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The Philosophy of the Panchadasi

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Chapter 14: The Bliss of Knowledge

Sense-pleasure and the Delight of Knowledge

In the eleventh chapter, the Bliss of Brahman as realised through meditation was explained. In the twelfth chapter, the nature of the same Bliss was explained by the discrimination of the Primary Self from the secondary self and the false self. In the thirteenth chapter, the unity of cause and effect was explained, by which the immanence of Brahman in creation was pointed out. In the fourteenth chapter, it is intended to explain the nature of the Bliss born of spiritual knowledge (Vidyananda). In one sense, even the happiness born of knowledge has a kinship with the happiness born of sense-contact, and this is because of the fact that even sense-pleasures are really experienced by the mind within, which needs the assistance of the senses, and, thus, the mental pleasure born of sense-contact is conditioned by the activity of the senses. But the real difference between the happiness born of higher knowledge and mere sense-contact is in that the former is independent of the activities of the senses, while the latter is totally dependent on sense-activity. The happiness of knowledge may be classified under four groups, according to its different features: (1) absence of sorrow; (2) fulfilment of all desires; (3) the sense of having done everything that ought to be done; (4) the feeling of having attained everything that is to be attained.

There is a total freedom from all sorrow reached by a person in the state of spiritual insight. We may, for the sake of convenience, differentiate between two types of sorrow: that which pertains to this world and that which is unconditioned by this world. The sorrows of this world can be overcome in the manner pointed out in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Upanishad states, “desiring what, and for whose sake should there be entry into a body, when there is the realisation, ‘I am the Atman, all-pervading in nature’?” Desires are valid when there is a body and there is the world which acts as a means in their fulfilment. For that rare being who has gone above this world, whose consciousness inhabits the whole cosmos, where is the object to be enjoyed? How then can there be an action of consciousness with body, in such a state of experience? The Atman referred to here is generally conceived of in two ways, viz., the Jivatman, and the Paramatman, i.e., the individual self and the Supreme Self. When the Absolute Consciousness has an apparent contact with the three bodies – the physical, subtle and the causal - then, it goes by the name of a Jiva, characterised by enjoyership etc., but the Paramatman, or the Supreme Self, is not so affected by the conditions. It is this Universal Self that appears as the subject and the object, and the coming in contact of the two is nothing but the temporal communion of two aspects of the same Divine Consciousness. The so-called conditioning by names and forms is responsible for the appearance of such things as the objects of enjoyment, etc., but really the Supreme Atman is neither an object nor a subject, neither is it the enjoyed nor the enjoyer, and this truth will be revealed only when there is the discrimination between the unadulterated pure Consciousness and the three bodies with which it is apparently associated. The Jiva enters a body for the sake of experience, viz., the enjoyment of the consequence of Punya (merit) and Papa (demerit). The world is provided to the Jiva as a field of education for evolving to a higher state of Consciousness. The entry of the Consciousness, therefore, into a body is unnatural to it, inasmuch as, here, its existence itself must be restricted to the conditions of the body which it enters for this purpose. It is, therefore, compared to a morbid state, a condition of ill-health or fever, which affects the three bodies in different ways. Though the Supreme Atman is not at all affected by the processes of the body, there is such a feeling of suffering when there is even the least connection with the body. The different bodies have their different fevers. The physical body is subject to the disturbance of the humours of which it is composed; the subtle body has the morbid subjection to anger, desire, etc.; but the subtle seed-form of both these diseases is in the causal body, from which they arise and out of which they manifest themselves at different times.

