Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 39

Chapter 7: Triptidipa Prakaranam – Light on Supreme Satisfaction
Verses 23-40

Nava saṅkhyā hṛta jñāno daśamo vibhramāt tadā, na vetti daśamo’smīti vīkṣya māṇo’pi tān nava (23). In the case of the illustration of the ten persons crossing a river and wanting to know if all were alive, one of them counted the rest of them and found there were only nine. Every time the counting showed only nine in number; one was missing. The concentration of the mind on the nine persons was so intense that the mind had lost its awareness of its abode being in the counter himself. We never feel that we are anything worth the while in this world in comparison with the vast figure of this mighty world in front of us. The number outweighs the quality of the counting individual.

Quantitatively the world is bigger than every individual; it is perfectly true. The astronomical universe is so large that it can pound to dust even the strongest of persons in the world. But this person who is capable of being pounded by the majesty and the power of the cosmos is aware that he is being pounded, whereas the universe does not know that it is pounding this person. If a stone falls on a person and crushes that person, it does not follow that the stone is superior to that person. The stone does not know that it is crushing a person, whereas the person is aware that he is being crushed. Here is the difference between the two categories. Quantity is not always the criterion of the judgment of value. Quality is superior. The quality of consciousness in the human individual surpasses all other quantitative numbers in other species of beings.

Coming back to the story of the man who counted nine men, the concentration of the mind was on the number nine because he was seeing nine people, as his eyes were fixed on the nine people; and whatever was seen with the eyes was alone considered as real, and whatever was not visible did not exist. The person who was counting the nine people did not exist at all because existence is identified with perceptibility. That which is seen is there; if it is not seen, it is not there. Such is the illusion that is cast by the engagement of consciousness on external quantity, forgetting completely the qualitative importance of its otherwise so-called individuality.

Na bhāti nāsti daśama iti svaṁ daśamaṁ tadā, matvā vakti tadajñāna kṛtam āvaraṇaṁ viduḥ (24). The people who do not find the tenth man, what do they say? They say that such a person, the tenth one, does not exist. He is no more there, as he is not seen. He is not seen, and therefore he is not there. This veil of ignorance that prevents the person who counts from knowing (counting) himself is called avarana, or a veil projected by the ignorance of the presence of that person.

First of all there is an abolition of the consciousness of one’s own existence on account of the intense consciousness of only other people. The annihilation of self-consciousness in respect of oneself covers the consciousness of one’s own self. That covering is called a veil. The ignorance as such is called ajnana. Ajnana and avarana are two aspects of not knowing a thing which is really there.

Nadyāṁ mamāra daśama iti śocan praroditi, ajñān kṛta vikṣepaṁ rodanādiṁ vidur buḍhāh (25). The tenth man has been drowned in the river, and so all the people start crying because one person has been drowned. The ignorance of the tenth person being there causes the vikshepa or the distraction, the outward consciousness of grief and crying, etc. There is, first of all, no knowledge at all of that which is there. Now, secondly, there is knowledge of the fact of grief caused by the absence of the person who was not visible.

Firstly, there is an ignorance, then there is a veil, and then there is an actual engagement in some action, which is called vikshepa or distraction. In the case of this illustration, the distraction or the vikshepa is the act of crying, hitting the head against the wall, causing a bleeding wound, etc. These are the outcome in the form of vikshepa due to the ignorance of the fact of the tenth person being there.

Na mṛto daśamo’stīti śrutvāpta vacanaṁ tadā, parokṣa tvena daśamaṁ vetti svargādi lokavat (26). Suppose some passer-by says that all the ten are alive, and he shows by an actual demonstration of counting that the ten are there. He tells the man who counted to also stand in the line, and then he says, “See, you are ten.” This is called indirect knowledge. The tenth man is existing. Here the knowledge is indirectly gained by hearing the words of a reliable person who came that way.

“The tenth man is not dead. The tenth man is alive.” This is the good word that they heard, as a word that comes from the Guru. This kind of knowledge is indirect knowledge. Direct experience is not there, but at least there is a conviction born of the words heard from a reliable person that the tenth man does exist. “The Atman does exist,” says the Guru. Nobody has seen the Atman, but even this good word is sufficiently comforting and solacing. Seeing the Atman separately, independently by experience, is a different matter. That is called direct knowledge. But indirect knowledge is also good enough because it gives some kind of satisfaction that, after all, it is there; it is not that it is not there. This kind of knowledge, obtained secondarily from someone, is called indirect knowledgeparoksa jnana.

