Science of the Absolute Chapter 1 - Verses







What follows here is a transliteration and translation from the original Sanskrit of Narayana Guru's Darsana Mala. It is followed by a short commentary by his disciple Swami Vidyananda who took instruction each day from Narayana Guru so that he could strictly adhere to his own commentary. Each day the Guru had the commentary read back to him for correction and approval. Those phrases which happened to be extraneous were rejected while the rest of the commentary received his approval.
The present writer has been an eye-witness to this cooperative effort between Narayana Guru and his disciple. The feature of teacher-disciple collaboration undoubtedly enhances the value of the commentary, however brief it might seem to anyone trying to understand the Darsana Mala. Narayana Guru also tacitly indicates the double-sidedness of the responsibility for his work by a verse he wrote as envoi for the commentary which reads:
"Let this commentary called didhiti (gloss)
Coming from my disciple Vidyananda
Be looked upon graciously by the wise
As belonging to one of tender years."
The Guru's own hand is clearly visible in just those phrases where subtle epistemological or methodological aspects have to initially glossed over, at least tentatively, in view of further clarifications such as what we are attempting in this book. The rest of the commentary has only an incidental value for us, and is not so important. We have taken some liberty with it, taking care however, to put whatever additions we make within brackets. On the other hand, when we suspected Narayana Guru's own handiwork, we have tried to keep as close to the original as possible, so as not to spoil the perennial value of the interpretations and intentions coming directly from him.
I hereby recognize my deepest gratitude to Narayana Guru also my indebtedness to my fellow disciple, the late Swami Vidyananda, whose permission for following the broad lines of this commentary can now only be sought by way of courtesy. Wherever further clarifications have been felt to be necessary, the present writer has taken care to throw some light on them, either in the prologue of each chapter or in the epilogue.
In the present commentary translated by us, we have tried to adhere as strictly as possible to Narayana Guru's own words expressed through Swami Vidyananda. Swami Vidyananda, as he openly states in the preface to the Malayalam edition, claims no credit for himself in the matter of being responsible for this commentary and attributes almost the whole of it, even the naming of the title, didhiti (meaning "throwing light"), to Narayana Guru. He especially states that the Guru made the comments and these, when put on paper, were then corrected more than once by him. In the light of these circumstances, it would be safe to assume that the purport of these comments, though not the presented form, belongs to Narayana Guru himself.



1. asidagre' sadevedam bhuvanam svapnavat punah sasarja sarvam sankalpamatrena paramesvarah
In the beginning, there was
Non-existence indeed!
Dream-wise then again, by mere willing
Everything existent created He, the Lord supreme.
AGRE, in the beginning (before creation),
IDAM BHUVANAM, this world
ASAD EVA, even as nothingness (as non-existence, indeed)
ASID, existed,
PUNAH, thereafter (at the time of creation),
PARAMESVARAH, the supreme Lord,
SARVAM, everything
SANKALPAMATRENA, by mere willing,
SVAPNAVAT, like a dream,
SA-SARJA, (he) created




In the beginning (i.e. at its upper limit which has to be distinguished together with other similar limits), there was non-existence. Posteriorly to this (in pure time), the Supreme Lord (Paramesvara) when creation was to begin, by His mere willing created all this (i.e. gave it a conceptual status different from what was merely nominal), just as in the case of a dream (having its own virtuality within consciousness).
The stuff that dreams are made of is admittedly unreal to the extent that they belong to the world of ideas. In the same manner the world can be said to be unreal to the extent that its stuff is of the same order as His will. Whatever reality there was at this limiting point can be attributed to The Supreme Lord, rather than to his creation. The Taittiriya Upanishad supports this twofold point of view. The world as objectively manifested apart from the Lord was there equated to nothing, tentatively accepting the principle of contradiction between existence and non-existence.
In Vedantic parlance the upper limit set by the term agre (before creation or in the beginning) corresponds to the paramarthika or ultimate reality (i.e. the vertical), while puna (thereafter) refers to the vyavaharika or workaday practical reality (i.e. the horizontal).
It should be noted that according to Sanskrit convention a work of this kind has to indicate the subject-matter, and also imply something by way of adoring the most high value of the Absolute. This requirement is only tacitly fulfilled by virtue of his beginning the very first verse with the letter "a", which, according to the Bhagavad Gita (X.33), is equated with the Absolute: "Among syllabic letters l(i.e. the Absolute) am the A..."
The first word of the verse moreover, refers to something existing, because the word asid suggests something existent (in the ontological sense of sat). Because of referring to sat, this word, occupying the very first position in the verse, can also be considered as fulfilling the requirements of an auspicious beginning required by the same convention referred to above. Moreover, the verse later on equates existence with the Supreme Lord, and further confirms and complies with this same requirement.




