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Three Quintets or Pentads on Monistic Brahman...

Atman and Brahman

 Presentation by V.Krishnaraj

Panchadasi was composed by Vidyaranya Swamin and espouses Advaita Vedanta. Vidyaranya Swamin presided over Sringeri Mutt (1377-1386), established by Sankara. A complete text and translation in English is available: Panchadasi, English Translation by Swami Swahananda, Ramakrishna Math Printing Press, Mylapore, Chennai (formerly Madras) 600 004.

Ramakrishna Parmahamsa says that Jivatman and Paramatman are the two divided streams of one big stream which is divided by the Maya of a plank of wood placed edgewise. Hence, the indivisible One appears as two, the Jivatman and the Paramatman, due to limitations of Maya. Adapted from Sayings of Ramakrishna, Saying 21, page 27.

You may note many apparently contradictory doctrines here. They all attempt to elucidate Brahman and his subsidiaries.   

This write-up is based on Panchadasi. Pancha + dasi = five + Ten = 15 chapters = three quintets = three aspects of Brahman = Sat + Chit + Ananda. It elaborates Advaita view of Brahman and its derivatives, Consciousness, Jiva, Maya, Matter, Mahat, Intellect, Ego, Avidya, and Bliss.

Panchadasi puts forward the following theory with regards to Brahman, Jiva, and Prakrti. Jiva = individual soul; Prakrti = matter. Prakrti is not a product of Brahman; it is not a palpable real entity separate from Brahman. It represents the Will (Iccha) of Brahman to create and this Will becomes (transforms into) the three gunas: Sattva, Rajas and Tamas which gel into material. Guna = mode.  When Prakrti is sattvic, it is called Maya; when it is dominated by Rajas and Tamas, it is called Avidya (nescience). Maya is the mirror that reflects Brahman; the reflected image of Brahman is called Isvara who controls Maya. It is like the lady who carries the mirror in her purse. The lady is Brahman, the mirror is maya and the lady's image in the mirror is Isvara. Sat Chit: Sat (Being) is Consciousness (Chit) and exercises its Will to create; therefore, it is Being, possessing and controlling maya, and becoming matter through the gunas. On the other hand, Brahman is the subject; Avidya is the water-mirror; and Jiva is the inverted reflection of Isvara in water.  What does it mean?  Isvara's head is at a high point and man's head in the water-mirror is at the low point. Isvara's consciousness is Pure Consciousness at the high point, while Jiva's consciousness is at the low point; there is a wide chasm (several degrees of separation) between these two entities. Man, as said before, is governed by ignorance (avidya), meaning that he identifies himself with the body and not with the soul (self) which is organically connected and related to Isvara. This ignorance is both veiling and projecting (Avarana and Vikshepa). This ignorance veils Sat and Cit (Being and Consciousness) of Brahman and projects the phenomenal world by Vikshepa. Vikshepa: power of ignorance that causes the world seem real. This projection is mediated by Tanmatras: Principles of Sound, touch, vision and color, taste and smell, which are pervaded by qualities Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. The Sattva of Sound becomes the sense of hearing; that of touch, the sense of touch and so on. These in combination form an entity called Antakarana or inner organ which has three components: Manas, Buddhi, and Ahamkara. These were discussed elsewhere. The Rajas-dominated sound, touch, vision (color and form), taste, and smell become the respective organs.

Panchadasi (Chapter five) defines consciousness as follows: Consciousness is that by which a man hears, sees, speaks, and tells different tastes apart. Brahman is the consciousness present in the gods, humans, horses, and cows.


Panchadasi (2.88) says that Akasa is the most extensive element compared to the rest. Quantitatively starting from air each element is 10% (To be exact 12.5% or 1/8) of the former element. It attributes this statement to Puranas.

Tanmatras namely sound, touch, color, taste, and smell are the subtle, rudimentary and nonspecific particles from which the gross elements namely akasa, air, fire, water, and earth evolve respectively.  The Tanmatras have specific names: Sabda Tanmatra (sound), Sparsa Tanmatra (touch), Rupa Tanmatra (color and form), Rasa Tanmatra (taste), and Gandha Tanmatra (smell). There are two divisions in the gross (great) elements (Mahabhutas): Amurtta and Murtta, the formless and the formed. Akasa and air are formless elements, while fire, water and earth formed. 

Go to BG13 for more details on Tanmatras and its derivatives.



Jiva is described as the mirror image (Pratibimba) of Brahman in Avidya or nescience and Isvara is the prototypical Brahman (with Maya which Isvara uses and by which he is not afflicted). Another view states that Jiva is Brahman delimited with nescience. The first example is the reflection of the face in the mirror; the second is the small pot holding the delimited space in the midst of an immeasurable vast space. Panchadasi holds the view that reflected image is a phenomenon and an illusion.             

Tantras say that Jiva (individual soul) is partial, incomplete, miniscule, or atomic Brahman; if one worships Brahman as Jiva, all His or Her Saktis stay dormant or unrevealed in such soul-body.  Tantra further states, the highest state is to see Brahman in all things; the middle state is meditation; the lower state is hymn and japa (external worship as opposed to internal mental worship); the lowest state is external worship. The Supreme Soul exists in every body besides the individual soul. If a devotee worships Her or Him as Jiva-body, ignoring the Paramatman (the Supreme Soul), the votary will find only Jiva-tattva and not Brahma-tattva. Image worship is discussed here. Raw image without consecration contains unrevealed Consciousness which is waiting to be expressed by AvAhana (invocation or invitation of the deity to possess the idol or reveal Itself in the idol). Jiva is also like an idol with partial or miniscule revelation of Consciousness; thus, Jiva has put a limitation on the expansive Supreme Consciousness. Worshipping the body and not the consciousness does not lead to moksa; worshipping miniscule consciousness of the Jiva gives only proportional vision and experience of Sakti; when all upAdhis (limitation, here, of body) are laid aside and Supreme Consciousness is worshipped, the body is removed from the equation. When the body factor is removed, She (the Sakti) fills the consciousness of the Yogi and the whole Universe. The Sakta, thus, moves from ignorance, to ritual and idol worship to Nirguna Brahman, which does not dictate idol worship. The idol worshipper transmutes to a Yogi, when Para Brahman takes the place of Saguna Brahman.  Worship of Para Brahman is mental, psychical, and transcendental and does not involve rituals; it is worshipping the Brahman in his formless form. It is the highest form of worship for the Jnana Yogi. Saguna Brahman worship is physical, mental and ritual worship of an idol, Aum, image or anything visible and palpable. For most of us, Image worship is the mainstay and can lead to Brahma Kaivalya (moksa or liberation).

