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Manisha Panchakam

Background

Manisha panchakam is a set of 5 stanzas in which Shankara talks of his 5 opinions. The story goes like this. Shankara is going somewhere and he faces a person coming opposite to him. The person seems like a 'Chandala'. Shankara asks him to move to give way for him. The 'Chandala' questions Shankara or more precisely puts forward 5 statements. Shankara gives his opinion on them in 5 stanzas. 

This conversation helps Shankara to ground his advaita principle, gleamed from the understanding of vedic texts, in social terms, to be practiced in our daily lives. That's the significance of manisha panchakam.

Executive Summary of Manisha Panchakam

Our perceptions about external forms (like learned, powerful, chandala etc) are our creations. When one's knowledge matures into a detached thought like that of Yogis, beyond all the perceptions and pleasures,  they become the Brahman, that expands/creates everything and is present in all matter and beings.

When Shankara addressed the chandala with his perception of the external form of Chandala asking the chandala to move away, Chandala puts forward this understanding. Shankara accepts it and responds.

Chandala's statement 1: In all objects that natural blissful consciousness is present
Shankara's response: Yes, in all objects big and small, in all their states, such a consciousness exists, which is their 'aham' or 'self'.

Statement 2: Chandala or Learned or Powerful are just perceptions
Shankara's response: Yes, all what we learn are our creation only. All the worlds are due to the expansion of that consciousness beyond the fixed intellect.

Statement 3: It's the same sun reflected in ganges or dirty waters
Shankara's response: Yes, Atman is reflected internally, without duplicity, in all beings, burns the beings of their wrong-doings, purifies the overall intellect, actions of beings affecting their physical bodies (like the same sun is reflected in the water of ganges or on chandala's street, evaporating them).

Statement 4: Its the same space inside gold pot or mud-pot
Shankara's response: Yes, from animals to human beings conscience manifests inside (as) concealed detached thought like that of Yogis (like the space that exists inside a golden/mud pot, detached from the pot).

Statement 5 : Which one you asked to move, the body that becomes the food or takes food or the conscience of my consciousness, present in everything as described above..?
Shankara's response: Knowledge that matures into detached thought (which is the conscience) beyond all perceptions, is the brahman itself, is worshipped by Surendra. 

Thus this conversation helped Sankara to ground his advaita understanding of Vedas, in social terms, to be practiced in day to day life.  

Summary of Manisha Panchakam

Chandala says "The best of sanyasi, you asked me to go away (make some distance). Which one you wanted to move..? This body that consumes food or becomes the food of others or conscience of/in the consciousness". He continues "In all objects is that natural blissful consciousness. Chandala or learned or powerful is just a perception. It's the same sun reflected in ganges water or the fluids of the street of candala. Inside the golden pot is the same space as in mud-pot"

Shankara responds thus

1. In wakeup or dream or sleep state, that which is the knower of all, in greatest or smallest of ants, that universal observer exists.  That (Universal Observer) is alone the self  and not any materials fixed in that consciousness on which these materials exist.  Be it in the chandala or twice-born, Guru is that (Universal observer) in my opinion.

2. Self (aham) is this expanding here, all the worlds and all of it is the expansion of that consciousness only. All of this and whatever we learn are completely our creation. Thus which crossing the pleasures of the fixed intellect, the spotless beyond, be it in the chandala or twice-born is the Guru in my thinking.

3. Universe is not permanent, certainly fluctuating, definitely expression of that Guru, always expanding. The inner atman is contemplated as eternal, without duplicity (only one). Matter /biological forms take birth, their wrong-doings burn them, purifying/filtering their overall intellect, their activities/deeds affecting their physical bodies. This is my thinking.

4. In animals or human beings, also the divinities, the inner atman takes hold and blossoms, whose radiance/light shines the physical parts, from their own share of that consciousness. That light, hidden/concealed, resembling/like the solar system sprouting manifestations/beings, always in union with the manifestations, as the detached manas of the Yogis, is the guru, is my thinking/opinion.

5. Ocean of welfare whose brief of brief pleases Indra,  the exceedingly tranquil consciousness, whose effect having obtained, muni gets pleased, in which the knowledge matures into thought of not just the knower of brahman/expansion, but the brahman/expansion itself, even Surendra worships that feet is my opinion.

Chandala's Question

अन्नमायादन्नमयमथवा चैतन्यमेव चैतन्यात्
यतिवर दूरीकर्तुं वाञ्छसि किं ब्रूहि गच्छगच्छेति

annamayaad annamayam athavaa caitanyam eva caitanyaat .
yati vara dUri kartum vaanchhasi 
kim brUhi gachchha gachchheti..

