An Analysis of the Brahma Sutra
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 9: The Causal Law as a Limitation

Inasmuch as we cannot forget that we are just physical bodies, however much we may theoretically say that we are not the bodies, the inveterate feeling that we are just the body only situated in one place only does not easily leave us. That there is something outside the body – there is a big world outside – this feeling also one cannot avoid. That there is a world outside is a feeling consequent upon the feeling that we are inside the body. So, if we feel that we are not inside the body really, then the world is not outside us. But who can say that we are not in the body? Whatever be the learning of a person – saint or sage – whoever he is, he will feel 'I am sitting here only'! No one can feel, 'I am everywhere'.

There is a devil catching hold of everyone. This idiocy of attachment to the body as the only reality compels us to commit many other mistakes. What is the mistake? One is: 'As I am here, therefore the world must be outside' – it follows. But the third question arises – from where has the world come?

There is a peculiar trait in the mind which has been discussed by all philosophers of East and West, namely that it can speak only in terms of cause and effect; Everything must have a cause – otherwise the question arises 'From where has it come?'! Why should the world come from somebody? Who told you that it must come from somewhere? But the causal law, which is sitting inside the mind as the very texture of the mind – the very fabric of it – without which the mind cannot think, compels the individual to feel on the one hand that it is in one place only, that the world is outside, and there must be somebody to create the world. This unavoidable predicament should be taken into consideration before we conclude whether God is a person or God is not a person.

'Are you a person?' – you put a question to your own self – 'Am I a person or am I not a person?' Who will say, 'I am not a person'? Therefore, a universally extended counter-correlative of this 'my existing here' projects itself automatically through the causal law that there must be a world and a God who is above both. Nobody says that God is sitting just here – He is far away – very far! If that is the case, to attain God a lot of time is necessary; one cannot reach God just now, because of the distance involved between oneself and God. Whether there is really such a distance or not is immaterial; once it is confirmed by the mind that there is a distance, then it will stick to it, just as there is what is known as imaginary illness; for reasons which are many, one can feel one is sick. Before examination – one day before – the student may fall sick; when war takes place, a soldier may fall sick and take leave and go. In a similar manner, everybody is in a sort of sickness. So, when you say 'we want moksha – Liberation', liberation from what? Where is the bondage? This, in spite of it being elucidated everywhere in books and commentaries. Can anyone of us say where lies the bondage? Has God created bondage? We all go on saying that God created the world. If God created the world, he must have created the bondage of the world also. If God cannot be attributed to have created bondage, who will create bondage? We would not ourselves create a bondage of our own selves. Will I imprison myself deliberately? God does not create bondage, and it will be a blasphemy to say that God created bondage. Who else can create bondage? As this question cannot easily be answered, one cannot also easily know what Moksha is. Howevermuch you may scratch your head, nothing will come. The erroneous notion enveloping our existence is such that whatever we touch creates a difficulty for us:

Sarvarambha hi doshena dhumenagnirivavritah. (Bhagavad Gita 18.48)

"Anything that one does produces a cloud of reaction; It will not bring satisfaction!"

Actually, liberation means liberation from the notion of cause and effect, that something comes from something. As the mind is involved in the web of causal law, who will liberate the mind from the network of 'cause and effect'? This is why Jnana Yoga path is considered difficult. It is like trying to melt down one's own personality.

However, coming to the point, whether Moksha is the attainment of a personal God or it is something else, the Brahma Sutra does not clearly mention what kind of thing it is finally. If it had been clear, there would not have been so many commentaries on the Brahma Sutra – Sankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, Madhvacharya, etc. Every Sutra is somewhat vague. In some places, the Sutra says that the jiva or the individual is dependent on God. The dispensation of justice and the retribution of the Karmic Law is done by God and not by one's own self. Now, we have already got into trouble by defining God as a far-off Being. How does God touch us and have any relationship with us, if His distance from us is infinite?

These kinds of problems have made Acharya Madhva, who wrote a commentary on the Brahma Sutra, to feel there is no connection between the individual and God. This conclusion is frightening even to hear. Madhva's philosophy is that the individual soul, jiva, is a servant of God, dependent entirely.

The three Acharyas – Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva – have their own definitions of liberation. 'You become one; – that is liberation. Now, what is the meaning of becoming one with another thing? When water is mixed with milk, the two join together and become one substance as it were; you cannot see water separately sitting in the milk, yet water is not milk. The existence of the water is merged in the existence of the milk, notwithstanding the fact that one is different from the other. Ramanuja's view is some such thing; You may feel you are one with God as water may feel it is one with milk or milk may feel that it is one with water, but they are different; though for certain purposes, they look like one. The intimate relationship between God and the soul is such that one may feel it is the same as the other, though it is not. Ramanuja's conclusion is that the soul does not get identified with God, just as milk and water do not identify themselves with each other.

Madhva's view of liberation is like loss of individuality which is possible by getting mixed up with other individualities. Say, there are grains of rice and grains of sesame (til), – if sesame seeds and rice seeds are mixed together, each seed may think that it has lost its individual existence by communicating itself with other seeds – til with rice and rice with til. This is Madhva's idea of 'union' with Reality, but yet til cannot become rice; rice is quite different from til. In the case of milk and water at least, there is an appearance of identity but in til and rice, there is no such question at all. Here is the difference between Ramanuja's opinion about moksha, and Madhva's.

But in the case of Sankara, moksha is like 'water mixing with water'; It is total oneness. If hundred drops of water unite themselves, they become one drop only. But, mixing up one hundred rupee coins together would not convert them into one big rupee – they remain one hundred only. But here in the case of water, it is not like that. Any number of drops of water mixed together will become just one big drop. Finally it can become one huge drop like the ocean. This is Sankaracharya's standpoint, basically.

What does Brahma Sutra say? It does not say clearly anything! Otherwise why are all these people differing like this?! There are indications that all the three are correct from different points of view. The Upanishads have passages corroborating all these views.

Whether something exists really or not is not important. Does the consciousness believe that something is existing, or not, is what is important. Bondage is the belief of consciousness in the existence of certain factors which are binding. 'The world is binding; all people are sources of trouble and limitation' – this notion of the individual has to be overcome in order that the 'trouble-creating' elements may depart from the soul that is troubled, which is possible if the individual cuts itself off from the causal world completely or identifies itself with the world totally. The individual cannot cut itself off from the world as it is a part of the world; the only way is to unite itself with the world. The first attempt is ostensibly dangerous and unpractical. The second is laudable, and is the proper way of self-integration.