by Swami Krishnananda
Vahni ruṣṇaḥ prakāśātmā pūrvānu gati ratra ca, asti vasniḥ sa nistātvaḥ śabdavān sparśa vānapi (89). The quality of fire is heat and also it is radiance; it shines. Heat exists; fire exists – and it exists in some place, which is the character of space. It produces sound when it burns with flames. That is also something that is borrowed from space. And it has the character of air, which is motion. All the qualities of the earlier elements can be found in fire, which is the subsequent one, after air.
What do we say? Asti vasniḥ: We say, “Fire exists,” by which we identify fire with Brahman. Sa nistātvaḥ: By itself, fire is nistattvah – non-entity. Subtract Pure Existence from fire and we will find that it is a non-entity. Śabdavān sparśa: We can touch fire, we can hear the sound produced by fire. All these qualities are there no doubt, but all this is foisted on Pure Existence, minus which, it is not there, as is the case with space and air.
Sanmāyā vyoma vāyvaṁśair yukta syāgner nijo guṇaḥ, rūpaṁ tatra sataḥ sarvam anyad buddhā vivicyatām (90). Through the power of reason we may analyse the situation of the elements in this manner. Existence, maya, space and air – these condition fire. And fire has a special quality of its own which we cannot see in the preceding elements – namely, visibility. We cannot have visibility of space and air. We cannot see either space or air as an object as clearly as we can see fire. It has visibility and it has radiance; therefore, we can see it. All other characters which are foisted upon it should be separated from it, and finally it is to be regarded as unreal.
Sato vivecite vahnau mithyātve sati vāsite, āpo daśāṁśato nyūnāḥ kalpitā iti cintayet (91). Having understood the non-entity aspect of fire independently by itself, minus existence, we have to understand the same thing in the case of water. One tenth of the space occupied by fire principle is the space occupied by the water principle. Having understood clearly the properties of space, air and fire, and rejecting the reality aspect in them (minus Existence), now we consider what water is – which is only one tenth of the area occupied by fire. We say, “Water exists.” The existence aspect of Brahman is wrongly associated with water. As we have made the mistake of substantive and predicate in the case of the earlier elements, the same mistake we make here also. Existence is an originality; it is not a product of an element, though wrongly we utter sentences like, “Water exists.”
Santyāpo’mūḥ śūnyatattvāh saśabda sparśa saṁyutāḥ, rūpavatyo’nya dharma nuvṛttyā svīyo raso guṇaḥ (92). Non-entity is the nature of water finally, minus Existence. The quality of water is sound and also tangibility, and also it can be seen and tasted. The special quality of water is that we can taste it, but we cannot taste fire, we cannot taste air, we cannot taste space. All the qualities of water come from the earlier elements which preceded water; but it has its own special quality, which is taste.
Sato vivecitāsvapsu tanmithyātve ca vāsite, bhūmir daśāṁśato nyūnā kalpitā psviti cintayet (93). One tenth of water is earth. And earth has all the qualities of the earlier elements like extension. We can measure the earth by distance, and we can touch it as we can touch air. We can see it with our eyes, as we can see fire. We can taste substances made out of earth, material objects. One special quality of all things made of the earth principle, is that we can also smell it .
We cannot smell water. There is no smell in it – no smell in fire, no smell in air and no smell in space also. So while the earlier elements had one, two, three, four qualities, the last one, which is the fifth element earth, has five qualities. We can visualise in this particular element, which is earth, all the qualities of the earlier elements plus the character of smell or odour, which is only available in the earth principle. As we say, “Space exists,” etc., we also say, “Earth exists.” But minus existence, earth also is not really there.
Asti bhūstattva-sūnyā’syāṁ śabda-sparśau sarūpakau, rasaśca parato gandho naijaḥ sattā vivicyatām (94). Sound, tangibility, form, taste and smell are the characteristics of earth. Naijaḥ sattā vivicyatām. What is the essential nature of earth? Remove all the preceding qualities; dissociate earth from Existence itself. We will find there is no such thing as the earth principle. All creation vanishes as mist before the sun if we make this analysis of dissociating these wonderful presentations of the five-elemental world from Existence pure and simple, which is Absolute Brahman.
Pṛthakkṛtāyāṁ sattāyāṁ bhūmir mithyā’vaśiṣyate, bhūmer daśāṁśato nyūnaṁ brahmāṇḍaṁ bhūmi madhyagam (95). The whole cosmos of physical elements is constituted of the earth principle. Fourteen worlds are mentioned in the Puranas. All these are modifications of earth only by permutation and combination.
