Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

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Discourse 2

Chapter 1: Tattva Viveka – Discrimination of Reality
Verses 6-13

Consciousness is the subject of analysis. This consciousness is further being studied now in the coming verses.

Sa bodho viṣayād bhinno na bodhāt svapna bodha vat, evaṁ sthāna traye’pyekā saṁvid tatvad dinān tare (6). Māsābda yuga kalpeṣu gatā gamye ṣvane kadhā, nodeti nāsta metyakā saṁvi deṣā svayaṁ prabhā (7). This consciousness is Self-conscious, svayam prabha. Objects in the world require consciousness in order that they may be known, but consciousness does not require another consciousness that it may be known. That is the meaning of 'Self-consciousness'. Objects cannot know themselves. They are known by another – the subject – which is endowed with consciousness; but the subject, which is consciousness, does not require another subject to know itself. That is the meaning of Self-consciousness.

Consciousness is not different from consciousness. While objects require a consciousness to know them, consciousness does not require another consciousness to know it, because consciousness is never an object. It ever remains a subject, pure and simple.

If we say that consciousness requires another consciousness behind it – because it is possible to extend this logic beyond the effects to the causes, and behind that cause to another cause – the problem will arise, namely, that 'that' which knows consciousness also should be consciousness as there cannot be two consciousnesses, because we have already seen that consciousness cannot be divided into two parts. It cannot be split or fragmented, because the imagined fragmentation of consciousness is also to be known by consciousness only. The limitation of consciousness is known by consciousness; therefore, consciousness is not limited. That is to say, it is unlimited.

So, it is svayam prabha. It is Self-knowledge. Consciousness is not different from other consciousness, while consciousness is different from the objects. Bodho viṣayād bhinno na bodhāt svapna bodha vat: As it is in the case of dream, we have noted that consciousness itself appears as an object outside, and it is not different from itself. It is to be considered as a continuous link obtaining not only between the diversity of objects on one hand, but also between the variety of three states of waking, dreaming, and sleep.

Evaṁ sthāna traye’pyekā saṁvid tatvad. Sthana traye means three states – waking, dreaming and sleep. Objectively, it is the cohering principle of the unity that is behind all diversity of perception; subjectively, it is a link bringing together, in a state of single apprehension, the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. Not only that – day in and day out, this consciousness persists, dinan tare. So many days we have lived in this world; from childhood to this time, we remember all the days through which we have passed. Don't we think there is one consciousness that is linking us into a single personality? I lived fifty years back, forty years back, thirty years back, twenty years back. I was a child and I am an elderly man, and so on. Who is saying this? Who is feeling this? Who is conscious of this? This is one single consciousness maintaining itself as a self-identity throughout the days and the months and the years that we have passed.

Māsābda yuga kalpeṣu: Not merely through days and months and years is it continuing as a single link; it has been maintaining its continuity through ages and ages, through cycles of creation, through the Krita, Treta, Dvapara, Kali Ages. Through all creation, right from beginning, this one consciousness has been maintaining itself as a self-identical unitariness that we are. Here is a glorious message for all of us. We are not the little crawling insects that we appear to be on the surface of the earth. We are mighty in our inner essence. The potential of unlimitedness is singing its own celestial music within us, and wanting to reveal itself just now. But it is not allowed to reveal itself or manifest itself on account of a peculiar juxtaposition that has taken place between consciousness and matter – which is to say, the attachment to this body, and attachment to the ways of prejudiced thinking in terms of space, time and externality.

What do we think day in and day out? Space, time, objects. There is no fourth thing that we can think of. And all this conditioning arises on account of this body through which we start thinking. So the body-consciousness reads through the affirmation of space-time consciousness and object-consciousness. How would we have knowledge of the eternity that we are, the infinity that our consciousness is?

Nevertheless, it is worth knowing that this consciousness that we really are is a continuous link that is maintaining itself as Self-consciousness through days and months and years and cycles of creation. From eternity to eternity, it is existing. We are deathless eternities, in essence. The coming and going, the fluxation of the universe, the varieties of creation in cycles do not affect this consciousness because it is consciousness that knows that there is fluxation and a coming and going of things.

How many times has God created the world? The scriptures say many, many cycles have come and gone. But who is saying this? Consciousness. Eternity is consciousness.

Gatā gamye ṣvane kadhā, nodeti nāsta metyakā: Neither does consciousness arise at any time, because it has no beginning, nor does consciousness end at any time. It has no death. Beginningless and endless, immortal is this consciousness which we, ourselves, essentially are.

Saṁvi deṣā svayaṁ prabhā: This svayam prabha, Self-consciousness, is self proof. It does not require any other proof. We may require a proof to establish other things, but we do not require a proof to establish consciousness, because it is the presupposition of all other proofs. All proofs proceed from consciousness. It is self-proved, indubitable.

