Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Rachananupapattyadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-10)

Refutation of the Sankhyan theory of the Pradhana as the cause of the world.

Rachananupapattescha nanumanam II.2.1 (172)

That which is inferred, (by the Sankhyas, viz., the Pradhana) cannot be the cause (of the world) because (in that case it is) not possible (to account for the) design or orderly arrangement (found in the creation).

Rachana: construction, the design in creation; Anupapatteh: on account of the impossibility; Cha: and; Na: not; Anumanam: that which is inferred, what is arrived at by inference, i.e., the Pradhana of the Sankhyas.

An argument is brought forward to the effect that the Pradhana of the Sankhyas is not the cause of the world.

The main object of the Vedanta Sutras is to show the purpose of the revelation of truth in the Vedas. They aim also at refuting the wrong doctrines in the other systems of philosophy. In the previous portion the doctrine of the Sankhyas has been refuted here and there on the authority of the scriptures. Sutras 1-10 refute it through logical reasoning.

Pradhana or blind matter is inert. It is an insentient entity. It does not possess the intelligence that is needed for creating such a multifarious, elaborate, wonderful, orderly, methodical and well-designed universe as this. It cannot bring into being the manifold orderliness of the cosmos. No one has ever seen a beautiful palace constructed by the fortuitous coming together of bricks, mortar, etc., without the active cooperation of intelligent agents like the architects, masons and the rest. Hence, Pradhana cannot be the cause of this world.

Clay cannot change itself into a pot.

The reasoning that Pradhana is the cause of the world because it has in it pleasure, pain, dullness, which are found in the world is not valid, because it is not possible for an insentient entity to create the wonderful, orderly universe. Moreover, how do you say that pleasure and pain and dullness are found in the outside world? The external objects are a factor in pleasure and pain which are internal experiences. Moreover, there can be pleasure and pain even irrespective of the external objects. How can you ascribe them to an insentient entity (Achetana)?

Physical objects like flowers, fruits, etc., no doubt have the presence in them of the quality of producing pleasure. But the feeling of pleasure is altogether an internal feeling. We cannot say that flowers and fruits have the nature of pleasure in them, though they excite pleasure in man. Pleasure is altogether an attribute of the soul and not of matter or Pradhana. Hence, matter or Pradhana cannot be said to have the quality of pleasure, etc.

Pravrittescha II.2.2 (173)

And on account of the (impossibility of) activity.

Pravritteh: because of the activity, of a tendency; Cha: and (it has the force of 'only' here).

This is an argument in support of Sutra 1.

Pradhana (blind matter) cannot be the cause of the world, because it is also impossible for it to have an inclination for creation.

How does Pradhana in a state of equilibrium of its three Gunas become dynamic and creative? It cannot disturb its own equipoise. The desire or tendency to create cannot be ascribed to the inert Pradhana. The inert chariot cannot move by itself. It is only the intelligent charioteer who moves the chariot by directing the movements of the horse. Mud by itself is never seen to create a jar without the agency of an intelligent potter. From what is seen we determine what is not seen. We proceed from the known to the unknown. How then do you prove that Pradhana which is insentient is self-moving? Hence the inert Pradhana cannot be the cause of the universe, because the activity that is necessary for the creation of the universe would be impossible in that case. There must be a directive intelligent Being or Entity for that purpose.

The activity must be attributed to the directive intelligence rather than to the inert matter or Pradhana. That which sets Pradhana or matter in motion is the real agent. Every activity is seen as the result of an intelligent agent. Inert matter or Pradhana therefore has no agency. Matter or Pradhana has no self-initiated activity of its own.

The objector may say "I do not see Chetana (soul) active and that I see only the activity of the body." We reply that there is no activity without the soul.

He may again say that the soul, being pure consciousness, cannot have activity. We reply that the soul can induce activity, though not self-active, just as a lodestone or magnet though unmoving can make iron move. A material object though fixed causes activity in our senses.

The objector may again say that as the soul is one and infinite, there is no possibility of causation of activity. We reply that it causes activity in the names and forms created by Maya owing to Avidya.

Hence, motion can be reconciled with the doctrine of an intelligent First Cause but not with the doctrine of a non-intelligent first cause (Pradhana of the Sankhyas).

