The word “Manisha” means “conviction” and “Panchakam” means a collection of five. The central theme of Vedanta is to show the oneness between Jivatma and Paramatma. Sri Sri Shankara in this short composition of five verses brings out this essence of Vedanta with conviction.
Who written this Manisha Panchakam:
Manisha Panchakam written by Sri Sri Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya.
When Adi Shankaracharya Composed:
One traditional story connected with the composition of these verses. One day Sri Sri Shankara along with his disciples, after having a bath in the Ganges at Kashi was on the way to the temple walking through one of the narrow lanes. Suddenly he saw a Chandala (lowly caste person) walking opposite to him. As per the practice and customs prevailing in those days, Sri Sri Shankara beckons to the Chandala “Move Away Move Away”.
At such a beckoning from Sri Sri Shankara, Chandala very humbly, yet poignantly lashes out a few questions containing the Ultimate Truth of Vedanta. Immediately Sri Sri Shankara realises the presence of Lord Shiva before him and reels of five verses revealing the wisdom of the Vedas as lived and experienced by him in his direct insight. These five verses have come to be known as “Manisha Panchakam”.
Now, after reading this story there can be various doubts:
Could the all knowing Sri Sri Shankara who is the foremost profounder of Advaita Vedanta react thus seeing a Chandala?
Has this legend been just interwoven to the main composition (“Manisha Panchakam”) to serve as a lesson by somebody to erase the then prevailing atrocious social dogmas?
Was the Sri Sri Shankara not yet a fully realized when this event occurred?
Well, a highly debatable topic. Nevertheless, these argumentation will not result in any beneficial outcomes and will not serve any good purpose. Our aim is to learn and develop firm faith in Vedanta. With this as the sole purpose let us see the composition giving less importance to the stories around it.
सत्याचार्यस्य गमने कदाचिन् मुक्ति दायकम्,
काशी क्षेत्रम् प्रति सह गौर्या मार्गे तु शंकरम्,
Satyaachaary asya gamanae kadaachin mukti daayakam,
Kaasee kshaetram prati saha gouryaa maargae tu Sankaram,
Once, a great godly man is on a stroll in the famous, heavenly place the Varanaasi. During his walk after his ritualistic, sacred and purified bath he came juxtaposed to two people a man and his consort walking opposite to him almost bumping into his way. The strange couple were none other than The Lord Shiva and Parvathi.
अंत्य वेषधरम् दृष्ट्वा गच्छ गच्छेति चा ब्रवीत्
शंकरस्योपि चंडालः तम् पुनः प्राह शंकरम्
Antya vaeshadharam drushtwaa gachcha gachchaeti cha abraveet
Sankarah so api chandaalah tam punah praaha Sankaram
The couple is in the disguise of a lowly placed and unkempt downtrodden family. This learned and holy man, though theoretically very well versed in the Atma Jnaana, not recognizing the true nature of the persons coming into him, uttered the words, you…. Go away, Go away, Go aloof – in some form of scorn and hatred. Then, Parama Siva in the chandaala roopam replied to the learned man as follows…
yativara dooree kartum vaanchasi kim broohi gachcha gachchaeti ?
Chandala spoke as follows: Oh ! The perfect man of Self realization – Sir, I wish to know, whom are you addressing to get away from your esteemed presence out of hatred ? Do you mean the physical body of us – it’s one and the same for all!! Or, perhaps, if you mean the internal cosmic energy within us, it’s all the more same in all! …..
ayam swapacho ayamity api mahaan ko ayam vibhaeda bhramah ?
Chandala continues his query: Isn’t the indwelling essence in all of us the same wave-less and steady ocean called the innate and natural Bliss Absolute; While this should be the perfect understanding of the learned, (for you too) O! Great soul, why is this (indeed hatred inducing) illusion of discrimination (that) one is learned and a Brahmin and that the other one is an outcaste and is untouchable!
किम् गंगाम्बुधि बिंबितेम्बर मणौ चंडाल वीधी पयः
पूरेवा अन्तरमस्ति कांचनघटी मृत्कुम्भयोर्वांबरे?
kim gangaambudhi binbitae ambara manou chandaala veedhee payah
The precious jewel of the sky, the Sun, isn’t he shining in the same way in this very sacred and holy waters of this river – the mother Ganges and in the polluted cesspools there in the dirty lanes of the outcastes? Will the reflected sky be inferior in an earthen pot, compared to the one in a golden vessel ! Aren’t the Sun and the Sky absolutely the same without any difference?
These very pithy and piercing arrows of questions from Chandala posed to the mind of Sri Sri Shankara, the nija swaroopa of the Chandala (Lord Shiva in the disguise) is perceived by Sri Sri Shankara and the following 5 slokas form the firm conviction and understanding attained by Sri Sri Shankara.
Sri Sri Shankara Answers!
