such activity is known as adhibutam. The Maha Kurma Purana states: Adhyatma is that which being beneficial to the pure atma or soul extends unto the bodily limit. That which becomes useful to the jivas along with their physical bodies and other gross elements is adhibhutam. Beyond the scope of maya or illusory impressions superimposed upon the mind which is beneficial to divinity is adhidaivam. Now begins the summation.

What was iterated previously is spoken again in this verse for the sake of illuminating the brahman or spiritual substratum pervading all existence. Because in the fist verse the adjective tad meaning that is used in front of brahman indicates that it alone is the foundation of the other terms. Furthermore when words accompanying yagna are referred to as the elements inherent in objects which are useful adhibhutas for physical beings then such things should be understood as being beneficial for attaining knowledge and realization of the Supreme Lord exclusively and no other purpose. Why then should there be any doubt about the brahman? When it has been understood that the source of the imperishable and immutable brahman is the Supreme Lord Krishna alone all doubts are dispelled. What was iterated previously is being spoken again to remove any doubts from the ignorant and unintelligent. Again for the removal of doubt, those who think the unmanifest one is manifest like a normal jiva also have their doubts dispelled again as before in chapter VII.XXIV clarified.

Here is this separate question, that which is immutable and unmanifest is given for the clarification of the nature of gradation of the aspirants, having made reference in verse three to aksaram paramam the supreme immutable being of Lord Krishna dwelling within the heart of all sentient beings everywhere. So the paramount position of the Supreme Lord Krishna and His authorized incarnations and expansions has been given exalted status and the subservience of all other gods has been established. Since it has been declared that Lord Krishna that He is both the ultimate recipient of yagna as well as the supreme yagna itself, there may be possible doubts whether or not He is the same or different from it. To remedy this indecision He declares that He is the indweller of all creatures and He also becomes the material cause or inspiration to perform the yagna as well.

The Tattva Viveka scripture states: As the indwelling monitor in the bodies of all sentient beings the Supreme Lord Krishna is known as adhiyagna. He alone in His all pervasive omnipresent aspect is celebrated as the brahman and as such is the lord of all yagnas. As paramatma He is known as the Supreme Soul. The creation of jivas or embodied beings as well as gross, physical elements are exclusive activities of the Supreme Lord. Since jivas are superior to all creatures they are also known as adhibhuta. The Supreme Divinity of all divinities is the Supreme Lord Krishna and is known as adhidaivata the lord of all lords, that is why Sri Laksmi the goddess of fortune established Herself in His heart. So to dispel any doubts and answer the question what is the form of adhiyagna this verse was spoken.

Commentary by Sri Keshava Kashmiri of Kumara Sampradaya:

In this verse Lord Krishna answers three questions. He confirms that adhibhuta is all perishable objects existing of the material substratum, specific transformations like ether, the manifestations of sound, light etc. as well as every other element. He further reveals that the total aggregate of all embodied atmas or souls as well as the presiding deity over all atmas who is Brahma the first embodied being and the foremost creator of embodied beings are all adhidaiva. This includes the demigods in charge of universal management such as Surya in charge of the sun, Vayu in charge of wind, Varuna in charge of water, etc. Referring to the person who performs the yagna or propitiation and worship, Lord Krishna is the adhiyagna the propagator of all action and the ultimate recipient of all offerings. Any offerings performed in the world are accomplished by the help of one’s body wherein resides the Supreme Lord as the eternal atma and indwelling monitor. Thus the Supreme Lord is presiding over the performer of yagna because being dependent they are supported and sustained by Him and thus yagna should always be performed in propitiation to Him. Lord Krishna is the presiding deity of all yagna. He is the bestower of rewards for all actions and the enjoyer of the rewards of all sacrifices. He is residing in the bodies as the inner witness of all the demigods as well, who are the individual deities presiding over general and occasional yagnas. In this way Lord Krishna has delineated the terms adhibhuta, adhidaiva and adhiyagna, explaing them comprehensively for the sake of imparting knowledge so those who earnestly aspire can achieve the ultimate destination.

Commentary by Sri Adi Shankaracharya of Advaita Sampradaya:

8.4 Adhibhutam, that which exists in the physical plane, i.e. that which exists by comprising all creatures;-what is it?-it consists of the ksarah bhavah, mutable entity. Ksarah is that which is mutable, which is destructible; bhavah means anything whatsoever that has orgination. This is meaning. Purusah means the Person, derived in the sense of he by whom all things are pervaded; or, he who lies in every heart. He is Hiranyagarbha, who resides in the Sun and sustains the organs of all creatures. He is adhi-daivatam, the entity existing in the divine plane. Deha-bhrtam-vara, O best among the embodied beings; adhiyajnah, the entity existing in sacrifices, is the Deity, called Visnu, presiding over all sacrifices-which agrees with the Vedic text, ‘Sacrifice is indeed Vishu’ (Tai, Sam. 1.7.4). Aham eva, I Myself, who am that very Visnu; am adhiyajnah, the entity existing in the sacrifice; which is going on atra dehe, in this body. Since a sacrfice is performed with body, therefore it is closely associated with the body. In this sense it is said to be going on in the body.

Commentary by Sri Abhinavagupta of Kaula Tantra Sampradaya:

8.4 Adhibhutam etc. The world of material beings, like pot etc., is of changing nature, because it flows or gushes forth with its innate nature of changes etc. Person : Self. It is the lord of the devinities, as all deities are established in It (or all deities get their perfections in It). On the same reason it is only Myself, the Supreme Soul, Who remain lording – as an enjoyer of sacrifice in its entirty – over sacrifices i.e. actions that are to be performed inevitably; and it is I only Who dwell in the body. Thus, a pair of questions have been decided by single effort. Now, the other question that remains to be answered viz., ‘How are You to be realised at the time of departure ?’, the Lord decides as :

Sanskrit Shloka Without Transliteration Marks:

adhibhutam ksaro bhavah
purusas cadhidaivatam
adhiyajño ’ham evatra
dehe deha-bhrtam vara

Sanskrit to English Word for Word Meanings:

adhibhūtam — the physical manifestation; kṣaraḥ — constantly changing; bhāvaḥ — nature; puruṣaḥ — the universal form, including all the demigods, like the sun and moon; ca — and; adhidaivatam — called adhidaiva; adhiyajñaḥ — the Supersoul; aham — I (Kṛṣṇa); eva — certainly; atra — in this; dehe — body; deha-bhṛtām — of the embodied; vara — O best.