உணவாகின்ற ஊனையா  அன்றி 
உணர்கின்ற உணர்வையா
தள்ளி போக விழைகின்ற துறவியே 
எதை சொன்னாய் போ போவென்று 

Consumed, consumable (annamayAd annamayam) or else (athava) conscience of consciousness (caitanyam eva caitanyaat), the best of sanyasi (yati vara), you desire (vanchasi) making the distance (dUri kartum), what you said (kim brUhI) move, move (gaccha, gaccha) in this way (iti)

What you said move, move..? The best of sanyasi, you desired making the distance.. Is it the consumed, consumable..? (external forms) Is it consiennce in consciousness..? (internal)

Annam is that is consumed (food). All the matter and biological forms in this world are annam (or consumed) of each other. So everything in this Universe is annam, that is consumed.

प्रत्यग्वस्तुनि निस्तरङ्गसहजानन्दावबोधाम्बुधौ 
विप्रोऽयं श्वपचोऽयमित्यपि महान्कोऽयं विभेदभ्रमः । 
किं गङ्गाम्बुनि बिम्बितेऽम्बरमणौ चाण्डालवीथीपयः 
पूरे वाऽन्तरमस्ति काञ्चनघटीमृत्कुम्भयोर्वाऽम्बरे ॥

pratyag vastuni nistaranga sahaja ananda avabodha ambudhau 
vipro'yam shvapacho'yam ityapi mahaanko'yam vibheda bhramah' . 
kim ganga ambuni bimbite' ambara manau chaand'aala veethee payah' 
poore vaa'ntaram asti kaanchana ghat'ee mri't kumbhayor va a'mbare

ஒவ்வொரு பொருளிலும்  இருக்குமே 
இயல்பான ஆனந்த விழிப்பே
சக்தியுடையார் சான்றோர் மற்றும் 
சண்டாளரென்பது ப்ரம்மையே
சண்டாளர் வீதி நீரிலும் 
கங்கை நீரிலும் சூரியன் தெரியுமே 
தங்கப் பானை நடுவிலும்  
மண் பானை உள்ளிருக்கும் வெளியே 

Every (pratyag) object (vastuni) still/motionless (nistaranga) natural (sahaja) bliss (ananda) being awake (avabodha) to the ocean (ambudhau) learned here (vipro ayam) who eats dog (zvapaca ayam) thus also (iti api) powerful person (mahaan ko ayam) difference (vibheda) confusion (bhramah)

Every object is awakened by the ocean of motionless natural bliss. The difference of learned, one who eats dog, powerful person is a perception/confusion.

what (kim) waters of ganga (ganga ambuni) image/reflection (bimbite) jewel of the sky (ambara maNi) fluids of streets of chandala (chandala vIti paya) space inside (pUre va antaram asti) golden pot (kanchana ghati) mud vessel (mrd kumbha) sky (ambara)

What reflection of jewel of the sky in waters of the ganga is in  fluids of streets of chandala vIti. Inside golden pot is mud earth's space.

Shankara's Opinion - One

जाग्रत्स्वप्नसुषुप्तिषु स्फुटतरा या संविदुज्जृम्भते
या ब्रह्मादिपिपीलिकान्ततनुषु प्रोता जगत्साक्षिणी
सैवाहं न च दृश्यवस्त्विति दृढप्रज्ञापि यस्यास्ति
च्चण्डालोऽस्तु स तु द्विजोऽस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम

jaagrat svapna sushuptishu sphut'ataraa yaa samvid ujjri'mbhate 
yaa brahmaadi pipeelika anta tanushu protaa jagat saakshinee
sa iva aham na cha dri'shya vastviti drd'ha prajnya api yasya asti 
chchaand'aalo astu sa tu dvijo astu gurur iti eshaa maneeshaa mama

விழிப்போ  கனவுத் துயிலோ 
விழித்திருக்கும் அனைத்தறியும் திறனாய் 
பெரிதோ அன்றி எறும்போ 
வடிவங்களில்  அகில சாட்சி இருக்கும்
காணும் பொருளில் அகமாய் 
அவைதனில் நிலைகொண்ட ஆழ்ப்புலன் ஆகும் 
சண்டாளர் சான்றோர் ஆயினும் 
குருவாகிடும் அதுவென்பதே என் எண்ணம் 

waking up (jagrat) dream (svapna), deep sleep (susupti) most distinct/clear (sphuTatara) know together/know all (saMvid) break open/make visible (ujjrmbhate) from the largest (brahma-adi) to minutest (pipillika anta) manifestations (tanuSu) fixed/linked/strung on (prota) universal observer/witness (jagat saksin)

From the expanded/largest to the smallest, breaking open/making visible all the knowledge distinctly/clearly, in waking up, dream, deep sleep states, is the Universal observer fixed/strung on them.

that alone self (sa iva aham) not (na) and (ca) seen materials (drSya vastu iti) firm/fixed (drdha) consciousness (prajnya api)  in which/whose (yasya) they exist (asti), be it chchandala (chchandalo astu) be it twice-born (sa tu dvijo astu) guru inthis way/thus (guru iti) in these (eSa) my thinking (mama manIsa)

That (Universal Observer) is alone the self  and not any materials fixed in that consciousness on which these materials exist.  Be it chandala or twice-born, Guru is that (Universal observer) in my opinion.

