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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-3-3

Topic 3 - Akṣara is Brahman

In the previous section because the epithet ‘Truth’ is generally applied to Brahman, the Bhūman was interpreted as Brahman.

Following the same argument the opponent holds that the word ‘Akṣara’ should mean the syllable ‘Om’ in the texts to be taken up for discussion in this section, for ‘Akṣara’ generally means word or syllable.

 Sutra 1,3.10

अक्षरमम्बरान्तधृतेः ॥ १० ॥

akṣaramambarāntadhṛteḥ || 10 ||

akṣaram—The Akṣara; ambara-anta-dhṛteḥ—(because) it supports all up to Ākāśa (ether).

10. The Akṣara (the Imperishable) (is Brahman) because it supports (everything) up to Ākāśa (ether).

O Gārgī, the Brāhmaṇas call this Akṣara” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 8).

Here the question is whether ‘Akṣara’ means the syllable ‘Om’ or Brahman.

The doubt arises because ‘Akṣara’ etymologically means a syllable and therefore commonly represents the syllable ‘Om’, which is also an object of meditation.

The Sutra however says ‘Akṣara’ here stands for Brahman. Why?

For the text says, “In that Akṣara, O Gārgī, is the ether woven like warp and woof” (Brih. 3. 8. 11). This attribute of supporting everything, even the Ākāśa, the first entity in the order of creation, can be true only of Brahman.

Then again “it is neither gross nor minute, neither short nor long” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 8) shows that all relative qualities are absent in it. Therefore the ‘Akṣara’ is Brahman.

Sutra 1,3.11

सा च प्रशासनात् ॥ ११ ॥

sā ca praśāsanāt || 11 ||

—This (supporting); ca—also; praśāsanāt—because of the command.

11.    Because of the command (attributed to Akṣara) this (supporting) (can be the work of the Highest Self only and not of the Pradhāna).

 “Under the mighty rule of that Immutable (Akṣara), O Gārgī, the sun and the moon are held in their positions” (Brih. 3. S. 9).

This command or rulership cannot be the work of the non-intelligent Pradhāna. So the Pradhāna cannot be the ‘Akṣara’ which supports everything up to Ākāśa.

 Sutra 1,3.12

अन्यभावव्यावृत्तेश्च ॥ १२ ॥

anyabhāvavyāvṛtteśca || 12 ||

anya-bhāva-vyāvṛtteḥ—Because the qualities of any other than Brahman have been negated; ca—also.

12. And because the qualities of any other than Brahman have been negated (by the Śruti).

All other qualities referred to in the text, as, for example, seeing, hearing, thinking, knowing, etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 11) point to a conscious principle and therefore negate the Pradhāna etc.

Nor can it be the individual soul, which is not free from limiting adjuncts as the Akṣara is described.