Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 38

Chapter 7: Triptidipa Prakaranam – Light on Supreme Satisfaction
Verses 16-22

Kūṭastho’smīti bodho’pi mithyā cenneti ko vadet, na hi satyatayā bhīṣṭaṁ rajju sarpa visarpaṇam (16). A question is generally raised: “How does knowledge arise in a person?” It cannot be due to the effort of the person, because effort in the right direction is not possible unless there is some knowledge. We cannot say that human effort is the cause of the rise of knowledge in a person, because that effort itself requires some knowledge at the back of it. How does knowledge arise? This question was also raised by Acharya Sankara in his commentary on the Brahmasutra. There is no answer to this question.

How does evolution take place? We are told that there is a movement of life from the rudimentary stages up to the higher levelsfrom mineral to plant, from plant to animal, from animal to human being. Who causes the push of this evolutionary process? Does the plant one day start thinking, “Tomorrow I shall become an animal”? No. The plant has no consciousness of that futurity. Does the animal think that it should become a human being after some time? Is it the animal’s effort that transforms it into a human being? No.

Whose effort is it? If there is no cause at all to end its operation, it would mean that effects can follow without causes. Anything can happen at any time with no meaning at all. But the world does not seem to be working in a chaotic manner. Nothing irrational or meaningless takes place in the world. On a careful investigation, logically and scientifically, we realise that the world is perfect in every sense. In that perfect world, how can there be irrational elements such as something coming from nothing? How can a human being evolve from the lower species unless there is an impulse caused by something which is responsible for the push of consciousness from the lower to the higher level? Nobody can answer this question. Even great rationalists like Acharya Sankara had nothing more to say than perhaps it is the grace of God.

The ultra-monistic type of thinking, which is the characteristic of philosophies like Acharya Sankara’s, also brings in the grace of God. All the while it has been told to us that God, this creative principle Ishvara, is only a tentative manifestation of the Absolute Brahman through the mulaprakriti’s sattva guna quality. That means to say, no special importance has been given to this reflected consciousness known as Ishvara. All the importance has gone to Brahman. Yet, when we feel confronted with a terrible question like this, we resort to God. “Bhagavan ki iccha.” We always say that.

This verse that we read just now has some relevance to a question of this kind. Who is it that attains salvation? The Kutastha Chaitanya, the pure Atman inside which is universal in its nature, need not have to strive for liberation. The physical body does not attain liberation, and not even the mind, which gets dissolved in liberation. The five sheaths are also cast off, and after the five sheaths we have only the Atman, pure and simple. There is nothing in between.

If the moksha that is spoken of in such glorious terms is not what is attained by the universal Kutastha Consciousness, and not by the five sheaths, who attains it? Is there anything called attainment? “It is the jiva that attains it” is a tentative answer; but what do we mean by the jiva? It is a makeshift arrangement between the five sheaths on one side and the Atman Consciousness, the Kutastha, on the other side. There is no such thing as jiva independently by itself. It is apparently there as a kind of reflection of the Kutastha Atman in the intellect, which is the purified form of the five sheaths.

Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to tell a story in connection with this peculiar jiva which neither belongs to the five sheaths nor belongs to the Kutastha, yet wreaks havoc. There was a marriage feast. Hundreds of people were running hither and thither, and there was dinner on the table. Hundreds were sitting, and nobody knew who was sitting and eating. In this crowd, how can one know who is eating, because each one was thinking that a person sitting at the table must be belonging to either of the two parties, the girl’s side or the boy’s side. There were only two parties at the wedding, and when someone was not recognisable by one party, they thought that perhaps he belonged to the other party, so why should they unnecessarily talk to him? Also, it is not polite to ask, “Who are you?” And the other party also thought that he may be a person from the other side so they should not be impolite by asking him “Who are you?” on that auspicious occasion.

When the wedding was over all the people departed, one by one, but there was one person who would not go. He remained in the in-laws’ house. They did not say anything; they were embarrassed. They thought perhaps he is one of the members of the other party that had left. They could not inquire if he belonged to the other party, because politeness is important. So he went on eating and living there, and having all the enjoyments. This went on for days together. He would not budge. They were very much upset, as it was a very difficult situation. One day they could not bear it any more. They said, “Please let us know from where you have come.” The next day he ran away from that place. He did not belong either to this party or that party; he made a good bargain of this chaos of the wedding feast and enjoyed life very well for days together, creating a false impression that he belonged to some party. So is this jiva.

