Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-4-6

Topic 6 - The Self to be seen through hearing etc. is Brahman

In the last topic the text discussed was interpreted to refer to Brahman, because the section begins with Brahman: “I will teach you Brahman.”

Following the same argument the opponent cites Brih. 2.4.5 and argues that since the section begins with the individual soul, the self to be seen referred to in this text is the individual soul and not Brahman.

 Sutra 1,4.19

वाक्यान्वयात् ॥ १९ ॥

vākyānvayāt || 19 ||

vākya-anvayāt—On account of the connected meaning of passages.

19. (The Self to be seen, to be heard, etc. is Brahman) on account of the connected meaning of the passages.

The Self, my dear Maitreyī, should be realized —should be heard of, reflected on, and meditated upon. By the realization of the Self, my dear, through hearing, reflection, and meditation, all this is known” (Brih. 2 . 4. 5).

In this passage the Supreme Self is referred to, and not the individual soul. Why?

In the whole section Brahman is treated. It begins with Maitreyī’s question “Will wealth get me immortality?” and Yājñyavalkya answers that wealth, sacrifice, etc. will not obtain that immortality.

She then asks for that which will give her immortality, and Yājñyavalkya teaches her the knowledge of the Self; finally the section concludes with, “Thus far goes immortality.”

Now immortality cannot be gained by the knowledge of the individual soul, but only by the knowledge of the Supreme Self or Brahman. Therefore Brahman alone is the subject-matter and It alone is to be seen through hearing etc.

Moreover, the text quoted says that by the knowledge of the Self spoken of there, everything is known, which clearly connects the Self referred to with Brahman; for how can the knowledge of a limited individual self give us knowledge of everything?

 Sutra 1,4.20

प्रतिज्ञासिद्धेर्लिङ्गमाश्मरथ्यः ॥ २० ॥

pratijñāsiddherliṅgamāśmarathyaḥ || 20 ||

pratijñā-siddheḥ—Of the proof of the proposition; liṅgam—indicatory mark; āśmarathyaḥ—Āśmarathya.

20. (The fact that the individual soul is taught as the object of realization is an) indicatory mark (which is) proof of the proposition, so Āśmarathya thinks.

In this Sutra the text quoted in the last Sutra (Brih. 2 . 4. 5) is interpreted from the standpoint of Bhedābheda-vāda of sage Āśmarathya.

According to this school the individual soul (Jīva) and Brahman, which are related as effect and cause respectively, are different, yet not different, from each other, even as sparks are different, yet not different, from fire.

If the individual soul (Jīva) were quite different from Brahman, then by the knowledge of the one (Brahman) everything else would not be known.

Hence this school interprets the text thus: The individual soul alone is to be seen. But as it is not different from Brahman, the knowledge of the individual soul gives knowledge of Brahman and consequently knowledge of everything.

It is this non-difference between Brahman and the individual soul (Jīva) that establishes the proposition, “By the knowledge of one everything else is known”, and in this sense alone the text speaks of the individual soul in Brih. 2. 4. 5.

It can also be interpreted as follows. If the individual soul is something different from Brahman, then the knowledge of Brahman would not give the knowledge of the individual soul.

Therefore the individual soul is different, yet not different, from Brahman. It is to show this that the Śruti text begins with the individual soul.

Sutra 1,4.21

उत्क्रमिष्यत एवंभावादित्यौडुलोमिः ॥ २१ ॥

utkramiṣyata evaṃbhāvādityauḍulomiḥ || 21 ||

utkramiṣyataḥ—Of the one which rises from the body; evaṃ bhāvāt—because of this nature; iti—thus; auḍulomiḥ—(the sage) Audulomi.

21. (The statement at the beginning identifies the individual soul with Brahman) because of this nature (i.e. its identity with Brahman) of the one (i.e. the soul) which rises from the body (at the time of release), thus (thinks) Auḍulomi.

This Āchārya, while taking that the self to be seen is the individual soul (Jīva), explains it as follows:

The soul, when it rises from the body, i.e. is free and has no body consciousness, realizes that it is identical with Brahman.

It is to show this non-difference in the state of release that the Śruti speaks of the individual soul as identical with Brahman, even though the difference between the individual soul (Jīva) and Brahman in the state of ignorance is a reality.

It is spoken of as non-different from the Supreme Self or Brahman because in the state of release it is one with It.

The text transfers the future state of non-difference to that time when difference actually exists. This school of Vedānta is known as Satya-bheda-vāda (i.e. the theory which holds that the difference between the individual soul and Brahman is a reality).

Sutra 1,4.22

अवस्थितेरिति काशकृत्स्नः ॥ २२ ॥

avasthiteriti kāśakṛtsnaḥ || 22 ||

avasthiteḥ—Because of the existence; iti—so holds; kāśakṛtsnaḥ—Kāśakṛtsna.

22. (The initial statement is made) because of, the existence (of Brahman as the individual soul), so holds (sage) Kāśakṛtsna.

As it is impossible that an individual soul (Jīva) quite different in nature from Brahman can be one with it in the state of release, this sage thinks, that the Supreme Self Itself exists as the individual soul.

They are absolutely, non-different, the apparent difference being due to Upādhis or limiting adjuncts, which are but products of ignorance, and therefore unreal from the absolute standpoint. Hence also follows that by the knowledge of Brahman everything else is known.

Of the three schools of Vedānta depicted in the last three Sutras, that of Kāśakṛtsna is justified by the Vedānta texts.

According to Āśmarathya the individual soul is a product of the Supreme Self, and hence the knowledge of the cause leads to the knowledge of everything including the individual soul.

But is the effect or any portion of it different from the cause? And is the whole cause involved in each of its effects? The answer to the second question is evidently, no.

If the effect or some portion of it is different from this cause, whence does it come? And is it separable from that?

If separable, it is not its nature, for nature cannot be separated. If not separable, the cause cannot be known, and the proposition, “The soul being known, all else is known”, falls to the ground. So Āśmarathya’s view cannot stand.

According to Auḍulomi the individual soul (Jīva) is only a state of the Supreme Self.

If the Jīvahood is a reality, it can never be destroyed and freedom would be impossible. If on the other hand it becomes one with the Supreme Soul on release, then there is nothing like Jīvahood which can be a reality. So Auḍulomi’s view cannot stand.

Jīvahood is an unreality, a creation of ignorance, the Jīva being identical with Brahman. Even the creation of Jīvas like sparks issuing from a fire does not speak of any real creation but only with reference to Upādhis.

In reality the Jīva is neither created nor destroyed. It is our ignorance that makes us see the individual soul (Jīva) limited by Upādhis as something different from Brahman.