Untitled Document

Panchadasi (aka Vedanta Panchadasi)

By Sri Vidyaranya Swami
Translated by Swami Swahananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai



1. Brahman, who is, according to Shruti, the non-dual reality, can be known by the process of differentiation from the five elements. So this process is now being discusses in detail.

2. The properties of the five elements are sound, touch, colour, taste and smell. In Akasa (ether), air, fire, water and earth, the number of properties successively are one, two, three, four and five.

3. Echoes arise in the Akasa (ether), and hence we infer that the property of Akasa is sound. Air makes a rustling sound when it moves, and it feels neither hot nor cold to the touch. A fire in flame makes a characteristic crackling sound.

4. A fire feels hot, and its colour is red. Water makes a characteristic rippling sound; it is cold to the touch; its colour is white, and it is sweet in taste.

5. The earth makes a characteristic rattling sound; it is hard to the touch; its variegated colours are blue, red and so forth; it is sweet, sour and so forth in taste.

6. The earth emits smells, both pleasant and unpleasant. Thus the characteristic properties of the five elements are well classified. The five senses (which perceive them) are hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.

7. The five senses successively function through the external apparatus, the gross organs, the ears, the skin, the eyes, the tongue and the nose. The senses are subtle; their presence is to be inferred from their functions. They often move outwards.

8. But sometimes we hear the sounds made by our in-going and out-going breaths, and we hear buzzing sound when our ears are stopped. We feel an internal sensation of hot and cold when food and water are swallowed.

9. When our eyes are closed, we see inside the absence of light, and in belching we experience taste and odour. Thus the sense organs give rise to experience of things within the physical body.

10. The various actions of man can be classified into five groups; speech, grasping, movement, excretion and enjoyment of sexual intercourse. Action performed in agriculture, commerce, service and so forth may be included into one or other of the groups.

11. The five groups of actions are performed through the five organs of action - the mouth, the hands, the feet, the anus and the genitals.

12. The mind, the ruler of the ten organs of sense and action, is situated within the lotus of the heart. As it depends on the organs of sense and action for its functions in relation to external objects, it is called an internal organ (antahkarana).

13. The mind enquires into the merits and defects of the objects which are perceived by the senses. Sattva, rajas and tamas are its three constituents, for through them the mind undergoes various modifications.

14. Non-attachment, forgiveness, generosity, etc., are products of sattva. Desire, anger, avarice, effort, etc., are produced by rajas.

15. Lethargy, confusion, drowsiness, etc., are produced by tamas. When sattva functions in the mind, merit is acquired; when rajas functions, demerit is produced.

16. When tamas functions, neither merit nor demerit is produced, but life is wasted for nothing. Of the modifications of the mind that of I-consciousness is the agent. In the practical world also we do the same.

17. It is quite evident that the objects in which sound, touch etc., are clearly discernible are products of the five elements. With the help of scriptural texts and reasoning it can be conceived that even for the senses and the mind the subtle elements are the basis.

18. Whatever of this world is perceived by the senses, the organs of action, the mind, reasoning and the scriptural texts, is referred to as 'this' (idam) in the Shruti text that follows.

19. "Before all this was created there was Being alone, one only, without a second; there was neither name nor form", so said Aruni.

20. Differences are of three kinds: The difference of a tree from its leaves, flowers, fruits etc., is the difference within an object. The difference of one tree from another tree is the difference between objects of the same class. The difference of a tree from a stone is the difference between objects of different classes.

21. Similarly doubt may arise that the one and only reality (Sat or Brahman) may also have differences. So all the three kinds of differences have been negated by the Shruti in three words denoting the oneness of Brahman, Its definiteness and rejection of duality respectively.

22. One cannot doubt that Brahman, the one and only reality, has no parts, for Its parts cannot be conceived of. Names and forms cannot be Its parts, for before creation they did not arise.

23. As creation means the appearances of names and forms, they cannot exist before creation. Therefore like the Akasa, Brahman is partless (and there is no difference with It.)

24. The difference between objects of the same class can have no reference to Sat, for nothing else exists. One object differs from another on account of its name and form, whereas Brahman is absolutely without name and form.

25. And about non-existence: we cannot say that it (is something that) exists. So it cannot serve as a pratiyogin. If so, how can there be vijatiya difference ?

26. So it is established that Sat is one only without a second. But there are still some who get confused by texts and say that Asat (nothing) existed before creation.

27. As a man who ha fallen into the sea is bewildered and loses the power of exercising his senses, so they too become afraid and nervous when they hear of the Reality as one only without parts.

28. The teacher Gaudapada speaks of the great fear of some yogins who are devoted to Brahman with form, regarding the objectless super-conscious state.

29. This identification with the ungrasped and ungraspable Reality is difficult to achieve. They are indeed seeing fear in the fearless.