Shankara's Opinion 2

ब्रह्मैवाहमिदं जगच्च सकलं चिन्मात्रविस्तारितं
सर्वं चैतदविद्यया त्रिगुणयाऽशेषं मया कल्पितम् ।
इत्थं यस्य दृढा मतिस्सुखतरे नित्ये परे निर्मले
चण्डालोऽस्तु स तु द्विजोऽस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम

brahma iva aham idam jagach cha sakalam chinmaatra vistaaritam 
sarvam cha etat vidyayaa trigunayaa'sh esham mayaa kalpitam
ittham yasya dri'd'haa matih' sukhatare nitye pare nirmale 
chaand'aalo'stu sa tu dvijo'stu gururityeshaa maneeshaa mama

அகத்தின் விரிவாக்கமே  
ஜகமனைத்தும் ஆழ்ப்புலன் விரிவாக்கமே 
நாம் கற்கும் அனைத்துமே
முக்குணங்களாலான மாயையின் ஆக்கமே 
மாறா  அறிவுச்சுகம்  
கடந்த  மாறாத  தூய்மையாகுமே     
சண்டாளர் சான்றோர் ஆயினும் 
குருவாகிடும் அதுவென்பதே என் எண்ணம்

expanding (brahma) alone (iva) the self (aham) this (idam) world (jagat) (and) all of it (sakalam) consciousness only (cin matra) expansion (visaritam)  everything (sarvam) and (ca) this (etat) learnt (vidyaaya) three gunas (tri-gunaya) without remainder /completely (azesam) our (maya) creation/imagination (kalpitam)

Self (aham) is this expanding here, all the worlds and all of it is the expansion of that consciousness only. All of this and whatever we learnt are completely our creation.

thus (ittham) that which (yasya) fixed (drdha) intellect (matih) beyond the sukha (sukha-tare) always (nitye) spotless beyond (pare nirmale) be it chandala (chandalo astu) or be it the twice-born (dvija - astu) guru is that (Universal observer) in my thinking (manisha mama)

Thus which crossing the pleasures of the fixed intellect, the spotless beyond, be it the chandala or twice-born is the Guru in my thinking.

Shankara's opinion 3


शश्वन्नश्वरमेव विश्वमखिलं निश्चित्य वाचा गुरो-
र्नित्यं ब्रह्म निरन्तरं विमृशता निर्व्याजशान्तात्मना
भूतं भावि च दुष्कृतं प्रदहता संविन्मये पावके
प्रारब्धाय समर्पितं स्ववपुरित्येषा मनीषा मम

shashvan na shvaram eva vishvam akhilam nishchitya vaachaa guror 
nityam brahma nirantaram vimr'shataa nirvyaajasha anta atmanaa
bhootam bhaavi cha dushkri'tam pradahataa samvinmaye paavake
praarabdhaaya samarpitam svavapur ity eshaa maneeshaa mama

நிலையற்ற ஏறி இறங்கும் 
அகிலம் அக்குருவின் அருள்வாக்காகும் 
என்றும் முற்றில்லா விரிக்கும்
அந்த இரண்டிலா ஆத்மனாய் உள்ளிருக்கும் 
அழிவுகள் எரிந்திட 
பிறப்புகளின் அறிவு தூய்மையாக்கும்
பிறந்தோர் செயல்களே 
தேகத்தை  உருவாக்குமென்பதே என் எண்ணம் 

Not permanent (zasvat na) fluctuating certainly (svaram eva) the Universe (visvam)  Universe (akhilam) definitely (nizchitya) expression (vAca) of the guru (vAca guror) constantly, always (nityam)  expanding (brahma) perpetual/eternal (nirantaram) contemplated (vimrsata) without duplicity (nirvyAjaz) inner atman (anta atmana)

Universe is not permanent, certainly fluctuating, definitely expression of that Guru, always expanding. The inner atman is contemplated as eternal, without duplicity (only one).

 Matter and biological forms (bhUtam) take birth (bhAvi) and (ca) wrong doing (duS krtam) burns (pradahata), consisting of intellect/overall knowledge (samvid-maye) is purified (pavake), with past activities/deed (pra-arabdhAya) get offered (samarpitam) to  individual bodies (sva-vapur) this is my opinion/thinking (iti eSa manIsha mama)

Matter /biological forms take birth, their wrong-doings burn them, purifying/filtering their overall intellect, their activities/deeds affecting their physical bodies. This is my thinking.

