Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 4-4 1-6


In the last section the attainment of Brahmaloka by the worshippers of the Saguṇa Brahman has been dealt with.

This section deals with the realization of the Supreme Brahman by Its worshippers.

Topic 1 - The released soul does not acquire anything new but only manifests its true nature

 Sutra 4,4.1

संपद्याविर्भावः, स्वेनशब्दात् ॥ १ ॥

saṃpadyāvirbhāvaḥ, svenaśabdāt || 1 ||

saṃpadya—Having attained; āvirbhāvaḥ—there is manifestation (of its real nature); svenaśabdāt—from the word ‘own’.

1. (When the Jīva) has attained (the highest light) there is manifestation (of its real nature), as we know from the word ‘own’.

Now this serene and happy being, after having risen from this body, and having attained the highest light, reaches its own true form” (Chh. 8. 8. 4).

The opponent explains this text as follows:

The individual soul which has got rid of its identification with the three bodies, i.e. gross, subtle, and causal, after attaining Brahman exists in the state of Liberation.

This Liberation was not a pre-existent thing, but something that is newly acquired like heaven, as the word ‘reaches’ in the text clearly shows. Therefore Liberation is something new that is acquired by the Jīva.

The Sutra refutes this view and says that the word ‘own’ shows that Liberation was a pre-existent thing.

The Jīva manifests its own nature, i.e. its real nature, which was so long covered with ignorance. This is its attainment of Liberation. It is nothing that is newly acquired.

Sutra 4,4.2

मुक्तः, प्रतिज्ञानात् ॥ २ ॥

muktaḥ, pratijñānāt || 2 ||

muktaḥ—Released; pratijñānāt—from the premise.

2. (The Self which manifests Its true nature attains) Liberation, (as is known), from the premise (made in the scriptures).

If Liberation is nothing new that is acquired by the Jīva, then what is its difference from bondage?

The Jīva in the state of bondage was subject to the three states of wakefulness, dream, and deep sleep, and was experiencing happiness and misery, imagining itself to be finite.

On being freed from all these misconceptions it realizes it’s true nature, which is Absolute Bliss. This removal of all misconceptions is what is known as Liberation.

Between these two states there is a world of difference. How is it known that in this state the Jīva is liberated?

From the premise made in the scriptures—says the Sutra, “I will explain It to you further” (Chh 8.9.3; 8. 10. 4; 8.11.3)— here the Śruti proposes to expound that Self which is free from all imperfections,

and it begins thus: “The being without the body is not touched by pleasure and pain” (Chh. 8.12.1) and concludes, “Thus does this serene being rising above its body and having reached the highest light, appear in its own true nature” (Chh. 8. 12. 3).

Sutra 4,4.3

आत्मा, प्रकरणात् ॥ ३ ॥

ātmā, prakaraṇāt || 3 ||

ātmā—The Supreme Self; prakaraṇāt—on account of the context.

3. (The ‘light’ attained by the Jīva is) the Supreme Self; on account of the context.

The ‘Light’ attained by the Jīva which is referred to in the Chh. 8.3.4 is the Supreme Self, and not any physical light, for the Self is the subject-matter which is introduced thus:

The Self which is free from evil, undecaying,” etc. (Chh. 8. 7. 1),

The word ‘light’ is also used to denote the Self in texts like, “Upon that immortal Light of all lights the gods meditate as longevity” (Brih. 4. 4. 16).

Topic 2 - The relation of the released soul with Brahman is one of non-separation

 Sutra 4,4.4

अविभागेन, दृष्टत्वात् ॥ ४ ॥

avibhāgena, dṛṣṭatvāt || 4 ||

avibhāgena—As inseparable; dṛṣṭatvāt—for it is so seen from the scriptures.

4. (The Jīva in the state of Liberation exists) as inseparable (from Brahman), for it is so seen from the scriptures.

The question is raised whether the Jīva in the state of Liberation exists as different from Brahman or as one with, and inseparable from, It.

The Sutra says that it exists as inseparable from Brahman, for the scriptures say so:

That thou art” (Chh. 6. 8. 7); “I am Brahman” (Brih. 1. 4. 10); “Being but Brahman, he is merged in Brahman” (Brih. 4. 4. 6)—all these texts declare that the released soul is identical with Brahman.

Passages which speak of difference have to be explained in a secondary sense as expressing unity.

Topic 3 - Characteristics of the soul that has attained the Nirguna Brahman

 Sutra 4,4.5

ब्राह्मेण जैमिनिः, उपन्यासादिभ्यः ॥ ५ ॥

brāhmeṇa jaiminiḥ, upanyāsādibhyaḥ || 5 ||

brāhmeṇa—As possessed of the attributes of Brahman; jaiminiḥ—(so says) Jaimini; upanyāsādibhyaḥ—on account of the reference etc.

5. (The liberated soul exists) as possessed of the attributes of Brahman; (so says) Jaimini, on account of the reference etc.

It has been said that the liberated soul attains Brahman.