2. vasanamayamevada vasididamatha prabhuh asrjanmayaya svasya mayavivakhilam jagat
In the beginning, in the form of incipient memory factors,
(All) this remained. Then the Lord,
By his own power of false presentiment, like a magician,
Created all this world (of change).
ADAU, in the beginning (at inception, before creation),
IDAM, this (visible world),
VASANAMAYAM EVA, in the form of incipient memory factors, (i.e. as samskaras, deep apperceptive masses in consciousness),
ASID, (remained) existent,
ATHA, thereafter (at the time of creation),
PRABHUH, the Lord,
SVASYA, (by) his own
MAYAYA, by (his power of) false presentiment,
MAYAVIVA, like a magician,
AKHILAM JAGAT, the whole world,


At inception this visible world was in the form of vasanas (incipient memory factors). Thereafter, the Great Lord, by His power, which was of a non-existent (or merely conceptual order), after the manner of a magician, created all this phenomenal universe. Before creation this world had merely the status of pure samskaras (deep apperceptive masses in consciousness). The sankalpa (willing) mentioned in the previous verse is only an active version of the same vasana. At the time of creation the Lord created all this by his illusory power. This is like the magician, who while remaining all alone is able to make us believe there are multitudes of other things around him. There is in reality nothing apart from the magician, who is capable of manifesting visible things. Actual entities are not there, but only entities having the status of memory factors are not to be considered real. In the same way, there is nothing in the universe which is other than the Lord. What is in the Lord is only a certain power of specification or qualification called maya (the principle of false presentiment), having no (real) existence of its own. By the example of the magician, it has been shown that the phenomenal world is false.




3. pragutpatteridam svasmin vilinamatha vai svatah bijadankuravat svaysa saktireva'srjatsvayam
This (world) before creation was
Latent within Himself,
Thereafter, like a sprout from seed,
From Himself, by His power, by itself it was created.
IDAM, this (world),
PRAKUTPATTEH, before creation,
SVASMIN, in Himself (in the self, in the Lord),
VILINAM, was latent,
ATHA VAI, thereafter,
BIJAD ANKURAVAT, like sprout from seed,
SVATAH, from himself (from the Lord),
SVASYA SAKTIH, his power,
SVATAH EVA, by itself,
ASRJAT, created.


Before creation this world was only potentially present in the Lord. Thereafter, at the time of creation, His power, which was in Him by its own self-potence, created all this manifested world like a sprout from a seed. This power is capable of shrinking into nothingness, as well as expanding into elaborate sets of manifested entities. It is only the potent virtual entity which is present within the seed and is capable of manifesting itself as sprout, stem, branch, leaf, flower or fruit. Likewise, it is a potent power within the Lord who created this world. But the Lord is not subject to any process of becoming. It is that power alone, which is dependent on Him, that can be transformed (vikara) and is capable of creating this world.


4. saktistu dvividha jneya taijasi tamasiti ca sahavaso'nayornasti tejastimirayoriva
The power, however, as of two kinds
Is to be known, as the bright and the dark;
There is no co-existence between these two,
As with light and darkness.




SAKTIS TU, this power, however,
TAIJASI TAMAS ITI CA, and thus made of light and darkness,
DVIVIDHA, two kinds,
JNEYA, is to be known,
ANAYOH, as between these,
TEJASTI MIRAYOR IVA, so with light and darkness,
SAHAVASAH STI, there is no co-existence.
The aforesaid power of the Lord, however, is to be understood in two distinct ways: (first) as taijasi, or belonging to the light (i.e. heliotropic); and (secondly), as tamasi, as belonging to darkness (i.e. geotropic). We can divide the (specificatory) power of the Lord into two (ambivalent) divisions referring respectively to light (tejas) and darkness (tamas). Light and darkness cannot co-exist. It is the same with these two (ambivalent and specificatory) factors or powers of the Lord.


5. manomatramidam citramivagre sarvamidrsam prapayamasa vaicitryam bhagavan citrakaravat
In the beginning, this world,
Which was in the form of mind stuff, like a picture
Achieved with all this picturesque variety,
Like an artist, the Lord.
AGRE, in the beginning (before creation),
MANO MATRAM, in the form of mind-stuff (as made of mere mind-stuff),
IDAM, this (world),
CITRAM IVA, like a picture,
SARVAM IDRISAM, all this as such here,
VAICITRIYAM, (with its picturesque variety),
PRAPAYAMASA, achieved,
CITRAKARAVAT, like an artist,
BHAGAVAN, the lord.
The terms sankalpa (willing), vasana (incipient memory factor), and sakti (potent power), have been employed so as to be considered equivalent (vertically), each in itself, to the mind (manas), which occupies the central position in this verse. This world was merely of a mental status before creation. Just as an artist creates in respect of his painting, so the Lord also accomplished all this artistic variety (seen in the world). Before creation this world remained in the form of virtual mind-stuff. If it should be asked how; we say, it remained like a picture in the mind of an artist, before the picture was accomplished. In the same way it was in the mind (manas) or the willing (sankalpa) of the Lord that all this potentially resided. It is possible for an artist to produce works of art with many and varied elaborations or varieties. In short, the entire manifested world is only an (artistic) expression of the mind of the Lord.




