Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda


Discourse 24

Chapter 6: Chitradipa – Light on the Analogy of a Painted Picture
Verses 38-54

Āropitasya dṛṣṭānte rūpyaṃ nāma yathā tathā, kūṭasthā dhyasta vikṣepa nāmā hamiti niścayaḥ (36). Idamaṁśaṁ svataḥ paśyan rūpya mitya bhimanyate, tathā svaṃ ca svataḥ paśyan ahami tyabhi manyate (37). Idantva rūpyate bhinne svatvā hante tathe ṣyatām, sāmānyaṁ ca viśeṣaśca hyubhaya trāpi gamyate (38). In that mother-of-pearl which was shining like a silver piece, the real aspect is only the mother-of-pearl, and the silverness is foisted upon it. The silver is quite different from the mother-of-pearl.

“This is silver.” When we make statements of this kind, the word ‘this’ demonstrates the reality that is there, which we are actually perceiving as a substratum which is the mother-of-pearl; but the silverness is not actually there. We have superimposed the shining character of the object on the substance of the object, and the substantiality of the object on the shining character. The shining thing is understood to be a silver piece. Actually, the luminosity is the cause of this misconception.

There is a generality and a particularity in this perception of silver. The generality is what is really there, and the particularity is what is not there. What is really there is the mother-of-pearl, and what is not there is the silver. We make a confusion of two issues and then utter a sentence, “This is silver.” The unreal and the real are brought togetherappearance and reality are jumbled upin all perceptions of this kind.

Even when we say “This is the world”, the same mistake is committed. Thisness, the substantiality that we attribute to this world, is the Brahman Consciousness that is at the back of all things. But the worldness is like the silver seen in a piece of mother-of-pearl. Here the mother-of-pearl is Brahman; the silver is the world. We superimpose the externality and multiplicity characterising the world upon Brahman, which is indivisible; and we superimpose the Existence aspect of Brahman on the multiplicity and externality of the world and say, “The external world exists; multiple objects exist.” This is a wrong statement because the multiple objects do not exist, in the same way as silver does not exist. What exists is something else, and what appears is another thing altogether. This is the difference between the general existence and the particular appearance.

Deva dattaḥ svayaṁ gacchet tvaṁ vikṣasva svayaṁ tathā, ahaṁ svayaṁ na śaknomīti evaṁ loke prayujyate (39). When we refer to the self, we use the Sanskrit word Svayam. “Devadatta will himself go.” “You yourself please look into this matter.” “I myself cannot do this work.” In all these statements we have used the word ‘self’ unconsciously.

Why do we go on saying self, self, self? The idea is that we cannot escape the association of a peculiar thing called selfhood, either in referring to ourselves or to someone else. Here, the selfhood of a thing comes into high relief whether or not we are aware that such a thing is happening. No one can make any statement without the association of a nominative, a substantive, a selfhood in the sentence.

Idaṁ rūpyaṁ idaṁ vastram iti yad vad idaṁ tathā, asau tvamaha mityeṣu svaya mityabhi manyate (40). In the same way as we say “I myself”, “you yourself”, “he himself”, etc., we are used to making statements of another kind. “This is silver.” “This is cloth.” “This is of this kind or this is of that kind.” Here in this second variety of statements, the word ‘self’ is not used. It is an externality that is emphasised. Only objectivity is taken into account when it is said, “This is silver, this is cloth, this is a pot, this is a building, this is this kind of thing, this is that kind of thing.”

Ahantvāt bhidyatāṁ svatvaṁ kūṭasthe tena kiṁ tava, svayaṁ śabdārtha evaiṣa kūṭastha iti me bhavet (41). Therefore, on the basis of the analogy of the mother-of-pearl and the silver, the world and Brahman, etc., we should distinguish between the Self and I. Though the real Self is the I, and the real I is the Self, we mistake this physical body for the I and make statements of personality involved in action, speech, etc., when we say, “I shall do this work.” The individuality which is characterising the ‘I’ here is a false manifestation of the true Self, which is Svayam, through the intellect that represents the personality of the individual. What is Self? Svayam is itself Kutastha, the primary Atman of the individual.

