Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-3-8

Topic 8 - The right of the gods to the study of the Vedas

Sutra 1,3.26

तदुपर्यपि बादरायणः संभवात् ॥ २६ ॥

taduparyapi bādarāyaṇaḥ saṃbhavāt || 26 ||

tadupari—Above them; api—also; bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa; saṃbhavāt—because (it is) possible.

26. (Beings) above them (men) also (are entitled to the study of the Vedas) because (it is) possible (for them also to attain Knowledge according to) Bādarāyaṇa.

In Sutras 26-38 there is a digression from the main topic in the Section:

A doubt may arise from the previous Sutra that as it is said that men alone are entitled to the study of the Vedas, the gods are thereby debarred.

To remove this doubt this Sutra is given. The gods are also entitled to it, according to Bādarāyaṇa. How?

Because it is possible for them also—since they too are corporeal beings—to have a desire for Brahmaloka or for final illumination and also to possess the necessary requisites (the fourfold qualification) for such illumination.

In the Śruti also we find Indra and other gods living the life of Brahmacharya for attaining this knowledge of Brahman. For instance, Chh. 8. 11. 3; also Taitt. 8. 1, where the god Varuṇa is said to have possessed that Knowledge which he teaches to his son Bhrigu.

Sutra 1,3.27

विरोधः कर्मणीति चेत्, न, अनेकप्रतिपत्तेर्दर्शनात् ॥ २७ ॥

virodhaḥ karmaṇīti cet, na, anekapratipatterdarśanāt || 27 ||

virodhaḥ—Contradiction; karmaṇi—to sacrifices; iti cet—if it be said; na—not; aneka-pratipatteḥ—the assumption of many (forms); darśanāt—because it is found (in the scriptures).

27. If it be said (that the corporeality of the gods would involve) a contradiction to sacrifices; (we say) no, because we find (in the scriptures) the assumption (by the, gods) of many (forms at one and the same time).

If gods possess bodies, then it would not be possible for one and the same god to be present in sacrifices performed simultaneously at different places.

This is the objection, which is refuted by the latter part of the Sutra on the ground that the gods, like the Yogis, owing to their Yoga powers are capable of assuming several forms (Kāyavyūha) simultaneously. See Chh. 7. 26. 2.

Again as a sacrifice consists in making offerings by the sacrificer to some divinity, many persons at the same time may make such offerings to a single divinity, even as many persons can at the same time salute a single person.

Sutra 1,3.28

शब्द इति चेत्, न, अतः प्रभवात् प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम् ॥ २८ ॥

śabda iti cet, na, ataḥ prabhavāt pratyakṣānumānābhyām || 28 ||

śabde—With regard to (Vedic) words; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; ataḥ—from these (words); prabhavāt—because of the creation; pratyakṣa-anumānābhyām—from direct perception.

28. If it be said (that the corporeality of the gods would involve a contradiction) with regard to (Vedic) words, (we say) no, because of the creation (of the world together with the gods) from these (words), (as is known) from direct perception (Śruti) and inference (Smriti).

A further objection is raised with respect to the corporeality of the gods. If they have a body, they too like men would be subject to births and deaths.

Now all the words in the Vedas according to Pūrva Mīmāṃsā are eternal. So also every word has for its counterpart a form, an object which it denotes.

The relation between a name or word and form (the object) is eternal. The word or name, its object, and their relation are eternal verities.

Now in the Vedas we find words like Indra, Varuṇa, etc.—the names of the gods. If these gods are not eternal, since they possess bodies, then these words cannot have their eternal counterpart, the object.

So the eternity and authoritativeness of the Vedas, which are based on the eternal relation between the word and its object, would be a myth. This is the main objection.

It is answered thus: Each word of the Vedas has an objective counterpart, which is not an individual but a type.

The word ‘cow’, for instance, has for its counterpart the object, which is a type and as such is eternal and does not depend on the birth or death of individuals belonging to that type.

Similar is the case with words like Indra, Varuṇa, etc. Words representing the gods etc. have for their counterpart objects that are types and not individuals.

Again Indra is the name of anyone who would occupy that exalted position, like the word ‘king’ in ordinary parlance.

So there is no contradiction to Vedic words. As a matter of fact, the world including the gods etc. have originated from Vedic words.

This does not mean that the Vedic words constitute the material cause of these things, which Brahman alone is, as stated in Sutra 1.1.2.

What then is meant?

According to Indian philosophy the universe and its objects have both name and form as the conditions of their manifestation.

There can be no mental state (Chitta-vṛtti) unconditioned by name and form. The thought wave first manifests as a word and then as the more concrete form. The idea is the essence, and the form is, as it were, the outer crust.

What is true of the individual mind is also true of the cosmic mind. In this sense only is the world said to be created, rather manifested, from the Vedic words.

This is endorsed by the Śruti and Smriti. In the Vedas it is said that the Lord uttered different words before creating different types of beings. Vide Brih. 1. 2. 4.

The several names, actions, and conditions of all things He shaped in the beginning from the words of the Vedas” (Manu 1. 21).

