Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-3-8

Topic 8 - The self referred to in Ait. 1.1 is the Supreme Self and consequently the attributes of the Self given in other places are to be included in this Aitareya meditation

Sutra 3,3.16

आत्मगृहीतिरितरवत्, उत्तरात् ॥ १६ ॥

ātmagṛhītiritaravat, uttarāt || 16 ||

ātmagṛhīti—The Supreme Self is meant; itaravat—as in other texts (dealing with creation); uttarāt—on account of the subsequent qualification.

16. (In the Aitareya Upanishad 1.1) the Supreme Self is meant, as in other texts (dealing with creation), on account of the subsequent qualification.

Verily in the beginning all this was the Self, one only; there was nothing else whatsoever” etc. (Ait. 1. 1.).

Does the word ‘Self’ here refer to the Supreme Self or to Hiraṇyagarbha?

It refers to the Supreme Self, even as the word ‘Self’ in other texts dealing with creation refers to It and not to Hiraṇyagarbha: “From the Self sprang forth ether” (Taitt. 2. 1). Why?

Because in the subsequent text of the Aitareya we have, “It thought, ‘Shall I send forth worlds?’ It sent forth these worlds” (Ait. 1. 1-2).

This qualification, i.e. that ‘It thought’ before creation, is applied to Brahman in the primary sense in other Śruti texts. So from this we learn that the Self refers to the Supreme Self and not to Hiraṇyagarbha.

Sutra 3,3.17

अन्वयादिति चेत्, स्यात् अवधारणात् ॥ १७ ॥

anvayāditi cet, syāt avadhāraṇāt || 17 ||

anvayāt—Because of the context; iti cet—if it be said; syāt—it might be so; avadhāraṇāt—on account of the definite statement.

17. If it be said that because of the context (the Supreme Self is not meant, but Hiraṇyagarbha), (we reply that) it is so (i.e. the Supreme Self is meant) on account of the definite statement (that the Ātman alone existed at the beginning).

In the Aitareya Upanishad 1.1 the Self is said to have created the four worlds. But in the Taittirīya and other texts the Self creates ether, water, etc.— the five elements.

Now it is well known that creation of the worlds is by Hiraṇyagarbha with the help of the elements created by the Supreme Self. So the Self in the Aitareya cannot mean the Supreme Self but Hiraṇyagarbha.

The Sutra refutes it and says that on account of the statement, “Verily in the beginning all this was the Self, one only” (Ait. 1.1), which declares that there was one only without a second, it can only refer to the Supreme Self and not to Hiraṇyagarbha.

Therefore we have to take that the Supreme Self after creating elements as described in other Śākhās created the four worlds.

The object of Sutras 16 and 17 in establishing that the Supreme Self is meant is that the attributes of the Supreme Self given in other places are to be combined in the Aitareya meditation.