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

Translation

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

Commentary

It is incredibly complex and fathomless material energy that composes this world. To make it comprehensible, we have classified it into various categories and sub-categories.   Modern science propagates matter to be a combination of elements. The list of elements discovered so far or the Periodic Table has 118 elements.

The Vedic philosophy and the Bhagavad Gita present a completely different classification of the material world. The Matter is considered as the energy of God called the prakṛiti, and it is further divided into eight forms, as listed in this verse. It is amazing how insightful the knowledge in these ancient scriptures is, in comparison to the developing trends in modern science.

Albert Einstein was the first to propound the concept of Mass-Energy Equivalence in 1905. In his Annus Mirabilis papers, he stated that it is possible to convert mass into energy, and numerically presented it by an equation E=mc2. His Theory of Relativity replaced an earlier concept of the universe to be made up of solid matter. Both these theories were challenged in 1920 by Niels Bohr and other scientists with Quantum Theory, which proposes a dual particle-wave nature of matter. Ever since, the scientific community has been on a lookout for a single field or Unified Field Theory, which could expound the relationship between matter and all forces of the universe.

More than 5000 years ago, long before the development of modern science, Lord Shree Krishna had disclosed the perfect Unified Field Theory. He said to Arjun, “All that exists in the universe has manifested from My material energy.” Just one material energy has extended itself into myriad shapes, forms and entities of this world. The Taittirīya Upaniṣhad has elaborated on this:

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

The material energy in its primordial form is called prakṛiti. God glances at it when he wishes to create the world. On His glace, its agitated and mahān is created. (there is no equivalent word for it in English, as such a subtle level of energy is still to be discovered by the modern science). Mahān further manifests into ahankār this is also not discovered by modern science yet. Ahankār, in turn, forms the pañch-tanmātrās or the five perceptions of – taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. And from these the five gross elements namely- space, air, fire, water, and earth are manifested.

Lord Shree Krishna in this verse has included the mind, intellect and the ego along with the five gross elements as different manifestations of His material energy. He states that all these eight elements are simply parts of Maya, His material energy. In the next verse, He describes another of His superior energy which is the soul energy.