30. The highly respected Bhagavatpada Sankara also refers to the Madhyamikas, experts in dry ratiocination (contradicting the vedic view), as confused regarding the self-existent Brahman who is beyond thought.

31. These Buddhists, merged in darkness, and seeing through the one eye of inference and neglecting the authority of the Vedas, reached only the 'nothingness'.

32. (We ask the Buddhists): When you said, 'nothing existed' did you mean it (nothing) was connected with existence (Sat) or it (nothing) was of the nature of existence ? In either case its nothingness is contradicted.

33. The sun does not have the attribute of darkness; nor is it itself of the nature of darkness. As existence and non-existence are similarly contradictory, (you cannot predicate something about nothing, so) how do you say 'nothing existed' ?

34. (The Buddhists retort): (According to you Vedantins) The names and forms of Akasa and other elements are conjured up by Maya in (or on) Sat, the existence or Reality. Similarly (according to us) they (names and forms) are illusively produced by Maya in (or on) non-existence, Asat. (Reply): Our answer is, 'May you live long', i.e. you have fallen into a logical trap.

35. If you affirm that name and form attributed to an existing thing: are both creations of Maya (an illusory principle), then tell us what is the substratum upon which Maya creates names and forms; for illusion without a substratum, is never seen.

36. (The opponent says): In the Vedic text 'Existence was (sat asit)' if the two words mean differently then two separate things come in. If the words refer to the same thing, then there is tautology. (The Vedantins replies): Not that, i.e., the two terms certainly refer to the same thing, but identical statements like this are seen in usage.

37. We all use the expressions, 'What has to be done has been done', 'speech is spoken', and 'A burden is borne'. The Vedic text 'Existence was' is meant for those whose minds are accustomed to such expressions.

38. Such text as 'Before creation' spoken in reference to Brahman who is timeless, are meant for beginners who are used to the idea of time. They do not imply the existence of duality.

39. Objections are raised and answered from the point of view of duality. From the stand point of pure non-duality neither questions nor answers are possible.

40. What remains after dissolution is an unmoving and ungraspable, unnamed and unnamable, unmanifest, indefinite something, beyond light and darkness, and all-pervading.

41. (Objection): When the molecules of the four elements earth, water, fire and air are dissolved, we may have an idea of the dissolution of those elements; but how can our intellect grasp the dissolution of ak which is not composed of molecules ? Hence Akasa is eternal.

42. (Reply): If your mind can conceive of the existence of Akasa in the total absence of the (atomic) world (of names, forms and motions) why could we not conceive of Sat without Akasa ?

43. If the opponent holds that Akasa can be perceived in the absence of the rest of the world, we may ask: Where can it be seen except as light and darkness ? (i.e. what you seem to perceive is not Akasa but light and darkness). Besides, according to the opponent's view Akasa cannot be perceived by the senses.

44. Brahman the pure existence (without any reference to the world) can be experienced without an iota of doubt, when all mentations cease. And what we experience is not nothing, for we are not conscious of the perception of nothing.

45. (Objection): The idea of existence is also absent in the state of quiescence. (reply): It does not matter. Brahman is self-revealing and the witness of the tranquil mind. It can be easily perceived by men inasmuch as it is the witness of the cessation of all mentations.

46. When the mind is void of all mentations we experience the witness or obscuring consciousness (in its purity) as calm and unagitated. Similarly prior to the functioning of Maya the existence, Sat, remained (in its purity) as quiescence, calm and unruffled.

47. As the power to burn exists in fire, so the power Maya, which has no existence independent of Brahman and which is inferred by its effect, exists in Brahman. Before the effect appears, the power behind the effect is not directly experienced by anyone anywhere.

48. The power of a substance is not the substance itself, as for instance, the power to burn is not the fire itself. (Similarly, Maya, which is the power of Brahman, is not Brahman). If Power is something other than Brahman, then define its nature.

49. (If you say the nature of) Maya is 'nothingness' (then you contradict yourself inasmuch as in verse 34) you said that 'nothing' is an effect of Maya (and an effect of a thing cannot be its nature, an effect being poterior to the thing). (So you will have to admit that) Maya is neither sunyam, non-existence nor Sat, existence, but it is as it is (i.e. something undefinable by the two terms).

50. This peculiar nature of Maya is corroborated by the Vedic text which purports, there was neither non-existence nor existence then (i.e., before creation) but there was darkness (by which is meant Maya). This attribution of existence to darkness (or Maya) is due to its association with existence, not by virtue of itself, in as much as it (existence) is denied to it (in the just mentioned Vedic passage).

51. Hence like nothingness, Maya also cannot be a distinct entity in its own right. In the world too, an able man and his ability are not considered two but one.

52. If it is argued that increase in one's power leads to the prolongation of his life (we counter it by saying that) the prolongation is not the result of power but the effects thereof, such as war, agriculture, etc.