6. asit prakrtirevedam yatha'dau yogavaibhavah vyatanodatha yogivasiddhijalam jagatpatih
Potentially, what even as Nature remained
Like the psychic powers of Yoga
Like a Yogi did He, the Lord of the world, work out
His varied psychic powers thereafter.
ADAU, in the beginning,
YATHA YOGAVAI BHAVAHA, as (in the case of) psychic powers,
IDAM, this (world),
PRAKRTIR EVA, as nature (itself),
ASIT, remained,
ATHA, thereafter,
YOGI SIDDHI JALAMIVA, as a yogi with his varied psychic powers,
JAGAT PATIH, the Lord of the world,
IDAM, this (world),
VYATANOD, worked out.
In the beginning the world was prakriti (nature), having the same status as the psychic powers of a Yogi (mystic of unitive inner experience). Thereafter, at the time of creation, the Lord made manifest his own nature in the same way as a yogi makes manifest his powers. The psychic powers of a yogi are in reality only incipient memory factors within himself. What we meant here by prakriti only refers to tendencies capable of functioning as contraction or expansion, which could be merely mental in status; or, otherwise stated, it is mind itself which is referred to as none other than prakriti, as we should here understand. All the manifold manifested powers of a yogi are only innate tendencies in his mind, belonging to his own nature, and later on to be expanded and elaborately manifested. In the same way it is prakriti that is virtually present in terms of mind-stuff that becomes transformed into this expanded universe as presented to our vision. What has been discussed so far under the terms of sankalpa (willing); vasana, (incipient memory factor), sakti (potent specifying power), manas (mind) and prakriti (nature) have one and the same meaning. The term avidya (nescience), to be used in the next verse, also falls into the same (verticalized) series. It is possible to refer to this same factor in many other ways. In view of simplicity and for the student's (apodictic) clarity and understanding, we have merely followed a graded series of terms with different designations.




7. yada'tmavidyasamkocastada'vidya bhayankaram namarupatmana'tyartham vibhatiha pisacavat
When Self-knowledge shrinks,
Then prevails nescience fearful;
Ghost-like, taking name and form,
In most terrible fashion looms here.
YADA, when,
ATMA VIDYA SAMKOCAH (BHAVATI), knowledge about the self shrinks,
TADA, then,
AVIDYA, nescience,
NAMA RUPA ATMANA, taking name and form,
PISACAVAT, ghost-like,
ATYARTHAM BHAYANKARAM, in most terrible fashion,
IHA, here,
VIBHATI, looms




In this verse it is pointed out how, because of the absence of right knowledge (avidya) about the Self, all beings find creation to have a terrifying aspect. When such knowledge is absent then nescience (lends support) to the appearance of name and form (nama-rupa). (This plurality of) name and form (entities) seem ghost-like in a most terrifying fashion, presenting themselves as appearances.
It is only because there is lack of Self-knowledge (atma-vidya) that the whole of the universe seems to be the seat of all fear and suffering. When the correct knowledge about the Self prevails, all apparent sufferings and their sources (in the world) disappear. There will not be any cessation of suffering until one realizes the true knowledge resulting from the realization of one's own self. Self-knowledge is the most superior of all means for release. In the same way as in cooking the only means is fire (or heat), so there is no salvation without Self-knowledge. This is what Sankaracharya has taught.
By this verse the man who is desirous of getting release from suffering, resulting from lack of Self-knowledge, is to be considered an adhikari (a person fit to study this science), and that the subject-matter of this present work is atma-vidya (the Science of the Self). Furthermore, between atma-vidya and this work there is the relation of subject-matter and object-matter. The final release from suffering due to nescience and the attainment of the goal of full Self-knowledge, is the aim and utility of this work as required by Sanskrit convention.
Suffering and ignorance apply not only to people in this world but to all created beings, whether seen or unseen, wherever they be in the universe. In principle this applies to all of them. (It is to be remembered that) even the creation undertaken by the Lord involves the same wonderful and terrifying elements of this very kind.




