Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Jyotischaranadhikaranam: Topic 10 (Sutras 24-27)

The light is Brahman.

Jyotischaranabhidhanat I.1.24 (24)

The 'light' is Brahman, on account of the mention of feet in a passage which is connected with the passage about the light.

Jyotih: the light; Charana: feet; Abhidhanat: because of the mention.

The expression 'Jyotih' (light) is next taken up for discussion. The Jyotis of Chhandogya Upanishad III-13-7 refers to Brahman and not to material light; because it is described as having four feet.

Sruti declares, "Now that light which shines above this heaven, higher than all, higher than everything, in the highest worlds beyond which there are no other worlds – that is the same light which is within man." Here the doubt arises whether the word "light" denotes the physical light of the sun and the like or the Supreme Self?

The Purvapakshin or the opponent holds that the word 'light' denotes the light of the sun and the like as it is the ordinary well-established meaning of the term. Moreover the word 'shines' ordinarily refers to the sun and similar sources of light. Brahman is colourless. It cannot be said in the primary sense of the word that it 'shines'. Further the word 'Jyotis' denotes light for it is said to be bounded by the sky ('that light which shines above this heaven'); the sky cannot become the boundary of Brahman which is the Self of all, which is all-pervading and infinite, and is the source of all things movable or immovable. The sky can form the boundary of light which is mere product and which is therefore united.

The word Jyoti does not mean physical light of the sun which helps vision. It denotes Brahman. Why? On account of the feet (quarters) being mentioned in a preceding text: "Such is its greatness, greater than this is the Purusha. One foot of It is all beings, while its remaining three feet are the Immortal in heaven" Chh. Up. III-12-6. That which in this text forms the three quarter part, immortal and connected with heaven of Brahman which altogether constitutes four quarters, this very same entity is again referred to in the passage under discussion, for there also it is said to be connected with heaven.

Brahman is the subject matter of not only the previous texts, but also of the subsequent section, Sandilya Vidya (Chh. Up. III-14). If we interpret 'light' as ordinary light, we will commit the error of dropping the topic started and introduce a new subject. Brahman is the main topic in the section immediately following that which contains the passage under discussion (Chh. Up. III-14). Therefore it is quite reasonable to say that the intervening section also (Chh. Up. III-13) treats of Brahman only. Hence we conclude that in the passage the word 'light' must denote Brahman only.

The word 'Jyoti' here does not at all denote that light on which the function of the eye depends. It has different meaning, for instance "with speech only as light man sits" (Bri. Up. IV-3-5); whatever illumines something else may be considered as 'light'. Therefore the term 'light' may be applied to Brahman also whose nature is intelligence because It gives light to the whole universe. The Srutis declare "Him the shining one, everything shines after; by His light all this is illumined" (Kau. Up. II-5-15) and "Him the gods worship as the Light of lights, as the Immortal" (Bri. Up. IV-4-16).

The mention of limiting adjuncts with respect to Brahman, denoted by the word 'light' 'bounded by heaven' and the assignment of a special locality serves the purpose of devout meditation. The Srutis speak of different kinds of meditation on Brahman as specially connected with certain localities such as the sun, the eye, the heart.

Therefore it is a settled conclusion that the word 'light' here denotes Brahman.

Chhando'bhidhananneti chet na tatha cheto'rpananigadat tatha hi darsanam I.1.25 (25)

If it be said that Brahman is not denoted on account of the metre Gayatri being denoted, we reply not so, because thus i.e. by means of the metre the application of the mind on Brahman is declared; because thus it is seen (in other passages also).

Chhandas: the metre known as Gayatri; Abhidhanat: because of the description; Na: not; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not; Tatha: thus, like that; Chet'orpana: application of the mind; Nigadat: because of the teaching; Tatha hi: like that; Darsanam: it is seen (in other texts).

An objection raised against Sutra 24 is refuted in this Sutra.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says "In the passage, 'One foot of It is all beings'," Brahman is not referred to but the metre Gayatri, because the first paragraph of the preceding section of the same Upanishad begins with "Gayatri is everything, whatsoever here exists". Hence the feet referred to in the text mentioned in the previous Sutra refer to this metre and not to Brahman.

In reply we say, not so; because the Brahmana passage "Gayatri indeed is all this" teaches that one should meditate on the Brahman which is connected with this metre, for Brahman being the cause of everything is connected with that Gayatri also and it is that Brahman which is to be meditated upon.

