Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

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Discourse 6

Chapter 1: Tattva Viveka – Discrimination of Reality
Verses 54-65

Tābhyāṁ nirvicikitse’rthe cetasaḥ sthāpi tasya yat, eka tānatva metaddhi nidi dhyāsana mucyate (54). When the ideas that we have gathered through hearing and studying from a preceptor are made to enter our feelings by deep reflection on the same, and when these ideas that have become practically part of our nature by way of deep investigationwhen concentration and reflection become inseparable from uswe become absorbed in them to such an extent that we think only these ideas. Our very outlook changes in terms of these ideas, and the whole world is envisioned by us in terms of these noble ideas only. Nididhyasana is this condition where knowledge acquired through study and hearing, and made one-pointed by reflection and investigation, becomes part of one’s nature by delving into one’s own heart and making the knowledge a part of one’s being. This leads to deep meditation.

In the meditation process, the consciousness of the meditator absorbs itself wholly in the object of meditation. Here in this case, Brahman, the Universal Reality, is the object of meditation. The consciousness of the individual extricates itself from its encasement in the body, moves in the direction of the Universal Being, absorbs itself in it, and endeavours to be conscious only of it and nothing else.

In this stage of initial practice, the factors of meditation are threefold: the meditator, the object meditated upon, and the process of meditation. There is also a fourth factor prior to the direct act of meditation—namely, the elimination of unnecessary thoughts from the mind. There are thoughts that are not conducive to the meditation process, such as internal impulses which are trying to gain access to the objects outside, or the problems of life, or many other entanglements in which one is involved. They are not connected with meditation at all; they are extraneous thoughts. Social and physical conditions, and psychological repressions may intrude into the process of meditation. They have to be carefully brushed aside by a whole-souled onslaught of consciousness on the Universal Being.

The love of the Universal Being will be a good panacea for the ills of the sense organs wanting the pleasure of sense objects. “When you have a greater joy, why do you want a lesser joy? When you have a permanent joy, why do you want an impermanent joy? When you have a real joy, why do you want a false joy?” If we thus instruct the senses and the mind, the extraneous thoughts will wither away and die out. Then starts meditation with the threefold consciousness of the meditator, the object of meditation, and the process of meditation.

Dhyātṛ dhyāne pari tyajya kramād dhyeyaika gocaram, nivāta dīpa vaccittaṁ samādhi rabhi dhīyate (55). When, like a flame of a lamp placed in a windless place, conscious-ness flickers not and deviates not from the point of concentration on the Universal Reality, and transcends the triple awareness of the meditation process, the object of meditation and the meditator, then the idea of oneself as meditator, and meditating as the process, is transcended. The absorption is so intense that the consciousness is aware only of the object, so that the aim has become part and parcel of the consciousness meditating. The aim is realised. That is to say, the Universal becomes our experience. Our aim is universality. When consciousness identifies itself with universality, which is the object of meditation finally, we exist as universal experience. This is samadhi.

Vṛtta yastu tadānīm ajñātā apyā tmago carāḥ, smaraṇā danu mīyante vyutthi tasya samut thitāt (56). Samadhi does not necessarily mean a sudden, abrupt merger into the Absolute. It takes place gradually, as we find it described in the sutras of Patanjali. There are five or six stages or degrees of samadhi, and in the earlier stages of samadhi, one does not actually merge with the Absolute. Due to the predominance of the cosmic sattva guna in the mind of the meditator, there is an experience of universality. But, after all, the sattva guna also is only a guna. It is a property of prakriti. So as long as we are involved in the qualities of prakriti, we have not totally merged with the Absolute.

It is like seeing the Absolute through a clean glass. We are seeing the total Universal through a transparent medium. We are seeing it, of course. It is as good as being it. Yet there is a glass pane, as it were, preventing us from actually merging with it. Therefore, after this kind of samadhi where the experience is through the sattva guna of prakriti, there is a rising up from samadhi; utthana it is called. We will not always be merging. We will wake up when the stirring of sattva is caused by rajas prakriti, which is also there but is submerged. In deep samadhi, the powerful universal sattva drives down the impulses of rajas and tamas. But how long will they remain inside? They wait in ambush; they are living underground, and after some time they slowly create a disturbance which causes the awakening of the person from samadhi, and one remembers that one was in the state of samadhi.