    There is an interesting story about rationalist Vivekananda becoming a spiritualist and his success at converting a foreign-educated inveterate aniconic (an-iconic) fop to an idolist. Once Vivikananda went visiting with the neo-phobic of Indian values and mores. He was led to a hall of frames where forefathers of the fop's ancestors graced the walls. No later than the host showed his father's portrait with great respect, veneration, and obeisance, Vivekananda spat on it knowing full well that he was an iconoclast. The salivary splatter on the revered portrait drew inordinate anger from the host. Keeping his natural cool and composure, Vivekanada questioned its sanctity and whether his father lived in the portrait. The foreign-educated man, intelligent as he was, immediately realized that the idols are as sacred to the votaries as his father's portrait was sacred to him.


The individual soul is the reflection of the Greater Soul in the body of a person; by extension, individual consciousness is the reflection of Consciousness of Paramatman.

Chapter two in Panchadasi explains what Brahman is. Objects and beings are defined by the genus, the species and the individual. Brahman does not fall into these categories.  He is the creator of categories and beyond the categories. He is one without a second (ekam eva advitiyam). He has no parts, names or forms. Only created entities have names, forms, and qualities; He is uncreated. He is like Akasa (ether), partless. Maya is the power that exists in Brahman in a potential form and is the material cause of the universe. Maya is not Brahman but only his power. Before creation, Brahman was darkness enveloped by the darkness of Maya. Maya is not the whole constitution of Brahman, but only a part of it just like clay is only part of earth. When Maya finds expression, Isvara emerges from Brahman.  Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda (Being, Consciousness and Bliss). Maya conceals only Bliss. Sri Krishna addresses Arjuna like this: "I support this entire universe with a fraction of Myself or My energy." (10.42 BG).  Maya creates this world as a painter would draw objects using different colors on a canvas or wall. The first modification of Maya is Akasa (space or ether) which has the quality of sound which does not exist in Sat (being or existence) portion of Sat, Chit and Ananda. Brahman is more pervasive than Maya which is more pervasive than Akasa, which is more pervasive than air. Maya is beyond perception and only its expressions are perceived.

When you subtract the body from an object, sentient or insentient, you arrive at Brahman, which is Pure Consciousness and awareness, according Panchadasi (3.21). When you strip away all the sheaths, Matter (Anna), Life (Prāna), Mind (Manas), Intelligence (Jnāna) and Bliss (Ānanda), what is left is the Witness or the Self (Pure Consciousness) -- IBID, 3.22.

According to Panchadasi (Chapter 7), Pure Consciousness, that is God, looks in a mirror and sees its image (which is called) Cidabhasa. This image has no real life or existence without the Pure Consciousness. The mirror is Maya, illusory energy of the Lord, which is the causal agent of the universe. The image carries an aura of reflected glory. When the adjuncts of adventitious nature are removed, such as the mirror, the only remaining entity is the eternal Consciousness or Kutastha. Kūtastha = immovable, immutable, occupying the highest place. Cid-abhasa = Cid + Ābhāsa = Intelligence, Consciousness + luster, apparition, phantom = reflected intelligence or consciousness. That Kutastha is our substratum and we are the Cidabhasa. Cidabhasa is an illusion with no substance. Cidabhasa apparition does not exist without Kutastha Consciousness; therefore, the illusion has a basis in Kutastha which is Brahman. Cidabhasa is false or a pretender from the transcendental point of view and not from empirical stance. In empirical world, Cidabhasa is a palpable entity. The bottom line is that Cidabhasa is Brahman with limitations (Upadhi), such as Avidya (ignorance). Here it is spiritual ignorance meaning that Cidabhasa apparition does not identify with Brahman-Kutastha Consciousness but with the body that houses the individual soul. Most of our lives are spent in the upkeep of our body, mind, and matter and not the soul, whose origin is Brahman-Kutastha Consciousness or Soul. We have doctors to tend and mend our body and mind but there is no one to tend to our soul.

Freedom from desire, Vairagya, has four phases: mental effort, physical isolation, mental isolation, and extinction of desire (Yatamana Samjana, Vyatireka Samjana, Ekendriya Samjana, and Vasikara Samjana.)  Yatamana = effort. Vyatireka = avoidance. Ekendriya = one sense. Vasikara = subjugation or subduing (of desire.) In Ekendriya the senses are stilled but the mind is not. The mind still juggles with love and hate, pleasure and pain; mind is still attached to opposites. Uparati is the final stage, when the senses, though fully aware, do not register any voltaic current in the individual upon presentation of sense objects. What it means in one aspect is that a Vairagin can move in the midst of a galaxy of earthly or heavenly beauties and does not register any amplitude in his meter. He can move in the world of intriguing passions and inviting objects and yet shows stillness of mind and senses.  

