Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 19

Chapter 4: Dvaita Viveka – Discrimination of Duality
Verses 26-37

There is the creation of God, Ishvara srishti, and the creation of the individual, jiva srishti. God’s creation is impersonal. It makes no distinction between one and another, but we, with an individual’s perception, make distinctions. One person’s perception is not the same as another person’s perception of an identical object or situation, but God’s creation is universally impartial.

The problems of life are not created by God. This is the great answer that this text gives us. There is no problem for God because there is no duality there, and no tension between aspects. There is no contradiction, and there is no perception of the world at all, inasmuch as the world becomes a content of Universal Consciousness. In the case of the jiva, the world is not a content of its consciousness. It stands outside. Here is a basic metaphysical difference between God’s thought and human thought. The whole universe is inside the consciousness of God; but in the case of the individual jiva, the world is outside the consciousness of the perceiver.

The question has been raised again and again: does the world exist independent of human thought, or does human thought modify the object to some extent? We have seen that there is a lot of difference created by the perceiving process, due to which an object appears to be desirable or otherwise. It becomes an object of like, dislike or neutrality on the part of people. If a person likes it, it is good. If a person does not like it, it is bad. In the case of a jivanmukta purusha, a realised soul, the thing is neither good nor bad. It has no value at all because he maintains a neutral position in respect of all things perceived on the background of universality of perspective.

Bhrānti svapna manorājya smṛtiṣ vastu mano mayam, jāgran manena meyasya na mano maya teti cet (26). It may be felt that, in the state of dream, the world of perception is entirely mental. We see it when we wake up. Is it the case with waking life also? Is the world that we see in front of us—these buildings, these hills and mountains, these things that we perceive with our eyes—also mental, or do things exist in themselves?

We have already tentatively answered this question. The substantiality and the basic neutrality of objects is God’s creation. The mountains do exist. They are not created by the mind of any person. The solar system exists. The rivers flow. People exist there, outside us. These are creations of God. But the attachments and emotional relationships which condition the perception of such impersonal objects of God’s creation are the jiva’s creation. The manner in which we look at a thing is not God’s creation. The thing itself is God’s creation, but the way in which we look at it is our creation. Therefore, here comes the distinction between an individual’s world and God’s world.

Does the world exist independently? Yes, it does exist, because it is Ishvara’s creation. But it has also another aspect, which is galvanised by the thought processes of the individuals when emotions and perceptual processes condition the object.

Bāḍhaṁ mane tu meyena yogāt syād viṣayā kṛtiḥ, bhaṣya vārtika kārābhyaṁ ayam artha udīritaḥ (27). Acharya Sankara is Bhasyakara, and Vartikakara is Sureshvara Acharya. Both these people held identical opinions in regard to this question of how the object is determined by mental processes.

When the objects are perceived by the mind, they produce an impression on the mind. As the impressions are created, the mind cognises the object in terms of the shape that it has taken, on account of the impression created on it by the object. There is, therefore, a secondary kind of perception that the mind is having in respect of objects.

It is held that we do not directly see anything as it is in itself. All the objects of the world that are seen by us are coloured by our mental vrittis, just as the nature of the lenses in a pair of spectacles determines the way in which we see the object. If the lens is coloured, then we will see objects coloured; or the lens can be concave or convex. The lens can be broken or dented, or some sort of distortion can be there, and then we will see the object with ups and downs, etc., though the objects themselves are not accountable in terms of these distortions. The determining factor of the mind by the objects is in terms of the impression created by them—as in a photographic camera, an impression is created by the object outside, and a picture of it is visible there.

Therefore, it is said that we see a picture of the world as a secondary perception of the object, and not as a primary perception. We can never know the object as it is in itself, independent of our mental cognition. We cannot stand totally outside the object and see it. We are somehow or other, consciously or unconsciously, connected with the object through psychic processes which whitewash, as it were, or colour wash or some kind of wash is done by the mind over the object, and then we pass judgment on things. Our judgment on any matter, or on any object whatsoever, is in light of how we receive the object into our mental process in a given condition. Our mental moods will tell us what kind of thing the world in front of us is. This has been explained by Acharya Sankara (Bhasyakara) and Vartikakara (Sureshvara Acharya, his own disciple) by an illustration.

