Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


CHAPTER ONE: SAMANVAYA ADHYAYA

Section 1: Samanvayadhikaranam: Topic 4 (Sutra 4)

Brahman the main purport of all Vedantic texts.


Tattu Samanvayat I.1.4 (4)

But that (Brahman is to be known only from the Scriptures and not independently by any other means is established), because it is the main purpose (of all Vedantic texts).

Tat: that; Tu: but; Samanvayat: on account of agreement or harmony, because it is the main purpose.

The argument in support of Sutra 2 is continued. Brahman or the Absolute can be known only from the scriptures because all the scriptural passages can be harmonised only by such a doctrine. The Vedantic texts refer to Brahman only, because they have Brahman for their main topic. The proposition that Brahman is the only cause of the world is established: because this is the authoritative saying of the scriptures. All the Vedantic texts agree in this respect.

The word 'tu' (but) is employed to rebut the above Purvapaksha or the prima facie view as urged above. It is proper to say that Brahman is the uniform topic taught in all the Vedantic texts. Why? Samanvayat. Anvaya means construing a passage according to the six characteristics or Shad Lingas viz., (1) Upakrama-Upasamhara Ekavakyata – agreement in beginning and conclusion; (2) Abhyasa – repetition; (3) Apurvata – Uniqueness of subject matter; (4) Phala – fruit; (5) Arthavada – praise and (6) Yukti – reasoning. These six marks help to arrive at the real purport of any work. In chapter six of the Chhandogya Upanishad Brahman is the main purport of all passages. In the beginning you will find "This world, my child, was but the Real (Sat) in the beginning." It concludes, "In it all that exists has its Self. It is true. It is the Self." There is agreement in the opening and concluding passages. This is Upakrama-Upasamhara. Uddalaka the preceptor, repeats 'Tat Tvam Asi' nine times to his disciple Svetaketu. This is repetition (Abhyasa). Brahman is doubtless unique, as He is Infinite and secondless. When you attain knowledge of Brahman everything else is known. This is Phala or fruit.

There is reasoning in the scriptures. Just as pots are nothing but clay, ornaments are nothing but gold, so also this world of names and forms is nothing but Brahman. If you know the nature of clay, you will know all that is made out of clay. Even so if you know Brahman, everything else will be known to you. Brahman is the source of the creation, preservation and dissolution of the universe. This is Artha-vada or Stuti-vada by way of praise. All these six marks or Shad Lingas denote that the chief topic or main purport of the Vedantic texts is Brahman.

All the Vedanta-texts have for their purport Brahman, for example, "Being only this was in the beginning, one without a second" (Chh. Up. VI-2-1) "In the beginning all this was Atman or self only" (Ait. Ara. II-4-I-1). "This is Brahman without cause and without effect, without anything inside or outside; this self is Brahman perceiving everything" (Bri. Up. II-5-19) "That Immortal Brahman is before" (Mun. Up. II-2-11) and similar passages. It is not right to think that these passages have a different sense. The passages cannot refer to agents, divinities connected with acts of religious duty. You will find in Bri. Up. II-4-14, "Then by what should he see and Whom?" This clearly shows that there is neither an agent, nor an object of action, nor an instrument.

Brahman cannot become an object of perception and other means of knowledge, because It is extremely subtle, abstract, infinite and all-pervading. How can a finite insentient instrument know the Infinite? The senses and the mind derive their power and light from Brahman the source. Brahman is Self-luminous, Self-existent, Self-knowledge, Self-delight, and Self-contained. Brahman cannot be realised without the aid of Vedantic passage "Tat Tvam Asi – Thou art That" (Chh. Up. VI-8-7).

When one realises Brahman, he is totally freed from all sorts of miseries and pains. He attains the goal of life or the summum bonum. The conception of duality as agent, action and the like is destroyed. Self-realisation is not a fruit of action. It is not a result of your willing or doing. It is the result of realising one's identity with Brahman. Scripture aims only at removing the veil of ignorance or Avidya. Then the self-effulgent Brahman shines by Itself in Its pristine glory. The state of Moksha or the final emancipation is eternal. It is not transient like the fruits attained through action. Action depends upon the will and is independent of the object. Knowledge depends on the nature of the object and is independent of the will of the knower.

