Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda


Discourse 26

Chapter 6: Chitradipa – Light on the Analogy of a Painted Picture
Verses 70-77

There is a gradual development of thought in the chapters of the Panchadasi, as you would have noticed during our studies. It is not that anything is said anywhere in different chapters. It is important to connect the thoughts into a systematic whole in order that the entire presentation may become a guideline for our whole life. The coherence aspect of the teachings is based on the coherence of the structure of life itself. It is not that we do anything we like, right from morning to evening. There is a system in our activity, in our mode of thinking, in our general outlook of life.

The nature of the world determines the behaviour of people in respect of the world. It is a cosmological system, if we can put it sothe methodology of the gradual descent of reality, stage by stage, until it reaches the lowest category of earth consciousness. We are now bound to the world of earth consciousness in the sense that we are perpetually aware of a material world outside us. In such an intensity do we become conscious of the world outside; and the world seems to be flooding us with its variety and compulsion to such an extent that many a time we forget that we exist at all. Our existence is drowned in the existence of the world. We are concerned with the world very much, not paying sufficient attention to the fact that this concern for the world would not have any meaning if we ourselves do not exist.

This is the reason why the very First Chapter starts with the fundamental question of our existence itself. Let the world be there or not; that is a different question. Are you existing? If you are sure that you exist, on the basis of that conviction you can develop further relations with things outsidethe world, etc. The First Chapter was therefore devoted to the establishment of a fundamental reality behind the human individual, independent of the three states of waking, dreaming and sleeping. This is the subject of the First Chapter, if you can recollect what you have heard.

Consciousness is externalised in the state of waking, internalised in the state of dream, and totally stifled, as it were, in the state of sleep; nevertheless, it persists as a continuity in all the three states of waking, dream and sleep. Because of its continuity in the three states, we are able to recollect our identity the next morning when we wake up from sleep. If this Consciousness were not continuously present in the three states, there would be no awareness of our identity as a person who slept yesterday. We would be aware of somebody else.

Essentially, the First Chapter dealt with the nature of the fundamental Consciousness which is our essential nature, into which we enter in the state of deep sleep, where our Consciousness is not connected to any of the sheathsneither to the causal, nor to the intellectual, mental, sensory, vital or physical. It appears to be existing there as an unadulterated, pure, featureless universality. Our essential nature is universal Consciousnessnot body consciousness or world consciousness or object consciousness. This is the quintessence of the First Chapter. The establishment of the existence of a reality behind the individual is the primary theme of the First Chapter.

In the Second Chapter, the objective analysis of the world was taken up: the world of five elements. Though we are to some extent conscious that our essential nature cannot be a physical embodiment in the form of this body, mind, etc., and that we are basically a consciousness that is imperishable, the world is too much for us, many a time. The world is constituted of five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The Second Chapter engaged itself in the distinguishing of the form taken by these elements and the reality that is behind them.

The point that was essentially made out there was that when we say “Ether exists, fire exists, water exists, earth exists”, etc., we are likely to consider existence as a kind of predicate or an adjunct to space, air, etc. Existence is not a quality of space; it is space that is a quality of Existence. In our statements such as “The building exists, this exists, that exists” we wrongly attribute a qualitative character to Pure Existence that is at the back of all things, and give substantiality to that which is really a quality.

The Existence aspect of anything is primary, and the form of that thing is secondary. Space, air, fire, water and earth are forms taken by Pure Existence in an objective fashion. Existence has to be separated from the forms taken by Existence in the shape of these five elements. Pure Existence is universal, as distinguishable from the five elements. The universality of Consciousness was established objectively in the Second Chapter, as it was established subjectively in the First Chapter.

In the Third Chapter, we had a practical analysis of the question: “Who am I?” Are we the body or anything that we consider as this psychophysical complex? With analysis of this situation, it was proven that we are not the physical body because the physical body has no consciousness. In the dream state, we are not even aware that the physical body is existing. That is to say, we can exist even minus consciousness of the physical body.

In the state of deep sleep, even the consciousness of the mind being there is absent. In dream, the mind is operating; the body is not there. But in deep sleep, even the mind is not there. When both the body and the mind are not there, what is there in the state of deep sleep? Something is there. Do we exist in sleep? Yes, we exist. In what form do we exist? Not as the body, not as the mind. But we always consider ourselves as a complex of body and mind. Psychophysicality is regarded as the true nature of our personality, while really we are neither of these. This has been established in this analysis of the Third Chapter, or the inquiry into the nature of the individual, who is Pure Universality and is none of the five sheathsnot the physical, not the vital, not the sensory, not the mental, not the intellectual, not the causal.