Anyatva vārakaṁ svatvam iti ced anya vāraṇam, kūṭastha syātmantām vaktuḥ iṣṭa meva hi tad bhavet (42). When we say “I myself”, etc., or use the word ‘self’ anywhere in a statement, we distinguish between self and anything other than the self. Idam, tat, etc., ‘this’ and ‘that’demonstrative pronouns of this kind are distinguishable from selfhood. Anything that is external or far away, which is designated as ‘this’ and ‘that’, is not connected with the word ‘self’; only self-identical individuals are referred to as ‘self’, such as ‘I myself’, ‘you yourself’, ‘he himself’, etc.

The secondness of anything is set aside by the word ‘Svayam’, or ‘Self’. The word ‘Self’ distinguishes itself from anything that is not Self. All that is conceivable, perceivable or contactable is not Self. Anything that can be contacted through the sense organs, thought by the mind as an external object or even understood by the intellect as something outside is a not-Self. The Self is that which is the light at the back of even these conceptions and perceptions. The externality of the world and the individuality of the person are created by the limitation of Consciousness through the perceiving or cognising medium that is the intellect representing the five sheaths.

Kūṭastha syātmantām vaktuḥ iṣṭa meva hi tad bhavet. Kutastha Chaitanya, Atman and Self mean one and the same thing. Different words are used to designate one and the same Reality. The purpose of Kutastha, Atman, Self or Svayam is to abrogate any kind of external association with it. The concept of ‘I’ is so very intensely self-identical with itself that we cannot for a moment imagine that we are other than what we are. We may have large properties or belongings, but we will never say that the belonging is myself. We always say, “I have this property; I own this thing; it is mine.” We say “This book is mine” not “This book is I”. Even in ordinary parlance we make a distinction between our true self-identity and that which we are attached toobjects, property, etc. We never say, “This building is I; this property is I; this land is I; this money is I.” Nobody says that. They say, “It is mine.” So even when we make a mistake, we somehow or other introduce a distinction between the I-ness and the non I-ness, or the Self and the not-Self; and the I can be attributed only to the self-identical Consciousness, and not to anything that it appears to possess or to which it is related.

Svaya mātmeti paryāyau tena loke tayoḥ saha, prayogo nāstyathaḥ svatvaṁ ātmatvaṁ cānya vārakam (43). The words ‘Atman’ and ‘Svayam’ mean one and the same thing. We do not use Atman and Self at the same time. Atman is a Sanskrit word and Self is an English word, though they mean one and the same thing. The non-externalisable Self-identical Existence, the Pure Perceiver, incapable of externalisation and incapable of becoming an object in any waythat is Atman, that is Svayam, that is Self. Therefore, there is no possibility of connecting anything in the world with the Self. Otherwise, we would be feeling that the whole world is hanging on our body because it is our Self. The Self distinguishes itself from anything that is not itself; consciousness is distinguishable from matter, and all that is known by consciousness is of a material nature.

Ghaṭaḥ svayaṁ na jānātīti evaṁ svatvaṁ ghaṭādiṣu, acetaneṣu dṛṣṭaṁ cet dṛśyatā mātma sattvataḥ (44). Sometimes we say, “The pot itself has no consciousness.” The pot has no consciousness, but we sometimes use the word ‘self’ there also. The idea is that even inanimate objects have a selfhood in them in a potential form.

Inanimate things are Pure Consciousness itself in a sleeping condition, in a state of tamas. Where rajas and sattva are not manifest even a little, even in the smallest measurethere is only fixity, stability, and immovability of the tamogunaConsciousness also appears to be stable, fixed, immovable, lifeless. What we call life is only a manifestation of Consciousness through the medium of the subtle body. The stone has no subtle body, it is entirely physical and, therefore, Consciousness cannot reveal itself through anything that is subtler than the physicality which is its body.

Therefore it is that the stone, the pot, etc., cannot have self-consciousness; yet, Consciousness is there at the back in the form of Existence. Pure Existence is there, but consciousness is not there; freedom is also not there. Stones exist, but stones do not know that they exist, whereas we exist and we know that we exist. That is the difference between inanimate matter and an animate being which is conscious of itself. Yet, we cannot completely ignore the fact that Consciousness, being universal, is present even at the back of all inanimate things; otherwise, if it is to be considered as absent in inanimate things, there would be division in Consciousness and some part of the world would be divested of connection with Consciousness. Consciousness would become finite. That is not the case. Whether it is manifest or not, Consciousness is present in all things, and therefore we unwittingly use the word ‘self’. We use the word ‘self’ even in respect of pot, etc.: “The pot itself does not know.”

