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Commentary on the Panchadasi

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Discourse 17

Chapter 3: Pancha Kosha Viveka – Discrimination of the Five Sheaths
Verses 37-43
Chapter 4: Dvaita Viveka – Discrimination of Duality Verses 1-9

Satyaṁ jñānam-anantaṁ yad-brahma tad-vastu tasya tat, īśvaratvaṁ ca jīvatvam-upādhi-dvaya-kalpitam (37). The Supreme Brahman, the Absolute – this Universal Existence which has neither anything inside nor outside – such a Being is regarded by us as the creator of the world on the one hand, and as having become all the individuals in creation on the other hand.

When this Supreme Brahman is visualised as the cause of this universe, Brahman is known as Ishvara, the creative principle. When the same Brahman is viewed as the principle immanent in every living being in the world, in all individualities, it goes by the name of jiva. Ishvara is the cosmic manifestation of Brahman; jiva is the individualised manifestation of Brahman. Only our viewpoints differ; and on account of the differences in viewpoint caused by the extension and all-pervading nature of Ishvara and the limited location of the jiva, or the individual, we make such a distinction.

Really, there is no such distinction in Brahman. The difference between Ishvara and jiva – God and the individual – is, according to one analogy, something like the distinction we draw between cosmic space and the space that is imagined to be contained within a vessel. The vessel ether is very limited within the walls of the vessel; the cosmic ether is not so limited. The consciousness of Brahman is limited within the five sheaths – about which we have made some study earlier. When this Universal consciousness of Brahman appears to be contained within the five sheaths, as it were, it goes by the name of individual consciousness, jiva consciousness, isolated consciousness.

When the very same Brahman, the Absolute consciousness, is cast in the mould of the creative will that is at the back of all manifestation, we call that consciousness God, the creator, Ishvara. Therefore, the distinction between Ishvara and jiva is created by a kind of upadhi, or adjunct – cosmic adjunct and individual adjunct, differing one from the other.

When we view Brahman as pervading the whole cosmos and determining its activities – creating it, preserving it, and destroying it – we call it Ishvara. When the same Brahman is reflected through the physical individuality of the five sheaths, we call the same Brahman as jiva.This is, therefore, a tenta­tive distinction that is drawn between Ishvara and jiva, by the situation of the jiva himself.

Īśvaratvaṁ ca jīvatvam-upādhi-dvaya-kalpitam: Maya and avidya are the two upadhis, on account of whose operation, distinction is drawn between Ishvara and jiva. The cosmic determining factor is maya; the individual determining factor is avidya.

We have to remember everything that we have studied earlier because the subject here is so intricate and concentrated that what has been told earlier will not be repeated afterwards. So people who come casually to listen to these lectures and go away the day after tomorrow will not know at all what it is that is being said. And there is a disadvantage in easily listening to these things piecemeal – because half knowledge is a dangerous thing, as they say. Either we study it thoroughly, or we do not listen to it.

As it has already been explained earlier, maya is the shuddha sattva pradhan of prakriti, the cosmic determining factor through which the Universal Brahman is reflected and becomes the jiva or the Ishvara – the creative principle of God, and is the very same thing reflected through avidya, which is predominantly rajasic and tamasic. Malina sattva is submerged and becomes the jiva, or the individual. This is the distinction between maya and avidya, determining Ishvara on the one side and jiva on the other side.

Śaktir-asty-aiśvarī kācit-sarva-vastu-niyāmikā, ānanda-mayam-ārbhya gūḍhā sarveṣu vastuṣu (38). There is a tremendous power called shakti in this cosmos, right from the causal body down to the individual physical body. And right from Ishvara down to Virat there is a deciding principle operating everywhere in the whole of creation, in all nature – due to which, everything happens in the manner it has to happen. Nothing happens in the way it should not happen. Everything in the world happens exactly in the way it ought to happen.

