Advaita Vision

Advaita for the 21st Century

Panchadasi part 1

SRI VIDYARANYA SWAMI, Translated by, and with commentary by JAMES SWARTZ


flower picture



Visit James' website for details of his publications, forthcoming satsangs and other events, purchase DVDs, view a gallery of photos and more!



1.   Salutation to the lotus feet of my Guru Sri Sankarananda whose sole desire is to destroy Self ignorance and its effects: attachment to the belief that the pursuit of happiness through objects can bring lasting peace. 

2.   This discussion unfolding the discrimination between the Self and the non-Self is undertaken for the understanding of those whose hearts have been purified by service at the feet of the guru. 

3.   The objects of sense knowledge (sound, sight, taste, touch and smell) that are perceived in the waking state have different properties but the Awareness of these is one. 

4.   In the dream state the perceived objects are transient in contrast to the objects in the waking state which seem permanent.  But the awareness because of which both dream and waking objects are known is one. 

5.      Waking from deep sleep one consciously remembers a lack of the perception of objects.  Because remembrance consists of previously experienced objects it is clear that in deep sleep lack of knowledge of objects is experienced. 

6.      Ignorance of objects is the object of awareness in deep sleep.  The awareness of the objects in the waking and dream and the awareness of the lack of objects in deep sleep is the same.

James: Awareness is unchanging.  It is the same awareness of objects in the waking state as the absence of objects in deep sleep.  Time is a way to measure changes apparently taking place in awareness.

7.      Awareness is unchanging throughout all cycles of time and in the past, present and future.  Unlike the sun it does not rise or set.  It is self-revealing. 

8.      This awareness is the self of all beings.  Its nature is bliss because it is for the sake of the self that people wish never to die but to live forever.    

James:  The joy is not in the objects.  Joy is the nature of awareness. 

9.      Others are loved for the sake of the self but the self is loved for none other. Therefore the love for the self is the highest.

10.  Scripture establishes by reasoning that the individual self and the impersonal self are of the nature of existence, awareness and bliss.  The Upanishads teach that the individual and the limitless self are one. 

James:  They are one because awareness is non-dual.  It seems like there is an impersonal transcendental self because during epiphanies the mind is pure sattva and the self is experienced as limitlessness.  When it is disturbed by a vasana the sense of individuality returns.  Individuality is only a feeling of a thought, not a fact. 

11.  If it is not known that the self is limitless bliss there will not be intense love for it.

James:  Both scripture and epiphanies are the source of this knowledge.  Scripture is experience-based knowledge. The text will later say that awareness is the experience of everyone.  Because individuals indentify with the apparent body/mind entity, it is contrary to the opinion of most that the self is not experienced all the time.  However, it is experienced always because reality is non-dual awareness.  Because they are extroverted, individuals do not examine their experience carefully and conclude that the self is not an experienced object.    With the aid of Vedanta’s teaching, it becomes apparent that the self is both the experiencing subject and the experienced objects.   

When it is known, there is no attraction for worldly objects because all one’s love goes to It.

James:  And a burning desire for liberation ensues. 

It is difficult to say that it is either completely known or completely unknown. 

James:  The purpose of Vedanta is to make clear what is incompletely known.

12.  For example, a parent may distinguish his or her child’s voice singing in a chorus with other children but may fail to note its subtle characteristics because it is mingled with other voices.  The love for the self is easily obscured by the temporary blisses that occur when desired objects are attained.    

James:  The obstruction can be in the form of momentary blisses or it could appear in the form of deluded emotions (moha) such as fear, anger, desire or jealously.   

13.  Experience of everyday objects leads to the conclusion that they are self-existent and self revealing.  An obstruction, like blindness, prevents an appreciation of the self-existence and self-revelation of objects.

James:  An obstruction is something that hides the nature of something and makes it possible to mistake it for something else. 

Why the Self is not known for what it is - Avidya

14.  The universal obstruction to the appreciation of oneself as awareness is beginingless ignorance which is called avidya

15.  Nature (prakriti) which is made of sattva, rajas and tamas is a subtle form of awareness that is capable of reflecting Awareness.  It is of two kinds.

James:  Prakriti is the substance of creation.  It is grosser than pure awareness but subtler than everything that it contains.  It is inert.  In so far as the creation is real, the gunas are experienciable as ‘qualities’ states of mind.     

16.  When the sattvic element is pure, prakriti is known as Maya.  When it is mixed with rajas and tamas it is called avidya.  The Self, Awareness, reflected in pure sattva (Maya) is known as the omniscient Isvara (God, the Creator).  In this role it controls Maya.

James:  Later the text will say that Maya controls Isvara.  In the next verse Maya and Isvara are equated with the Causal Body and Ignorance.  For all intents and purposes all these terms refer to the same fact.

Before creation prakriti (nature) rests in the form of three distinct energies (gunas) that will transform it into the subtle and gross objects that make up the creation.  Awareness in association with pure sattva, (sumaya) the knowing principle, which is responsible for the intelligent design of the creation, is called Isvara, the Creator or the Causal Body. At this stage rajas (activity) and tamas (ignorance) have not manifested.   When they manifest, Isvara appears as the Subtle Body.  Awareness plus the Subtle Body is called Jiva, the individual or the ‘soul.’  As Isvara, awareness, which is uncreated, becomes responsible for all the objects that appear in it.  Objects are experienciable forms that appear in awareness.  Isvara/Maya has the power to conceal (avarana) and project (vikshepa).  It projects the three gunas and the five elements simultaneously. 

From awareness standpoint there is no creation.  From Jiva’s standpoint Isvara is the Creator and the controller of the creation i.e. the objects appearing in awareness.     

Vedanta is a complete means of self knowledge that relies on words to remove ignorance.  So the author, Vidyaranya Swami, in line with tradition is establishing the terminology at the beginning so that subsequent ideas will be understandable. 

17.  The individual embodied self (Jiva) is apparently conditioned by avidya, sattva contaminated by rajas and tamas.  The Jiva is multi-faceted and complex due to the many combinations of sattva, rajas and tamas.  Ignorance of the self (avidya) is called the Causal Body.  The Jiva identified with the Causal Body is called Prajna.

James:  Prajna is the deep sleeper.  Deep sleep is a metaphor for avidya as well as a state of experience for Jiva. Prajna is a subtle vritti, a special jiva, that permits Awareness to experience itself as limitless bliss.  It is not conscious but seems to be conscious.  It is different from the Jiva…which is conscious…because the Jiva is the Self with three bodies although the text later will say that the jiva appears as prajna in the deep sleep state.       

Avidya refers to Jiva’s ignorance of its nature as awareness.  Maya refers to the power of Isvara to delude all jivas, sentient beings.  Both Maya and avidya have no beginning but both come to an end.  Avidya ends never to return when the Jiva gains self knowledge.  Maya ‘sleeps’ in awareness when the creation has run its course only to appear again after billions of years.  It is eternal.

Go to Part 2...


Page last updated: 28-Aug-2012