    There are four parts to the Self; it is compared to a picture: the canvas, the starch that stiffens the canvas, making outline, application of colors. The Self's foursome are the Pure Consciousness, Inner Guide, aggregate of all subtle bodies and aggregate of all physical bodies. Brahman is Cit, Antaryāmin, Sutratman, (Sūtratman), and Virāt. Cit = Consciousness. Antaryamin = Inner Guide. Sutratman = Thread-Soul. Virat = Manifestaion.  Brahman is Pure Consciousness; Maya and Brahman constitute the Inner Guide; he is the repository of all souls as subtle bodies; he is the body of all beings.

    With regards to canvas and Brahman, there are objects and beings at different levels, superior and inferior. Brahman occupies the superior position, and objects occupy inferior position. Men wearing panoply of garments and colors are in the picture. The canvas of Consciousness pervades all living beings in the picture; these are the Jivas or individual souls, who are destined to jostle in the ocean of Samsara (birth and rebirth). The ignorant people consider picture and the clothes of men as real as the canvas on which they are painted (superimposition). The canvas is the Monistic element and the painted elements are dualism. The ignorant think that the transmigration of the Jivas takes place along with that of the Supreme Soul, the substratum of the canvas, on which the Jivas are superimposed. Only individual souls transmigrate while Paramatman is beyond all that. The hills, valleys, and other objects do not reflect the light of Consciousness. Knowledge is to know that the Jiva is subject to transmigration, that Self's Consciousness is reflected in Jivas and the Self (Brahman) itself does not undergo transmigration. When you subtract the objects and Jivas from the picture, Self alone shines. Perception of Duality is an impediment to liberation. Duality is at a temporary abeyance during sleep; it is not liberation.

    Knowledge based on discrimination is of two kinds: indirect and direct. To know that "Brahman is or exists" is indirect knowledge; to know that "I am Brahman" is direct knowledge.  The latter is a realization that Brahman and you are one and the same.

    The Self or Consciousness consists of four aspects: Kūtastha, Brahman, Jiva, and Isvara, as Akasa has four aspects: Akasa in the pot, All-pervasive Akasa, Akasa reflected by water, Akasa reflected by clouds. Akasa = space, sky, ether. Akasa is analogy for Kutastha; Pot-Akasa, Water-Akasa, and Cloud-Akasa are the reflections of the expansive Akasa. Isvara is analogous to reflection of Akasa in the cloud. Jiva is analogous to the reflection of Akasa in water.  Maya is analogous to the cloud, which is made of trillions of water droplets, each of which reflects the sky. Nobody has seen the reflections on the cloud; it is a conjecture, though not a proof. In the same vein, there is no palpable existence of God but its existence is surmised. To carry the argument further, Buddhi is the mass of water particles in the Maya-cloud. Buddhi particles of maya-cloud reflect the Consciousness, which is God. These images or impressions on Buddhi proves the existence of God. Maya is the material cause of the universe. Jiva is the reflection of the Consciousness on an individual basis, while Isvara is the reflected Consciousness in Toto, meaning that all jivas and matter exist in Isvara.

    Kutastha is Consciousness on which gross and subtle bodies are superimposed, but remain unchanged. Kūtastha = immovable, immutable, occupying the highest place. Kutastha, characterized by immobility, immutability and fixedness, is compared to an anvil, which takes all the pounding and heat but remains unchanged. It is the anvil that all finished products come from. Kutastha is that part of Consciousness on which all aspects of Jiva are superimposed. Brahman is without any attributes; Jiva is saddled with Avidya or ignorance; Isvara exercises Maya and is the inner controller.

    Man is endowed with Buddhi (intellect), which receives its light from Kutastha. Kutastha, reflected in the Sattvika Buddhi, is Cidabhasa; Kutastha is primary Light Source and Cidabhasa is reflection, also known as Purusa. Buddhi being a derivative of Prakrti is unconscious; Buddhi receives intelligence from Atman or Kutastha upon reflecting it; thus Cidabhasa is Jiva (individual self).  Cidabhasa = Cid + Ābhāsa = Intelligence, Consciousness + luster, apparition, phantom = reflected intelligence or consciousness. All reflecting surfaces are not equal; therefore, the Jivas are varied in their spiritual intelligence. The water in the pot reflects the sky. Akasa confined in a pot is Pot-Akasa; the stars and clouds reflected in the water in the pot is Water-Akasa; Akasa reflected in the cloud is Cloud-Akasa. The Pot-Akasa is compared to Kutastha and the Water-Akasa (only a reflection) is compared to Jiva; Water Akasa obscures Pot-Akasa; Jiva obscures Kutastha; actually they obscure each other. This is known as superimposition, which prevents Jiva to realize that it is actually Kutastha. This failure of Jiva to identify itself with Kutastha is called Mula Avidya, Root ignorance, or Primal nescience, which is beginningless. Nescience (Avidya or ignorance) has two properties: Avarana and Vikshepa, veiling and projection. Avarana obscures vision of Kutastha; therefore, Kutastha's existence is questioned by the ignorant. Avidya blocks vision of the Ananda (Bliss) aspect of the Self and by projection, creates names and forms (superimposition on Kutastha). Kutastha and ignorance can coexist in the sense that the Jiva is consciousness and ignorance, both derived from Kutastha. Ignorance obscures Kutastha. Ignorance and knowledge are two sides of the coin in ordinary sense. Where there is no ignorance there is Supreme knowledge (Brahman); where there is ignorance, there is awareness of ignorance; that is beginning of knowledge.

    Vikshepa is superimposition and by extension mistaking one for another. Mother of pearl is mistaken for silver. The mother of pearl disappears from consciousness; silver is what we perceive; we do not realize the obscuring power of ignorance, which is the projecting power of ignorance.  "Thisness" of mother of pearl is mistaken for "Thatness" of Silver. In same sense, “Thisness” of Kutastha is mistaken for "Thatness" of Jiva or Cidabasa.  Vivarta is the term for this, the apparent  but unreal change such as the appearance of what was and is a rope as a snake, according to Woodroffe. As you face Cidabhasa, you see the lower consciousness and not the Pure Consciousness (Kutastha); this is avidya or ignorance by superimposition.

