Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda


Discourse 41

Chapter 7: Triptidipa Prakaranam – Light on Supreme Satisfaction
Verses 57-67

Daśamo’stīti vibhrāntaṁ parokśa jñāna mīkṣyate, brahmā stītyapi tadvat syād ajñānā varaṇaṁ samam (57). When a person who has been under the impression that one of the ten people is missing is told that the tenth person is also there, the knowledge that the tenth person is existing is called indirect knowledge. The tenth person has not been seen yet. There is no direct knowledge, but it has been told that the person is still alive, existing, and this indirect knowledge subsequently leads to direct knowledge.

In the same way, when we are told by a Guru that God exists, our ignorance about the existence of God vanishes because the word comes from a reliable person. Many people might not have seen a far-off country, for instance. But when a person who has visited that country says that the country exists because he has actually experienced it, a person who has heard this and yet not gone there personally takes it to be a fact: “Oh, I see. That country exists, because this knowledge has come to me through a person who is reliable, who is not going to mislead me, and who has had a direct experience of it.”

In a similar manner, when we are told God exists, the statement comes from a person who is reliable, who is not likely to mislead us into wrong notions. The knowledge that Brahman exists removes the avarana, or the veil, which is known as the obscuration of the consciousness of there being such a thing called Brahman.

Ātmā brahmeti vākyārthe niḥśesaṇa vicariate, vyakti rulli khyate yadvad daśama stvama sītyataḥ (58). Direct knowledge is, “You are the tenth man, sir. I am not telling you that the tenth man simply exists; I am telling you that you are the tenth man. You have been counting nine people, forgetting yourself as already there. Now I am telling you, you are the tenth one.”

“Oh, I am the tenth one.” The knowledge ‘I am the tenth one’ is direct experience. In a similar manner, when it was told that the Atman is, Brahman is, we have only an indirect knowledge by way of reliable sources of information. But when it is applied to one’s own direct experiencethe Atman that exists is our own self, the Brahman that exists is the largest dimension of our own consciousnessit becomes direct experience, an efflorescence of the indirect knowledge obtained earlier.

Daśamaḥ ka iti praśne tvame veti nirākṛte, gaṇayitvā svena saha svameva daśamaṁ smaret (59). Where is the tenth man? Suppose the tenth man, who has not counted himself, puts this question to the passer-by. He is told, “You are yourself that. Count yourself first, and then count others. Don’t start counting only those people whom you are seeing with your eyes. Why have you not counted yourself first? Are you not alive? Count yourself first: one. Then the other nine may be counted, and so you will have ten people.”

The value of the whole world consists in the value that is recognised first in the Atman. A soulless world, a soulless society, a soulless object does not exist, because anything that has no soul is virtually not existing. And if we consider that the soul is only within us, that it is not anywhere else, and that we can utilise everything other than our own selves as an instrument for our own purpose, what are we actually employing as our instrument? Do you know? It is that which is not a soul, since if we think that the instrument that we are employing for our own purpose is also a soul, it would be a self-contradiction because a soul cannot employ another soul for its own purpose, as they stand on par. They are on equal status.

The soul cannot be a servant of another soul. It is a non-soul that becomes the servant of a soul. The master always thinks that he is the soul and the servant has no soul. The servant can be sold as a commodity, like a bag of rice. This is how we treat other people, how we treat things in the world, how we treat the world itself as a tool, as a non-self, a soulless existence, as if we are the only soul.

Now, this is what has happened to the poor man who forgot himself and counted all the non-selves as being nine; and even if nine were there, the sorrow of the tenth man missing was so intense that they could not survive without beating their heads in grief. The soul is the meaning that gives value to everything else in the world which looks like a soulless existence. Who is the tenth man? You yourself are that. Where is the Atman? Inside you. What are the other things, then? They also have a soul, like you.

