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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 59-63

Vidyaranyamuni ‘ten men story’ from Panchadasi as an illustration for Advaitic ‘self-realization’

Department of Regulatory Affairs, Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India

Date of Submission09-Jan-2021
Date of Decision08-Apr-2021
Date of Acceptance23-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication21-Jul-2021

Correspondence Address:
Ravi Kumar Reddy Juturi
Department of Regulatory Affairs, Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Bhimavaram - 534 202, Andhra Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ym.ym_1_21

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The article dwells on a Mantra from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. This Mantra contains the essence of Vedanta. Vidyaranya Muni in Panchadasi Text writes the biggest chapter (seventh chapter) 290 Verses on this one Mantra. Four aspects are to be understood from this Mantra to understand the spiritual process in Advaitic realization. The first one is the realization, which means realizing who or what am 'I' truly (individual 'I' or Jiva). As a result, the negation of worldly enjoyments (Bogya Nisheda) means nothing in this world becomes an object worth pursuing, so one transcends this stage. The next aspect of the Mantra signifies for whose sake am 'I' (Jiva) doing all this? Hence, the 'enjoyer' or the 'person' who is trying to get pleasures, satisfaction, and enjoyment in this world must inquire into 'that;' it is nothing but the negation of the enjoyer (Boktri Nisheda). The third aspect of Mantra deals with what is there to be desired in this world from the point of realized 'self'. As a result of this process, the 'One' who thinks an 'individual being' having the body and mind and trying to attain certain goals in life, that 'One' is dissolved. Finally, suffering along with the 'body and mind' complex is transcended, this is called liberation while living (Jivanmukti); it means that life continues with the body and mind but amidst this 'realized one' transcends suffering; this is called living in the body yet transcending the body. These four aspects have dwelled in this article with the help of 'Ten men story' from a sacred text called Panchadasi written by Vidyaranya Muni.

Keywords: Advaita, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, liberation, Panchadasi, ten men story, Vidyaranya Muni

How to cite this article:
Reddy Juturi RK. Vidyaranyamuni ‘ten men story’ from Panchadasi as an illustration for Advaitic ‘self-realization’. Yoga Mimamsa 2021;53:59-63

How to cite this URL:
Reddy Juturi RK. Vidyaranyamuni ‘ten men story’ from Panchadasi as an illustration for Advaitic ‘self-realization’. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 Dec 5];53:59-63. Available from:

  Introduction Top

Mantra from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (BU) is as follows.

'Atmanam ced vijaniyad ayamasmiti purusah Kimicchan Kasya Kamaya Sariram anusamjvaret'

(B U 4.4.12)

The Verse means; when a person realizes that 'I' am not the body and mind, but 'I' am 'Sat Chit Ananda' (Existence Consciousness Bliss), then desiring what and for whose satisfaction or for whose sake for such a person continues to suffer along with the body and mind (Swami Yogeshwarananda, 1950).

This can be further understood as; 'One' who has awakened himself to this knowledge (spiritual realization), who has risen to the consciousness of his immaculate nature, is free from this entanglement of the body, and freed from this dangerous embodiment called the physical tabernacle.

According to Vedanta, a person must go through 'Seven stages' (Panchadasi 7.28-84) in spiritual life for realizing the 'ones' true nature as 'Sat Chit Ananda,' which are as follows. (Vasudeva, 2004).

'Ajnana' (Ignorance), 'Avarana' (Veiling), 'Vikshepa' (Error and suffering), 'Paroksha Jnana' (Indirect knowledge), 'Aparokshna Jnana' (Direct Knowledge), 'Dukha Nivrithi' (Transcendence of suffering), and 'Ananda Prapthi' (Attainment of Great Bliss).

The article proceeds in 2 phases; the first phase of the article describes the Vidyaranya Muni ten men story and its relevance to self-realization in seven stages and the second phase of the article focuses on elaborating the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Mantra which is quoted earlier (B U 4.4.12).

  Ten Men Story Top

The spiritual journey to enlightenment is understood with the 'ten men story' (Panchadasi 7.23-27) from text Panchadasi written by Vidyaranya Muni.

