Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 32

Chapter 6: Chitradipa – Light on the Analogy of a Painted Picture
Verses 187-209

Acetanānāṁ hetuḥ syāt jāḍyāṁśene śvara stathā, cidābhāsāṁ śata steveṣa jīvānāṁ kāraṇaṁ bhavet (187). Ishvara is the cause, both of the universe and the individual jivas. By adopting the tamasic quality of prakriti as the material for the manifestation of the universe, He becomes the creator thereof. By reflecting Himself through the intellects of individuals, He becomes the cause of the individuals themselves.

The physical universe has no self-consciousness. That is why it is said to be caused by the tamasic aspect of prakriti, whereas jivas, individuals, have self-consciousness. That is due to the fact that Ishvara’s consciousness is reflected through the intellectthat reflected consciousness being called chidabhasa. So He is the cause of both the universe externally and the jiva subjectively.

Tamaḥ pradhānaḥ kṣetrāṇāṁ cit pradhānaś cidātmanām, paraḥ kāraṇatā meti bhāvanā jñāna karmabhiḥ (188). The Supreme Being, Brahman, becomes verily the cause of the objective universe rooted in the tamasic aspect of prakriti, tamaḥ pradhānaḥ, and also becomes the cause of the individual jivas who are self-conscious on account of intelligence being reflected through them. They differ from one another on account of their feelings, their ideation, and their actions.

The attitudes, the ideas and the actions of people cause the difference of one person from another person. Though the same consciousness is reflected everywherethe same prakriti, in its tamasic aspect, becomes the cause of the physical universeyet we find the earth is not the same everywhere. Different kinds of material can be found in different parts of the earth and in this vast physical cosmos. It is not that one uniform element is present everywhere. Even in inanimate material, there is internal difference. Somewhere we will find gold ore, somewhere we will find iron, somewhere we will find marble, somewhere some jewel or gem, somewhere we will find something else; and the earth too is of a different naturesomewhere arid, somewhere fertile, etc.

In the case of conscious individuals, they differ on account of their psychological attitudes. Their outlook in general varies. Though we all do see the same world with our eyes, our idea of the world differs from person to person. It is not a uniform notion that we have about things. Our understanding of the world also differs from one another; and our actions in respect of things in the world are naturally determined by our idea about things and our feelings for them.

Iti vārtika kāreṇa jaḍa cetana hetutā, paramātmana evoktā neśvarasyeti cecchṛṇu (189). Vartikakara Sureshvara Acharya is one of the disciples of Acharya Sankara. He is one of the most voluminous of writers, and has written a huge commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Bhashya of Sankara and many other very important works such as the Naishkarmya Siddhi, the Pranava Vartika, the Manasollasa, etc. ‘Vartika’ is a huge commentary, and the one who writes such a Vartika is endowed with the title Vartikakara.

In one place in this Vartikakara, Sureshvara Acharya, the disciple of Sankara, appears to vaguely make out that Brahman is directly the cause of the universe. As he does not use the word ‘Ishvara’, some doubt may arise in the mind whether there is a principle called Ishvara creating the cosmos or whether it is Brahman itselfthe Absolute itselfdirectly becoming the world, congealing itself into things. Is it so?

To this, the author of the Panchadasi says that we have to understand Sureshvara properly. It cannot be that Brahman directly becomes the cause. Causation cannot be applied to Brahman directly. Brahman is neither the cause of anything nor the effect of anything, because to attribute causality to Brahman would be to attribute some character to it specifically in relation to that which is going to be manifested afterwards. In that case, Brahman would be tainted with the touch of modification.

So the Panchadasi’s author, Vidyaranya Swami, says that when the great author Sureshvara apparently made mention of Brahman as the cause of the universe, it appears that there was already in his mind this tadatmya adhyasa, or the internal superimposition of characters as regards to the causality of the world. That is to say, he had in his mind what we call Ishvara, though the word used by him is Brahman because, for all practical purposes, Ishvara and Brahman are not capable of differentiation, the reason being that there are certain qualities in Ishvara which are also to be found in Brahman. The universality of Ishvara is a character of Brahman. Omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence are also characteristics of Brahman, and they are to be found in Ishvara.

We have to read between the lines of Sureshvara’s statement when he says Brahman is the cause of the universe. The Upanishads also say that Brahman is the cause, but they subsequently qualify it by saying that He willed. The God we call Ishvara is nothing but this willed Brahman. Brahman, associated with the will, is Ishvara; and if we free Ishvara from willing, he becomes Brahman directly.

Anyonyā dhyāsa matrāpi jīva kūṭastha yoriva, īśvara brahmaṇoḥ siddhaṁ kṛtvā brūte sureśvaraḥ (190). So Sureshvaracharya has not actually made any such statement that Brahman is directly the cause. The idea behind his statement is that the will of Brahman is the cause, and this will it is that we designate as Ishvara.

