Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-2-1


In the last section all arguments against Brahman being the First Cause have been answered.

In this section all the doctrines of the other schools are taken up for refutation through reasoning alone without reference to the authority of the Vedas.

In the last Sutra it has been shown that Brahman possesses all the attributes, though through Māyā, for equipping It to be the First Cause of the universe.

Now the question is taken up whether the Sānkhya’s Pradhāna can satisfy all those conditions.

Topic 1 - Refutation of the Sānkhya’s theory of the Pradhāna as the First Cause

Sutra 2,2.1

रचनानुपपत्तेश्च नानुमान ॥ १ ॥

racanānupapatteśca nānumānam || 1 ||

racanānupapatteḥ—Because of the impossibility of design; ca—and; na—not; anumānam—that which is inferred.

1. And that which is inferred (i.e. the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas can) not (be the First Cause) because (in that case it is) not possible (to account for the) design (found in the creation).

In the preceding portion the Sānkhya’s doctrine has been refuted here and there on scriptural authority. Sutras 1-10 refute it through reasoning independent of the Vedānta texts.

The inert Pradhāna does not possess the intelligence that is required for creating such a diverse and well-designed world as this, and so it cannot be the First Cause.

Sutra 2,2.2

प्रवृत्तेश्च ॥ २ ॥

pravṛtteśca || 2 ||

pravṛtteḥ—Of a tendency; ca—and.

2. And on account of (the impossibility of such) a tendency (to create).

Even granting that such a creation is possible for the Pradhāna, still there are other objections.

Inert Pradhāna cannot again be credited with the desire or tendency to create. Clay by itself is never seen to create a pot without the agency of an intelligent being.

So the inert Pradhāna cannot be the cause, for in that case the activity necessary for the production of the world would be impossible. There must be some ruling intelligence for that purpose.

Sutra 2,2.3

पयोऽम्बुवच्चेत्, तत्रापि ॥ ३ ॥

payo'mbuvaccet, tatrāpi || 3 ||

payo'mbuvat—Like milk and water; cet—if it be said; tatra—there; api—even.

3. If it be said (that the Pradhāna spontaneously undergoes modification) like (the flowing of) milk and water, (we say that) even there (it is due to intelligence).

The Sānkhyas try to get over the difficulty by saying that even as water flows in rivers spontaneously or milk from the udder to the calf, so also the inert Pradhāna may become active of its own accord and undergo modification into intellect, Ahaṁkāra etc. without the agency of any intelligence.

The latter part of the Sutra refutes this and says that even the flowing of water and milk is directed by the Supreme Lord. The scriptures also say:

Under the mighty rule of this Immutable, O Gārgī, some rivers flow to the east” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 9);

He who inhabits water, but is within it,... who controls water from within” (Brih. 3. 7. 4).

The Lord is behind everything directing the material world.

Sutra 2,2.4

व्यतिरेकानवस्थितेश्चानपेक्षत्वात् ॥ ४ ॥

vyatirekānavasthiteścānapekṣatvāt || 4 ||

vyatirekānavasthiteḥ—There being no extraneous agency besides it; ca—and; anapekṣatvāt—because it is not dependent.

4. And because (the Pradhāna) is not dependent (on anything), there being no extraneous agency besides it, (its activity and non-activity cannot be explained).

The Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas being inert, it cannot of itself start to be active, or when once set in motion, cease to be active of itself.

So in the absence of an intelligent guiding principle it is impossible for the Sānkhyas to explain creation and dissolution at the beginning and end of a cycle, which they admit.

The only other principle besides the Pradhāna that they admit is the Purusha or soul, but according to them it is not an agent, for it is indifferent.

All other principles which they admit including even Karma are but products of the Pradhāna and as such cannot have any determining effect on it.

Hence their position launches them into a contradiction.

Sutra 2,2.5

अन्यत्राभावाच्च न तृणादिवत् ॥ ५ ॥

anyatrābhāvācca na tṛṇādivat || 5 ||

anyatra—Elsewhere; abhāvāt—because of its absence; ca—and; na—not; tṛṇādivat—even as grass etc.

5. And (it can) not (be said that the Pradhāna undergoes modification spontaneously) even as grass etc. (turn into milk); because of its absence elsewhere (than in the female mammals).

Nor is the spontaneous modification of the Pradhāna possible.

If you cite grass as an instance, we say it is not changed into milk spontaneously but only when eaten by female mammals. Otherwise it would be converted into milk independently of them.

Since the analogy itself does not stand, we cannot accept the Pradhāna is undergoing modification of itself.

