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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Devatadhikaranam: Topic 8 (Sutras 26-33)

The Devas also are entitled to the study of Vedas.

Taduparyapi Baadarayanah sambhavat I.3.26 (89)

Also (beings) above them (viz., men) (are entitled for the study and practice of the Vedas) on account of the possibility (of it) according to Badarayana.

Tad upari: above them i.e. higher than men namely Devas; Api: also, even; Baadarayanah: the sage Baadarayana is of opinion; Sambhavat: because (it is) possible.

The description of the privilege of study of Vedas and meditation is continued.

There is a digression from the main topic in this Section in Sutras 26 to 38. The Purvapakshin or the opponent holds that such meditation is not possible in the case of the Devas, because they are not endowed with the sense organs. Hence they have got no capability to meditate. The Devas like Indra and the rest are mere thought forms created by the chanting of Mantras. They have no desire for the possession of Vairagya (dispassion), Viveka (discrimination) etc. To this the author gives a reply in this Sutra. A doubt may arise from the previous Sutra that as it is stated that men alone have the privilege to the study of the Vedas, the gods are thereby debarred. This Sutra removes this doubt.

The teacher Baadarayana thinks that the Sutra entitles gods also who are above men for the study of Vedas, practice of meditation and attainment of knowledge of Brahman. How? Because it is possible for them also as they too are corporeal beings. The Upanishads, the Mantra portion of the Vedas, the Itihasas and the Puranas all unanimously describe that the Devas have bodies. They may have the desire of final release caused by the reflection that all effects, objects and power are non-permanent. They may have the desire to possess the fourfold qualification which is necessary for attaining the knowledge of Brahman. The gods undergo discipleship in order to attain knowledge. We read in Chh. Up. VIII-7-11 "Indra lived as a disciple with Prajapati for one hundred and one years"; "Bhrigu Varuni went to his father Varuna, saying, sir, teach me Brahman" Tait. Up. III-1. The god Varuna possessed the knowledge of Brahman which he teaches to his son Bhrigu.

The gods also possess all the requisites for practising meditation. Therefore they are also entitled for the study of the Vedas and attaining Self-realisation. Even without Upanayana and study the Veda is manifest of itself to the gods.

The passage about that which is of the size of a thumb is equally valid when the right of the gods is accepted. In their case the Sruti describing the Lord of the size of a thumb refers to the size of their thumbs.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says if we admit that Devas have bodies, then there would arise difficulties with regard to sacrifices, because it is not possible for one finite corporeal being like Indra to be simultaneously present at many places of sacrifices, when he is invoked simultaneously by all his worshippers. Therefore sacrifices will become useless. To this objection the author gives a suitable reply in the following Sutra.

Virodhah karmaniti chet, na, anekapratipatterdarsanat I.3.27 (90)

If it be said that (the corporeality of the gods involves) a contradiction to sacrifices; (we say) no, because we find (in the scriptures) the assumption (by the gods) of many (forms at one and the same time).

Virodhah: contradiction; Karmani: In the sacrifices; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not; Aneka: many (bodies); Pratipatteh: because of the assumption; Darsanat: because it is found (in the scriptures).

An objection against Sutra 26 is raised and refuted.

It is possible for a Devata to assume several forms at the same time. He can appear in sacrifices performed simultaneously at different places. Smriti also states "A Yogin, O hero of the Bharatas, may by his power multiply his self in many thousand forms and in them walk about on earth. In some he may enjoy the objects, in others he may undergo dire penance, and finally he may again withdraw them all, just as the sun withdraws its many rays". If such Smriti passage declares that even Yogins, who have merely acquired various extraordinary powers, such as subtlety of body and the like may assume several bodies at the same time, how much more capable of such feats must the gods be, who naturally possess all supernatural powers. A god may divide himself into many forms and present himself in many sacrifices at the same time. He can remain all the while unseen by others, in consequence of his power to make himself invisible. Moreover, why cannot the same god be the object of many sacrifices, just as the same man can be the object of salutation of many persons?

Sabda iti chet, na, atah prabhavat pratyakshanumanabhyam I.3.28 (91)

If it be said (that a contradiction will result) in respect of the word (we say) no, because (the world) originates from the word, as is known from direct perception (Sruti) and inference (Smriti).

Sabda: regarding Vedic words; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: no; Atah: from this, from these words; Prabhavat: because of the creation; Pratyakshanumanabhyam: from direct perception (Sruti) and inference (Smriti).

Another objection against Sutra 26 (with respect to the corporeality of the gods) is raised and refuted.