जाग्रत्स्वप्न सुषुत्पिषु स्फुटतरा या संविदुज्जृम्भते
या ब्रह्मादि पिपीलिकान्त तनुषु प्रोता जगत्साक्षिणी,
सैवाहं न च दृश्य वस्त्विति दृढ प्रज्ञापि यस्यास्तिचे
च्चण्डालोस्तु स तु द्विजोस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम
jaagratswapna sushuptishu sphutataraa yaa sam vidujjrimbhatae
saiva aham na cha drisya vastwiti drudha prajnaapi yasya asti chaet
chandaalostu sa tu dwijosthu gurur ityaeshaa maneeshaa mama.
Oh! Let’s learn that the indwelling (pratyag) atman is distinctly shining with in all the three states; namely the wakeful, the dreaming and the deep sleep states. It is the invisible thread embedded in us and it is the witness with in all from the Creator up to the tiny ant. It is not a cognizable object in spite of any amount of material intelligence. It is very much the same in one and all irrespective of any caste, creed or kind! My firm understanding is that the great one who inculcates this concept is the real preceptor.
ब्रह्मैवाहमिदं जगच्च सकलं चिन्मात्रविस्तारितं
सर्वं चैतदविद्यया त्रिगुणयाशेषं मया कल्पितम्
इत्थं यस्य दृढा मतिः सुखतरे नित्ये परे निर्मले
चण्डालोस्तु स तु द्विजोस्तु गुरुरित्येषा मनीषा मम
Brahmaivaaham idam jagachcha sakalam chinmaatra vistaaritam
chandaalostu satu dwijostu gurur ityaeshaa maneeshaa mama.
I am none other than a part and parcel of the Brahman (The Absolute). I am dwelling on the pure and infinite Brahman and I am the very Brahman. This universe is glittering with infinite glow by the power of the chaitanya or unlimited sentient energy of the Absolute. Apparently the universe is assumed (by us) to consist of diverse and different things, due to (our) ignorance (avidya or nescience) borne out of the three gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). He who firmly believes with perfect understanding of this unity in diversity, for me, he is the adorable great Master, irrespective of whether he is a Brahmin or an outcaste. This is my perfect understanding.
This entire universe, apparently continuing, is perishable and impermanent as per the decisive proclamation of the Lord. The Brahman, indeed, is permanent, everlasting and is undifferentiated and peerless, if one analyzed carefully with an untainted, unaffected, peaceful and tranquil intelligence. The differences in our physical bodies are the products of imprints of all our previous sinful/good deeds, pertaining to the past, present and future. The one who perfectly reduces these imprints to ashes in the flaming fire of knowledge is the best informed. This is my perfect conviction.
या तिर्यङ्नरदेवताभिरहमित्यन्तः स्फुटा गृह्यते
यद्भासा हृदयाक्षदेहविषया भान्ति स्वतो चेतनाः,
ताम् भास्यैः पिहितार्कमण्डलनिभां स्फूर्तिं सदा भावय
yogee nirvrithamaanaso hi gururithyaeshaa maneeshaa mama.
The Self or pure consciousness is experienced clearly within by all animals, human beings and the gods alike as the ‘I’. It is by the reflection of this pure consciousness that the mind, sense organs and the body which are insentient, appear to be sentient. External objects are perceived only because of this. This Self is, however, concealed by this very mind, senses and body which are illuminated by it, just as the Sun is concealed by the clouds. A person of perfect realization and wisdom due to his complete and clear understanding ever meditates in his mind on this supreme consciousness. Such a person is the real preceptor. This is my perfect conviction.
yasmin nithya sukhaambudhau galithadheer brahmaiva na brahmavidh
yah kaschit sasuraendhra vandhithapado noonam maneeshaa mama ||
The Self (Brahman) is the eternal ocean of Supreme Bliss. A minute fraction of this Bliss Supreme is adequate to satisfy the Indra and other celestials. Only by meditating with a perfectly calm mind on this Bliss Supreme, and not by any other special means, the sages experience adequate fulfillment. Whose intellect is ever unified with the eternal ocean of this Bliss Supreme, he is not a mere knower of the Brahman, but he is the Brahman itself. Such a person, whosoever he may be, and no matter at all, his feet are worthy to be worshiped by the Indra and all other gods. Definite, this is my firm understanding.
दासस्तेहं देहदृष्ट्यास्मि शंभो
जातस्तेशो जीवदृष्ट्या त्रिदृष्टे
सर्वस्यात्मन् अत्मदृट्या त्वमेव
त्वेवं मे धीर्निश्चिता सर्वशास्त्रैः ॥
O! Lord, the three eyed one (who is the all knower of the past, present and future)! In the form of this physical equipment, the body, I am the servant of You and thus of all. In the form of the life principle with in me, I am the part and parcel of You and thus of all. In the form the soul, You are within me and similarly in every other being or animal or thing that I behold. I have arrived at this conclusion after thorough reflection in my intellect – illuminated by all the sacred texts.
This concludes the sacred teaching Maneesha Panchakam by Jagad Guru Sri Adi Sankarachaya