But Brahman has two aspects; one the unconditioned aspect as Pure Intelligence and Knowledge;

the other as described in the Chāṇḍogya 8. 7. I, “The Self which is free from evil, undecaying, undying, free from sorrow, hunger and thirst, with true desires and volition” etc.

The question is, which aspect does the liberated soul attain? Jaimini says that it is the conditioned aspect. Why?

On account of the reference to the nature of the Self as being such in the text cited.

Etc.’ includes Vidhi and Vyapadesa. The Vidhi or injunction referred to is, “That is to be sought after,” which the same Chāṇḍogya text enjoins later on,

and Vyapadesa or assertion is the mention of the qualities of omniscience and omnipotence in the same text—“Obtains all worlds and all desires.”

On these grounds Jaimini thinks that the liberated soul attains the conditioned aspect of Brahman.

Sutra 4,4.6

चितितन्मात्रेण तदात्मकत्वादित्यौडुलोमिः ॥ ६ ॥

cititanmātreṇa tadātmakatvādityauḍulomiḥ || 6 ||

citi-tanmātreṇa—Solely as Pure Intelligence; tat-ātmakatvāt—that being its true nature; iti—thus; auḍulomiḥ—Auḍulomi (thinks).

6. (The liberated soul exists) solely as Pure Intelligence, that being its true nature; thus Auḍulomi (thinks).

This Sutra gives another view about the liberated state, which is that of the sage Auḍulomi.

The soul being solely of the nature of Pure Intelligence, it exists as such in the liberated state. Qualities like being free from sin and omniscience are fanciful, and mean only the absence of sin etc.

 Sutra 4,4.7

एवमप्युपन्यासात् पूर्वभावादविरोधं बादरायणः ॥ ७ ॥

evamapyupanyāsāt pūrvabhāvādavirodhaṃ bādarāyaṇaḥ || 7 ||

evam—Thus; api—even; upanyāsāt—on account of reference; pūrvabhāvāt—the former qualities existing; avirodhaṃ—there is no contradiction; bādarāyaṇaḥ—(so says) Bâdarâyana.

7. Even if it be so (i.e. if the liberated soul exists as Pure Intelligence), on account of former qualities existing owing to reference (we can accept them from the relative standpoint, for) there is no contradiction (between the two); (so thinks) Bādarāyaṇa.

Even though from the absolute standpoint the nature of the liberated soul is Pure Intelligence, yet from the relative standpoint qualities referred to by Jaimini can be accepted, as this does not contradict Auḍulomi’s view.

The released soul never thinks of itself as omniscient, omnipotent, etc., but exists as Pure Intelligence.

But from our relative standpoint we can say of such a released soul as being omniscient etc., because Pure Intelligence is beyond our conception.

The two views describe the liberated soul from two different standpoints, and so there is no contradiction between the two. So says Bādarāyaṇa.

Topic 4 - The soul which has attained the Saguṇa Brahman effects its desires by mere will

 Sutra 4,4.8

संकल्पादेव तु, तच्छ्रुतेः ॥ ८ ॥

saṃkalpādeva tu, tacchruteḥ || 8 ||

saṃkalpāt—Through will; eva—only; tu—but; tat-śruteḥ—on account of the scriptures saying that.

8. But through mere will (the released souls attain their purpose), for the scriptures say so.

The question of those who attain Brahmaloka through the worship of the Saguṇa Brahman by means of Vidyās like the Dahara Vidyā is taken up for discussion in this Sutra.

In this Vidyā it is said, “If he be desirous of the world of the fathers, by his mere will they come to him” (Chh. 8. 2. 1).

The question is whether will alone suffices to get the result, or a further operative cause is necessary.

This Sutra says that by mere will the result comes, for the Śruti so declares. The will of the released is different from our will, and has the power of producing results without any operative cause.

Sutra 4,4.9

अत एव चानन्याधिपतिः ॥ ९ ॥

ata eva cānanyādhipatiḥ || 9 ||

ata eva—For the very reason; ca—and; ananyādhipatiḥ—he is without a lord.

9. And for this very reason the released soul is without a lord.

A liberated soul is master of himself. “For them there is freedom in all worlds” (Chh. 8. 1. 6).

Topic 5 - A released soul which has attained Brahmaloka can exist with or without a body according to its liking

 Sutra 4,4.10

अभावं बादरिः, आह ह्येवम् ॥ १० ॥

abhāvaṃ bādariḥ, āha hyevam || 10 ||

abhāvaṃ—Absence (of body and organs); bādariḥ—Bādari (considers); āha—(the Śruti) says; hi—because; evam—thus.

10. There is absence (of body and organs, in the case of the released souls) (considers) Bādari, because (the scripture) says thus.

In the previous Sutra it was told that if one attains Brahmaloka, by his mere wish things come to pass. This shows that that soul possesses a mind.

The question naturally arises whether it possesses a body and the organs.

Bādari says that it does not, for the scripture says so:

And it is by means of this divine eye of the mind that he sees the desires and rejoices” (Chh. 8. 12. 5), which shows that it possesses only the mind and not the organs etc.

