Bhagavad Gita: Chapter 7, Verse 4

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च |
अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा || 4||

bhūmir-āpo ’nalo vāyuḥ khaṁ mano buddhir eva cha
ahankāra itīyaṁ me bhinnā prakṛitir aṣhṭadhā

bhūmiḥearth; āpaḥwater; analaḥfire; vāyuḥair; khamspace; manaḥmind; buddhiḥintellect; evacertainly; chaand; ahankāraḥego; itithus; iyamall these; memy; bhinnādivisions; prakṛitiḥmaterial energy; aṣhṭadhāeightfold


BG 7.4: Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intellect, and ego—these are eight components of my material energy.


The material energy that composes this world is amazingly complex and fathomless. By classifying and categorizing it, we make it slightly comprehensible to our finite intellects. However, each of these categories has further innumerable sub-categories. The system of classification used in modern science looks on matter as the combination of elements. At present, 118 elements have been discovered and included in the Periodic Table. In the Bhagavad Gita, and the Vedic philosophy in general, a radically different kind of classification is used. Matter is seen as prakṛiti, or energy of God, and eight divisions of this energy are mentioned in this verse. We can understand how amazingly insightful this is in the light of the trend of modern science in the last century.

In 1905, in his Annus Mirabilis papers, Albert Einstein first propounded the concept of Mass-Energy Equivalence. He stated that matter has the potential of being converted to energy, to the extent that can be numerically determined by the equation E=mc2. This understanding radically transformed the previous Newtonian concept of the universe as consisting of solid matter. Then in 1920s, Neil Bohr and other scientists proposed the Quantum theory, quantifying the dual particle-wave nature of matter. Since then, scientists have been searching for a Unified Field Theory, which will allow all forces and matter in the universe to be understood in terms of a single field.

What Shree Krishna presented to Arjun, 5,000 years before the development of modern science, is the perfect Unified Field Theory. He says, “Arjun, all that exists in the universe is a manifestation of my material energy.” It is just one material energy that has unfolded into myriad shapes, forms, and entities in this world. This is described in detail in the Taittirīya Upaniṣhad:

tasmadvā etasmādātmana ākāśhaḥ sambhūtaḥ ākāśhādvāyuḥ vāyoragniḥ agnerāpaḥ adbhyaḥ pṛithivī pṛithivyā auṣhadhayaḥ auṣhadhībhyo ’nnam annātpuruṣhaḥ sa vā eṣha puruṣho ’nnarasamayaḥ (2.1.2)[v2]

The primordial form of the material energy is prakṛiti. When God desires to create the world, he glances at it, by which it gets agitated and unfolds into mahān (since science has not yet reached to this subtle level of energy, there is no equivalent word for it in the English language). Mahān further unfolds, and the next entity to manifest ahankār, which is also subtler than any entity known to science. From ahankār, come the pañch-tanmātrās, the five perceptions—taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. From them come the five gross elements—space, air, fire, water, and earth.

In this verse, Shree Krishna not only includes the five gross elements as different manifestations of his energy, he also includes the mind, intellect, and ego, as distinctive elements of his energy. Shree Krishna states that all these are simply parts of his material energy, Maya. Beyond these is the soul energy, or the superior energy of God, which he describes in the next verse.