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Commentary on the Panchadasi


Discourse 4

Chapter 1: Tattva Viveka – Discrimination of Reality
Verses 28-43

Tairaṇḍa statra bhuvanaṁ bhogya bhogā śrayod bhavaḥ, hiraṇyagarbhaḥ sthūle’smin dehe vaiśvā naro bhavet (28). The five elements have been constituted by means of a process known as quintuplication, as we noted yesterday. Half of the particular tanmatra – sound, touch, etc. – is mixed with one eighth of each of the other elements so that every physical element – sky, wind, etc. – contains half of its own original tanmatra, and the other half consists of one eighth of the other elements. This process of mixing up the tanmatras is called panchikarana or quintuplication, by which the physical elements are formed.

The whole universe of physical substance is the body of Virat. The subtle cosmic universe is ruled by Hiranyagarbha. Now these fourteen realms of creation – all the levels of reality, all the worlds – were created by the Supreme Being for the purpose of finding a location for individuals in a particular atmosphere where alone is it possible for them to work out their past karmas.

So the world in which we are living is a proper atmosphere created by God in which every one of us inhabitants in this world will have ways and means of working out our karmas. Just as each individual has his own or her own karma, there is also a karma of species. All human beings are grouped together in one particular world only. It is not that some human beings are living here and some human beings are on Mars, etc. All human beings – men, women and children – though they have individually their own karmas due to which they are born in a particular body, in a particular circumstance, in a family, etc., have also a collective karma due to which they are born in one world only.

So for the fulfilment of particular karma in potencies of individuals of a specific type of species, the world which is correspondingly suitable to act as an environment and field of action has been very intelligently and wisely created by God: bhogya bhogā śrayod bhavaḥ.

Here in this world of physical substance, Hiranyagarbha, the ruler of the subtle cosmos, becomes Virat, the ruler of the physical cosmos. Virat is also called Vaishvanara. This great Vaishvanara, this Virat, is the subject of the eleventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, of the Vaishvanara Vidya of the Upanishad, and of the Purusha Sukta of the Veda.

Taijasā viśvatāṁ yātā deva tiryaṅ narā dayaḥ, te parāg darṣi naḥ pratyak tattva bodha vivar jitāḥ (29). As Hiranyagarbha becomes Virat cosmically, the taijasa, the ruler of the dream world in the individual becomes Visva, the ruler of the waking condition of the individual. And this happens in the case of all created beings, right from the gods in heaven, human beings in the world, and animals, birds, etc.: deva tiryaṅ narā dayaḥ.

The world of the gods which is called heaven, and the world which is this earth – the location of human beings and of other subhuman creatures, all come under this category of Visva or waking consciousness. All the living beings in the world that are conscious of a world outside are in a waking state. And all those who are feeling a world inside them are in a dream state. And those who know nothing and sleep are in the causal body.

These individuals, jivas, whatever be their nature, whether they are gods in heaven or human beings or animals and birds, irrespective of the category into which they are born, they have one common character: they will only see things outside. They cannot see what is inside them. All created beings look outside. They are conditioned by space and time and objectivity, and bereft of the capacity to see what is inside them.

Parāg darṣi naḥ pratyak tattva bodha vivar jitāḥ. No one can know what is inside oneself. No one can know one's mind or Self; but one tries to know everything that is outside in the world by observation through the sense organs. This is the common factor in all created beings – that they will never know what is inside them. They will only try to know through the senses what is outside them. This is the difficulty in which every created being finds himself or herself.

Kurvate karma bhogāya karma kartuṁ ca bhuñjate, nadyāṁ kīṭā ivāvartād āvartāṁ tara māśu te, vrajanto janmano janma labhante naiva nirvṛtim (30). These jivas, these individuals, these born, created beings engage themselves incessantly in some action. They have to feed their stomach. They have to survive by eating food. Birds and insects are also seen struggling to find their grub. Even an earthworm is wriggling and writhing through its slimy body inside the earth to maintain itself by the absorption of the elements of the earth into its body through the skin. Insects, reptiles, animals and human beings are busy for feeding their stomach to survive somehow or other, to protect themselves either by hibernation or running into some far corner of the world – or in the case of human beings, building a house, etc., for protecting themselves against the onslaught of nature and any other difficulty that may be expected from outside.