Sutra 4,4.11

भावं जैमिनिः, विकल्पामननात् ॥ ११ ॥

bhāvaṃ jaiminiḥ, vikalpāmananāt || 11 ||

bhāvaṃ—Existence; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini; vikalpa-āmananāt—because the scripture declares (the capacity to assume) diverse forms.

11. (The released soul) possesses (a body and the organs), considers Jaimini, because the scriptures declare (the capacity on the part of such a soul to assume) diverse forms.

He being one becomes three, five, seven, nine” (Chh. 7. 26. 2).

This text says that a released soul can assume more than one form, which shows that it possesses besides the mind, a body and the organs.

This is the view of Jaimini.

Sutra 4,4.12

द्वादशाहवदुभयविधं बादरायणोऽतः ॥ १२ ॥

dvādaśāhavadubhayavidhaṃ bādarāyaṇo’taḥ || 12 ||

dvādaśāhavat—Like the twelve days’ sacrifice; ubhayavidhaṃ—(is) of both kinds; bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bâdarâyana; ataḥ—from this.

12. From this Bādarāyaṇa (surmises) (that the released soul is) of both kinds, like the twelve days’ sacrifice.

From the twofold declaration of the scriptures Bādarāyaṇa thinks that a released soul which has attained Brahmaloka can exist both ways—with or without a body according to its liking.

It is like the twelve days’ sacrifice, which is called a Sattra as well as a Ahina sacrifice.

Sutra 4,4.13

तन्वभावे सन्ध्यवत्, उपपत्तेः ॥ १३ ॥

tanvabhāve sandhyavat, upapatteḥ || 13 ||

tat-abhāve—In the absence of a body; sandhyavat—as in dreams (which stand midway between waking and deep sleep); upapatteḥ—this being reasonable.

13. In the absence of a body (the fulfilment of desires is possible) as in dreams, since this is reasonable.

Sutra 4,4.14

भावे जाग्रद्वत् ॥ १४ ॥

bhāve jāgradvat || 14 ||

bhāve—When the body exists; jāgrat-vat—as in the waking state.

14. When the body exists (the fulfilment of desires is) as in the waking state.

Topic 6 - The released soul which has attained the Saguṇa Brahman can animate several bodies at the same time

 Sutra 4,4.15

प्रदीपवदावेशः, तथा हि दर्शयति ॥ १५ ॥

pradīpavadāveśaḥ, tathā hi darśayati || 15 ||

pradīpavat—Like a flame; āveśaḥ—animating; tathā—so; hi—because; darśayati—the scripture shows.

15. (The released soul’s) animating (different bodies) is like that of a flame, because so the scripture shows.

In Sutra 11 it was stated that a liberated soul can assume many bodies at the same time for enjoyment.

The opponent holds that this is useless, as enjoyment is possible only in that body in which the soul and mind exist, while other bodies are lifeless puppets, since the soul and mind, which cannot be divided, cannot exist in more than one body.

The Sutra refutes this view and says that the other bodies are not lifeless puppets, for a released soul can, on account of its power, animate all these bodies, just as the flame of a lamp can enter into different wicks lighted from it.

The soul through its powers creates bodies with internal organs corresponding to the original internal organ, and being limited by these, divides itself as many. Hence all the created bodies have a soul, which makes enjoyment through all of these possible.

This we get from the scriptures.

Sutra 4,4.16

स्वाप्ययसंपत्त्योरन्यतरापेक्षम्, आविष्कृतं हि ॥ १६ ॥

svāpyayasaṃpattyoranyatarāpekṣam, āviṣkṛtaṃ hi || 16 ||

svāpyaya-saṃpattyoḥ—Of deep sleep and absolute union (with Brahman); anyatara-apekṣam—having in view either of these two; āviṣkṛtaṃ—this is made ciear (by the Śruti); hi—for.

16. (The declaration of absence of all cognition is made) having in view either of the two states, i.e. deep sleep and absolute union (with Brahman), for this is made clear (by the scriptures).

What should one know and through what” (Brih. 2 . 4. 3 4); “But there is not that second thing separate from it which it can know” (Ibid. 4. 3. 30); “It becomes like water, one, the witness, and without a second” (Ibid. 4. 3. 32).

These texts deny cognition to a released soul; so how is it possible for a released soul to assume several bodies and enjoy—says the opponent.

This Sutra says that these texts refer either to the state of deep sleep or to that of Liberation, in which the soul attains absolute union with the Nirguna Brahman, as is made clear by the scriptures from the context in each case.

But what we have been discussing in the previous Sutras is the case of one who has attained not absolute union with Brahman, but only Brahmaloka.

This state is quite different from the other two states, and as such, cognition is possible in it, there being diversity, as also enjoyment, even as in heaven,

the difference being that from Brahmaloka one does not return to this earth, whereas from heaven one returns to this mortal world after the exhaustion of the virtue which raised him to the status of a god.