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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Introduction

In the First Section of the Second Chapter Brahman's creatorship of the world has been established on the authority of the scriptures supported by logic. All arguments against Brahman being the cause of the universe have been refuted.

In the present Section the Sutrakara or the framer of the Sutras examines the theories of creation advanced by other schools of thought in vogue in his time. All the doctrines of the other schools are taken up for refutation through reasoning alone without reference to the authority of the Vedas. Here he refutes by reasoning the Matter theory or the Pradhana theory of the Sankhya philosophy, the Atom theory of the Vaiseshika philosophy, the momentary and the Nihilistic view of the Buddhists, the Jain theory of simultaneous existence and non-existence, the Pasupata theory of coordinate duality and theory of energy unaided by intelligence.

It has been shown in the last Sutra of the First Section of the Second Chapter that Brahman is endowed with all the attributes through Maya, such as Omnipotence, Omniscience, etc., for qualifying Him to be the cause of the world.

Now in Section 2 the question is taken up whether the Pradhana of the Sankhya philosophy can satisfy all those conditions.



To put all things concisely in a nutshell, Sri Vyasa Bhagavan refutes in this section all the doctrines or theories prevalent in his time and inconsistent with the Vedanta theory; viz., (1) The Sankhya theory of the Pradhana as the first cause. (2) Refutation of the objection from the Vaiseshika stand point against the Brahman being the First Cause. (3) Refutation of the Atomic theory of the Vaiseshikas. (4) Refutation of the Bauddha Idealists and Nihilists. (5) Refutation of the Bauddha Realists. (6) Refutation of the Jainas. (7) Refutation of the Pasupata doctrine, that God is only the efficient and not the material cause of the world. (8) Refutation of the Pancharatra or the Bhagavata doctrine that the soul originates from the Lord, etc.

In the First Section of the Second Chapter Brahman's authorship of the world has been established on the authority of the scriptures supported by logic. The task of the Second Pada or Section is to refute by arguments independent of Vedic passages the more important philosophical theories concerning the origin of the universe which are contrary to the Vedantic view.

Adhikarana I:

(Sutras 1-10) is directed against the Sankhyas. It aims at proving that a non-intelligent first cause such as the Pradhana of the Sankhyas is unable to create and dispose.

Adhikaranas II and III:

(Sutras 11-17) refute the Vaiseshika doctrine that the world takes its origin from the atoms which are set in motion by the Adrishta.

Adhikaranas IV and V:

are directed against various schools of Buddhistic philosophy.

Adhikarana IV:

(Sutras 18-27) refutes the view of Buddhistic Realists who maintain the reality of an external as well as an internal world.

Adhikarana V:

(Sutras 28-32) refutes the view of the Vijnanavadins or Buddhistic Idealists, according to whom Ideas are the only reality. The last Sutra of the Adhikarana refutes the view of the Madhyamikas or Sunyavadins (Nihilists) who teach that everything is void, i.e., that nothing whatsoever is real.

Adhikarana VI:

(Sutras 33-36) refutes the doctrine of the Jainas.

Adhikarana VII:

(Sutras 37-41) refutes the Pasupata school which teaches that the Lord is not the material but only the efficient or operative cause of the world.

Adhikarana VIII:

(Sutras 42-45) refutes the doctrine of the Bhagavatas or Pancharatras.


In Sutras 1 to 10 the principle of Sankhya philosophy is further refuted by reasoning. Pradhana or blind matter is inert. It is insentient or non-intelligent. There is methodical arrangement in the causation of this world. Hence it is not reasonable to suppose that blind matter can have any inclination for the creation of the world without the help of intelligence.

The Sankhya says that the inert Pradhana may become active of its own accord and spontaneously pass into the state of the world and undergo modification into intellect, egoism, mind, Tanmatras, etc., just as water flows in rivers spontaneously, rain from the clouds, or milk from the udder to the calf. This argument of the Sankhya is untenable, because the flowing of water or milk is directed by the intelligence of the Supreme Lord.

According to the Sankhyas, there is no external agent to urge Pradhana into activity or restraining from activity. Pradhana can work quite independently. Their Purusha is always inactive and indifferent. He is not an agent. Hence the contention that Pradhana in presence of Purusha or Spirit acquires a tendency towards action or creation cannot stand.

The Sankhya argues that Pradhana is by itself turned into the visible world, just as grass eaten by a cow is itself turned into milk. This argument is groundless as no such transformation is found on the part of the grass eaten by the bull. Hence, also, it is the will of the Supreme Lord that brings about the change, not because the cow has eaten it. Therefore Pradhana by itself cannot be said to be the cause of the world.

The Sankhya says 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. The independent and blind Pradhana, in conjunction with the passive but intelligent Purusha, originates the world. This argument also is untenable because the perfect inactivity and indifference of Purusha and the absolute independence of Pradhana cannot be reconciled with each other.

The Pradhana consists of three Gunas, viz., Sattva, Rajas and Tamas. They are in a state of equipoise before creation. No Guna is superior or inferior to the other. 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 was in the beginning of creation no cause for the disturbance of the state of equipoise, it was not possible for Pradhana to be transformed into the world.

