Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Arambhanadhikaranam: Topic 6 (Sutras 14-20)

The world (effect) is non-different from Brahman (the cause).

Tadananyatvamarambhanasabdadibhyah II.1.14 (148)

The non-difference of them (i.e., of cause and effect) results from such terms as 'origin' and the like.

Tat: (its, of the universe); Ananyatvam: non-difference; Arambhana sabdadibhyah: from words like 'origin', etc.

That the effect is not different from the cause is shown here.

In Sutra 13, the Sutrakara spoke from the point of view of Parinamavada and refuted the objection raised by the opponent that Brahman cannot be the material cause as it contradicts perception. In Parinamavada, Brahman actually undergoes transformation or modification. Now the same objection is overthrown from the view point of Vivartavada. In Vivartavada there is only apparent modification. Rope appears as a snake. It is not transformed into an actual snake. This is the doctrine of Advaita of Sri Sankara.

In the previous Sutra the simile of the ocean and the waves was stated, accepting the apparent variety of objects. But in reality, cause and effect are one even now. This is clear from the word 'Arambhana' (beginning), just as by knowing a lump of clay, all clay will be known. Name is only a verbal modification. The true being is only clay. A pot is only clay even now. Similarly, the world is only Brahman even now. It is wrong to say that oneness and manifoldness are both true as in the case of ocean and waves, etc. The word 'eva' in 'Mrittiketyeva' shows that all diversity is unreal. The soul is declared to be one with Brahman.

The objector or Purvapakshin says: 'If there is only one Truth viz., Brahman, the diverse objects of perception will be negated. The ethical injunction will become useless. All the texts embodying injunctions and prohibitions will lose their purport if the distinction on which their validity depends does not really exist. Moreover, the science of liberation of the soul will have no reality, if the distinction of teacher and the student on which it depends is not real. There would be no bondage and hence no liberation. As the science of the soul itself is unreal, it cannot lead to the Reality. If the doctrine of release is untrue, how can we maintain the truth of the absolute unity of the Self?

But these objects have no force because the whole phenomenal existence is regarded as true as long as the knowledge of Brahman has not arisen, just as the dream creatures are regarded to be true till the waking state arrives. When we wake up after dreams, we know the dream world to be false but the knowledge of dreams is not false. Moreover, even dreams sometimes forebode the imminent reality of death. The reality of realisation of Brahman cannot be said to be illusory because it destroys ignorance and leads to the cessation of illusion.

Bhave chopalabdheh II.1.15 (149)

And (because) only on the existence (of the cause) (the effect) is experienced.

Bhave: on the existence; Cha: and; Upalabdheh: is experienced.

The argument begun in Sutra 14 as to how it follows that the effect (world) is inseparable from its material cause, Brahman, is continued.

The effect is perceived only when the cause is present in it; otherwise not. A pot or cloth will exist even if the potter or the weaver is absent, but it will not exist if the clay or thread is absent. This proves that the effect is not different from the cause. The Chhandogya Upanishad says, "All these created things, O my son, originate from Sat, i.e., Brahman, rest in Him and eventually dissolve in Him" (VI-8-4).

The objector says: There is no recognition of fire in the smoke. The smoke being the effect of fire, ought to show fire in it. To this we reply that smoke is really the effect of damp fuel. The damp fuel comes in contact with fire and throws off its earthly particles in the form of smoke. The smoke and the fuel are identical. We can recognise the fuel in the smoke. This is proved by the fact that the smoke has smell just as the fuel has. The smoke is generally of the same nature as that of the fuel.

The phenomena of the universe manifest only because Brahman exists. They cannot certainly appear without Brahman. Therefore the world (effect) is not different from Brahman, the cause.

Sattvaccavarasya II.1.16 (150)

And on account of the posterior (i.e., the effect which comes after the cause) existing (as the cause before creation).

Sattvat: Because of the existence; Cha: and; Avarasya: of the posterior, i.e., of the effect as it comes after the cause, i.e., of the world.

The argument begun in Sutra 14 is continued.

The scripture says that the effect (the world) existed in its causal aspect (Brahman) before the creation.