Satyaṁ jñānaṁ anantaṁ yat brahma tasmāt samutthitāḥ, khaṁ vāyvagni jalor vyoṣaddhi annadehā iti śrutiḥ (191). Satyaṁ jñānam anantam brahma (T.U. 2.1.1). This is the definition of Brahman in the Taittiriya Upanishad: Truth-Knowledge-Infinity is Brahman. From that Brahman, all the elements arosespace, air, fire, water, earth, and all the plants, all the vegetables, all foodstuff, by eating which organic beings come into life. This is what the Taittiriya Upanishad says, making it appear that Brahman is the direct cause. It does not use the word ‘Ishvara’ here.

Āpāta dṛṣṭitas tatra brahmaṇo bhāti hetutā, hetośca satyatā tasmāt anyonyā dhyāsa iṣyate (192). Here also, when we read the lines of the Taittiriya Upanishad, we have to understand that Brahman is actually defined in terms of Ishvara only, though the word ‘Ishvara’ is not used. Whether the word is used or not, the definition, the characterisation, is of Ishvara. Here again the mutual superimposition is to be applied. The causality of the universe requires a kind of thought, will, volition, or some such concentration on the part of the cause. Our point is that Ishvara is only a name that we give to the very same Brahman associated with that tapas, that concentration, that will or determination to create.

Anyonyā dhyāsa rūpo’sau anna lipta paṭo yathā, ghaṭṭi tenaikatā meti tadvat bhrāntyai katāṁ gataḥ (193). As we create a confusion between the cloth and the starch and then call it a canvas, we confuse Brahman and the will thereof and call that mutually superimposed principle as Ishvara. Just as when we speak of canvas we do not clearly think of the distinction between the starch and the cloth, so also when we speak of Ishvara we do not make a distinction between Brahman and the will. Either way, this is only a matter of putting things in a proper style or language. The idea behind the statements of the Upanishads that Brahman is the direct cause, or our statement here that Ishvara is the cause, practically amounts to the same thing. The difference appears to be purely linguistic.

Meghākāśa mahā kāśau viviceyete na pāmaraiḥ, tadvat brahme śayo raikyaṁ paśyantyā pāta darśinaḥ (194). Just as children cannot make a distinction between the clear sky and the sky that is reflected through a thin layer of clouds, and say it is sky though actually it is a reflected sky that they are seeing through the clouds, in the same way, spiritually illiterate persons do not know the distinction between Brahman and Ishvara. They identify one with the other.

The difference is simple. Brahman reflected through this thin cloud-like layer of shuddha sattva, pure sattva of prakriti, is Ishvara. Otherwise, we would not be able to attribute creatorship to Brahman. If we attribute creatorship to Brahman, we would have to attribute all kinds of spatiality, temporality, etc., which are not to be associated with Brahman in any way. We say that God is all-pervading, Ishvara is all-pervading. The all-pervadingness is a definition that has meaning only if there is space. If there is no space, there is no question of all-pervadingness. Similarly, we say He is eternal. This also is a thought that is connected with time. All-powerfulHe can do many things. The question of doing many things does not arise, as He Himself is the All. This is how we have to distinguish between Ishvara and Brahman.

Upakramādibhir liṅgaiḥ tātparyasya vicāraṇāt, asaṅgaṁ brahma māyāvī sṛjatyeṣa maheśvaraḥ (195). After all this analysis by reading between the lines of all these great texts such as the Upanishads, and authors such as Sureshvaracharya, etc., we have only one conclusion to draw: Brahman is totally unattached. It is not affected by the changes taking place in the world, whereas it is Ishvara that is directly responsible for the modifications of things in the world. They are two different things in principle.

Satyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ ceta upakra myopa saṁhṛtam, yato vāco nivartanta itya saṅgatva nirṇayaḥ (196). The same Upanishad, the Taittiriya, defines Brahman as Truth- Knowledge-Infinity, commencing its statement from this definition of Brahman as satyaṁ jñānam anantaṁ and ends with saying that nobody can contact Brahman. Speech and mind return baffled when they contemplate Brahman or try to describe Brahman. Speech is baffled when it tries to describe Brahman; mind is baffled when it tries to think Brahman. So either way, right from the beginning to the end, the same Upanishad seems to be emphasising the unattached character of Brahman, which is not to be associated with the will to create.