The Destruction of Karmas

When, by a knowledge of the unity of cause and effect as described in the chapter on the “Bliss of Non-Duality”, the Supreme Paramatman is recognised as the sole Reality as All-Existence, there will not be any meaning in the objective enjoyments of this world. How can there be then a desire for anything in one who has realised the Supreme Self? How can, again, there be a sense of enjoyership in one who has realised the true Primary Self as different from the secondary self and the false self as described in the chapter on the “Bliss of the Self”? How can there be confinement to the body or the undergoing of pains due to entry of Consciousness into the body? The pains of the world are, thus, negated by the abolition of enjoyership by an analysis of the truth as detailed in the previous chapters. The pains that are consequent upon one’s actions of the past and which materialise themselves in this world as merit and demerit, as also pleasure and pain, are the sorrows pertaining to the inner world, as different from the pains of the physical world. In the chapter, the “Bliss of Yoga”, it has been already said that neither pleasure nor pain, neither the idea of what is to be done, nor the idea of what is not to be done, does affect the mind of a Sage. Pains of every kind are mental conditions, and when there is a dissociation from the mind, there is also the dissociation of oneself from pains of every kind. As water does not stick to a lotus-leaf, so do the future actions (Agami-Karmas) of the Sage, performed after the rise of knowledge, fail to touch him; nor is he worried about the accumulated Karmas that have not as yet materialised themselves (Sanchita-Karmas), because there is the assurance of the scripture that such Karmas get burnt up the moment spiritual knowledge dawns in a person, even as the flame of fire would burn up a piece of cotton or straw. The Bhagavadgita affirms that as flaming fire reduces to ashes the faggots that feed it, so does the fire of knowledge reduce to ashes all Karmas of the past. When a person has no idea of agency in action, when he does not feel that he does anything himself, when his intellect is not contaminated by the idea of doership, enjoyership, etc., he shall not be affected by anything that he does, even if he were to destroy the whole world. Such is the opinion of the Bhagavadgita. When there is the feeling of cosmic oneness in oneself, actions lose their ordinary meaning and they do not produce results as they do in the world, on account of their being disconnected from the true relation of causes and effects. The scripture assures that even what are known as heinous sins shall be wiped out totally by the all-consuming fire of wisdom, because whatever is done in the world of causes and effects, in the world bound by the pairs of opposites loses its value in the realisation of eternity and infinity, and the knower remains unaffected by actions of any kind. 

The Knowledge of the Sage and Grades of Happiness

The Sage is not only free from all sorrows as mentioned above, but is also possessed of the highest enjoyment possible. The Upanishad states that a knower, having attained the fulfilment of all his wishes, attains immortality. In such a condition of spiritual ecstasy and universal intuition, the Sage does not pay any attention to his body. In fact, he does not even remember it, though he may eat, speak and laugh, play or enjoy delightful objects in the eyes of others. His body is sustained merely by his presently materialised Karmas (Prarabdha-karma) and not by any positive desire. The happiness of such a Sage is an instantaneous and simultaneous possession in eternity, not a succession of pleasures that come one after another at different times, or in a sequence, or in degrees. There is a sudden upliftment of Consciousness to the status of the Cosmic, taken as a whole, and, therefore, the Bliss of the Sage is unconditioned either by objects or by space. It is Eternal Bliss, not temporary pleasure coming in a series.

In the Taittiriya Upanishad there is a visualisation of the highest unit of human happiness. Suppose there is a youth, beautiful to look at, possessed of all learning, unaffected by disease of any kind, powerful in mind and established in will, attended upon by a huge army to meet all oppositions, possessed of the whole earth filled with treasure;- imagine his happiness; and that may be considered as a fundamental unit of human pleasure. This would be the happiness of an ideal emperor imaginable in the mind, who is satisfied with all the pleasures of this world, but this happiness is also experienced by a knower of Brahman, at once. The emperor is perfectly happy because he has no desires. The Sage also is equally happy because he has no desires. But the reasons for the two states are different. The emperor has no desires temporarily on account of the feeling that he has possessed everything, though this may be a false feeling of satisfaction, because his satisfaction is dependent upon various external factors. The Sage has satisfaction because he personally possesses everything existent and so his happiness is perpetual. The Sage’s mastery over the earth is perfect and genuine, because he has entered into the being of everything, while the king’s feeling of mastery over the earth is artificial, because he can be dispossessed of all his goods, wealth and properties at any time. The man with discrimination sees the defects in the objects of sense as the king Brihadratha did in the past, as is recorded in the Maitrayaniya Upanishad. This intelligent king saw the defects of the body, the defects of the mind, and the defects of the world of senses. When there is the height of discrimination attained, one develops distaste for all things as much as one would towards the stuff vomited by the mouth of a dog. Though there is a temporary similarity in the dispassion of a king and a Sage, yet there is a real difference of great consequence. The king had to suffer hard to acquire his position, and even when he has this vantage position, he is afflicted with perpetual avenues of fear that his possessions may be destroyed at any time or taken away by others. There is no such worry with the Sage, as his happiness is not dependent on others and as it cannot be taken away by others and it is superior to the pleasures of the emperor. The emperor, when he has all possessions, will have a desire for higher pleasures such as the pleasures of heaven. His greed and ambition know no end; hence he cannot be really happy. But, nothing of the kind is in the mind of the Sage. His union with Brahman has endowed him with infinite power and eternal joy.