Iya mātmā parā nandaḥ para premās padaṁ yataḥ, mā na bhūvaṁ hi bhūyā sam iti premāt manī kṣyate (8). Consciousness is Self-proof. It is Self-conscious. It is Self-conscious and also self-love. Consciousness has two peculiar aspects – intense affirmation of itself, and intense love of itself. It cannot love anything else. Immense love is the nature of the self. It is the source of the love of all other things in the world. Nobody loves anything in the world for its own sake. All love is for one's own self. If we will carefully analyse our love, we will realise that we have loves for things because we love ourselves. And when everything goes, we would like to protect ourselves. When all things go – land, property, money, relations, all are destroyed – we would like to remain at least as beggars. We would not like to die. Love of self is supreme love, and all other loves are conditioned by this self-love.

Therefore, being the source of para premas padam, supreme love being the essence of the Self, it is supreme bliss itself in its nature. Consciousness cannot be limited, as it has been shown. Because it is not limited, it is ultimately free. It is limitation that puts a bar on our expression of freedom. When consciousness which we really are has no bar or limitation of any kind, it is absolutely free. And bliss and happiness mean the same as freedom. The more we are free, the more we are also happy. Inasmuch as the Self is totally free, it is total bliss; because it is eternally free, it is eternal bliss.

Iya mātmā parā nandaḥ: This Self is supreme bliss. Para premās padaṁ yataḥ. It is also the source of the bliss that we apparently see in outer objects. What does one feel always? Mā na bhūvaṁ hi bhūyā sam: "Let me not, not be. Let me be. Let me not annihilate myself, and let not conditions arise to annihilate me. May I live always, and may I not, not live." This is the feeling, the longing, the main desire of the Self. It is asserting its eternity. The eternity aspect of the Self always affirms itself in the desire never not to be, and the desire always to be. Iti premāt manī kṣyate: This kind of love is always seen in the Self. When all things go, when the world itself goes, it would be good if we are alive – so the Self thinks. It is on the one hand Self-luminous, Self-conscious, Self-affirmative, and also Self-bliss. Eternal unending bliss – that is the Self.

Tat premāt mārtham anyatra naiva manyārtha mātmanah, atasat paramaṁ tena paramā nandata’tmanaḥ (9). Tat premāt mārtham: All love is for its own sake. Anyatra naiva manyārthani: Self-love is not for the sake of another. Self-love is for its own sake. Therefore, we have to consider the Atman as the supreme bliss. And so we conclude that the Atman is basically bliss in its nature. Existence, Consciousness, Bliss are supposed to be the nature of the Atman or the Self. In certain things existence is manifest – for instance, stones and inanimate matter manifest existence. They do exist. Stones also exist, but they do not manifest intelligence. They do not manifest self-consciousness.

In human beings, existence is manifest; intelligence is also manifest. But bliss is not always manifest. The tamas aspect of stone, etc. prevents all other manifestations except existence. The rajasic aspect of man prevents the manifestation of bliss but allows the manifestation of existence and consciousness.

So we do exist and we are aware also that we are existing, and we are aware that many things exist, but we are not always happy. We do not feel free in this world. We are bound by several limitations. On account of the distractions caused by the manifestation of rajas, we have distracted logical knowledge, sensory knowledge, objective knowledge, academic knowledge, and so on, but no knowledge which can be really called bliss in its nature. Learned people are not always happy people. They have neither happiness nor power in their hands.

Hence, all learning which is of an intellectual nature, because it is rajasic in nature, cannot manifest bliss. Bliss is revealed only in sattva, not in tamas and not in rajas. We have existence and consciousness on account of the tamasic and the rajasic qualities of prakriti manifesting themselves in us. We are rarely sattvic in our nature because we are always objectively conscious and rarely subjectively conscious. You can yourself consider for a few minutes how many times you think of yourself in a day. You always think of trains, buses, cars, bicycles, tickets, going here and there, office work, going to factories, and the many the engagements you have got. You have got. But what are you?

We have no time to think of ourselves. In a way, man has sold himself to objects. The subject has become the objects. We are objects much more than subjects. This is the predicament we have landed ourselves in. Would we like to be objects? It is the worst condition in which we can land ourselves. The intense consciousness of the external world and the continuous engagement in external affairs of the world is an indication that sattva is not always manifest in us. There is no equilibration in thinking. There is externalisation in thinking. Therefore, sattva is not manifest. Therefore, we are not happy. This is the corollary that is drawn from this nature of the Self being intensely bliss, and yet our being deprived of it.

It is a great wonder. Our nature is essentially eternal bliss, yet we are never happy even one day. We have always something to disturb our minds. This has to be analysed carefully: What is it that makes us so unhappy? How is it that we always feel like becoming something other than ourselves, and would not like to be our own selves?

