Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-2-7

Topic 7 - Vaiśvānara is Brahman

In the last topic a general quality like invisibility equally applicable to Brahman and the Pradhāna was interpreted to refer to Brahman taking into consideration qualities like all-knowingness etc. mentioned later on in the section.

Following this argument the objector takes some texts for discussion and insists that the Vaiśvānara referred to in them must be the ordinary fire in view of specifications like “the support of sacrifice” mentioned later on.

 Sutra 1,2.24

वैश्वानरः साधारणशब्दविशेषात् ॥ २४ ॥

vaiśvānaraḥ sādhāraṇaśabdaviśeṣāt || 24 ||

vaiśvānaraḥ—Vaiśvānara; sādhāraṇa śabda-viśeṣāt—because of the qualifying adjuncts to the common words (Vaiśvānara and self).

24. Vaiśvānara (is Brahman), because of the qualifying adjuncts to the common words (‘Vaiśvānara’ and ‘Self’).

But he who worships this Vaiśvānara Self extending from heaven to the earth as identical with his own self, eats food in all beings, in all selves; of that Vaiśvānara self Sutejā (heaven) is the head, the sun the eye”, etc. (Chh. 5. 18. 1-2).

Now what is this Vaiśvānara Self?

Vaiśvānara’ generally means fire, the presiding deity of fire and the gastric fire. ‘Self’ refers to both the individual soul and the Supreme Self. Which of these is referred to in the passage?

Whatever be the ordinary meaning of these two words, the Sutra says that here the Supreme Self is referred to, on account of the qualifying adjuncts to these words.

The adjuncts are:

Heaven is the head of this Vaiśvānara Self, the sun its eyes, etc., and this is possible only in the case of the Supreme Self. Again the result of meditation on this Vaiśvānara Self having the parts stated is the attainment of all desires, and freedom from all sin. (Vide Chh. 5. 24. 8).

This also can be true if the Highest Self is meant.

Moreover the chapter begins with the inquiry, “What is our Self? What is Brahman?”—where the word ‘Brahman’ is used in its primary sense, and so it is proper to think that the whole chapter delineates Brahman.

 Sutra 1,2.25

स्मर्यमाणमनुमानं स्यादिति ॥ २५ ॥

smaryamāṇamanumānaṃ syāditi || 25 ||

smaryamāṇaṃ—Described in the Smriti; anumānaṃ—indicatory mark; syāt—must be; iti—because.

25. Because that (cosmic form of the Supreme Lord) which is described in the Smriti must be an indicatory mark (from which we arrive at the meaning of this Śruti text discussed).

The Smṛiti are interpretations of Śruti texts. So where a doubt arises as to the meaning of a Śruti the former may be consulted to throw light on the subject.

The Smriti describes the cosmic form of the Supreme Lord as,

He whose mouth is fire, whose head is heaven, ... whose ears are the regions—salutation to Him, whose body is the universe”,

which agrees with the description in the text discussed. Hence we have to conclude that the Highest Lord is referred to in the text.

Sutra 1,2.26

शब्दादिभ्योऽन्तः प्रतिष्ठानाच्च नेति चेत्, न, तथा दृष्ट्युपदेशात्, असंभवात्, पुरुषमपि चैनमधीयते ॥ २६ ॥

śabdādibhyo'ntaḥ pratiṣṭhānācca neti cet, na, tathā dṛṣṭyupadeśāt, asaṃbhavāt, puruṣamapi cainamadhīyate || 26 ||

śabdādibhyaḥ—Because of the word and other reasons; antaḥ—inside; pratiṣṭhānāt—on account of (its) existing; ca—and; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; tathā—as such; dṛṣṭyupadeśāt—on account of the instruction to conceive it; asaṃbhavāt—being impossible; puruṣam—as person; api—also; ca—also; enam—him; adhīyate—(they) describe.

26. If it be said that (Vaiśvānara) is not (Brahman) because of the word (‘Vaiśvānara’, which has a definite meaning, i.e. gastric fire) and other reasons, and on account of its existing inside (which is true of gastric fire),

(we say) not so, because there is the instruction to conceive (Brahman) as such (as the gastric fire), because it is impossible (for the gastric fire to have the heaven etc. for its head and other limbs) and also because (the Vājasaneyins) describe him (Vaiśvānara) as a person (which the gastric fire is not).

Objection: The ordinary meaning of ‘Vaiśvānara’ is fire and the Śruti also says that it is seated inside: “He who knows this Vaiśvānara abiding within man” (Sat. Br. 10. 6. 1. 11), which applies to the gastric fire only. Hence it alone, and not Brahman, is referred to in the text discussed.

