It is mentioned in Gita ch. 13 verse 22, that the supreme purusha (paramatma) is a upadrashta (witness), anumanta (permitter), bharta (supporter) and bhokta (experiencer).

I agree that It is a witness, but how can It be at the same time, a permitter and experiencer? 

If paramatma is actionless and simply remains as a witness, (as per advaita) then how does it permits and experiences? 

Swami ChidbhavaNanda (an advaitin) mentions in his gita commentary, that the paramatma witnesses the activities of the jivatman, knows them in their true perspective and permits those activities which are good for the progress of the jivatman.

But according to advaita, the paramatma IS the jivatman, then why would IT permit ITSELF? ...  Also being an actionless entity why would the paramatma experience or feel the world?

Can someone please explain these things to me. Thanks.


3 Answers 3


The paramatma is the witness. However, it may be thought of as permitter, supporter and experiencer because a jiva experiences everything due to the presence of the atman in him.

Thus the transmigratory existence of the Purusha is due to want of discrimination with respect to Prakriti, and not by itself. To bring this out the essential nature of the Purusha is being set forth: The supreme Purusha, etc. Though the Purusha resides in this body, which is a product of Prakriti, yet it is supreme, quite different from it, that is to say, it is not associated with its qualities. The reasons are: Because it is called the Onlooker, being a distinct entity, it only watches as a bystander, i.e., a witness; similarly the Permitter, it helps by the mere presence like one who approves. .............

Srimad Bhagavad Gita 13.22 with the gloss of sridhar Swami translated by Swami Vireswarananda

  • I understand that when this paramatma forgets its true eternal nature, and instead identifies Itself with the body, IT becomes a bhokta (experiencer). But I'm having trouble understanding the fact that its a permitter too ... I mean whom does IT permit? ... It can't permit ITSELF ... IT must be permitting another entity. So, If IT permits the jivatma, then there comes duality. Dont you think so? Aug 24, 2020 at 15:17
  • 3
    Gita is not an Advaita Vedanta text. So it will have many verses that are dualist in nature. This existence of many verses of different character has enabled many different schools to interpret it the way they want it. You are right that calling the Atman permitter is dualistic. That is how dualistic schools will interpret that verse. However, an Advaita interpreter will interpret the same line in the manner given by Sridhar Swami. Aug 25, 2020 at 12:33
  • if you follow advaita leave gita.. simple word drived from PG @TheCrimsonUniverse
    – Prasanna R
    Sep 25, 2020 at 10:50

पुरुषः प्रकृतिस्थो हि भुङ्क्ते प्रकृतिजान्गुणान्।

कारणं गुणसङ्गोऽस्य सदसद्योनिजन्मसु।।13.21।।

Because purusa (enjoyer, jiva) obtains in prakrti, (he) enjoys the attributes born of prakrti. His attachment to the attributes is the cause for births in higher and lower wombs.

Since the identification of the puruṣa, due to ignorance, with the modifications of the gunas, is called samsara, it is clear that samsara does not belong to the purusa who is atma. Prakrti cannot have samsara because it has no bhoktrtva. Only atma can be a bhokta, because it alone is conscious; but being asanga and nirguna how does atma become the bhokta with reference to the gunas of prakrti? It is only because of identifying himself with them due to avidyā. The negation of samsara takes place when this false identification resolves in the wake of knowledge.

Therefore, knowledge of the purusa is necessary and that is given in the following verse.

उपद्रष्टाऽनुमन्ता च भर्ता भोक्ता महेश्वरः।

परमात्मेति चाप्युक्तो देहेऽस्मिन्पुरुषः परः।।13.22।।

Here Sankara writes in his commentary as

प्रवृत्तान् स्वव्यापारेषु तत्साक्षिभूतः कदाचिदपि न निवारयति इति अनुमन्ता। - He is the anumanta because, when the body and organs are engaged in their own functions, He remains as a witness and never dissuades them.

It does not stand opposed to anything but is the great permitter, the one who does not resist at all. If the mind is restless dtma will light up the restlessness. When the mind is pleased, it will light up the pleased mind. It is not against any condition because its nature is luminosity like the Sun.