Tat premāt mārtham anyatra naiva manyārtha mātmanah, atasat paramaṁ tena paramā nandata’tmanaḥ. All joy that we feel in respect of external things is actually a foisting of the basic Atman bliss upon the objects outside – the bliss of our own Self. The objects are not the cause of our happiness. We are the cause of the happiness that we wrongly feel in objects. So we conclude hereby that bliss supreme is the nature of the Atman. Therefore, we also conclude that the Atman is supreme bliss unparalleled, incomparable, non-temporal. Eternity is the nature of this bliss of the Atman that we are.

Itthaṁ saccitparānanda ātmā yuktyā tathāvidham, paraṁ brahma tayoś caikyaṁ śrutyan teṣū padiśyate (10). Because of the universality of the consciousness of the Atman in us, it is Brahman also in essence. When we consider consciousness as present in us individuals, we call it the Atman. When we consider this consciousness present everywhere in the universe, universally, we call it Brahman. This Atman being the same in essence as the Universal Consciousness, the Atman is identical with Brahman: ayam atma brahma. Through analysis and logical investigation, it has now been proved that sat-chit-ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, is the nature of the Atman. It is also proved that it is basically bliss in its nature. That is the nature of Brahman also. Brahman is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute. So is the Atman.

Satyaṁ jñānam anantam brahma (Tait. Up. II-1), says the Upanishad. This Brahman, the Absolute, is Truth-Knowledge-Infinity, and it appears to be locked up in this body and mind complex. That is the source of this individual consciousness. By sruti, or scriptural statement, and also by logical argument, we come to the conclusion that bliss and self consciousness constitute the essence of Atman.

All these verses that we have studied now, from the beginning to the ninth, is a kind of logical analysis which establishes the nature of the Self as independence, freedom, eternity, and bliss.

The scriptures also proclaim this. The Ishavasya Upanishad says, īśavāsyam idaṁ sarvam (Isa 1): All this universe is pervaded by God. And the Kenopanishad says, "Who is the thinker behind the thought? Who is the hearer of the ear?" etc. It establishes consciousness behind sense functions. The Kathopanishad and the Mundakopanishad established the existence of a Universal Consciousness prior to all concepts of space, time and objectivity. The Chhandogya and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishads highlight the greatness of Brahman as the only reality. So the scripture corroborates this philosophical, logical analysis through which we have arrived at the conclusion that Atman and Brahman are inseparable and they constitute one reality, namely, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Now we have a peculiar quandary here. If this Self is not known at all, it would not be a source of joy and self love. How could we love ourselves unless the Self is manifest in some way? If the Atman is totally obliterated from our experience, we would be like stones, rocks, granite. We would not even know that we are existing. Why do we love ourselves so much? The love that we evince in regard to ourselves shows that it has to be revealed in our life in some form.

Abhāne na paraṁ prema bhāne na viṣaye spṛhā, ato bhāne’pyabhātā’sau paramā nandatā tmanaḥ (11). Abhāne na paraṁ prema: The supreme bliss that we evince in regard to ourselves cannot be explained, cannot be accounted for if it is totally obliterated and we are oblivious of its very existence. But if we say that it is really manifest, why do we love objects of sense? The love that we evince in regard to the objects outside shows the Self is not manifest properly. But if it is not manifest, then why do we love ourselves? Here is a quandary before us. If it is manifest, the objects cannot attract us. If it is manifest, the objects cannot be the sources of apparent joy. If it is not manifest at all, we would be like inanimate objects. We will not have any love for ourselves. We must explain this situation. Why this dual situation in which we find ourselves? On the one hand, it appears to be revealed; on the other hand, it does not seem to be revealed at all.

Abhāne na paraṁ prema: If it is not revealed, no self-love is possible. Bhāne na viṣaye spṛhā: If it is revealed, object-love is not possible. Ato bhāne’pyabhātā’sau paramā nandatā tmanaḥ: Therefore, the supreme bliss of the Atman is indistinctly revealed; it is not distinctly revealed. If it is distinctly revealed, we will never talk to anyone in the world afterwards. We will never look at anything, and we will have no dealings with anything in this world. It is not so distinctly revealed, so our mind sometimes distracts us in the direction of an object outside. After all, it is not clear whether the Self is manifest or not. It is not clear whether it exists at all because it is not felt in the form of happiness in life; so it runs after objects.

But sometimes it appears that we are important persons. We have got self-respect. We feel very hurt if we are insulted. We love ourselves. How can we love ourselves if the Self is not manifest? This peculiar dual character of the Self requires a kind of explanation. The author of the Panchadasi has an illustration to tell us how there is a mix-up of two aspects in our self.