Māyī sṛjati viśvaṁ san niruddhas tatra māyayā, anya ityaparā brute śruti stene śvaraḥ sṛjet (197). Ishvara is the cause. The eternal Absolute is not the cause because the Srutis, namely the Svetasvatara Upanishad, is referred to here: asmān māyī sṛjate viśvam etat tasmiṁs cānyo māyayā saṁniruddhaḥ (S.U. 4.9). This statement is quoted here in brief in this verse. The Svetasvatara Upanishad says that the one who wields maya as His instrument or power creates this cosmos, and the other one who is controlled by maya is the jiva or the individual. This is, therefore, in confirmation of our definition of the creative principle as Ishvaraand not as Brahman, the Absolute.

Ānanda maya īśo’yaṁ bahu syāmi tyavai kṣata, hiraṇyagarbha rūpo’bhūt suptiḥ svapno yathā bhavet (198). Ishvara willed, “Let Me become many.” This is how the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, in its First Chapter, describes the process of the creation of the universe. “May I become many”this is the will of Ishvara. The moment He willed in this manner, He became Hiranyagarbha, or the cosmic subtle body, in the same way as sleep may manifest itself slowly into dream consciousness.

Krameṇa yuga padvaiṣā sṛṣṭir jñeyā yathā śruti, dvividha śruti sadbhāvāt dvividha svapna darśanāt (199). Did God create the world abruptly“Let there be light and there was light”or was it a gradual evolution? There are two theories or doctrines of creation. Most of these statements that we have heard from the scriptures are in terms of a gradual manifestation. He willed, He became Ishvara, He became Hiranyagarbha, He became Virat, He created space, from space came air, from air came fire, from fire came water, from water came earth, from earth came all living beings. Is this not a gradual process of evolution of the universe? Or is it just one thought“Let all things manifest themselves”and they are there in one minute?

The Upanishads are not very clear as to how creation took place. Most of the scriptures rely upon this gradual manifestation of things. Only very rarely do we hear it said that God suddenly manifested Himself as all the variety. Now the author of the Panchadasi says there is no objection to both these doctrines.

We have dream, for instance. Sometimes we dream things gradually, stage by stage. Sometimes we suddenly find a mountain, rivers, elephants, peopleeverything in dream. In one stroke we will find the entire world of people and all things in dream. That is also one way of creation by the mind. But sometimes it is not so. We gradually begin to visualise indistinct things first, distinct things afterwards, and details much afterwards.

In the same way as in dream there can be a gradual manifestation of things in a systematic manner or it may be a sudden eruption, God’s creation can also be a sudden will. Let there be this, and it is there. God can create like that; He has such a power. He does not have to depend upon gradual evolution, etc. He is not a scientist waiting for the gradual manifestation of effect from cause. He is much more than that. Yet, His sudden will may take into consideration the necessity of the evolution of the effect from the cause, as in the case of dreams of people which can be suddenly manifesting themselves or gradually taking place from indistinct things to distinct things.

This is a digression. It does not matter to us in what way God has created the world. The point is that there is a creation, and whether it is sudden or gradual is immaterial for practical purposes.

Sūtrātmā sūkṣma dehākhyaḥ sarva jīva ghanāt makaḥ, sarvāhaṁ māna dhāritvāt kriyā jñānādi śaktimān (200). From this Supreme Ishvara who created by will, we say by a sudden will, this very same Ishvara is called Hiranyagarbha, Sutratma, as we have already mentioned in earlier verses, in whom all the jivas are studded together as beads or pearls in a garland, or cells, as it were, in an organism. Sutratma is the cosmic prana, the same as Hiranyagarbha, who is the cosmic subtle body in which we have brief outlines of the whole physical universe to be manifested, and He feels “I am”.

Sarvāhaṁ māna dhāritvāt kriyā jñānādi śaktimān. When Hiranyagarbha feels “I am”, at once everything feels “I am”. All the atoms, all the sand particles, all the leaves, all the trees, all living beings, gods and demons and human beings, everything suddenly begins to feel “I am”. This I am-ness in me, in you and in everybody, even in an ant, is the I am-ness of IshvaraHiranyagarbha’s I am-ness. He feels “I am”, and immediately everybody starts feeling “I am”. When He breathes, we breathe. When He manifests, we become manifest. When He withdraws, we are withdrawn. He has the power to create the universe, modify it as it is necessary, and He has a clear concept as to what kind of universe is to be manifested for a given purpose.

Pratyūṣe vā pradoṣe vā magno mande tamasyayam, loko bhāti yathā tadvad aspaṣṭaṁ jaga dīkṣyate (201). In this condition of Hiranyagarbha, the world is indistinctly seen. In dusk or early in the morning when there is very little light, we do not see things properly; we see objects indistinctly. In a similar manner, the forms of the cosmos are indistinctly visible as outlines, as it were, in the body of Hiranyagarbha. Aspaṣṭaṁ jaga dīkṣyate: Indistinctly, not clearly, is the world seen in Hiranyagarbha.