The world is a kingdom of ends; it is not a kingdom of means. This is something that we have to remember always. Nothing in the world, no person, is a means to somebody else. Every person is an end in itself. Everybody has self-respect and would not like to be denied the prerogative of having a respect for one’s own selfbecause the soul asks for respect. Only a soulless thing has no respect; and if we think that another person has no soul, so much the credit to our wisdom.

Daśamo’smīti vākyotthā na dhīrasya vihanyate, ādi madhyā vasāneṣu na navatvasya saṁśayaḥ (60). Once the consciousness ‘I am the tenth man’ arises, it cannot be obliterated afterwards. He will never forget that he is the tenth person. He can count from the beginning, from the middle or from the end, in serial order or in reverse order, and he will always find that it is ten. Whether you consider yourself as the subject and the world as the object, or consider the world as the subject which looks at you as the object, it makes no difference provided that there is a soul in all things.

A soulless thing cannot exist; and anything that exists has a soul. Therefore, our attitude towards the world, as should be obvious and has been well said, should be the same as our attitude towards our own selves. How do we treat our own selves? That is how we have to treat even a leaf on the tree, what to talk of people in the world. We have no business even to pluck a leaf from a tree. We have no such authority. It has a self-existence of its own, so why are we interfering with it? Otherwise, somebody can pluck our ear, which we would not like.

Sadeve tyādi vākyena brahma sattvaṁ parokṣataḥ, gṛhītvā tattva masyādi vākyāt vyaktiṁ samullikhet (61). In the Upanishads there are two types of description of Reality. One definition is called avantara vakya, and the other is called mahavakya. Avantara vakya is the statement which merely tells us that something exists; it will not tell us where it is. Brahman exists: asti brahma. This is avantara vakya, an intermediary introductory statement made by the Guru to the disciple before actual initiation is done. We studied the mahavakyas in the Fifth Chapter.

Sad eva somyedam agra āsīd ekam evādvitīyam (C.U. 6.2.1). This is an avantara vakya of the Chhandogya Upanishad. The Guru speaks to the disciple. Uddalaka Aruni speaks to his disciple, his own son, Svetaketu, that Existence alone was prior to the act of creationOne alone, without a second. This is the avantara vakya; and the identity of that thing which existed prior to creation with our own self is the mahavakya. Its existence merely as such, as an object of our knowledge, is indirect knowledge born of the avantara vakya, the intermediary introductory definition. When it is said that we are inseparable from it right from eternity, the mahavakya, the great statement of instruction, has been communicated.

Ādi madhyā vasāneṣu svasya brahmatva dhīriyam, naiva vyabhi caret tasmāt āparokṣyaṁ prati ṣṭhitam (62). One alone without a second did exist. Therefore, we cannot exist outside it. It is not necessary to add another sentence that we are identical with that, as we have a little common sense to understand that it must be the fact. One alone, without a second, was there. And inasmuch as we stand as a second to it, we will be a redundant existence in the presence of that all-pervading, all-inclusive, One alone without a second. Therefore, it is understood, it is implied, that we are inseparable from that. This is aparoksa experience, direct knowledge.

Janmādi kāraṇa tvākhya lakṣaṇena bhṛugḥ, purā pārokṣyeṇa gṛhītvātha vicārāt vyakti maikṣata (63). There was a Guru called Varuna. He had a son called Bhrigu, who was also a disciple. This is an illustration taken from the Taittiriya Upanishad.

“Teach me Brahman,” said the disciple to the Guru.

“That from which everything comes, that in which everything subsists, that to which everything returns is Brahman. Meditate on this,” was the instruction.

After meditating, the disciple again went to the Guru and said, “Teach me Brahman.”

“Contemplate this physical sheath as Brahman,” instructed the Guru.

He meditated, and again went and asked, “Please teach me Brahman.”

“Contemplate the vital sheath as Brahman,” instructed the Guru.

He meditated on that, and again went and said, “Please teach me Brahman.”

“Contemplate the mental sheath as Brahman,” said the Guru.

He meditated thus, and again went to the Guru and said, “Please teach me Brahman.”