Such is the business of life – intense activity for survival, for enjoyment in this world, through this body. Survival means finding ways and means of continuing the joyous life of this earthly existence. They eat for the sake of being able to do work. And they work for the sake of eating. If we do not work, we cannot eat; and if we do not eat, we cannot work. So this is a vicious circle. And like insects caught in a whirl of a flooded river, viciously circling and unable to get out of the whirl on account of the force of the movement of water, these jivas who are caught up in this vicious circle of working and survival, and survival and working, find no peace of mind. From birth to death, from one birth to another birth, they move helplessly on account of this involvement in the desire to maintain their physical existence and work hard for the sake of the maintenance of their physical life. They will never have peace of mind. And all the transmigratory lives through which they have passed will be only a continuation of the problems and the difficulties which one faces in life.

It does not mean that the next birth will be a better birth, unless, of course, we live today a newly oriented kind of life. If the same drudgery continues throughout our existence in this world, it will be carried forward to the next world. The next world will be a better world for us; and our life in the next world may be far better than this one, provided that the present life of ours is qualitatively transmuted through the perception of the higher values of life and by detachment of the senses and the emotions from involvement in the objects outside. If we cannot achieve this much of spiritual discipline, of sense control and mental stability and emotional peace inside, there will be only the animalistic instinct in man to continue the same routine of eat for work and work for eat.

Sometimes a good man with a compassionate heart sees some insect caught in a whirl and, taking pity on it, he lifts it and keeps it on dry ground. Then it somehow or other starts breathing and continues to live; otherwise, it will go into the whirl of water and nobody knows what will happen to it. In a similar manner, some good man comes in this world as a Guru, a teacher, a master, a preceptor, a guide and a philosopher. Taking pity on the suffering people, somehow he injects into them some knowledge of the ways and means of freeing themselves from this involvement in the world of samsara, earthly existence.

We are compared to insects, caught in a whirl of water, and we have no way of escape if that happens to us. But if some kind person helps the insect, its life is saved. So in the case of a spiritual seeker who is ardently searching for God and has had enough of this world, wants nothing more from this earth, and sees enlightenment in the art of living a higher life. In the case of such people, the Guru comes to that disciple automatically. The belief is that disciples do not go to the Guru. The Guru comes to the disciples somehow or other, by some miracle of God's working.

Sat karma pari pākātte karuṇā nidhinod dhṛtāḥ, prāpya tīra taru cchāyāṁ viśrā myanti yatha sukham (31). As insects placed under the shade of a tree on dry ground are somehow or other able to survive, so by the fructification of good karmas that we did in the previous life, we come in contact with a great spiritual master. We find peace there under the shade of that vast tree who is the Guru, and who frees us from this world, from the flood of earthly existence by proper instruction – upadesam.

Upadeśa mavā pyaivam ācāryāt tattva darśinaḥ, pañca kośa vivekea labhante nir vṛtiṁ parām (32). By acquiring such knowledge from the Guru, from the master, one attains to a new kind of vision of life. The student begins to see the realities of life, and not merely the appearances, through the instructions that come from the Guru as light that is flashed on darkness.

Pañca kośa vivekea labhante nir vṛtiṁ parām. The Guru generally starts instruction from the lower stages of understanding, gradually, to the higher forms of it. The instruction commences mostly with an analysis of the composition of the personality – a study of the inner constituents of the individual.

“My dear disciple, do you know what you are, what kind of person you are? What is the stuff out of which you are made? What is the substance which constitutes your body, mind, etc.? Let us analyse this.” The initial instruction commences with an analysis of the human personality and individuality.

Annaṁ prāṇo mano buddhir ānanaśceti pañca te, kośā stairā vṛtaḥ svātmā vismṛtyā saṁsṛtiṁ vrajet (33). The individual is constituted of subtle sheaths. The outermost sheath is annamaya kosha, or the physical body that is sustained by the food that we eat. Internal to the physical body is the pranamaya kosha, or the vital body that is sustained by the water that we drink. There is again a further internal body inside the pranamaya kosha, or vital body; that is manomaya kosha, or the mental body, which is also sustained by the subtle elements of the diet that we take – food and drink, etc. Internal to the mind is the buddhi or understanding, which is the highly purified form of thought. Inside the intellect is the last kosha or sheath,, which is called the causal body – the ignorance, avidya as we call it, through which we experience a kind of bliss when we are fast sleep.

So annam prano mano buddhir ananda are the five sheaths. That is to say, the physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and causal are the sheaths. There are several corridors in a temple, as can be seen mostly in temples in southern India. We cross from corridor to corridor and after five, six or seven corridors we go into the innermost holy of holies where the deity of the temple is. Likewise, the deity of the Atman is located inside as the holy of holies within the darkness of the ignorance of the causal body.