Human individuals that we are cannot understand that this is the truth. We, many a time, feel that things that ought not to have happened have taken place. We complain against God and nature. Many times we feel that things which did not take place ought to have happened. “This man ought to have been promoted. He has been demoted. Great injustice is being caused. This man ought to have been punished, and he is promoted.” This also exists. “The world does not seem to be kind to people. God has not created a good world. Either God has no eyes, or He is not God at all.” All kinds of difficulties arise in the human individual, sunk in ignorance of the universal power that is operating ubiquitously and impartially everywhere.

Such a power exists in nature, due to which plants grow, oceans have tidal waves, rivers flow, mountains rise up, and the sun and the moon shine and rise and set in the proper way. Everything is precise and mathematically correct. The best of things and the worst of things are all destined by the requirement of the operation of the universal nature, into whose mysteries man has no way to enter. That is why we are complaining.

Such a power does exist, says the author. Śaktir-asty-aiśvarī kācit-sarva-vastu-niyāmikā: The determining factor of all things is the shakti, or the power of God; and it is operating through all the sheaths, right from the causal onwards, and is operating even in the cosmos, right from Ishvara downwards.

Vastu-dharmā niyamyeran śaktyā naiva yadā tadā, anyonya-dharma-sāṅkaryād-viplaveta jagat-khalu (39). If this shakti were not to operate in a systematic, precise manner, chaos would take place. Someone said, “If this world has a creator at all, he must be a devil. Such a wretched world is this that its creator, if at all there is a creator, must be a demon of the first water.” Another philosopher gave a reply to it. “This world is not created by a demon. It is created by God. If a demon had created the world, do you know what would happen to you?” The philosopher gave a humorous answer as a retort to the feeling of the man who said that a demon must have created the world because of the sufferings and wretchedness that we see here. “But if a devil had created the world, do you know what would have happened? With every step that you take, the ground would split into pieces. It does not happen. Therefore, a devil has not created it. If you touched any leaf in the tree, it would cut you like a knife. It does not happen. Therefore, a devil has not created the world. If you drank water, it would burn you like molten metal. That does not happen. Therefore, God has created the world.”

Some such answer is very humorous, and draws a distinction between a devil and God. The idea of devil, evil, and the necessity and the non-necessity of things – the great comments that we pass on the creation of this world – are actually unwarranted on the part of people who have no knowledge of anything. We should say nothing unless we are cosmically aware. Only Cosmic consciousness has the right to make statements; and as no human being is cosmically conscious, nobody should pass judgements on anything in this world. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

There would be tremendous confusion if this universal shakti were not to work systematically. There is, after all, a cosmic justice operating in the minutest of things, though we may not be able to understand what it is that is working. We are unilateral in our thinking, partial in our outlook, and incapable of thinking in a universal manner. Therefore, these secrets are not accessible to us.

Cicchāyā-veśataḥ śaktiśr-cetaneva vibhāti sā, tac-chaktayu pādhi-saṁyogāt-brahmaive śvaratāṁ vrajet (40). Brahman is apparently considered as Ishvara, or the creative principle, when the Brahman consciousness reflects itself through the cosmic property of prakriti – which is sattva, as has already been mentioned. On account of the upadhi, or adjunct, which is cosmic sattva, Brahman appears as Creator, Preserver, Destroyer – Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Ishvara.

Kośo-pādhi-vivakṣāyāṁ yāti brahmaiva jīvatām, pitā pitāmahaś-caikaḥ putra-pautrau yathā pratī (41). If the cosmic maya, which is shuddha sattva, becomes the cause of God – Brahman appearing as Ishvara – the very same policy is followed here in the creation of the jiva, or the individual. That is, when Brahman is reflected through the five sheaths – the physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and causal – the Universal Brahman appears like a man walking on the street.