Thus, in all the three chapters we had this one single theme driven into us, that Universality, which is the Pure Brahman Consciousness, is at the back of the three states on the one side, at the back of the five elements on another side, and at the back of the five sheaths on the third side.

In the Fourth Chapter, a very important one, we were introduced into the concept of Ishvara and jivacreation of the world by God, and the creation of the individual psychologically. The world of five elements, this entire cosmos, is created by God. It is an objective reality. The presentation of these objects in our perception through the sense organs is what we call consciousness of an object.

The object is there independently by itself, unconcerned with what we are thinking about it. The mountain is there, the river is there, the sun is there, the moon is there, stars are there, and they are not bothered about what we are thinking about them. That is one aspect of the matter. Objective reality is the creation of God AlmightyIshvara srishti it is called. Ishvara srishti is God’s creation, impersonal in its nature, and it is not concerned with the viewpoints, whims and fancies or emotions of individual people. This is the objective character of creation, known as Ishvara srishti.

But there is also the subjective side, which is the world created by our own selves. Our sorrows are not caused by God. He does not create anything specially for certain persons. The experience of joy and sorrow is a personal matter, and is engendered by the reaction of the mind of the individual with respect to the objects outside, which are all God’s creation, Ishvara srishti.

Loves and hatreds are the cause of sorrow. Certain things in the world are regarded by the individual mind as its own, and it segregates everything else as not its own. What it considers as its own, it clings to; and what it considers as not its own, it rejects. The reason for clinging to objects is a peculiar juxtaposition of values between the mind and the object concerned, and this juxtaposition does not continue for all times. The relationship between our mind and the object is not a permanent one. As the mood changes, as evolution progresses onward, as age increases, our wisdom increases, and we will find that our ideas about the world go on changing and what we wanted yesterday may not be the thing that we want today.

So it is very funny that one should cling to some things under the impression that they are the source of happiness, while actually they are fickle in their location. Not only is our mind fickle, but even the situation of the object is fickle. The object will not be there for all eternity for us to be attracted to. As the mind changes and progresses in the evolutionary process, the objects of the world also change. We will not always have the same thing to cling to. Therefore, subjectively and objectively there is a mistake in the attachment of the mind to objects of sense, and this attachment is the source of sorrow. That psychological world created by the individual is called jiva srishti, individual creation. This distinction was drawn in the Fourth Chapter.

The Fifth Chapter concentrated on the elucidation of the four great sentences of the Upanishads: prajñānam brahma, aham brahmāsmi, tat tvam asi, ayam ātmā brahma. Prajñānam brahma: Consciousness is Brahman; the ultimate nature of reality is Pure Consciousness. This is the definition of Brahman as we have it in the Aitareya Upanishad of the Rigveda. Aham brahmāsmi: The fundamental consciousness in us is identical with the universal Consciousness. This is a statement that occurs in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad of the Yajurveda. Tat tvam asi: Thou art that. This individual is basically identical with the Absolute. This is a statement that comes in the Chhandogya Upanishad of the Samaveda. Ayam ātmā brahma: This Self is Brahman verily, basically, fundamentally. This statement comes in the Mandukya Upanishad of the Atharvaveda. This was the substance of the Fifth Chapter.

It is when we enter the Sixth Chapter that we actually wallow through a large body of thoughts right from the subject of creation, which was compared to the process of the painting of a picture. That is how the Sixth Chapter started. We have a canvas, first of all, for the purpose of painting, and then the canvas is stiffened with starch; that is the second stage. Then on the stiffened cloth, outlines are drawn for painting as the third stage. Lastly, ink is filled in as the fourth stage.

So is creation. In the beginning, there was no creation. The Absolute Being alone was. That background of everything which is uncontaminated with the creative process is Brahman, the Absolute Being. That wills to create, as it were. That willing process is something like the stiffening of the universality of Consciousness, as by starch the cloth is stiffened. That condition of the concentration of the will of Brahman towards the future creation is the state of Ishvara. The drawing of the outline of the future creation is the state of the Hiranyagarbha-tattva where, as in a dream, we see the objects of the world faintly, but not clearly. The outline of the future creation is seen in Hiranyagarbha-tattva. In Virat, the final form of creation, the entire world occurs and variety is seen.