In temples, the holy of holies is not lit with bright light. The lights are only outside in the corridors. As we go further inside, the light becomes less and less, so that in the holy of holies only one or two small lamps are there. The holy of holies is not flooded with bright electric lights; that is not the tradition.

These temples are constructed in the fashion of the physical body itself. This is called vastu shastra, the great science of temple construction, which is an outer symbol of the human body, or the cosmic Viratsvarupa. The science of it is that from the feet we gradually move inward, and then through the koshas, one after the other, just as we enter the corridors of a castle. Inward and inward we go until we find that there is very little light. A twinkling of the Atman is seen there as a ray penetrating through the otherwise-dark holy of holies, which is the causal body.

These koshas are covering the Atman, and on account of identification of the consciousness with these koshas – causal, etc. – the Self consciousness of the Atman is obliterated. Instead of the Atman knowing that it is Universal, it begins to feel that it is sleeping, or it is understanding through the intellect, thinking through the mind, breathing through the breath, or working and eating through the body. This is what the Atman begins to feel when it is by some mistake or other identified with these five sheaths. Then the samsara starts.

The samsara, worldly existence of suffering and sorrow, is the effect of the Atman getting identified with these five koshas. If we are identified with the body, we feel heat and cold. If we are identified with the prana, we feel hunger and thirst. If we are identified with the mind, we have doubt and disbelief and indecision. If we are identified with the intellect, we are logical, philosophical and decisive. And if we are identified with the anandamaya kosha only, we go to sleep, and we know nothing. These are the experiences that we pass through by consecutive or successive identification of consciousness with these five sheaths, due to which we suffer in this world as mortals, jivas.

The identification takes place by a process called adhyasa, mutual superimposition. The character of the iron rod is superimposed on the fire which heats the rod; and the character of the fire which heats the rod is identified with the rod, so that the fire looks long when the rod is long. And the rod looks hot while actually the fire is hot. The heat of the fire is identified with the rod and we say the iron rod is very hot. It is not the iron rod that is hot; it is the fire that is hot. And conversely, we see a long beam of fire. The long beam is not actually a fire. It is the rod. This is called mutual superimposition of factors. The character of the consciousness is superimposed on the sheaths. The character of the sheaths is superimposed on the consciousness. We feel that we are existing because of the consciousness that is true existence. We feel that we are finite because of the consciousness getting identified with the finite sheaths. We are hungry and thirsty; we feel heat and cold. We have many other problems, of which we are conscious. Here is an important point for us to remember: The hunger and thirst, heat and cold problems in life, etc., are objects of our awareness.

The awareness does not actually become the object, as the rod does not become the fire. But in the same way as the rod is identified with the fire, consciousness is identified with the conditions of the sheaths. Then the consciousness feels, "I am sleeping"; the consciousness feels, "I am studying and logically understanding things"; the consciousness feels, "I am thinking and doubting"; the consciousness feels, "I am hungry and thirsty." Consciousness feels, "I am feeling heat and cold"; consciousness feels, "One day I will die." Because the body is going to die, consciousness also feels that it is dying, so we all feel one day that we will die. This happens due to the mutual superimposition of qualities.

The fragility and the finitude and the problems of the sheaths are superimposed on the Atman. Then we say that we are hungry, we are thirsty, we are sorry, we are short; we are this, we are that; we are from the East, we are from the West, and so on. But conversely, we are conscious in all these levels. This mutual superimposition of characters between consciousness and the sheaths is called tadatmya adhyasa, or the visualisation of the character of one in the existence of the other.

Syāt pañcī kṛta bhūtottho dehaḥ sthūlo’nnasaṁ jñākaḥ, liṅge tu rājasai prāṅaiḥ prāṅaḥ karmen indriyaiḥ saha (34). In the beginning of the commentary on the Brahma Sutra, Acharya Sankara makes a statement. In the first sentence of his commentary on the Brahma Sutra he uses the words tadatmya adhyasa, mutual superimposition, in the context of the explanation of there being no possibility of consciousness becoming matter or matter becoming consciousness. The knower cannot become the known, and the known cannot become the knower; but somehow or other we mix up these two aspects.

The known appears to be somehow or other moving in a direction of something in space and time and locating it outside, so that consciousness appears to be object consciousness, while it cannot become an object. And conversely, we become attached to the object, as if we are the object itself. The more we are attached to an object, the more we become the object. The consciousness has lost its Self consciousness. It has moved into the object and become the object, so more is the attachment, more is the objectivity of ours, and more is the Self consciousness lost.

