Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-2-6

Topic 6 - ‘Not this, not this’ in Brih. 2.3.6. denies the gross and subtle forms of Brahman given in Brih. 2.3.1. and not Brahman Itself

Sutra 3,2.22

प्रकृतैतावत्त्वं हि प्रतिषेधति ततो ब्रवीति च भूयः ॥ २२ ॥

prakṛtaitāvattvaṃ hi pratiṣedhati tato bravīti ca bhūyaḥ || 22 ||

prakṛta-etāvattvaṃ—What has been mentioned up to this; pratiṣedhati—denies; tato—than that; bhūyaḥ—something more; bravīti—says; ca—and.

22. What has been mentioned up to this is denied (by the words ‘Not this, not this’), and (the Śruti) says something more than that (afterwards).

Brahman has but two forms—gross and subtle, mortal and immortal, limited and unlimited, Sat (defined) and Tyat (undefined)” (Brih. 2 . 3. 1).

Thus describing the two forms of Brahman, the gross, consisting of earth, water, and fire, and the subtle, consisting of air and ether, the Śruti says finally, “Now therefore the description (of Brahman): ‘Not this, not this.’” etc. (Brih. 2 . 3. 6).

Now the question is whether the double denial in ‘Not this, not this’ negates both the world and Brahman, or only one of them.

The opponent holds that both are denied, and consequently Brahman, which is false, cannot be the substratum for a world, which is also false. In other words, it leads us to Śūnyavāda, the theory of Void.

If one only is denied it is proper that Brahman is denied, for It is not seen and therefore Its existence is doubtful, and not the world, since we experience it.

The Sutra refutes this view and says that what has been described till now, i.e. the two forms of Brahman, gross and subtle, is denied by the words ‘Not this, not this’ the double mention of these words of denial applying to the two forms of Brahman.

The word ‘Iti’ refers to what has been mentioned immediately before, i.e. the two forms of Brahman, the subject-matter of the discussion, and therefore cannot refer to Brahman Itself, which is not the main topic of the preceding texts.

Moreover, after denying the world the Śruti says something more than that about Brahman,

i.e.The Truth of truth’ meaning thereby that Brahman alone is the one reality that exists and is the substratum of the world, which is illusory.

Nor is it reasonable to suppose that the Śruti, professing to teach about Brahman, will deny it.

It is the Truth of truth, i.e. the reality behind ‘Sat’, or earth, water, and fire, and ‘Tyat’ or air and ether, the definite and indefinite forms in nature.

There is no contradiction to perception in this denial of the world, for it denies only the transcendental reality of the world and not its Vyavahārika or phenomenal reality, which remains intact.

The objection, i.e. that Brahman is not experienced, and therefore it is Brahman that is denied, is baseless; for the object of the Śruti is to teach about something which is not ordinarily experienced by us; otherwise its teaching would be redundant.

Sutra 3,2.23

तदव्यक्तम्, आह हि ॥ २३ ॥

tadavyaktam, āha hi || 23 ||

tat—That (Brahman); avyaktam—is not manifest; āha—(so the scripture) says; hi—for.

23. That (Brahman) is not manifest, for (so the scripture) says.

If Brahman exists, then why is It not perceived?

The Śruti says that Brahman is unmanifest on account of our being covered with ignorance. Therefore It is not perceived by us: “He is not apprehended by the eye, nor by the other senses, nor by penance” etc. (Mu. 3. 1. 8).

Sutra 3,2.24

अपि च संराधने, प्रत्यक्षानुमानाभ्याम् ॥ २४ ॥

api ca saṃrādhane, pratyakṣānumānābhyām || 24 ||

api ca—And moreover; saṃrādhane—in perfect meditation (It is experienced); pratyakṣa-anumānābhyām—from the Śruti and Smriti.

24. And moreover (Brahman is experienced) in perfect meditation, (as we know) from the Śruti and Smriti.

If Brahman is not manifest to us, then we can never know It, and therefore there will be no Freedom.

This Sutra says that Brahman is not known only to those whose heart is not purified, but those who are purified realize It in the state of Samādhi when ignorance is destroyed.

That this is so is known from the Śruti and Smriti: “Some wise man, however, with his eyes turned inside and wishing for immortality saw the Self within” (Kath. 2.4.1); also Mu. 3.1.8.

The Smriti also says the same thing: “He who is seen as Light by the Yogins meditating on Him sleeplessly, with suspended breath, contented minds, and subdued senses” etc.

Sutra 3,2.25

प्रकाशादिवच्चावैशेष्यं प्रकाशश्च कर्मणि, अभ्यासात् ॥ २५ ॥

prakāśādivaccāvaiśeṣyaṃ prakāśaśca karmaṇi, abhyāsāt || 25 ||

prakāśādivat—Like light etc.; ca—and; avaiśeṣyaṃ—(there is) no difference; prakāśaḥ—Brahman; ca—also; karmaṇi—in work; abhyāsāt—on account of repeated mention (in the Śruti).

