We will now see sloka 22. We had seen slokas 19, 20 and 21, where the Lord described aspects of atman. In sloka 19, it was told that atman is bonded in the body intimately. In sloka 20, it was told that body acts at the command of soul inside. Atman experiences the pleasures and pains consequent of the actions performed by body. In sloka 21, it was further told that the Three qualities -satvam, rajas and tamas - are inherent in the body and influence pleasures and pains. To feel such happiness and sorrow, atman resides ina body. This makes atman to be born in a body, and because of birth, atman experiences the inevitable pleasures and pains. Thus the inter dependent relationship between atman and body was explained. After taking birth in a body, what does the atman do further? This is explained in sloka 22. How atman is residing in body and how atman uses the body are explained. Are these not already known? Why should Sri Krishna expalin these? The Lord is trying to impress on Arjuna [and on all of us] that atman and body are totally different. Now sloka 22:
bharta bhokta maheshvarah
paramatmeti capy ukto
dehe ’smin purushah parah
"Yet in this body there is another, a transcendental enjoyer, who is the Lord, the supreme proprietor, who exists as the overseer and permitter, and who is known as the Supersoul."
Asmin deha = in this body [anyone's body], para = supreme, purusha = soul or jeevatman. Atman is superior to body as atman is everlasting and is not made of the Five great elements. Atman is embodiment of Gyana or intellect, and ananda or happiness. But due to karma, is bound by a body. Upadrasta = seeing [the nature of body] for activation. This means that atman uses the nature of the body and its organs and deploys them for various activities. Atman sees with the eyes of the body; atman hears with the ears in the body; atman tastes with the tongue of the body, etc. When we say we taste, what is actually meant is that the atman in our body tastes the food with the aid of the tongue in the mouth of the body! Soul sees through the eyes in the body, etc. This is implied in the word upadrasta. Anumanta ca = and permits or understands [that such actions are done by the body]. Soul stimulates the organs to do their respective functions. That is atman permits the organs to perfrom the task. Bharta = supporter [normally, this word is used to denote husband. It is also correct, as usually husband supports the family]. Soul supports the body. This is evident when soul departs the body. Atman supports the body by its power. Bhokta = experiences pleasures and pains of the body.
Eyes see a dance and atman enjoys it. Tongue tastes and atman enjoys the taste,etc. Neither the eyes, nor the tongue or any other organs enjoy what they are doing, as they have no intellect or Gyana. Atman alone has Gyana and so it enjoys. Maheswara = great commander, atman. We should not mistake it for the Lord, here. Atman commands and rules this body and so is iswara for the body. This power of the atman is its natural power. Paramatma = atman, the superior. We should, here also, not interpret it as denoting the Lord, Who is usually referred to as Paramatma. Atman is paramatma, because it is superior to body, organs, mind, prana, etc. Is there, then, an inferior atman? Yes, many times mind is referred to as atman and it is inferior atman! Mind is achit and so inferior. Thus the atman inside the body :
Activates the body.
Stimulates to act.
Supporter of body.
Enjoys/suffers the actions of the body,
Commands the body.
Superior to all.
If organs and body are acting as per commands of atman, then why after old age, some organs fail to act? That is because of ill health and strains. This is a sort of suffering and is an effect of birth. If organs obey the commands it is happiness; if they do not obey, it is sorrow. Thus body is an instrument for atman to enjoy or suffer. Thus, atman in spite of its superiority, is residing in the body due to past karma.