Why did he go again and again? What was the matter? There was some defect in the instruction and also in the experience therebythat is to say, in considering the physical, vital or mental sheaths as Brahman.

Again the disciple went, “Please teach me Brahman.”

“Meditate on the intellectual sheath as Brahman,” instructed the Guru.

He again meditated on that, and again went to the Guru and said, “Teach me Brahman.”

“Meditate on the bliss of Brahman,” said the Guru.

After that he did not go again. When bliss has been experienced, why should we go to the Guru afterwards? The Guru is rejected because bliss is a greater Guru than the Guru who brought us the bliss.

In the beginning, it was only a definition by way of an indirect instruction. Brahman is that which is the cause, the sustenance and the end of all things, and it is that which is pervading the physical body, that which pervades the vital, mental, intellectual sheaths, that which is the ultimate bliss that we experience in the state of deep sleep. Having consciously entered into that sleep, if we can be conscious that we are sleeping, we are in direct contact with Brahman. As we cannot be conscious that we are sleeping, that contact is not possible. We come back in the same way as we went into it. A fool went in, and a greater fool came back.

The graduated technique adopted by Gurus in teaching disciples varies from person to person, from individual to individual, and from one state of evolution to another state of evolution; and this case of Varuna teaching Bhrigu to pass through all these stages of Brahman being immanent in the five sheaths, and experiencing the final bliss of Brahman as it is manifest in the state of sleep, is one category of graduated instruction by the Guru to the disciple.

Yadyapi tvamasītyatra vākyaṁ noce bhṛgoḥ pitā, tathā pyannaṁ prāṇamiti vicārya sthala muktavān (64). The Guru, Varuna, did not directly tell Bhrigu what Brahman was. He wanted the disciple to work his own way, by his personal effort, and so he led him gradationally, stage by stage, through the levels of experience, right from the conceptual idealisation of God (Brahman) as that which exists as the volition, the sustenance, and the end of all things, that which is in the physical and in the other sheaths, that which is the ultimate bliss. This is how a graduated instruction was imparted to the disciple by the Guru as we have it recorded in the Taittiriya Upanishad.

Anna prāṇādi kośeṣu suvicārya punaḥ punaḥ, ānanda vyaktim īksitvā brahma lakṣmāpya yūjujat (65). Bliss is an indication of Brahman; it is not Brahman itself. The word used here by the author of the Panchadasi is that the bliss of the causal sheath which the disciple experienced is an indication of Brahman’s bliss, not Brahman itself. That is to say, when we enter the state of deep sleep we are not experiencing Brahman, though theoretically it may be equal to our landing ourselves in Brahman.

If our airplane suddenly requires fuel it lands somewhere, at some airport, and we do not even know which country it is, whose airport it is. We are not very much bothered about that detail because we are in the crucial condition of fuel exhaustion. Under an international charitable feeling this kind of landing is evidently permitted, as far as I am given to understand. When the pilot cries from the airplane over a wireless that the fuel is exhausted, they do not ask him to quit from that place because there is a human compassion, a humanity and understanding, a United Nations dictum or whatever it is, and he is allowed to land.

If we do not even know where we have landed, and simply know that we have landed, that is something like an indirect jumping into the Brahman state. But actually, landing in sleepthat blissful experience of the condition of sleepis not Brahman experience because we wake up from sleep into the mortal experience of the physical existence. If we had really gone to Brahman, we would not have woken up.

Therefore, the causal experience of Brahman is only an indication and not a direct experience, says the author here. This experience has been undergone gradually through the physical, vital, and other sheaths. It is a final indicator of Brahman’s existence. It is a signpost which tells us that Brahman is appearing, but Brahman has not yet appeared.