The story is brief; ten friends were going on a journey and then, on the way, they had to cross a river, and they crossed the river, and suddenly one of them got doubt that, did all we crossed the river or somebody drowned? Let's count. And one of them count one to nine of his friends and without counting himself declares that the 'tenth person' is drowned is not here, and the other one starts counting in the same way, and finally, each of them counts and find only nine, and they finally confirmed that 'tenth person' is drowned and they were crying. Then, some wise person passes by the way, who asks them why you all are crying then they said we were ten friends, but while crossing the river 'tenth person' is drowned, so we are crying. Then he asked, how did you know he is dead? Then they say we counted, and now the wise person says, listen to me, don't cry the 'tenth person' is alive just believe me, and this is indicated as an essential stage in the spiritual journey in life. Then the wise person asks one of them to count again, and he counts from one to nine of his friends says 'I' told there are only nine here but then the wise man takes his hand and turns toward himself and says 'thou art the tenth' (Dashamasthvamasi). Then, the 'counting person' realizes with full of joy that 'I am the tenth man,' and the tenth person has been found, and I am so happy and delighted. Then, each of them repeated counting in the same way and said with full delight and joy tenth person is found, and like this, finally, everybody is happy (Mahadevan, 1969; Robert Alan, 2002).

  Seven Stages in the Story and its Relevance to Spiritual Life Top

In this story, after close observation, 'one' can find seven stages for realization as 'I am the tenth person,' according to Vedanta, these stages are very relevant to spiritual life for the realization of the 'true self' (Swami Abhedananda, 1967).

First, the person does not know that he must count himself, so that is the route of all of this, which is called 'Ajnana' (ignorance). As Swami Vivekananda said, in Vedanta, we do not talk about original sin; we talk about ignorance. Hence, we do not know our 'true nature,' therefore, the problem starts. The second problem that comes from the Ajnana is 'Avarana' (Veiling), which is of the nature that 'I' do not see the 'tenth person' (veiled) where is the tenth person, it is hidden from 'me,' this is the second stage.

Similarly, the spiritual seeker asks where 'God' or 'Brahman' is or 'Immortal soul,' 'I' do not see it. Hence, this is a common phrase of doubter that I don't see 'God.' Texts are talking about pure consciousness or Brahman, but where is 'that?' 'I' see my body and if 'I' look inside 'I' see my mind that's it. Hence, Vedanta says this is called veiling, 'it' (true self) is there just like the 'tenth person' in the story but veiled for now. This is the thinnest of the veils but very powerful, nevertheless. Hence, the second stage is one's own reality is veiled, saying, 'I' can't experience the 'God' or 'Brahman' like in the story each one says at the beginning 'I' can't see the 'tenth person.'

The third stage is the 'Vikshepa' (Error), like in the story, when they can't see the 'tenth person' immediately, the conclusions are drawn that the tenth person is drowned and led to the sorrow of loss. Exactly like that, Vedanta says 'one' fall into error, that 'I' the so-called 'pure consciousness' or 'Brahman' not seen (second stage) but what is seen and experienced is 'Body,' 'Mind' and the world and hence 'I' am the Body and Mind interacting with other little individuals in this world called 'Jiva' (Individual sentient being) (Sri Krsnanand, 1984). This is the life of an individual from childhood to death; the whole struggle of life is somehow to overcome suffering and engage in various projects to find joy, peace, and satisfaction. In the usual language, this entire project of living is called 'Samsara.' As George Harwell says, on balance, life is suffering; humans have endless striving and suffering. This is known as Error and Suffering (Vikshepa).

Then, the fourth stage comes, as the wise person comes in the story, but he does not reveal the 'tenth person' immediately; rather says, relax, calm down, and believe me that the tenth person is there. Hence, spiritual traditions come along, or a spiritual teacher comes along and says that there is a possibility of overcoming suffering, and there is 'God' or 'Heaven' or 'Moksha.' As Buddha says, life is suffering, there is a cause of suffering, and there is beyond the suffering that is 'Nirvana.' Hence, the words of Traditions and Teachers have to accepted and believed at the beginning and dwell with the promises they made and if 'one' pursue it with the faith then one will bound to get realization and experience it directly with perseverance. This stage is called 'Paroksha Jnana' (Indirect knowledge) (Suthren, 1996), and the knowledge is gained by listening classes from teachers or reading texts from religious traditions.

