Commentary on the Panchadasi
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 17

Chapter 3: Pancha Kosha Viveka – Discrimination of the Five Sheaths
Verses 37-43

Satyaṁ jñānam-anantaṁ yad-brahma tad-vastu tasya tat, īśvaratvaṁ ca jīvatvam-upādhi-dvaya-kalpitam (37). The Supreme Brahman, the Absolute—this Universal Existence which has neither anything inside nor outside—such a Being is regarded by us as the creator of the world on the one hand, and as having become all the individuals in creation on the other hand. When this Supreme Brahman is visualised as the cause of this universe, Brahman is known as Ishvara, the creative principle. When the same Brahman is viewed as the principle immanent in every living being in the world, in all individualities, it goes by the name of jiva. Ishvara is the cosmic manifestation of Brahman; jiva is the individualised manifestation of Brahman. Only our viewpoints differ; and on account of the difference in viewpoint caused by the extension and the all-pervading nature of Ishvara and the limited location of the jiva, or the individual, we make such a distinction.

Really, there is no such distinction in Brahman. The difference between Ishvara and jiva—God and the individual—is, according to one analogy, something like the distinction we draw between cosmic space and the space that is imagined to be contained within a vessel. The vessel ether is very limited within the walls of the vessel; the cosmic ether is not so limited. The Consciousness of Brahman is limited within the five sheaths—about which we have made some study earlier. When this Universal Consciousness of Brahman appears to be contained within the five sheaths, as it were, it goes by the name of individual consciousness, jiva consciousness, isolated consciousness.

When the very same Brahman, the Absolute Consciousness, is cast in the mould of the creative will that is at the back of all manifestation, we call that consciousness God, Creator, Ishvara. Therefore, the distinction between Ishvara and jiva is created by a kind of upadhi, or adjunct—cosmic adjunct and individual adjunct, differing one from the other.

When we view Brahman as pervading the whole cosmos and determining its activities—creating it, preserving it, and destroying it—we call it Ishvara. When the same Brahman is reflected through the physical individuality of the five sheaths, we call the same Brahman as jiva. This is, therefore, a tentative distinction that is drawn between Ishvara and jiva, by the situation of the jiva himself.

Īśvaratvaṁ ca jīvatvam-upādhi-dvaya-kalpitam: Maya and avidya are the two upadhis, on account of whose operation, distinction is drawn between Ishvara and jiva. The cosmic determining factor is maya; the individual determining factor is avidya.

We have to remember everything that we have studied earlier because the subject here is so intricate and concentrated that what has been told earlier will not be repeated afterwards. Also, there is a disadvantage in listening to these things piecemeal—because half knowledge is a dangerous thing, as they say. Either we study it thoroughly, or we do not listen to it.

As it has been explained earlier, maya is the shuddha sattva pradhan of prakriti, the cosmic determining factor through which the universal Brahman is reflected and becomes the jiva or the Ishvara, the creative principle of God, and is the very same thing reflected through avidya, which is predominantly rajasic and tamasic. Malina sattva is submerged and becomes the jiva, or the individual. This is the distinction between maya and avidya, determining Ishvara on the one side and jiva on the other side.

Śaktir-asty-aiśvarī kācit-sarva-vastu-niyāmikā, ānanda-mayam-ārbhya gūḍhā sarveṣu vastuṣu (38). There is a tremendous power called shakti in this cosmos, right from the causal body down to the individual physical body. Right from Ishvara down to Virat there is a deciding principle operating everywhere in the whole of creation, in all nature—due to which, everything happens in the manner it has to happen. Nothing happens in the way it should not happen. Everything in the world happens exactly in the way it ought to happen.

Human individuals that we are cannot understand that this is the truth. We, many a time, feel that things that ought not to have happened have taken place. We complain against God and nature. Many times we feel that things which did not take place ought to have happened. “This man ought to have been promoted. He has been demoted. Great injustice is being caused. This man ought to have been punished, and he is promoted. The world does not seem to be kind to people. God has not created a good world. Either God has no eyes, or He is not God at all.” All kinds of difficulties arise in the human individual sunk in the ignorance of the universal power that is operating ubiquitously and impartially everywhere.

Such a power exists in nature, due to which plants grow, oceans have tidal waves, rivers flow, mountains rise up, and the sun and the moon shine and rise and set in the proper way. Everything is precise and mathematically correct. The best of things and the worst of things are all destined by the requirement of the operation of the universal nature, into whose mysteries man has no way to enter. That is why we are complaining. Such a power does exist, says the author. Śaktir-asty-aiśvarī kācit-sarva-vastu-niyāmikā: The determining factor of all things is the shakti, or the power of God. It is operating through all the sheaths, right from the causal onwards, and is operating even in the cosmos, right from Ishvara downwards.

Vastu-dharmā niyamyeran śaktyā naiva yadā tadā, anyonya-dharma-sāṅkaryād-viplaveta jagat-khalu (39). If this shakti were not to operate in a systematic, precise manner, chaos would take place. Someone said, “If this world has a creator at all, he must be a devil. Such a wretched world is this that its creator, if at all there is a creator, must be a demon of the first water.” A philosopher gave a reply to it. “This world is not created by a demon. It is created by God. If a demon had created the world, do you know what would happen to you?” The philosopher gave a humorous answer as a retort to the feeling of the man who said that a demon must have created the world because of the sufferings and wretchedness that we see here. “If the devil had created the world, do you know what would have happened? With every step that you take, the ground would split into pieces. It does not happen. Therefore, the devil has not created the world. If you touched any leaf in the tree, it would cut you like a knife. It does not happen. Therefore, the devil has not created the world. If you drank water, it would burn you like molten metal. That does not happen. Therefore, God has created the world.”

