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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Aksharadhikaranam: Topic 3 (Sutras 10-12)

Akshara is Brahman.

Aksharamambarantadhriteh I.3.10 (73)

The Imperishable (is Brahman) on account of (its) supporting everything up to Akasa (ether).

Aksharam: the Imperishable; Ambaranta dhriteh: because it supports all up to Akasa.

An expression from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is now taken up for discussion. We read in Bri. Up. III-8-7, "In what then is the ether woven like warp and woof?" Gargi put this question to sage Yajnavalkya. He replied: "O Gargi, the Brahmanas call this Akshara (the Imperishable). It is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long etc." Bri. Up. III-8-8. Here the doubt arises whether the word 'Akshara' means syllable 'OM' or Brahman. The Purvapakshin or the opponent maintains that 'Akshara' etymologically means a syllable and therefore generally represents the syllable OM, which is also an object of meditation. We have no right to disregard the settled meaning of a word.

This Sutra refutes the above view and says that 'Akshara here stands for Brahman only'. Why? Because the Akshara is said to support everything from earth up to ether. The text says "In that Akshara, Gargi! is the ether woven like warp and woof" Bri. UP. III-8-11. Now the attribute of supporting everything up to ether cannot be ascribed to any being but Brahman.

Moreover "It is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long" etc., indicates that relative qualities are absent in it. Therefore the 'Akshara' is Brahman. The objector says: But even Pradhana supports everything up to ether, because it is the cause of all the modified objects in the universe and so the Akshara or the Imperishable may be Pradhana. To this doubt the following Sutra gives an answer.

Sa cha prasasanat I.3.11 (74)

This (supporting) on account of the command (attributed to the Imperishable, can be the work of the Supreme Self only and not of the Pradhana).

Sa: this (the quality of supporting everything up to ether); Cha: and, also; Prasasanat: because of the command.

An argument in support of Sutra 10 is given.

The supporting of all things up to ether is the work of the Highest Self only. Why? On account of the command. The text speaks of a command "By the command of that Akshara O Gargi! the sun and the moon stand apart" Bri. Up. III-8-9.

This command or rulership can be the work of the highest Lord only, not of the non-intelligent Pradhana. Because non-intelligent causes such as clay and the like cannot command their effects such as jars and the like. Therefore the Pradhana cannot be the 'Akshara' which supports everything up to Akasa or ether.

Anyabhavavyavrittescha I.3.12 (75)

And on account of (the Sruti) separating (the Akshara) from that nature is different (from Brahman).

Anya: another; Bhava: nature; Vyavritteh: on account of the exclusion.

The argument in support of Sutra 10 is concluded.

The Imperishable (Akshara) is not Pradhana or Jiva, because in the same text we find description of attributes which would exclude another nature than Brahman. In a supplementary passage in the same Upanishad we find description of this Akshara which excludes Pradhana and Jiva, because they do not possess that nature.

The qualities referred to in the text namely, seeing, hearing, thinking, knowing etc., "That Akshara, O Gargi! is unseen but seeing, unheard but hearing, unperceived but perceiving, unknown but knowing. There is no other seer but He, no other hearer but He, no other thinker but He, no other knower but He. In that Imperishable O Gargi! the ether is woven warp and woof" (Bri. Up. III-8-11), point to an intelligent being and therefore negate the Pradhana which is non-intelligent.

The word 'Akshara' cannot denote the individual soul as he is not free from limiting adjuncts, from which Akshara is free. The Srutis say "Akshara is without eyes, without ears, without speech, without mind etc." (Bri. Up. III-8-8).

Therefore it is a settled conclusion that the Akshara or the imperishable is the Supreme Brahman only.