How many “factors of action” are there again???

Dear Gail,

Thank you for bringing up an important discussion about the five factors of action in yesterday’s class. We usually learn about these five factors from Gītā, 18.14 – but here Krishna is summarizing the Saṁkhya given by Kapila, which is in a verse that is in the section I covered during yesterday’s class – Bhāgavatam 3.26.8.

The two places use slightly different wording. Here is the wording attributed to Kapila in Bhāgavatam:

 kāraṇaṁ prakṛtiṁ viduḥ
bhoktṛtve sukha-duḥkhānāṁ
 puruṣaṁ prakṛteḥ param

He, Kapila lists the five as:

kārya – the body that performs an action

kāraṇa – the senses used as tools for the action

kartṛtve – the nervous system that controls the senses
kāraṇaṁ –  the immediate motivation for the action

bhoktṛtve – consciousness, the willer and enjoyer of action

Here he gives four factors beginning with “k” (kārya-kāraṇa-kartṛtve, and kāraṇaṁ) and says that these four are features of matter (prakṛti). Then he gives the fifth factor (bhoktṛtve) and says this is the puruṣa (soul), which is superior to matter.

This is what I was talking about in yesterday’s class. You asked, “what about the Supersoul? Since the Supersoul is also a factor aren’t there two spiritual principles among the five, not one?”

I answered you incorrectly, I apologize. I’d like to clarify here and correct my answer.

My mistake was in thinking daiva to mean “destiny” when all the ācāryas explain that it means “the divine quality” – which is consciousness. The Supersoul is mentioned by all the ācāryas because consciousness is rooted in the Supersoul. The two are counted together as immediate and remote daiva. The Supersoul is not a separate factor in action – it impartially enables the soul to initiate whatever actions it wants and plays no other role.

Gītā 18.14 gives the following slightly different terms for the same thing:

kartā – the doer (ahamkara)

adhiṣṭhāna – the field (body and world)

kāraṇa – the instruments (senses)

cesta – the effort (electrochemical nervous system)

daiva – the divine element (soul / consciousness)

Of these, the first four are material, the fifth is spiritual. The soul is rooted in the supersoul, and the supersoul gives it the power to have will and initiate action. So if we include the supersoul it is within daiva, not a separate, sixth item.

Here are the major previous ācārya’s opinions on Gītā 18.14…

Viśvanātha Cakravarti Ṭhākur’s comment on this verse identifies kartā as ahamkara and daiva as antaryami – the soul, rooted on the supersoul

Ramānuja Ācārya supports this too. He also explains that the soul is initiating the activities with its free will, and the supersoul is merely empowering the soul to have free will – so the supersoul is not the cause of the actions, the individual soul is.

Śrī Sridhara Swāmī gives the same comment.

Śrī Madhvācārya… he takes the same angle.

Keshav Kashmiri (Kumara Sampradaya)… same angle…

Śrīla Prabhupāda has a different angle, taking kartā (“the doer”) as the soul, not the ahankara, and daiva as the Supersoul, not the soul. So, in his angle, there would indeed be two spiritual factors among the five factors of action.

I have learned a lot because you brought this up. Thank you so much for doing that. I am “upgrading” my memory banks now, so that I will keep the above commentaries in mind whenever I discuss the five factors in the future.

It was wonderful to be able to share some time with you in Hari Kathā! I hope we will be blessed to do it again soon!

Your friend,


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