    Cidabhasa (Jiva or Purusa) develops the feeling of "I" or individuality, not knowing that it is only a reflection of Kutastha; this is the ego of Cidabhasa based not on substance but on reflection. How could a reflection have individuality? Between the Real Light and reflection, the former is real and the latter is a mere phantom. If there is no Kutastha, there is no reflection and no "I" and no "Mineness." But the ego is mistaken for the Self. On final analysis there is no difference between Kutastha and Cidabhasa; they are one and the same.

    Immutable Kutastha does not make any distinction between the inanimate and the animate or the insentient and sentient (Acit and Cit); jiva, the reflection of Kutastha, makes the distinction by virtue of intelligence.

    Panchadasi takes on the subject of what life is.  The hospitals face this problem everyday. The doctors and the relatives want to know when life ends and when they can discontinue life-support devices. The followers of Hiranyagarbha doctrine hold the view that Prana (vital airs) is the Self. They argue that when all else fail (eyes, and other senses), Prana (breath) keeps a man alive even in sleep. Some call mind as Self, because mind can perceive while Prana cannot. Others argue that mind does not exist for the duration of deep sleep and therefore mind cannot be Self. Mind needs consciousness for its function. What makes one get up in the morning? it is the Self in you. The lesson is that Self is Life. 

    Take Antahkarana (inner organ) consisting of Buddhi, Ahankara, and mind. Buddhi carries the "I" badge on it, meaning that it is concerned with subject-consciousness and therefore, it needs Ahankara (ego) to know the object. Ego by itself does not perceive and needs Mind to differentiate between "I" and "You or This." The mind possesses object-consciousness.

    Atman and its nature are elucidated here. Some say that Atman is atomic in size for it can move in the capillaries and some say that is ten thousandth the diameter of hair. Vedic texts say that Atman is smaller than the smallest, minuter than an atom, finer than the finest. Some question the validity of these arguments, because if Atman is a measurable object, it would be subject to destruction or mutation. Anything that dies or changes is not Atman, which is immutable, changeless and eternal. Sruti is of the view that Atman is not atomic but is without parts, infinite and all pervasive like Akasa (Ether). Some say that Atman is a substance like the earth and water and its main property is Consciousness apart from other qualities such as aversion, desire, love and hate, pleasure and pain, vice and virtue. Karma acts as the stimulant in interaction between Mind and Atman.  When karma becomes a zero-sum entity, there is no more stimulation, and the Jiva does not suffer the karmic effects. Tantra sastras say that Karmic sheath separates man from Mother Goddess; once the karma is removed, man is similar to Mother Goddess.

    The bliss sheath, the repository of consciousness (Isvara), subtle body, impressions and karma, is contained within each individual and therefore omniscient in that it controls, activates, and modulates all other sheaths: Anna (matter), Prana (life or Vital airs), mind (Manas), and Intelligence (Jnana).

    The Lord remains in the intellect which serves as his body; intellect, being a product of prakrti, is not conscious of the Lord's control over it. As the thread forms the fabric of a cloth, so is the Inner Controller the material cause of the world.

    Brahman is the point of discussion in Vedic Texts. It starts with premise and ends with conclusion. The following six categories are useful in the elucidation of any subject matter. The sacred texts set out to prove that he is beginningless, he is without a second, he is infinite, he is Satchitananda, he is Consciousness, he is Knowledge, and he is beyond speech and senses.

 1: Upakrama upasamhara: presentation of premise and reaching correct conclusions about Brahman.  2: Abhyasa: Repetition of Tat Tvam Asi = That Thou Art. The subject of Brahman under discussion is the main subject. 3: Apurvata: means that which is not common, uniqueness or special nature of subject matter. There is nothing more unique than Brahman. He is second to none. 4: Phala: fruit. The special qualities of Brahman are found in Sruti. Other texts are only duplications. The fruit is (when you have) Brahman knowledge; all else is known. 5: Arthavada: Explanation of the meaning of Brahman and praise. Brahman has no beginning or end; He is the creator, maintainer and destroyer of the universe. 6: Upapatti: demonstration of proof and conclusion.

    Maya is like Surabhi, the wish-giving cow. Jiva and Isvara are its twin calves. You may imbibe the milk of duality but the milk of Truth is oneness or non-duality.  Jiva and Isvara are descendants of Brahman, the former afflicted with Avidya, and the latter endowed with Maya; they are unreal and one and the same except in their attributes, names and adjuncts. Kutastha and Brahman are the Real; the difference between them is only in the name; they are like the Akasa in the pot and the Akasa at large. Non-duality exists through the entire cycle of creation, maintenance, destruction, after liberation and before creation. Duality is a product of Maya; you, I, the world and Brahman are one.

    Doubt is the common denominator between the ignorant and the wise; in the former it is florid and flourishing and in the latter it is dead. Conduct is the great leveler of an illiterate and the learned; the latter is knowledgeable, but does not gain from it.  Brahman is the central point of reference for Cit and Acit, the sentient and the insentient, which cover everything imaginable in this universe. The man on the street believes in his body, sight, hearing, and limbs and walks the street with confidence and conviction; that is body identification. The Yogi walks the transcendental path and his identification is with Brahman. Man points to his body and says, "This is me." Yogi points his finger up (to the Soul of the Universe) Saying "That is me."  (What is here is out there. That Thou Art.) The former is bound to the fetters of the body and the latter flies on the wings of liberation.

