sAdhana panchakam is set of 5 stanzas written by Adi Shankaracharya. sAdhana means a process or 'means' to do something. It could be interpreted as 'practise' as practise is a process/means to accompish something.
The 5th stanza describes what needs to be accomplished. How to remain situated in that para-brahman, in that evolutionary external observing Atman, in a world full of deeds/karma flowing as a chain of bondage from one to another..?
Shankara gives five phases to follow one after another for people to move gradually from their current state to the state of remaining situated with Atman, which is the state of being an observer of ourselves and others.
sAdhana panchakam talks about the phases through which mental maturity has to be accomplished in us. It's not related to age or celibacy status or stages of life, in my understanding.
In my understanding, it's more about moving/evolving from our current state where we perform defect free work with knowledge to listening to knowledge outside of our work domain, in particular the sruti/vedas that talk about aham brahma asmi, then researching this knowledge, subsisting with minimal physical needs (like any researcher will do) and focussing more on realizing that knowledge and cultivating that dispassionate observing capability in us.
Rationale of sAdhana Panchakam
Universe's evolution is driven by a design pattern of an external observer driving the evolution,just by observation. We call this observer, the Atman and the evolution as Brahman. If we develop that detached observation capability in us, the ultimate isolation of mind (ekAnta), then we are in a state similar to that of Atman.
There are five phases in this process.
- The first phase is do our work with knowledge, but without desires. At the same time, remove all defects in our work to wash away sins.
- The second phase is to develop devotion to an external god so that we don't get attached to the results of our work. It is also the time we learn the vedic verses from other learned people.
- The third phase is to understand the vedic verses on our own, understanding other arguments and comparing it with vedic revelations. It is also the time to develop that 'Iam Brahman' attitude and abandon the 'I am body' attitude.
- The fourth phase is to eat food as medicine, be indifferent to desires or mercy of people and speak measuredly and never be cruel.
- The fifth phase is to develop ever happy isolated mind in equilibrium without ego or thoughts of future. One develops an 'observer' mentality. Then that supreme evolution driving observer of Universe is said to manifest in them.
Summary of sAdhana Panchakam
The first phase is to be proficient in knowledge in the deeds that one has to execute for one's own position. But perform these deeds (as atonements, as worship) giving up the desiring part of the intelligence. Explore the defects in these deeds, so that any sins arising out of the deeds are washed away completely and welfare manifests. Determinedly, desiring from you inner self, move quickly away from this state.
The second phase is to perform our deeds with determined will, with truth and 'bhagavat bhakti' or devotion to an external god as it helps in renunciation of the results of our deeds. Peace grows, becomes stronger in all our activities with complete renunciation. Approach the learned everyday, learn from them, by serving them. Listen to the best of vedic revelations, which are the wealth of that one indivisible brahman.
The third phase is to discuss the meaning of these verses that we listen to and seek refuge on the wings of the best of vedic revelations. Investigate/Explore the heroic false arguments with arguments of vedic revelations. Completely abandon the 'I' pride and manifest the 'Iam Brahman' attitude. Completely abandon the argument of wise-men who say 'I ' is just the body.
The fourth phase is to treat hunger as disease and take food as medicine. Don't ask for delicious food. Be contended with what you get. Bear with climate and environment. Don't pronounce words at will. Be indifferent to people's mercy or desires, abandon being hard/cruel.
The fifth phase or the ultimate phase is to remain isolated in mind with happiness of greater consciousness, in equilibrium always not affected by the sight of the external world, not clinging to future due to ego. In this state, one becomes an observer of themselves and others like the paramatma itself. When they become so, they are said to be situated in that external evolution-causing observer of the Universe.
vedo nityam adhiyatam taduditam karma svanusthiyatam
tenesasya vidhiyatam apacitih kamye matis tyajyatam |
papaughah paridhuyatam bhavasukhe doso nusandhiyatam
atmeccha vyavasiyatam nijagrhat turnam vinirgamyatam
knowledge (veda) always (nityam) proficiency (adhiyatam) that (tad) arises (uditam) actions/deeds (karma) execute in terms of one's own position (svanusthiyatam).
Of all those (tenez asya) please perform/execute (vidhiyatam) counteraction/repayment/atonement/worship/adoration/honoring (apaciti) desired (kamya) of intelligence (matiz) expelled/abandoned/given up (tyajyatam)
sins (papa aghah) cleaning all around/completely (pari dhuyatam) manifests happiness/welfare (bhava sukhe) defects (doSo) investigate/explore/set in order (anusamdhiyatam)
desiring from the self (atma iccha) determination (vyavasiyatam) innate (nija) from home/residence (grhat) speedily/quickly (turnam) exit /departure/ escape (vinirgamyatam)
It is always knowledge proficiency that gives rises to deeds to be executed for one's own position. But perform these atonements/worship giving up the desiring part of the intelligence. (Perform unattachedly) Investigate/Explore the defects, so that the sins are washed away completely and welfare manifests. Determinedly, desiring from your inner self, quickly depart from your innate home (from where ever you are placed).