Smaraṇā danu mīyante: In the state of actual samadhi, there is no thought process. There is no remembering that we are in the state of samadhi, and so on. For example, we are awake now, but do we go on remembering and thinking that we are awake? It is so spontaneous that there is no need of thinking that we are awake. It is a part of our nature, so we do not need to think it. Similarly, thought is not there in samadhi, there is no conscious operation of the psyche; but when we wake up from samadhi, we will have a memory of it. The memory is caused because of the presence of the mind in the state of sattva. If the mind were not there at all, absolutely, there would be no coming up. We would have attained absolute liberation, videhamukti. But the sattva guna persists in the lower kind of samadhi which is known as savikalpa or samprajnata, as the case may be. The awakening is caused by the rajas principle; and the memory of having had the experience of samadhi is caused by the sattva quality of prakriti, which was the means or the medium through which the samadhi was experienced. We can remember that we had a good experience, just as we have a memory that we slept yesterday.

Vṛttī nāma nuvṛttistu prayat nāt pratha mādapi, adṛṣṭā sakṛda bhyāsa saṁskāra sacivād bhavet (57). These memories of samadhi persist on account of various factors such as the effort involved in the very practice itself, and the association of ideas caused by meritorious deeds that we performed in the previous birth. Experience comes through two factors—or three, we may say. Sometimes we say four.

Firstly, there is the effect of the effort that we put forth. We are so anxious, so eager and honest in this practice that this practice produces an effect. Secondly, there is God’s grace itself. Thirdly, there is the blessing of the Guru. Fourthly, there is the effect of the purvapunya, or the meritorious deeds that we performed in the previous birth. All these factors come together in causing our experience of samadhi and also the memory thereafter of having experienced it.

Yathā dīpo nivāta stha ityādibhi ranekadhā, bhagavā nima mevā rtham arjunāya nyarū payat (58). There is a quotation in the Sixth Chapter of the Bhagavadgita which is quoted here. Yathā dīpo nivātastho neṅgate sopamā smṛtā, yogino yata-cittasya yuñjato yogam ātmanaḥ (B.G. 6.19): As the flame of a lamp placed in a windless place is fixed and never oscillates, in the state of samadhi, consciousness gets fixed in identity with universality.

What happens in samadhi? All the karmas that we did in the past—crores and crores of karmas that we did in all the series of births through which we have passed, endless migrations and transmigrations—these actions get burnt up. They get dissolved, just as every particle of darkness is dissolved before the light of the sun and every particle of mist gets dissolved when the sun rises. Every little karma that we did gets pounded to dust and dissolved, even if these karmas were accumulated through centuries and aeons of our transmigratory life. In one second they are destroyed, as a spark of light from a matchstick can reduce to ashes even a mountain of straw. It may look like a mountain, and the matchstick is so small, but the quality of the fire that is in the matchstick is enough to reduce the entire heap to ashes. The heap of karmas will be destroyed in one instant by the experience of this identity of consciousness with the Universal, though it is only a temporary experience and there is a rising up from it afterwards.

Anādā viha saṁsāre sañcitāḥ karma koṭayaḥ, anena vilayaṁ yānti śuddho dharmo vivar dhate (59). Dharma megha samadhi is the word used in the sutra of Patanjali. Dharma megha samadhi supervenes. Righteousness rains on our head, as it were. Here, righteousness does not mean merely good behaviour and nice speech, polite conduct, etc. The righteousness which rains upon us like torrential clouds, dharma megha, is actually the identity of our consciousness with the cosmic order and law. In Vedic language, we get identified with the cosmic satya and rita. That is, we do not have to be instructed to do this, to do that. We know what is to be done.

This state of affairs supervenes mostly in Krita Yuga where, as they say, righteousness rules the world. Righteousness is the nature of the cosmic order of things, identified with which, everyone knows his duty. In Krita Yuga—the Golden Age, as they call it—there was no governmental system. There was no ruler, and there was no instructor. There was nobody to say what must be done and what must not be done, because all were identical in their knowledge and capacity, and everyone was identified with the Cosmic Truth.

This kind of knowledge, this kind of power, this kind of experience will be our blessing when dharma megha samadhi ensues. This is the earliest stage of samadhi, where there is a sudden lifting up of our consciousness to a universal state of the perception of the integratedness of all things, the interrelatedness of all things, and we are identical with every little bit of matter, and all space and time, entire galaxies. We will feel that everything, including the sun and the moon and the stars, is hanging on our body. Such universality will be experienced: śuddho dharmo vivar dhate.