भरणं नाम देहेन्द्रियमनोबुद्धीनां संहतानां चैतन्यात्मपारार्थ्येन निमित्तभूतेन चैतन्याभासानां यत् स्वरूपधारणम्? तत् चैतन्यात्मकृतमेव इति भर्ता आत्मा इति उच्यते। - Bhartā is the one who sustains. The body, mind and senses exist and are conscious due to ātmā. The eyes function as instruments of sight and the ears as instruments of hearing because of ātmā. It gives existence not only to this body but to the entire prakrti. That prakrti, which is the cause of everything, is sustained by the purusa who is caitanya-ātmā. This consciousness is the sustainer of not only this body-mind-sense complex but of the entire creation.

Bhoktā means the one who finally enjoys everything, being the very svarupa of the bhoktā. If ahamkāra is the bhoktā, purusha is the one that sustains that bhoktā. Another meaning is, the one who devours everything, samharana-kartā. Everything is dissolved in deep sleep, except purusha and also at the dissolution of the entire creation, everything is resolved into the purusha. All the names and forms are resolved into the prakrti-upadhi, which is rooted in the purusa. Therefore, purusa is called bhoktā, the devourer, samharana-kartā.

Hope this helps

  • can a body function on its own without brahman can dead body fuction.. with brahman as witness..
    – Prasanna R
    Sep 16, 2021 at 12:07

But according to advaita, the paramatma IS the jivatman

There is never a plane of awareness in which the real , the illusion and the medium of illusion, all exist simultaneously.(contrasting to any analogy)

A treatise Tirumandhiram 2290 (by a well-known Rishi(of yore)Tirumoolar) explains the spiritual perfection as

Marathai Maraithathu Mamatha
Marathil Marainthathu Mamatha Yanai
Parathai Maraithathu Parmuthal Bhootham
Parathil Marainthathu Parmuthal Bhootham
Mara - Wood, Para- Brahman, Bhootha-Pancha bhootha,Yanai-Elephant.

An enraged wooden elephant, scares a child so long as, its not perceived to be all wood, akin to Jnanis realization that it's all Brahman , not so long as its all seen as Panchabhoothas

This can be translated to the dreamers analogy,(that only upon awakening ,the dream is an illusion,not so long as it is experienced). (another analogy)

Cognizing Paramatman and Jivatman as One is with reference to an awakened plane of awareness, in which there is no illusion.,otherwise undeniable plurality persist .

Also being an actionless entity why would the paramatma experience or feel the world

Drg Drishya Viveka(Advaita Prakarana grantha) shloka 7

chaayaa ahamkaarayoh aikyam tapta ayah-pindavat matam; tat ahamkaara taadaatmyaat dehah chetanataam agaat.
In the opinion of the wise, the identity of the reflection (of Consciousness) and of ego is like the identity of the fire and the (heated)iron ball. The body having been identified with the ego (which has already identified itself with the reflection of Consciousness) passes for a conscious entity, (Translation Swami Nikhilananda)

Here ayah-pindavat (also see Atma bodha ) is the typical example of mutual superimposition (anyonya adhyasa),where the shapeless fire takes the shape of iron ball , and the non-hot iron ball takes the heat of the fire, (known as taadaatmyaat ) hence creating the apparent appearance of sentiency ,propogating it to the body , causing an action to be made and thought to be formed, the karta , bhokta of samsaric experience.

Here in chapter 13 of BG, kshetram and kshetrajna (field and the knower of the field) bears ayah-pindavat mutual superimposition as explained above.

If paramatma is actionless and simply remains as a witness is reiterated in BG9.29 and is also cited in Br.Up.4.3.15

Swami Madhusudhana Saraswatis commentary on 13.22 Translation by Swami Gambirananda

anumantaa non-separably proximate(saanidhyam), (the Purusa) is the anumantā, Permitter. Though Himself inactive in the midst of the activities of the body and organs, He still seems to be active because, by His mere prox- imity, He is favourable to them. Hence He is the anumantā. Or the Purusa is the anumantā because, even though He is their Witness, He never prevents the body, organs, etc. when they are engaged in their own activities-as is said in the Sruti, (He is) the witness and bestower of intelligence (sv.6.11)
bharthaa -the sustainer and nourisher, through His own existence and self-effulgence, of body, organs, mind and intellect, which form an aggregate and are endowed with assemblance of Consciousness.
bhoktha He is the bhoktā, Experiencer, without being affected in any way, in the sense that He illumines, through His own nature as Consciousness, the intellect's experiences in the form of happiness, sorrow and delusion.(in otherwords experience is not possible without mutual superimposition)

(In addition to HH Shankaracharya s commentary cited by @Student)

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