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Untitled Document

Panchadasi (aka Vedanta Panchadasi)

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



1. It is possible to know Brahman which is "hidden in the cave" (i.e., the five sheaths), by differentiating It from them. Hence the five sheaths are now being considered.

2. Within the 'physical sheath' is the 'vital sheath'; within the 'vital sheath' is the 'mental sheath'; still, within is the 'intellectual sheath' or the 'agent sheath' and still within is the 'blissful sheath' or the 'enjoyer sheath'. This succession (of one within another) is the 'cave' (that covers the Atman).

3. The body which is produced from the seed and blood of the parents, which are in turn formed out of the food eaten by them, grows by food only. It is not the Self, for it does not exist either before birth or after death.

4. This body did not exist in the previous birth; then how could it have produced this birth ? (For that would be an effect without a cause). Without existing in the future birth it cannot enjoy the results of action accumulated here (in this birth). (And hence it would be a case of 'one does and another enjoys the fruits thereof' - which is unreasonable).

5. The vital airs which pervade the body and give power and motion to the eyes and other senses constitute the vital sheath. It is not the Self because it is devoid of consciousness.

6. That which gives rise to the ideas of 'I' and 'mine' with regard to one's body, house and so forth, is the mind sheath. It is not the Self because it has desires and is moved by pleasure and pain, is subject to delusion and is fickle.

7. The intellect which has the reflection of pure consciousness, and which pervades the whole body up to the tips of the fingers in the waking state but disappears in deep sleep, is known as the intellect sheath. It also is not the Self because it too is changeable.

8. The inner organ functions as the agent and also the instrument. Hence though one, it is treated as two, viz., the intellect sheath and the mind sheath. Their fields of operation are the inner world and the outer world respectively.

9. There is a position or function (of the intellect) which, at the time of enjoying the fruits of good actions, goes a little farther inward and catches the reflection of the bliss and at the end of this enjoyment, merges in deep sleep. (This is what is known as the sheath of bliss).

10. This bliss sheath also cannot be the Self because it is temporal and impermanent. That bliss which is the source of this reflection is the Self; for it is eternal and immutable.

11. (Objection): By granting that the sheaths beginning with that of food (body) and ending in that of bliss (joy or sleep) are not the Self, yet (when they are negated), no further object remains to be experienced.

12. (Reply): True, bliss sheath etc., are experienced and not anything else. Yet who can deny that by which these are experienced ?

13. As the Self is Itself of the nature of experience only. It cannot be an object of experience. Since there is no experiencer nor any experience other than It, the Self is unknowable - not because It does not exist but because It cannot be an object of experience.

14. Objects of taste like sweet and bitter, impart their tastes to others, that is their nature, they do not stand in need of their being imparted to themselves. Nor are there other things to impart those tastes to themselves.

15. Just as there is nothing to hinder a thing from possessing its natural flavour even without being flavoured by another thing, even so the Self there stands four-square as the experience (viz., the awareness) even when It is not experienced (as an object of experience).

16. The Shruti declares: 'This Atman is self-revealing'; 'Before the evolution of the universe, the Self alone was shining'. 'It shining, all follow (i.e., shine); by Its shine the universe shines (i.e., is revealed).'

17. How can that, by which the whole universe is known, by known by anything else ? By what can the knower be known ? The mind etc., the instruments of knowledge, can know their own percepts only.

18. The Self knows all that is knowable. There is no one to know It. It is consciousness or knowledge itself and is different from both the known and the unknown (as also of the knowable and the unknowable).

19. How can a man teach scriptures to one who is a man only in form but who is so dull as not to experience what consciousness is in every act of knowing a thing ?

20. As it is shameful for a man to express doubt if he has a tongue or not, so also it is shameful to say, 'I do not know what consciousness is. I must know it now'.

21. From whatever objects are perceived, dismiss the objects and what remains, viz., the pure consciousness, the awareness only, is Brahman. Such an understanding is called the determination of the nature of Brahman.

22. By dismissing the objective element, i.e., the five sheaths. That is the real nature of the Self (viz., pure consciousness). Non-existence cannot be attributed to it.