Shankara's opinion 4

या तिर्यङ्नरदेवताभिरहमित्यन्तः स्फुटा गृह्यते
यद्भासा हृदयाक्षदेहविषया भान्ति स्वतोऽचेतनाः
तां भास्यैः पिहितार्कमण्डलनिभां स्फूर्तिं सदा भावय-
न्योगी निर्वृतमानसो हि गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम 

yaa tiryang nara devataabhir aham ity antah' sphut'aa gri'hyate 
yad bhaasaa hri'daya aksha deha vishayaa bhaanti svato' chetanaah'
taam bhaasyaih' pihita arka mand'ala nibhaam sphoortim sadaa bhaavayan
yogee nirvri'ta maanaso hi gurur ityeshaa maneeshaa mama

மிருகமோ மனிதரோ 
தேவரினுள்ளுமே பற்றியே மலருமே 
கண் இதயம் தேகம் எல்லாம் 
எதன் ஒளியால் ஒளிருமோ அச்சிந்தையே 
ஒளிந்திருந்து அவையுள்ளே 
சூர்ய மண்டலமாய் என்றும் தோற்றுவிக்குமே 
பற்றற்றோரின் பற்றற்ற 
மனதாகிடும் குருவென்பதே என் எண்ணம் 

Animals or (tIrang yA) human beings (nara) also the divinities (devataabhir) takes hold (grhyate) blossoms (sphuta) whose (yad) radiance/light (bhAsa) shines (bhAnti) heart, eyes, physical objects (hrdaya, akSa, deha viSaya) from their own share (svato) of consciousness (cetanah)

In animals or human beings, also the divinities, the inner atman takes hold and blossoms, whose radiance/light shines the physical parts, from their own share of that consciousness.

those (tAm) lustre/light (bhaasyaih) hidden/concealed (pihita) solar system /system fed by light rays (arka mandala) like/resembling (nibham) suddenly rising or manifesting (sphurti) always (sadA) manifestations (bhAvayan) those liberated (Yogi) detached (nivrtta) manas (manaso) is the guru (hi gurur) is my thinking/opinion (iti eSa manIsha mama)

That light, hidden/concealed, resembling/like the solar system sprouting manifestations/beings, always in union with the manifestations, like the detached manas of the Yogi,  is the guru, is my thinking/opinion.

Shankara's opinion 5

यत्सौख्याम्बुधिलेशलेशत इमे शक्रादयो निर्वृता 
यच्चित्ते नितरां प्रशान्तकलने लब्ध्वा मुनिर्निर्वृतः । 
यस्मिन्नित्यसुखाम्बुधौ गलितधीर्ब्रह्मैव न ब्रह्मविद्
यः कश्चित्स सुरेन्द्रवन्दितपदो नूनं मनीषा मम

yat saukhya ambudhi lesha leshata ime shakra aadayo nirvri'taa 
yac chitte nitaraam prashaanta kalane labdhvaa munir nirvri'tah' 
yasmin nitya sukhaam budhau galita dhI brahmaiva na brahmavid 
yah' kashchitsa surendra vandita pado noonam maneeshaa mama

எந்நலப் பெருங்கடலின் 
சிறிதினும் சிறிதால் இந்திரனும் மகிழ்வனோ 
எப்பெரும் அமைதியை 
சிந்தையில் அடைந்திட முனிகள் மகிழ்வரோ 
எதனுள்   அறிவுச்சுகம் 
முதிர்ந்து தனியான  எண்ணமாகுமோ 
அந்த அவ்வொன்றே  
இந்திரனும் வணங்கத் தகுமென்பதே என் எண்ணம்

Which (yat) welfare (saukhya) holder of waters (ambudhi) brief of brief (lesha leshatat) this (ima) Indra etc (shakra adayo) gets pleased (nirvrta), which (yat) consciousness (citta) exceedingly (nitaram) tranquility (prashanta) effect (kalane) having obtained (labdhva) munir gets pleased (nirvrta) in which (yasmin) always (nitya) pleasure (sukhaam) knowing (budhau) matures (galita) intellect (dhI) as the brahman itself (brahma iva) and not knower of brahman (na brahma vid)  whomsoever (yah kascit) feet is worthy of worship by Surendra (surendra vandita pada) certainly (nUnam) is my thinking/opinion (manIsha mama)

Ocean of welfare whose brief of brief pleases Indra,  the exceedingly tranquil consciousness, whose effect having obtained, muni gets pleased, in which the knowledge matures the intellect into not just the knower of brahman/expansion, but the brahman/expansion itself, that feet is worthy of worship by Surendra is my opinion.

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