sangah satsu vidhiyatam bhagavato bhaktir drḍha dhiyatam
santyadih pariciyatam drḍha taram karmasu santyajyatam |
sadvidvanupasrpyatam pratidinam tatpaduka sevyatam
brahmaika aksaram arthyatam srutisiro vakyam samakarnyatam
Please perform (vidhiyatam) associated with (sangah) with truth (satsu) with bhagavat bhakti determined (drdha) will (dhiyatam)
Peace etc (sAnti Adi) grow/increase (pariciyatam) harder/firmer/ strengthen (drdha taram) in all activities (karmasu) renouncing completely (santyajyatam)
true (sat) learned (vidvan) approached (upasRpyatam) every day (prati dinam) serve (sevyatam) that (tat) feet (paduka)
Listen to (samAkarNyatam) best of verses (ziro vakyam) of vedas (zruti), the wealth (arthyatam) of that one indivisible (eka aksaram) brahman (evolution)
Perform with determined will, with truth and bhagavat bhakti. Peace grows, becomes stronger in all our activities with complete renunciation. Approach the learned everyday and serve their feet. Listen to the best of vedic revelations, which are the wealth of that one indivisible brahman.
vakyarthasca vicaryatam srutisirah paksah samasriyatam
dustarkat suviramyatam srutimatas tarko nusandhiyatam |
brahmasmiti vibhavyatam aharahar garvah parityajyatam
dehe ham ati rujhyatam budhajanair vadah parityajyatam
Meaning of the verses (vAkya artha) and (ca) deliberate/discuss (vicaryatam) seek refuge (samazrityatam) on the sides/wings (paksa) of the best of the vedic revelations (sruti sirah)
false arguments (dustarkat), beroics (surviramyatam), arguments (tarka) filled with vedic revelations (zruti mata) investigate/explore/set in order (anu samdhiyatam)
brahma asmi iti (thus i am brahman) manifest/perceive (vibhavyatam) the 'I' 'I' pride (ahar ahara garvah) completely abandon (pari tyajyatam)
the body (dehe) aham (I) extremely (ati) shatter (rujhyatam) ; completely abandon (pari tyajyatam) the argument (vadhah) of wise men (budha-janair)
Discuss the meaning of verses and seek refuge on the wings of the best of vedic revelations. Investigate/Explore the heroic false arguments with arguments of vedic revelations. Completely abandon the 'I' pride and manifest the 'Iam Brahman' attitude. Completely abandon the argument of wise-men who say 'I ' is just the body.
ksudvyadhisca cikitsyatam pratidinam bhiksau sadham bhujyatam
svadvannam na tu yacyatam vidhivasat praptena santusyatam |
sitosnadi visahyatam na tu vrtha vakyam samuccaryatam
audasinyam abhipsyatam jana krpa naisthuryam utsrjyatam
Treat (cikitsyatam) hunger (ksudh) as disease (vyadhi) and (ca) every day (pratidinam) take your meal (bhuhyatam) with (sadham) bhiksa (like medicine)
Dont ask (na tu yacyatam) for delicious food (svad annam). Be contented (santusyatam) with what is given by fate (vidhivasat praptena)
Bear the climate etc (zitosnaadi visahyatam don's pronounce words at will/want (na tu vrtha vakyam sam uccaryatam)
Indifference (audasinya) desiring (abhipsyatam) people (jana) mercy (krpa) severity/harsh/hard/cruel (naisthuryam) let go/loose/abandon (utsrjyatam)
Treat hunger as disease and take food as medicine. Don't ask for delicious food. Be contended with what is given by fate. Bear with climate and environment. Don't pronounce words at will. Be indifferent to people's mercy or desires, abandon being hard/cruel.
ekante sukham asyatam paratare cetah samadhiyatam
purnatma susamiksyatam jagadidam tadvadhitam drsyatam |
prakkarma pravilapyatam cit balat na api uttaraih slisyatam
prarabdham tviha bhujyatamatha parabrahmatmana sthiyatam || 5 ||
Isolation (ekanta) happiness (sukham) let remain (asyata) greater (paratara) mind/consciousness (cetah) state of equilibrium (samaadhi)
Complete inner self (purna atma) look upon/see well (su samiksyatam) the worlds (jagad) here (idam) that (tad) disturbs (badhitam) the sight (drsyatam)
Preparatory/previous actions/deeds (prAk karma) completely annihilate (pravilapyatam) dont cling to future certainly (na uttaraih slisyatam) due to the strength of your ego (cit balat)
Undertake (prarabdham) enjoy (bhujyatam) then (atha) you remain (sthiyatam) in that external evolutionary self (para brahma atamna)
Remain isolated in mind with happiness of greater consciousness, in state of equilibrium. See the worlds as the complete atma sees it (as a detached observer). Our sight associated with the world disturbs it. In essence, be the observer of you and everything around. This completely eliminates the result of past deeds. Don't cling to future due to strength of ego. By developing this isolation of mind without the disturbance of external sight, by being the observer, not clinging to future fears, you remain situated in that external evolutionary self.