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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Daharadhikaranam: Topic 5 (Sutras 14-21)

The Dahara or the 'Small Akasa' is Brahman.

Dahara uttarebhyah I.3.14 (77)

The small (ether, Akasa, is Brahman) on account of the subsequent arguments or expression).

Daharah: the small; Uttarebhyah: from subsequent texts or expressions or arguments.

Another expression from the Chhandogya Upanishad is taken up for discussion.

'Dahara' refers to Brahman, because the reason stated in the later portions of the passage show this clearly.

We read in Chhandogya Upanishad VIII-1-1 "Now there is this city of Brahman (the body), and in it the place, the small lotus (the heart) and in it that small ether (Akasa)". Now what exists within that small ether is to be sought, that is to be understood.

Here the doubt arises whether the small ether within the small lotus of the heart, which the Sruti speaks, is the elemental ether, or the individual soul, or the Supreme Soul.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says: By the small ether we have to understand the elemental ether which is the ordinary meaning of the word. It is here called small with reference to its small abode, the heart. Or else the 'small one' may be taken to mean the individual soul on account of the term the city of Brahman (Brahmapuri). The body is here called the city of Brahman because the individual soul has his abode in the body, and has acquired this by his deeds. The individual soul is here called Brahman in a metaphorical sense. The Supreme Brahman cannot be meant, because He is not linked with the body as its Lord. The Lord of the city i.e., the individual soul resides in one spot of the city viz., the heart, just as a King dwells in one spot of his Kingdom. Further the mind, the limiting adjunct of the individual soul, abides in the heart. Only the individual soul is compared in the Sruti in size to the point of a goad.

Here the 'small Akasa' is Brahman and does not mean elemental ether, although there is the qualification 'small' which may indicate that he is a limited something. Why? Because the nature of Brahman is described later on in the text "As large as this (external) ether is, so large is that Akasa within the heart. Both heaven and earth are contained within it." Chh. Up. VIII 1-3. This clearly intimates that it is not actually small.

Akasa cannot be compared with itself. The finite individual soul also with its limiting adjuncts cannot be compared with the all-pervading Akasa or ether. The Sruti declares "Both the earth and heaven are contained in it". This indicates that this Akasa is the support of the whole world. From this it is manifest that the ether is the Supreme Self.

We read in the Chhandogya Upanishad VIII-1-5 "The Self or Atman is sinless, ageless, deathless, griefless, free from old age, hunger, thirst, with true desire (Satkama), true thought (Satsankalpa) that ever comes true". This cannot apply to mere physical ether. These are all distinct qualities of the Supreme Brahman. The description cannot refer to the individual soul, because the comparison to the infinite ether and the statement that heaven and earth are contained in it cannot apply to the finite individual soul.

The word 'Brahma' in Brahmapuri shows the reference to Brahman only. Even if you take the word as referring to Jiva the teaching relates to Brahman who is realised in the heart which is the Brahmapuri (the city of soul or Brahman). Moreover the promise of Infinite Bliss to the knower of Dahara Akasa intimates that the reference is only to the Supreme Brahman.

For all the reasons explained, that ether is the Highest Self or Supreme Brahman.

Gatisabdabhyam tatha hi drishtam lingam cha I.3.15 (78)

The small Akasa (ether) is Brahman on account of the action of going (into Brahman) and of the word (Brahmaloka); because thus it is seen (i.e. the individual souls go into Brahman) is seen elsewhere in other Sruti texts; and this daily going of the souls into Brahman (during deep sleep) is an inferential sign by means of which we may properly interpret the word 'Brahmaloka').

Gatisabdabhyam: on account of the going and of the word; Tatha hi: thus, like; Drishtam: it is seen; Lingam: mark, sign from which something may be inferred; Cha: and.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is given.

It has been said in the preceding Sutra that the small ether is Brahman on account of the reasons given in the subsequent passages. These subsequent passages are now described.

The mention of 'going' and a 'word' refers to Brahman. We read in Chhandogya Upanishad VIII-3-2. "All these creatures day after day go into this Brahmaloka (i.e. they are merged in Brahman during deep sleep) and yet do not discover it" etc. This passage shows that all Jivas or individual souls go daily into the 'small Akasa' called here Brahmaloka. This intimates that the 'small Akasa' is Brahman.

This going of the individual souls into Brahman which occurs daily in the deep sleep is mentioned in the other Sruti text: "He becomes united with the true (Sat), he is merged in his own Self" Chh. Up. VI-8-1.

