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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Karanatvadhikaranam: Topic 4 (Sutras 14-15)

Brahman is the First cause.

Karanatvena chakasadishu yathavyapadishtokteh I.4.14 (120)

Although there is a conflict of the Vedanta texts as regards the things created such as ether and so on, there is no such conflict with respect to Brahman as the First Cause, on account of His being represented in one text as described in other texts.

Karanatvena: as the (First) cause; Cha: and; Akasadishu: with reference to Akasa and the rest; Yatha: as; Vyapadishta: taught in different Srutis; Ukteh: because of the statement.

The doubt that may arise from Sutra 13 that different Srutis may draw different conclusions as to the cause of the universe is removed by this Sutra.

In the preceding part of the work the proper definition of Brahman has been given. It has been shown that all the Vedanta texts have Brahman for their common topic. It has been proved also that there is no scriptural authority for the doctrine of the Pradhana. But now the Sankhya raises a new objection.

He says: It is not possible to prove either that Brahman is the cause of the origin etc., of the universe or that all the Vedanta texts refer to Brahman; because the Vedanta passages contradict one another. All the Vedanta texts speak of the successive steps of the creation in different order. In reality they speak of different creations. Thus in Tait. Up. II-1-1 we find that creation proceeds from Self or Brahman "From the Self sprang Akasa, from Akasa air" etc. This passage shows that the cause of creation is Atman. In another place it is said that the creation began with fire (Chh. Up. VI-2-3). In another place, again, it is said "The person created breath and from breath faith" (Pras. Up. IV-4); in another place, again, that the Self created these worlds, the water above the heaven, light, the mortal (earth) and the water below the earth (Aitareya Aranyaka II-4-1-2, 3). There no order is stated at all. Somewhere it is said that the creation originated from the non-existent (Asat). "In the beginning there was the non-existent (Asat); from it was born what exists" (Tait. Up. II-7). "In the beginning there was the non-existent; it became existent; it grew" (Chh. Up. III-19-1). In another place it is said "Others say, in the beginning there was that only which is not; but how could it be thus, my dear? How could that which is to be born of that which is not" (Chh. Up. VI-2-1& 2).

In another place Sat is said to be the cause of the universe "Sat alone was in the beginning" Chh. Up. VI-2-1. In another place, again, the creation of the world is spoken of as having taken place spontaneously. Again we find that Avyakta is said to be the cause of the world "Now all this was then Avyakrita (undeveloped). It became developed by name and form" Bri. Up. 1-4-7. Thus the Upanishads are not consistent, as regards the cause of the universe. Thus it is not possible to ascertain that Brahman alone is taught in the Upanishads as the cause of the world. As many discrepancies are observed, the Vedanta texts cannot be accepted as authorities for determining the cause of the universe. We must accept some other cause of the world resting on the authority of Sruti and reasoning.

It is possible to say that Pradhana alone is taught to be the cause of the world as we find from the passage of the Bri. Up. already quoted above. Further the words Sat, and Asat, Prana, Akasa and Avyakrita can very well be applied to Pradhana, because some of them such as Akasa, Prana are the effects of Pradhana, while others are the names of Pradhana itself. All these terms cannot be applied to Brahman.

In some passages we find that Atman and Brahman are also said to be the cause of the world; but these two terms can be applied to Pradhana also. The literal meaning of the word 'Atman' is all-pervading. Pradhana is all-pervading. Brahman literally means that which is pre-eminently great (Brihat). Pradhana may be called Brahman also. Pradhana is called Asat in its aspect of modified things and it is called Sat or being in its causal or eternal aspect. Pradhana is called Prana as it is an element produced from it. Thinking etc., may also apply to Pradhana in a metaphorical sense, meaning the commencement of action. So when the Upanishad says "It thought, let me become many", it means, that Pradhana started the action of multiplication. Therefore all the Upanishad passages relating to creation harmonise better with the theory of Pradhana being the creator than of Brahman.

The Siddhantin gives the following reply. Although the Vedanta texts may be conflicting with regard to the order of the things created such as ether and so on, yet they uniformly declare that Brahman is the First Cause. The Vedantic passages which are concerned with setting forth the cause of the world are in harmony throughout. It cannot be said that the conflict of statements regarding the universe affects the statements regarding the cause i.e., Brahman. It is not the main object of the Vedanta texts to teach about creation. Therefore it would not even matter greatly. The chief purpose of the Srutis is to teach that Brahman is the First Cause. There is no conflict regarding this.