Dharma megha mimaṁ prāhus samādhiṁ yoga vittamāḥ, varṣa tyeṣa yato dharmā mṛta dhārā ssaha sraśaḥ (60). This experience in samadhi is called dharma megha. Megha is a cloud; a cloud that rains dharma is called dharma megha. When it happens in samadhi, that samadhi is called dharma megha samadhi.

Samādhiṁ yoga vittamāḥ: Knowers of yoga call this great, wonderful experience as dharma megha samadhi. Why is it called that? Varṣa tyeṣa yato dharmā mṛta dhārā ssaha sraśaḥ: Millions of torrents fall on the consciousness of the meditator in the form of a nectarine bath of the consciousness of law and order, satya and rita. That is, we begin to feel, to face, as it were, the very face of God, because when rita and satya, law and order—not to be identified with the law and order of the national governments of the Earth, but a cosmical law and order—becomes the experience of our consciousness, we identify with everything, even with a leaf. The leaves of a tree and every little sand particle start dancing before us. Nectar falls like rain coming from all places. The universal rain drenches and inundates the consciousness of the meditator, and we are bathed in this nectarine experience of cosmic universality.

Amunā vāsanā jale niśśeṣaṁ pravi lāpite, samūlon mūlite puṇya pāpākhye karma sañcaye (61). Vākya maprati baddham sat prāk parokṣā vabhāsite, karā malaka vad bodham aparokṣaṁ prasūyate (62). In the earlier stages of knowledge, it is indirect. Now you know something about what has been talked about. You are hearing it, and have made a study of it. This knowledge is indirect knowledge because the knowledge that you are gaining just now is not identical with the object of knowledge. The object is still away from you. That Supreme Brahman is not identical with the knowledge that you have gained merely by hearing or even by studying—even by deep reflection, ratiocination. With all these, you will find you are still not very near the Supreme Reality, because the mind keeps you cut off. The existence of the mind, the operation of the mind with all its vrittis, keeps you away from direct contact with Reality. But the vasanas, or the impressions of the mind, are dissolved in this state of samadhi.

A vasana is a kind of impression created by some action that we perform, and that vasana creates a vritti, or a groove in the mind, like an impression created in a gramophone plate. The vibrations of thought, like the vibrations of sound, create an impression or a groove in a gramophone plate. The vibrations are the vasanas, and the vrittis are the grooves; once the grooves are formed, we can go on playing the record any number of times and hear the same music.

Likewise, once the grooves in the mind are formed by certain impressions created by sense perception, they will become causes of rebirth; and in the next birth also, the same ‘gramophone plate’ will be playing. That means to say, the old ideas will persist and want expression in the next birth also; and in that next birth, if we continue the same process of creating grooves in the mind, there will be an endless heap of grooves, one over the other. Then there will be no remedy for it. But if we throw this gramophone plate made of wax into boiling water, it melts altogether, and all the grooves also go. Likewise, we throw this mind with all its grooves into the heat of the knowledge of this universal experience. When this happens, samūlon mūlite puṇya pāpākhye karma sañcaye: all the karmas that we have accumulated in the form of good and bad deeds are uprooted.

It is not only because of bad deeds that we get reborn. Even good deeds will take us to rebirth. It is the deed, whether good or bad, that causes birth. It may be that bad deeds cause inconvenience, pain, suffering, sorrow, and so on, and good deeds produce such effects as joy, satisfaction, security, happiness, etc. That is true. Notwithstanding the difference between the products of good deeds and bad deeds, the character of causing rebirth will be there equally in either case. Just because we have done good deeds, it does not mean that we will not be reborn. Only, we will be born as a better person. But that also has to go. It is not enough if rajas and tamas are destroyed; sattva also has to go.

As I mentioned, the screen in front of us, even if it is transparent, has to be lifted. Otherwise, there cannot be identity with the object. So when even the punya and papa karma phala get dissolved by this experience, then this knowledge, which is indirect at present as it is acquired through hearing from a preceptor or a teacher, will become direct knowledge. We will see this whole universe as if it is sitting on the palm of our hand.