23. One's self is surely existing; there cannot be any opposition to that. Were it not so, who could be the opponent ?

24. Nobody, except through delusion, can entertain the idea that he does not exist. So the Shruti thus exposes the falsity of the position of one who denies the existence of the Self.

25. 'He who believes Brahman to be non-existent, becomes non-existent himself'. It is true the Self can never be an object of knowledge. But you must accept the existence of the Self (identified with one's own existence) as a fact.

26. If you ask what sort of thing the Self is, then we reply that the Self cannot be described as being 'this' or 'that'. It cannot be conceived as being 'like this' or 'like that'; so take it as your own real nature.

27. An object which the senses can perceive can be said to be 'like this'; an object which is beyond the range of sense perception is said to be 'like that'. That which is the subject cannot be an object of the senses. But as it is the very Self of everyone, it cannot be said to be beyond the ken of perception.

28. Though it cannot be made an object of knowledge, the Self is still felt very directly. So it must be self-revealing. Existence, consciousness and infinity, the indications used for Brahman, are all present here also (in the Self).

29. Existence is what cannot be negated. If the Self which is the witness of the perishable world becomes perishable, then who will be the witness to the fact of its perishability ? For destruction without a witness of it cannot be postulated.

30. When all forms are destroyed, the formless space still remains. So, when all the perishable things are destroyed, what remains is that, (i.e. the imperishable Brahman or Self).

31. In the opponent objects 'nothing remains' after everything (name and form) has been destroyed, then we reply that what you describe as 'nothing' is the Self. Here the language alone differs. But there surely remains something (viz., the witness) after the destruction of all.

32. It is for this that the Shruti in the passage "That Atman is 'not this, not this'" negates all objects (having names and forms), but keeps the 'that' (i.e. Atman) intact.

33. The entire world (severally and collectively) that can be referred to as 'this' can be negated, but the thing which is not 'this' can never be negated and this indestructible witness is the Self.

34. Thus has been established (here) the eternal existence of the Self which, according to the Shruti, is Brahman; and Its nature of pure consciousness has already been proved by statements like 'It is awareness itself'.

35. Being all-pervasive, Brahman is not limited by space; being eternal, It is not limited by time; and being of the nature of everything, It is not limited by any object. Thus Brahman is infinite in all three respects.

36. Space, time and the objects in them being illusions causes by Maya, there is no limitation of Brahman by them. Infinity of Brahman is therefore clear.

37. Brahman who is existence, consciousness and infinity is the Reality. Its being Ishvara (the Omniscient Lord of the world) and Jiva (the individual soul) are (mere) superimpositions by the two illusory adjuncts (Maya and Avidya, respectively).

38. There is a power (called Maya) of this Ishvara which controls everything. It informs all objects from the bliss sheath (to the physical body and the external world).

39. If the particular attributes of all objects are not determined by this power, there would be chaos in the world, for there would be nothing to distinguish the properties of one object from those of another.

40. This power appears as 'conscious' because it is associated with the reflection of Brahman. And because of Its association with this power, Brahman gets Its omniscience.

41. Brahman is called the individual soul (Jiva) when It is viewed in association with the five sheaths, as a man is called a father and a grandfather in relation to his son or his grandson.

42. As a man is neither a father nor a grandfather when considered apart from his son and his grandson, so Brahman is neither Ishvara nor Jiva when considered apart from Maya or the five sheaths.

43. He who knows Brahman thus becomes himself Brahman. Brahman has no birth. So he also is not born again.


1. In this section we shall discuss the world of duality created by Ishvara and Jiva. By such critical discussion, the limit of duality causing the bondage which the Jiva has to renounce will be clear.

2. The Svetasvatara Upanishad says: 'Know Maya as Prakriti and Brahman associated with Maya as the great Ishvara' (who imparts existence and consciousness to it and guides it). It is He who creates the world.

3. The Aitareya Upanishad says that before creation there was Atman only, and He thought, 'Let me create the world', and then He created the world by His will (to create).

4. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that from the Self or Brahman alone arose in succession the whole creation including Akasa, (ether), air, fire, water, earth, vegetation, food and bodies.

5. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that desiring 'I shall be many, so I shall create', the Lord meditated; and thus created the world.