There are some people, very simple, ordinary persons, who come to know somehow or other that a VIP is coming at such and such a time, on such and such a railway train. He knows that when they arrive there will be big garlanding and photographing and so on, so he will put a garland on himself and stand nearby and get photographed with everybody. Afterwards he will show the photograph and say, “I was also a VIP and my photograph was taken.” If many photographs are taken, he is a very big man because he has been photographed with so many VIPs. He himself purchased the garland, put it on, and then stood there to be in the photographs.

This is how the jiva works herebelonging neither to Brahman, the Absolute, nor to this physical world. How does moksha take place? Is it a real attainment, or is the attainment itself an unreal process? This has been illustrated by an analogy. Suppose we are fast asleep and we are dreaming that a tiger is pouncing on us. It roars so loudly that we yell and get up from sleep. That tiger did not really exist, the roar of the tiger was also not really there, but our waking up was real.

An unreal cause can produce a real effect. Is it possible? Sometimes we feel like we are falling from a tree. Such a thud! We feel that we have fallen from a tall tree; after waking up we start rubbing our knee to see whether it is all rightsuch pain we feel. How could an unreal tiger’s roar create a real waking? Is this not a contradiction of the relation between cause and effect? Can an unreal cause produce a real effect? But here is an example of such a case. An unreal tiger produces a real waking; otherwise, we would have simply kept quiet, listening to the roar.

They say the Guru is like the tiger, and his teaching is like the roar. We are living in this dream world. The Guru is also inside the dream world, he is not outside, but he is like the tiger. That is the only difference. We are like an ordinary person. The Guru is like a tiger, and his teaching is like a roar. It is enough to shake us up from our slumber and create an experience that is transcendental. Though the jiva that is aspiring for moksha is itself not a real entity, it can attain real salvation in just the same way as the fright created by the roaring of a tiger in dream was not a real fright, but that unreal fright created a real waking.

The world is unreal, finally. Neither our scriptures, nor the Guru, nor the teaching can be regarded as finally valid in the light of the Absolute Brahman. A homeopathic saying in Latin is similia similibus curentur: Like cures like. Our ignorance is not a real state of affairs. It is a kind of obscuration caused by certain factors which cannot be regarded as ultimately real, and so to remove that obscuration, we do not require a real cause.

There was a small boy who, while having his lunch, saw a lizard moving on the wall. He was taking his meal and going on looking at the lizard moving this way and that way. After a few minutes, he found it was not there. He looked in all directions but the lizard was missing, and so he thought it had gone inside him. He felt that the lizard had gone inside his stomach. He vomited, yelled, cried, and beat his breast at what had happened. His parents came. “Oh, the lizard has gone inside me!” he cried. They called the doctor, who gave him some emetic. The boy vomited, but no lizard came out. So sick he became that they thought there was no cure for him because the lizard was inside his stomach. After a few minutes, the boy suddenly saw the lizard on the wall. “Oh it is there, it is there!” he said, and in a minute he was all right. The doctors had to go away, as there was no need for a doctor at all. An unreal sickness does not require a real treatment. But the sickness was so realistic that he was vomiting. How could vomiting, which was so real, be regarded as an unreal phenomenon? It is real from the point of view of the experience of the person, but totally unreal from the point of view of its real cause. When the real lizard was seen, immediately the illness vanished. The doctors quit, and no fees had to be paid because they did not have to treat the boy.

This question that is raised in Vedanta philosophy is very crucial. The unreality of a thing or the reality of a thing is not a glib question and a glib answer. We cannot simply raise this question and expect one answer to it. There are great authors on Vedanta and metaphysics, such as Madhusudana Saraswati who wrote Advaitasiddhi, a large text that gives at least nineteen definitions of what unreality can be.

Unreality is not just as we think. The unreality of horns on the head of a human being is different in nature from the unreality of a snake seen in a rope. Both are unreal, but there is a difference between these two kinds of unrealities because the horns of a human being are never seen at all. They are atyanta-abhava, meaning absolutely non-existent. But the snake in the rope is not absolutely non-existent; it is relatively non-existent. As long as it is perceived, it is there; when it is not perceived, it is not there. So it has a relative non-existence and also a relative existence. It is not like the tail of a human being or the horns of a hare.

Varieties of unrealities are there. What kind of unreality do we attribute to this world? Is it like a horn on a human being’s head? It is not so, because horns cannot be seen, and we are seeing the world. The illustration is that it is something like the snake in the rope. Misconceptionerroneous perceptionis the cause of the appearance of something outside us as the world.