Payo'mbuvaccet tatra'pi II.2.3 (174)

If it be said (that the Pradhana moves or spontaneously modifies herself into the various products) like milk or water (without the guidance of any intelligence), (we reply that) there also (it is due to intelligence).

Payo'mbuvat: like milk and water; Chet: if; Tatra: there, in those cases; Api: even, also. (Payah: milk; Ambuvat: like water.)

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

If the objector says that there could be self-activity of nature as in milk or water, we reply that even then there is the operation of an intelligent agent.

The Sankhya says that the inert Pradhana may become active of its own accord and undergo modification into intellect, egoism, mind, Tanmatra, etc., just as water flows in rivers spontaneously, rain from the clouds or milk from the udder to the calf.

This is refuted by the latter part of Sutra 'Tatra Api', even there. Even the flowing of water or milk is directed by the intelligence of the Supreme Lord. This we infer from the example of chariot, etc. We may not see the intelligent driver of the chariot, but we infer his existence from the motion of the car.

The scriptures also say, "He who dwells in the water, who rules the water from within" (Bri. Up. III.7.4). "By the command of that Akshara, O Gargi! some rivers flow to the east" (Bri. Up. III.8.9). Everything in this world is directed by the Lord.

Further the cow is an intelligent creature. She loves her calf, and makes her milk flow by her wish. The milk is in addition drawn forth by the sucking of the calf. The flow of water depends on the downward sloping of the earth.

Vyatirekanavasthiteschanapekshatvat II.2.4 (175)

And because (the Pradhana) is not dependent (on anything), there being no external agent besides it (it cannot be active).

Vyatirekanavasthiteh: There being no external agency besides it; Cha: and also; Anapekshatvat: because it is not dependent. (Vyatireka: an external agent; Anavasthiteh: from non-existence, as it does not exist.)

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

According to the Sankhyas, there is no external agent to urge Pradhana into activity, or restrain from activity. Their Purusha is indifferent, neither moves to, nor restrains from, action. He is not an agent. He is unresponsive to the first stimulus for starting the process of creation. Hence, there is no agency to disturb the primordial equilibrium. Therefore, the Pradhana of the Sankhyas cannot be the First Cause of the world.

The state in which the three Gunas are in a state of equipoise is called Pradhana by the Sankhyas. According to the Sankhyas, no controlling sentient power operates on the Pradhana. Purusha is static and quiescent.

Therefore, Pradhana may evolve in one way now and in another way afterwards or may not evolve at all, as it is not controlled by any directing and ruling Intelligence. But the Supreme Lord is Omniscient and Omnipotent. He has perfect control over Maya. He can create or not create as He pleases.

The Pradhana of the Sankhyas is inert, so it cannot of itself start to be active; or when it is set in motion it can hardly stop to be active of itself. Hence, the Sankhyas cannot explain creation and dissolution when there is no directing or ruling intelligence. All other principles are only effects of the Pradhana. Therefore, they cannot exercise any influence on it. Hence, the theory of the Sankhyas is self-contradictory.

Anyatrabhavaccha na trinadivat II.2.5 (176)

And (it can) not (be said that the Pradhana modifies itself spontaneously) like grass, etc., (which turn into milk), because of its absence elsewhere (than in the female animals).

Anyatra: elsewhere, in the other case, elsewhere than in cows; Abhavat: because of the absence; Cha: and, also; Na: not; Trinadivat: like the grass etc.

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

The word 'cha' – and, has the force of 'only'.

The objector says that as grass becomes milk, so Pradhana may evolve into the world. But does grass become milk of its own power? No. If so, try to produce milk from grass. A cow alone converts grass into milk. Does a bull do so?

The spontaneous modification of the Pradhana is not possible. Grass is not changed into milk spontaneously. It is converted into milk only when eaten by cows but not by the bulls. Here also it is the will of the Supreme Lord that brings about the change, not because the cow has eaten it.

The illustration or analogy is useless. It cannot stand. The argument of the Sankhyas is not sound. Hence, the Pradhana's undergoing modification of itself cannot be accepted. The spontaneous modification of Pradhana cannot be proved from the instances of grass and the like.