Brahman is meditated upon as Gayatri. By this explanation all become consistent. If Gayatri meant metre then it would be impossible to say of it that "Gayatri is everything whatsoever here exists" because certainly the metre is not everything. Therefore the Sutra says "Tatha hi darsanam" – So we see. By such an explanation only the above passage gives a consistent meaning. Otherwise we will have to hold a metre to be everything which is absurd. Therefore through Gayatri the meditation on Brahman is shown.

The direction of the mind is declared in the text 'Gayatri is all this'. The passage instructs that by means of the metre Gayatri the mind is to be directed on Brahman which is connected with that metre.

This interpretation is in accordance with the other texts in the same section e.g. "All this indeed is Brahman" Chh. Up. III-14-1 where Brahman is the chief topic.

Devout meditation on Brahman through its modifications or effects is mentioned in other passages also; for instance, Ait. Ar. III-2-3.12 "it is the Supreme Being under the name of Gayatri, whom the Bahvrichas worship as Mahat-Uktha i.e. Maha Prana, the Adhvaryu priests as Agni (fire), and the Chandoga priests as Maha Vrata (the greatest rite)."

Therefore Brahman is meant here and not the metre Gayatri.

Bhutadipadavyapadesopapatteschaivam I.1.26 (26)

And thus also (we must conclude, viz., that Brahman is the subject or topic of the previous passage, where Gayatri occurs) because (thus only) the declaration as to the beings etc. being the feet is possible.

Bhutadi: the elements etc. i.e. the elements, the earth, the body and the heart; Pada: (of) foot, part; Vyapadesa: (of) mention (of) declaration or expression; Upapatteh: because of the possibility or proof, reasonableness, as it is rightly deduced from the above reasons; Cha: also; Evam: thus, so.

An argument in support of Sutra 24 is adduced.

The beings, earth, body and heart can be felt only of Brahman and not of Gayatri, the metre, a mere collection of syllables. The previous passage has only Brahman for its topic or subject, because the text designates the beings and so on as the feet of Gayatri. The text at first speaks of the beings, the earth, the body and the heart and then goes on describing "that Gayatri has four feet and is sixfold". If Brahman were not meant, there would be no room for the verse "such is the greatness" etc.

Hence by Gayatri is here meant Brahman as connected with the metre Gayatri. It is this Brahman particularised by Gayatri that is said to be the Self of everything in the passage "Gayatri is everything" etc. Therefore Brahman is to be regarded as the subject matter of the previous passage also. This same Brahman is again recognised as light in Chh. Up. III-12-7.

The elements, the earth, the body and the heart cannot be represented as the four verses of Gayatri. They can be understood only to mean the fourfold manifestations of the Supreme Being. The word "heaven" is a significant word. Its use in connection with 'light' reminds us of its use in connection with the 'Gayatri' also. Therefore the 'light' shining above heaven is the same as the 'Gayatri' that has three of its feet in heaven.

Upadesabhedanneti chet naubhayasminnapyavirodhat I.1.27 (27)

If it be said (that Brahman of the Gayatri passage cannot be recognised in the passage treating of 'light') on account of the difference of designation or the specification (we reply) no, because in either (designation) there is nothing contrary (to the recognition).

Upadesa: of teaching of grammatical construction or cases; Bhedat: because of the difference; Na: not; Iti chet: if it be said; Na: no; Ubhayasmin: in both, (whether in the ablative case or in the locative case); Api: even; Avirodhat: because there is no contradiction.

Another objection against Sutra 24 is raised and refuted. If it be argued that there is a difference of expression consisting in case-ending in the Gayatri-Sruti and in the Jyoti Sruti regarding the word 'Div' (heaven) then the reply is 'No'; the argument is not tenable, as there is no material contradiction between the two expressions.

In the Gayatri passage "three feet of it are what is immortal in heaven", heaven is designated as the abode of Brahman; while in the latter passage "that light which shines above this heaven", Brahman is described as existing above heaven. One may object that the subject matter of the former passage cannot be recognised in the latter. The objector may say "how then can one and the same Brahman be referred to in both the texts?" It can; there can be no contradiction here. Just as in ordinary language a bird, although in contact with the top of a tree, is not only said to be on the tree, but also above the tree, so Brahman also, although being in heaven, is here referred to as being beyond heaven as well.

The locative "Divi" in heaven and the ablative 'Divah' above heaven are not contrary. The difference in the case-ending of the word "Div" is no contradiction as the locative case (the seventh case-ending) is often used in the scriptural texts to express secondarily the meaning of the ablative (the fifth case-ending).

Therefore the Brahman spoken of in the former passage can be recognised in the latter also. It is a settled conclusion that the word "light" denotes Brahman.

Though the grammatical cases used in the scriptural passage are not identical, the object of the reference is clearly recognised as being identical.