Cetanā cetana bhidā kūṭasthātma kṛtā na hi, kintu buddhi kṛtā’bhāsa kṛtai vetyava gamyatām (45). This difference between animate and inanimate things is not created by Consciousness or by the Kutastha itself. It is the distinction drawn between the reflection of the Atman in the intellect or the absence of it in certain things.

Chetana, or living entity, is that where, in its subtle body in the minute manifestation of thought or mind, Consciousness gets reflected. If the reflection is not there and it is zero, there would be no feeling of sensitivity, instinct, or even the sense of life. The distinction between life and non-life is not due to the presence or absence of Consciousness, because it is equally present everywhere. The distinction is because of the fact that the universal Consciousness in certain places or objects cannot manifest itself via the subtle body, as the subtle body itself is absent there; only the gross body is there, as in stone. But it manifests itself where there is a subtle body, as in living beingsanimals, human beings, etc. So the distinction between animate and inanimate is not brought about by Consciousness as such. It is caused by the reflection of Consciousness in the medium of the subtle body, whatever be the degree in which it is manifest in living beings.

Yathā cetana ābhāsaḥ kūṭasthe bhrānti kalpitah, acetano ghaṭādiśca tathā tatraiva kalpitaḥ (46). Just as individuality consciousness is falsely imputed to the universal Consciousness, in a similar manner the potness, stoneness and pure objectivity are also falsely superimposed on the universal Consciousness. This body is like a stone, really speaking. It is as inanimate as any object which has no sense or sensation. Therefore, this superimposition of materiality and externality on the universal Consciousness is common in both casesin the case of one’s own Self, where the body is superimposed on the Self, or in the other case where inanimate objects such as stone, etc., are superimposed on the Self and then we say the stone exists.

The stone cannot exist unless the Existence aspect of Brahman manifest there is in a tamasic form. Else, the stone will not exist. One aspect of Brahman is manifest in Existence, and another aspect is manifest in Existence-Consciousness. Only in the devatas, the gods, can we find all three manifestExistence-Consciousness-Bliss. In inanimate objects, only Existence is there. In human beings like us, there is only Existence-Consciousness. We do not have Bliss. We are very unhappy people. It is only in the divinities, the gods in heaven, that the Bliss aspect is said to be manifest. Sattva guna is only in heaven, not in the mortal world.

Tatte dante api svatvam iva tvama hamā diṣu, sarvatrā nugate tena tayo rapyātma teti cet (47). Te ātmatva’pyanugate tattedante tatastayoḥ, ātmatvaṁ naiva saṁbhāvyaṁ samyak tvāder yathā tathā (48). Wherever the word ‘self’ gets associated in a statement made in regard to any object, we may say selfhood is present there either manifestly or unmanifestly. But the selfhood is not present in the case of such statements that we make using ‘this’ or ‘that’ because the demonstrative pronouns ‘this’ and ‘that’ refer not to the self, but to something that is other than the self.

When we say “This is something” we refer to some object that is near, and when we say “That is something” we refer to an object that is far off. Nevertheless, both the terms ‘this’ and ‘that’ refer to something other than the self, whether it is near or far. Therefore, in these cases, in the employing of such terms as ‘this’ and ‘that’, the word ‘self’ is not used, indicating thereby that anything that is outside the self is non-self; therefore, it is unconscious. Not-self is unconscious; therefore, it becomes the object of consciousness. The self which is consciousness knows the not-self, but the not-self itself cannot know itself. It is divested of consciousness.

Ātmatvaṁ naiva saṁbhāvyaṁ: The idam-ta, or the thisness and thatness, are something like a quality or attribute that is associated with consciousness, such as propriety or impropriety, etc. Samyat means proper; asamyat means not proper. These qualities are attached to substances, things and persons, etc.not identifying it with persons, but existing as something external to them. Atmatva or selfhood, therefore, cannot be associated with anything which is designated as ‘this’ and ‘that’ because it is definitely outside the self.

