The Two Knowers

[Krishna and Arjuna]“Enjoying the activities of the body is the purusha, or the living entity. He is one knower, and the other is the Supersoul. Of course, it is to be understood that both the Supersoul and the individual entity are different manifestations of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The living entity is in the category of His energy, and the Supersoul is in the category of His personal expansion.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.20 Purport)

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The body is prakriti. One definition to this Sanskrit word is “that which is enjoyed.” It is also known as the material nature. Though dull, lifeless, and not permanent, prakriti is also without a beginning, anadi. This is confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita.

“Material nature and the living entities should be understood to be beginningless. Their transformations and the modes of matter are products of material nature.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.20)

Prakriti manifests in different ways, and at the local level it is known as the body. This body consists of five gross elements and three subtle. Those elements combine in such a way that they are also known as the field of activities. Within that field there are two knowers.

1. The individual

Complementing prakriti is purusha. The two are discussed often in spiritual circles which base their teachings on the Vedas, the ancient scriptural tradition coming from the area today known as India. As prakriti is what is enjoyed, purusha is the enjoyer. Purusha also means “person.”

Every living thing we see is purusha. The ant is a person. So is the dog. They may not have the same abilities as human beings. They may be greatly lacking in intelligence. They may not have the potential to understand calculus or think rationally.

Yet this does not disqualify them from being considered purusha. There is still a body and there is still an individual within that body. The body is still the field of activities. The purusha inside is one of the knowers. The dog knows if it is feeling pain. I do not. No other dog will know, either.

There are ways to communicate, but that is simply the exchange of information gathered by the knower inside of the field of activities.

2. The Supersoul

This is the other knower in the body. The individual, purusha, is so limited that it goes years, even lifetimes, without realizing the presence of the other knower. This other knower is also atma, or spirit, but since it is supreme, it is known as Paramatma.

Atma and Paramatma can never become one. They are always separate, but their natures are similar. They are both knowers. They are both separate from the field of activities. They are eternal in their existence and properties, whereas the material nature constantly changes. Prior to the creation prakriti is in an unmanifest state. At the time of dissolution, it will return to that state, waiting to be manipulated again at the time of the subsequent creation.

The first knower has limited scope. They only understand the local field of activities. The second knower is for all bodies. The second knower is also the overseer and permitter.

“Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 13.23)

As you might have guessed, the second knower is God. Paramatma is considered a plenary expansion; it is non-different from the Supreme Lord. The notable distinction is that Paramatma does not manifest visible features. It is antaryami, or the witness within.

Paramatma sees everything. He hears everything, as well. Paramatma knows what is going on inside of every field of activity, existing past, present and future. The individual purushas do not have this ability, nor will they ever.

[Krishna and Arjuna]Prakriti, purusha, the two knowers, the history of everything – these truths and more constitute the knowable. Everything taken together is one definition of God, but He is still more than that. He is the object to be known, and one who knows Him has nothing left to learn. Their life in devotion continues from that point, into the infinite future.

In Closing:

Field of activities over which to preside,

Having two knowers in it to reside.

Purusha, the individual with decisions steering,

Paramatma, sanction for results clearing.

Supersoul everything and everyone can see,

But scope limited to local body for me.

Everything taken together, that to be known,

There to help, He’s here so never alone.

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