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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Vakyanvayadhikaranam: Topic 6 (Sutras 19-22)

The Atman to be seen through hearing etc., of the Bri. Up. II-4-5 is Brahman and not Jivatma.

Vakyanvayat I.4.19 (125)

(The Self to be seen, to be heard etc., is the Supreme Self) on account of the connected meaning of the sentences.

Vakyanvayat: On account of the connected meaning of the sentences.

A passage from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is now taken up for discussion.

From the synthetic study of the context it is clear that the reference is to the Supreme Self.

We read in the Maitreyi-Brahmana of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad the following passage: "Verily a husband is not dear that you may love the husband etc., but that you may love the Self, therefore everything is dear. Verily the Self is to be seen, to be heard, to be reflected and to be meditated upon, O Maitreyi! When the Self has been seen, heard, reflected and realised or known, then all this is known" Bri. Up. IV-5-6.

Here a doubt arises whether that which is represented as the object to be seen, to be heard and so on is the individual soul or the Supreme Self.

The Purvapakshin says: The Self is by the mention of dear things such as husband and so on, indicated as the enjoyer. From this it appears that the text refers to the individual soul.

This Sutra refutes this and says that in this passage the highest Self is referred to, and not the individual soul. In the whole Section Brahman is treated. Maitreyi says to her husband Yajnavalkya: "What should I do with the wealth by which I do not become immortal? What my Lord knoweth tell that to me." Thereupon Yajnavalkya expounds to her the knowledge of the Self. Scripture and Smriti declare that immortality can be attained only by the knowledge of the Supreme Self. Then Yajnavalkya teaches her the knowledge of the Self. Finally the Section concludes with "Thus far goes immortality."

Immortality cannot be attained by the knowledge of the individual soul, but only by the knowledge of the Highest Self or Brahman. Therefore Brahman alone is the subject matter of the passage under discussion. Brahman alone is to be seen or realised through hearing, reflection and meditation.

Yajnavalkya declares that the Self is the centre of the whole world with the objects, the senses and the mind, that it has neither inside nor outside, that it is altogether a mass of knowledge. It follows from all this that what the text represents as the object of sight and so on is the Supreme Self.

Further it is said in the text that by the knowledge of the Self everything is known. This clearly intimates that the Self is Brahman only because how can the knowledge of finite Jiva or individual soul give us knowledge of everything?

Pratijnasiddherlingamasmarathyah I.4.20 (126)

(The fact that the individual soul is taught as the object of realisation is an) indicatory mark which is proof of the proposition; so Asmarathya thinks.

Pratijnasiddheh: because of the proof of the proposition; Lingam: indicatory mark; Asmarathyah: the sage Asmarathya.

An argument in support of Sutra 19 is given. The indication is that the individual soul is not different from Brahman, the Ultimate Cause, of which it is a ray. Hence to know Brahman, the Cause, is to know all that.

If the individual were quite different from Brahman, then by the knowledge of Brahman everything else would not be known. The initial statement aims at representing the individual soul or Jiva and the Supreme Self as non-different for the purpose of fulfilling the promise made. The non-difference between Brahman and the individual soul establishes the proposition, "When the Self is known all this is known", "All this is that Self".

Asmarathya is of opinion that the passages 'Atmani vijnate sarvamidam vijnatam bhavati' and 'Idam sarvam yadayamatma' prove the aspect of identity of the individual soul and the Supreme Self, because only then can be attained what is promised i.e., that by the knowledge of Brahman everything can be attained. I-4-20.

The sparks that proceed from a fire are not absolutely different from the fire as they are of the nature of the fire. They are not absolutely non-different from the fire, because in that case they could be distinguished neither from the fire nor from each other. Similarly the individual souls also, which are the effects of Brahman, are neither absolutely different from Brahman, because that would mean that they are not of the nature of intelligence; nor absolutely non-different from Brahman, because in that case they could not be distinguished from each other; and because if they were identical with Brahman, and therefore Omniscient, it would be useless to give them any instruction. Therefore the individual souls are somehow different from Brahman and somehow non-different. This doctrine of Asmarathya is known as "Bhedabhedavada". This is the opinion of the sage Asmarathya.

Utkramishyata evambhavadityaudulomih I.4.21 (127)

The initial statement identifies the individual soul with Brahman or the Supreme Self because the soul, when it will depart (from the body), is such (i.e. one with the Supreme Self); thus Audulomi thinks.

Utkramishyata: of him who would pass away from the body; Evam bhavat: because of this condition; Iti: thus; Audulomih: the sage Audulomi.

The argument in support of Sutra 19 is continued.

Jiva or the individual soul which is associated with its different limiting adjuncts viz., body, senses and mind, attains freedom through meditation and knowledge. When it rises from the body i.e., when it is free and has no body-consciousness, it realises that it is identical with Brahman. Therefore it is represented as non-different from the Supreme Self. This is the opinion of the teacher Audulomi.