In the fifth stage, the person in the story shows 'Thou art the tenth man,' in a similar way, the spiritual process like Vedanta inquiry guides an individual (Jiva) to indicate 'real self' by various techniques, i.e., 'Drig Drisya Viveka' (The method of the seer and seen), 'Panchakosa Viveka' (the method of five sheaths), and 'Avastha Traya' (The method of three states waking, dreaming, and deep sleep). With this philosophical analysis, 'one' can appreciate that 'I' am not this body made of five sheaths; actually 'I' am the witness 'Consciousness' of the five sheaths or 'I' am the witness of the waking, the dreaming, and the deep sleep, 'I' am the 'Consciousness' which illumines all of them (Vidyasankar, 1998). 'I' am free of all states, they come and go, but 'I' am ever-present. 'I' am the seer (experiencer) clearly 'I' am not the experienced object. The body and mind are experienced; therefore, 'I' am a direct 'experiencer' of this mind and the body (Date, 1973). To prepare for this philosophical analysis and grasping the 'Truth,' Vedanta recommends other yoga's such as Karma Yoga (unselfish action), Bhakti Yoga (Love of God or Upasana), and Raja Yoga (Meditation) (Acharya Narayan Ram, 1987; Swami Abhedananda, 1967). This preparation makes oneself to understand Vedantic inquiry and convert into a direct realization of the 'truth.' Finally, one gets a breakthrough, which is like a moment of overwhelming clarity that 'I' am free of this body and mind; 'I' am ever free witness consciousness (Sat Chit Ananda).

Then, in the sixth stage, sorrow goes away, like in the story, the sorrow of losing a friend, i.e., 'tenth person' that goes away. How, suffering goes away after 'self' realization, because now 'I' see that the problems are in the body and mind, 'I' the witness consciousness, 'I' is the witness of suffering in the body and witness of suffering in mind, quite apart from the body and mind, 'I' never had any suffering, 'I' do not have any suffering and there is no possibility for having any suffering, hence question of removing suffering also goes away. 'I' have been ever free and this becomes very clear and this called 'Dukha Nivruthi' (transcending suffering or cessation of sorrow) (Acharya Narayan Ram, 1987) and then what am 'I' is beyond suffering 'Sat Chit Ananda' is ever revealed to me, this is indicated in the story that a great joy arises in everybody when they found 'tenth person.' The same joy arises after the realization of 'true self' because one recognizes the identity with 'God.' This is the litmus test for an enlightening being that they are always extraordinary happy, blissful, and content. This is called 'Brahmananda' (the bliss of the infinite) and 'Ananda Prapthi' (attaining everlasting happiness) (Mishra, 1992). These are the seven stages of the spiritual journey, which is illustrated by the ten men story.

Then, to get to the point of understanding and to get established as 'I am that,' contemplation (Manana) and meditation (Nididhyasana) are necessary.

  Cidabhasa (Reflected Consciousness) Top

By means of the ten men story, the nature of affliction is illustrated. Although the understanding of one's self-nature may occur instantaneously, overcoming one's prārsabdha karman and the habit of identifying with one's body might take a while, but one does eventually 'heal,' i.e., suffering/affliction ceases when identification with the body ceases.

Once released from suffering, one enters the final of the seven stages, 'tṛpti' (satisfaction). It describes the state of unlimited satisfaction for a knower of Brahman and his/her conduct in the midst of those who are still ignorant of their true nature. All that was to be achieved has already been achieved, nothing more remains to be done, not even śravaṇa, manana, nididhyāsana, or samādhi, since one already knows oneself to be Brahman.