Tvameva daśamo’sīti gaṇayitvā pradarśitaḥ, aparokṣa tayā jñātvā hṛṣyatyeva na roditi (27). Then that gentleman who counted the ten says, “You are the tenth.” First it was said that the tenth person does exist. Now he says, “You, yourself, who was counting, are the tenth.” That person has now become conscious of his own self as the tenth person. The missing one is one’s own self. Therefore, the knowledge arises here directly, apart from the indirect knowledge obtained earlier by merely listening to the truth that the tenth man existed.

We are searching for the Atman in this world. We go to Brindavan, Mathura, Kashi, etc., in order to search for the Atman. We may run about anywhere, but we will not find it. “Ayodhya dhoondha, Mathura dhoondha,” says Kabir in his poem, “and I found not anything there. I found it in the same place where I was sitting.” So we are in search of our own selves in our large pilgrimages, large tours. We are searching for our own selves sitting where we are. We have lost our own selves. The tenth man cannot be found by any amount of travelling and moving about in pilgrimage, etc., because it is an awareness that is necessary for the purpose of dispelling that ignorance of the tenth man not being there.

Ajñānā vṛti vikṣepa dvividha jñāna tṛptayaḥ, śokāpagama ityete yojanīyā ścidātmani (28). This jiva consciousness passes through seven stages of experience. The whole of the Seventh Chapter of the Panchadasi is an exposition of these seven stages. The first stage is total ignorance of there being such a thing called the Atman. The second stage is a veiling of the consciousness and making one feel that it is not existing because it is not seen. The third stage is the distraction or the activity that is generated by the ignorance of one’s own Self. The fourth stage is the indirect knowledge that we receive from a Guru or a good, reliable person. The fifth stage is direct knowledge, actual experience. The sixth stage is the vanishing of all sorrow. The seventh stage is immense satisfaction.

Ajnana is first. Avriti is second. Vikshepa is third. Paroksa jnana is fourth. Aparoksa jnana is fifth. Tripti is sixth. Shokapagama, the abolition of all sorrow and the coming of happiness, is the seventh stage. These seven stages are the processes which the jiva consciousness passes through in its transmigratory life in search of Truth.

Saṁsārā sakta cittaḥ sanś cidā bhāsaḥ kadācana, svayaṁ prakāśa kūṭasthaṁ svatattvaṁ naiva vettyayam (29). The jiva consciousness, notwithstanding the fact that it is existing only on account of a reflection that it receives from the Kutastha, knows not the Kutastha. As we cannot see our own back, the jiva consciousness cannot know the Kutastha. The Kutastha is at the back of the jiva consciousness. It is the real light that is shed on the jiva medium. And what does the jiva feel? It identifies itself with the reflection only and cannot know from where this reflection has come. It concludes, “I do not know the Kutastha.”

Na bhāti nāsti kūṭasthaḥ iti vakti prasaṅgataḥ, kartā bhoktā hamasmīti vikṣepaṁ prati padyate (30). The jiva feels, “Neither do I see the Kutastha Atman, nor do I feel that it exists at all.” This is one side of the matter. The other side of the matter is the jiva begins to feel, “I am the doer of all deeds. I am the enjoyer of all experiences. I am the doer, and I am the enjoyer.” This is the feeling, wrongly, which the jiva associates with itself. On the one hand, it denies the existence of the Atman or the Kutastha because it is not known. On the other hand, it assumes a false notion of its being an individual doer and an enjoyer of things. It is like a mirror saying that it is very bright. The mirror is not bright, because it cannot shine in darkness. It shines because of the light that is falling on it. So this boast of the jiva that it is the doer and the enjoyer of things is totally unfounded.

Asti kūṭastha ityādau parokṣaṁ vetti vārtayā, paścāt kūṭastha evāsmī tyevaṁ vetti vicārataḥ (31). By a gradual process of spiritual education, this jiva begins to realise through instructions received from the Guru and the scripture that the Kutastha does exist. The Atman is. God is. For all practical purposes, we are deniers of God and the Atman. We do not see God, and we do not see the Atman. How can we know that it exists? By certain methods of argument, proof and scriptural evidence, the Guru manages to convince the student that God does exist and the Atman is. This is indirect knowledge. Direct knowledge is the actual sinking of oneself into the Kutastha Atman and attaining God-consciousness itself. That is direct knowledge, aparoksa jnana.

