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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-1-5

Topic 5 - The distinctions like enjoyer and enjoyed do not contradict the truth which is oneness

Sutra 2,1.13

भोक्त्रापत्तेरविभागश्चेत्, स्याल्लोकवत् ॥ १३ ॥

bhoktrāpatteravibhāgaścet, syāllokavat || 13 ||

bhoktrāpatteḥ—On account of turning into the enjoyer; avibhāgaḥ—non-distinction; cet—if it be said; syāt—may exist; lokavat—as is experienced in the world.

13. If it be said (that if Brahman be the cause then) on account of (the objects of enjoyment) turning into the enjoyer, non-distinction (between enjoyer and things enjoyed would result), (we say, such distinction) may exist (all the same), as is experienced commonly in the world.

A further objection is raised against Brahman being the cause.

We perceive differences in the world. Now, perception as a means of knowledge is stronger than the Śruti. Hence what the Śrutis say in contradiction to such an experience cannot stand.

The idea is this: The distinction between the enjoyer (the Jīva) and the objects of enjoyment is well established by experience.

If Brahman is the material cause, then the world, the effect, would be non-different from Brahman, and under the circumstances, the Jīva and Brahman being identical in Vedānta, the difference between the subject and object would be destroyed, since the one would pass over into the other.

Hence Brahman cannot be held to be the material cause of the world as it contradicts perception.

The latter part of the Sutra refutes this, giving examples. It says that nevertheless there can be such differences in non-different things.

For instance, waves, foam, etc. are non-different, being alike sea water; yet as waves and foam they are different from each other.

As sea water, their cause, they are one, but as waves, foam, etc. they are different, and there is no contradiction here. Hence it is possible to have difference and non-difference in things simultaneously, owing to name and form.

Therefore from the standpoint of Brahman the enjoyer and the enjoyed are not different, but as enjoyer and things enjoyed they are different; there is no contradiction in this.

The Sutra can also be interpreted otherwise.

If Brahman be the cause, then It would also be the enjoyer, the individual soul (Jīva), there being no difference between cause and effect. Consequently, there will be no such difference as the bondage of the individual soul and the freedom of Brahman.

The Sutra says that even as there is a distinction between the object, which is clear, and its image, which is disfigured in an unclean mirror,

so also owing to the impurities of the Antahkaraṇa (mind) the ever-free Brahman may give rise to the image of the individual soul, which is bound.