Sutra 2,2.6

अभ्युपगमेऽप्यर्थाभावात् ॥ ६ ॥

abhyupagame'pyarthābhāvāt || 6 ||

abhyupagame—Accepting; api—even; arthābhāvāt—because of the absence of any purpose.

6. Even accepting (the Sānkhya’s position with regard to the spontaneous modification of the Pradhāna, it cannot be the First Cause) because of the absence of any purpose.

Granting the spontaneity of the Pradhāna, it will lead to a contradiction in their philosophy.

If the Pradhāna is active spontaneously, then this activity cannot have any purpose, which would contradict the Sānkhya’s view that the modification of the Pradhāna is for the experience and Liberation of the soul.

Moreover, the soul being perfect, it is already free and nothing can be added to or taken away from it. Hence the Pradhāna cannot be the First Cause.

Sutra 2,2.7

पुरुषाश्मवदिति चेत्, तथापि ॥ ७ ॥

puruṣāśmavaditi cet, tathāpi || 7 ||

puruṣa-aśma-vat—Even as a person or a magnet; iti cet—if it be said; tathāpi—even then.

7. If it, be said (that the Purusha can direct the Pradhāna) even as a (crippled) person (can direct a blind man), or a magnet (the iron filings), even then (the difficulty cannot be surmounted).

The Sānkhyas hold that though the Purusha is itself inactive yet it can direct the Pradhāna; the Sutra refutes it.

According to the Sānkhyas, the Pradhāna is independent, and so it is not in line with this to say that it depends on the nearness of the Purusha for its activity, even as the iron filings depend on the magnet for their motion.

Moreover, the Purusha being always near the Pradhāna, there would be permanency of creation.

Again, the case of the lame and the blind is not an apt example, for the lame man can give directions to the blind one and direct him; but since the Purusha is altogether indifferent according to the Sānkhyas, it cannot do that with respect to the Pradhāna.

In Vedānta, though Brahman is indifferent, yet through Māyā It is endowed with attributes and activity; so It becomes the Creator.

Again the Purusha and the Pradhāna are altogether separate and independent; the one is intelligent and indifferent, the other inert and independent.

Now if these two are to be connected, a third principle will be required, and since no such principle is recognized in the Sānkhya philosophy, their connection is impossible.

Sutra 2,2.8

अङ्गित्वानुपपत्तेश्च ॥ ८ ॥

aṅgitvānupapatteśca || 8 ||

aṅgitva-anupapatteḥ—Owing to the impossibility of the relation of principal (and subordinate); ca—and.

8. And because the relation of principal (and subordinate) is impossible (among the Guṇas, the Pradhāna cannot be active).

The Pradhāna, according to the Sānkhyas, consists of the three Guṇas (constituents), Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas, which are independent of each other and in a state of equilibrium before creation.

Creation begins when this equilibrium is upset and one Guṇa becomes more predominant than the other two.

Equilibrium cannot be upset without any external force, nor can the Guṇas, which are absolutely independent in the state of Pradhāna, take of themselves a subsidiary position to another Guṇa without losing their independence.

Hence creation would be impossible.

 Sutra 2,2.9

अन्यथानुमितौ च ज्ञशक्तिवियोगात् ॥ ९ ॥

anyathānumitau ca jñaśaktiviyogāt || 9 ||

anyathā—Otherwise; anumitau—if it be inferred; ca—even; jñaśakti-viyogāt—owing to the absence of the power of intelligence.

9. Even if it be inferred otherwise, owing to the absence of the power of intelligence (the other objections to the Pradhāna being the First Cause remain).

If it be inferred from the effects that the cause, the Pradhāna, consists of Guṇas which are not absolutely independent, but contain some characteristics inherent in them,

like instability, owing to which they themselves enter into a state of inequality even while they are in a state of equilibrium,

then also because of the want of intelligence the objections founded on design in the world and that it would lead to continuous creation, stand against accepting the Pradhāna as the First Cause. Vide Sutras 1 and 4.

 Sutra 2,2.10

विप्रतिषेधाच्चासमञ्जसम् ॥ १० ॥

vipratiṣedhāccāsamañjasam || 10 ||

vipratiṣedhāt—Because of contradictions; ca—also; asamañjasam—inconsistent.

10. Also because of contradictions (the Sānkhya’s theory) is inconsistent.

There are various contradictions in the Sānkhya philosophy, as, for example, sometimes the senses are said to be eleven and again they are said to be seven, again the Tanmātras are said to be produced from Mahat in one place and in another place from Ahaṁkāra (Ego), and so on.

Its differences with Śruti and Smriti are well known. Hence the doctrine of the Pradhāna of the Sānkhyas cannot be accepted.