53. Power is now here considered to be independent of its substratum. Before creation no effects of power existed. What grounds are there for assuming a duality ?

54. Power does not operate in the whole of Brahman but only in a part of it. Earth's power of producing pots is not seen in all earth but in a portion or mode of earth only, viz., in clay, i.e., earth mixed with water.

55. The Shruti says: 'Creation is only a quarter of Brahman, the other three quarters are self-revealing' (i.e., not dependent on Maya's effects for its revelation). Thus does the Shruti say Maya covers but a part of Brahman.

56. In the Gita, Sri Krishna says to Arjuna: 'The world is sustained by a part of Mine', indicating that the world is sustained by a part of the Lord.

57. The Shruti supports the same view: 'The supreme spirit, pervading the world on every side, yet extends ten fingers beyond it'. In the Sutras, too, Brahman is declared to transcend the world of differences.

58. Shruti, the well-wisher of the questioner, being asked whether Maya pervades the whole or part of Brahman, speaks of the partless as having parts in order to explain the non-dual nature of Brahman, by giving illustrations.

59. With Brahman as its basis, Maya creates the various objects of the world, just as a variety of pictures are drawn on a wall by the use of different colours.

60. The first modification of Maya is Akasa. Its nature is space i.e., it gives room to things to exist and expand. Akasa derives its existence from Brahman, its substratum.

61. The nature of Brahman is existence only. Brahman is spaceless but Akasa has both space and existence as its nature.

62. Akasa also has the property of (conveying or communicating) sound, which Brahman does not have. Thus Akasa has two properties, sound and existence, whereas Brahman has only one existence.

63. The same Sakti (power) i.e. Maya which has conjured up Akasa in the real entity, Sat or Existence has also produced the difference between them, after having shown their identity.

64. It is Sat which appears as Akasa, but ordinary people, and the logicians say that existence is a property of Akasa. This is only to be expected, for Maya is the conjurer.

65. It is common knowledge that correct understanding makes a thing appear as it is in itself and illusion makes it appear differently.

66. A thing appears to be quite different after a thorough discussion of the Vedic passage (concerned) from what it appeared before such a discussion. So let us now discuss the nature of Akasa.

67. Brahman and Akasa are different entities. Their names are different, and the ideas conveyed by their names too are different. Brahman pervades air and other objects. Such is not the case with Akasa. This is what we know to be the difference.

68. The entity, Sat, being more pervading, is the locus or substance; and Akasa (being less pervading) a content or an attribute. When, by the exercise of reason or intellect, Sat is separated from Akasa, tell me what the nature of Akasa is (i.e., it is reduced to nothing).

69. If you hold that (when existence is abstracted from it) Akasa still remains as space, we reply, it should be ragarded as 'nothing'. If you say: 'It is different from Asat as well as from Sat' you shift your position (for you do not admit anything which is different from both, which we, of course, hold.

70. If you argue that Akasa is evident, then we reply: let it be; it is to the credit of the products of Maya. The appearance of an object which is in fact non-existent is an illusion (mithya) just as that of the elephant seen in a dream.

71. As there is a distinction between a class, and a member of a class, a living man and his body, and the possessor of an attribute and the attribute, so there is a distinction between existence (Brahman) and Akasa. What is there to wonder at ?

72. If you say that granting intellectually that there is a distinction between Akasa and Brahman, yet in practice one does not feel convinced of it, we ask, is such an absurd conclusion due to lack of concentration or tenacious doubt ?

73. If the first, be attentive by fixing the mind through meditation. If the other, then study the matter carefully with the help of reasoning and evidence. Then the conviction of the truth of the distinction between Brahman and Akasa will be firm.

74. By means of profound meditation, evidence and logical reasoning, Brahman and Akasa can be known to be different from one another. The Akasa will not appear as real nor Brahman as having the property of space-giving.

75. To a knower Akasa shows its illusoriness and Brahman also always shines unassociated with its properties.

76. When one's impressions (about the true natures of Sat and Akasa) are thus quite deepened (by constant reasoning and meditation) one is amazed to see a person attributing reality to Akasa and suffering from ignorance about reality being pure existence (void of all attributes).

77. Thus when the unreality of Akasa and the reality of Brahman are firmly established in the mind, one should follow the same method and differentiate Brahman, whose nature is pure existence, from air and other elements.

78. The real entity (Brahman) is all-pervasive; the range of Maya is limited, that of Akasa is more limited and that of the air yet more so.

79. The following are the properties air is known to possess: ability to absorb moisture, perceptibility to the same of touch, speed and motion. Existence and the properties of Maya and Akasa are also found in air.

80. When we say, air exists, we mean that it does so by virtue of the universal principle, existence. If the idea of existence is abstracted from air what is left is of the nature of Maya i.e. a non-entity. The property of sound that is found in air is of Akasa.