"In the beginning, my dear, Sadeva somyedamagra asit, this was only existence" (Chh. Up). "Atma va idam eka agra asit, verily in the beginning this was Self, one only" (Ait. Ar. 2.4.1). "Brahma va idamagra asit. Before creation, this universe existed as Brahman" (Bri. Up. 1.4.10).

The Upanishads declare that the universe had its being in the cause, Brahman, before creation. It was one with Brahman. As the world was non-different from the cause before creation, it continues to be non-different after creation also.

The effect (world) is non-different from the cause (Brahman) because it is existent in the cause, identically even, prior to its manifestation, though in time it is posterior.

A thing which does not exist in another thing by the self of the latter is not produced from that other thing. For instance, oil is not produced from sand. We can get oil from the groundnut because it exists in the seed, though in latency, but not from sand, because it does not exist in it. The existence is the same both in the world and in Brahman. As everything exists in Brahman, so it can come out of it.

Brahman is in all time neither more nor less than that which is. So the effect also (the world) is in all time only that which is. That which is, is one only. Hence the effect is non-different from the cause.

Asadvyapadesanneti chet na dharmantarena vakyaseshat II.1.17 (151)

If it be said that on account of (the effect) being described as that which is not, (the effect does) not (exist before creation), we reply 'not so', because the term 'that which is not' denotes another characteristic or attribute (as is seen) from the latter part of the text.

Asadvyapadesat: on account of its being described as non-existent; Na: not; Iti chet: if it be said; Na: no; Dharmantarena: by another attribute or characteristic; Vakyaseshat: from the latter part of the text or passage, because of the complementary passage.

The argument that the world had no existence before creation is refuted.

From the word 'Asat', literally meaning non-existence, in the Sruti, it may be argued that before creation the world had no existence. But that argument cannot stand as the latter part of the same text uses epithets other than "non-existent" to describe the condition of the world before creation. We understand from this that the world was existent before creation. This is established by reasoning also because something cannot come out of nothing and also by clear statements on other texts of Sruti. "Asad va idam agra asit" – Asat was this verily in the beginning (Tait. Up. II-7-1).

"Asat eva agre asit" – This universe was at first but non-existent. Asat indeed was this in the beginning. From it verily proceeded the Sat (Chh. Up. III.19.1). The latter part of the passage is "Tatsadasit" (That was existent). The word 'non-existent' (asat) does not certainly mean absolute non-existence, but that the universe did not exist in a gross, differentiated state. It existed in an extremely subtle unmanifested state. It was not differentiated. It had not yet developed name and form. The world was projected. Then it became gross, and developed name and form. You can get the meaning if you go through the latter part of the passage 'It became existent.' "It grew."

It is absurd to say that non-existence (Asat) existed. Therefore, Sat means manifest, i.e. having name and form, whereas Asat simply means fine, subtle and unmanifested. 'Asat' refers to another attribute of the effect, namely non-manifestation. The words Sat and Asat refer to two attributes of one and the same object, namely to its gross or manifested condition and subtle or unmanifested condition.

Asad va idamagra asit. Tato vai sadajayata. Tadatmanam svayamkuruta. Tasmat tatsukritamuchyata ita. Yadvai tatsukritam. Asat indeed was this in the beginning. From it verily proceeded the Sat. That made itself its Self. Therefore, it is said to be self-made.

The words "Asat made itself its Self" clears up any doubt as to the real meaning of the word "that". If the word "Asat" meant absolute non-existence, then there will be a contradiction in terms, because non-existence can never make itself the Self of anything. The word "Asit" or "was" becomes absurd when applied to "Asat" because absolute non-existence can never be said to exist and 'was' means 'existed'. An absolute non-existence can have no relation with time past or present. Further, it cannot have any agency also as we find in the passage, "It made itself its Self." Hence the word 'Asat' should be explained as a subtle state of an object.

Yukteh sabdantaracca II.1.18 (152)

From reasoning and from another Sruti text (the same is clear. This relation between cause and effect is established.)

Yukteh: from reasoning; Sabda-antarat: from another Sruti text; Cha: and.