 Sutra 1,3.29

अत एव च नित्यत्वम् ॥ २९ ॥

ata eva ca nityatvam || 29 ||

ata-eva—From this very reason; ca—also; nityatvam—the eternity.

29. From this very reason also (results) the eternity (of the Vedas).

Since the objects are eternal, that is, gods etc. as types are eternal, the Vedic words are eternal. This establishes the eternal nature of the Vedas. The Vedas were not written by anybody. They are impersonal and eternal. The Rishis only discovered them but were not authors of the Vedic texts.

By means of their past good deeds (the priests) attained the capacity to understand the Vedas; (then) they found them dwelling in the Rishis” (Rig-Veda 10.71.3),

which shows that the Vedas are eternal.

Sutra 1,3.30

समाननामरूपत्वाच्चावृत्तावप्यविरोधो दर्शनात् स्मृतेश्च ॥ ३० ॥

samānanāmarūpatvāccāvṛttāvapyavirodho darśanāt smṛteśca || 30 ||

samāna-nāmarūpatvāt—Because of similar names and forms; ca—and; āvṛttau—in the revolving of the world cycles; api—even; avirodhaḥ—no contradiction; darśanāt—from the Śruti; smṛteḥ—from the Smriti; ca—and.

30. And because of the sameness of names and forms (in every fresh cycle) there is no contradiction (to the eternity of the Vedic words) even in the revolving of the world cycles, as is seen from the Śruti and the Smriti.

An objection is raised. Since at the end of a cycle everything is completely destroyed and creation begins afresh at the beginning of the next cycle, there is a break in the continuity of existence; so even as types the gods are not eternal.

This upsets the eternal relation of Vedic words and the objects they represent, and consequently the eternity of the Vedas and their authority fall to the ground.

This Sutra refutes it.

Just as a person after waking from deep sleep finds no break in the continuity of existence, so also in the state of Pralaya (end of a cycle) the world is in a potential state—in seed form—in ignorance, and not completely destroyed; at the beginning of the next cycle it is again manifested into a gross form with all the previous variety of names and forms.

As the world does not become absolutely non-existent, the eternity of the relation between Vedic words and their objects is not contradicted, and consequently the authoritativeness of the Vedas remains.

This eternal existence of the world in gross and fine forms alternatively and the similarity of the names and forms are brought out by the Śruti and Smriti texts.

As formerly the Lord ordered the sun and the moon, heaven, earth, the sky” etc. (Rig-Veda 10.190.3).

 Sutra 1,3.31

मध्वादिष्वसम्भवादनधिकारं जैमिनिः ॥ ३१ ॥

madhvādiṣvasambhavādanadhikāraṃ jaiminiḥ || 31 ||

madhvādiṣu—In Madhu Vidyâ etc.; asambhavāt—on account of the impossibility; anadhikāraṃ—disqualification; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini (is of opinion).

31. On account of the impossibility (of the gods) being qualified for Madhu Vidyā etc. Jaimini (is of opinion that the gods) are not qualified (either for Upāsanās or for the knowledge of Brahman).

In many of the Upāsanās (devout meditations) a person is asked to meditate on the self of some god or other. For example, in Madhu Vidyā one is to meditate on the sun as honey (something helpful). Such a meditation will be impossible for the sun-god.

Hence in Upāsanās where one has to meditate on the self of certain gods, these divinities themselves would naturally be disqualified; for the same person cannot be both the object of meditation and the worshipper.

So Jaimini thinks that the gods are not qualified for these devout meditations or for the knowledge of the Supreme Brahman.

 Sutra 1,3.32

योतिषि भावाच्च ॥ ३२॥

jyotiṣi bhāvācca || 3२ ||

jyotiṣi—As mere spheres of light; bhāvāt—because (used) in the sense; ca—and.

32. And (the gods are not qualified for Vidyās) because (the words ‘sun’, ‘moon’, etc., spoken of as gods) are used in the sense of mere spheres of light.

A further objection is given.

There is no proof as to the existence of gods with hands, feet, etc., and with desires—which would qualify them for meditations and Knowledge.

These are mere names of planets and luminary objects and as such are material inert things. Consequently they are not qualified for any kind of Vidyā (meditation) prescribed in the scriptures.

Sutra 1,3.33

भावं तु बादरायणः, अस्ति हि ॥ ३३ ॥

bhāvaṃ tu bādarāyaṇaḥ, asti hi || 3३ ||

bhāvaṃ—The existence (of qualification); tu—but; bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa (maintains); asti—does exist; hi—because.

33. But Bādarāyaṇa (maintains) the existence (of qualification on the part of the gods for the knowledge of Brahman), because (all those causes like body, desires, etc., which qualify one for such knowledge) do exist (in the case of the gods).

Bādarāyaṇa thinks that besides the luminary orbs like the sun, moon, etc., each of them has a presiding deity of that name with body, intelligence, desires, etc.,

and as such there being all the causes which can qualify them for the Upāsanās and Supreme Knowledge, the gods also are entitled to them.

The fact that the sun-god cannot be entitled to Madhu Vidyā because he cannot meditate on the sun, i.e. himself, does not disqualify him for other devout meditations or for the knowledge of Brahman.

Similar is the case with other gods.