    We fail to count the Self. Ten men set out to cross the river. Everyone took upon himself to count the fording men, came to the same count of nine and feared that one was lost in the river. Everyone started crying out of grief. A man on a boat came along and inquired as to why they were in a funeral mood. He heard the same story in nine different versions. The wise man on the boat told them that he forgot to count himself as the tenth man. With that dawn of knowledge, they reach the river bank with secure knowledge that he is the tenth man. To each one of them, nine men were in sight and the tenth was out of sight and therefore out of mind, though he knows he is alive. He believes that what is not visible is absent. That erroneous belief is Avidya and Maya. When the wise man came along and told him that he is the tenth man, that knowledge from an external source was the indirect knowledge. When each man included himself in the count, it becomes the direct knowledge. Sruti (the wise man in the context of ten men) is that external source and direct realization of Self is direct knowledge. The fording and grieving men were wading through seven stages in knowing the Self: ignorance, obscuration (veiling), superimposition, indirect knowledge, direct knowledge, shedding of grief and the dawn of realization. Now Purusa (Cidabhasa) realizes that it is Kutastha (Brahman).  Obscuration is looking at the external body and failing to recognize Self; that is ignorance. Purusa says that he is the doer and enjoyer, forgetting that he is only an apparition or an image of Kutastha in the mirror. That feeling of "I and me" is superimposition (of Cidabhasa on Kutastha). Indirect knowledge comes from Sruti. Direct knowledge is the realization that the "phantom-me" is Kutastha, because the phantom or the image does not exist without Kutastha. The "I and me" of the Cidabhasa covers the subtle and gross bodies.

    Sankaracharya puts it beautifully when he praises Vishnu. He prays to Lord Vishnu as follows: "O Lord, I realize that there is no difference between the individual soul (Cidabhasa) and Brahman (Kutastha).  I hasten to say that I am yours and that you are not mine.  The wave belongs to ocean and not the other way round.  You are the ocean and I am the wave."  Here is an incontrovertible truth that the wave is a superimposition on the ocean and the wave has time, space, and causation elements incorporated in it, when it rides on the surface of the ocean in its transient frothy exuberance.  The indirect knowledge that Sankaracharya explains is that "Brahman exists" (the ocean exists) and the direct knowledge is that "I am Brahman" in that there is the wave in the ocean, though of transient nature. The wave (Cidabhasa) says that I came from (am) the ocean (Kutastha) and subside in the ocean.  Sacred texts say that Brahman exists (indirect knowledge). When a Yogi says, "That Thou Art", that is direct knowledge. That is Brahman and Thou is the Jiva. Brahman is reflected in Jiva; Thou is a reflection of That.

    Bhrgu Muni, the son of Varuna, received superficial knowledge on fives sheaths, food sheath, vital air sheath, mind sheath, Intelligence sheath, and Spiritual (Bliss) sheath and Varuna left it to Bhrgu to elucidate them further. After elucidation, he realized that "I am Brahman". Taittiriya Upanishad (Chapter 2) says that Brahman is reality, knowledge, and infinity and resides in a secret corner of the spiritual heart.  Manas (mind sheath) elucidates objects (gathers and analyzes information from the sensory organs); Vijnana (Intelligence Sheath) probes concepts and arrives at a decision (the buddhi aspect of Vijnana).

    Aham Brahman = I am Brahman. The body shrouds the Ego and the Spirit. When the pot (body) breaks, the Ether in the pot becomes one with the all-pervasive Ether. In like manner the Spirit in the Body is one and the same Spirit (Paramatman) that is present in all bodies. When Antakharana, the inner organ, is subtracted, what remains is Consciousness which is the Witness; this Witness is the only one qualified to call itself, "I am Brahman." Brahman (Kutastha) will reabsorb Cidabhasa (individual soul) upon realization. When man realizes that the relationship of his own Self with That (Paramatman), he attains direct knowledge of Brahman (I am Brahman). The correct knowledge is that the Self is not body and the world is unreal; false knowledge is that the body is the Self and the world is real. The correct knowledge is reinforced by constant thinking of the deity.  Concentration and control of mind are more difficult than drinking up the oceans, moving mount Meru or eating Fire, feats performed by Agastya, Brahma and Krishna respectively. A person, who dwells on subjects other than Vedanta, forgoes meditation on Brahman; any lapse thereof is a stumbling block. Once an aspirant is well established in meditation on Brahman and conviction in the falsity of the world, he should let the evolving (unfolding, fructifying) karma to run its course. Falsity of the world (Mithyatva) is unreality of the material world full of pain and suffering. When events take unexpected turns, Karma is in operation and unstoppable. Karma hits both the wise and the unwise; the former is patient and tranquil, knowing that he has to wait it out, while the latter is impatient and roils in pain and suffering. Patience and focus takes a tired traveler home; impatience and loss of will retard the progress of the ignorant tired traveler. When the aspirant is assured of the unreality of the world, he entertains no desire; with the paucity of desire, the flame dies. The wise does not draw pleasure from objects which are by nature impermanent, defective, and deceptive.  Wealth in its wake brings mental distress in preservation, regret in loss, and sadness in spending. Body is a bag of bones, muscles, flesh and feces; where is the appeal (6.140)? The wise man, forced into a life of samsara enjoying its bitter and sweet fruits, knows that his karma is undergoing resolution. In the unwise, desires further ignite the flames of desire. He should play the role of a retired thief who morphed from a fiend to a friend.  The wise learns to be happy with his current enjoyments and does not demand more of it in life.  Karma is a strong driving force; it makes the glutton eat the poisoned food, and the Casanova (the thief) have sexual dalliance with king's wives; the consequences are serious and Karma makes the victim meet his fate. Gita (3.33 says, "Even the learned man acts according to his own nature. All beings behave according to their own nature and modes (gunas). What can (Nigrahah) restraint or reprimand do?"  Panchadasi goes on to say that even Rama, Nala, and Yuddhisthira were subject to the inexorable karmic miseries. Gita (3.36): Arjuna said: O Vārsneya, what impels a man to commit a sin against his free will, as if he is forced into it? It is desire and anger born of Rajas that prompt one to commit sins and are the internal domestic enemies of a person. BG18.60: Born of your own nature O, Kaunteya, bound by your own activities that which you wish not to do because of delusion, you will do even against your will. Though a man does not wish to do certain deeds, karma bears fruits through the desire of others.