6. The Chandogya Upanishad says that before creation Brahman or the Self alone existed, and that His nature was pure existence. He desired to become manifold and created all things including fire, water, food and beings born of eggs and so forth.

7. The Mundaka Upanishad says that just as sparks emanate from a blazing fire, so from immutable Brahman arose different animate and inanimate things.

8. It is also said that before its manifestation the whole world existed in Brahman in a potential form; then, assuming name and form it came into being as Virat.

9. From Virat came into being the ancient law-givers, human beings, cattle, asses, horses, goats, and so on, both male and female, down to the ants. Thus says the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.

10. According to these Shrutis Brahman or Atman Himself, assuming manifold forms as the Jivas, entered into these bodies. A Jiva is so called because it upholds vitality (the Pranas) (in a body).

11. The substratum or the pure consciousness, the subtle body and the reflection of pure consciousness on the subtle body - these three together constitute a Jiva.

12. Maya of the great Ishvara has, like its power of creation, another power which deludes all. It is this power which deludes the Jiva.

13. The Jiva, thus deluded to believe himself to be powerless and identified with a body, becomes subject to grief. Thus is described in brief the duality created by Ishvara.

14. In the Saptanna Brahmana of the Veda there is a description of the duality created by the Jiva. By action and reflection the Jiva creates seven kinds of food (objects on experience).

15. One kind is meant for men, two for the celestial beings, the fourth for the lower animals and the remaining three for the Self. Thus the food is divided.

16. Grains such as wheat (are for men), (the ingredients of) the full-moon and the new-moon sacrifices (are for the Devas), milk (is for the lower animals); and the mind, the speech and the vital airs (are for the Self) - these are the seven kinds of food.

17. Though all these objects are in themselves created by Ishvara, still by action and reflection the Jiva has converted them into his objects of enjoyment, hence they are said to be his creation.

18. As they are created by Ishvara and become objects of experience and enjoyment for the Jiva, so they are related to both, just as a woman is related both to the parents who brought her into being and to the husband who loves her.

19. In the actual creation of the objects the modifications or functions of Maya, the power of the Lord are the cause; whereas for the actual enjoyment of those objects it is the modifications or functions of the inner organs of the Jivas that are responsible.

20. Objects created by Ishvara (e.g., gems) do not alter; they remain the same. But gems may affect different people differently according to their mental states.

21. One man may feel happy on obtaining a gem, whereas another may feel disappointed at failing to obtain it. And a man uninterested in it, may only look on and feel neither happy nor disappointed.

22. The Jiva creates these three feelings of happiness, disappointment or indifference with regard to the gem, but the nature of the gem as created by Ishvara remains the same throughout.

23. Through personal relationships, one and the same woman appears differently as a wife, a daughter-in-law, a sister-in-law, a cousin and a mother; but she herself remains unchanged.

24. (Objection): These different relationships may be seen, but no changes in the woman's appearance are seen to result from other people's ideas about her.

25. (Reply): Not so. The woman has a subtle body as well as a physical body composed of flesh etc. Although other people's ideas about her may not affect her physical body, yet they can change her mental state.

26. (Objection): Though it may affect the objects perceived in the states of delusion, dreaming, remembering and imagining, the mind cannot affect the objects perceived through the senses in the waking state.

27. (Reply): True, Acharya Shankara, Sureshvara and others acknowledge the fact that the mind assumes the form of the external object with which it comes into contact and modifies that form to suit its purposes.

28. Sri Shankara says that just as melted copper assumes the form of the mould into which it is cast, so the mind assumes the form of the object perceived by it.

29. Or just as sunlight assumes the forms of the objects which it illumines, so the mind assumes the forms of the objects which it perceives.

30. (Sri Sureshvara holds): Out of the cogniser (i.e. the Jiva) cognition (an appropriate modification of the mind) is produced. Thus born, the modification proceeds towards the object of cognition until it gets into touch with the object, when it assumes the form of the object (which is known as the cognition of the object).

31. So we see there are two kinds of objects, the 'material' and the 'mental'. The 'material' is the object cognised by mind being modified, by the form of the material object. And the 'mental' is cognised by the witness-consciousness (as the Jiva being affected by the 'material' coming in contact with the mind and evoking its latent desire for enjoyment).