As the appearance of bondage in the form of the perception of the world outside is a relatively valid experience and not an absolutely valid experience, we require only a relatively valid treatment for itlike
the teaching of a scripture or the word of a Guru,
or the thoughts that we entertain in the meditation processthough all these activities come within dream only. It does not mean that dream is totally unreal, because if we have hunger in dream, we can have a
dream lunch and we will be satisfied with that. If we
are thirsty in dream, we can have dream water; it will quench our thirst. It does not mean that it is totally meaningless, because the causes that are there produce corresponding effects.

Kūṭastho’smīti bodho’pi mithyā cenneti ko vadet, na hi satyatayā bhīṣṭaṁ rajju sarpa visarpaṇam. This verse tells us that as is the god, so is the offering. The consciousness that we are the Kutastha Atman also is a part of the dream world. It is as unreal as the snake in the rope, but it is very real as the snake in the rope. It is unreal because the rope cannot become a snake, but it is real because we jumped over it in fear. An unreal, non-existent thing cannot cause a real jumping in fright. It was there for the time being. So there is an indescribable, inexplicable phenomenon which is relatively real and relatively unreal. As is the case of the relation between the rope and the snake, that is the relation between the world and God.

Tādṛśenāpi bodhena saṁsāro hi nivartate, yaksā nurūpo hi balir ityāhur laukikā janāḥ (17). We do not require an absolutely real cause to remove an ignorance which is not ultimately real. If our ignorance is also an eternal substance, then nobody could remove that ignorance by any effort, because eternity cannot be destroyed. Since it is not eternal, it is subject to badha, or destruction. Therefore, it is not to be considered as real because that which is subject to destruction, that which has an end, cannot be regarded as real. Since it is not ultimately real, we do not have to bring in a real treatment for it, and the comparatively unreal treatments such as study of scriptures, Guru seva, etc., are sufficient.

Yaksā nurūpo hi balir ityāhur laukikā janāḥ. If we worship a demon, we have to offer that particular sacrament which is to the liking of the demon. If we worship a goat, we have to give only green leaves to it. If we worship a cow, we may give it only grass. If we worship an elephant, we will give it tender trees. And if we worship a human being, we give a good meal.

Now, what is the meaning of ‘worship’? It is the offering of that which is necessary under a given condition in respect of the nature of that thing which we are adoring. The offering is to be in accordance with the nature of that which is going to receive our offering. Here, the offering is made to the ignorance that obscures our knowledge of the Supreme Beingand it is like a demon sitting in front of us. Inasmuch as it is not a god, its power is much less.

Therefore, relatively valid treatments of knowledge through the scripture and Guru’s instruction may be valid. We cannot make a sudden statement as to what kind of world it is in which we are living. Nobody can say whether it is real; nobody can say whether it is unreal. If it is true that we are really bound, there is no hope of salvation or freedom. If our bondage is real, how can it be removed, because already we have accepted that it is real. Real things cannot be destroyed, and unreal things need not be destroyed. What are we destroying then? Here is an enigma before us.

Tasmā dābhāsa puruṣaḥ sakūṭastho vivicya tam, kūṭastho’smīti vijñātum arhatī tyabhyadhāt śrutiḥ (18). It is the abhasa purusha, the chidabhasa, the reflection of the Kutastha Chaitanya in the intellect, which pretends to be independent by itself, notwithstanding the fact that it cannot exist for a moment without the reflection being there from the Kutastha. That jiva, which is an upstart that has suddenly erupted between the five sheaths on the one hand and the Kutastha on the other hand, is that which is aspiring for liberation, and is that which has the feeling that it is bound.

Asandigdhā viparyasa bodho dehātamanī kṣyate, tadva datreti nirṇetum ayamitya bhidhī yate (19). As is the intensity of the feeling of identity of oneself with this body, so is it that we are trying to achieve in the realisation of Brahman. This point has been touched upon previously. We have no doubt whatsoever that we are this body. Just as we do not require proof to establish the truth of our identity with this body because it is so obvious, our feeling and experience of our identity with Brahman should be as obvious. One need not have to rack one’s head again and again and try to find out how to get identity with Brahman. We have to do meditation, we have to do japa, we have to pray, we have to do so many things to convince ourselves that there is such a thing called the Absolute Brahman, and even more difficult is the experience of identity. The nature of the identity that we feel with our body will also explain the nature of the difficulty in realising Brahman. How hard is this body-consciousness, so hard is this path to Brahman.

Dehātma jñāna vajjñānaṁ dehātma jñāna bādhakam, ātmanyeva bhave dyasya sa necchaṇapi mucyate (20). If the intensity that one feels in terms of the identity of consciousness with this body is also felt in relation to Brahman, then mukti, moksha, is in our hand. It will be ours even if we do not want it. When we wake up, the sunlight is on our face whether we want it or not. Necchaṇapi mucyate: Even if we do not want it, it will
come to us.