Satyam jñānam anantaṁ ceti evaṁ brahma svalakṣaṇam, uktvā guhāhitvena kośe ṣvetat pradarśitam (66). The Taittiriya Upanishad says satyam jñānam anantaṁ brahma: Truth-Knowledge-Infinity is Brahman. This is another way of saying sarvaṁ khalvidaṁ brahma: All is Brahman. If all is Brahman, what does it matter to us? It matters very much because we are not outside it. After having been told that Brahman is Truth-Knowledge-Infinity, we are instructed into a further reality of the fact of our being non-separate from that Brahman which is Truth- Knowledge-Infinity. This is how gradual instruction is imparted by the Guru to the disciple in the process of what is known as initiation.

Pārokṣeṇa vibudhyendro ya ātmetyādi lakṣaṇāt, aparoksī kartum icchan ścantur vāraṁ guruṁ yayau (67). Indra went to Prajapati four times to know the Atman. Once Prajapati made a declaration in his hall: “This Atman is immortal. Whoever knows it shall have everything that he wants.”

Indra, the ruler of the gods, and Virochana, the ruler of the demons, both heard this and wanted to obtain everything they desired, so they went to Prajapati to get initiation into the nature of this Atman.

“For thirty-two years you must stay here, observing self-restraint,” said Prajapati.

They stayed with Prajapati for thirty-two years, observing self-restraint. After that, the initiation that was given was strange: “The Atman is that which you see when you look at yourself in water.” This was the instruction.

Virochana, the demon king, took this instruction as relating to the physical body, and thought that the physical body is the Atman. He never had any doubt afterward. He proclaimed to all his associates, “Now I know the Atman. The physical body is the Atman. Eat well, be happy, and keep this body secure.”

Indra also got this instruction, but when he was halfway home, he had a difficulty. How could the physical body be the Atman? This question never arose in the case of Virochana, the demon king, but Indra had a doubt: “The Atman is said to be immortal. If this body is to be identified with the Atman, the Atman also would be perishable, like the body. The body has illnesses; the Atman will also have illness. The body has many defects; those defects will be in the Atman also. The body dies; the Atman also will die. No, I do not think this instruction is all right. I will go back.”

So again he went to Prajapati, and Prajapati said, “How do you come again, sir, after receiving instruction on the Atman? What is the matter?”

“Great Master, this instruction does not seem to be all right, because this physical body cannot be the Atman. If that is the case, the Atman will die with the body,” replied Indra.

“All right, stay here another thirty-two years, with restraint.” After the second thirty-two years, Prajapati said, “What you see in dream, that is the Atman. Now go.”

Indra left, and he went on brooding over this matter. “What is the good of this Atman that I see in dream? It is all chaos, confusion, transmutation, change. Even death can take place in dream. I don’t think this instruction is all right.” So he went back to Prajapati.

“Why have you come again?” asked Prajapati.

“This instruction does not seem to be all right, Master, because even in dream one can die. If that is the case, the Atman dies,” replied Indra.

“Okay,” said Prajapati. For a third time he said, “Stay here for thirty-two years more, with self-restraint.”

Then what was the instruction? “That which you see in deep sleep is the Atman.”

Indra left, feeling happy. On the way, he had a doubt: “What kind of Atman is this that knows nothing about itself or others? In sleep one neither knows oneself nor anybody else. What is the good of this Atman? It is as if it is dead. We feel as if we are dead in the state of deep sleep. This kind of Atman is no good.” He went back to Prajapati.

Prajapati said, “Again you have come?”

Indra said, “Sir, this instruction also seems to have some defect because in sleep we seem to be nothing, so the Atman would be nothing.”

“Oh. Stay here another five years.” Prajapati reduced the punishment from thirty-two years to five. Indra had to stay for a hundred and one years for this final instruction.

“Now I shall tell you what the Atman is,” said Prajapati.

This story appears in the Chhandogya Upanishad. The Atman is not the physical body, not the dream world, and not the sleep state. It is a transcendent radiance from which one attains everything that one wants, and which rises above the three bodiesthe physical, the vital and the causal. Immortal is this essence, and it cannot be identified with either the waking, the dreaming or the sleep states.