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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Vaisvanaradhikaranam: Topic 7 (Sutras 24-32)

Vaisvanara is Brahman.

Vaisvanarah sadharanasabdaviseshat I.2.24 (55)

Vaisvanara (is Brahman) on account of the distinction qualifying the common terms ("Vaisvanara" and "Self").

Vaisvanarah: Vaisvanara; Sadharana sabda: common word; Viseshat: because of the distinction.

This Sutra proves that the word "Vaisvanara" used in Sruti for worship indicates Brahman.

We read in Chh. Up. V.18.1-2 "He who meditates on the Vaisvanara Self, extending from heaven to earth as identical with his own Self, eats food in all beings, in all selfs. Of that Vaisvanara Self Sutejas (heaven) is the head, the sun the eye, the feet the earth, the mouth the Ahavaniya fire."

Here the doubt arises whether by the term "Vaisvanara" we have to understand the gastric fire or the elemental fire, or the god presiding over the elemental fire, or the individual soul or the Supreme Self (Brahman).

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says that Vaisvanara is the gastric fire because it is said in Bri. Up. V-9 "Agni Vaisvanara is the fire within man by which the food that is eaten is digested. Or it may denote fire in general or the deity which presides over the elemental fire or the individual soul who being an enjoyer is in close vicinity to Vaisvanara fire.

The Siddhantin says here that the Supreme Self or Brahman only is referred to on account of the qualifying adjuncts to these words. The adjuncts are "Heaven is the head of this Vaisvanara Self, the Sun its eyes, etc." This is possible only in the case of the Supreme Self.

Further in the passage "He eats food in all worlds, in all beings, in all selfs." This is possible only if we take the term Vaisvanara to denote the Highest Self.

The fruit of meditation on this Vaisvanara Self is the attainment of all desires and destruction of all sins (Chh. Up. V.24.3). This can only be true if the Supreme Self is meant. Moreover the chapter begins with the enquiry "What is our Self? What is Brahman?" The words 'Self' and 'Brahman' are marks of Brahman and indicate the Supreme Self only. The word 'Brahman' is used in its primary sense. Therefore it is proper to think that the whole chapter treats of Brahman only. Moreover, etymologically also the word Vaisvanara means Brahman; because it is composed of two words "Visva" meaning "all" and "Nara" meaning 'men' namely "He who contains all men within himself." Such a being is Brahman only.

It is a settled conclusion, therefore, that only Brahman can be meant by the term "Vaisvanara".

Smaryamanamanumanam syaditi I.2.25 (56)

Because that (cosmic form of the Supreme Lord) which is described in the Smriti is an indicatory mark or inference (from which we infer the meaning of this Sruti text under discussion).

Smaryamanam: mentioned in the Smriti; Anumanam: indicatory mark, inference; Syat: may be; Iti: because thus.

An argument in support of Sutra 24 is given. The word 'Iti' denotes a reason. It points to a corroborative statement which expresses the same thing as the Sruti. The Smritis interpret the passages of the Sruti. Therefore where a doubt arises as to the significance of a passage in the Sruti, the Smriti may be consulted in order to get more light on the subject matter. The Smriti gives a description of the cosmic form of the Highest Lord as "He whose mouth is fire, whose head is heaven, whose navel the ether, whose eyes the sun, whose ears the regions, reverence to Him, whose body is the world." This is in agreement with the description in the text under discussion. The same Lord who is spoken of in the Sruti is described in the Smriti also.

In the Bhagavad Gita XV-14 the word Vaisvanara is expressly applied to the Lord – "I having become the fire of life, take possession of the bodies of breathing beings and united with the life-breaths, I digest the four kinds of food." Here a truth about the Lord is declared in a Smriti passage and from it we may infer that the Vaisvanara Vidya taught in the Chhandogya Upanishad also refers to this mystery of the Lord. Hence Vaisvanara is the Highest Lord. Therefore it is a settled conclusion that the Supreme Lord is referred to in the text.

In the following Sutra the author removes the doubt that the Vaisvanara may denote the gastric fire.