A proper understanding of the Vedantic texts leads to the final emancipation of man. It is not necessary for him to exert or do any superhuman feat or action. It is only mere understanding that it is a rope and not a snake that helps to destroy one's fear. Scripture does not speak only of ethical and ceremonial duties. It reveals the soul and helps one to attain Self-realisation. The sage who has learnt by the help of Vedantic texts to remove the erroneous identification with the body will not experience pain. It is only the ignorant worldly minded man who experiences pain on account of his identification with the body.

The attainment of heaven, procuring a son, getting rain, etc., are taught in the Vedas as incitement to the acquirement of knowledge of Brahman by baby souls and to produce faith in man. When he finds that the Vedic Mantras have the power to produce rain he gets faith in them and has an inclination to study them. He gradually gets disgust for the mundane objects and develops discrimination between the real and the transitory and burning yearning for liberation. He develops love for Brahman. Therefore all Vedas teach Brahman. Sacrifices give mundane fruits only when they are done with selfish motives, only when Kama or strong desire is at the back of the Mantras. When they are performed with Nishkamya Bhava without selfish motives they purify the heart and help to attain knowledge of the Self. Hence Karma Kanda itself, by teaching the worship of various deities, becomes part of Brahma Jnana. It is really the worship of Brahman, when the element of desire or selfishness is removed. Such a worship purifies the heart and produces a taste for enquiry of Brahman. It does not produce any other earthly desire.

The object of enquiry in the Karma Kanda is something to be accomplished viz., duty. The object of enquiry in Vedanta texts is the already existent, absolutely accomplished Brahman. The fruit of the knowledge of Brahman must be different from the fruit of knowledge of duty which depends on the performance of action.

You will find in the Upanishads "Verily the Self (Atman) is to be seen" Bri. Up. II-4-5. "The Atman which is free from sin that it is which we must search out, that it is which we must try to understand" Chh. Up VIII-7-1. "Let a man worship him as Atman or the Self – Bri. Up I-4-7; Let a man worship the Atman only as his true state – Bri. Up. I-4-15; He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman – Mun. Up. III-2-9". These texts rouse in you a desire to know what that Brahman is. The Vedantic texts give a beautiful description of the nature of Brahman. They teach that Brahman is eternal, all-knowing, absolutely self-sufficient, ever pure, free, pure knowledge, absolute bliss, self-luminous and indivisible. One attains final emancipation as the fruit of meditation on Brahman.

The Vedantic texts declare, "The wise who knows the Atman as bodiless within the bodies, as unchanging among changing things, as great and omnipresent does never grieve" (Katha Up. II-22). "He is without breath, without mind, pure" (Mun. Up. II-1-2). "That person is not attached to anything" (Bri. Up. IV-3-15). All these texts establish the fact that the final emancipation differs from all the fruits of action and is an eternally and essentially bodiless state. Moksha is Kutastha Nitya, i.e., eternal, without undergoing any change. Brahman is omnipresent like ether (Akasavat Sarvagata) free from all modifications (Nirvikara), absolutely Self-sufficient, Self-contained (Nirapeksha), indivisible (Akhanda). He is not composed of parts (Nishkala). He is Self-luminous (Svayam Prakasa, Svayam Jyoti).

You will find in Katha Upanishad, "Different from merit and demerit, different from effect and cause, different from past and future is that Brahman" (I-2-14). Moksha is the same as Brahman. Moksha or Brahman cannot be the effect of actions. It cannot be supplementary to actions. If it is so it would be non-eternal.