Mūṣā siktaṁ yathā tāmraṁ tannibhaṁ jāyate tathā, rūpādīn vyāpnuva ccittaṁ tannibhaṁ dṛśyate dhruvam (28). When molten metal is cast into a crucible, the metal takes the shape of that crucible. The metal by itself has no shape. The world of objects, which is the creation of Ishvara, by itself does not present any differentiatedness in form. But it appears to be differentiated when it is cast in the mould of the vritti, or the psychosis of the mind of the cogniser, and that mould is the reason why we see things in a particular manner. The mould is the mental makeup, and it differs from one person to another person. It differs even in the same person under different psychological conditions. A child sees the world in one way, an adult sees it in another way. An enthusiast sees it in one way, a drooping spirit sees it in another way, and a dying man sees it in a different way, though the world is the same.

Vyañjako vā yathā’’loko vyaṁgyasy-ākāratā-miyāt, sarvārtha-vya-ñjakatvād-dhīḥ arthākārā pradṛśyate (29). When sunlight falls on an object, we say the object shines. Sunlight falls on a pot, and the pot shines. Actually, the pot does not shine; it is the light that shines. The light of the sun, which has by itself no shape or form, appears to take the shape of that pot, and we see the illumination taking the shape of that pot. There is a rotundity on the neck and the mouth, etc., of the pot, on which the light falls, and if we can closely observe the manner in which the pot shines, we will find that the light apparently takes the form of the object that it falls on, although the light itself has no shape.

In a similar manner, the world by itself has no shape or form. It is universally spread out in an equal fashion, but it takes a form as light takes a form when it falls on a particular object. Even in this case, the mind is the producer of the form. The world by itself is formless—it is ubiquitous, all-pervading—but the mind has a form. The desires of the mind cause the forms which the mind puts on under given conditions. Actually, this body of ours is also one form that our mind has taken. That is why bodies differ; it is because minds differ. Therefore, everything differs from one person to another person, from one thing to another thing.

Mātur manābhi niṣpattiḥ niṣpannaṁ meyam-eti tat, meyābhi saṅgataṁ tac-ca meyābhatvaṁ prapadyate (30). The process of the mind in the act of perception moves out of itself and envelops the object outside. The enveloping of the mind in terms of the object outside is called vritti vyakti—the enveloping of the vritti. The mind itself cannot cognise a thing, because it is not conscious. The consciousness has to be borrowed by it from the Atman inside. Just as a copper wire itself cannot be regarded as the flow of electricity, though the copper wire is necessary for the flow of electricity, the mind too is not the consciousness. Even if we connect the wire from one place to another place, the electricity will not flow through it unless another element is there to make it possible.

The consciousness of an object is a dual process. On the one hand, the mind has to take the shape of the object. The object has to be cast in the mould of the mind, but that does not mean that we are conscious. The consciousness is an element which is drawn from the soul inside, the Atman, which automatically moves together with the movement of the mind in terms of the object outside. Therefore, when we perceive an object, it does not mean that merely the mind moves. We ourselves seem to be moving towards it.

The consciousness is our own self, and so when the perception takes place, we appear to feel very much affected by the perception of the object. We are affected, which means to say that the consciousness is affected. Our very self is moulded. We get disturbed or we feel happy, as the case may be—a state of experience which is attended with consciousness. There is a dual action taking place: vritti vyakti, which is the modification of the mind enveloping the object outside, and phala vyakti, which is consciousness following the movement of the mind in terms of the object. Vritti vyakti and phala vyakti are two terms used to designate the mental envelopment of the object outside and the consciousness illuminating that process of mental envelopment. Vritti vyakti, phala vyakti—thus, the object becomes illumined and we begin to perceive and cognise the nature of the object.