The Purvapakshin maintains: The Vedic words have been proved in the Purvamimamsa philosophy to be permanent, i.e. without beginning or end. Now if gods are said to have bodies they must have births and deaths, which all embodied beings are subject to. Therefore the Vedic words for individual deities cannot exist before their birth, nor can those words signify any deities, when they have ceased to exist during dissolution. Hence the permanency of Vedic words fails.

To this objection the answer is that there cannot be any such incongruity with regard to Vedic words, because both Sruti and Smriti maintain that individual gods owe their origin to Vedic words.

The Vedic words exist from eternity. They have got their settled meaning. The Vedic names for gods signify their types and not the individuals. Therefore the births or deaths of individual gods cannot affect the types, much less the permanent character of Vedic words.

Cows are innumerable but it is with the type that the word 'cow' is inseparably connected. The word 'cow' is eternal. It does not depend on the birth and death of individuals belonging to that type. Words representing the gods have for their counterpart objects that are types and not individuals. Indra refers to a divine function like the office of the Viceroy and whoever is called to that function is called Indra. Therefore here is no non-eternality with reference to the Vedas.

The word, including even the gods, is created from scriptural words. The scriptural words are the source for the world and the gods. If you object to this and say that this conflicts with the Sutra I-1-2, which says that Brahman is the cause of the world, we reply: Brahman is the Upadanakarana (material cause). The Veda is not such material cause. The creator utters the Vedic words and creates. He says earth and creates the earth and so on.

The creation of every embodied being, whether Indra or a cow, proceeds from remembrance of the form and its characteristics by Lord Brahma. When he utters these words, which by association always suggest the particular form and the characteristics of that form. When a special individual of the class called Indra has perished, the creator, knowing from the Vedic word 'Indra' which is present in his mind as the class characteristics of the being denoted by the word, creates another Indra possessing those very same characteristics, just as the potter fashions a new jar on the basis of the word 'jar' which is revolving in his mind.

Every Vedic word always expresses a particular type form and does not express any individual. Brahman creates the world by remembering the particular type forms denoted by those words. Forms (Akritis) are eternal and exist in the archetypal plane from eternity before they become concrete in any individual form. Brahma, the creator created the Devas by reflecting on the word 'etc.' (these). He created the men by the word 'Asrigram'; the Pitris by the word 'Indavah' (drops); the planets by the word 'Tiras pavitram'; the songs by the word 'Asuva'; the Mantras by the word 'Visvani' and he created all other creatures by the word 'Abhisaubhaga'.

The word 'etad' (this) reminds Brahma the creator of the Devas presiding over the senses; the word 'Asrigra' meaning blood, reminds him of those creatures in which blood is the chief life-element, namely men; the word'Indu' denoting moon, reminds him of the fathers, who live in the Chandraloka; the word 'Tiras pavitram' meaning 'holding of the pure ambrosia' reminds of the planets where the Soma fluid exists; the word 'Asuva' (flowing) reminds him of the sweet flow of music; the word 'Visva' reminds him of the hymns sacred to the Visvedevas; the word 'Abhisubhaga', meaning 'great prosperity', reminds him of all creatures. We read in Bri. Up. "He with his mind united himself with speech" i.e. the word of the Veda.

Every word has for its counterpart a form or an object which it denotes. Name and form are inseparable. Whenever you think of a form its name comes before your mind at once. Whenever you utter a name the object comes before your mind. The relation between a name or word and form (the object) is eternal.

The Veda is not the material cause of the universe. If you say that the Veda refers to Vasus, Rudras, Adityas and other gods who are born and are therefore non-eternal and, hence, the Vedas also must be non-eternal, we reply that what are born are the individual manifestations of Dravya (substance), Guna (quality) and Karma (actions) but not the Akritis, species. The origination of the universe from the 'word' is not to be understood in the sense that the word constitutes the material cause of the world as Brahman does.

"The several names, actions, and conditions of all things He shaped in the beginning from the words of the Vedas" Manu I-21.

Thought first manifests as a word and then as the more concrete form. You cannot separate the thought from name and form. If you wish to do a thing you first remember the word denoting the thing and then you start the work. The Vedic words manifested in the mind of Prajapati, the creator before the creation. After that he created the things corresponding to those words. "Uttering Bhur he created the earth" etc. Taittiriya Brahmana II-2-4-2.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent maintains that the universe cannot be born of letters which are perishable, that there is an eternal Sphota (causal form of sound) of which uttered sounds are manifestations and that such Sphota is the cause of the universe. Sphota is that which causes the conception of the sense of a word (Arthadhiketu). Sphota is a supersensuous entity which is manifested by the letters of the word and if comprehended by the mind itself manifests the sense of the word.

