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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-4-4

Topic 4 - There is no contradiction in the scriptures as regards the fact that Brahman is the First Cause

In the last three topics it has been shown that the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas is not based on the scriptures, and consequently it was established that all the Śruti texts refer to Brahman as the First Cause.

The opponent now tries to show that as the Vedānta texts contradict each other with respect to the order of creation, they are therefore of doubtful import, and consequently it is safer to accept the Pradhāna, which is established by reason and inference, as the First Cause.

 Sutra 1,4.14

कारणत्वेन चाकाशादिषु यथाव्यपदिष्टोक्तेः ॥ १४ ॥

kāraṇatvena cākāśādiṣu yathāvyapadiṣṭokteḥ || 14 ||

kāraṇatvena—As the (First) Cause; ca—and; ākāśādiṣu—as regards ether and so on; yathā-vyapadiṣṭokteḥ—being represented (in other texts) as taught (in one text).

14. (Although) as regards (things created, like) ether and so on (the Vedānta texts differ), (yet there is no such conflict with respect to Brahman) as the First Cause, (on account of Its) being represented (in other texts) as taught (in one text).

The Sānkhyas contend that though the Pradhāna cannot be the First Cause according to the Śruti, yet Brahman also cannot be taken to be the First Cause taught by the Śruti. Why?

Because there is conflict as regards the order of creation; for some texts say that it is Ākāśa that was first produced from Brahman, some say that it is Prāṇa, others that it is fire.

This Sutra says that though there are conflicting views with respect to things created, that is, as regards the order of creation, yet since it is not the main object of the Śruti to teach about creation, it matters little.

The main object in these descriptions is to teach that Brahman is the First Cause, and with respect to this there is no conflict; for every Vedānta text holds that Brahman is that.

Sutra 1,4.15

समाकर्षात् ॥ १५ ॥

samākarṣāt || 15 ||

15. On account of the connection (with passage referring to Brahman, nonexistence does not mean absolute nonexistence).

A further objection is raised that even as regards the First Cause there is a conflict, for some texts say that the Self created these worlds (Ait. Ar. 2. 4. 1. 2-3), others say that creation originated from non-existence (Taitt. 2. 7).

Again existence is taught as the First Cause in some texts (Chh. 6. 2. 1-2). Spontaneous creation also is taught by some texts (Brih, 1.4.7).

On account of these conflicting texts it cannot be said that all the Vedānta texts refer to Brahman uniformly as the First Cause.

These objections are answered as follows: “This was indeed non-existence in the beginning” (Taitt. 2. 7).

Non-existence here does not mean absolute nonexistence but undifferentiated existence. Existence was at the beginning undifferentiated into name and form.

In the texts of the Taittirīya Upanishad Brahman is definitely described as not being nonexistence.

He who knows Brahman as non-existing becomes himself non-existing. He who knows Brahman as existing is known by sages as existing” (Taitt. 2 . 6).

This Brahman is again described as having wished to be many and created this world.

Again “How can that which is to be created from non-existence?” (Chh. 6. 2. 2) clearly denies such a possibility.

Now this was then undifferentiated” (Brih. 1 . 4. 7), does not speak of spontaneous creation without a ruler, for it is connected with another passage where it is said, “He has entered here to the very tips of the finger-nails” (Brih. 1 . 4. 7), where ‘He’ refers to this ruler, and hence we have to take that the Lord, the ruler, developed what was undeveloped.

Similarly Brahman, which is described in one place as existence, is referred to in another place as being the Self of all by the word ‘Ātman’. So all texts uniformly point to Brahman as the First Cause, and there is no conflict as regards this.