In the 22nd chapter Uddhava asks the Lord as to the number of categories or fundamental principals (tattvas) involved in creation. The Lord himself referred to 28 categories (in chapter 19); some say it is 26,others 25,some others 7,9,6 and 4,while others mention 11,17,16,13,etc. Why this confusion in numbers,? asks Uddhava. In reply, the Lord says that whatever brahmins, well versed in the Vedas, declare, is right.
There is justification for the different views expressed, all of which are based on Lord’s potency alone. It is again due to Lord’s potency that wranglings and assertions among (half baked) scholars take place. The categories being comprised in one another, they are enumerated as more or less, according to the view point of the speaker by sometimes including effects in a cause and sometimes not. In a single category, whether it is a cause or an effect, are found comprised all other categories (viz effects in a cause and vice versa).
Therefore one accepts as conclusive whatever is stated according to one’s viewpoint by any one of those disputants seeking to establish the relation as cause and effect or a definite number of categories, there being a cogent reason behind every such assertion. The different numbers arrived at by different arguments are illustrated with justification.
Uddhava then raises the question as to why the difference between Prakriti and Sri Vishnu, which are said to be two distinct categories and which appear to be mutually dependent on each other is not perceived clearly. In fact Prakriti and Sri Vishnu appear to be non different to the ignorant. The Lord, in reply, says that although Prakriti and Purusha are in fact distinct from one another, this distinction is not easily discerned due to false knowledge engineered by the origin and nature of creation.Prakriti which is under the control of the Lord and which is made out of the three gunas, together with the Lord’s will, creates through the three gunas a number of modifications as well as manifold notions regarding such differences.
These three modifications viz adhyatma, adhidaiva and adhibhuta operating in conjunction with each other and with the grace of Sri Hari produce diverse types of knowledge. Ahankara (false ego), which is responsible for the ignorance and contrary knowledge of jeevas, is born of mahat and has its root in Prakriti; and is the cause of creation.
Uddhava now wants to know what constitutes life and death for an inherently eternal jeeva.The Lord replies: at the time of death, the mind of the jeeva with the latencies of karma along with linga sarira (consisting of the five subtle elements and the ten indriyas) as per the promptings of Sri Hari, leaves the existing body and enters the next gross body. The jeeva though distinct from the mind follows it (identified as it is with that mind). Being under the sway of karma, the mind contemplates (at the dying moment) objects seen or heard of, and brought to the forefront by the said destiny and getting completely identified with the contemplated objects, gets insensible to the present surroundings. The memory of the present life and body ceases thereafter. This is birth. The mind of the jiva, yearning for the next body, is now fully identified with the next body, due to Lord’s enchanting Maya. There is absolutely no memory left of the present body. This is death.
An inquiry into the jivatattva leads to the realization that the jiva is eternal without beginning, having, existed in the past, existing in the present and going to exist in future also. As the jiva exists at all times, jiva is eternal; as the body is everchanging, it is transient. The eternal jiva is always inside the transient body, which is always outside. Entry into the womb, gestation, birth, infancy, boyhood, youth, middle age, old age and death-these are the nine states of the body. One who knows that the living being tenanting the body which is subject to constant change right from the moment it is formed till its end-and the Lord who is its Resident Controller are distinct from the perishable body, becomes eligible for liberation.
Failing to distinguish so, and getting deeply attached to the pleasures of sense as the only reality, the ignorant jeeva undergoes transmigration. Even though pleasurable and painful experiences do not belong to jeeva, suffering entailed by samsara (metempsychosis) does not cease for him who dwells on the pleasure of sense. Therefore the Lord exhorts Uddhava not to indulge in sense pleasures with the vile senses and to look upon the varied experiences including ridicule insults etc as trifling and as reflected in the soul only because of our ignorance about its true nature. Uddhava wants to know how one can remain calm and unaffected in the face of ridicule and outrage by the wicked. The reply is given in the next chapter.