Chapter 2: Pancha Mahabhuta Viveka – Discrimination of the Elements
Sāṅknya kāṇāda bauddhā dyair jagad bhedo yathā yathā, utprekṣyate’nekayuktyā bhavatveṣa tathā tathā (100). By the analysis of the five elements which constitute this cosmos, we have come to the conclusion that there is an element of Existence pervading all things, and this pervasive principle is always associated with every kind of name and form. No name, no form can exist without Existence. This Existence, known as sat, is the nature of Brahman, the Supreme Being.
But there were other schools of thought, like the Nyaya, Vaishesika, Samkhya and the schools of nihilism who describe the nature of the world in different ways. The logical school of Nyaya and the realistic pluralism of the Vaishesika philosophy asserted that there are many realities in the world, and Existence is not one uniform continuity.
Nine realities were posited by the Naiyayikas and the Vaishesikas. Samkhya boiled down all these nine categories of the Nyaya and the Vaishesika into only two principles: purusha and prakriti – consciousness and matter. Though there can be nine objects which may look like reality from the point of view of our sense perception, they are all capable of being grouped into a single category, called ‘object’; and all object is material in its nature. This is the reason why the Samkhya concludes that we can have only two ultimate principles: matter and spirit, prakriti and purusha.
The duality of consciousness and matter is also a questionable proposition because in the same way that the multiplicity of the Nyaya and the Vaishesika does not stand the test of scrutiny (because of there being the necessity for a knowing consciousness behind the multiplicity so posited), so too, it requires some third principle above the duality of purusha and prakriti in order to know that prakriti and purusha exist at all.
Who is it that is making the statement that there are two realities? It is not prakriti, and it is not purusha, because it has been already assumed that prakriti and purusha are two different things. So neither the Nyaya, the Vaishesika, nor the Samkhya stand the scrutiny of deep investigation.
So is the case of the nihilistic doctrine, which asserted that nothing can exist finally, because the consciousness of their being nothing is also a kind of existence. Nobody can outright deny all things, because the denial of such a thing assumes the consciousness of the denial of all things – which must exist. So finally, consciousness exists. Sat is chit. This is Verse 100.
Avajṅātaṁ sadadvaitaṁ niśśaṁkair anya vādibhiḥ, evaṁ kā kṣati rasmākaṁ taddvaitam avajānatām (101). It may be contended that there are people who argue only on the basis of duality because the world is constituted of duality. The knower and the known are two different entities. The world outside and the knowing consciousness are not identical. It is something well known to common sense. “Let it be there,” says the author.
The assertion that there is a palpable, obvious reality between the knowing consciousness and the object outside is again a faulty assumption because there should be an umpire between the knowing consciousness and the object outside – neither belonging to the subjective side, nor the objective side. Therefore, this umpire which will belong neither to the subjective side nor the objective side, will be a third element altogether. The third element includes both the subjective and the objective sides.
So again the non-duality of Reality comes up. Any amount of assertion of the final duality of things does not stand the test of reason because all consciousness of duality requires a previous consciousness, a preceding element of awareness which beholds duality as an object and, therefore, it stands independent of the duality of things, and even behind the consciousness that asserts that there is duality. So we cannot escape the unitariness of consciousness.
Dvaitā vajṅā susthitā ced advaite dhīḥ sthirā bhavet, sthairye tasyāḥ pumāneṣa jīvanmukta itīryate (102). He is the jivanmukta purusha, the liberated soul who beholds through the sense organs the same variety, same duality and multiplicity as the commonsense man sees, but he sees it as bereft of vitality. It is like looking at a corpse, a body with no life in it. The duality will be seen as long as the sense organs operate. The jivanmukta purusha also sees it. He will see the world as a burnt cloth, a dead snake or a devitalised object. They have only appearance, but they do not exist substantially.
The Existence which is the direct content of the jivanmukta's consciousness is Brahmatattva. He practices brahmabhyasa. Tat chintanaṁ tat kathanaṁ anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam, eta deka paratvaṁ ca brahmābhyāsaṁ vidur budhāḥ. (7.106). Brahmabhyasa is the highest sadhana that one can think of in this world. The practice of the presence of Brahman is called brahmabhyasa. Brother Lawrence wrote a small booklet called ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’, and this amounts to the same thing – the practice of the presence of the Absolute: brahmabhyasa.