81. (Objection): It was stated before (in 67) that existence was a natural concomitant of every thing and that Akasa was not. Now you say that Akasa is concomitant of air. Do they not contradict ?

82. (Reply): We implied before that space as an attribute of Akasa was not found in air; we now say that the ability to produce sound, which is also the attribute of Akasa is found in air. Where is the contradiction ?

83. (Objection): If you argue that because air is different from the real entity it is unreal, why do you not infer that air, perceived by the senses being different from Maya, is not unreal like Maya ?

84. (Reply): Air is unreal because its nature partakes of the nature of Maya. Unreality is common to Maya, and its effects, because both differ from reality (existence), although Maya, being power, is not subject to perception whereas its effects are.

85. There may be sub-divisions within non-existence. But what is the use of considering them here ?

86. What is real in air is Brahman, Sat; other portions are unreal as in Akasa. Having made a deep impression (in your mind) about the unreality of air (by reason and meditation) give up (the false notion about the reality of) air.

87. In the same way we can think of fire which has a more limited range than air. A similar consideration will point to the relative extension of the other elements which envelop the universe (e.g. water and earth).

88. Fire is formed from a tenth part of air, and in this way each element is one tenth as extensive as the preceding one. This is the traditional theory described in the Puranas.

89. Heat and light are the specific properties of fire in addition to the properties of the entities from which it is derived, namely existence, a pseudo-reality apart from existence and perceptibility to the senses of sound and touch.

90. Endowed with these properties of Brahman, Maya, Akasa and air, respectively, fire has colour as its specific property; apart from existence, all the other properties of fire are unreal. Understand this by discrimination.

91. Since the reality of fire as Brahman and its unreality apart from Brahman has been established, it is easy to understand the unreality of water apart from Brahman since it consists of only one-tenth part of fire.

92. Its existence, its pseudo-reality apart from existence, its perceptibility to the senses of sound, touch and sight are taken from the entities from which it is derived (namely, Brahman, Maya, Akasa, air and fire respectively). Its specific property is perceptibility to the sense of taste.

93. Since the illusory character of water considered apart from existence has thus been established, let us now take the case of earth, which arises from one-tenth part of water.

94. The earth has for its properties existence, a pseudo-reality apart from existence and perceptibility to the senses of sound, touch, sight and taste. Its specific property is perceptibility to the senses of smell. Their difference from Brahman should be understood.

95. The illusory character of earth is realised when it is considered apart from existence. One-tenth part of it forms the cosmos.

96. The cosmos contains the fourteen worlds and all the living beings suited to each world.

97. If we abstract from the cosmos the existence which underlies it, all the worlds and all objects are reduced to a mere illusory appearance. What does it matter even if they still continue to appear ?

98. When a deep impression has been created in the mind about the elements and their derivatives and Maya being of the same category (viz., of non-existence), the understanding of the real entity as non-dual will never be subverted.

99. When the Reality has been comprehended as non-dual and the world of duality has been differentiated, their pragmatic action (however) will continue as before.

100. The followers of Sankhya, Vaisesika, the Buddhist and other schools have established with quite an array of arguments (the real nature of) the multiplicity in the universe. Let them have these. We have no quarrel with them. (In the pragmatic world we too accept them all.)

101. There are philosophers who, holding an opposite view, disregard the real non-dual entity. That does not harm us, who (following the Veda, reason and experience, are convinced of our own unshakable position and therefore) have no regard for their conclusion.

102. When the intellect disregards the notions of duality, it becomes firmly established in the conception of non-duality. The man who is firmly rooted in the conviction of non-duality is called a Jivanmukta (liberated in life).

103. Sri Krishna says in the Gita: 'This is called having one's being in Brahman, O Partha. None, attaining to this, becomes deluded. Being established therein, even at the last moment, a man attains to oneness with Brahman'.

104. 'At the last moment' means the moment at which the mutual identification of the illusory duality and the one secondless reality is annihilated by differentiating them from each other; nothing else.

105. In common parlance the expression 'at the last moment' may mean 'at the last moment of life'. Even at that time, the illusion that is gone does not return.

106. A realised soul is not affected by delusion and it is the same whether he dies healthy or in illness, sitting in meditation or rolling on the ground, conscious or unconscious.

107. The knowledge of the Veda acquired (during the waking condition) is daily forgotten during dream and deep sleep states, but it returns on the morrow. Similar is the case with the knowledge (of Brahman) - it is never lost.

108. The knowledge of Brahman, based on the evidence of the Vedas, is not destroyed unless proved invalid by some stronger evidence; but in fact there is no stronger evidence than the Vedas.

109. Therefore the knowledge of the non-dual Reality (thus) established by the Vedanta is not falsified even at the last moment (whatever interpretation be taken). So the discrimination of the elements (from the non-dual Reality) surely ensures peace abiding or bliss ineffable.