That the effect exists before its origination and is non-different from the cause follows from reasoning and also from a further scriptural passage or another text of the Vedas.

The same fact is clear from logic or reasoning also. Otherwise, everything could have been produced from anything. If non-being is the cause, then why should there be an inevitable sequence? Why should curds be produced from milk and not from mud? It is impossible even within thousands of years to bring about an effect which is different from its cause. Particular causes produce particular effects only. This is a power in the cause which produces the effect. The relation of cause and effect (e.g., the relation of mud and pot) is a relation of identity. The cause of our thinking and saying 'the pot exists' is the fact that the lump of clay assumes a particular form of a neck, hollow belly, etc., while the material remains as clay only. On the contrary we think and say 'the jar does not exist', when the clay pot is broken into pieces. Hence existence and non-existence show only their different conditions. Non-existence in this connection does not mean absolute non-existence. This is reasoning or Yukti.

Just as an actor puts on many disguises and is yet the same man, so also the Ultimate Cause (Brahman) appears as these diverse objects and yet is the same.

Hence the cause exists before the effects and is non-different from the effect.

The effect exists in the cause in an unmanifested state. It is manifested during creation. That is all. An absolutely non-existent thing like the horns of a hare can never come into existence. The cause cannot produce altogether a new thing which was not existing in it already.

Further, we find from the well-known passage of the Chhandogya Upanishad, "In the beginning, my dear, there was only existence, one without a second" (Chh. Up. VI-2-1), that the effect exists even before creation and is non-different from its cause.

The author now gives some illustrations in order to confirm the doctrine that effect is identical with the cause.

Patavacca II.1.19 (153)

And like a piece of cloth.

Patavat: like a piece of cloth; Cha: and.

An example in support of Sutra 17 is presented.

Just as a rolled or folded piece of cloth is subsequently unrolled or unfolded, so also the world which rested unmanifested before creation becomes afterwards manifested. The world is like a folded cloth before creation. It is like a cloth that is spread out after creation. A folded cloth is not seen as a cloth till it is spread out. The threads are not seen as a cloth till they are woven. Even so, the effect is in the cause and is identical with the cause. In the folded state you cannot make out whether it is a cloth or anything else. But when it is spread out you can clearly know that it is a cloth. In the state of dissolution (Pralaya) the world exists in a seed state or potential condition in Brahman.

There are no names and forms. The universe is in an undifferentiated or unmanifested state. It takes a gross form after creation. The names and forms are differentiated and manifested.

As a piece of cloth is not different from the threads, so the effect (world) is not different from its cause (Brahman).

The word "Cha" (and) of the Sutra shows that other illustrations like the seed and the tree may also be given here.

When the cloth is folded, you do not know of what definite length and width it is. But when it is unfolded you know all these particulars. You also know that the cloth is not different from the folded object. The effect, the piece of cloth, is unmanifested as long as it exists in its cause, i.e., the threads. It becomes manifest and is clearly seen on account of the operations of shuttle, loom, weaver, etc.

The conclusion is that the effect is not different from the cause.

Yatha cha pranadi II.1.20 (154)

And as in the case of the different Pranas or Vital airs.

Yatha: as; Cha: and; Pranadi: in the case of Pranas or vital airs.

Another illustration in support of Sutra 17 is presented.

The word 'Cha' (and) in the Sutra shows that the last illustration of the piece of cloth and the present one of life functions should be read together as one illustration.

When the five different vital airs are controlled by the practice of Pranayama, they merge in the chief Prana, the cause which regulates breathing. Mere life only is maintained. All other functions such as bending and stretching of the limbs etc., are stopped. This shows that the various vital airs, the effects, are not different from their cause, the chief Prana. The different vital airs are only modifications of the chief or Mukhyaprana. So is the case with all effects. They are not different from the cause.

Thus it is established that the effect, the world, is identical with its cause, Brahman. Therefore, by knowing Brahman everything is known. As the whole world is an effect of Brahman and non-different from it, the promise held out in the scriptural text 'what is not heard is heard, what is not perceived is perceived, what is not known is known' (Chh. Up. VI.I.3) is fulfilled.