Kartā bhokte tyeva mādi śokajātaṁ pramuñcati, kṛtaṁ kṛtyaṁ prāpaṇīyaṁ prāpta mityeva tuṣyati (32). After having attained this direct knowledge, the illusory feeling “I am the doer, I am the enjoyer” is cast aside. An illumined person will no more feel that he is the doer of things or the enjoyer of things. The whole universe is acting, and there is only one action taking place in the whole cosmos. Many activities are not taking place, and all enjoyments are also the enjoyments of the central will of the cosmos. Neither you, nor I, nor anybody else has any prerogative either to do a thing or to enjoy a thing.

“I have done what is to be done, I have enjoyed what is to be enjoyed, and I have obtained what is to be obtained.” This kind of threefold satisfaction arises after direct experience of the Atman. Kratakritya, praptaprapya, jnatajneyathese are the three qualities of an enlightened person. Kratakritya is one who has done whatever is to be done, and nothing is left now. Praptaprapya is one who has obtained whatever is to be obtained, and nothing more remains in the world to be obtained. Jnatajneya is to have known everything that is to be known, and there is nothing further to be known. Such illumination arises after deep experience.

Ajñāna māvṛtis tadvad vikṣepaśca parokṣa dhīḥ, aparokṣa mātiḥ śoka mokṣa stṛptir niraṅkuśā (33). Saptā vasthā imāh santi cidā bhāsasya tāsvimau, bandha mokṣau sthitau tatra tistro bandha kṛtaḥ smṛtāh (34). These seven stages are repeated here once again: ajnana or ignorance, avarana or veiling, vikshepa or distraction, paroksa jnana or indirect knowledge, aparoksa jnana or direct experience, shokapagama or freedom from sorrow, and tripti or immense eternal bliss.

These stages are to be associated only with the chidabhasa, and not with Brahman. Brahman does not undergo these seven stages. The reflected consciousness which we call chidabhasaor the jiva, as we may call itis what passes through these seven stages. All the seven stages which are mentioned are conditions of the jiva only. They are not to be attributed to Brahman in any manner.

The bondage and the freedom of the jiva are included within this sevenfold process. The first three refer to bondage; the other four refer to liberation. Ajnana, avriti and vikshepa are the three stages of bondage, and the remaining four are the stages of gradual liberation. Of the seven stages, the first three stages are processes, stages of bondage. The remaining four are the gradual movement towards freedom. They all belong to chidabhasa, jiva chaitanya.

Na jānāmī tyudāsīna vyavahārasya kāraṇam, vicāra prāga bhāvena yukta majñāna mīritam (35). Ajnana means ignorance: “I do not know. It does not exist.” This kind of prating of the jiva is possible only before the rising of pure discrimination. No such statement of ignorance can be made after discrimination rises.

Amārgeṇa vicāryātha nāsti nobhāti cetyasau, viparīta vyavahṛtir āvṛteḥ kārya miṣyate (36). By wrong discussion, by erroneously conducting the sense organs along the wrong path, one begins to feel that this is not there, and this is not known. What is the proof that God exists? Who has seen God? These are the stock arguments of atheists, agnostics, etc. Their arguments are based on a wrong foundation of logic. The very hypothesis of their logic is wrong, and therefore such questions arisequestions which are themselves untenable.

The wrong actions one engages oneself insuch as in the case of the tenth man, people hitting their heads against a wall and causing them to bleedin the case of all people, it is intense activity in the world. Outward movement in the direction of objects is the vikshepa that is caused by the avarana, that is veiling, prior to the arising of discriminative knowledge.

Deha dvaya cidābhāsa rūpo vikṣepa īritaḥ, kartṛ tvādya khilaḥ śokaḥ saṁsāra khyo’sya bandhakaḥ (37). In the case of we individuals, vikshepa is nothing but the physical and subtle bodies. We are suffering due to the operation of these two bodies. The subtle body contains the mind and the sense organs. The physical body has its own problems, sufferings, sorrows, illnesses. And the mind is, of course, worse than that. All the problems are created by the mind and the sense organs. The identification of the chidabhasa, or consciousness, with the two bodies (deha-dvaya), namely, the subtle and the physicalthis identification is called vikshepa, or distraction. Chidabhasa, reflected consciousness which is jiva consciousness, identifies itself with the subtle body and the physical body. It moves outward in the direction of something other than its own self. Therefore, it is vikshepa, distraction. All the bondages, thousands of sufferings that we are facing in this world arising out of agency in action and enjoyership of fruits of actionsall this grief is attributable to this chidabhasa entering into a relationship with the two bodies, namely, the subtle body and the gross body.

Ajñānam āvṛtiś caite vikṣepāt prāk prasiddhyataḥ, yadda pyathā pyavasthe te vikṣepa syaiva nātmanaḥ (38). A very important question is raised here. Ignorance and veiling have caused the vikshepa, or the distraction. You have to listen to me carefully. This is a very moot question. Ignorance or ajnana, and avarana or veiling, are the causes of the third stage, which is vikshepa, or distraction. Now, what is this distraction?

