by Swami Sivananda
The Eater is Brahman.
Atta characharagrahanat I.2.9 (40)
The Eater (is Brahman), because both the movable and immovable (i.e. the whole world) is taken (as His food).
Atta: the Eater; Characharagrahanat: because the movable and immovable (i.e. the whole universe) is taken (as His food).
A passage from the Kathopanishad is now taken up for discussion. We read in Kathopanishad I.2.25 "Who then knows where He is, to Whom the Brahmanas and Kshatriyas are (as it were) but food, and death itself a condiment?" This text shows by means of the words 'food' and 'condiment' that there is some eater.
Who is this eater? Is it the fire referred to in as eater: "Soma indeed is food, and fire eater" Bri. Up. I-4-6, or is it individual soul referred to as eater "One of them eats the sweet fruit" Mun. Up. III-I-I, or the Supreme Self?
We reply that the eater must be the Supreme Self because it is mentioned what is movable and what is immovable. The entire universe is re-absorbed in Brahman. All things movable and immovable are here to be taken as constituting the food of Brahman while Death itself is the condiment. The eater of the whole world, the consumer of all these things in their totality can be Brahman alone and none else.
The Brahmanas and the Kshatriyas are mentioned as mere examples as they are foremost of created beings and as they hold a pre-eminent position. The words are merely illustrative.
The whole universe sprinkled over by Death is referred to here as the food. Condiment is a thing which renders other things more palatable and causes other things to be eaten with great relish. Therefore the Death itself is consumed, being a condiment as it were, it makes other things palatable. Therefore the Eater of the entire world made palatable by Death, can mean only Brahman in His aspect of Destroyer. He withdraws the whole universe within Himself at the time of Pralaya or dissolution. Therefore the Supreme Self must be taken here as the Eater.
The opponent says: Brahman cannot be an eater. The Sruti declares "The other looks on without eating". We say that this has no validity. The passage aims at denying the fruition of the results of works. It is not meant to deny the re-absorption of the world into Brahman; because it is well-established by all the Vedanta-texts that Brahman is the cause of the creation, sustenance and re-absorption of the world. Therefore the Eater can here be Brahman only.
Prakaranaccha I.2.10 (41)
And on account of the context also the (eater is Brahman).
Prakaranat: from the context; Cha: also, and.
An argument in support of Sutra 9 is given.
Brahman is the subject of the discussion. In the beginning Nachiketas asks Yama, "Tell me of that which is above good and evil, which is beyond cause and effect and which is other than the past and future" Katha Up. I-2-14. Yama replies, "I will tell you in brief. It is OM" Katha Up. I-2-15. This Atman is neither born nor does it die" Katha Up. I-2-18. He finally includes "of whom the Brahmana and the Kshatriya classes are, as it were, food and Death itself a condiment or pickle, how can one thus know where that Atman is?"
All this obviously shows that Brahman is the general topic. To adhere to the general topic is the proper proceeding. Hence the Eater is Brahman. Further the clause "Who then knows where he is", shows that realisation is very difficult. This again points to the Supreme Self.
The force of the word 'Cha' (and) in the Sutra is to indicate that the Smriti is also to the same effect, as says the Gita.
"Thou art the Eater of the worlds, of all that moves and stands; worthier of reverence than the Guru's self, there is none like Thee".