The teacher will reconcile later on these conflicting passages also which refer to the universe.

Samakarshat I.4.15 (121)

On account of the connection (with passages treating of Brahman, non-existence does not mean absolute Non-existence)

Samakarshat: from its connection with a distant expression.

Some texts from the Taittiriya, the Chhandogya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads are taken up for discussion.

The Sankhyas raise another objection. They say: There is a conflict with reference to the first cause, because some texts declare that the Self created these worlds (Ait. Ar. II-4-1-2-3). Some Vedanta passages declare that creation originated from non-existence (Tait. II-7). Again in some passages existence is taught as the First Cause (Chh. Up. VI-1-2). Some Srutis speak of spontaneous creation. It cannot be said that the Srutis refer to Brahman uniformly as the First Cause owing to the conflicting statements of the Vedanta texts.

The Siddhantin gives the following reply. We read in the Tait. Up. II-7 "This was indeed non-existence in the beginning." Non-existence here does not mean absolute non-existence. It means undifferentiated existence. In the beginning existence was undifferentiated into name and form. Taittriya Upanishad says "He who knows Brahman as non-existing becomes himself non-existing. He who knows Brahman as existing, him we know himself as existing" Tait. Up. II-6. It is further elaborated by means of the series of sheaths viz., the sheath of food etc. represented as the inner self of everything. This same Brahman is again referred to in the clause. He wished 'May I be many'. This clearly intimates that Brahman created the whole universe.

The term 'Being' ordinarily denotes that which is differentiated by means and forms. The term 'Non-being' denotes the same substance previous to its differentiation. Brahman is called 'Non-being' previously to the origination of the world in a secondary sense.

We read in Chh. Up. VI-2-2 "How can that which is created from non-existence be?" This clearly denies such a possibility.

"Now this was then undeveloped" (Bri. Up. I-4-7) does not by any means assert that the evolution of the world took place without a ruler, because it is connected with another passage where it is said, "He has entered here to the very tips of the finger-nails" (Bri. Up. I-4-7). 'He' refers to the Ruler. Therefore we have to take that the Lord, the Ruler, developed what was undeveloped.

Another scriptural text also describes that the evolution of the world took place under the superintendence of a Ruler. "Let me now enter these beings with this loving Self, and let me then evolve names and forms" Chh. Up. VI-3-2.

Although there is a reaper it is said "The corn-field reaps itself." It is said also "The village is being approached." Here we have to supply "by Devadatta or somebody else."

Brahman is described in one place as existence. In another place it is described as the Self of all. Therefore it is a settled conclusion that all Vedanta texts uniformly point to Brahman as the First Cause. Certainly there is no conflict on this point.

Even in the passage that declares Asat i.e. non-being to be the cause there is a reference to Sat i.e. Being. Even the text that describes Asat as the Causal force ends by referring to Sat.

The doubt about the meaning of a word or passage can be removed by reference to its connection with a distant passage in the same text, for such connection is found to exist in the different passages of Sruti. The exact meaning of such words as 'Asat' which means non-entity, apparently, 'Avyakrita' which means apparently non-manifest Pradhana of Sankhya, is thus ascertained to be Brahman. Compare the Srutis: "He desired, I will be many I will manifest myself" Tait. Up. II-6-2. The meaning of the word Asat of the second passage is ascertained to be Brahman by reference to the first passage where the same question namely the state of the universe before creation is answered in a clearer way.

The meaning of the word Avyakrita in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad I-4-7 in the passage (thus therefore, that was the undifferentiated) is ascertained to be the Brahman as still undeveloped by a reference to the passage (the same is pervading all through and through down to the tips of the nails of the fingers and the toes). Avyaka is recognised in the last passage more clearly by the words 'Sa esha' (the same-self one).

The Pradhana of the Sankhyas does not find a place anywhere in the passages which treat about the cause of the world. The words 'Asat' 'Avyakrita' also denote Brahman only.

The word 'Asat' refers to Brahman which is the subject under discussion in the previous verse. Before the creation, the distinction of names and forms did not exist. Brahman also then did not exist in the sense that He was not connected with names and forms. As he has then no name and form, he is said to be Asat or non-existent.

The word 'Asat' cannot mean matter or non-being, because in this very passage we find that the description given of it can apply only to Brahman.

Brahman is not 'Asat' in the literal meaning of that word. The seer of the Upanishad uses it in a sense totally distinct from its ordinary denotation.