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June 2, 1999   VNN4023  Comment on this story

Sri Gita: 'Mahat Tattva, Maha-Bhuta'


EDITORIAL, Jun 2 (VNN) — (from Sanga wfd@efn.org)

"Thus in the form of a sutra Krishna has described his secondary power that makes up material nature and its divisions."

Chapter 7, Text 4 - 5, 'Bhagavad Gita: Its Feeling and Philosophy' by Swami B.V. Tripurari.

7:4 "Earth, water, fire, ether, mind, intellect, and egoism this material nature of mine is so divided eightfold."

Here Krishna describes the makeup of all matter in brief. In the next verse he will refer back to this sakti, describing it as his inferior nature or secondary power. Inside each of the elements mentioned are their subtle origins.

Earth, water, fire, air, and ether are the five gross elements known as maha-bhuta. Included within these five are sixteen transformations: the five knowledge-acquiring senses: nose, tongue, eyes, tactile sense, and ears; the five working senses: hands, legs, the organ of speech, the creative organ, and the organ of evacuation; the eleventh internal sense: the mind; and the five sense objects: manifestations of smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound.

Mind, intelligence, and egoism are the three subtle elements mentioned in this verse. Mind here does not indicate the eleventh sense, which is included in the maha-bhutas. Here mind refers to pradhana, the unmanifest stage of the three modes of material nature. From pradhana the mahat tattva, or great intellect, manifests. Mahat tattva in turn gives rise to ahankara, or egoism, the principle of material identification, which in turn is the subtle cause of the sense objects and mind/senses. After the sense objects manifest, the necessity for the senses to manifest arises.

Thus in the form of a sutra Krishna has described his secondary power that makes up material nature and its divisions. He has also indicated that the material nature itself is divided or separated from himself (bhinna prakatir). This is the explanation of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.

Separated means that it acts as if independent of God once God sets it in motion, much like a tape recording acts independently of the person whose words it has recorded, while being wholly dependent upon him at the same time.

The world as we experience it, however, is not merely matter. Thus Krishna next describes his jiva sakti, which is of the nature of consciousness.

7:5 "Such is my secondary (insentient) nature. However, you should know it to be (categorically) different from my superior (intermediate) nature consisting of souls, O mighty armed, by which this universe is sustained."

Material nature is inferior to consciousness. It is that which is experienced, as opposed to that which experiences. Matter is insentient, while consciousness is life itself.

The jiva sakti consisting of individual souls, is God's intermediate power.

It is similar in nature to God and dissimilar to matter. It is at the same time dissimilar to God in that it is prone to being deluded by the influence of material nature. How can the jiva sakti be deluded by material nature if it is superior to matter? Such is the power of illusion. Even while souls, units of consciousness, sustain the material world by their presence, in association with matter they think their existence is dependent on material conditions.

Krishna has described his intermediate power here as jivabhuta. In using the singular, he refers to the entire class of individual souls. The source of both the individual souls and matter is Krishna himself, as he affirms in the next verse.

'The Bhagavad Gita: Its Feeling and Philosphy' by Swami B.V. Tripurari is scheduled for release in Spring, 2000.

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