Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-4-7

Topic 7 - Brahman is also the material cause of the world

Sutra 1,4.23

प्रकृतिश्च प्रतिज्ञादृष्टान्तानुपरोधात् ॥ २३ ॥

prakṛtiśca pratijñādṛṣṭāntānuparodhāt || 23 ||

prakṛtiḥ—Material cause; ca—also; pratijñā-dṛṣṭānta-anuparodhāt—not being contradictory to the proposition and illustrations.

23. (Brahman is) the material cause also, (on account of this view alone) not being contradictory to the proposition and the illustrations (cited in the Śruti).

Granted that Brahman is the cause of the world; but what kind of cause? Is It the efficient cause, or the material cause, or both?

The prima facie view is that Brahman is only the efficient cause, as texts like “He thought, ... he created Prāṇa” (Pr. 6. 3-4) declare.

This view is refuted by this Sutra. Brahman is also the material cause of the world. Here ‘also’ shows that it is the efficient cause as well.

It is only if Brahman is the material cause of the world that it is possible to know everything through the knowledge of Brahman, as texts like “By which that which is not heard becomes heard” etc. (Chh. 6. 1. 3) say; for the effects are not different from the cause.

The illustrations referred to are: “My dear, as by one lump of clay all that is made of clay is known” etc. (Chh. 6. 1. 4). These texts clearly show that Brahman is the material cause of the world; otherwise they would be meaningless.

Again texts like “Brahman alone was at the beginning one without a second” show that It is also the efficient cause, for who else could be such a cause when there was nothing else?

Sutra 1,4.24

अभिध्योपदेशाच्च ॥ २४ ॥

abhidhyopadeśācca || 24 ||

abhidhyopadeśāt— On account of the statement of will (to create); ca—also.

24. Also on account of the statement of will (to create on the part of the Supreme Self, It is the material cause).

It wished, ‘May I be many, may I grow forth’” etc. (Chh. 6 . 2 . 3).

In this text the desire shows that Brahman is the efficient cause, and next ‘may I be many’ intimates that Brahman Itself became many. Hence It is the material cause as well.

 Sutra 1,4.25

साक्षाच्चोभयाम्नानात् ॥ २५ ॥

sākṣāccobhayāmnānāt || 25 ||

sākṣāt—Direct; ca—and; ubhayāmnānāt—because the Śruti states both.

25. And because the Śruti states that both (the creation and the dissolution of the world) (have Brahman as) the direct (cause).

That from which a thing springs and into which it is re-absorbed is its material cause.

All these things spring from Ākāśa (Brahman) alone and return to Ākāśa” (Chh. I. 9. 1),

That from which these things are produced, by which, when produced, they live, and into which they enter at their dissolution—try to know that. That is Brahman” (Taitt. 3. 1).

These texts show that Brahman is the material cause also. A thing may be said to be produced from its efficient cause, but it cannot return to that at dissolution unless it is also the material cause.

 Sutra 1,4.26

आत्मकृतेः परिणामात् ॥ २६ ॥

ātmakṛteḥ pariṇāmāt || 26 ||

ātmakṛteḥ—As it created Itself; pariṇāmāt—by undergoing modification.

26. (Brahman is the material cause of the world) because (the Śruti says that) It created Itself by undergoing modifications.

That Itself manifested Itself” (Taitt. 2. 7), which shows that Brahman alone created the world, out of Itself, which is possible only by undergoing modification.

The word ‘Itself’ in the text shows that there was no other cause operating. The modification is apparent according to Śankara and real according to Rāmānuja.

Sutra 1,4.27

योनिश्च हि गीयते ॥ २७ ॥

yoniśca hi gīyate || 27 ||

yoniḥ—Origin; ca—and; hi—because; gīyate—is called.

27. And because (Brahman) is called the origin.

That which the wise regard as the origin of all beings” (Mu. 1. 1. 6)—this shows that Brahman is the material cause of the world. Hence Its being the material cause is established.