Some such answer is very humorous, and draws a distinction between the devil and God. The idea of the devil, evil, and the necessity and the non-necessity of things—the great comments that we pass on the creation of this world—are actually unwarranted on the part of people who have no knowledge of anything. We should say nothing unless we are cosmically aware. Only Cosmic Consciousness has the right to make statements; and as no human being is cosmically conscious, nobody should pass judgment on anything in this world. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

There would be tremendous confusion if this universal shakti were not to work systematically. There is, after all, a cosmic justice operating in the minutest of things, though we may not be able to understand what it is that is working. We are unilateral in our thinking, partial in our outlook, and incapable of thinking in a universal manner. Therefore, these secrets are not accessible to us.

Cicchāyā-veśataḥ śaktiśr-cetaneva vibhāti sā, tac-chaktayu pādhi-saṁyogāt-brahmaive śvaratāṁ vrajet (40). Brahman is apparently considered as Ishvara, or the creative principle, when the Brahman Consciousness reflects itself through the cosmic property of prakriti—which is sattva, as has already been mentioned. On account of the upadhi, or adjunct, which is cosmic sattva, Brahman appears as Creator, Preserver, Destroyer—Brahma, Vishnu, Siva, Ishvara.

Kośo-pādhi-vivakṣāyāṁ yāti brahmaiva jīvatām, pitā pitāmahaś-caikaḥ putra-pautrau yathā pratī (41). Just as the cosmic maya, which is shuddha sattva, becomes the cause of God—Brahman appearing as Ishvara—the very same policy is followed here in the creation of the jiva, or the individual. That is, when Brahman is reflected through the five sheaths—the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and causal—the universal Brahman appears like a man walking on the street.

In the Svetasvatara Upanishad there is a mantra which says, tvaṁ strī tvam pumān asi, tvaṁ kumāra uta vā kumārī; tvaṁ jīrno daṇḍena vañcasi, tvaṁ jato bhavasi viśvato-mukhaḥ (S.U. 4.3): “Lord, you are the boy; you are the girl; you are the old man tottering on the road with a stick in hand. Thus Thou deceivest everybody.” A devotee cries, “God, You deceive us by appearing like a school boy, as a girl walking on the road, and as a man with a bent back leaning on a stick, crawling due to weakness. With these appearances You are trying to deceive us, but we know that it is You appearing as these things. You look like a little boy and girl, and a man with the bent back. Deceivest Thou everyone here, by putting on the appearance of an old hunchback with a stick, while Thou art really universal, all-pervading.”

Somebody is called a father, and the same person is called a grandfather in relation to his son or grandson. The designations of the human being are relative to circumstances in connection with things outside. A person is an official, a person is rich, a person is poor, a person is a father, or a person is a mother. These are relative descriptions of a single individual who, by himself or herself, is independent—unrelated, basically.

Putrā-dera-vivakṣāyām na pitā na pitāmahaḥ, tad-van-neśo nāpi jīvaḥ śakti-kośā’vivakṣaṇe (42). If the son is not there, we cannot call a person a father. If the grandson is not there, we cannot call the person a grandfather. So there is no such thing as father and grandfather. They are only names that we employ to describe the social situation of a person in relation to something relevant.

Tad-van-neśo nāpi jīvaḥ śakti-kośā’vivakṣaṇe. In the same way, Ishvara and jiva do not exist. Does a father exist? If the son is there, the father must be there. If the grandson is there, the grandfather also is there. If maya, the sattva guna of prakriti, does exist, and Brahman is cast in the mould of that sattva, Ishvara does exist. But if that maya sattva guna does not exist, Ishvara does not exist. If the five sheaths exist, individual being exists; if the five sheaths do not exist, the individual also does not exist. So the existence of the creative principle of God and the individuality of persons is conditioned by the upadhis, or limiting agents, without which they do not exist at all, just as a father and grandfather do not exist unless there are children and grandchildren.

Ya evaṁ brahmā vedaiṣa brahmaiva bhavati svayam, brahmaṇo nāsti janmātaḥ punareṣa na jāyate (43). Whoever knows Brahman in the manner described in these verses becomes Brahman itself. We will not become Brahman merely by hearing it. We have to hear, we have to contemplate deeply after hearing it, then sink these ideas into our feeling, merge these ideas into our experience, and veritably become the experience of this knowledge. Knowledge that we have gained by study becomes part of our very nature. We become Brahman because our thought is fixed in Brahman. What we think we are, that we really are. If our thought is always of Brahman, we cannot be anything else.

Brahmaṇo nāsti janmātaḥ: Brahman has no birth; therefore, one who knows Brahman also will not be reborn. Punareṣa na jāyate: Only those who are identified in their consciousness with Brahman will not be reborn. Otherwise, we will have the same transmigratory sorrow which we are experiencing now and which we have been experiencing since many ages past. If we want to put an end to this grief-stricken Earthly involvement, may our consciousness get rooted in Brahman.

With this, we conclude the Third Chapter of the Panchadasi.