Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-2-1


In the latter part of section 1, certain scriptural terms generally used in a different sense have been shown through reasoning to refer to Brahman,

and consequently certain passages of the scriptures of doubtful sense, but containing clear characteristics of Brahman, have been shown to refer to Brahman.

Now in this and the next section some more passages of doubtful import, especially with no clear mention of the characteristics of Brahman in them, are taken up for discussion.

Topic 1 - The Being consisting of the mind is Brahman

Sutra 1,2.1

सर्वत्र प्रसिद्धोपदेशात् ॥ १ ॥

sarvatra prasiddhopadeśāt || 1 ||

sarvatra—Throughout (the scriptures); prasiddhopadeśāt—because there is taught (the Brahman which is) well known.

1. (That which consists of the mind [Manomaya] is Brahman) because there is taught (in this text) (that Brahman which is) well known (as the cause of the universe) throughout (the scriptures).

Sutras 1-8 show that the Being who consists of the mind (Manomaya) and is prescribed as the object of upāsanā or meditation in the text,

“All this indeed is Brahman, for it has its beginning, end, and subsistence in It; so let a man meditate with a calm mind. . . . He who consists of the mind, whose body is Prāṇa (the subtle body)” etc. (Chh. 8. 14. 1-2)

is Brahman and not the individual soul. Why?

Because the text begins with, “All this is Brahman”, wherein that Brahman which is treated as the cause of the universe in all scriptural texts is described.

Since the beginning refers to Brahman, it is but proper that the later sentence where “He who consists of the mind” occurs, should also refer to Brahman as distinguished by certain qualities; otherwise there would arise the inconsistency of suddenly introducing a new subject and dropping the previous one.

Moreover the text here speaks of upāsanā, meditation, and as such it is but apt that Brahman which is described in all other texts as an object of meditation is also taught here and not the individual soul which is nowhere prescribed as such.

Moreover, one can become calm as the text asks only by meditating on Brahman which is bereft of all anger, hatred, etc.

Sutra 1,2.2

विवक्षितगुणोपपत्तेश्च ॥ २ ॥

vivakṣitaguṇopapatteśca || 2 ||

vivakṣitaguṇopapatteḥ—Because qualities desired to be expressed are befitting; ca—moreover.

2. Moreover the qualities desired to be expressed are befitting (only in the case of Brahman; and so the passage refers to Brahman).

He who consists of the mind, whose body is Prāṇa (the subtle body), whose form is light, resolve is true, whose nature is like that of ether (omnipresent and invisible)”, etc. (Chh. 3. 14. 2)

—the qualities mentioned in this text as topics of meditation are possible in the case of Brahman alone. Therefore the conclusion is that such a qualified Brahman alone is to be meditated upon.

 Sutra 1,2.3

अनुपपत्तेस्तु न शारीरः ॥ ३ ॥

anupapattestu na śārīraḥ || 3 ||

anupapatteḥ—Because (they) are not appropriate; tu—on the other hand; na—is not; śārīraḥ—the individual soul.

3. On the other hand the individual soul is not (referred to by the text) because these qualities are not appropriate (to it).

Sutra 1,2.4

कर्मकर्तृव्यपदेशाच्च ॥ ४ ॥

karmakartṛvyapadeśācca || 4 ||

karma—Object; kartṛ—agent; karmakartṛvyapadeśāt—on account of the mention; ca—and.

4. And on account of the mention of the attainer and the object attained (“He who consists of the mind” refers to Brahman and not to the individual soul).

In the same chapter of the Chāṇḍogya Upanishad there occurs the passage, “When I shall have departed from hence, I shall attain Him” (3. 14. 4), where ‘Him’ refers to “Who consists of the mind”, the object of meditation spoken of in the earlier passage.