32. By the application of the double method of agreement and difference we come to the conclusion that it is the 'mental' creation which causes bondage to the Jiva, for when these 'mental' objects are there, pleasure and pain are also there; when they are not, there is neither pleasure nor pain.

33. In dream, when external (material) objects are absent, man is bound by the intellect to pleasure and pain, although outer objects are not perceived. In deep sleep, in a faint and in the lower Samadhi (when the mental functions are temporarily suspended), no pleasure or pain is felt inspite of the proximity of outer objects.

34. A liar told a man whose son had gone to a far-off country that the boy was dead, although he was still alive. The father believed him and was aggrieved.

35. If, on the other hand, his son had really died abroad but no news had reached him, he would have felt no grief. This shows that the real cause of a man's bondage is his own mental world.

36. (Objection): This amounts to pure idealism and it deprives external objects of all significance. (Reply): No, because we accept the fact that external objects give shape to the modifications of the mind (which create the mental world).

37. Or, we may admit that external objects serve little useful purpose, yet we cannot dispense with them altogether. In any case, cognition is concerned with the existence of objects and not with their utility.

38. (Objection): If the mind causes bondage by giving rise to the phenomenal world, the world could be made to disappear by controlling the mind. So only Yoga needs to be practised; what is the necessity of knowledge of Brahman ?

39. (Reply): Though by controlling the mind duality can be made to disappear temporarily the complete and final destruction of the mental creation is not possible without a direct knowledge of Brahman. This is proclaimed by the Vedanta.

40. The duality of Ishvara creation may continue, but the non-dualist, when conceived of its illusoriness, can nonetheless know the secondless Brahman.

41. When all duality disappears at the time of the dissolution of the universe, the secondless Atman still remains unknown, because then, as in deep sleep, there is no teacher and no scripture, though there may be absence of duality.

42. The world of duality created by Ishvara is rather a help than an obstacle to a direct knowledge of the non-duality. Moreover, we cannot destroy the creation, so let it be. Why are you so much opposed to it ?

43. The world of duality created by Jiva is of two kinds: that which conforms and that which does not conform with the scriptural injunctions. The former should be kept in mind until Brahman is realised.

44. Reflection on the nature of the Self as Brahman is the mental world that conforms with the scriptural injunctions. Even this duality in conformity with the scripture is to be renounced after Brahman is realised. This is the direction of the Shruti.

45. 'An intelligent person, who has studied the scriptures and has repeatedly practised what they enjoin should renounce them after knowing the supreme Brahman, just as a man throws aside a flaming torch at the end of his journey'. [Amritanada Upanishad]

46. 'An intelligent person, who has studied the scriptures and has practised what they enjoin should discard them after experiencing Brahman as his Self, just as a man discards the husk when he has found the grain'. [Amrita-Bindu Upanishad]

47. 'A wise man, having experienced Brahman as his Self, should keep his higher intuitive faculty (prajna) united with Brahman. He should not oppress his mind with many words, for they are a mere waste of energy'. [Brihadaranyaka Upanishad]

48. It has been clearly told in the Shruti: 'Know that One and give up other talks' [Mundaka Upanishad] and 'A wise man should restrain his speech and keep it within the mind'. [Katha Upanishad]

49. The duality of the mental creation of man which is not in conformity with the scripture is of two kinds, violent and dull. That which gives rise to lust, anger and other passions is called violent and that which gives rise to day-dreams is called dull.

50. Before starting the study into the nature of Brahman it is necessary to give up both; for, mental poise and concentration are the two prerequisites for the study of Brahman, so says the Shruti.

51. in order to achieve and to be established in, the state of liberation these two must be given up. One who is subject to the urges of lust and other passions is unfit for liberation in life.

52. You may say: Let there be no liberation in life; I am satisfied if there is no birth anymore. We reply: Then (if the desires remain), you will have births also. So be satisfied with heaven only.

53. If you say that the pleasures of heaven are defective, having waning and gradation, and so are to be renounced, then why don't you give up this source of all evils, the passions ?

54. If cherishing the false idea that you have attained liberation, you do not completely give up these passions, you transgress the laws of the scriptures and are self-willed.