Abhyupagame'pyarthabhavat II.2.6 (177)

Even if we admit (the Sankhya position with regard to the spontaneous modification of the Pradhana, it cannot be the cause of the universe) because of the absence of any purpose.

Abhyupagame: accepting, admitting, taking for granted; Api: even; Artha: purpose; Abhavat: because of the absence.

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

Even though we admit for the sake of argument that the Pradhana is spontaneously active, it will lead to a contradiction in their philosophy. If the Pradhana is spontaneously active, if it is capable of an inherent tendency for modification, motion or change, its activity cannot have any purpose. This will contradict the view of the Sankhyas that the modification of the Pradhana is for the experience or enjoyment (Bhoga) and release of the soul (Moksha).

There is no enjoyment to be enjoyed by the ever-perfect Purusha (or Soul). If he could enjoy, how could he ever become free from enjoyment? He is already free. He is already in a state of beatitude. As He is perfect, He can have no desire.

The insentient Pradhana cannot have a desire to evolve. So the satisfaction of a desire cannot be considered as the purpose of activity of the Pradhana. If you say that evolution must be postulated because creative power would become inoperative otherwise, we reply that in that case creative power will be always operative and there could be no attainment of freedom from it by the attainment of beatitude.

It is, therefore, impossible to maintain that the Pradhana becomes active for the purpose of the soul. It cannot be the cause of the universe.

Purushasmavaditi chet tathapi II.2.7 (178)

If it be said (that the Purusha or Soul can direct or move the Pradhana) as the (lame) man can direct a blind man, or as the magnet (moves the iron), even then (the difficulty cannot be overcome).

Purusha: a person. Asma: a lodestone, a magnet; Vat: like; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Tathapi: even then, still.

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

The Sankhyas say that Purusha can direct the Pradhana or inspire activity in Pradhana, though He has no activity, just as a lame man can move by sitting on the shoulders of a blind man and direct his movements or just as a magnet attracts iron. But these illustrations are not apt. A lame man speaks and directs the blind man. The blind man, though incapable of seeing, has the capacity of understanding those instructions given by the lame man and acting upon them. But Purusha is perfectly indifferent. He has no kind of activity at all. Hence, He cannot do that with regard to the Pradhana.

Moreover, the lame and the blind are both conscious entities and the iron and the magnet are both insentient matter. Consequently, the instances given are not to the point. According to the Sankhyas the Pradhana is independent. Hence, it is not right to say that it depends on the proximity of the Purusha for its activity, just as the iron depends on the magnet for its motion. A magnet attracts when the iron is brought near. The proximity of the magnet to the iron is not permanent. It depends on a certain activity and the adjustment of the magnet in a certain position. But no one brings the Purusha near Pradhana. If Purusha is always near, then creation will be eternal. There will be no liberation at all.

The Purusha and the Pradhana are altogether separate and independent. Pradhana is non-intelligent, inert and independent. Purusha is unintelligent and indifferent. No one else (a third principle) exists to bring them together. Hence there can be no connection between them.

There could be no creative activity at all according to the doctrine of the Sankhyas. If there could be such activity, there could be no final release as the cause of creation could never cease.

In Vedanta Brahman which is the cause of the universe is indifferent but He is endowed with attributes and activity through Maya. He is characterised by non-activity inherent in His own nature and at the same time by moving power inherent in Maya. So He becomes the Creator. He is indifferent by nature and active by Maya. Hence, His creative power is well explained. He is superior to the Purusha of the Sankhyas.

Angitvanupapattescha II.2.8 (179)

And again (the Pradhana cannot be active) because the relation of principal (and subordinate matter) is impossible (between the three Gunas).

Angitvanupapatteh: on account of the impossibility of the relation of principal (and subordinate); Cha: and, also. (Angitva: the relation of being the principal, being preponderant; Anupa- patteh: on account of the impossibility and unreasonableness).