Tatte dante svatā nyatve tvantā hante paras param, prati dvandvi tayā loke prasiddhe nāsti saṁśayaḥ (49). That and this, self and not-self, you and I, are opposing factors in experience. The remoteness of a thing is indicated by the term ‘that’, and the nearness is indicated by the word ‘this’. Selfhood is indicated by the word ‘self’, and externality is indicated by the two demonstrative pronouns ‘this’ and ‘that’. ‘You’ and ‘I’ also mean the same thing. The word ‘you’ implies a not-self. ‘I’ refers to the self.

The term ‘you’, even if it is applied to a human being, does not carry the conviction of selfhood being there because ‘you’ is distinguished from ‘I’. The statement “I wish to see you” implies the thing indicated by the term ‘you’ as being different from the ‘I’; and the whole point made out here is that consciousness cannot get identified with anything which is outside. Hence, two people cannot be real friends, because ‘I’ and ‘you’ are involved there. Whatever be the thickness of intimacy or friendship, as long as one is ‘I’ and the other is ‘you’, both cannot be ‘I’ and both cannot be ‘you’. No two persons can think alike, and no two persons can be eternal friends. ‘You’ is outside, and ‘I’ is inside.

Anyatāyāḥ prati dvandvī svayaṁ kūṭastha iṣyatām, tvantāyāh pratiyo gyeṣo’hami tyātmani kalpitaḥ (50). We have been mentioning again and again that the Kutastha Chaitanya is the opposite of the externality of anything whatsoever. Know this very well. The you-ness in a thing is different from the I-ness in a thing. As externality is different from the Kutastha Atman, ‘you’ is different from ‘I’, and so we should not use the word ‘you’ in future unless we want to distinguish that person from ourselves.

Ahantā svatvayor bhede rūpya tedanta yoriva, spaṣṭe’pi moha māpannā ekatvaṁ prati pedire (51). That the I associated with the body consciousness is different from the true Self that is universal is something that has been clarified now by this analysis. In spite of that, ignorant people confuse the two; they attribute the permanency of universal Consciousness to the I, and imagine that they are not going to die. Nobody believes that he will die one day or the other. After all, the time has not come. Why has it not come? Because Consciousness proper, Universality as such, cannot perish, and that imperishable Atman somehow or other gets reflected through this false I-hood attached to this body and compels this false I to also feel that it is perhaps deathless.

There is a dual consciousness in the physical I-ness. On the one hand, there is the feeling that nobody will die tomorrow, that there is still some time, that death is not immediate, though there is no guarantee that it is so. On the other hand, one knows that any day one can go. So we always believe two things at the same time. The mortality of the body with which the I is connected compels us to convince ourselves that one day we will go, and it can be even tomorrow. But at the same time the universal Consciousness, which is imperishable, tells us that we will not die tomorrow, that it will be after a long time, maybe after a hundred years. So we have two kinds of feeling always: the fear that we may die at any moment, and the feeling that we will not die like that so easily. We live in a state of conflict between the fear of death and the hope of not dying immediately. Ignorant people make a mistake of identifying the mortal ‘I’ with the infinite Consciousness.

Tādātmyā dhyāsa evātra pūrvoktā vidyayā kṛtaḥ, avidyāyāṁ nivṛttāyāṁ tat kāryaṁ vini vartate (52). Mutual superimposition as has been described between the Self and the not-Self is called tadatmya adhyasa in Sanskrit. Tadatmya adhyasa means the imposition of a character of one thing on another thing to which it really does not belong. Selfhood cannot belong to objects, yet we love objects as if they are our own self. We hug objects and love them as our own self because there is tadatmya adhyasa, or identity between the true Self and the object that is outside, through the medium of mental cognition and sensory perception.

On the other hand, there is a reverse order taking place. The objectivity is identified with the universality of Consciousness and we begin to feel that the movements in the world, the historical process and anything that changes here, is also a change in Consciousness. That is why we say, “I am moving.” The body is moving; the universal Consciousness in us does not move. All the statements that we make in regard to ourselves are wrong because they are applicable only to the body, but we somehow apply them to the true Self to give them some meaning. Similarly, the deathless nature of universal Consciousness is wrongly transposed to the perishable body and objects in the world, and they are imputed a sort of unreliable permanence, though we cannot say that anything in the world is permanent even for two days.