    A learned aspirant should keep his focus on the Self, and studies that improve his focus. It is like the epicure who focuses on the enjoyment of objects in the world. The Self and the experiencing consciousness are the same in waking, dreaming and deep sleep states. The Self that is not subject to experience is Pure Consciousness, Witness, and Mass of Bliss. The enjoyer is the Cidabhasa or Jiva, who is covered by intellectual sheath or Kosa. As Cidabhasa or jiva he is not transcendentally real; as consciousness, he is Kutastha or a derivative of Kutastha; as antakarana reflecting Consciousness, he is the phantom seen in the mirror of Maya.  When Cidabhasa knows he is subject to sublation, his desires evaporate. 

    There are three bodies and three ill humors: the former consists of gross, subtle and causal bodies, the latter consists of ills of the wind, fire and water that make the body. The subtle body has six impediments: anger, delusion, desire, greed, jealousy and pride. It is also blessed with tranquility, control of the senses and other sattvic qualities such as concentration, faith, patience, inner and outer purity, and withdrawal of senses. The following verses from Bhagavad Gita have relevance.

14.22:  Sri Bhagavan said: O Pandava, he who neither hates illumination, activity, and delusion, when they arise, nor desires for them when they are withheld   (continued)

Here illumination, activity, and delusion stand respectively for Sattva”, Rajas, and "Tamas."  It is said here that the transcendent person neither hates nor desires the products of Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.


14.23:  He who is sitting indifferent to these Gunas, unperturbed, and knowing that the Gunas only are acting, does not waver.

14.24:  He who is tranquil in pain and pleasure, abides in his own self, regards that a clod, a stone, and gold are equal, to whom the desirable and the undesirable are one and the same, who maintains composure in blame and praise and  (continued)


14.25:   who considers honor and dishonor equal, who regards friends and foes alike, and who abandons all (self-serving) initiatives, is said to transcend the Gunas.

Arambah:  are the self-serving, self-promoting initiatives or endeavors or efforts to obtain personal profit or gain.


14.26:  He who serves Me with unswerving "Bhakti” yoga (devotional service), and rises above all these "gunas”, becomes fit for the state of “Brahman." 


14.27:   I am the abode of “Brahman” immortal and imperishable, and also eternal dharma and absolute bliss.

    State of Causal Body exists in deep sleep.

    As the heir-apparent imitates his father-king, Cidabhasa imitates Kutastha and longs to become one with it.

    Panchadasi goes on to praise the concept of Jivan Mukti, liberation while alive.  He is completely withdrawn from the world, not paying heed to opinions of others.  All his karmas have been nullified. He does not engage in meditations, reflections; he does not desire for samadhi; he is beyond those stages. He has Brahman knowledge; there is nothing more to know.  He has his option to serve the world, worship God, maintain his personal cleanliness, recite OM, study sacred texts, meditate on Vishnu, and seek samadhi. He is one with Brahman; he is one with the Witness in all of us. He feels blessed for he knows what the Bliss of Brahman is.

    Lamp of Kutastha: When the sunlight falls on the mirror in the room, the whole room is more illuminated; in the same vein, the light of Kutastha reflected on the intellect (Cidabhasa) illuminates the body more; the body is illuminated by two lights: the individual soul and Paramatman, the Supreme Soul.

    The Expansive Consciousness of Brahman, the substratum, on which the illusion of Cidabhasa along with Indriyas (sense organs) is superimposed, is called Kutastha. Comment: Allegorically, Brahman's expansive Consciousness is like the world; Isvara and Cidabhasa are like a nine digit zip code (pin code) which identifies the specific location on the globe. End of comment. The same Consciousness which forms the substratum on which the universe exists is also called Brahman. Maya is the facilitator of the superimposition and superimposition itself; thus, Jiva and Isvara are reflections of Brahman in Maya. Maya's material world is like an opaque object, unable to reflect the Consciousness of Brahman, while Isvara and Jiva are like translucent crystals, reflecting the Consciousness of Brahman. The image of Isvara seen on the Pure crystal is not a distorted but a true image and therefore is called Sattvic image; the image of Cidhabasa is distorted with Tamas and Rajas (darkness and motion). There lies the difference between Isvara and Cidabhasa, levels of consciousness separated by several degrees. Jiva and Isvara, though of differing transparency and image resolution, are translucent compared to the opaqueness of material world.

    Comment: Maya is an entity that exists in many states. It is like the invisible air; from the air, you can extract pure oxygen and liquefy it; you can extract pure nitrogen, liquefy or solidify it. It is also like an enzyme which can convert a substrate into a substance. End of comment. Maya, according to Sruti, is the creator of Isvara and Jiva. Maya is compared to the turgid nimbus cloud which pours torrential rain; Maya creates the world in like manner. As the all-pervasive ether is not affected by the rain, the Pure Consciousness is not affected by the universe or its activities.

    Aabhaasa 1(Abhasa) is luster, apparition, light or phantom. Bimba 2 is the Object compared; Pratibhimba 3 is reflection, likeness, or shadow.   The entities, the first and the last, represent incomplete qualities of the original and are not the Real Entities. Jiva is Pratibimba and Isvara is Bimba. Bimba-Pratibimba explores the concept of "original and counterfeit, object of comparison and that with which it is compared." Both Jiva and Isvara have Ajnana (lack of wisdom) as their Upadhi or limitation. Bimba is of Pure Consciousness, while Brahman or Kutastha is Pure Consciousness without attributes. Isvara is closer to Kutastha than Jiva, though both share the same Upadhi. Abhasa theory considers both Isvara and Jiva as having no real existence, projected by Maya or Avidya; both Abhasa and Bimba-Pratibimba theories endorse the omnipotence of Isvara and limitation of Jiva.