Therefore He is necessarily different from the person who meditates, the individual soul referred to in the above text by the pronoun ‘I’

 Sutra 1,2.5

शब्दविशेषात् ॥ ५ ॥

śabdaviśeṣāt || 5 ||

5.  Because of the difference (indicated by the case-endings) of the words.

In the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, where the same idea is expressed in similar words, we have, “As is a grain of rice, or a grain of barley... so is that golden Being in the self” (10. 6. 3. 2),

where the individual soul and ‘the self consisting of the mind’ are clearly described as two different entities, for ‘the self consisting of the mind’—

which is denoted by a word in the nominative case—is described as being in the individual self, the word denoting it being in the locative case.

Therefore it is clear that the individual self is not referred to in the text under discussion.

Sutra 1,2.6

स्मृतेश्च ॥ ६ ॥

smṛteśca || 6 ||

smṛteḥ—From the Smriti; ca—also.

6. From the Smriti also (we learn that the individual soul is different from the one referred to in the text discussed).

The Smriti referred to is: “The Lord, O Arjuna, is seated in the hearts of all beings” etc. (Gītā 18. 61).

We must not forget, however, that according to Advaita Vedānta this difference is only imaginary and not real. The difference exists only so long as ignorance lasts, and the full import of the text “Thou art That” has not been realized.

 Sutra 1,2.7

अर्भकौकस्त्वात् तद्व्यपदेशाच्च नेति चेत्, न, निचाय्यत्वादेवं व्योमवच्च ॥ ७ ॥

arbhakaukastvāt tadyapadeśācca neti cet, na, nicāyyatvādevaṃ vyomavacca || 7 ||

arbhakaukastvāt—Because of the smallness of the abode; tadyapadeśāt—on account of its being designated as such (i.e. small); ca—also; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; nicāyyatvāt—for the sake of contemplation; evaṃ—so; vyomavat—like the ether; ca—and.

7. If it be said that (the passage does) not (refer to Brahman) because of the smallness of the abode (referred to, i.e. the heart) and also on account of its being designated as such (i.e. as minute); (we say,) not so, (because Brahman has been so characterized) for the sake of contemplation and because the case is similar to that of the ether.

He is my self within the heart, smaller than a grain of rice, smaller than a grain of barley” etc. (Chh. 3. 14. 3).

This text occurs in the same section in which we also find “the self consisting of the mind”.

The objection is raised that since these limitations are apt not in the case of Brahman but of the individual soul, it is the latter that is referred to by “the self consisting of the mind”.

The Sutra refutes it and says that Brahman here is thus characterized, for the convenience of contemplation, as otherwise it is difficult to meditate on the all-pervading Brahman.

This does not mar Its omnipresence, as these limitations are merely imagined in Brahman and are not real. The case is analogous to that of the ether in the eye of the needle, which is spoken of as limited and small, whereas in fact it is all-pervading.

 Sutra 1,2.8

संभोगप्राप्तिरिति चेत्, न, वैशेष्यात् ॥ ८ ॥

saṃbhogaprāptiriti cet, na, vaiśeṣyāt || 8 ||

saṃbhogaprāptiḥ—That it has experience (of pleasure and pain); iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; vaiśeṣyāt—because of the difference in nature;

8. If it be said that (being connected with the hearts of all individual souls on account of Its omnipresence, It would also) have experience (of pleasure and pain), (we say,) not so, because of the difference in the nature (of the two).

The mere fact that Brahman is all-pervading and connected with the hearts of all individual souls, and is also intelligent like them, does not make It subject to pleasure and pain.

For the individual soul is an agent, the doer of good and bad deeds, and therefore experiences pleasure and pain, while Brahman is not an agent, and therefore does not experience pleasure and pain.

A fallacious argument is often put forward that because Brāhman and the individual soul are in reality identical, therefore the former is also subject to the pleasure and pain experienced by the latter.

But then this identity only refutes the experience of pleasure and pain even by the individual soul as being due to ignorance; for in reality there is neither the individual soul nor pleasure and pain.

Therefore the argument of identity cannot be turned the other way to make even the ever pure Brahman subject to evil.