The movement of the mind in respect of an object outside is something very significant. It shows that the mind is not only inside the body; it moves outside. The perception of a mountain in a distant place has to be accounted for. How do we see a distant star? The stars do not enter our eyes; they are very far away. The hill is not inside the eyeball. How do we see the object when it is so far away? There is some connection between the perceiving eye and the perceived object, though there is a spatial distance between one and the other. How come? How do we explain it? The consciousness of that distant object, while it has no physical contact, is the perception of the senses.

What happens is that the mind moves in terms of the object. The mind can move even up to the skies; it can reach heaven. There is no distance for the mind. It is all-pervading. In this way, we may know that our mind is connected with the Cosmic Mind. If the Cosmic Mind is not acting, we cannot perceive a thing even if it is one foot away from us. We cannot see anything because that ‘one foot away’ is a distance creating a gulf between the knower and the known. That gulf has to be bridged by something. As that something can be neither us nor the object, there is a third element which is neither the object nor the subject. That third element is the Cosmic Mind, whose presence is not known to us.

The Cosmic Mind is an invisible, superintending principle that causes all perception. The mind connects itself with the Cosmic Mind, and only then the distance of the object is obviated. Even if the object is very far away, the mind can know because it sees through the operation of the Cosmic Mind. The mind moves towards the object. Thus, the enveloping process has been explained as vritti vyakti and phala vyakti.

Saty evaṁ viṣayau dvau sto ghaṭau mṛṇmaya dhīmayau, mṛnnmayo mānameyaḥ syāt sākṣi bhāsyas tu dhīmayaḥ (31). There are two kinds of objects in the world: physical objects and psychological objects. A physical object is that which is there independently by itself, like a building. But it is also a psychological object for a person who owns the building, and it is a psychological object for the person who wants to auction that building. It is the owner’s attachment to the building that makes that building a psychological object to him. It is no more a physical object. “It is my building.” And if we have borrowed money from the bank and we do not pay it back, it will become the object of auction by the bank. There also, it becomes psychological. Whether we want it or do not want it, either way, it is a psychological object.

But the building itself does not know what is happening. It does not know that somebody owns it. It does not know that somebody is auctioning it. It may not even know that it is being broken, because the building is made up of little bricks and mortar and steel and other things, and these parts of the building may not be conscious that the building exists at all.

The building exists in the mind of a man, as the land exists in the mind of a person. We say, “This is my land. I purchased the land yesterday.” What do we mean by “purchased the land”? The land was there even before we purchased it. How did it become ours now? What is that consciousness of ‘myness’ that we have suddenly developed? Did it become ours yesterday? Today it has become ours and we are happy that so much land is there, as if it was not there yesterday. It was there yesterday also. Why did we say it was not there? It is because we felt in our mind that the land belonged to another.

The whole process is the question of belonging. The very land that was not ours has become ours. How did it become ours? Does that land stick to our skin? Are we carrying it on our head? The land is there as it was. What is the difference now? We have signed a paper on which some words were written, before some person whom we call an authority, and suddenly he says, “This land is yours.” The whole thing is a psychological process: someone saying “It is not mine from today” and another saying “It is mine from today” and a third person confirming “Yes, it is yours”. The third person is the registrar; the other person who says “It is not mine” is the seller, and the person who says “It is mine” is the purchaser.

What is this? Nothing has happened. Three people are speaking different words, and those words have created a world of difference; and we sleep well today with a large body of land in our mind, while the land does not know that any registration has taken place, that somebody has sold it or somebody has purchased it. This is how the world goes on.

There are two kinds of objects, physical and psychological, just as the pot is physically made of clay but is mentally made of the mental reaction of the owner of that pot. Mṛnnmayo mānameyaḥ syāt sākṣi bhāsyas tu dhīmayaḥ: By actual sensory perception, we can know the physical object, but the mental aspect behind the activity of the sense organs is what makes it a psychological object, in spite of it being a physical object as known by the senses.