This physical body, which is made of the quintuplicated physical elements known as annamaya kosha, physical sheath, gross in its nature, is the outermost sheath. In the internal sheath, which is subtler, constituted of the rajasic principles of prana together with the karmendriyas enumerated yesterday, we have another body altogether. Pure physicality is in the outermost body.

The rajasic element is predominating in the subtle body which consists of the five senses of knowledge, the five senses or organs of action, together with the mind and the intellect. This is called lingasarira. It is called linga because it indicates what kind of person we are. The sense organs, ten in number, the mind and the intellect will indicate what kind of person we are. They are mostly shining through our face. The face is the index of personality. This is the subtle body, linga.

Sātvi kair dhīr indriyaiḥ sākaṁ vimar śātmā mano mayaḥ, taireva sākaṁ vijñāna mayo dhīr niścayā tmikā (35). The mental body is inside the physical and the vital bodies, and it consists of the mind and the five senses of knowledge. The five senses of knowledge and the mind constitute the mental body. The intellectual body also is constituted of the five senses of knowledge, plus the mind; and whatever is in the mind is also in the intellect, together with the five senses of knowledge. That is, there is an intimate connection between the mental sheath and the intellectual sheath. They are like elder brother and younger brother. Internal to the subtle body is the causal body, as we have noted already.

Kāraṇe sattvamānanda mayo modādi vṛttibhiḥ, tattat kośaistu tādāt myād ātmā tat tanmayo bhavet (36). It is called anandamaya kosha because we feel bliss there when we enter into it. We have seen the joy of sleep. The bliss of sleep is superior to the bliss of a meal that we take, or a position that we occupy in society, or wealth that we may possess, etc. No joy of the world, food, land and property, money or social position can equal the happiness of sleep. If we do not sleep for days, we will see what happens. All our lunch and all the wealth, etc.. will vanish, and we would like to sleep rather than have anything else. The reason is that it is only in the state of deep sleep that the consciousness is totally dissociated from the sheaths. That is why we are so happy. In all other conditions, we are associated with the sheaths. Therefore, we cannot have so much happiness either in dream or waking.

In this karana-sarira we experience joy when we are fast asleep. This ananda, or the bliss of the Atman, manifests itself faintly in the outer sheaths also when we feel happiness in the presence of a desirable object. When that desired object is seen with the eyes we feel a happiness, called priya. When the object that is desired is coming near us, we feel a more intense happiness – more intense than the earlier happiness – which is called moda. And when the object is completely in our possession, we have the most intense form of happiness, and that is called pramoda. These are the three degrees of happiness that we experience in this world – priya, moda, pramoda – when the desired object is seen, or moving near, or is under possession. This is how the anandamaya kosha works even in dream and waking. But otherwise, in deep sleep, it is total dissociation of consciousness. Therefore, the fastest sleep is the greatest happiness.

When the consciousness of the Atman is identified with the causal body, it looks like it is asleep. When it is identified with the intellect, it looks as if it is arguing, understanding, studying, etc. When it is identified with the mind, it is thinking. When it is identified with the vital body, it is breathing and living. When it is identified with the physical body, it is having all the problems of the outer world.

Anvaya vyati rekā bhyāṁ pañcakośa vivekatah, svāt mānaṁ tata uddhṛtya paraṁ brahma prapa dyate (37). We have to carefully analyse this state of affairs in order to know that the Atman consciousness is not any of these bodies. None of these five sheaths is to be identified with Pure Consciousness, which is Universal.

Consciousness is everywhere. We have studied it already. It cannot be located in one place. It has no divisions or fractions. It is infinite by itself. But each of the five bodies is limited and is the opposite or the contrary of the consciousness, which is all-pervading.

We have to lift this Atman out, free this Atman from involvement in the five sheaths, and attain to that infinity of ourselves which is the same as attainment of Brahman. Brahman sakshatkara takes place. We have to argue within our own self: “How is it possible for me that I should be the body?” This analysis is called anvaya and vyatireka, positive and negative analysis of a particular situation.

When something is there, something else is also there. When something is not there, something else is also not there. This kind of argument is called anvaya and vyatireka. Here is an example of how such kind of positive and negative analysis can be carried on for the purpose of separating the consciousness from material involvements in the form of this body.

Abhāne sthūla dehasya svapne yadbhāna mātmanaḥ, so’nvayo vyatirekas tad bhāne’nyā nava bhāsanam (38). Even when the physical body is not there in dream, there is consciousness in dream. That means to say, consciousness exists even independent of the physical body. This is anvaya. Because the physical body is not necessary for being conscious, because we are conscious in dream even without the physical body being there, it is now clear that consciousness is not the physical body. This is one argument. This is called anvaya, or the positive statement that we make, the understanding that we arrive at to conclude that consciousness can exist even when the body does not exist.