Whenever 'I' is uttered or indicated, there are two meanings referred to it; one meaning is from the unenlightened one, and another meaning is from the enlightened 'one' stand point. In the former case, the word 'I' instinctively refers to the body and mind. This is further understanding as 'I' is a combination of consciousness (Chit) and reflected consciousness (Cidabhasa) (Sri Krsnanand, 1984; Swami Abhedananda, 1967; Shakuntala, 1958). The reflected consciousness is not the real awareness; it is like when we look at the face in the mirror, then the real face is reflected in the mirror, so this reflected face is like reflected consciousness, but that is not the real; it is only reflected consciousness. If 'one' forgets the 'real self' and takes reflected image as the 'real self,' then it is the condition of an ignorant 'Individual sentient being' (Jiva).

The enlightened beings can clearly distinguish the difference between reflected consciousness and real consciousness, i.e., original consciousness is reflecting in the mind as that of the face in the mirror. Hence, for enlightened beings, the 'I' means 'Sat Chit Ananda' (Existence Consciousness Bliss), (Swami Yogeshwarananda, 1950) and while they utter the word 'I,' they are referring to themselves as 'pure consciousness' with full conviction.

  Means of Realization (Atmanam CED Vijaniyad) Top

Ten men story outlined the entire trajectory of an individual from ignorance through contentment resulting from enlightenment through the intervening five stages (āvṛti, vikṣepa, parokṣa-jñāna, aparokṣa-jñāna, and śoka-apagama). Furthermore, woven in are the means for attaining this knowledge of one's true advaita nature, assurances that there is no backsliding and descriptions of what it is like to function in the world after liberation.

In spite of intellectual understanding of the process, to realize the 'Truth' with great clarity as given in the first part of Mantra 'Atmanam ced vijaniyad' (Panchadasi 7.1, BU 4.4.12), Brihadaranyaka Upanishad recommends three stages of 'Sadhana' which are 'Shravana' (hearing about the truth again and again), 'Manana' (reflection about the truth in mind), and 'Nididhyasana' (Meditation upon the truth) (Swami Krishnananda, 1988).

The process can be summarized as to remove ignorance and give clarity about 'true nature' of 'Individual self' (Jiva) (Panchadasi 7.83-96), Scriptures and Guru are required, hence Vedanta is to be studied systematically, where the 'Truth' is told by a Guru that you are the 'pure consciousness' (Tat Tvam Asi) (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7), this is like a wise man in the 'ten men story' (indicated 'Thou art the tenth men') (Panchadasi 7.23-27).

According to Vedanta (BU 2.4), the problem in the first stage to realization is 'Pramana Asambhavana,' which means 'purports to teach about the Brahman or about some other entity.' This is the doubt about the Pramana itself. The Pramana here is Upanishad. This removes by 'hearing' and systematic study of Texts (Shravanam).

The problem in the next stage is 'Prameya Asambhavana,.' which means 'doubt whether Brahman and Jiva are identical or not' in other words, 'doubt about the subject matter.' This is resolved by systematic Vedantic inquiry till it comes to clarity and intellect get convinced (Manana) (Swami Abhedananda, 1967).

The problem in the final stage is 'Viparita Bhavana' which means wrong notions such as 'the universe is real, the difference between Brahman and Jiva is real' in other words 'opposite tendency of behaving as if we are the body and mind' which are contrary to the teachings of the Upanishads. This problem is resolved by 'Nididhyasana,' which involves continuous dwelling on the 'Truth' till realization dawns and manifested in life. In the words of Swami Vivekananda, tell yourself again and again till it is entered into very veins and tingles in every drop of blood with 'I am that infinite' (Swami Abhedananda, 1967).