Sabdadibhyo'ntahpratisthanaccha neti chet na tatha drishtyupadesat asambhavat purushamapi chainamadhiyate I.2.26 (57)

If it be said that (Vaisvanara is) not (Brahman) or the Highest Lord on account of the term (viz., Vaisvanara which has a different settled meaning viz., gastric fire) etc., and on account of his abiding within (which is a characteristic of the gastric fire) (we say) no, because there is the instruction to conceive (Brahman) as such (as the gastric fire, because it is impossible for the gastric fire to have the heaven etc., for its head and other limbs) and also because they (the Vajasaneyins) describe him (viz. the Vaisvanara) as man (which term cannot apply to the gastric fire).

Sabdadibhyah: on account of the word; Antah: within; Pratishthanat: because of abiding; Cha: and; Na: not; Iti chet: if it be said; Na: not so; Tatha: thus, as such; Drishtyupadesat: on account of the instructions to conceive it; Asambhavat: because of impossibility; Purusham: as person; Api: also; Cha: and; Evam: him; Adhyate: (they) describe.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

The Purvapakshin raises the following objection. The ordinary meaning of "Vaisvanara" is fire. Moreover scripture speaks of the Vaisvanara as abiding within. "He knows him abiding within man" Sat. Br. 10-6-1-11 which applies to the gastric fire only. Therefore the gastric fire alone and not Brahman is referred to in the text under discussion.

This Sutra refutes this objection. The Siddhantin gives the following reply. The Sruti here teaches the worship of Brahman in the gastric fire by way of meditation (Upasana) analogously to such passages as "Let a man meditate on the mind as Brahman" Chh. Up. III-18-1.

Moreover the gastric fire cannot have heaven for its head, and so on. Further the Vajasaneyins consider Vaisvanara as a man (Purusha). "This Agni Vaisvanara is a man" Sat. Br. 10.6.1-11.

Therefore "Vaisvanara" here refers to Brahman only. In the following Sutra the author sets aside the view that Vaisvanara of this passage means the Devata called Agni or the elemental fire.

Ata eva na devata bhutam cha I.2.27 (58)

For the same reasons (the Vaisvanara) cannot be the deity (fire) or the element (fire).

Ata eva: for the same reasons; Na: (is) not; Devata: the presiding deity of fire; Bhutam: the element of fire; Cha: and.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

The Purvapakshin says: the presiding deity of fire is a mighty being. He is endowed with great lordliness and power. Therefore heaven, etc., may very appropriately be its head and other members. Therefore the passage may very well apply to him.

For the same reasons stated in Sutra 26 Vaisvanara is neither the divinity of fire nor the element of fire. The elemental fire is mere heat and light. The heaven and so on cannot properly be ascribed as its head and so on, because an effect cannot be the Self of another effect. Again the heavenly world cannot be ascribed as head, etc., to the god of fire, because it is not the Supreme Cause but a mere effect and its power or glory depends on the Supreme Lord. To them the word "Atman" could not appropriately be applicable at all.

Sakshadapyavirodham Jaiminih I.2.28 (59)

Jaimini (declares that there is) no contradiction even (if by Vaisvanara) (Brahman is) directly (taken as the object of worship).

Sakshat: directly; Api: also, even; Avirodham: no objection, no contradiction; Jaiminih: (so says) Jaimini.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

Jaimini says that it is not necessary to state that what is meant by Vaisvanara is fire as a symbol of God and that the view that it means Brahman directly and in a primary sense is quite consistent and appropriate. The very word 'Vaisvanara' means the totality of life and applies to Brahman as he is the Soul of all (Sarvatmatvat).

This Sutra declares that 'Vaisvanara' can be taken directly to mean Brahman as an object of meditation, because Vaisvanara also means the universal man i.e., the all-pervading Brahman Himself. As the word Vaisvanara literally means "He to whom belong all men" or "who is the leader (Nara) of all (Visva)" so the word Vaisvanara denotes etymologically the Supreme Brahman.

Abhivyakterityasmarathyah I.2.29 (60)

On account of the manifestation, so says Aasmarathya.

