Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-1-10

Topic 10 - The word ‘light’ to be understood as Brahman

In the two previous topics, on account of the characteristics of Brahman being present in the texts quoted, it was possible to conclude that Brahman was referred to in them.

The next Sutra takes up for discussion a text which itself does not mention the characteristics of Brahman, but the text prior to it does.

 Sutra 1,1.24

ज्योतिश्चरणाभिधानात् ॥ २४ ॥

jyotiścaraṇābhidhānāt || 24 ||

jyotiḥ—Light; caraṇābhidhānāt—on account of the mention of feet.

24. (The word) ‘light’ (is Brahman) on account of the mention of feet (in a complimentary passage).

Now that light which shines above this heaven, beyond all, ... Let a man meditate on this” etc. (Chh. 3. 13. 7).

Here the question is whether the meditation is to be on the light as such or on Brahman.

The Sutra says that ‘light’ here does not mean physical light which helps vision, such as the sun, but Brahman, because feet (quarters) are mentioned in a preceding text:

This much is Its glory, greater than this is the Purusha. One foot of It is all beings while Its (remaining) three feet are immortal in heaven” (Chh. 3. 12. 6).

The Brahman that has been so described in this passage is recognized in the one first quoted, where ‘light’ occurs, because there also it is said to be connected with ‘heaven’.

Brahman is the subject matter of not only the previous texts, but also of the subsequent texts; for in the section immediately following that which contains the passage under discussion (i.e. in Chh. 3.14) Brahman is also the main topic.

It is therefore but reasonable to say that the intervening section (Chh. 3. 13) also deals with Brahman. Hence ‘light’ here means Brahman. The word ‘light’ can be used for Brahman, which manifests the world even as light manifests objects.

The mention of limiting adjuncts with respect to Brahman, denoted by the word ‘light’ is only for the sake of meditation.

 Sutra 1,1.25

छन्दोऽभिधानान्नेति चेत्, न, तथा चेतोऽर्पणनिगदात्, तथा हि दर्शनम् ॥ २५ ॥

chando'bhidhānānneti cet, na, tathā ceto'rpaṇanigadāt, tathā hi darśanam || 25 ||

chando'bhidhānāt—The metre (Gāyatrī) being mentioned; na—is not; iti—if it be said; na—no; tathā—in that way; ceto'rpaṇanigadāt—the application of the mind has been inculcated; tathā hi—for so; darśanam—it is seen (in other texts).

25. If it be said (that Brahman is) not (referred to) on account of the metre (Gāyatrī) being mentioned; (we reply) no, because in that way (i.e. by means of the metre), the application of the mind (on Brahman) has been inculcated; for so (i.e. through the help of the modifications of Brahman) it is seen (in other texts).

An objection is raised that in the text “One foot of It is all beings”, Brahman is not referred to, but the metre Gāyatrī, for the first paragraph of the preceding section of the same Upanishad begins with, “Gāyatri is everything, whatever here exists,” etc. Therefore the feet referred to in the text cited in the last Sutra refer to this metre and not to Brahman.

In reply it is said: Not so; for the text, “Gāyatrī is all this” etc., teaches that one should meditate upon the Brahman which is connected with this metre,’

because Brahman, being the cause of everything, is connected with that Gāyatrī also, and it is that Brahman which is to be meditated upon.

This interpretation would be in keeping with the other texts in the same section, e.g.That which is that Brahman” (Chh. 3. 12. 7) and also with “All this indeed is Brahman” (Chh. 3. 14. 1), where Brahman is the chief topic.

Meditation on Brahman through Its modifications or effects is seen in other texts also. “Him the Bahvrichas meditate upon in the great hymn” etc. (Ait. Ar. 3. 2. 3. 12).

Therefore Brahman is meant here, and not the metre Gāyatrī.

 Sutra 1,1.26

भूतादिपादव्यपदेशोपपत्तेश्चैवम् ॥ २७ ॥

bhūtādipādavyapadeśopapatteścaivam || 26 ||

bhūtādipādavyapadeśa—The representation of beings etc. as feet; upapatteḥ—is possible; ca—also; evam—thus.

26. Thus also (we have to conclude,. i.e. that Brahman is the topic of the previous passage, where Gāyatrī occurs) because (thus only) the representation of the beings etc. as the feet (of Gāyatrī) is possible.

The beings, earth, body, and heart can be feet only of Brahman and not of Gāyatrī, the metre— a mere collection of syllables. See Ch. 3. 12. 2-4..

So by Gāyatrī is here meant Brahman as connected with the metre Gāyatrī.

It is this Brahman so particularized by Gāyatrī that is said to be the self of all in the text, “Gāyatrī is everything” etc. This same Brahman is again recognised as ‘light’ in Chh. 3. 13. 7.

Sutra 1,1.27

उपदेशभेदान्नेति, चेन् नोभयस्मिन्न् अप्य् अविरोधात् ॥ २६ ॥

upadeśabhedānneti, cet, na, ubhayasminnapyavirodhāt || 27||

upadeśabhedāt—On account of the difference in specificaton; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; ubhayasmin api—in either (description); avirodhāt—because there is no contradiction.

27. If it be said (that Brahman of the Gāyatri passage cannot be recognized in the passage dealing with ‘light’), on account of difference in specification, (we reply) no, there being no contradiction in either (description to such a recognition).

In the Gāyatrī passage heaven is specified as the abode of Brahman, while in the other, Brahman is described as existing above heaven. How then -can it be said that one and the same Brahman is referred to in both the passages?

It can; there is no contradiction here, even as when we say, with reference to a bird perching on the top of a tree, that it is perching on the tree, or that it is above the tree.

The difference in the case-ending of the word div is no contradiction, since the locative case is often used in scriptural passages to express, secondarily, the meaning of the ablative.

Therefore the word ‘light’ has to be understood as Brahman.