bhoomiraaponalo vayuhu kham mano buddhireva cha |
ahankaara iteeyam me bhinnaa prakritirashtadhaa || 4 ||

 
Earth, water, fire, wind and space, along with mind, ego and intellect, in this manner, this is my eight-fold differentiated nature.
 
bhoomihi : earth
aapaha : water
analaha : fire
vayuhu : wind
kham : space
manaha : mind
buddhihi : intellect
eva : along with
cha : and
ahankaaraha : ego
iti : in this manner
iyam : this
me : my
bhinnaa : differentiated
prakritihi : nature
ashtadhaa : eight-fold
 
Shri Krishna, having promised Arjuna that he will reveal his true essence, begins to do so in this shloka. He says that five primordial elements, as well as mind, ego and intellect, comprise his prakriti or nature.
 
Earth, water, fire, wind and space here do not mean tangible physical elements that we can perceive through our senses. They refer to the qualities of the physical elements. For example, water here refers to the quality of liquids that enable them to flow. Fire refers to the quality of a flame to generate light and heat. When these elements combine with each other, they have the potential to create every object in this universe. In other words, Shri Krishna says that the building blocks of the universe are nothing but his manifestation.
 
What is the implication here? For many of us that have a set image of Ishvara as a certain deity, this is a whole new way of understanding. It means that Ishvara is within our grasp 24 hours a day, seven days a week. All of the objects, situations and people that we interact with are made up of these elements.
 
This means that if we realize that everything comes from Ishvara, then we should not have room for any negative emotions such as jealousy, anger etc. Why? When we know that everything is created and owned by Ishvara, we do not get agitated if our neighbour buys a bigger car or gets a better job. We see everything as ultimately belonging to Ishvara, so it does not matter who temporarily claims it as his or hers.
 
Now, having discussed the five elements, let us take up the other three through an illustration. In the morning, just before we are about to wake up, our mind is in an unmanifest state. We are not aware of anything. As we begin to get up, the first thought that comes to mind is subject awareness, i.e. “I am so-and-so”. Soon after, we begin thinking that “I am so-and-so in this bedroom and it is 7 am now”. The mind goes from unmanifest, to the ego (I am), to awareness of objects.
 
The creation of the universe per the Saamkhya school of philosphy follows these three stages as well. The universe originally lies in an unmanifest state. The first manifestation or transformation in this state is the ego-principle, which is also known as self-assertion or the “I-principle”. It creates the notion of the subject and object, or of the experiencer and experienced. Finally, this ego-principle learns how to manifest itself in terms of objects, which is known as the cosmic mind. These three states – unmanifest, ego-principle and cosmic mind are denoted in the shloka as mind, ego and intellect.
 
The cosmic mind then begins to manifest itself from the most intangible elements to the most tangible ones, step by step. The first element produced is space, which is invisible. Next is air, which we cannot see but can infer from its effects. Next is fire, which we can see but not touch. This is followed by water, which we can see and touch. Finally, earth is produced which is the most tangible element of all. If you reverse the order of elements given in this shloka, it exactly follows the doctrine of creation in Saamkhya.
 
So, if we take all of these 8 factors into account, we realize that all the material aspects of the universe is Ishvara. Ishvara has not created this world like a sculptor creates statues out of clay. He has created the world out of himself. It is like the spider that creates the web out of himself, like the Mundaka Upanishad says.
 
The entire world of experience is Ishvara. But what about the experiencer himself? This is taken up in the next shloka.

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