Adhyetṛ varga madhya stha putrā dhyayana śabda vat, bhāne’pyabhānaṁ bhānasya prati bandhena yujyate (12). He gives an illustration as an example. Suppose there is a large group of Vedic scholars, students chanting Veda mantras loudly: Sahasraśīrṣā puruṣaḥ sahasrākśaḥ sahasrapāt, sa bhūmiṁ viśvato vṛtvā'tyatiṣṭaddaśāgulam (Purusha Sukta 1). Some fifty or a hundred boys are loudly chanting Veda mantras. There is a big chorus, and they are making a big noise. The father of one of the students is standing outside and listening to the chanting. In the crowd of the boys, he cannot distinctly hear the voice of his son. Yet by a little bit of concentration, he can indistinctly hear the voice of his son also. He must be a little concentrated – closing his eyes and listening to the loud chorus. In the big multitude of voices, he can sometimes hear the voice of his own son. He can indistinctly hear his son's voice because of his acquaintance with that voice.

If twenty people are talking, I can hear the voice of some people with whom I am acquainted, whom I have seen, in spite of the big multitude of noises – but I cannot hear them clearly, because there is an overwhelming sound coming from others sources, due to which without proper concentration, I cannot hear them clearly. Obviously, openly, it is not audible. But with some concentration and attention specifically paid, it is possible to hear it.

In the case of the father hearing his son chanting Veda mantras in the midst of many other students in a large classroom where the voice of a particular student can be heard only indistinctly, and not distinctly, the voice is both revealed and not revealed. From one point of view, the voice of the son is not revealed. He cannot hear the voice of his son. Yet, it is revealed. Revealed, and not revealed – both define the character of the sound of one boy, in the case of the father who is listening to it.

So is the case with the Self. There is a big multitude of noise – a huge clarion call of sounds that the sense organs and the mind, with all its desires, make. In this multitude of noises made by the mind and the sense organs, we are not able to distinctly locate the voice of the Self inside us. There is some obstacle which prevents us from distinctly knowing that there is a Self inside. The large noise of the senses and the desires appears to drown the little voice of the Self, or the soul inside.

Thus, there is a big obstacle before the Self which wants to reveal itself. In spite of this difficulty faced in manifesting itself – the large sounds made by the sense organs, etc. – it sometimes tries to reveal itself in intense longing for endless possessions, long life in this world, intense love of oneself, and a pleasure one feels in being alone by oneself. These are indistinct characters of the manifestation of the Self, but not distinct characters.

Because of the fact of the indistinctness of the manifestation of the Self in us, sometimes we feel entangled in the objects outside, and sometimes we feel fed up with the world. Every one of us has moments when we feel that we have had enough of things. But we also have occasions when we feel that it is not easily possible to withdraw ourselves from the world. Sometimes we feel the world is too much for us. We cannot be entirely free. Sometimes we feel we should not think of anything in the world. These two characteristics in our mind occasionally manifest themselves because of the dual character of the manifestation of Self – sometimes distinctly when we are totally Self conscious and introverted, as in meditation, and very indistinctly when we are thinking of the objects of sense, leading finally to a disgust with them.

Adhyetṛ varga madhya stha putrā dhyayana śabda vat, bhāne’pyabhānaṁ bhānasya prati bandhena yujyate: This obstacle that is preventing us from knowing ourselves is of two kinds, known as the asti and bhati aspects of the Self getting negatived. Does God exist? He does not seem to exist, because there is nothing to show that a thing called God exists. Do we know God in some way? There is nothing to show that we have any knowledge of God at all. Thus, this ignorance, this obstacle before the Self, manifests itself on the one hand as the denial of the existence of the basic Reality, and on the other hand the denial of the possible knowledge of the basic Reality.

The obstacle manifests itself on the one hand by a thing called avarana, and on the other hand by another thing called vikshepa. Avarana means the screening off of the universality of consciousness so that we can never have any occasion to know that there is anything called Universal Existence. Vikshepa is the compulsion that we feel that we individually exist and are involved in the objects of sense.

We have received two punishments. We are prevented from knowing that there is such a thing called the Universal, and we are totally brainwashed negatively into the compulsive feeling that we are individually existing. Well, let us not be conscious of the existence of the Universal. But why should we be further punished with this compulsion to know that we are bodily encased?

Thus, there is a double punishment meted out to us by something. No one knows how it happened. On the one hand, we do not know the reality. On the other hand, we know the unreality. It is enough for us. No further punishment is conceivable. The highest punishment has been meted out to us. Consciousness is obliterated by negativing its universality on the one hand and, on the other hand, the externality through space and time in terms of objects is impressed upon us.

Prati bandho’sti bhātīti vyava hārārha vastuni, tanni rasya viruddhasya tasyot pādanam ucyate (13). The creation of a non-existent externality is the real bondage, though it is caused by the actions of the consciousness of Universality.