Abhivyakteh: because of manifestation; Iti: thus, so; Aasmarathyah: (says) Asmarathya.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

In the Chhandogya Upanishad under discussion Vaisvanara is described as having the size of a span. How can the Infinite Brahman be limited by the measure of a Pradesa or a span? To this objection the author gives his answer in the following Sutra.

The sage Aasmarathya says that for the benefit of the worshipper the Infinite Brahman manifests Himself in the finite individually being localised in limited places such as the body or the heart of the human being. Therefore there is no incongruity in using the word "Vaisvanara" (even standing for the gastric fire) to signify Brahman. Even though Brahman is all-pervading, yet He specially manifests Himself as extending from heaven to earth or in the heart for the sake of His devotees.

Asmarathya says that the Infinite is realised through His grace in the limited space of mental image in the mind or a physical image without. The devotees who meditate on Brahman in their heart as having the size of a span, see Him of that size, because He manifests Himself to them in that form.

This is the opinion of Aasmarathya.

Hence, according to the opinion of the teacher Aasmarathya the scriptural text which speaks of Him who is measured by a span may refer to the Supreme Self or the Highest Lord.

Anusmriterbadarih I.2.30 (61)

For the sake of meditation or constant remembrance – so says the sage Badari.

Anusmriteh: for the sake of meditation or constant remembrance; Baadarih: (so says) the sage Baadari.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

The sage Baadari is of opinion that this measure of a span is a mental device to facilitate meditation.

He says that the size of the thumb refers to a mental image and not to the actual size.

The Supreme Lord may be called 'measured by a span' because He is remembered or meditated, by means of the mind, which is seated in the heart which is measured by a span. The size of the heart is that of a span. As Brahman is meditated as abiding in the lotus of the heart, the aspirant involuntarily associates him with the size of a span. This mental association or Anusmriti is the cause why Brahman is called Pradesamatra, the measure of a span.

Therefore Vaisvanara may well stand for Brahman.

Sampatteriti jaiministatha hi darsayati I.2.31 (62)

Because of imaginary identity the Supreme Lord may be called Pradesamatra (span long). So says Jaimini because so (the Sruti) declares.

Sampatteh: because of imaginary identity; Iti: thus, so; Jaimini: (says) Jaimini; Tatha: in this way; Hi: because; Darsayati: (the Sruti) declares.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is continued.

Jaimini says that the description refers to a state of realisation of form between the crown of the head and the chin in your body. The cosmic being is worshipped through the identification of different parts of His with the different parts of the worshipper's body from the top of head to the chin. The head of the meditator or worshipper is heaven, the eyes the sun and the moon, and so on. In this meditation the cosmic being is limited to the size of a span, the distance from the crown of the head to the chin. Hence Jaimini says that the Highest Lord in the passage under discussion is considered as of the size of a span.

The Sruti also declares "The teacher said, pointing to his own head. 'This is the Highest Vaisvanara' i.e. the head of the Vaisvanara" – Vajasaneyi Brahmana.

Amananti chainamasmin I.2.32 (63)

Moreover they (the Jabalas) teach that this (Supreme Lord is to be meditated upon) in this (the space between the head and the chin).

Amananti: (they) speak, teach, recite, declare; Cha: moreover, also, and; Enam: this; Asmin: in this.

The argument in support of Sutra 24 is concluded.

Moreover the Jabalas speak in their text of the Supreme Lord in the intermediate space between the top of the head and the chin.

Jabala Sruti also says so. It says that He is to be realised Avimukta (full liberation) between Varana (sin preventor) and Nasi (sin destroyer).

Jabala Upanishad says "What is the place? The place where the eye-brows and the nose join. That is the joining place of the heavenly world represented by the upper part of the head and of the other i.e. the earthly world represented by the chin."

Sutras 27 to 32 declare that the reference to the Supreme Lord by the term "Pradesamatra as extending from heaven to the earth or as measured by a span" is quite appropriate.

By all this it is proved that Vaisvanara is the Supreme Lord.

See Jabala Upanishad-1.

Thus ends the Second Pada (Section 2) of the First Adhyaya (Chapter I) of the Brahma-Sutras of the Vedanta Philosophy.