  What is to be Desired in the World? (Kimicchan) Top

The next part of the Mantra says 'Kimicchan,' which means desiring what do one lead life? This can be rephrased as by desiring what 'one' can attain lasting happiness and profound peace in life? Upanishads say nothing in the world can give this though they promise. The first great fault of worldly pursuits is impermanence means it comes and goes; this includes all sensory pleasures and even cultivated knowledge through learnings by science and art also fade away from memory in the course of time. The Buddha said, 'Anityam anityam sarvam anityam' (Impermanent Impermanent all is impermanent), 'Kshanikam kshanikam sarvam kshanikam' (Momentary Momentary all is Momentary), 'Sunyam sunyam sarvam sunyam' (Empty Empty all is empty), and 'Dukham dukham sarvam dukham' (Misery misery all is misery). Hence, Buddha's teaching says, all worldly acquisitions are impermanent, momentary, and empty, and thus, suffering is the result. The other defect in worldly projects is unsatisfying. Nobody ever has claimed the attainment of complete satisfaction in the worldly achievements except one class of spiritually enlightened ones.

Advaita shows that the nature of worldly objects and their acquisitions are 'unreal' (Mithya) (Diksitha, 1983). The 'Isha Vashya Upanishad' says that there is no 'reality' to worldly things, and hence, it cannot give fulfilment. A 3D movie illustrates this; there, it appears like things and characters are coming in front and playing but, it is all an appearance that doesn't exist. Vedanta says exactly that all the pleasures of the world are appearances in the 'Consciousness' (Mishra, 1992).

  Experiencer in 'Three States' (Kasya Kamaya) Top

The next part of the Mantra says 'Kasya Kamaya' means for whose sake one desires all the pleasures of the waking world and all the dream world's experiences and restfulness of the deep sleep? Upanishad shows that all the 'Three States' are remaining where they are, and 'I' (Consciousness or experiencer) moves smoothly and effortlessly between these three states of waking, dreaming, and deep sleep (Sri Krsnanand, 1984; Swami Abhedananda, 1967; and Shakuntala, 1958). This is like great fish moves easily between the left banks and right banks of the river and sometimes beneath the water. Therefore, the 'self' is free of these pleasures and sufferings of 'three states.' Having understood this, a question arises that, for whose sake one is chasing for pleasures, is it for 'waker' (awaken one) in the waking state or 'dreamer' in the dreaming state or 'blankness' in the deep sleep state? Vedanta says none of them is the real self; in fact, the true self 'Witness Consciousness' left behind each state and moves easily into another state. More precisely, 'Consciousness' won't transit, but the three states are transit or arise in it (Date, 1973).

  Identification With the 'Three Bodies' (Sariram Anusamjvaret) Top

The last part of the Mantra is 'Sariram anusamjvaret,' which means after realization why 'one' should identify with the body and mind and suffer along with them. According to Vedanta, there are 'three bodies;:' Sthula Sarira (Physical body), Sukshma Sarira (Subtle body), which comprises thoughts, emotions, and memories, and the third one is Karana Sarira (causal body), which is there in a deep sleep state. 'Jiva' is the identified state with Sukshma Sarira and Karana Sarira, which can migrate from one body to another after the physical body's death (Swami Akhandananda Swarasvati, 1970; Swami Krishnananda, 1988).

Upanishad says identification with any of the 'Three Bodies' causes suffering, which is inescapable. Vedanta further says experiencing through any of these bodies does not cause suffering unless identification arises with it (Sri Krsnanand, 1984; Swami Abhedananda, 1967). All the physical body problems such as pain, disease, aging, and decay are unavoidable; similarly, for the subtle body, negative thoughts, feelings, emotions, and depression are also inevitable. Experiencing all these things through the physical body and mind is undeniable and acceptable, but when 'one' takes a leap from that phase and says 'I' am suffering or 'I' am so unhappy is the fundamental mistake because the 'self' is the witness or experiencer of the unhappiness of the mind but 'it' is not unhappy. In fact, the moment this understanding arises instantly, unhappiness and depression go down.