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad there is a mantra which says, tvaṁ strī tvam pumān asi, tvaṁ kumāra uta vā kumārī; tvaṁ jīrno daṇḍena vañcasi, tvaṁ jato bhavasi viśvato-mukhaḥ (Svet 4.5.3): “Lord, you are the boy; you are the girl; you are the old man tottering on the road with a stick in hand. Thus Thou deceivest everybody.” A devotee cries, “God, You deceive us by appearing like a school boy, as a girl walking on the road, and as a man with a bent back leaning on a stick, crawling with weakness. With these appearances You are trying to deceive us; but we know that it is You appearing as these things. You look like the little boy and girl, and the man with the bent back. Deceivest Thou everyone here, by putting on the appearance of an old hunchback with a stick, while Thou art really Universal, all pervading.”

Somebody is called a father, and the same person is called a grandfather in relation to his grandson. The designations of the human being are relative to circumstances in connection with things outside. A person is an official, a person is rich, a person is poor, a person is a father, a person is a mother. These are relative descriptions of a single individual who, by himself or herself is independent – unrelated, basically.

Putrā-dera-vivakṣāyām na pitā na pitāmahaḥ, tad-van-neśo nāpi jīvaḥ śakti-kośā’vivakṣaṇe (42). If the son is not there, we cannot call a person a father. If the grandson is not there, we cannot call the person a grandfather. So there is no such thing as father and grandfather. They are only names that we employ to describe the social situation of a person in relation to something relevant.

Tad-van-neśo nāpi jīvaḥ śakti-kośā’vivakṣaṇe. In the same way, Ishvara and jiva do not exist. Does a father exist? If the son is there, the father must be there. If the grandson is there, the grandfather also is there. If maya (sattva guna of prakriti) does exist, and Brahman is cast in the mould of that sattva, Ishvara does exist. But if that maya sattva guna does not exist, Ishvara does not exist. If the five sheaths exist, individual being exists; if the five sheaths do not exist, the individual also does not exist. So the existence of the creative principle of God and the individuality of persons is conditioned by the upadhis, or limiting adjuncts, without which they do not exist at all, just as father and grandfather do not exist unless there are children and grandchildren.

Ya evaṁ brahmā vedaiṣa brahmaiva bhavati svayam, brahmaṇo nāsti janmātaḥ punareṣa na jāyate (43). Whoever knows Brahman in the manner described in these verses becomes Brahman itself. We will not become Brahman merely by hearing it. We have to hear, we have to contemplate deeply after hearing it, then sink these ideas into our feeling, merge these ideas into our experience, and we veritably become an experience of this knowledge. Knowledge that we have gained by study becomes part of our very nature. We become Brahman because our thought is fixed in Brahman. What we think we are, that we really are. If our thought is always of Brahman, we cannot be anything else.

Brahmaṇo nāsti janmātaḥ: Brahman has no birth; therefore, one who knows Brahman also will not be reborn. Punareṣa na jāyate: Only those who are identified in their consciousness with Brahman will not be reborn. Otherwise, we will have the same transmigratory sorrow which we are experiencing now and which we have been experiencing since many ages past. If we want to put an end to this grief-stricken earthly involvement, may our consciousness get rooted in Brahman. With this, we conclude the third chapter.

The fourth chapter is called Dvaita Viveka, the discrimination between the nature of the world as created by Ishvara, or God, and the world of bondage that is deliberately created by the individual – that is to say, the objective world and the subjective world. Realistic and idealistic, metaphysical and psychological are the distinctions we may make, if we wish to.

The world of Ishvara is a metaphysical existence in the sense that it is really there even if we do not think of it. But there is a world which we are creating by our mental reaction in regard to the world of Ishvara. That is our bondage, called ‘jiva srishti’. Ishvara srishti is Gods creation; jiva srishti is mans creation. The distinction between these two is drawn in this chapter, the fourth, known as Dvaita Viveka: Duality of Creation. Ishvaras creation and jiva’s creation – this duality is distinguishable, and its nature is studied.