To know Brahman is to become Brahman. Mundaka Upanishad says, "He who knows Brahman becomes Brahman." As Brahman is an already existing entity, knowing Brahman does not involve an act like a ritualistic act. When Avidya or nescience is destroyed through knowledge of the Self, Brahman manifests Itself, just as the rope manifests itself when the illusion of snake is removed. As Brahman is your Inner Self you cannot attain It by any action. It is realised as one's own Atman when the ignorance is annihilated. Texts like "The Atman is to be realised" etc., is not an injunction. It is intended to withdraw the mind of the aspirant from external objects and turn it inwards.

Brahman is not an object of the action of knowing. "It is different from the Known and again it is beyond the Unknown (Kena Up. I-3) "How should he know him by whom He knows all this" (Bri. Up. II-4-14). Brahman is expressly declared not to be the object of an act of devout worship (Upasana). "Know that alone to be Brahman, not that which people adore here" (Kena Up. I-5).

The scripture never describes Brahman as this or that. Its purpose is to show that Brahman as the eternal subject, Pratyagatman, the inner Self is never an object. It cannot be maintained that Moksha or Brahman is something to be ceremonially purified. There is no room for a purificatory ceremony in the eternally pure Brahman.

Brahman is the Self or Atman of all. It can neither be striven nor avoided. All objects perish because they are mere modifications of the five elements. But the Soul or Brahman is immortal and unchanging. It is in its essence eternally pure and free.

He who identifies himself with his body experiences pain. A sage who has removed Dehadhyasa or identification of the body by identifying himself with the pure, all-pervading Brahman will not experience pain. A rich man who is puffed up by the conceit of his wealth is affected with grief when he loses his wealth. But he is not affected by the loss of wealth after he has once retired from the world and has become an ascetic. A sage who has attained knowledge of Brahman cannot be a merely worldly doer as before. He does not belong to this world as he did before. A worldly man also can become a sage of Self-realisation with the Bhava of non-doer (Akarta), non-agent (Abhokta). The Srutis declare "When he is free from the body, then neither pleasure nor pain touches him" (Chh. Up. VIII-12-1). The objector may say "The state of being free from the body follows only when a man dies." This is entirely wrong because the cause of man being joined to the body is erroneous knowledge. The sage who has attained knowledge of Brahman, and who identifies himself with Brahman is free from his body even while still alive. The Sruti also declares "Just as the slough of a snake lies on an ant-hill, dead and cast away, so also lies this body. That bodiless immortal Soul is Brahman only, is only light." (Bri. Up. IV-4-7). With eyes, He is without eyes as it were; with ears, without ears as it were; with speech, without speech as it were; with a mind, without mind as it were; with Prana, without Prana as it were; The sage is no longer connected with action of any kind.

The Sankhyas say that the Vedantic texts about creation do not refer to Brahman but to the Pradhana which is made up of the three Gunas – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas – as the First Cause. They maintain that all the Vedanta texts which treat of the creation of the world clearly point out that the cause of the world has to be concluded from the effect by inference and the cause which is to be inferred is the connection of the Pradhana or Prakriti with the Souls or Purushas. The followers of Kanada (the School of Vaiseshika philosophy) infer from the very same passages that the Lord is the efficient cause of the universe and the atoms are its material cause.

The Sankhyas say "Omnipotence can be attributed to the Pradhana as it has all its effects for its objects. Omniscience also can be ascribed to it. Knowledge is really an attribute of Sattva Guna. Sattva is one of the components of Pradhana. Therefore Pradhana can be said to be omniscient. You cannot ascribe Omniscience or limited knowledge to the Soul or Purusha which is isolated and pure intelligence itself. Therefore the Vedanta texts ascribe Omniscience to the Pradhana although it is in itself non-intelligent".

"Brahman is without any instruments of action. As Pradhana has three components it seems reasonable that it alone is capable of undergoing modifications like clay into various objects and may act as a material cause, while the uncompounded, homogeneous and unchangeable Brahman is unable to do so. Therefore the Vedantic texts which treat of creation clearly refer to Pradhana only and therefore it is the First Cause referred to by the scriptures." To these conclusions Sri Vyasa gives an answer in the following Sutra.