Sutras 11 to 17 refute the Atomic theory of the Vaiseshika philosophy where the indivisible minute atoms are stated to be the cause of the world. If an atom has any parts of an appreciable magnitude, then it cannot be an atom. Then it can be further divisible. If they are without parts of any appreciable magnitude, as they are so described in Vaiseshika philosophy, it is not possible for such two partless atoms to produce by their union a substance having any magnitude. Hence compound substances can never be formed by the combination of atoms. Therefore the Vaiseshika theory of origination of the world from indivisible atoms is untenable.

The inanimate atoms can have no tendency of themselves to unite together and cohere so as to form compounds. Vaiseshikas hold that the motion which is due to the unseen principle (Adrishta), joins the atoms in which it resides to another atom. Adrishta is a latent force of the sum total of previous deeds which waits to bear fruit in the future. Thus the whole world originates from atoms.

As Adrishta is insentient it cannot act. It cannot reside in the atoms. It must inhere in the soul. If the latent force or Adrishta be an inherent property of atoms, the atoms will always remain united. Hence there will be no dissolution and no chance for fresh creation.

If the two atoms unite totally or perfectly the atomic state will continue as there will be no increase in bulk. If in part, then atoms will have parts. This is against the theory of the Vaiseshikas. Hence, the theory of the Vaiseshikas that the world is caused by combination of atoms is untenable.

The atomic theory involves another difficulty. If the atoms are by nature active, then creation would be permanent. No Pralaya or dissolution could take place. If they are by nature inactive, no creation could take place. The dissolution would be permanent. For this reason also, the atomic doctrine is untenable.

According to the Vaiseshika philosophy, the atoms are said to have colour etc. That which has form, colour etc., is gross, and impermanent. Consequently, the atoms must be gross and impermanent. This contradicts the theory of the Vaiseshikas that they are minute and permanent.

If the respective atoms of the elements also possess the same number of qualities as the gross elements, then the atom of air will have one quality, an atom of earth will have four qualities. Hence an atom of earth which possesses four qualities will be bigger in size. It would not be an atom any longer. Hence the Atom theory of the Vaiseshikas on the causation of the world does not stand to reason in any way. This Atom theory is not accepted by the Vedas.

Sutras 18 to 32 refute the Buddhistic theory of momentarism and Nihilism (Sunyavada). The Vaiseshikas are the Realists (Sarvastitvavadins). They accept the reality of both the outside world and the inside world consisting respectively of external objects and consciousness and feelings. The Sautrantikas are the idealists (Vijnanavadins). They hold that thought alone is real. They maintain that ideas only exist and the external objects are inferred from the ideas. The Yogacharas hold that ideas alone are real and there is no external world corresponding to these ideas. The external objects are unreal like dreamy objects. The Madhymikas maintain that even the ideas themselves are unreal and there is nothing that exists except the void (Sunyam). They are the Nihilists or Sunyavadins who hold that everything is void and unreal. All of them agree that everything is momentary. Things of the previous moment do not exist in the next moment.

According to the Buddhists, atoms and consciousness are both inanimate. There is no permanent intelligence which can bring about the aggregation or which can guide the atoms to unite into an external thing or to form a continuous mental phenomena. Hence the doctrine of this school of Bauddhas is untenable.

Nescience etc., stand in a causal relation to each other merely. They cannot be made to account for the existence of the aggregates. According to the Buddhistic theory, everything is momentary. A thing of the present moment vanishes in the next moment, when its successor manifests. At the time of the appearance of a subsequent thing, the previous thing already vanishes. Hence it is impossible for the previous thing to be the cause of the subsequent thing. Consequently the theory is untenable.

The Buddhists maintain that existence originates from nonexistence because they hold that the effect cannot manifest without the destruction of the cause, the tree cannot appear until the seed is destroyed. We always perceive that the cause subsists in the effect as the thread subsists in the cloth. Hence the Buddhistic view is incorrect, unreasonable and inadmissible.

Even the passing of cause into effect in a series of successive states like nescience, etc., cannot take place unless there is a coordinating intelligence. The Buddhists say that everything has only a momentary existence. Their school cannot bring about the simultaneous existence of two successive moments. If the cause exists till it passes into the stage of effect, the theory of momentary existence (Kshanikavada) will vanish.

According to the Buddhistic view, salvation or freedom is attained when ignorance is destroyed. Ignorance is the false idea of permanency in things which are momentary.

The ignorance can be annihilated by the adoption of some means such as penance, knowledge, etc., (conscious destruction), or it may destroy itself (spontaneity). But both the alternatives are defective. Because this annihilation of ignorance cannot be attained by the adoption of penance or the like, because the means like every other thing is also momentary according to the Buddhistic view and is therefore, not likely to produce such annihilation. Annihilation cannot take place of its own accord, for in that case all Buddhistic instructions, the disciplines and methods of meditation for the attainment of salvation will be useless.