Karā malaka vad: If we keep a fruit on our palm, we can see it so clearly that it does not require any proof for its existence. Such a kind of clarity of vision of the existence of the Universal will be our blessing and glory when all the karmas, the products of good and bad deeds, are destroyed, and the indirect knowledge that we have gained through study and investigation enters into the very source of our being. Knowledge becomes our existence, and our existence becomes our knowledge. In other words, unfettered becomes our being. Free we are, totally. Consciousness is our nature, and our existence becomes Universal Existence. That is to say, we become Sat-Chit-Ananda, Absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

Parokṣaṁ brahma vijñānaṁ śābdaṁ deśika pūrvakam, buddhi pūrva kṛtaṁ pāpaṁ kṛtsnaṁ dahati vahnivat (63). Even this little knowledge that we have gained by hearing has a great effect. It purifies the mind. It does not mean that indirect knowledge is useless. Though that knowledge which we have gained through the teacher or the preceptor is indirect, it will be able to destroy all the karmas, or at least in some measure. The harassment caused by the karmas will cease, and the total uprooting will take place afterwards.

Do we not feel happy after hearing a spiritual discourse? We have a good sleep, we have good thoughts, and we wake up with noble thoughts, as if some karmas have been simply driven away. Otherwise, we will worry, scratch our head, think all sorts of things, and take a sleeping pill to go to bed. This will not be necessary after hearing all of this. We will be calm, quiet, happy, composed, and never get angry with anybody. We will be satisfied with all things. That is, even this indirect knowledge has such an effect. It will destroy the worrying habit of the mind and the unnecessary interference of these negative karmas.

But when the knowledge becomes direct, it is a wonderful thing. What will happen? It will destroy the night of ignorance totally. Just as there is no night in the midday sun, there will be no night of this ignorance before us. We will not see the world. This night of ignorance which is causing the perception of an external world, the desire for objects, and the running after them, will dissolve immediately.

Aparokṣātma vijñānaṁ śābdaṁ deśika pūrva kam, saṁsāra kāraṇa jñāna tamasaś caṇḍa bhāskaraḥ (64). Aparoksatma vijnana is not indirect knowledge that is attained merely by study, but knowledge that is attained by direct experience—as the experience of the waking condition just now.

Śābdaṁ deśika pūrva kam: This knowledge that has fructified into a maturity of direct experience after having been received through the teacher, what does it do? Saṁsāra kāraṇa jñāna tamasaś caṇḍa bhāskaraḥ: It becomes the blazing midday sun to destroy the universal ignorance which has caused this perception of samsara, or Earthly turmoil. This world will vanish just as dreams vanish when we wake.

Itthaṁ tattva vivekaṁ vidhāya vidhi vanmanas samādhāya vigalita saṁsṛt bandhaḥ prāpnoti paraṁ padaṁ naro na cirāt (65). The First Chapter is now concluding. Having deeply considered the nature of Reality as has been described up to this time by properly hearing it, carefully thinking it deeply, and making it a part of our routine of the day by a disciplined process, we have made this knowledge a part of our thinking process itself. That is to say, when we think anything, we will think only from this point of view—like a businessman thinking only from the point of view of profit and loss, like a shopkeeper thinking only in terms of the weight of gold, like an official thinking only in terms of promotion and salary. There is no other way of thinking. Here we will start thinking only from this point of view. Whether we are working, taking our meals, going for a walk, or taking a bath—whatever we may be doing, we will see it from the point of view of this great knowledge that we have acquired.

We will have a new perception of things; our vision will change. Such a person is called a philosopher. A philosopher is one who views the whole world from the point of view of eternity. That will be our experience after having listened to this wisdom, this knowledge, and having made it a part and parcel of our very outlook of life. Vigalita saṁsṛt bandhaḥ: All the shackles of bondage will fall down. All the chains that were binding us to this Earth will break in one instant.

Prāpnoti paraṁ padaṁ naro na cirāt: We may get this experience very early—not after many, many years—provided our eagerness is very intense. Here we have to remember a sutra from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Tīvra saṁvegānām āsannaḥ (Y.S. 1.21): This experience is very near you, provided your ardour for having it is very intense. Ardour means anguish, the impossibility to exist without it, breathlessness because it is not there, crying because you have lost it, as if you are being drowned in water and wanting a little air to be provided to you. It is such an anguish of having separated yourself from God, such an ardour for wanting it. This word samvega that is used in Patanjali’s sutra cannot be easily translated into the English language. The best translation is ‘ardour’. Intense zealousness and the heart jumping out of your body, as it were, to catch it—that is called ardour.

If this is possible for you, and if you convince yourself that there is no other goal for you except this, when you drown yourself in this feeling and thought, everything will come to you automatically. You need not go and beg for things, like a beggar. Everything will be at your feet. If this conviction is in your mind, quickly will this experience come. Then what happens? Prāpnoti paraṁ padaṁ: You attain the supreme state of eternal beatitude.

The First Chapter of the Panchadasi is hereby concluded.