Maneesha Panchakam — “Conviction of the Wise”
When the Divine Sweeper crossed the Super Acharya
Maneesha is a term that gathers into itself intelligence, conviction, intellect, thinking, understanding. In this pentad of 5 verses, Sri Adi Sankara is using it in the sense of Conviction, to place before Jagadeeshwara his clarity on the mahavakyas.
And since Adi Sankara has composed this, it implies that Sri Sankara was tested or questioned about wisdom or intelligence. Naturally there is a story behind what led to this conviction.
This happened in the course of Sri Sankara’s digvijaya, after winning over renowned scholars from various schools and fields. This was also when Sri Sankara had completed various exemplary bhashyams on various of the prakarna granthas. He had mastered all the Vedas and upa vedas, the vedangas, the puranans, … in short the 14 vidyasthana-s, and established Advaita throughout the country.
It was during this Vijaya-yatra, as he reached Kashi, that this incident took place. He was now Jagadguru, teaching Advaita to the world. But Jagadeeshwara felt He must test Sri Sankara’s knowledge. Naturally. Bhagawan took the form of a chandala — keeper of cremation grounds (Kashi was the place people went to give up their lives, so cremation grounds were very active…) and seeing that Sri Sankara was headed to the temple, He chose to cut his path.
Gaccha! Gaccha! (Move! Move!)” cried the saint, urging the chandala to step aside.
Chandalas were the lowliest of communities who worked in cremation grounds, stoking the pyres till the bodies were fully burnt. Consequently, they were also given to vices to dull their minds enough to perform such tasks. As a result, they were shunned by mainstream society and regarded untouchable. The upper class brahmins went one step further; they would not have the chandala’s shadow either to fall on their shadows!
Sri Sankara’s urgings, brought forth from the surprised chandala, a stern response in two verses, challenging the jagadguru’s understanding of Truth. Pujya Gurudev Swami Chinmayananda sums up these two verses beautifully by saying: “The Divine Sweeper tickles the Super-Acharya with piercing satire.” Jagadeeshwara as chandala, in most engaging manner, teases Sri Sankara, playing on advaitic semantics, even suggesting that the Jagadguru’s knowledge was unclear. It is in this lone, mundane, commonplace incident that the genesis of the Maneesha Panchakam lies.
After all an amsha of Lord Shiva, Sri Sankara was not to be outdone. His counter to the chandala emerges as a spray of five beautiful verses, in which he lays bare his clarity as to Truth, his understanding of paaramaarthika and vyavahaarika behaviors, that even in his vyavahaara he never lost sight of the paaramaarthika. That when it came to Truth, it did not look at the jaati, neeti, kula, gotra …
Maneesha Panchakam elucidates the four Mahavakyas and is invaluable for any student of Advaita Vedanta to gain a crystal clear understanding of the essentials of the Advaita Philosophy.
This one text in its glorious erudition, compels us to move away from all barriers of conditionings and embrace the Perfect Vision, so that regardless of what everyday transacting demands of us, our vision is set There, above and beyond the matter conditionings.
Come, let us all wallow in this stupendous text under the supreme guidance of Pujya Swami Swaroopananda and drink in its brilliance.
Beholding the presence of divinity everywhere at all times,
Mahatmas live in love,
Move in compassion and
Breathe in service.
The Man of Perfection is like a breeze that passes by without asking. When the windows are open, it purifies the atmosphere by its mere passing. It changes its direction without hesitation when the door is closed.
The average man looks up at night, and sees thousands and thousands of twinkling stars, each different from the other. But a man of wisdom and achievement, perceives the one light, behind the dark dome of the night sky, whose incandescence peeps at us through all holes in the night-dome! To see the one in many is the casual vision of knowledge. To see the many in one, is the vision of wisdom.
Once someone asked Pujya Gurudev, “Why does a realized person work?”
When one realizes the Truth, one becomes irresistibly vibrant with life. In Divine spontaneity, activity gurgles through him. The physical equipment is generally too frail a reed to stand the blazing gush of love and work; therefore such Prophetic Masters generally fold up in a blinding flash of brilliant service to mankind, carried on for a short duration of perhaps twenty or thirty years.
Your question is “Why should he work?” Can you tell me why the sun is illuminating everything around it? Why fire is hot; sugar sweet; ocean waters salty? Why birds fly; flowers bloom; mirrors reflect; air moves; earth revolves?…Are they not expressing their essential nature? Can anyone of them remain without their essential property? The Realized saint is not responsible for what he is doing. He is one with Life. And Life expresses itself in action.”
And this Perfect Vision is being brought for us by Pujya Swami Shantananda, during the Mahasamadhi Camp in 2020. Let us hold out our hands and receive this blessing.
Why? Gurudev has the reason. He says,
A man firmly established in freedom is tranquil.
His equipoise is never broken,
Even when he is investing his entire energies on the world outside for the service of mankind.
When Pujya Guruji was asked “Do you know a Sthitaprajna ?”, Guruji replied “Not only do I know a Sthitaprajna but I lived with One for 24 years.”