25. And as in the case of light etc. there is no difference, (so) also between Brahman (and its manifestation) in activity; on account of the repeated instruction (of the Śruti to that effect).

The nature of the Jīva and Brahman has been described. Now their identity is being explained.

If according to the last Sutra Brahman is the object of meditation and the Jīva is the meditator, it means that there is duality, and not the unity of Brahman.

This Sutra explains it. Even as between the sun and its reflection in water etc. there is in reality no difference, the image being unreal, so also the one Brahman manifests as many in the limiting adjuncts of activity like meditation etc.

Through ignorance the meditating self thinks it is different from Brahman; but in reality it is identical with Brahman. That it is so is known from repeated instruction of the Śruti in texts like, “That thou art”, “I am Brahman”, which deny difference.

Sutra 3,2.26

अतोऽनन्तेन, तथा हि लिङ्गम् ॥ २६ ॥

ato’nantena, tathā hi liṅgam || 26 ||

ataḥ—Therefore; anantena—with the Infinite; tathā—thus; hi—for; liṅgam—(the scripture) indicates.

26. Therefore (the individual soul becomes one) with the Infinite; for thus (the scripture) indicates.

The Jīva attains identity with Brahman on the dawning of Knowledge, when ignorance with all its limiting adjuncts disappears: “He who knows that Supreme Brahman becomes Brahman Itself” (Mu.3.2.9).

If the difference were real, then one could not become Brahman Itself. Knowledge may destroy ignorance, but not what is real.

Now, since the Jīva becomes Brahman, its individuality was not real, and hence it was destroyed by Knowledge, leaving only Brahman.

So the difference is unreal, the identity real.

Sutra 3,2.27

उभयव्यपदेशात्त्वहिकुण्डलवत् ॥ २७ ॥

ubhayavyapadeśāttvahikuṇḍalavat || 27 ||

ubhayavyapadeśāt—On account of both being taught; tu—but; ahikuṇḍalavat—like that between a serpent and its coils.

27. But on account of both (i.e. difference and non-difference) being taught (by the Śruti) (the relation of the Jīva and Brahman is to be taken) like that between a serpent and its coils.

Having established the identity of the Jīva and Brahman, the author proceeds to elucidate it further by examining the theory of difference and non-difference.

In the scriptures we find also texts like, “Two birds of beautiful plumage” etc. (Mu. 3. 1 . 1), which speak of difference between the Jīva and Brahman.

So we have to understand that the difference between them prior to Liberation is real, though when it is destroyed by Knowledge they attain identity.

Hence we have to take that their relation is one of difference and non-difference, as between a serpent and its coils:

As a snake it is one but if we look at the coils, hood, etc. there is difference. Similarly between the Jīva and Brahman there is difference as well as non-difference.

Sutra 3,2.28

प्रकाशाश्रयवद्वा, तेजस्त्वात् ॥ २८ ॥

prakāśāśrayavadvā, tejastvāt || 28 ||

prakāśa-āśrayavat—Like light and its substratum; —or; tejastvāt—on account of both being luminous.

28. Or like (the relation of) light and its substratum, on account of both being luminous.

Another example is given to establish the theory of difference and non-difference.

The relation between the Jīva and Brahman may be taken to be like that between light and its orb. Both being luminous are non-different; yet on account of their varying extensity they are spoken of as different.

So is the relation between the Jīva and Brahman one of difference and non-difference, the one being limited and the other all-pervading.

Sutra 3,2.29

पूर्ववद्वा ॥ २९ ॥

pūrvavadvā || 29 ||

pūrvavat—As before; —or.

29. Or (the relation between the two, i.e. Jīva and Brahman) is as given before.

Having given in the two previous Sutras the view of Bhedābheda vādins, the upholders of difference and non-difference, this Sutra refutes it

and establishes as the final truth what has been stated in Sutra 25, i.e. that the difference is merely illusory and non-difference is the reality.

For if the difference is also real, it can never cease to be, and all the instruction of the Śruti with respect to Liberation will be useless, for bondage is nothing but this idea of separateness, and if this is real, there can be no Liberation at all.

But if the difference is due to ignorance, then Knowledge can destroy it and the reality, the non-difference may be realized.

So the views given in Sutras 27 and 28, which later on were developed by Kumārila and Bhāskara, are not correct, and the view given in Sutra 25 alone is correct.

Sutra 3,2.30

प्रतिषेधाच्च ॥ ३० ॥

pratiṣedhācca || 30 ||

pratiṣedhāt—On account of the denial; ca—and.

30. And on account of the denial.

From the Śruti texts like, “There is no other witness but He” (Brih, 8. 7. 28), which deny that there exists any other intelligent being apart from Brahman,

and from the denial of the world by, “Not this, not this”, it follows that there is no other entity but Brahman.

Therefore there is only one Brahman without any difference whatsoever.