Sarvato lāñchito maṣyā yathā syāt ghaṭṭitaḥ paṭaḥ, sūkṣmā kārai stathe śasya vapuḥ sarvatra lāñchitam (202). Hiranyagarbha becomes Virat, the visible multi-formed cosmos. As the stiffened cloth becomes canvas, and on the canvas outlines are drawn and the outlines become a visible, coloured painting, this subtle Hiranyagarbha manifests Himself as a solid, visible, concrete universe. Animated by the same consciousness, this animating consciousness of the physical universe is called Virat.

Sasyaṁ vā śākajātaṁ vā sarvato’ṅkuritaṁ yathā, komalaṁ tadvade vaiṣa pelavo jagadaṅ kuraḥ (203). Hiranyagarbha is very subtle, like a tendril or a tiny plant that is very tender, very soft to touch; such is the form of the universe. Like a soft tendril is Hiranyagarbha’s condition. When sunlight falls on things everything becomes clear, and such clarity is in the Virat consciousness, as if strong sunlight is shed on objects.

Ātapā bhāta loko vā paṭo vā varṇa pūritaḥ, sasyaṁ vā phalitaṁ yadvat tathā spaṣṭa vapur virāṭ (204). When plants become trees and start yielding fruits, they become completely mature. The universe, completely mature in itself, in all its forms, in all its fructifications, is Virat consciousness. As is bright sunlight, as is a coloured painting, as a plant becomes a tree and is there with all its fruits, so is this majestic manifestation of Virat in the form of this universe that we behold with our own eyes. Actually, when we open our eyes and see, we are seeing Virat only. Wrongly we think it is a world outside.

Viśvarūpā dhyāya eṣa uktaḥ sūkte’pi pauruṣe, dhātrādi stamba paryantān etasyā vayavān viduḥ (205). In the Visvarupadhyaya and in the Purusha Sukta of the Veda, the glory of the Virat has been described as constituting everything, right from the creative Brahma down to a blade of grass. All things are studded in that Viratsvarupa. This is described for us in the Eleventh Chapter of the Bhagavadgita in a more poetic and grandiose manner. Brahma, Rudra, all the gods, all the denizens, hell and heaven, and even little grasseverything we will find there in the body of Virat: dhātrādi stamba paryantān etasyā vayavān viduḥ.

Now Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha and Virat have been described. All things, whatever is in this world, is indistinguishable, finally, from the body of Ishvara, Hiranyagarbha or Virat. All is God: sarvam khalvidaṁ brahma (C.U. 3.14.3). This is the truth that we arrive at by this analysis.

Īśa sutra virāḍ vedhaḥ viṣṇu rudendra vahnayaḥ, vighna bhairava mairāla mārikā yakṣa rākṣasāḥ (206). Vipra kṣatriya viṭ śūdrā gavāśva mṛga pakṣiṇaḥ, aśvattha vaṭ cūtādyā yava vrīhi tṛṇādayaḥ (207). Jala pāṣaṇa mṛt kāṣṭha vāsyā kuddā lakā dayaḥ, īśvaraḥ sarva evaite pūjitāḥ phala dāyinaḥ (208). We may worship God as Ishvara or Hiranyagarbha or Virat, or Brahma the Creator, or Vishnu or Siva, or as fire, Agni, or Vighneshvara or Bhairava, or as some demigod such as Mairala, Marika, etc., or other demigods such as the Yakshas and Rakshasas, or Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras, or cows, horses, deer, birds, trees such as the asvattha, pipal, banyan or mango tree, or grains such as paddy or rice, or grass or stone or water or wood, or a chisel or an axe or a shovel or anything, and provided we have the faith that this is God, they will start speaking to us. A little stone will start speaking to us. Why should it not, because it is one little piece of the existence of this Supreme Ishvara consciousness.

Hiranyagarbha, Ishvara, Virat are present in all these things. The Puranas tell us that from a brick wall, Narasimha came out. Such a mighty being, coming out roaring, from a brick! Can we imagine? God exists in the stone, so why not in other things? Īśvaraḥ sarva evaite: All these things that we have listed here, right from the top to the bottom, excluding nothing whatsoever, they are God only, Ishvara only. And if we really worship them with feeling and our devotion is sincere, they will respond to our devotion, and our expected fruit will follow.

Yathā yatho pāsate taṁ phala mīyu stathā tathā, phalot karṣāpa karṣau tu pūjya pūjānu sārataḥ (209). As our feeling is, so is the response from God. In what manner we adore God, in that manner only He will respond to us. It depends upon our mind, finally. The quickness of the response from God or the slowness thereof, the nature of the fruit that will be granted to us by God and the various other factors in respect of the grace that may come from God, all depend upon our attitude towards Godwhat we feel about a thingand that will be paid back to us in a similar manner. Thus, there is no place in this world, no location, no point in space where God cannot be worshipped and where our prayers will not be answered.