Avidyā’vṛti tādātmye vidya yaiva vinaśyataḥ, vikṣe pasya svarūpaṁ tu prārabdha kṣaya mīkṣate (53). Both the veiling aspect of avidya and the distracting aspect of vikshepa can be destroyed by vidya, or knowledge. The veiling aspect and the distracting aspect were studied in the previous discourse. Avidya has two functions. It prevents us from knowing what is therewe do not see anything at all as realand then it compels us to see what is not there. Brahman, which is there, is not seen; the world, which is not there, is seen. This is the avarana and vikshepa, veiling and distraction, that avidya does. This action of avidya can be destroyed only by vidya, true knowledge, insight into the nature of Reality.

Vikṣe pasya svarūpaṁ tu prārabdha kṣaya mīkṣate. This body, which is also a part of vikshepa, or distraction, continues for some time like any object in the world. The objects in the world appear to be continuing for some time, but not for all time. This body persists and appears to be continuing for as long as prarabdha karma continues. This body is a hardened form of the potencies of actions that we performed in the previous births, out of which a portion has been allotted for experience in this world. That portion has concretised itself into this solid body, and this body will continue to exist and live here in this world as long as that karma’s potency or momentum is not consumed, exhausted.

When the momentum is over, or when the potter releases his hand from the wheel, it stops movement. Similarly, the potter should not go on pushing the wheel again and again; otherwise, there will be no cessation of movement. We are the potter, and the karma is, of course, what we do. If any momentum that is created by the pushing of the wheelby the potter that we were in the previous birthcontinues, the body will also continue. When the potter no longer interferes with it and keeps quiet, the movement will cease one day, and the body will perish. But if we again push it by adding further karmas, called agami karma, the wheel will go on moving again and again, and there will be no cessation at all. Again rebirth will take place. So do not add further karmas; do not be like a potter pushing the wheel. Let the momentum that was there be there, and let it cease by itself, just as fire subsides when fuel is not any more added to it.

Upādāne vinaṣṭe’pi kṣaṇaṁ kāryaṁ pratīkṣate, ityāhus tārkikā stadvad asmākaṁ kim na saṁbhavet (54). Naiyayika and Vaisheshika philosophers, and some other philosophers also, are likely to feel that even if the cause ceases, the effect may continue for some time. They are called Tarkikas. For a moment we will find the effect there. If we keep an onion in a pot, the whole pot smells of onion; and if we remove the onion and throw it away, even then the smell will not go. For three days the smell of onions will remain. The cause has gone, but the effect continues. In a similar manner, Tarkikas (the Naiyayikas) say the continuance of the body should be explained as something practicable or possible even if the causes cease to exist.

The Vedanta doctrine says that the prarabdha karma does not actually obstruct the realisation of God. It does not persist as the Naiyayikas say, obstructing the Consciousness itself. We have an idea that prarabdha is always undesirable, obstructive, and a nuisance, but it is not like that. Prarabdha is only a name for the residuum of karma; and karma need not necessarily be bad karma. We must have done some good karma also; otherwise, how would it be possible for us to have knowledge in this birth, if the prarabdha was only obstructivetamasic and rajasic? We have a body caused by prarabdha, but are we not also illumined? Somehow or other we have consciousness of a higher life and are aspiring for God, in spite of the prarabdha being there.

This shows that all prarabdha is not bad. Sattvic prarabdha will permit the manifestation of consciousness of a higher life, even aspiration for God. Only the rajasic and tamasic aspects obstruct. And in most of us, by God’s grace, we should say, the aspiration for God has arisen. That means our prarabdhas, notwithstanding the fact that they are there in the form of this body, are not always obstructive. If they were totally obstructive, we would not have thought of God. The idea of religion and spirituality would not arise. We would only be muddled in the world and get sunk in samsara. That this has not happened to many of us means sattvic prarabdha is working. The Vedanta doctrine says that it does not mean that prarabdha is always obstructive. It is sometimes very helpful also, as in the case of when the sattvic aspect of it manifests, it permits the manifestation of knowledge.