Every created being has a desire for the higher happiness immediately above one’s own. Though there are degrees of happiness even in this human world, on account of difference in the desires in human beings, as also in the nature of the objects desired, there are types of happiness above human happiness, above even the highest conceivable happiness in the world. According to the Taittiriya Upanishad, the happiness of the Martyagandharvas, or the mortal Gandharvas who have attained that status by performing good deeds in this cycle of existence, is a hundred times more than the happiness of the ideal emperor described. A hundred times more than the happiness of these Gandharvas is that of the Devagandharvas, or gods who are so by birth, due to meritorious deeds performed by them in the previous cycle of existence. The Pitris, who are the inhabitants of the higher planes since the very beginning of this time cycle, are still higher than the Devagandharvas. The gods who are so by birth right from the beginning are called Ajanadevas, enjoying happiness a hundred times more than that of the Pitris. But the Karmadevas, or those celestials who have attained that position of importance due to performance of such sacrifices as Asvamedha, etc., and have become worshipful even to the inhabitants of heaven, have an enjoyment a hundred times more than the happiness of the Ajanadevas. The primary gods who are more important than the ordinary inhabitants of heaven, such as Yama, Agni, etc., are superior still, and their happiness is much more than the happiness of the ordinary celestials. It is a hundred times more than theirs. The happiness of Indra, who is the ruler of the gods, is a hundred times more than the happiness of all the gods mentioned earlier. The happiness of Brihaspati, the preceptor of Indra and the gods, is a hundred times more than the happiness of Indra himself. The Virat, which is Cosmic Being, is the highest, and here the happiness is a hundredfold more, again. Actually, here, the Bliss transcends all calculation. Hiranyagarbha is above Virat, and this is the culmination of the possible computation of happiness from the standpoint of human understanding. Isvara is above Hiranyagarbha, and transcendent to all is the Absolute, Brahman. Every lower level aspires for the higher in the series mentioned. The Bliss of the Atman, or Brahman, is not so computable, because it is not merely a question of multiplication of quantity. it is eternity and infinity itself. The Bliss of the Absolute is ineffable, unthinkable, the highest. This is the goal of all beings.

The Knower of Brahman has, at once, without any effort of his own, an experience of the happiness of everyone mentioned above, all at the same time, because of his total desirelessness. Because of his being the Self of everyone, his glory is incomparable, his majesty rises above the thoughts and feelings of the Jivas. The greater the desirelessness, the greater is the happiness experienced within. The highest fulfilment is reached by the highest renunciation, so that when there is a total effacement of personality and a negation of the ego, there is the realisation of Brahman. This is the fulfilment reached in Jivanmukti. By the fact of his being the Self of even the gods, let alone others, no one can stand against him or oppose him; no one can obstruct him, because he is the Self of even those who may try to stand against him in any way; or, it may be said that his happiness reaches its culmination on account of his being a Witness not only of the Sattva modes of his mind, but also on account of his being everyone and everything else, also. Everyone’s experience is his experience. He breathes through all breaths, eats through all mouths, and experiences happiness through all minds. He is, veritably, God Himself. Though Brahman is present even in the ignorant, equally, the ignorant person does not know it, the spiritual eye here being closed to the presence of Brahman. The scripture confirms that he who knows Brahman attains all his desires by his conscious identity with Brahman.

The Sage in the Taittiriya Upanishad feels his Omnipresence, his being the Self of everyone, and sings his glory in an ecstasy of Consciousness: “O, I am food, I am the eater of food; I am the eater, and the eaten, the enjoyer and the enjoyed, the knower and the known, the seer and the seen.” He has risen above the notion of immortality, and his glory he alone knows; others cannot understand it. Thus, he exclaims how he is free of all sorrows and pains and enjoys all the happiness conceivable, right from the fundamental unit of human happiness up to the Universal Bliss of Virat, Hiranyagarbha, Isvara and Brahman. He feels that he has done all that ought to be done, or has to be done, and that he has obtained everything that is to be obtained, and known all things to be known. This has been explained already in the seventh chapter, which is repeated here, again. This is the Bliss of Knowledge, or Vidyananda, and one’s practice of Sadhana should be continued until this Bliss is attained in the Universal State of Consciousness. (Verses 1-65)