Anvaya vyatirekā bhyāṁ dhīmayo jīva bandhakṛt, satya smin sukha duḥkhestaḥ tasmin nasati na dvayam (32). By anvaya and vyatireka, positive and negative analysis, we can know that our mind is the cause of our troubles. The land has not caused us any trouble. Our mind has caused the trouble because when we feel that something is ours, or when we feel that something is not ours, we have a disturbance in the mind. Our feeling is the cause of the disturbance. Either it is ours or it is not ours. In any case, it is a disturbance to our mind. If it is ours, it becomes a problem to maintain it and see that it is not taken away from us. If it is not ours, the problem is that it is not ours. So either way, whether it is ours or it is not ours, it is a problem. Satya smin sukha duḥkhe: When this mind persists, we have joy and sorrow; otherwise, we have neither joy nor sorrow, if things are not connected with us either sensorially or through the mind.

Asaṭ-yapi ca bāhyārthe svapn-ādau baddhyate naraḥ, samādhi-supti-mūrcchāsu satyapya smin-na baddhyate (33). The objects do not bind us. This is something very clearly observable by certain illustrations like dream, etc. In dream, objects do not exist. These non-existent objects in dream can cause sorrow and joy to us. We can jump in fright if a tiger pounces on us. We can yell out if a burglar enters our mental world. We can feel happy if we are crowned a king in dream. We have joy and sorrow in dream even if the dream objects do not really exist. So our joys and sorrows can be there even if the objects do not exist. But in the state of deep sleep, in the state of samadhi, or even in the state of swoon, the objects may be existing but they will not trouble us, and we will not have any sense of joy or sorrow.

In deep sleep, for instance, the world does exist in the same way as it existed in waking, but we neither feel happiness nor unhappiness in sleep. Why does the object not harass us in the state of deep sleep if it caused joy and sorrow in waking? If it was really the source of joy and sorrow, it must be perpetually causing this state in all conditions of ours. At least in one condition, deep sleep, it does not affect us either in the sense of joy or in the sense of sorrow. So objects may not exist, as in the dream state, and yet they may be sources of joy and sorrow. But objects may exist and yet they may not cause us any trouble, as in the case of samadhi, God-realisation, sleep, swoon, etc. So objects are not the cause of joy and sorrow. They may be existent or not, it is immaterial. Our mental reaction is the cause.

Dūra deśaṁ gate putre jīvatye vātra tat pita, vipra laṁ bhaka vākyena mṛtaṁ matvā praroditi (34). Suppose there is a father whose son has gone to a foreign country. He receives false news that the son has died in a plane crash. The father has a heart attack. Actually, nothing has happened; the news was false. The son is getting on well. So, even if nothing has happened to the son, the father can have such sorrow that he may break down. The breaking down of the father’s mind is not caused by anything that is happening to the object, because nothing has happened. On the other hand, if the son has really died but for ten years the father has not received the news, he will be happy. How is it that the death of the son does not cause sorrow to the father, and why did sorrow come to the father while the son did not really die? So do we say that the object is the cause of joy and sorrow? It is not. Merely because our mind has reacted in a particular manner, it looks like either this or that condition. If the son is alive but the father receives the wrong information that he is dead, the father’s doom is near. But even if the son is really dead and the news has not reached him, the father will not weep; he will be as happy as he was.

Mṛte’pi tasmin vārtāyam aśrutāyāṁ na roditi, ataḥ sarvasya jīvasya bandha kṛn mānasaṁ jigat (35). What is the conclusion, therefore? All bondage of every kind in this world is caused by the mind only. Mana eva manuṣyāṇāṁ kāraṇaṁ bandhamokṣayoḥ, bandhāya piṣyāsaktaṁ muktaṁye nirviṣayaṁ smṛtam (Am.U. 2). This is a famous verse which is oft quoted. The mind is bound when it is attached to an object; the mind is free when it is not attached to the object. The impure mind is that which has attachment to things; the pure mind is that which has no attachment to things. The world is mental in a very, very important sense indeed. For everyone in this world, the source of sorrow is the internal mental modification. Do we mean to say that the world is inside our mind?

Vijñāna vādo bāhyā rthavaiyarthyāt-syād iheti-cet, na hṛdyā-kāra-mādhātuṁ bāhyasy-āpekṣit-tvataḥ (36). When we see a snake in the rope, do we really see the snake or do we see the rope? What are we seeing there? We cannot see two things. Either we are seeing the rope or we are seeing the snake. Now, what is it that we are actually seeing? We cannot easily give an answer offhand. We cannot say, “I am seeing the rope.” If that were the case, we would not have cried in fear and jumped over it. But if we had really seen the snake, it would have been there even after the light was brought and clear perception was there.