In common parlance or ordinary life also we say of a man who is in deep sleep "He has become Brahman". "He is gone into the state of Brahman".

The word 'Brahmaloka' is to be interpreted as Brahman Himself, and not as the world of Brahman (Satya Loka) because there is the indicatory sign in the passage. What is that indicatory sign or Lingam? It is said in the text that the soul goes to this world daily. It is certainly impossible for the Jiva to go to the world of Brahman daily. Hence the term 'Brahmaloka' means here Brahman Himself.

Dhritescha mahimno'syasminnupalabdheh I.3.16 (79)

Moreover on account of the supporting also (attributed to it) the small ether must be Brahman, because this greatness is observed in this (Brahman only according to other scriptural passages).

Dhriteh: on account of supporting (of the world by the Akasa or ether); Cha: and, moreover, also; Asya mahimnah: this greatness; Asmin: in Brahman; Upalabdheh: on account of being observed or found.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is continued.

Daharakasa or the small ether referred to in Sutra 14 indicates Brahman, as the glory of supporting all the worlds can be reasonably true only in respect of Brahman. And also on account of the 'supporting' the small ether can be the Supreme Brahman only. How? To begin with the text introduces the general subject of discussion in the passage "In it is that small ether". Then the small ether is to be compared with the universal ether. Everything is contained in it. Then the term Self is applied to it. Then it is stated that it is free from sin etc. Finally it is said "That Self is a bank, a limiting support (Vidhriti) so that these worlds may not be confounded" (Chh. Up. VIII-4-1). In this passage the glory of small ether by way of supporting the worlds is seen. Just as a dam stores the water so that the boundaries of the fields are not confounded, so also that Self serves like a dam in order that the world and all the different castes and Ashramas may not be confounded.

Other texts declare that this greatness of supporting belongs to Brahman alone "By the command of that Imperishable (Akshara) O Gargi, the sun and moon are held in their positions" Bri. Up. III-8-9. "He is the lord of all, the king of all kings, the protector of all things. He is a bank and a limiting support, so that these worlds may not be confounded" Bri. Up. IV-4-22. This also shows that to be a boundary and support of the worlds is the distinctive attribute of Brahman only. Therefore, on account of the 'supporting' also, the small (ether) is nothing else but Brahman.

Prasiddhescha I.3.17 (80)

Also because of the well-known meaning (of Akasa as Brahman the small Akasa is Brahman).

Prasiddheh: of the well-known (meaning); Cha: also

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is continued.

Akasa has the settled meaning of Brahman. It is a well-known fact in Sruti that Brahman is indicated by the term Akasa. Therefore 'Daharakasa' also stands for Brahman.

We read in Chh. Up. VIII-14-1 "Akasa is the revealer of all names and forms". "All these beings take their origin from Akasa alone" Chh. Up. I-9-1. "For who could breathe if that Akasa (ether) were not bliss" Tait. Up. II-7. In all these texts 'Akasa' stands for Brahman.

Itaraparamarsat sa iti chen nasambhavat I.3.18 (81)

If it is said that the other one (i.e. the individual soul) is meant on account of a reference to it (made in a complementary passage) (we say) no, on account of the impossibility.

Itara: the other one, that is the Jiva; Paramarsat: on account of reference; Sa: he (the individual soul); Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not; Asambhavat: on account of impossibility.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is continued. We read in the Chhandogya Upanishad – "Now that serene being, the individual soul (Jiva) indeed which having risen above this earthly body, and having reached the highest light, appears in its true form, that is the Self: thus he spoke."

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says: As in the complementary passage the individual soul is referred to, the small Akasa of Chh. Up. VIII-1-1 is also the individual soul. "The word 'serenity' (Samprasada) which denotes the state of deep sleep conveys the idea of the individual soul only. The 'rising from the body' also can be spoken of the individual soul only whose abode is therefore 'the small Akasa'; this denotes in the passage under discussion only the individual soul, on account of reference to the ether."

This cannot be. In the first place the individual soul which is limited by the internal organ and its other adjuncts, cannot be compared with the all-pervading ether.

In the second place, the attributes like 'freedom from evil' and the likes of this Akasa, referred to in the passage under discussion, cannot be true of the individual soul. Hence Brahman is meant in that passage.