Īśvareṇ-āpi jīvena sṛṣṭaṁ dvaitaṁ vivicyate, viveke sati jīvena heyo bandhaḥ sphuṭī-bhavet (1). There seems to be a distinction between mans creation and Gods creation. We must now study what this distinction is. How does mans creation differ from Gods creation? If this distinction can become clear to our consciousness, we may perhaps be able to free ourselves from the bondage of life.  

The muddle that we have created in our own minds by confusing between our creation and Gods creation is the source of sorrow. Let us distinguish between the two and see if we can be free from the sorrow of life.

Māyāṁ tu prakṛtiṁ vidyāt-māyinaṁ tu maheśvaram, sa māyī sṛjatī-tyāhuḥ śvetāśvatara-śākhinaḥ (2). The Svetasvatara Upanishad says, “God creates the world like a magician; and prakriti – the so-called prakriti about which we have hearing so much through the Sankhya and other philosophies – is the medium of the expression of that magical power of God. The Vedanta doctrine considers prakriti as a magical power of God, and not a totally independent existence as the Sankhya classical doctrine would hold. Therefore, the Svetasvatara Upanishad says, “Prakriti is maya; maya is prakriti.” Maya is another name for prakriti . Maya is another name that Vedanta uses for the very substance that is called prakriti of three gunas. Maya has three gunas, and prakriti has three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas.

Māyinaṁ tu maheśvaram: The magic of maya is wielded by the magician, Ishvara. Ishvara is the magician. Sa māyī sṛjatī-tyāhuḥ śvetāśvatara-śākhinaḥ: The Svetasvatara doctrines tell us that God, the magician, performed this magical trick of creation, and He can withdraw it if He wants, just as a magician can withdraw his tricks anytime.

The various doctrines and stories of creation adumbrated in the various Upanishads are now mentioned briefly in the following verses. How is this world created? Different Upanishads say different things. What do they say? These views held by the different Upanishads regarding creation are stated here.

Ātmā vā idam agre’bhūt sa īkṣata sṛjā iti, saṁkalpenā sṛjallokān sa etāniti bahvṛcāḥ (3). The Aitareya Upanishad says that the universal Atman alone was there. It willed, “Let me create this world.” In the beginning of creation, there was nothing except the Atman. It willed, as it were, “Let me become many.” It willed. That is important to note. And by the way of mere will, it manifested all these worlds of five elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether. This is briefly the statement made by the Aitareya Upanishad of the Rig Veda.

Khaṁ-vāyvagni-jalorvyoṣadhi-annadehāḥ kramādamī, saṁbhūtā brahmaṇas-tasmād-etasmādātmano’khilāḥ (4). Bahusyāham-evātaḥ prajāyey-eti kāmataḥ, tapas-taptvā’sṛjat-sarvaṁ jagad-ity-āha tittiriḥ (5). The Taittiriya Upanishad has another doctrine altogether. It says satyaṁ jñānam anantam brahma (Tait 2.1.1): Truth, knowledge, infinity is the Absolute. It was alone there. Suddenly it willed; it became space. It became emptiness, the repository of further creation. Space became air, air became fire, fire became water, water became earth. Earth produced all the vegetables, plants, trees, etc. – the articles of diet for living beings; and the food that we eat becomes the substance of this physical body, which is verily constituted of the very food that we eat. This is the kind of creation that the Taittiriya Upanishad describes gradually.

This physical body of our individuality is constituted of the stuff of the diet that we take, which is mainly that which is drawn from the vegetable and plant kingdom which grow on the earth – which is the condensed form of water, which is the condensed form of fire, which is the friction created by air, which is the movement in space, which is the will of God. This is the series, the linkage of the creational process.

Thus, the Atman has become all these things. “May I become the many.” The Atman willed in this manner. But the Taittiriya Upanishad describes it in a different manner. It willed, and that will is called tapas. The universal concentration of Brahman consciousness is the original tapas, whose heat manifested this world of five elements; thus the Taittiriya Upanishad tells us.