This statement of the Purvapakshin is really untenable. This is certainly not our actual experience. The uttered sounds do not perish, for at the end of their utterance we realise their identity when we utter them again. It is said that there might be a difference of intonation when uttering the same word twice; this does not negate the identity, for the difference is only a difference of the instrument of manifestation. Albeit the letters are many, their group can be the subject of a conception (e.g. ten, hundred etc). The Sphota theory is therefore quite unnecessary.

It is therefore quite clear that the Vedic sounds are eternal and that there is no logical fallacy in the doctrine that through them has been created the entire universe including the gods.

Ata eva cha nityatvam I.3.29 (92)

From this very reason also there follows the eternity of the Vedas.

Ata eva: therefore, from this very reason; Cha: also; Nityatvam: The eternity of the Vedas.

A side issue is deduced from Sutra 28.

The eternal nature of Vedic words is also established from the same reasons adduced in Sutra 28 i.e. because those words signify permanent types.

This Sutra now confirms the already established eternity of the Vedas. The universe with its definite eternal types or spheres such as gods and so on originates from the word of the Veda. For this very reason the eternity of the word of the Veda must be accepted. As gods etc., as types are eternal, the Vedic words are also eternal.

The Vedas were not written by anybody. They are the very breath of the Lord. They are eternal. The Rishis were not the authors of the Vedas. They only discovered them. "By means of their past good deeds the priests were able to understand the Vedas. They found them dwelling in the Rishis." The Mantra "By means of sacrifice they followed the trace of speech; they found it dwelling in the Rishis." in Rigveda Samhita X-71-3 shows that the speech found by the Rishis was permanent. Veda Vyasa also says "Formerly the great Rishis, being allowed to do so by Svayambhu, obtained through their penance the Vedas together with the Itihasas, which had been hidden at the end of the Yuga."

Samananamarupatvat cha avrittavapyavirodho darsanat smritescha I.3.30 (93)

And on account of the sameness of names and forms in every fresh cycle there is no contradiction (to the eternity of the words of the Vedas) even in the revolving of the world cycles, as is seen from the Sruti and Smriti.

Samananamarupatvat: on account of similar names and forms; Cha: and; Avrittau: in the cycles of creation; Api: even, also; Avirodhah: no inconsistency or contradiction; Darsanat: from the Sruti; Smriteh: from the Smriti, Cha: and.

An argument in favour of Sutra 29 is given in this Sutra.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent says: At the end of a cycle everything is totally annihilated. There is new creation at the beginning of the next cycle. There is a break in the continuity of existence. Hence even as types, the gods are not eternal and the eternal relation of Vedic words and the objects they denote does not remain. Consequently there is contradiction to the eternity and the authority of the Vedas.

We say it is not so. Just as a man who rises from sleep continues the same form of existence which he enjoyed previously to his sleep, so also the world is a latent or potential state (in seed form) in Pralaya or dissolution; it is again projected with all the previous variety of names and forms at the beginning of the next cycle. Therefore the eternity of the relation between Vedic words and their objects is not at all contradicted. Consequently the authoritativeness of the Vedas remains. This is supported by Sruti and Smriti. We read in Rigveda X-190-3 "As formerly the Lord ordered the sun and the moon, heaven, earth, the sky etc." We read in the Smriti "As the same signs of seasons appear again and again in their due course, so do beings appear and reappear in successive cycles".

The word 'Cha' in the Sutra is used to remove the doubt raised. Even after a great Pralaya there is no contradiction with regard to the eternity of Vedic words, because the new creation proceeds on the sameness of names and forms etc., in the preceding creation. In a Mahapralaya the Vedas and the types denoted by the words of the Vedas merge in the Lord and become one with Him. They remain in Him in a state of latency. When the Lord desires to create they come out from Him again and become manifest. The creation of individuals is always preceded by a reflection on the words of the Vedas and the types denoted by them.

After the Mahapralaya the Lord creates the Vedas in exactly the same order and arrangements as they had been before. He reflects on the words and types and projects the whole universe. A subsequent creation is similar to the past creation. The Lord creates the world just as a potter who makes a pot by remembering the word 'pot' and the form which the word calls up in his mind.

After a Mahapralaya the Lord Himself creates all elements from Mahat downwards up to Brahmanda. He projects Brahma from His body and teaches Him the Vedas mentally (not orally) and entrusts Him with the work of further creation. In minor Pralaya Brahma does not cease to exist, nor do the elements. Brahma Himself creates the world after every minor Pralaya.