In this sense, this answer is given to the question whether the objective world is conditioned by the mind in a specific manner or it is conditioned entirely. The doctrine is very clear: Ishvara srishti is independent of the mind. The world of perception, which consists of solid objects—the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, ether—is not created by the mind of any individual. But the meaning or the value that we attach to the objects is the creation of the individual mind. There cannot be appearance without reality. There cannot be a snake without a rope. There cannot be perception unless there is something outside. Though we may not perceive that something in a proper manner on account of a peculiar defect in our mental process, it does not follow that nothing is outside.

Vijnanavada is a subjectivist position maintained in certain schools of Buddhism which holds that the world does not exist even physically. They do not believe in Ishvara srishti, or God’s creation. What they say is that even the brick that we see is not really a solid brick. It is only a conditioned concretised form of the mental operation in connection with a larger mental operation, called alayavijnana. Alayavijnana is a word in Buddhist psychology which corresponds to what we call the Cosmic Mind. The world is ultimately mental. Even in the sense of it being there objectively, it is to be considered as mental. It is not physical. In the sense of actual perception by the individual, it is secondarily mental and also primarily mental.

Now here, the subject has been dealt with in a different way. The author of the Panchadasi says that while it is established that the world of perception is basically a creation of God’s mind, we cannot consider it as a product of individual psychology because the world exists independent of the mental operations of the individual, but we can say that the whole world is mental in the sense that it is God’s mind appearing as the universe.

So finally, the world is mental. But as philosophers say, it is metaphysically mental, not psychologically mental. If God’s mind can be regarded as a mind at all, then we may say that the whole world is mental because it is the will of God. But it is not mental in the sense of our thinking. We cannot produce a tree by merely thinking that there is a tree. Hence, there is a distinction between the pure subjectivism of the Vijnanavada of the Buddhists and the metaphysical idealism of the Vedanta philosophy, which accepts that the world exists as a creation of Ishvara, the Cosmic Mind, yet it is conditioned by the perception of the individual mind.

Vaiyarthya mastu vā bāhyaṁ na vārayitu mīśmahe, prayojana mapekṣante na mānānīti hi sthitiḥ (37). We cannot do the world or undo the world. There is a common perception of all people in respect of certain things. A general perception of the world in a uniform manner by all people shows that the world is there independently of individual perception. The world is not there merely because of our whim and fancy. We cannot say “Let it be there” and it would be there, and if we say “It should not be there” it is not there. It cannot be like that. So a very careful distinction has to be drawn between what is called the psychological world and the physical world.

The Vedanta doctrine is not subjectivism. It is not Mayavada in the sense of an understanding of the nature of the world as total non-existence. Acharya Sankara does not say that, and no Vedanta doctrine says that. They accept that it is finally the will of God that appears as this cosmos. In that sense, it is Pure Consciousness. The Vedanta is a peculiar doctrine which accepts the existence of the objective world in one way, as the product of the will of God, and on the other hand it also accepts that it is only the nature of Consciousness. In spite of its existence as an outside something, it does not cease to be Consciousness.

From our point of view, from the individual point of view, the world is a solid, physical thing. We can hit our head against a wall and say that the world is not mental. But from the point of view of the substance out of which the whole world is made, it is Universal Consciousness. Therefore, it is not physical. The physicality vanishes in the eye of Ishvara. It manifests itself only when there is space and time and externality from the point of view of the perceiver, or the subjective mind.

This is a very difficult subject. We are likely to mix up two issues and either say that the world does not exist or, like a materialist, say that only the world exists. Both arguments are not correct. Neither is it true that the world exists independent of the mind, nor is it true that it is created by the mind. There is a relativity of action and reaction between the mind which is cognising and the object that is perceived. A very important distinction is drawn between God’s creation, Ishvara srishti, and the individual’s creation, jiva srishti, which is the subject of this chapter.