Summary of Panchadashi Discourse:
Guru is acknowledged. And who is qualified for Pancadasi, is established; only those with purified hearts/minds.
Source: Swami Vidyaranya, Pancadasi CH1 – verse 1, 2
Because Panchadasi is an advanced text, understanding several other texts – Tattva Bodh, Bhagavad Gita and some Upanishads – prior to immersion in it is recommended. Panchadasi is prakarana text, an analysis and discussion of certain famous Upanishad mantras. Each chapter is a treatise on a particular topic. Its fifteen chapters are divided into three sections: one on discrimination, one on illumination and one on bliss.
Understanding the complete text is not necessary for liberation. In fact you can understand it intellectually but not reap the fruit – freedom – from your understanding. Freedom comes when you can discriminate yourself from objects on a moment-to-moment basis. To gain maximum benefit you need to hear the text taught by a competent teacher, but a careful study on your own is definitely beneficial.
IF EVERYTHING IS consciousness/awareness, then experience is consciousness/ awareness and we should be able to realize our nature as consciousness through an analysis of experience. Panchadasi establishes self-knowledge on the basis of an investigation into the unexamined logic of our everyday experience.
Self-knowledge and self-ignorance come in the form of words arranged in certain thought patterns. Panchadasi is a very sophisticated work that analyzes the meaning of words so that wrong thinking about the nature of reality can be exposed and corrected. When one’s thinking coincides with the nature of reality, suffering ceases.
Panchadasi, CH1, Verse 1:
Namaḥ śrī śaṅkarānanda guru pādāmbu janmane, savilāsa mahā moha grāha grāsaika karmaṇe
Salutation to the lotus feet of my guru Sri Shankarananda, who destroys self-ignorance, the cause of attachment to the belief that the pursuit of happiness through objects can bring lasting peace.
Translation 2: Salutations to the lotus feet of Sri Sankarananda whose only undertaking is to destroy the primordial shark of delusion along with its manifest effect.
This verse is an invocation of self in the form of the teaching tradition. It informs the inquirer that self-knowledge is impersonal, revealed knowledge that has been handed down intact for countless generations, not the personal beliefs or opinions of the author. The pursuit of happiness through contact with objects is called samsara.
It is caused by self-ignorance, “the jaws of the crocodile.” It causes great pain and the loss of one’s emotional and intellectual freedom. Like the jaws of a crocodile, it is almost impossible to escape.
For proper completion and propagation of the book, the author Vidyaranya bows down to his teacher Sankarananda. This sioka also gives the subject-matter and the end or purpose of the book, viz., the identity of Jiva and Brahman and gaining of supreme bliss and destruction of nescience.
The word ‘Sankara’ also means the Paramatman who is the source of all the joys of the world. Ananda is the jīvātma who is the dearest. So Sankarananda means, Brahman and Pratyagatman. He is the Guru. ‘Sri’ refers to special powers capable of giving the wealth desired.
Panchadasi, CH1, Verse 2:
Tat pādāmbu ruha dvaṅdva sevā nimarla cetasām, sukha bodhāya tattvasya vivedo’yaṁ vidhīyate
This discussion unfolding the discrimination between the self and the non-self is undertaken for the clear understanding of those whose hearts have been purified by service at the feet of the guru.
Translation 2: This discussion about the discrimination of Truth (Brahman) (from untruth) is being initiated for the easy understanding of those whose hearts have been purified by service to the pair of lotus feet of the Teacher.
To show the identity of Brahman of the Vedas with the Atman or Self intuitively known to us is the object of this book. This it does by appealing to reason and experience. (Ramakrishna)
Alternative commentary (JS):
Qualifications are required for self-knowledge: clear understanding that (1) the happiness we seek is not to be found in objects and (2) life is a zero-sum game; every gain involves a loss.
The qualified person has (3) the ability to discriminate the self from the objects appearing in it, once the self is known, (4) dispassion with reference to the results of one’s actions, (5) burning desire to be free of all limitations, (6) understanding that only knowledge, not experience, can set one free, (7) faith in the means of knowledge pending the result of an analysis of one’s experience according the scriptures, (8) the power to stick to one’s own nature, (9) control of the mind by observation and analysis, (10) control of the senses, (11) ability to focus on a particular idea for an extended period of time and (11) the willingness to gladly suffer the little pinpricks of life.
In the event that the fruit of self-knowledge – freedom from dependence on objects – is not experienced as a result of the assimilation of this valuable knowledge, it is due to lack of one or more of these qualifications, which can be gained through various methods.
“The lotus feet of the guru” means devotion to self-knowledge. The knowledge of one’s self as limitless consciousness stands under every truly free person just as one’s physical feet support one’s body. Service to the feet refers to a life dedicated to self-inquiry, the means of self-knowledge.
The lotus is a common symbol of enlightenment in Eastern spiritual traditions. The word “guru” means “something that removes the darkness of ignorance,” i.e. the “light” of consciousness in the form of this teaching.
Recorded 14 July, 2019