Chapter 13: The Body and the Spirit

July 10, The Gita, A New Translation of Hindu Sacred Scripture by Irina N. Gajjar

Commentary and Chapter 13, The Body and the Spirit

Chapter 13 of the Gita explains the distinction between body and spirit which is the distinction between matter and consciousness or awareness. The description of what constitutes the body comes from earlier Sanskrit holy texts including the Vedas and the Upanishads. While the body is impermanent and perishable, the divine spirit is imperishable, beyond both existence and non-existence.

The Lord tells Arjun that body is the field and that He is spirit, the knower of the field. The field or body consists of several groups of matter. It includes the five subtle elements which are ether, air, fire, water, and earth as well as the five senses which are hearing, touching, seeing, tasting, and smelling. Emotions or feelings like wanting, hating, happiness, and sadness are also parts of the body as are characteristics like bravery.

In order to appreciate the relationship of the body to the spirit, we need to understand the meaning of knowledge. Knowledge enables us to know ourselves as well as to know the Lord. In the Gita, knowledge means spiritual knowledge rather than accumulated information or data. It is good and embraces honesty, kindness, forgiveness, purity, and focus on God. It means caring only about God, seeing God everywhere, and not caring about the transient vagaries of life. The opposite of knowledge is its absence which is ignorance and which means the lack of goodness and of virtue.

Chapter 13 continues with details about God and the world that need to be known and appreciated for people to attain oneness with Him and become everlasting. The Lord is neither real nor unreal. He is Brahma, unmanifest, yet He has hands, feet, and faces everywhere. He sees and feels everything. He is outside and inside everything and He is near and far. He is too great to be known.

God is indivisible, but He is everywhere. He is the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer. He is the light of all lights. He is beyond Maya or illusion. He is knowing and knowledge and He resides in your heart.

Everything that is born in the world is created when matter and spirit join together. Matter and spirit have no beginning. Matter makes the body and spirit cause the body to feel things. Spirit cannot be described. It lives in the body, but it cannot act. It is pure and endless as the sun and the sky. The greatest spirit is the soul. It is God.

The ending of this chapter tells us that people find the soul within their heart by thinking of God or by understanding God or by working for the sake of God. Some find God by learning about Him from others. Ultimately, those who see the soul as everlasting and who see that everything is in God and comes from God reach God.

Chapter 13: The Body and the Spirit

Bhagvan said: Oh Kunti’s son, The body is called the Kshetra, or the field. I, God, am called the Kshetrajna, or the Knower of the field. I am the Self or Atman. I am the Spirit.

Now I will tell you in a second the truth about the body.

The body is a collection of many things. It is made up of ether, fire, water, and earth. These are called the five subtle elements. The body is also made up of mind, and the five senses of hearing, touching, seeing, tasting and smelling. Wanting, hating, happiness, unhappiness and courage are also a part of the body.

Knowledge is many good things. It is being honest, kind, forgiving and pure and it is also concentrating on God. It is not caring about anything except God. It is not worrying. Knowledge is seeing God everywhere. The opposite of all these good things is ignorance. Ignorance is the opposite of knowledge.

Now I will tell you what you need to know to become everlasting. God is not Sat, real and God is not Asat, unreal. Brahma has hands, feet, eyes, heads, faces, and ears everywhere. Brahma is everywhere. Brahma sees and feels everything without eyes or hands. Brahma is outside and inside everything and near and far. Brahma is too great to be known.

God cannot be divided but He is everywhere. He keeps the world, He destroys the world, and He creates the world. God is the light of all lights. God is past Maya, or make believe. God is knowing and God is knowledge. God is in your heart.

By understanding all this, you can be mixed with God. Everything in the world is a combination of matter and spirit. Matter makes the body. Spirit makes the body feel things. Everything that is born in the world is created by joining matter and spirit together. But matter and spirit have no beginning.

The spirit cannot be described. Though it lives in the body, it cannot act. It is always pure. It is endless as the sun and the sky.


The greatest spirit is the soul. It is God.

Some people find the soul in their own heart by thinking of God, by understanding God, or by working for God’s sake.

Some people find God by hearing about Him from others.

She who sees the soul, the Lord, as everlasting really sees the truth.

When you see that everything is in God and comes from God, then you reach God.

Arjun, like the sun lights the whole world, so one great spirit, the soul called Atman lights the whole body.

Wise people can tell the difference between the body and the spirit. They understand how to free the spirit from the body. These wise people come straight to God.

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