The Buddhists do not recognise the existence of Akasa. They regard Akasa as a non-entity. This is unreasonable. Akasa has the quality of sound. It is also a distinct entity like earth, water, etc. If Akasa be a non-entity, then the entire world would become destitute of space. Scriptural passages declare "Akasa sprang from Atman." Hence Akasa is a real thing. It is a Vastu (existing object) and not non-existence.

If everything is momentary the experiencer of something must also be momentary. But the experiencer is not momentary because people have the memory of past experiences. Memory can take place in a man who has previously experienced it. He is connected with at least two moments. This certainly refutes the theory of momentariness.

A non-entity has not been observed to produce entity. Therefore it does not stand to reason to suppose non-entity to be the cause. The world which is a reality is stated by the Buddhists to have arisen out of non-entity. This is absurd. A pot is never found to be produced without clay. If existence can come out of non-existence, then anything may come out of anything, because non-entity is one and the same in all cases. A jack tree may come out of a mango seed. If an existing thing can arise out of nothing, then an indifferent and lazy man may also attain salvation without efforts. Emancipation may be attained like a windfall. Rice will grow even if the farmer does not cultivate his field.

The Vijnanavadins say that the external things have no objective reality. Everything is an idea without any reality corresponding to it. This is not correct. The external objects are actually perceived by senses of perception. The external world cannot be non-existent like the horns of a hare.

The Buddhist Idealists say that perception of the external world is like the dream. This is wrong. The consciousness in dream depends on the previous consciousness in the wakeful state, but the consciousness in the wakeful state does not depend on anything else but on the actual perception by the sense. Further, the dream experiences become false as soon as one wakes up.

The Buddhist Idealists hold that though an external thing does not actually exist, yet its impressions do exist, and from these impressions diversities of perception and ideas like chair, tree arise. This is not possible, as there can be no perception of an external thing which is itself non-existent. If there be no perception of an external thing, how can it leave an impression?

The mental impressions cannot exist because the ego which receives impressions is itself momentary in their view.

The Sunyavada or Nihilism of the Buddhists which asserts that nothing exists is fallacious, because it goes against every method of proof, viz., perception, inference, testimony or scripture and analogy.

Sutras 33 to 36 refute the Jaina theory. According to the Jaina theory, everything is at once existing and non-existing. Now this view cannot be accepted, because in one substance it is not possible that contradictory qualities should exist simultaneously. No one ever sees the same object to be hot and cold at the same time. Simultaneous existence of light and darkness in one place is impossible.

According to the Jaina doctrine heaven and liberation may exist or may not exist. We cannot arrive at any definite knowledge. There is no certainty about anything.

The Jainas hold that the soul is of the size of the body. As the bodies of different classes of creatures are of different sizes, the soul of a man taking the body of an elephant on account of his past deeds will not be able to fill up the body of an elephant. The soul of an elephant will not have sufficient space in the body of an ant. The stability of the dimensions of the soul is impaired. The Jaina theory itself falls to the ground.

Sutras 37 to 41 refute the theory of the followers of the Pasupata system. The followers of this school recognise God as the efficient or the operative cause. They recognise the primordial matter as the material cause of the world. This view is contrary to the view of the Sruti or Vedanta where Brahman is stated to be both the efficient and the material cause of the world. Hence, the theory of Pasupatas cannot be accepted.

God, in their view, is pure, without attributes, and activity. Hence there can be no connection between Him and the inert primordial matter. He cannot urge and regulate matter to work. To say that God becomes the efficient cause of the world by putting on a body is also fallacious because all bodies are perishable. God is eternal according to the Pasupatas, and so cannot have a perishable body and become dependent on this physical instrument.

If it be said that the Lord rules the Pradhana, etc., just as the Jiva rules the senses which are also not perceived, this cannot be; because the Lord also would experience pleasure and pain, hence would forfeit His Godhead. He would be subject to births and deaths, and devoid of Omniscience. He will lose all His supremacy. This sort of God is not admitted by the Pasupatas.

Sutras 42 to 45 refute the doctrine of the Bhagavatas or the Pancharatra doctrine. According to this school, the Lord is the efficient as well as the material cause of the universe. This is in quite agreement with the Srutis. Another part of the system is open to objection. The doctrine that Sankarshana or the Jiva is born of Vaasudeva, Pradyumna or mind from Sankarshana, Aniruddha or Ahamkara from Pradyumna is incorrect. Such creation is not possible. If there is such birth, if the soul be created it would be subject to destruction and hence there could be no liberation.

The Bhagavatas may say that all the Vyuhas or forms are Vaasudeva, the Lord having intelligence, Lordship, strength, power, etc., and are free from faults and imperfections. In this case there will be more than one Isvara or Lord. This goes against their own doctrine according to which there is only one real essence, the holy Vaasudeva. Further, there are also inconsistencies or manifold contradictions in the system. There are passages which are contradictory to the Vedas. It contains words of depreciation of the Vedas. Hence, the doctrine of the Bhagavatas cannot be accepted.