The Sutra refutes this objection firstly because the scripture here teaches the worship of Brahman in the gastric fire by way of meditation (Upāsanā),

even as in the passage, “Let a man meditate on the mind as Brahman” (Chh. 3. 18. 1), Secondly because the gastric fire cannot have heaven for its head, and so on.

Thirdly because Vaiśvānara is conceived as a person by the Vājasaneyins : “This Agni Vaiśvānara is a person” etc. (Sat, Br. 10. 6. 1. 11).

Hence ‘Vaiśvānara’ here refers to Brahman, which is all-pervading and can also be conceived of as a person.

Sutra 1,2.27

अत एव न देवता भूतं च ॥ २७ ॥

ata eva na devatā bhūtaṃ ca || 27 ||

ata eva—For the same reason; na—(is) not; devatā—deity; bhūtaṃ—element; ca—and.

27. For the same reason (Vaiśvānara) is not the deity (fire) or the element (fire).

For the same reason—as stated in the previous Sutra.

 Sutra 1,2.28

साक्षादप्यविरोधं जैमिनिः ॥ २८ ॥

sākṣādapyavirodhaṃ jaiminiḥ || 28 ||

sākṣāt—Directly; api—even; avirodhaṃ—no contradiction; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini.

28. Even (if by ‘Vaiśvānara’ Brahman is) directly (taken as the object of worship), there is no contradiction; (so says) Jaimini.

In the last Sutra it was explained that meditation on Brahman in the gastric fire, taking it as a symbol, was taught.

This Sutra says that ‘Vaiśvānara’ can be taken directly to mean Brahman as an object of contemplation, for ‘Vaiśvānara’ is the same as Visvanara, which means the universal man, i.e. the all-pervading Brahman Itself.

Sutra 1,2.29

अभिव्यक्तेरित्याश्मरथ्यः ॥ २९ ॥

abhivyakterityāśmarathyaḥ || 29 ||

abhivyakteḥ—On account of manifestation; iti—so; āśmarathyaḥ—(says) Āśmarathya.

29. On account of manifestation—so says Āśmarathya.

The reference to Vaiśvānara in the text discussed as extending from heavens to the earth is explained here.

Even though the Lord is all-pervading, yet He specially manifests Himself as extending from heaven to the earth for the sake of the devotees.

 Sutra 1,2.30

अनुस्मृतेर्बादरिः ॥ ३० ॥

anusmṛterbādariḥ || 30 ||

anusmṛteḥ—For the purpose of constant remembrance; bādariḥ—(so says) Bādari.

30. For the purpose of constant remembrance—so says Bādari.

The Highest Lord may be called “measured by a span” (to render the term ‘Prādesamātra’ differently), because He is remembered through the mind, which is seated in the heart, and the heart is of the size of a span.

Sutra 1,2.31

संपत्तेरिति जैमिनिः, तथा हि दर्शयति ॥ ३१ ॥

saṃpatteriti jaiminiḥ, tathā hi darśayati || 31 ||

saṃpatteḥ—Because of imaginary identity; iti—so; jaiminiḥ—(says) Jaimini; tathā hi—for so; darśayati—declares (the Śruti).

31. Because of imaginary identity (the Supreme Lord may be called span long), so says Jaimini; for so (the Śruti) declares.

Sampat Upāsanā is a kind of meditation in which something is imagined as identical with something else on account of some kind of similarity or likeness.

As, for example, when the cosmic being (Purusha) is worshipped through the identification of His different limbs with the different parts of the worshipper’s body from the top of the head to the chin.

The head of the worshipper is heaven, the eyes the sun and the moon, and so on. In this meditation of the cosmic Person He is limited to the size of a span, the distance from the top of the head to the chin.

Therefore, says Jaimini, in the text discussed, the Supreme Lord is regarded as of the size of a span.

Sutra 1,2.32

आमनन्ति चैनमस्मिन् ॥ ३२ ॥

āmananti cainamāsmin || 32 ||

āmananti—Teach; ca—moreover; enam—this; asmin—in this.

32. Moreover (the Jābālas) teach that this (Supreme Lord is to be meditated upon) in this (space between the head and the chin).

See Jābāla Upanishad 1.

Sutras 27—32 justify the reference to the Supreme Lord by the term ‘Prādesamātra’ “as extending from heaven to the earth” or “as measured by a span”).