Now, the details in regard to this are the theme of the Sixth Chapter. God, the world and the individualIshvara, jagat and jivaare the subject of this chapter. Ishvara creates this world through His maya shakti, which is another name for the pure sattva guna, the property of the equilibrium of prakriti. Inasmuch as pure sattva is universal in its nature, Brahman reflected in that sattva is also universal. Therefore, Ishvara is universal; therefore, He is also omniscient; therefore, He is also omnipotent. But when the sattva of prakriti is submerged by the activity of rajas and tamas, individuality crops up. Rajas is the distracting power of prakriti. It divides things, one from the other. So we are all divided. Each person is different from every other person, and every atom is different from every other atom. Segregation is the action of rajas.

This has been done; and so each one, each entity, each item, thinks that it is different from the other. On account of this division of consciousness, and the feeling of individuality or isolation in each one, there is a difficulty that arises spontaneouslynamely, the impossibility to exist in a finite condition. The separation causes the consciousness of finitude. Each one thinks, “I am limited.” Now, who would like to be limited? It is a sorrow to be in a state of limitation of freedom. In order that this limitation can be made good, the
individual that is finite engages itself in certain actions by which it comes in contact with the objects of the world and creates a relative atmosphere of the inclusiveness of objects with itself.

When we associate ourselves with people outside or things in general in a social form, there is a false appearance of our finitude getting expanded. We feel more comfortable in a society, in a body of an organisation, as a citizen of a nation, than when we are totally individual. It does not mean that the nation or the organisation has expanded our finitude. There is a false feeling of security on account of an externalised or foisted increase in the dimension of personality. Life is ultimately a falsehood because of the false assurance given to us that we are secure in this world by association with external objects, persons and things, while we are totally insecure finally. We are basically finite. This finitude does not go. It cannot go by any kind of external contact. It can go only by the internalisation of consciousness. The infinity that we are asking for, the infinity that is the opposite of the finitude that we are, is not outside; it is inside. It is in Selfhood, and therefore any kind of external contact does not bring this security that we seek in this world.

The explanation of the nature of God’s creation is over, and the nature of the jiva, or the individual, is taken up. It is tentatively mentioned that the mistake of the individual, or the jiva, is to identify itself with its personality, its individuality. This is the subject which we were discussing till yesterday.

This individuality of ours is constituted of an involvement of Consciousness in the five sheaths already mentionedcausal, intellectual, mental, vital and physical. The intellectual body is also the source of the ego-consciousness, the consciousness of personality that we entertain.

Ahaṁ vṛtti ridaṁ vṛttiḥ ityantaḥ karaṇaṁ dividhā, vijñānaṁ syādahaṁ vṛttiḥ idaṁ vṛttir mano bhavet (70). “I am” and “This is mine” are the two statements that we generally make in respect of our life. The statement “This is me” is made by the ego-consciousness, which is operating through the intellect. The statement “This is mine” is made by the mind, which is a secondary instrument of the intellect. The mind is objective to the intellect, or reason, in the same way as our propertythe ownership that we have in respect of thingsis external to our true being. The intellect is subjective, internal, to the mind. I-ness comes first; mine-ness comes afterwards.

Ahaṁ pratyaya bījatvam idaṁ vṛtte riti sphuṭam, aviditvā svamā tmānaṁ bāhyaṁ vetti na tu kvacit (71). I-consciousness comes first; all other consciousness of the world comes afterwards. If we are not aware that we are existing, how would we know that other things are existing? When we wake up from deep sleep, sometimes we do not know where we are. It takes a few moments for us to be aware that we have woken up and we are self-conscious. When a person is in deep sleep and he wakes up, he takes a few moments to know that he is existing at all. He is dozing, very giddy, rubbing his eyes, and does not know that even the body exists. Slowly, he becomes conscious that his body is there. Afterwards, he slowly begins to perceive that something is there outside. What is there outside is not very clear at first, and then it becomes clear. It is a door that is in front. Sometimes people who are in very deep sleep cannot immediately know the direction of a door or a window. When they wake up in the middle of the night, if they want to go to the bathroom, for example, they hit their head against the wall because they think it is a door. Such is the effect of consciousness that is not there at all in respect of the body.

Gradually, from I-consciousness, body-consciousness, personality-consciousness, there is consciousness of externality, of something being there. It is indistinct at first, and afterwards we distinctly begin to perceive what it is. This is the action of these two principles insidethe intellect and the mind. After we know ourselves, we begin to know that something is there outside.

Kṣaṇe kṣaṇe janma nāśau ahaṁ vṛtter mitau yataḥ, vijñānaṁ kṣaṇikaṁ tena svaprakāśaṁ svato miteḥ (72). The intellect is a process, as Buddhist psychology tells us. It is not an actual continuity as the flow of oil from a pot; it is an apparent continuity. It is said that even the flame of a lamp is not a solid mass. It is, as quantum physics tells us, constituted of little packets of waves or particles. We do not find continuity, in the sense of a solidity, in anything in this world.

