Arjuna uvaacha:
kim tadbrahma kimadhyaatmam kim karma purushottama |
adhibhootam cha kim proktamadhidaivam kimuchyate || 1 ||

 
Arjuna said:
What is that “brahman”? What is “adhyaatma”? What is “karma”? O supreme person. What is termed as “adhibhoota” and “adhidaiva”?

 
kim : what is
tat : that
brahma : “brahman”
adhyaatma : “adhyaatma”
karma : “karma”
purushottama : O supreme person
adhibhootam : “adhibhoota”
cha : and
proktam : what is termed as
adhidaivam : “adhidaivam”
uchyate : what is termed as
 
Shri Krishna ended the previous chapter by referencing some technical terms, and stressed the need for Arjuna to understand these terms completely so that he could realize Ishvara. Here, Arjuna does a favour to all future students of the Gita by asking Shri Krishna to clearly define these terms. In that regard, Arjuna asks the definition of four terms in this shloka: adhyaatma, karma, adhibhoota and adhidaiva.
 
This chapter is perhaps one of the more philosophical and esoteric chapters of the Gita. It deals with the theme of life after death, something that has not been addressed so far in the Gita. Furthermore, The definition of the aforementioned technical terms is provided, but has been interpreted differently by various commentators, so we need to chose the most clear and straightforward explanation. We will also get a sweeping glimpse of the Gita’s view on the origin of the cosmos.
 
To better understand these technical terms, let us set up an illustration. First, let us quickly look at how a movie projector works. A projector consists of a bright light that shines onto a strip of film. This film strip contains a series of images that are shot by a movie camera, or drawn by an animator in case of an animated movie. When the film strip is run through the projector, the images are projected onto the movie screen. The fast speed of the moving images creates the illusion of movement on the screen.
 
Let us further say that there is an animated movie called “Tom” that shows a day in the life of Tom who is a teenager. Tom wakes up, eats breakfast, goes to school, comes back home, plays with his friends and goes to sleep. It is a very simple movie. Like any other animated movie it follows a script written by a scriptwriter, and is in fact a sequence of images drawn by an animator.
 
Now, here’s where we have to stretch our thinking. Imagine that by some inexplicable magic, the light that shines on Tom on the film strip begins to think that it is different than the light that shines on the other part of the film strip. It develops an identity of its own. It even begins to think that it is actually waking up, going to school and so on.
 
The light of the projector has identified itself with Tom. What happens next? We will continue to develop this illustration further in the explanation of the next shloka.

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