    Upanishads say that the Self (Atman, Paramatman), knowing that the life cannot sustain without it, entered the body via the anterior fontanel, Brahma Randhra, and began enjoying three levels of consciousness, awake state, dream state, and deep sleep state; Maya is the mediator facilitating the entry of Atman into the body. Ego identifies itself with the individual body at creation and dies when the body dies.

    All this is Brahman, we came from Brahman, we live by Brahman, and we subside in Brahman. Our next life is shaped by our present life; transcendence and immanence are integral to Atman; the end of our journey results in union with the Self-- Sandilya Vidya.

    Knowing Brahman's Existence (Being), Consciousness and Bliss from sacred texts is believing and indirect knowledge; realizing Brahman is direct knowledge. Direct knowledge and realization are obtainable by Vicara (inquiry) and meditation. Faith is the basis for indirect knowledge; inquiry is the basis for direct knowledge. Realization or direct knowledge from inquiry may take one life time or many life times.  Inquiry is cumulative in nature and bears fruit when it ripens or matures. In the acquisition of direct knowledge, there are some impediments: slavishness to senses, paucity of intellect, pointless arguments, and thinking Self has attributes (enjoyer and agent). A drop-out Yogi's efforts do not go to waste; he is born again in a pious family and picks up where he left off. Refer to BG 6.41 BG Chapter 6 The Yoga of Self-Control.

    Brahman (without attributes) can be meditated on, on the basis of faith in Srutis. If a man is an ardent meditator, he does so even in dream sleep. A realized Yogi rises above caste, Asrama, and injunctions which are the products of Maya and have a connection with the body and not the Self, whose nature is Pure Consciousness. The perfected yogi has no injunctions, restrictions, rituals, ceremonies, and prohibitions and is above all the conventional behavior. He is like a child who cannot be charged for "crimes." Comment: A perfected Yogi is like speeding ambulance driver, police officer, or fireman who breaks all traffic rules because their call is higher; conventional traffic rules do not apply to them on appropriate occasions. He is like the president who commits troops to war consciously knowing that some will die and is not liable for prosecution, while a doctor is liable for suit if he fails to prevent a wrongful birth or death.  End of comment. Samadhi is attaining oneness with Brahman and leads to Nir-Vikalpa Samadhi, when subject and object fusion takes place and no distinction is perceived.

    The Supreme Self, the One without a second, the Bliss and the Whole alone existed before all else.  By his Maya power, he became the universe; he entered the Jiva, the Triad of Vishnu, Brahma, and Siva, the deities, and the other living beings. Man by his meditation can overcome Maya that separates man from Brahman and merge with Brahman. Jiva wallows in mire and misery of duality and bondage; when Jiva goes home to its source, the Self, its true nature is restored. Witness is the Light of Supreme Consciousness which holds in view the agent, the deed, and the object. This effulgent Witness animates and lights up the ego, the intellect and the objects of sense; the effulgent Witness remains effulgent though other entities disappear. In this analogy, the Light is the Consciousness-cum-Witness, the patron is the ego, the spectators are the sense objects, the dancer is the intellect, and the orchestra constitutes the sense organs.

    Knowing Brahman is Bliss; Knower of Self goes to Bliss leaving sorrow behind; he knows no fear. Wind, Fire, Sun, Indra, and Yama (Death) have not known Bliss; thus, they are in constant fear of Brahman, have not identified themselves with Him, and do their respective assigned duties out of fear. The knower of Brahman sees the shackles of his heart break away, all his doubts cleared and all his actions come to naught without karmic consequences; he is liberated from the cycle of Samsara, birth and rebirth.

    Bliss is of three kinds: Bliss of Brahman, Bliss of Knowledge, and temporal bliss. Brahman is reflected in Anandamaya Kosa or Bliss Sheath which forms the core around which are the onion layers of intellectual sheath, mind sheath, vital sheath and food sheath. We come from Bliss and we dissolve in Bliss; because of the reflection of Bliss-Consciousness in Jiva, the matter-born Intellect becomes the knower, the mind becomes the repository of knowledge, and Tanmatras transmute into sense objects. We enjoy the reflected bliss in deep sleep, Samadhi and syncope or swoon (pathological state).

    Bliss is the natural state for Jiva which enjoys it in deep sleep. (It is like getting plugged into the grid for the nightly bliss, the grid being the Supreme Soul or Brahman.) During deep sleep, we are not men, women, children, sinner or sadhu, thief or Tyagi; we lose our identity in that blissful union. That loss of identity is what Yogi enjoys in Samadhi; the only difference is that he enters into and out of Samadhi at will; that experience, the fourth dimension in consciousness, is known as Turiya. For the duration of deep sleep and bliss, sorrows drown and miseries vanish and a pure consciousness prevails. On knowing that "I am a father," one carries a burden of grief and responsibility or floats on the airy lightness of joy; deep sleep breaks down attachment and duality of feelings and he levitates and defies gravitational sorrow. World, objects, beings and object experience dissolve in the darkness (Tamas) of deep sleep. He experiences rest and tranquility and a sense of knowing nothing, ignorance (Ajnana); his mind and intellect are in a latent state in deep sleep. Since mind and intellect do not operate in deep sleep, they are enveloped in a shroud of ignorance. As mind and intellect (Buddhi), the seat of Indriyas (sense organs), delve deep into ignorance, the sense organs fall off on the wayside; this divestiture is the first step in the modification (Vrtti) of intellect. Now the pure intellect (buddhi) becomes a good reflective medium of the Witness, Self or Brahman; the intellect enjoys pure bliss internally without the aid of sense organs, which are good only for external experience.

    Jiva or the individual soul resides in the eye in the waking state and pervades the whole body, in the throat in the dream state, and in the spiritual heart in deep sleep. Brahmananda is the bliss experienced during deep sleep; Vasananda is bliss from impressions and memories of the Spiritual Bliss; Nijananda is bliss not vitiated by ego; Turiya is the fourth dimension bliss-- see elsewhere for details.