It has been explained in the previous verse, the 37th verse, that the identification of chidabhasa consciousness with the subtle body and the gross body is called vikshepa. Now, who is it that is experiencing the ignorance and veiling? Is it this distracted consciousness? The distracted consciousness is actually the jiva consciousness. It has arisen as the third entity here, in the process of the seven stages. So how can the third entity become associated or become the cause of the earlier two stages, ajnana and avarana? It is not Brahman’s ignorance, and it is not Brahman’s veiling. It must be somebody else’s. This somebody is not to be found here. Who is this somebody?

A child who is not yet born cannot be the cause of our sorrow; only after it is born some difficulties may arise. Why should we attribute anything at all to it when it is not even born? The birth of the vikshepa takes place as the third process, the third link in the chain of these seven categories. Now the question is raised here: Who is it that is experiencing the ignorance and the veil? Not Brahman, not even the vikshepa, and not the jiva because the jiva has not yet been born. Whom is the ignorance covering, or the veil covering? To this, the answer is given in this verse.

We have to conclude that these earlier two stages of ignorance and avarana, or veil, are stages of the vikshepa or the jiva only. They are not stages of anybody else, because who is the ‘anybody else’? The only other one is Brahman, and we cannot attribute these stages to Brahman. We have to attribute it only to jiva, notwithstanding the fact that it is a posterior eruption in the seven stages. How do we explain this quandary? How are we attributing a prior thing to a posterior thing?

For this, the answer of the verse is that though the vikshepa, the jiva consciousness, has manifested itself in a conscious form as the third stage, it existed in a rudimentary form in the earlier stages also. Even before we actually feel the sickness in our body, we are sick inside without our knowing it. There is an illness which arises from the deepest recesses of the koshas. The avarana, which is the anandamaya kosha, itself creates some disturbance. We cannot know it because there is no direct consciousness. Merely because we are not conscious that we are ill, it need not mean that we are not ill. The consciousness that we are ill arises afterwards when the illness projects itself outwardly into the conscious levels of the subtle and the gross bodies.

When a fruit ripens, we find that the peel becomes reddish. It does not suddenly become reddish; it has been growing gradually from inside. Ripening was taking place from the very core itself, but we could not see it. When it was greenish outside, we concluded that the fruit was unripe. The ripening process started gradually from inside until it became manifest outside on the peel. Then we say it has ripened. Similarly, when we actually feel pain in the physical body, we say we are sick, but even without feeling pain we might be sick inside for other reasons of which we may not be conscious because the illness has not become an object of our consciousness.

So the answer to this peculiar question is that ajnana and avaranaignorance and veilingshould be considered as part and parcel of the jiva only as prior conditions of its manifestation. Even before the child becomes conscious, it exists in the mother’s womb in a rudimentary form. Unconscious states cannot be regarded as somebody else’s states. They are also states of the jiva. It becomes conscious later on; that is a different matter. The unconscious conditions are also its states, though they are not direct objects of perception. So the first three stages, which are the causes of bondage, belong to the jiva onlynot to Brahman.

Vikṣepot pattitaḥ pūrvam api vikṣepa sanskṛtiḥ, astyeva tada vasthātavam aviruddhaṁ tatas tayoḥ (39). Even before the vikshepa manifests itself, the samskara or the vasana or the potency, the latency of the vikshepa, existed earlier in the form of this ignorance and avarana. Thus, the individuality consciousness of bondage has two phases: the conscious phase and the unconscious phase. The unconscious phase is prior to the conscious phase, and it is there without one being aware of it. When we become aware of it, it has already manifested itself in active form.

Brahmaṇyā ropita tvena brahmā vasthe ime iti, na śaṅka nīyaṁ sarvaṣāṁ brahmaṇye vādhi ropaṇāt (40). We should not raise a question, “Why should we not regard it as a part of Brahman’s experience?” Everything is rooted in Brahman, that is true. When the snake is superimposed on the rope, the snake may also appear to be moving. We can see it moving because we have superimposed all the qualities of a snake on it; otherwise, it cannot be a snake. And we may even feel the bite of it if we have concluded that it is really a snake and we trod on it. But actually, the rope never bit us. It did not move. It was our imagination. Therefore, these characteristics of the seven stages, attributable to the jiva, should not be superimposed on Brahman. It is a different subject altogether. Brahman is unattached, and the stages belong only to the jiva.