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

The Pradhana has been defined to be the equilibrium of the three Gunas. The Pradhana consists of three Gunas, viz., Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. Three Gunas are independent of each other. They are in a state of equipoise before creation. In the state of Pradhana no Guna is superior or inferior to the other. Every one of them is equal to the other and consequently the relation of subordinate and principal could not exist then. The Purusha is altogether indifferent. He has no interest in bringing about the disturbance of equilibrium of the Pradhana. Creation starts when the equipoise is upset and one Guna becomes more predominant than the other two. As there exists no extraneous principle to stir up the Gunas, the production of the Great Principle and the other effects which would require for its operative cause a non-balanced state of the Gunas is impossible. Equipoise cannot be disturbed without any external force. The Gunas are absolutely independent when they are in a state of equilibrium. They cannot take of themselves a subsidiary position to another Guna without losing their independence. Hence, creation would be impossible.

This Sutra says that such preponderance is not possible. The Sankhyas cannot explain why should one Guna preponderate over the other. Hence, on account of the impossibility of such preponderance of one over the other Gunas, Pradhana cannot be accepted to be the cause of the world.

Anyathanumitau cha jnasaktiviyogat II.2.9 (180)

Even if it be inferred otherwise on account of the Pradhana being devoid of the power of intelligence (the other objections to the Pradhana being the cause of the universe remain in force).

Anyatha: otherwise, in other ways; Anumitau: if it be inferred, in case of inference; Cha: even, and; Jnasakti: power of intelligence; Viyogat: because of being destitute of, because of dissociation.

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is continued.

Even if the objector postulates such power of modification as being inherent in Pradhana, the inappropriateness will continue because of the insentiency or non-intelligence of the Pradhana.

The Sankhya says: We do not acknowledge the Gunas to be characterised by absolute independence, irrelativity and unchangeableness. We infer the characteristics of the Gunas from those of their effects. We presume that their nature must be such as to make the production of the effects possible. The Gunas have some characteristics, different attributes and mysterious powers inherent in them like unstability. Consequently the Gunas themselves are able to enter into a state of inequality, even while they are in a state of equipoise. Even in that case we reply, the objections stated above which were founded on the impossibility of an orderly arrangement of the world, etc., remain in force on account of the Pradhana being devoid of the power of intelligence. As Pradhana is insentient it has not the power of self-consciousness. Being thus destitute of it, it has not the idea of any plan or design. It cannot say as an intelligent entity would say, "Let me create the world in such and such a way." A house can never be built by mere bricks and mortar without the supervision and active agency of the architect and masons. Even so, creation never proceeds from dead matter or Pradhana. Without the directive action of intelligence, the Gunas, however wonderful in their powers and attributes, cannot of themselves create the universe.

On account of lack of intelligence the objections, founded on design etc., in the universe and that it would lead to continuous creation, come in the way of accepting the Pradhana as the cause of the universe (Vide Sutras 1, 4 and 7).

Vipratishedhaccasamanjasam II.2.10 (181)

And moreover (the Sankhya doctrine) is objectionable on account of its contradictions.

Vipratishedhat: because of contradiction; Cha: also, and; Asamanjasam: inconsistent, objectionable, not harmonious, untenable.

The argument in support of Sutra 1 is concluded.

Further, the Sankhya doctrine is inconsistent because there are various contradictions in the Sankhya philosophy. Sometimes the senses are said to be eleven and again they are said to be seven. It sometimes says that the Tanmatras come from Mahat and sometimes that they come from Ahamkara. Sometimes it says that there are three Antahkaranas. Sometimes it says that there is only one Antahkarana.

Moreover, their doctrine contradicts Sruti which teaches that the Lord is the cause of the universe, and Smriti based on Sruti. For these reasons also the Sankhya system is objectionable. It cannot be accepted.

Here the Sankhya again brings a counter-charge. He says "You also have got such inappropriateness in your doctrine." He asks whether if Brahman is cause and effect, there could be any liberation from effects and whether scripture affirming liberation will not become useless. He argues "fire cannot become free from heat and light or water free from waves. Only when there is separateness of cause and effect, there can be any meaning in liberation."

We reply that even the objector must admit that Purusha being by nature pure, cannot be disturbed and that disturbance is due to Avidya and is not absolutely real. That is our position too. But you give Avidya a state of permanence. Consequently even if Purusha gets free from it, there is no surety that such separation will be permanent. We postulate only one Being. All effects are only relative and cannot, therefore, affect the absolute reality.