Idam-agre sad-evāsīd-bahutvāya tad-aikṣata, tejo’bannāṇḍa jādīni sasarjeti ca sāmagāh (6). The Chhandogya Upanishad has another story altogether. “Pure Being alone was,” the Upanishad says. Pure Being agitated, as it were. It set up a vibration within itself, and the vibration condensed itself into the formative principles called sabda, sparsa, rupa, rasa and gandha, which concretised into the five gross elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether. This is briefly what a section of the Sama Veda – namely, the Chhandogya Upanishad – tells us about creation.

Visphuliṅgā yathā vahner jāyante’kṣaratastathā, vividhāścijjaḍā bhāvā ityāthar vaṇikī śrutiḥ (7). The Mundaka Upanishad, which is a part of the Atharva Veda, says: “Creation is something like sparks emanating from a large conflagration of fire. For instance, millions and millions of sparks jet forth when there is a huge forest fire. In a similar manner, the cosmic fire of Gods will ejects millions of sparks – scintillating, having in their essence the same quality of God, but individually scattered in different directions as parts of a whole. As sparks emanate from fire, individuals emanate from God. This is the Mundaka Upanishad doctrine.

Even the inanimate objects are manifestations of consciousness only. The Upanishad here reconciles the so-called contradictory doctrines of materialism and idealism, realism and idealism, pragmatism and philosophy, etc. The so-called unconscious things in the world are not really bereft of consciousness. Consciousness is said to sleep in unconscious matter such as stone. It is sleeping; but it is still there. This very consciousness which is sleeping in inanimate things like stone breathes in plants and vegetables. It starts dreaming in animals. It starts thinking clearly in the human individual. The same consciousness is there in everything, whether it is animate or inanimate.

Jagad-avyākṛtaṁ pūrvam-āsīḍ-vyākriyatādhunā, dṛśyābhyām nāma-rūpābhyāṁ virāḍādiṣu te sphuṭe (8). Virāṇ-manur-naro gāvaḥ kharā-śvā jāvayas tathā, pipīlikā vadhi dvandvam iti vājasa neyinaḥ (9). The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us that creation took place in this manner. Originally, it was an undifferentiated mass. Scientists call it nebular dust. Nebular dust has no shape; it is a pervasive potential. It is disturbed. Nobody can say why it is disturbed. The sattva-rajas doctrine is not known to scientists. There is something taking place. The heat of all the galaxies, the stars, the sun, and the black holes or the white holes, as they say, are all condensation of this original nebular dust. Such a condition is unmanifest.

The Manu Smriti tells us: In the beginning, what was there? Darkness only prevailed. No light was there, because light is condensation of energy. Unless there is a disturbance in the distribution of heat, there will be no energy available for action. This is the entropy theory of modern physics. If there is equal distribution of heat, the whole universe will become cold in one instant. There is concentration of heat in some places, and that becomes the stars, that becomes the sun, that becomes fire. But if we distribute the entire available heat in the whole cosmos equally, it will be cold, and there will be the end of creation.

Similarly, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us about the creation of the universe as having been totally unmanifest, once upon a time. Then it became manifest by gradual condensation into name and form, specification into individuality, visible or even invisible. This Cosmic Unmanifest becomes the well-known principles of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat, whose natures we will be studying in the sixth chapter of the Panchadasi, which will come later.

Such is the way in which this original Unmanifest gets revealed in detail, that not only does it become Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat cosmically, it becomes the denizens in heaven. It becomes the angels and the fairies and the gods in the higher regions. It becomes the demons and devils or evil persons, as we think. It becomes human beings. It becomes plants and animals. It becomes even the ants that are crawling. The consciousness of Brahman goes even to that level in creation. This is what the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us. There are varieties of theories of creation.