Even the intellectual process is such a movement of little bits of thought, ideation, moving in the direction of a particular object or the world outside, and giving the impression that there is a flow. Every minute there is cessation of the earlier bit of ideation, and a new bit starts manifesting itself, giving an impression of its connection with the earlier bit, so that a continuity, or a chain of thoughts, is maintained, though the chain is made up of different links, one link being different from the other.

The self-consciousness of the intellect is not actually the consciousness of the intellect by itself, because anything that is made up of little bits cannot be conscious of itself as indivisibility. Something else, which is self-luminous, is at the back of it and gives it the impression that it is self-conscious.

Vijñāna maya kośo’yaṁ jīva ityāgamā jaguḥ, sarva saṁsāra etasya janma nāśa sukhā dikaḥ (73). Scriptures and certain philosophical thoughts affirm that the vijnanamaya kosha, the intellectual sheath, is the real jiva. What we call individuality, personality, jiva-hood, is the name of this intellectuality, this egoism, going together in a single action. All samsara, world entanglement, is caused by this. Birth and death are also caused by this consciousness of the body, which is created by the intellectual identification of the ego with the body. The whole entanglement is to be attributed to this personality-consciousness.

Vijñānaṁ kṣaṇikaṁ nātmā vidyu dabhra nimeṣa vat, anyasyā nupa labdhatvāt śunyaṁ mādhyamikā jaguḥ (74). As it was already mentioned, this intellectual consciousness is momentary. It is made up of bits of thought. Therefore, it cannot be identified with the Atman, which is indivisible. It flashes forth like lightening in the sky, but it does not stay there for a long time.

There are some people who feel that finally we enter into a nothingness. If we go on abrogating all the sheaths, including the causal sheath and the intellectual sheath, what remains? If we disentangle ourselves from our reason and understanding, what remains in us? We will find that practically nothing is remaining there. We will feel like a nihil, a zero, a darkness, a thoughtless vacuum. This is what people say is nihil, or shunya. There is a school of thought which holds that a vacuum is the ultimate reality; everything is nothingness, finally. Their belief is that the whole solid universe can ultimately be reduced to nothingness by reduction of the effects into causes.

Asadevda mityāda vidameva śrutaṁ tataḥ, jñāna jñeyā tmakaṁ sarvaṁ jagad bhrānti prakalpitam (75). This philosophy which holds that ultimately everything is nihil quotes a peculiar scripture from the Upanishad which says, “Nothingness was there, ultimately.” When the Upanishad says that nothingness was there, it does not mean that really there was nothingness. It means that the world was not there. The manifestation of names and forms was not there at the beginning of creation. Non-existence of the variety of creation in the form of names and forms is called asat, or non-existence. What was there in the beginning? Non-existence was there. Non-existence does not mean non-existence of everything. It is only the non-existence of variety, creation, solidity, externality, name, form.

The vacuous philosophers mistakenly conclude that this statement means that nothing really exists, finally. But it cannot be, because mere vacuum is inconceivable. How can we know that nothing is there unless there is somebody who knows that nothing is there? There must be an awareness that nothing is there; therefore, we cannot say that consciousness is also not there. The statement that nothing is there finally is a statement made by consciousness, and that itself cannot be nothing. So the vacuous philosophy does not hold water. There is something behind even the concept of nihil, or zero, and that is the ‘That which is’.

Niradhi ṣṭhāna vibhrānteḥ abhāvā dātmano’stitā, śūnyasyāpi sasākṣitvāt anyathā noktirasya te (76). There must be a witnessing consciousness of even there being nothing. If everything has gone, let it go. But somebody should know that everything has gone. If there is nobody to know that everything has gone, how would we say that everything has gone? The statement is irrelevant. There is a witness consciousness necessary to observe the phenomenon of non-entity, even taking for granted that the whole entire world can be reduced to nothingness one day in the state of pralaya, or dissolution.

Anyo vijñāna mayata ānandmaya āntaraḥ, astī tyevo palabdhavya iti vaidika darśanam (77). The Mimamsa doctrine is another school of thought which holds that the intellect is not the final reality, and there is no use of going on haranguing on the nature of the intellect or even the concept of shunyatva, or nihil, which is untenable. There is the causal sheath, or anandamaya kosha, which is the fundamental criterion of the individuality of a person. That individuality is permanent. We need not identify individuality with the intellect, the mind, the senses, the prana and the body, but there is something which is behind them that is the primary individuality, called the anandamaya kosha. This is the doctrine of the Mimamsakas, which we will take up afterwards.