It may be objected that when we sleep and then wake up we can recall the already experienced external universe and that such a thing is not possible in the case of the dissolution of the world. But our answer is that by the grace of the supreme Lord, Hiranyagarbha or Brahma can recollect the state of the world as it was before the dissolution. We read in the Svetasvatara Upanishad "During Pralaya all forms vanish but Sakti remains. The next creation takes place through it alone." Otherwise you would have to postulate a creation out of nothing.

Madhvadishvasambhavadanadhikaram Jaiminih I.3.31 (94)

On account of the impossibility (of the gods being qualified) for Madhu Vidya etc., Jaimini (is of opinion that the gods) are not qualified (either for Upasana or for the Brahma Vidya or the knowledge of the Self).

Madhu adishu: in Madhu Vidya etc.; Asambhavat: on account of the impossibility; Anadhikaram: disqualification; Jaiminih: Jaimini is of opinion.

Another objection to Sutra 26 is raised.

For Madhu Vidya vide Chh. Up. III-1-11, the sage Jaimini, the author of Purvamimamsa, says that as the sun and the other gods are the deities to be worshipped in Madhu Vidya and the like, it is impossible that they should also be the worshippers. Hence they are not entitled for the Upasana prescribed in Sruti, because obviously they cannot worship themselves. In Madhu Vidya one is to meditate on the Sun as honey (beneficial). Such a meditation is not possible for Surya or the Sun-god because one and the same person cannot be both the object of meditation as well as the person meditating.

Further the Devas like Vasu etc., already belong to the class of Vasus etc. Therefore in their case the meditation is useless as the fruit is already accomplished. The Devas have nothing to gain by such meditation. So they have no desire for this meditation, because they already are in possession of that which is the fruit of such meditation.

Jyotishi bhavacca I.3.32 (95)

And (the gods are not qualified for Vidyas) because (the words 'sun, moon' etc., spoken of as gods) are used in the sense of mere spheres of light.

Jyotishi: as mere spheres of light; Bhavat: because used in the sense; Cha: and.

An argument in support of the objection raised in Sutra 31 is given.

The Purvapakshin raises another objection: The luminous orbs cannot possibly do acts of meditation. Such and other luminary objects as Agni etc., cannot have a bodily form with hands, heart or intelligence. They are material inert objects. They cannot have wishes. We cannot place faith on Itihasas and Puranas, as they are of human origin and as they themselves stand in need of other means of knowledge on which to base. The Mantras do not form an independent means of authoritative knowledge. The Arthavada passages cannot be regarded to constitute by themselves reasons for the existence of the personality of the gods. Consequently the gods are not qualified for any kind of Vidya or knowledge of Brahman.

Bhavam tu Baadarayano'sti hi I. 3.33 (96)

But Baadarayana, on the other hand (maintains) the existence (of qualification on the part of the gods for Brahma Vidya); for there are (passages indicatory of that; body, desires etc., which qualify one for such knowledge do exist in the case of the gods).

Bhavam: the existence (of the qualification to practise the meditation like Madhu Vidya etc.); Tu: but; Baadarayanah: the sage Baadarayana (maintains); Asti: does exist; Hi: because.

This Sutra refutes the arguments in the previous two Sutras and concludes the discussion.

But Baadarayana holds that the gods too have the right to practise Upasana as meditation and Brahma Vidya, because there are indications in Sruti to that effect. He maintains that each luminary orb has a presiding deity with body, intelligence, desires etc. The gods can assume any form at will. Indra assumed the form of a ram and carried off Medhatithi. Surya assumed the form of a man and came to Kunti. We read in Chh. Up. VIII-12-6 "The gods indeed do worship the Atman." The sun-god may be disqualified for a particular form of meditation – Madhu Vidya, as he cannot meditate on the sun himself, but that is no reason why he should be disqualified for other meditations or for Brahma Vidya or the knowledge of Brahman. Similar is the case with other gods.

The expression 'Tu' (but, on the other hand) is meant to rebut the Purvapakshin.

Scripture declares that the Devas are qualified. "Whatever Deva was awakened so to know Brahman he indeed became that" Bri. Up. 1-4-10. Indra went to Prajapati saying "well, let us search for that Self by which if one has searched it out, all worlds and all desires are obtained" Chh. Up. VIII-7.

The description of the forms of gods is real. How can unreal forms of gods be conceived by our minds for our offering sacrifices to them? Ordinary people are not able to behold their forms. But sages like Vyasa have seen them. They spoke to the gods. The Yoga Sutras say "By Svadhyaya one can be in communion with the deity which we worship." How can you deny the powers of Yoga? Rishis had marvellous powers.

Therefore gods have forms and are eligible for Brahma Vidya.