Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-3-1


In the last section texts of doubtful import were interpreted to refer to Brahman, and in so doing the fact that Brahman is the one object of all devout meditations helped us much.

In this section some more texts of doubtful import are taken up for discussion and are interpreted to refer to Brahman, and in this interpretation the fact that Brahman is the one object of knowledge is taken advantage of.

Topic 1 - The Resting-place of Heaven, Earth, etc. is Brahman

In the last topic of the last section the word ‘Vaiśvānara’, which usually means the gastric fire, was interpreted as Brahman, in view of the words, “Its head is heaven”, occurring at the end of the text.

Following this argument the opponent takes up for discussion a text where the word ‘immortal’ should refer to the Pradhāna and not to Brahman, on account of the word ‘bridge’ which occurs at the end of the text.

A bridge connects with something beyond, and as there can be nothing beyond Brahman, the word ‘bridge’ excludes Brahman, and so ‘immortal’ refers not to Brahman but to the Pradhāna.

 Sutra 1,3.1

द्युभ्वाद्यायतनं स्वशब्दात् ॥ १ ॥

dyubhvādyāyatanaṃ svaśabdāt || 1 ||

dyu-bhu-ādi-āyatanaṃ—The resting-place of heaven, earth, etc.; sva-śabdāt—on account of the word ‘Self’.

1. The resting-place of heaven, earth, etc. (is Brahman) on account of the word ‘Self’ (or on account of the actual words of the Śruti) (designating this resting-place).

In Him heaven, the earth, and the sky are woven, as also the mind with all the senses. Know that Self alone and leave off other talk! He is the bridge of Immortality” (Mu. 2. 2. 5).

He who is spoken of as the abode, in whom the earth, heaven, etc. are woven is Brahman, on account of the term ‘Self’, which is appropriate only if Brahman is referred to in the text and not Pradhāna or Sūtrātman.

Or there are actual texts in which Brahman is spoken of as the abode by terms properly designating Brahman. For example:

All these creatures, my dear, have their root, their abode, and their rest in the being” (Chh. G. 8. 4).

It may also mean Brahman because in the texts preceding and following this one, i.e. in Mu. 2. 1. 10 and 2. 2. 11, Brahman is spoken of, and so it is but proper to infer that It is also referred to in the intervening text, which is discussed.

From the text cited above, where mention is made of an abode and that which abides, and also from “Brahman indeed is all this” (Mu. 2. 2. 11) we are not to take that Brahman is of manifold, variegated. nature, like a tree consisting of leaves, branches, etc.

This would lead us to Pantheism, and Advaita does not uphold it.

So in order to remove the possibility of such a doubt the passage discussed, says, “Know Him alone, the Selfi.e. know the Self alone and not that which abides in it, which is merely a product of Nescience and has to be set aside as false.

 Sutra 1,3.2

मुक्तोपसृप्यव्यपदेशात् ॥ २ ॥

muktopasṛpyavyapadeśāt || 2 ||

mukta-upasṛpya—To be attained by the liberated; vyapadeśāt—because of the statement.

2. Because of the statement (in the scriptures) that that is to be attained by the liberated.

A further reason is given to show that Brahman is meant in the passage discussed. It is the goal of the liberated. Vide Mu. 2. 2. 9; 3. 2. 8.

Therefore it can be Brahman alone.

Sutra 1,3.3

नानुमानम्, अतच्छब्दात् ॥ ३ ॥

nānumānam, atacchabdāt || 3 ||

na—not; anumānam—what is inferred (Pradhāna); atat-śabdāt—owing to want of any term indicating it.

3. (The abode of heaven etc.) is not what is inferred (i.e. Pradhāna), owing to want of any term indicating it.

The abode of heaven etc. cannot be the Pradhāna, for there is no term indicative of it in the text, as we have ‘Self’ indicative of Brahman.

There are no terms whatsoever referring to inert matter, but on the other hand there are terms indicating intelligence: “Who knows all, understands all” etc. (Mu. 1.1.9).

 Sutra 1,3.4

प्राणभृच्च ॥ ४ ॥

prāṇabhṛcca || 4 ||

prāṇabhṛt—The living or individual soul; ca—also (na—not).

4. (Nor) also the individual soul.

The word ‘not’ has to be inferred from the previous Sutra.

Nor is it the individual soul, though it is an intelligent principle and can therefore be denoted by the word ‘Self’; for it is impossible to conceive the individual soul as omniscient and as the resting-place of the whole universe.

Sutra 1,3.5

भेदव्यपदेशात् ॥ ५ ॥

bhedavyapadeśāt || 5 ||

bheda-vyapadeśāt—On account of difference being mentioned.

5. (Also) on account of difference being mentioned (between the individual soul and the abode of heaven etc.).

Know Him alone as the Self,” says the text discussed, thereby differentiating the individual soul desirous of release and the abode of heaven etc. as the knower and the thing to be known.

 Sutra 1,3.6

प्रकरणात् ॥ ६ ॥

prakaraṇāt || 6 ||

6.  On account of the subject-matter.

The Upanishad begins with, “What is that” (Mu. 1. 1. 4) and concludes by saying, “The knower of Brahman becomes Brahman” (Mu. 3. 2. 9),

which shows that the subject-matter of the whole Upanishad from beginning to end is Brahman, and therefore it is the same Brahman which is spoken of as the abode of heaven etc.

Sutra 1,3.7

स्थित्यदनाभ्याम् च ॥ ७ ॥

sthityadanābhyām ca || 7 ||

sthiti-adanābhyām—On account of remaining unattached and eating; ca—also.

7. Also on account of (the mention of two conditions:) remaining unattached and eating (which are the characteristics of the Supreme Self and the individual self respectively).

Two birds, inseparable Mends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating” (Mu. 3. 1. 1).

Here Brahman is described as the witness and the individual soul as experiencing the fruits of good and evil actions and hence different from the other.

This description, which distinguishes the two, can be apt only if the abode of heaven etc. is Brahman. Otherwise there will be no continuity of topic.

Nor can we take this text as merely describing the nature of the individual soul, for the scriptures nowhere aim at describing the individual soul, which is known to everyone as the agent, enjoyer, etc.

Their aim is always to describe and establish Brahman which is not so known.