Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-3-20
Topic 20 - The negative attributes of Brahman mentioned in various texts are to be combined in all meditations on Brahman
अक्षरधियां त्ववरोधः सामान्यतद्भावाभ्यामौपसदवत्, तदुक्तम् ॥ ३३ ॥
akṣaradhiyāṃ tvavarodhaḥ sāmānyatadbhāvābhyāmaupasadavat, taduktam || 33 ||
akṣaradhiyāṃ—Of the conceptions of the (negative) attributes of the Immutable (Brahman); tu—but; avarodhaḥ—combination; sāmānyatadbhāvābhyām—on account of the similarity (of defining Brahman through denials) and the object (i.e. Immutable Brahman) being the same; upasadavat—as in the case of the Upasad (offerings); tat—it; uktam—has been said (by Jaimini).
33. But the conceptions of the (negative) attributes of the Immutable (Brahman) are to be combined (from different texts where the Immutable Brahman is treated, in all meditations on the Immutable Brahman, as they form one Vidyā),
on account of the similarity (of defining the Immutable Brahman through denials) and the object (the Immutable Brahman) being the same, as in the case of the Upasad (offerings). It has been said (by Jaimini in Pūrva Mīmāṃsā).
“O Gārgī, the knowers of Brahman say this Immutable (Brahman) is that. It is neither gross nor minute, neither short nor long” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 8).
Again we have, “The supreme knowledge is that by which the Immutable (Brahman) is attained. That which is unperceivable, ungraspable” etc. (Mu. 1. 1. 5-6).
The question is whether the negative attributes in these two texts are to be combined so as to form one Vidyā, or they are to be treated as two separate Vidyās.
The opponent holds that these attributes do not directly specify the nature of Brahman like the positive attributes, bliss, truth, etc.,
and so the principle established in Sutra 3.3.11 does not apply here, for no purpose is served by such a combination. So each denial is valid only for the text in which it occurs and not for other places.
This the Sutra refutes and says that such denials are to be combined, for the method of teaching Brahman through denial is the same, and the object of instruction is also the same, i.e. the Immutable Brahman.
The rule of Sutra 3.3.11 applies here also, though there we were concerned with positive attributes and here with negative attributes which teach Brahman by an indirect method.
The case is analogous to the Upasad offerings. The Mantras for giving these offerings are found only in the Sāma-Veda. But the priests of the Yajur-Veda use this Mantra given in the other Veda.
This principle is decided by Jaimini in Pūrva Mīmāṃsā.
Similarly here also in the meditation on the Immutable (Brahman) the negative attributes have to be combined.