Brahmāṇḍa loka deheṣu sadavastuni pṛthak kṛte, asanto’ṇḍādayo bhāntu tadbhāne’pīha kā kṣatiḥ (97). In this Brahmanda, which is the macrocosm, the entire realms of beings, hang. As beads are strung on a thread to make a garland, so too all the realms of being, the worlds fourteen in number, are strung as beads, as it were, in this thread-like connection of material principle, physicality, earth principle.
All living beings like us human beings, sub-human creatures, plants – all these created elements are living in this Brahmanda, in this cosmos. So we occupy a very little part, a very little space of this entire creation. The real creation is very big. Do we know how big this earth is? Even the entire earth is not populated by people. A very small part of the earth is occupied; the major part of the whole globe is water. The entire ocean is occupying a larger part of the globe than the earth element. And even the earth principle is visible because the real solid matter is not occupied by living beings entirely.
And what is this earth, after all? It is such a small speck, as it were, in this astronomical universe; and we are living here like small crawling creatures on the surface of a little patch of earth principle, not knowing that the world is vaster – vaster and vaster as we go higher and higher, until it becomes incomprehensible and most deep, beyond the concept of the mind with all its furthest stretches of imagination.
Bhūta bhautika māyānām asattve’tyanta vāsite, sad vastva dvaita mityeṣā dhīr viparyeti na kvacit (98). If we separate the entire cosmos from Pure Existence, we will find that God has created the world out of nothing. There is some point, therefore, in the doctrine of certain religions that God created the universe out of a vacuum, because we have now reduced the whole cosmos into a vacuum. The cosmos, this creation that we are thinking of is constituted of five elements: space, air, fire, water, earth. By an analysis of their inner constitution, we have found that minus Existence, they do not exist. So like a magician, God has created this cosmos out of nothing. There are magicians who simply open their palm and some reptile will crop up, or a bird will fly, and so on. Such is the way in which God seems to have conjured up this creation.
He alone is. The world finally is not existing. To prove the existence of God solely and totally, and to remove the wrong idea that there is something outside God, this great analysis of the five elements is being conducted by the great author of Panchadasi. The great effort of analysis is only to prove God's Ultimate Existence, and that nothing else can be there.
The world appears, we may say. Let it appear. After all, it is an appearance. An appearance is not the same as reality.
Sadadvaitāt pṛthagbhūte dvaite bhūmyā dirūpiṇi, tattadartha kriyā loke yathā dṛṣṭā tathaiva sā (99). After this investigation into the nature of things, we come to the conclusion that all elements and the products of these elements are independently by themselves non-entities, and the consciousness then fixes itself in the unitary existence of itself. What finally exists is consciousness. Materiality, externality cannot be there because consciousness, being indivisible in its nature, has to be infinite.
Infinite is consciousness. As there cannot be two infinites (there can be only one infinite), the world outside consciousness cannot exist. The whole world is, therefore, a dazzling form of consciousness itself. The so-called five elements are only appearances of consciousness itself, both inwardly as well as outwardly.
Sadadvaitāt pṛthagbhūte dvaite bhūmyā dirūpiṇi, tattadartha kriyā loke yathā dṛṣṭā tathaiva sā (99). We have to live in this world in the light of this knowledge. We should not get involved in the appearances of things after having conducted this difficult analysis of the separation of Existence from the five elements. As is befitting the conditions prevailing, so we should behave in this world. The appearance of space, air, etc., should not create any kind of muddle in the process of thinking, in terms of the belief in the reality.
We may see a thing but not believe in its reality. It does not mean that just because we see a thing we should get involved in it. Do we get involved in the water that we see in the mirage? Do we want to occupy a room in the building that we see in the clouds? We see the clouds looking like buildings, but we know that there is no building there.
So is the case with the jivanmukta purusha, the man of wisdom who has awakened to the consciousness of Pure Existence alone being there; yet he sees the world. As long as the sense organs are operative, the mind thinks and the wise man also may see the world. But he will see it like a dead snake, and not like a living one. And he will see it like the water that is in a mirage. He sees it but does not want to drink it. He is never associated with what he sees. The deluded people, those who are involved in it, run after it. Deer in the desert, seeing apparent water, run in search of that water. And they get exhausted running. Whatever be the length of the distance that they run in the direction of that mirage water, they will not find that water because as they run in each direction, it recedes further and further. They get exhausted and die there, but they will not find water. So is the case with people in the world. They run after the pleasures of senses; they will run and run until they perish, but the pleasures of the world they will not find because the world is a mirage.