In a deep sleep state, all suffering present in the seed form as the causal body after waking up; all the same thoughts, feelings, memories, and problems manifest in the form of a subtle body. This is the reason why Vedanta says though one is not aware of any problems in a deep sleep, they are still present in the potential seed state (Bija Avasta) (Vidyasankar, 1998). Hence, according to Vedanta, none of these states are referred to 'me' (Pure Consciousness); they come and go in 'me,' the unchanging 'awareness.' This is called 'Sariram anusamjvaret' why should 'I' suffer from 'three bodies' and their three-fold problems. Moment 'one' realizes that this leads to transcending suffering, and this is equated with the sixth stage, 'Dukha Nivruthi,' which is explained in the earlier part. This realization also gives insight that till now, 'I' suffered along with the body and mind because of foolishness or error. In Vedanta, this error is referred to as 'Adhyasa,' (Janaki, 1990) which means superimposing the qualities of existence and consciousness upon the 'three bodies' and superimposing the qualities of their sufferings upon 'me' (pure consciousness).

  Conclusion Top

The basic teaching of Advaita philosophy and Upanishads, in a nutshell, is the discovery of what truly 'I' sense in 'Individual being' (Jiva) and trace it back to its source. The realization is possible through a systematic study of texts (or hearing from Guru), contemplation (or inquiry), and meditation. This entire process is referred to as 'Jnana Yoga.' The outcome of realization reveals complete freedom from sufferings and gives eternal joy and profound peace as it is the nature of the 'true self' (Ananda Swarupa), thus realized one says; 'Brahmanandam spastam vibathime' means that the bliss of Brahman nature is spectacularly ever shining before 'me.' According to Vedanta, the cause of great bliss which arises upon 'self-realization' is 'Ananda prapthi' which can be expressed in three ways; 'kritha kritya thaya' means all is done what is to be done in the human life without any regret, 'Prapanya praptha thaya' means what for the human life is meant for is attained ('God' or 'Infinite'), and 'Jnathavya jnatha thaya' means what is to be searched for or to be known in human life is found or known (having known the absolute nothing more is to be known).

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  References Top

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Date, V. H. (1973). Vedanta Explained; Samkara's Commentary on the Brahmasutras, (Vol. 1 & 2). New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.  Back to cited text no. 2
Diksitha, M. R. (1983). Jaiminiya-Nyayamala Sri Madhavacharyena Viricita Tad Viracita-Vistarakhyaya Vidyaranya Vidyapitham, Karnataka.  Back to cited text no. 3
Janaki, S. S. (1990). Madhava, the Commentator on the Suta Samhita. In Jagannadham, Pervaram. Vidyaranya Bharati: Essays on Vidyaranya, (pp. 79-84). India: Kakatiya University, India.  Back to cited text no. 4
Mahadevan, T. M. (1969). The Pancadasi of Bharatitirtha Vidyaranya; An Interpretive Exposition. Bharat Itihasa Samshodhan Mandal, Pune: University of Madras.  Back to cited text no. 5
Mishra, G. (1992). The Anubhutiprakasa of Vidyaranya. The Philosophy of Upanishads: An Interpretive Exposition. Bharat Itihasa Samshodhan Mandal, Pune: University of Madras.  Back to cited text no. 6
Robert Alan, G. (2002). The Treatise on Liberation-in-Life: Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of the Jivanmuktiviveka of Vidyaranya. Ph.D. Dis. University of Texas at Austin.  Back to cited text no. 7
Shakuntala, P. (1958). Pancadasi: A Critical Study. Delhi: Parimal Publications.  Back to cited text no. 8
Sri Krsnanand, S. (1984). Srimad Vidyaranyamuni Viracita Pancadasi,. The Divine Life Society Publications, Rishikesh, India. (  Back to cited text no. 9
Suthren, H. J. (1996). Strategies of Interpretation: Samkara's Commentory on Brhadaranyakopanisad. Journal of American Oriental Society, 116, 58-75.  Back to cited text no. 10
Swami Abhedananda. (1967). An Introduction to the Philosophy of Panchadasi. In Complete Works of Swami Abhedananda, Advaita Ashrama Publications, Ramakrishna Math. Calcutta. Vol. 2, pp. 260-77.  Back to cited text no. 11
Swami Akhandananda Swarasvati. (1970). Srimacchankaracarya Krta Aparoksanubhuti, Sri Vidyaranya Swami Krta Dipika VyakhyaSahita. Bombay: Sat-Sahitya-Prakasan Trust.  Back to cited text no. 12
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