It means thinking of that always – tat chintanaṁ – and no other thought enters the mind – tat kathanaṁ. When we speak to people, to our friends in discourse, we talk only on this theme – anyonyaṁ tat prabodhanam. We awaken ourselves mutually on this important theme, and do not talk on anything else. Eta deka paratvaṁ: always depending on this finally, as if a drowning man is depending on a single breath, and he has no other desire. Having had enough of things in this world, to surfeit, there is only one longing left – namely, the unity of the soul with the Universal Soul. This is total dependence on Ultimate Reality.
This kind of practice, continuously carried on day in and day out as the only occupation in life, is brahmabhyasa. Such is the practice of a jivanmukta purusha who sees, as it were, the dualities, multiplicities, etc., of the world as ordinary people do, but he does not believe in their existence.
As I mentioned the other day, varieties of objects made of sugar do not attract the attention of people who are mature in mind. Let it be an elephant, let it be a horse, let it be a dog. What does it matter? It is sugar. But children do not understand that. For them it is a dog, it is an elephant, and so on. So children in this life of spirit behold the variety of names and forms and cling to these forms as children cling to forms of the same substance, not knowing that the whole universe is constituted ultimately of one basic substance, sat-chit-ananda swarupa. Such a person who knows this is called a jivanmukta. Sthairye tasyāḥ pumāneṣa jīvanmukta itīryate.
The Bhagavad Gita, towards the conclusion of the second chapter, says eṣā brāhmī sthitiḥ pārtha naināṁ prāpya vimuhyati, sthitvā’syām antakāle’pi brahma nivārṇa mṛcchati (103). Bhagavan Sri Krishna speaks to Arjuna and towards the end of the second chapter of the Gita, having described the essentials of Samkhya and Yoga, concludes his teaching by saying, “Arjuna, this is the ultimate state. Eṣā brāhmī sthitiḥ: This is the final resort of all created things. It is the state of the Absolute. Therefore, it is called brāhmī sthitiḥ.”
Naināṁ prāpya vimuhyati: No delusion will overtake a person after having attained the good state. Just as a person who has woken up and sees the light of day will not once again be deluded by the objects of dream which he saw earlier, so too this awakened person who is established in the Universality of Godhood will not any more be deluded by the forms and names of the world.
Even if we cannot attain this state now – immediately, today – if it could be possible that we should be established in this state even at the time of passing, that also is good enough. Sthitvā’syām antakāle’pi brahma nivārṇa mṛcchati: Even if for a moment one is established in this state at the time of the departure from this body, that is sufficient to destroy the bundle of ignorance and the heap of all desires, and one attains to Brahmanirvana – merger in Brahman.
This verse from the Bhagavad Gita is quoted by the author of the Panchadasi here, and in the next two verses he tries to explain what is the actual import of this verse.
Sadadvaite’nṛte dvaite yadanyo nyaikya vīkṣaṇam, tasyānta kālas tadbheda buddhi reva na cetaraḥ (104). At the time of passing, at the last moment – the word used in the verse of the Bhagavad Gita means ‘having established oneself at the last moment’. Now, what is this ‘last moment’? It has two meanings.
It can be the moment when discrimination between the real and the unreal has arisen, in which case it can be even today itself. Once knowledge arises in the person, ignorance is destroyed simultaneously, at the same time, and this discrimination is what is called wisdom. The end of ignorance is called ‘the last moment’. The last moment of the prevailing of ignorance in this world, the last moment of desires in this world, the last moment of clinging to the objects of sense – this is the meaning of ‘the last moment’. And if this moment is to be attained, it can be the source of one's liberation – not necessarily at the departure of the body; it can be even earlier. This is the meaning, the import of this verse, says the author of the Panchadasi.
Or, it can be the usual meaning: When the prana departs from this body, may we be established in this Great Being. Then we shall not be reborn. We attain to Brahmanirvana, Universal Existence.
Yadvāntakālaḥ prāṇasya viyogo’stu prasiddhitaḥ, tasmin kāle’pi no bhrānter gatāyāḥ punarā gamaḥ (105). The esoteric meaning has been explained that it can be even today, provided that ignorance ends just now. But otherwise, we take it in the literal sense of the last moment of the body. Even at that time, if we are established, it is good for us and there will be no rebirth. Whatever be the physical condition of a person, that is immaterial to the consciousness that is attained to this Universality of experience.