Uttaracchedavirbhutasvarupastu I.3.19 (82)

If it be said that for subsequent texts (it appears that the individual soul is meant, we say that what is there referred to is) rather (the individual soul in so far) as its real nature has become manifest (i.e. as it is non-different from Brahman).

Uttarat: from the subsequent texts of the Sruti; Chet: if; Avirbhuta-svarupat: with its true nature made manifest; Tu: but.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is continued.

An objection is again raised by the Purvapakshin to justify that the 'small Akasa' (Dahara) refers to the individual soul. Prajapati at the outset declares that the Self, which is free from sin and the like is that which we must try to understand Chh. Up. VIII-7-1. After that he points out that the seer within the eye i.e. 'the individual soul is the Self', Chh. Up. VIII-7-3. He again explains the nature of the same individual soul in its different states. "He who moves about happy in dreams is the Self" Chh. Up. VIII-10-1. "When a man being asleep, reposing, and at perfect rest sees no dreams, that is the Self" Chh. Up. VIII-1l-1. The qualifying terms 'Immortal, fearless' used in each of these descriptions of the self show that the individual soul is free from sin or evil and the like. Obviously the individual soul is meant here because Brahman is free from the three states viz. waking, dream and deep sleep. It is also said to be free from evil. Therefore 'small Akasa' refers to the individual soul or Jiva and not to Brahman.

The Sutra refutes this. The Sutra uses the expression "He whose nature has become manifest". Prajapati finally explains the individual soul in its true nature as identical with Brahman. The reference is to the individual soul in its true nature as identical with Brahman or, in other words, who has realised his oneness with Brahman and not to the individual soul as such. "As soon as it has approached the highest light it appears in its own form. Then It is the Highest Purusha" Chh. Up. VIII-12-3. The individual soul is free from evil etc., when it becomes identical with Brahman and not when it is enveloped by limiting adjuncts and remains as the finite Jiva or embodied soul. Agency (Kartritva), enjoying (Bhoktritva), like and dislike (Raga-dvesha) indicate Jivahood. If these are removed the individual soul shines as Brahman.

As long as the individual soul does not free itself from Avidya (ignorance) in the form of duality and does not rise to the knowledge of the Self or Brahman, whose nature is unchangeable and Satchidananda which expresses itself in the form 'I am Brahman', so long it remains as an individual soul. The ignorance of the Jiva may be compared to the mistake of a man who in the twilight mistakes a post for a man, a rope for a serpent.

When it gives up the identification with the body, sense organs and mind, when it realises its identity with the Supreme Brahman it becomes Brahman itself whose nature is unchangeable and Satchidananda, as is declared in Mun. Up. III-2-9. "He who knows the highest Brahman becomes even Brahman". This is the real nature of the individual soul by means of which it arises from the body and appears in its own real form.

Why a reference has at all been made to Jiva in this Section treating of Dahara, you will find an answer in the following Sutra.

Anyarthascha paramarsah I.3.20 (83)

And the reference (to the individual soul) is for a different purpose.

Anyarthah: for a different purpose; Cha: and; Paramarsah: reference.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is continued.

The reference to the individual soul has a different meaning. The reference to the individual soul is not meant to determine the nature of the individual soul, but rather the nature of the Supreme Brahman. The reference to the three states of the individual soul is meant not to establish the nature of Jiva as such, but to show finally its real nature (Svarupa) which is not different from Brahman.

Another objection is raised. The text describes this 'Dahara' as occupying a very small space in the heart, and because 'Dahara' is so small and Jiva is also small, therefore, 'Dahara' must be Jiva mentioned subsequently. The following Sutra gives a suitable answer.

Alpasruteriti chet taduktam I.3.21 (84)

If it be said that on account of the scriptural declaration of the smallness (of the ether) (the Brahman cannot be meant) (we say that) that has already been explained.

Alpasruteh: because of the Sruti declaring its smallness; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Tat: that; Uktam: has already been explained.

The argument in support of Sutra 14 is concluded.

The Purvapakshin or the objector has stated that the smallness of the ether stated by the Sruti "In it is that small ether" does not agree with Brahman, that it may however refer to the Jiva or the individual soul which is compared to the point of a goad. This has already been refuted. It has already been shown under I.2.7 that smallness may be attributed to Brahman for the purpose of meditation (Upasana). The same refutation is to be applied here also. That smallness is contradicted by that Sruti text which compares the ether within the heart with the universal ether "As large as is this ether so large is the ether within the heart".