We read in the Srutis also "that serene being arising from this body, appears in its own form as soon as it has approached the Highest Light" Chh. Up. VIII-12-3. Mundakopanishad says "As the flowing rivers vanish in the sea, having lost their name and form, so also the sage, freed from name and form, goes to the Divine Person who is greater than the great" Mun. Up. III-2-8.

The individual soul is absolutely different from the Supreme Self. It is conditioned by the different limiting adjuncts viz., body, senses, mind and intellect. But it is spoken of in the Upanishads as non-different from the Supreme Self because it may pass out of the body and become one with the Supreme Self, after having purified itself by means of meditation and knowledge. The text of the Upanishad thus transfers a future state of non-difference to that time when difference actually exists. This doctrine advocated by Audulomi – which holds that difference between the individual soul and Brahman in the state of ignorance is a reality – is a Satyabhedavada.

Avasthiteriti Kasakritsnah I.4.22 (128)

(The initial statement is made) because (the Supreme Self) exists in the condition (of the individual soul); so the Sage Kasakritsna thinks.

Avasthiteh: because of the existence; Iti: thus (holds); Kasakritsnah: the sage Kasakritsna.

The argument in support of Sutra 19 is continued.

The individual soul or Jiva is quite different in nature from Brahman or the Supreme Self. It is not possible for the individual soul to be one with Brahman in the state of emancipation. Therefore the teacher Kasakritsna thinks that the Highest Self Itself exists as the individual soul. As the Supreme Self exists also in the condition of the individual soul, the Sage Kasakritsna is of opinion that the initial statement which aims at intimating the non-difference of the two is possible.

Brahman of the Supreme Self and the individual soul are absolutely non-different. The apparent difference is due to Upadhis or limiting vehicles or adjuncts which are only products of Avidya or ignorance. The difference is illusory or unreal from the absolute or transcendental view point. Therefore it follows that everything else is known by the knowledge of the Self or Brahmajnana.

That the Supreme Self only is that which appears as the individual soul is obvious from the Brahmana-passage "Let me enter into them with this living Self and evolve names and forms."

Sutra 20 means that, the affirmation that "by knowing It everything is known", shows the individual soul and the Supreme Self are non-different. Sutra 21 means the identity of the soul and the Supreme Self, refers to the state of attainment of the Supreme Self by the purified and perfected soul. Sutra 22 means that even now the Supreme Self is the individual soul. It is not that the individual soul is dissolved or merged in the Supreme Self. Our erroneous sense of diversity and separateness is lost or dissolved but the soul, which is in reality the Supreme Self (or the one Atman which alone exists), exists for ever.

Of these three opinions, the one held by Kasakritsna is in accordance with the Scripture, because it agrees with what all the Vedanta texts teach.

According to the statement of Asmarathya, the soul is not absolutely different from the Supreme Self. His declaration indicates by the expression "Owing to the fulfilment of the promise", that there is a certain relation of cause and effect between the Supreme Self and the individual soul. The promise is made in the two passages "when the Self is known, all this is known" and "all this is that Self." According to Asmarathya the individual soul is a product of the Highest Self. Therefore the knowledge of the cause gives rise to the knowledge of everything. If the Soul and the Supreme Self are non-different, the promise that through the "knowledge of one everything becomes known" can be fulfilled.

According to the view of Audulomi the difference and non-difference of the two depend on difference of condition; the individual soul is only a state of the highest Self or Brahman. The view of Asmarathya and Audulomi cannot stand.

Jivahood is an unreality. It is a creation of Avidya or nescience. The individual soul is identical with Brahman in essence. On account of ignorance we feel that we are conditioned or limited by the false, illusory Upadhis and that we are different from Brahman. Really the individual soul is neither created nor destroyed. If the Jivahood is a reality it can never be destroyed and liberation would be impossible. If the individual soul becomes one with Brahman or the Highest Self when it attains freedom or the final emancipation, then Jivahood is illusory. The origin of the souls from the Supreme Self like sparks from the fire is not real creation. It must be viewed only with reference to the limiting adjuncts.

The objector says: the passage, 'Rising from out of these elements he vanishes again after them. When he has departed there is no more knowledge', indicates the final annihilation of the soul, but not its oneness with the Supreme Self.

We reply, this is incorrect. The passage means to say only that all sense perception ceases when the soul departs from the body, not that the Self is annihilated. The passage intimates that the eternally unchanging Self which is one mass of knowledge or consciousness cannot certainly perish but by means of true knowledge of the Self, disconnection with the elements and the sense organs, which are the products of ignorance, has taken place.

The individual soul and the Supreme Self differ in name only. It is a settled conclusion that perfect knowledge produces absolute oneness of the two. The Self is called by many different names but it is One only. Perfect knowledge is the door to Moksha or the final emancipation. Moksha is not something effected and non-eternal, It is eternal and is not different from the eternally unchanging, immortal, pure Brahman who is One without a second. Those who state that there is distinction between the individual and the Supreme Self are not in harmony with the true sense of the Vedanta texts.