Nīroga upaviṣṭo vā rugṇo vā viluṭhan bhuvi, mūrchito vā tyajatveṣa prāṇān bhrāntirna sarvathā (106). A great question which sometimes arises in our minds is answered here. Is it necessary to be aware of the Supreme Being only at that particular moment when the prana is cut off from the body? Suppose we are unconscious at that time and for two or three days we are not thinking. What will be the last thought from the point of view of this instruction?
The verse that follows makes out that the consciousness that was maintained by the person prior to becoming unconscious is to be considered as the real state of consciousness. And what was that state of consciousness? If the person is totally unaware of things, one cannot be held responsible for anything that takes place to that person. It is consciousness that is the cause of any kind of effect or product that may be produced in terms of that particular individual. So the kind of consciousness that one maintains (or one has been maintaining) prior to the comatose condition (that may sometimes intervene in certain cases) will determine the future of the person.
A person may be very healthy, or he may not be healthy physically. He may have some kind of illness. He may be standing, he may be sitting, or he may be lying down on the ground. He may not be even conscious. It does not matter. If he casts off the body in any of these conditions, not knowing that actually the body is cast off – because of his not being aware of what is happening – it does not matter, because the determining factor is the consciousness that he was maintaining, even if it be days before. Therefore, it is important to know what was the last thought that a person maintained when he was conscious. And if that is identical with Brahman Consciousness, he is freed forever, though subsequently he might not be aware of it.
Dine dine svapna suptyo radhīte vismṛte’pyayam, para dyur nāna dhītaḥ syāt tadvad vidyā no naśyati (107). Even if there is a momentary unconsciousness or even if it be for some days together, it cannot destroy the knowledge that one has acquired earlier, in the same way as the long sleep of unconsciousness into which we enter every night does not obliterate the learning of the previous day. All our knowledge is intact the next morning, in spite of our total unawareness and unconsciousness for hours together in the state of deep sleep. So the unconscious condition is not in any way a deterring factor to the fructification of the nature of the consciousness that one was maintaining prior to the occurrence of unconsciousness, as in the case of waking and deep sleep. Knowledge cannot be destroyed once it is attained.
Pramāṇo tpāditā vidyā pramāṇaṁ prabalaṁ vinā, na naśyati na vedāntāt prabalaṁ māna mīkṣyate (108). By the deep study of the Vedanta doctrine, the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, when the conviction has been driven into the mind and it has been planted in the heart by sravana, manana, nididhyasana, and this knowledge or conviction has become part and parcel of one's own life, one lives that knowledge, as it were. One becomes an embodiment of this knowledge; it is a moving wisdom that we can see in the form of a person. If this is the case, no other experience can refute this knowledge. All illusions that may present themselves for different reasons subsequent to the acquirement of this great wisdom will not affect the conviction that has once been driven into the mind by right knowledge, pramana; and no pramana, or right knowledge, can equal the Vedanta Shastra.
Tasmād vedānta saṁsiddhiṁ sada dvaitaṁ na bādhyate, antakāle’pyato bhūta vivekān nirvṛtiḥ sthitāh (109). There is nothing that can refute the consciousness of non-duality once attained by the study of scriptures or by the analysis that we have conducted in the manner of the study of the second chapter; and the future state of a person is decided even long before the actual departure from the body. Tasmād vedānta saṁsiddhiṁ sada dvaitaṁ na bādhyate: The consciousness of non-duality is not refuted under any circumstance. Antakāle’pyato bhūta vivekān nirvṛtiḥ sthitāh: moksha is certain; Brahmanirvana is assured. There is no need of having any doubt in the mind, provided that this knowledge has become our direct experience. This is the last moment. So if our ignorance has not been destroyed entirely – ie, the mind is still operating in terms of objects outside – it does not matter. We may hope that a day may come at the time of the departure of this soul from this body, and one may be established in that.
Whatever we hope for, sincerely and intensely, we will certainly get. Therefore, may there be a deep aspiration, as students who are well up always aspire to be first in an exam and never go there with the idea that they will be second or third. They may be second, but the expectation is to be first. So let there be the expectation of certain liberation in this birth: “There is nothing wrong with me; I have been very diligently practicing the Yoga Vedanta sadhana, and my mind is clear. The perception of the world is perspicacious and even now, in a way, my consciousness is established in the conviction of God being the only Reality.” If this conviction is there in us, we are freed forever.