55. Sri Sureshvara says that one who pretends to be a knower of Brahman and yet lives without moral restraint is like a dog that eats unclean things. [Naiskarmyasiddhi-IV-62]

56. Before knowledge, you suffered only from the pain of your own mental imperfections; but now, you suffer the censure of the world as well. How glorious is the effect of your knowledge ?

57. O ! Knower of Truth, do not sink to the level of pigs in the sty ! Freeing yourself from all the defects arising from your mind, be worshipped by the world like a god.

58. The scriptures dealing with liberation proclaim that these urges of passions can be overcome by (constantly) thinking over the fettering nature of the objects of desire. Adopt these means, conquer the passions and be happy.

59. (Objection): All right, let defects such as the impact of passions be removed, but what is the harm in letting the imagination play on the objects of desire ? (Reply): Such mental preoccupation with the objects of desire is the very seed of all evils, so says Lord Sri Krishna.

60. 'If a man dwells mentally on any object of desire, he will become attached to it. Attachment gives rise to a longing for it and the frustration of desire leads to anger.' [Gita-II.62]

60(a). 'From anger comes delusion and from delusion loss of memory. From loss of memory comes the ruin of discrimination and from the ruin of discrimination the man perishes'.

61. This tendency of thinking on objects may be overcome by meditation on the attributeless Brahman. This can gradually be done at ease by first meditating on Ishvara.

62. One who has understood intellectually the nature of the secondless Brahman and who is free from the defects of intellect, should live in solitude and over a long period practise the Japa of Aum and thus control the vagaries of the mind.

63. When the 'mental world' is thus conquered, (other) modifications of the mind (gradually) cease - the mind keeps mum like a dumb person. This method was variously explained by Vasistha to Rama.

64. With the direct knowledge of the unsubstantiality of the phenomenal world arises the profound bliss of Nirvana.

65. A steady and concentrated study of the scriptures and discussion on the truth with the teacher and other learned persons lead to the conviction that the calm of deep reflection born of the disappearance of the last vestiges of desires and passions is the highest state.

66. If sometimes owing to actions performed in previous births the mind of a reflective man is distracted by desire, then it may be brought back to a peaceful state by the constant practice of spiritual meditations.

67. That man whose mind is not subject to distraction is not merely a knower of Brahman but Brahman Itself - so declare the sages versed in the scriptures of Vedanta.

68. One whose mind does no longer dwell on whether he knows Brahman or not but who remains identified with pure consciousness or knowledge is not merely a knower of Brahman but Brahman Itself.

69. This liberation in life is the final step attained by sublating or removing the mental creations of the Jiva (projected on the world of Ishvara). So in this chapter we have described how the duality created by the Jiva differs from that created by Ishvara.


1. That by which a man sees, hears, smells, speaks and distinguishes sweet and bitter tastes etc., is called consciousness. ['Prajnanam Brahma' - Aitareya Upanishad III-i-1]

2. The one consciousness which is in Brahma, Indra and other gods, as well as in human beings, horses, cows, etc., is Brahman. So the consciousness in me also is Brahman.

3. The infinite, supreme Self remains manifested in this world as the witness of the functions of the intellect in the body, fit for Self-knowledge and is designated as 'I'.

4. By nature infinite, the supreme Self is described here by the word Brahman. The word 'Asmi' (am) denotes the identity of 'Aham' (I) and 'Brahman'. Therefore 'I am Brahman' (is the meaning of the text). ['Aham Brahmasmi' - Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I-iv-10]

5. Before the creation there existed the Reality, one only, without a second and without name and form. That is even now (after creation) exists in a similar condition is indicated by the word 'That'. ['Tattvamasi' - Chandogya Upanishad VI-viii-15]

6. The principle of consciousness which transcends the body, senses and mind of the enquirer is here denoted by the word 'thou'. The word 'Asi' (art) shows their identity. That identity has to be experienced.

7. By (pronouncing) the word 'this' it is meant that the Atman is self-luminous and directly experienced. That is known as Pratyagatman which is the indwelling principle covering everything between egoity and the body. ['Ayamatma Brahma' - Madukya Upanishad 2]

8. The essence of the entire visible universe is denoted by the word Brahman. That Brahman is of the nature of the self-luminous Atman.