8. bhayankaramidam sunyam vetalanagaram yatha tathaiva visvamakhilam vyakarodadbhutam vibhuh
Terrible and empty of content
Like a city infernal,
Even as such a marvel
Did the Lord make the whole universe.
IDAM, this (visible world),
VETALA NAGARAM YATHA, like an infernal city,
BHAYANKAR IDAM SUNYAM (CA BHAVATI), terrible and empty of content both (remain),
VIBHUH, the Lord,
AKHILAMVISVAM, the whole universe,
TATHA IVA, even as such,
ADBHUTAM, a marvel,
This visible world is just like an infernal city, empty of content (sunya) and terrible (bhayankaram) in this most wonderful manner, with visible and invisible aspects referring to all possible worlds created by the Lord. Because the Lord is all-powerful and capable of accomplishing anything He was able to create something which had no basis in reality, but still could be seen as a wonderful appearance, because it is at once empty of content and terrible, though describable as a marvel (adhbuta).
The term vibhuh employed in the verses refers to the omnipresence, omnipotence, and everlasting eternity of the Lord. (vi, before; and bhuh, what exists: because it existed before, it is called vibhuh).


9. arkadyathakramam visvam tatha naivedamatmanah supteriva pradurasidyugapatsvasya viksaya
If from a sun in graded succession
This world came, such was not the case at all.
Presented as if out of slumber,
At one stroke, all came to be.




IDAM VISVAM, this world,
ARKAD, from the sun,
YATHA KRAMAM, as in a gradual manner,
PRADURASID (ITI CET), it is unmanifested (if it should be said),
TATHA NA IVA, thus not at all,
IDAM, this (world),
ATMANAH, from the self,
SVASYA, (by) its own,
VIKSHAYA, regard (i.e. will),
SUPTEH IVA, as if from sleep,
YUGAPAD, at one stroke,
PRADURASID, all came to be
If it be said that this world came to be in gradual steps out of a primordial sun, we say it is not so at all. From the Self, as if from sleep, all come into being at one stroke.
There is a traditional belief that there was an original sun and from that sun, by successive steps the universe was produced; the sky was produced, and from the sky the atmosphere, from the atmosphere the fire, from the fire the water, and from the water the earth.
This view is not correct. This world with all its features that we experience in practical life came by the willing of the Self out of the Self, coming out together all at once. Before creation, the Self had the character of being itself or alone (kevalam). When one wakes from deep sleep (sushupti), the whole world becomes presented all together. In the same way at the time of creation, by dint of the will of the Self all is manifested together, and projected from out of the Self. There is also the Upanishadic dictum which says, "The one Self thought "Let me be many!"." By this verse the theory of gradual creation (kramasrishti) is repudiated and that of instantaneous creation (yugapad-srishti) is upheld. What is implied herein is that the power of the Lord is so great that it could create all this world at one stroke.




10. dhanadiva vato yasmat pradurasididam jagat sa brahma sa sivo visnuh sa parah sarva eva sah
He from whom, like a fig tree as from seed
Came out this world manifested -
He is Brahma, He is Siva and Vishnu,
He is the Ultimate, everything is He indeed.
DHANAT, from a seed,
VATAH IVA, like a fig tree,
YASMAT, from whom,
IDAM JAGAT, this world,
PRADURASID, manifested,
SAH BRAHMA, he is Brahma,
SAH VISNU, he is Vishnu,
SAH SIVA, he is Siva,
SAH PARAH, he is the ultimate,
SAH EVA SARVAH, everything is he indeed
Just as from a (minute) seed a (large) fig tree arises (so too), that Lord from whom this whole wonderful universe became manifested. He is Brahma, He is Vishnu, He is Siva, He is the Supreme Self (paramatma), and He is everything indeed. By this Brahma, the creator (in the Vedic context) of the (Vedic gods) Indra and Varuna and others, as well as Vishnu who is the Lord of the Vaishnavas and Siva who is the Lord of the Saivites, and the Supreme Self of the Vedantins, are all treated as one and the same. Because of this reference to the threefold gods (trimurti), it is indicated that this world originates from the same Lord having this threefold character, and that it originates in Him, endures in Him and dissolves into Him once again. Further, by the statement that He is everything, it is affirmed that there is no world outside of the Lord. It further states that by the words, "sa parah" i.e. "He is the Ultimate," it is indicated that the Lord is not subject to any kind of transformation (vikara), and that he is without any kind of specific attributes, being Himself the Supreme Self. The world is only seemingly present in the Lord and it is indicated that the instrumental and material causes (nimitta-karana and upadana-karana are none other than the Lord.




In fact, the attribution (wrongly thought of) by the mind of the phenomenal aspect to that which is non-phenomenal is what is referred to as "superimposition" or "supposed position" characterizing this chapter called Adhyaropa. All gurus (spiritual teachers) and sastras (texts) are known traditionally to indicate and take an initial supposed position in respect of their subject-matter, before giving instruction about the attributeless Absolute (nirguna-brahman). Following the same tradition, the section on Adhyaropa has now been terminated. In the next vision of truth (darsana), the apavada (i.e. neutralizing this supposition) is to be dealt with.