Vyatirekas tad bhāne’nyā nava bhāsanam. Vyatireka is the negating of the physical body – the absence of it, when the consciousness exists. The existence of consciousness when the body does not exist is anvaya. The non-existence of the body when the consciousness exists is called vyatireka. These are two ways of arguing the same position. By both ways we conclude that consciousness is different from the body. There is another argumentto prove that consciousness is not the body. It is here mentioned in the thirty-ninth verse.

Liṅga bhāne suṣuptau syād ātmano bhāna manvayaḥ, vyati rekastu tadbhāne liṅgasyā bhāna mucyate (39). In the deep sleep state, consciousness exists, but the dream world does not exist. That is to say, as the physical body was not necessary in dream, the subtle body is not necessary in sleep. So we can exist not only without the physical body, but we can also exist without the subtle body. This is seen in our sleep condition. The consciousness in the state of sleep has no consciousness of the subtle body or the physical body.

What do we prove by this? That we can exist minus the physical body and minus the subtle body also. So the consciousness existing independent of the subtle body is the anvaya aspect. The non-existence of the subtle body when the consciousness exists in sleep is called vyatireka. These are two ways of arguing the same position. Now comes further argument.

Tad vivekād viviktā syuḥ kośāḥ prāṇa mano dhiyah, te hi tatra guṇā vasthā bheda mātrāt pṛthak kṛtāḥ (40). When we have separated consciousness from the physical and the subtle bodies, we have automatically separated consciousness from the pranamaya kosha, the manomaya kosha, and the vijnanamaya kosha also, because they are included in the subtle body. The elimination of the physical and the subtle bodies is also automatically an elimination of the vital, mental, and intellectual bodies, which differ only in their functioning, location and specific characteristics. So we have now proof that consciousness, which is our real nature, can exist minus the physical body and minus the subtle body also. Now there is something more.

Suṣuptya bhāne bhānantu samādhā vātmāno’nvayaḥ, vyati rekas tvātma bhāne suṣuptya nava bhāsanam (41). In the state of samadhi, consciousness exists, but the causal body does not exist. So we have gotten rid of even the causal body now. Consciousness is there in samadhi, but the causal body is not there. This is anvaya. The abolition of the causal body, the negation of the causal body while the consciousness persists in samadhi, is vyatireka.

So what has happened now? We have proven that consciousness, which is our real nature, can exist independently of the physical body, independently of the subtle body, and independently of the causal body also. So what is our real nature? It is not the physical body, not the vital body, not the mental body, not the intellectual body, not the causal body.

Foolishly we identify ourselves with all these, and cry every day, "This is like this, this is like that." We are not really connected with any of these bodies. It is a foolishness, a kind of internal adhyasa, a superimposition that has taken place by some internal error. This nature of error has also to be analysed. How have we got into this muddle, while we have now actually come to the conclusion that we are Pure Consciousness and can exist independent of all the sheaths? So consciousness existing in samadhi, and the causal body not existing there, is anvaya. And the abolition of the causal body in the state of samadhi while consciousness is there is the vyatireka aspect.

Hence, all the koshas are revelated now, as the pith of a blade of munja grass is taken out from the stalk in which it is embedded. The stalk of the munja grass has a sheath, and inside there is a pith. The grass is used to tie the waistband during the Upanayana (sacred thread) ceremony of boys, and is also used during fasting, especially long fasts. The pinch of hunger is eliminated by eating this pith. Anyway, this is an illustration: The pith of the munja grass is separated gradually by the elimination of the covering; so too by the method adopted through anvaya and vyatireka we have noted just now, the Atman consciousness has to be gradually eliminated from involvement in the koshas, as the pith of the grass is removed completely from its involvement in the outer covering.

Yathā muñjā diṣī kaivam ātmā yuktyā samud dhṛtaḥ, śarīra tritayād dhīraiḥ paraṁ brahmaiva jāyate (42). Parā parāt mano revaṁ yuktyā saṁbhā vitai katā, tattva masyā divākyais sā bhāga tyāgena lakṣyate (43). The moment this is achieved – when we are successful in the elimination of consciousness by dissociating it from all the five koshas – we will realise that our consciousness inside is Universal Existence, Brahman Itself. This will lead us to the realisation of the Absolute Brahman.