    People love people (including husband and wife) for their own selfish sake--to satisfy his or her own needs. People go to heaven not to improve the heavens but to improve themselves. People worship Siva, Vishnu and other gods for their own sake. Brahmanas study the Sacred texts so that they do not fall from their station in the caste system. People want the five Great Elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether for their own sake and not for the sake of the elements. The Real Love is that which remains when selfishness is destroyed. That is Love of Self--love of Self, Atman, or Supreme Being in other person-- in wife, son and others.

    Objects and beings are subject to four kinds of reaction: love, intense love, disregard and hate. Wife is loved, son is loved intensely, a straw is disregarded and a tiger is hated (feared). This is conventional reaction, but they are liable to change.  A wild attacking tiger is hated and feared; when it is away, it is disregarded; when it is trained and tamed, it is loved. In the same vein, Self is the dearest entity; entities near the Self are dear; other entities are disregarded. Panchadasi quotes Brhad-aranyaka Upanishad, saying that Self is dearer than a son, wealth, and all other entities and it is the most innermost. He who holds other entities as dear above the Self, most likely would lose those entities. If he holds Self as dear, whatever else he holds will not perish.

    As the tree lays hidden in the seed, so does the world lay hidden in Brahman. We know all pots by its clay; we know the phenomenal world (pervaded) by Brahman. Maya which abides in immutable Brahman becomes the phenomenal world with many names and forms; thus Brahman is the ruler of Maya and Maya is the material cause of the universe. Brahman and Maya create illusions of many entities as dream sleep creates many illusions. Dream sleep projects a reel of impossible happenings which at that moment appear real. In like manner Maya creates imagery, which appears real. The five elements, the sentient and the insentient are appearances or illusions created by Maya; Pure Consciousness reflects in the mirror of Buddhi (intellect) in humans. (Comment: It is like watching a movie; one is immersed and feels part of the movie and at the end of the movie, we come back to reality. This universe is Brahman's stage, we are all bit players; our individual roll is an illusion.)  Picture encompasses many forms, names and objects; when you subtract the superimposed objects, what remains is SatChitAnanda, Being Consciousness and Bliss.

    A man standing upright at the water's edge sees himself upside down in the water; he knows himself to be the body at the waters edge. Once he knows that the reflection is an illusion and his own body is real, he attained realization. In like manner once Brahman is realized all his reflections are unreal.  Those unreal forms and names are dream sleep. (Comment: One cannot take the money collected in a dream to the bank; so also the moving and stationary images produced by the Maya of Brahman are not real.) When you see myriad flowers with myriad colors and shapes, they are the products of dreams of Maya.

    Bliss of worldly nature comes when senses contact sense objects. Bliss of Brahman knowledge comes from reflection of Brahman on Buddhi; it is fourfold: paucity of sorrow, accomplishment, satisfaction, realized goal. Once Brahman knowledge is attained, there is cessation of sorrow; it is comparable to water not sticking to but running off the leaf of a lotus plant. All past actions and their karmic consequences are burnt off like dry reed. He, who has shed his I-ness, desire, and fruits of actions, is not bound by his actions. When man stands apart from and amnesic of his body, he realizes Brahman, though he is seen "laughing, playing and rejoicing with women, chariots or relations."--Chandogya Upanishad 8.12.3. Brahman's Bliss is the highest goal, the highest treasure, the highest world and the greatest Bliss; all other creatures (including the earthbound men, Gandharvas and gods) enjoy a fraction of that Bliss because they are enveloped by Avidya (ignorance). There are three behavioral phenotypes: Sattvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic (tranquil, hyperactive, and indolent.) Sattvic person is endowed with patience, detachment and compassion; Rajasic with desire, attachment, and greed; Tamasic with sloth, slumber, delusion and fear. Brahman's Consciousness pervades all these mental patterns but happiness is present in the Sattvic person only.  Brahman's presence in all is like the reflection of the sun in all bodies of water; it is like saying Brahman is One but he appears as many (he exists in every one). Reflection of Brahman in the behavioral phenotypes depends upon the reflective power of the medium. Muddy water reflects less, while clear still water reflects the best. In the Rajasic and Tamasic personalities, the impurities obscure the reflection of Brahman in such ways that the Bliss aspect of Brahman is obscured (Veiling of Bliss) by Avidya, and Being (existence) and Consciousness are expressed.  Bliss is Light. In the Rajasic and Tamasic persons, the Light of Satchitananada (Brahman) does not get through; this is compared to the heat transfer to the water from burning firewood and not the light transfer to the water. In Sattvic person both Consciousness and Bliss are manifest in the same sense that a burning wood manifests both heat and light. Sattvic persons manifest Bliss in varying degrees depending upon sattvic content. Desire dominates a Rajasic person; his actions correspond to it; lack of fulfillment leads to frustration, unhappiness, misery, anger and hatred. Tamasic person has all the above qualities plus despair. Fulfillment leads to partial resolution of undesirable qualities. But the sattvic person enjoys more happiness from detachment and paucity of desire. The happiness that is enjoyed by the three personality types is derived from the Bliss of Brahman, because that is the only source of happiness and Bliss.

    Existence (Being), Consciousness and Bliss are the threefold nature of Brahman. Inanimate objects manifest only existence; Rajasic and Tamasic persons manifest existence and consciousness; Sattvic persons manifest all three qualities.  In this context, a mere stone is existence in Brahman.

   Man can outgrow undesirable personality types. Once all enjoyments had been had, desires are expunged, and detachment is in place, contemplation on Brahman brings Bliss.

Panchadasi ends by invoking both Hara (Siva) and Hari (Vishnu) for conferment of Bliss on all who seek their refuge.