Ayamitya parokṣa tvam ucyate cetta ducyatām, svayaṁ prakāśa caitanyam aparokṣaṁ sadā yataḥ (21). This is a commentary on the verse from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad that was quoted in the beginning of Chapter Seven, which has to be kept in mind always. Ātmānaṁ cet vijānīyāt ayam asmīti pūrusaḥ, kimicchan kasya kāmāya śarīram anusaṁjvaret (B.U. 4.4.12). “I am.” When this Atman realises itself as “I am”, or this purusha realises this Atman as “I am”, why should anyone desire anything in this world, and why should anyone wish to enter into this body once again, as if one would like to have fever again and again?

This “I am” sabda, this purushathe demonstrative pronoun ‘this’is indicative of the Self-luminous Atman. It is a directly experienced something. This Atman that is within us is sometimes felt to be directly experienced, and sometimes it is indirectly felt. For all practical purposes, it is not directly felt at all. We feel only the body directlythe world, and the body, and all its relations. But if enquiry is conducted into the nature of the consciousness, which is what is actually operating through us in all the three states of waking, dreaming and sleep, we will realise on an analysis of these three states that consciousness could exist as a Self-luminous, independent something in the state of deep sleep, with no relation whatsoever with the three states or with the five koshas.

Parokṣa maparokṣaṁ ca jñāna majñāna mityadaḥ, nityā parokṣa rūpe’pi davayaṁ syād daśame yathā (22). Knowledge is direct and indirect, as the case may be. There can be knowledge, and also absence of knowledge. Even if there is something which is directly observable, one can be oblivious of that fact. One can be oblivious of even a directly observable something, as in the case of the tenth mandaśame yathā.

The story of the tenth man is well known. Ten very wise men crossed a river, wading through the waters with some difficulty. Their wisdom was so much that after crossing they began to doubt whether or not all of them had crossed or whether some of them had gone into the water, so one of them started counting. They stood in line while one began counting. He counted the men before him: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. Nine? Only nine. Again he counted, several times. There was no tenth person; only nine were there. Then another man counted while this gentleman stood in the line; and the other man also found only nine.

They started crying, beating their breasts, thinking that one of them must have gone into the water. Now here, avarana and vikshepa acted on them. Avarana is the unconsciousness of the fact of their being such a thing called the tenth man. The tenth man was not visible because the tenth man was not one of the objects being counted. The tenth man was not being counted but was the counter himself, and therefore it was not possible for them to know that the tenth man existed.

The unconsciousness of the existence of the tenth man is called a veil, or avarana. The crying and the weeping and the hitting of the head against the wall and the bleeding caused thereby is the vikshepa. This unreal unconsciousness of the presence of the tenth man caused a real bleeding of the head. Here again is an illustration of a peculiar situation where an unreal cause produces a real effect. The point is that the cause was relatively real, as is the case with the perception of a snake in the rope; and the wound on the head may continue for some days, as the prarabdha karma may continue for some days.

Another man, who was walking past, saw them crying and beating their breasts. Going up to them he said, “What is the matter with you all? Why are you are crying?”

“This is a very sorry state of affairs. One of us has been drowned in the river,” they replied.

“I see. How many were you?” he asked.

“We were ten,” they replied.

“Ten? But you are ten now. I am seeing you,” he said.

“No, we are only nine.”

“Ten. You are ten.”

Then one of them said, “No, please see.”

They again counted, and said, “There are only nine.”

“You foolish man! You are the tenth man. You stand there. I will count,” he said.

He counted, and all ten were there. Then the sorrow immediately vanished.

They had been so grief-stricken, and the sorrow was real; the sorrow was not unreal. The real sorrow vanished in one second by the admonition that they got from a Good Samaritan Guru. The Guru is the passer-by who sees the crying of the people and then points out that the Atman is not somewhere else, and we need not run from Kanyakumari to the Himalayas or from San Francisco to Rishikesh to find this Atman. It is right there where we are sitting. We are carrying it wherever we go, and we are searching for ourselflike a musk deer which is said to run in all directions to find the source of the fragrance of the musk, while actually the musk is from its own body; or like a person searching for the necklace which they are wearing.

Such is the dramatic experience we are passing through. This world is a mystery indeed. These analogies, these comparisons, these humorous stories that I told you are all to point out that we need not be so much worried about this world as we are wont to, because one day or the other it is going to vanish. Nobody can be eternally sick. One day the sickness has to goand if God exists, everything shall be well.