(aka Vedanta Panchadasi)
By Sri Vidyaranya Swami
Translated by Swami Swahananda
Published by Sri Ramakrishna Math, Chennai
I II III-V
NEXT PART >
THE DIFFERENTIATION OF THE FIVE ELEMENTS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.