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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Viyadadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-7)

Ether is not eternal but created.

Na viyadasruteh II.3.1 (217)

(The Purvapakshin, i.e., the objector says that) ether (Akasa) (does) not (originate), as Sruti does not say so.

Na: not; Viyat: ether, space, Akasa; Asruteh: as Sruti does not say so.

The opponent raises a contention that Akasa is uncreated and as such not produced out of Brahman. This prima facie view is set aside in the next Sutra.

To begin with the texts which treat of creation are taken up. Akasa (ether) is first dealt with. The Purvapakshin says that Akasa is not caused or created because there is no Sruti to that effect. Akasa is eternal and is not caused because the Sruti does not call it caused, while it refers to the creation of fire. "Tadaikshata bahu syam prajayeyeti tattejo'srijata" "It thought 'May I become many, may I grow forth' – It sent forth fire". (Chh. Up. VI.2.3). Here there is no mention of Akasa being produced by Brahman. As scriptural sentence is our only authority in the origination of knowledge of supersensuous things, and as there is no scriptural statement declaring the origin of ether, ether must be considered to have no origin. Therefore Akasa has no origin. It is eternal.

In the Vedantic texts, we come across in different places different statements regarding the origin of various things. Some texts say that the ether and air originated; some do not. Some other texts again make similar statements regarding the individual soul and the Pranas (vital airs). In some places the Sruti texts contradict one another regarding order of succession and the like.

Asti tu II.3.2 (218)

But there is (a Sruti text which states that Akasa is created).

Asti: there is; Tu: but.

The contradiction raised in Sutra 1 is partially met here.

The word 'but' (tu) is used in this Sutra in order to remove the doubt raised in the preceding Sutra.

But there is a Sruti which expressly says so. Though there is no statement in the Chhandogya Upanishad regarding the causation of Akasa, yet there is a passage in the Taittiriya Sruti on its causation. "Tasmad va etasmadatmana akasah sambhutah" – "From the Self (Brahman) sprang Akasa, from Akasa the air, from air the fire, from fire the water, from water the earth (Tait. Up. II.1)."

Gaunyasambhavat II.3.3 (219)

(The Sruti text concerning the origination of Akasa) has a secondary sense, on account of the impossibility (of the origination of the Akasa).

Gauni: used in a secondary sense, having a metaphorical sense; Asambhavat: because of the impossibility.

Here is an objection against Sutra 20.

The opponent says: The Taittiriya text referred to in the previous Sutra which declares the origination of the Akasa should be taken in a secondary sense (figurative), as Akasa cannot be created. It has no parts. Therefore it cannot be created.

The Vaiseshikas deny that Akasa was caused. They say that causation implies three factors, viz., Samavayikarana (inherent causes – many and similar factors), Asamavayikarana (non- inherent causes, their combination) and Nimittakarana (operative causes, a human agency). To make a cloth threads and their combination and a weaver are needed. Such causal factors do not exist in the case of Akasa.

We cannot predicate of space a spaceless state, just as we can predicate of fire an antecedent state without brightness.

Further unlike earth, etc., Akasa is all-pervading and hence could not have been caused or created. It is eternal. It is without origin.

The word 'Akasa' is used in a secondary sense in such phrases as 'make room', 'there is room'. Although space is only one it is designated as being of different kinds when we speak of the space of a pot, the space of a house. Even in Vedic passages a form of expression such as 'He is to place the wild animals in the spaces (Akaseshu)' is seen. Hence we conclude that those Sruti texts also which speak of the origination of Akasa must be taken to have a secondary sense or figurative meaning.

Sabdacca II.3.4 (220)

Also from the Sruti texts (we find that Akasa is eternal).

Sabdat: from the Sruti texts, because Sruti says so; Cha: also, and.

Here is an objection against Sutra 2.

In the previous Sutra Akasa was inferred to be eternal. In this Sutra the opponent cites a Sruti text to show that it is eternal. He points out that Sruti describes Akasa as uncaused and uncreated. "Vayuschantariksham chaitadamritam" – "The air and the Akasa are immortal" (Br Up. II.3.3). What is immortal cannot have an origin.

Another scriptural passage, "Omnipresent and eternal like ether" – "Akasavat sarvagato nityah", indicates that those two qualities of Brahman belong to the ether also. Hence an origin cannot be attributed to the Akasa.

Other scriptural passages are: "As this Akasa is infinite, so the Self is to be known as infinite." "Brahman has the ether for its body, the Akasa is the Self." If the Akasa had a beginning it could not be predicated of Brahman as we predicate blueness of a lotus (lotus is blue).

Therefore the eternal Brahman is of the same nature as Akasa. (This is the view of the opponent – Purvapakshin).

Syaccaikasya Brahmasabdavat II.3.5 (221)

It is possible that the one word ('sprang' – Sambhutah) may be used in a secondary and primary sense like the word Brahman.

Syat: is possible; Cha: also, and; Ekasya: of the one and the same word; Brahmasabdavat: like the word Brahman.

An argument in support of the above objection is now advanced by the opponent (Purvapakshin).

The opponent says that the same word 'sprang' (Sambhutah) in the Taittiriya text (II.1) – "From that Brahman sprang Akasa, from Akasa sprang air, from air sprang fire." – can be used in a secondary sense with respect to Akasa and in the primary sense with respect to air, fire, etc. He supports his statement by making reference to other Sruti texts where the word 'Brahman' is so used. "Try to know Brahman by penance, because, penance is Brahman" (Tait. Up. III.2). Here Brahman is used both in a primary and in a secondary sense in the same text.

The same word Brahman is in the way of figurative identification (Bhakti) applied to penance which is only the means of knowing Brahman and again directly to Brahman as the object of knowledge.

Also "Food is Brahman – Annam Brahma" (Tait. Up. III.2), and "Bliss is Brahman – Anando Brahma" (Tait. Up. III.6). Here Brahman is used in a secondary and primary sense respectively in two complementary texts.

The Vedantin says: But how can we uphold now the validity of the statement made in the clause, "Brahman is one only without a second – Ekameva Advitiyam Brahma". Because if Akasa is a second entity co-existing with Brahman from eternity, it follows that Brahman has a second. If it is so, how can it be said that when Brahman is known everything is known? (Chh. Up. VI.1.3).

The opponent replies that the words "Ekameva – one only" are used with reference to the effects. Just as when a man sees in a potter's house a lump of clay, a staff, a wheel and so on today and on the following day a number of pots and says that clay alone existed on the previous day, he means only that the effects, i.e., the pots did not exist and does not deny the wheel or the stick of the potter, even so the passage means only that there is no other cause for Brahman which is the material cause of the world. The term 'without a second' does not exclude the existence from eternity of ether but excludes the existence of any other superintending Being but Brahman. There is a superintending potter in addition to the material cause of the vessels, i.e., the clay. But there is no other superintendent in addition to Brahman, the material cause of the universe.

The opponent further adds that the existence of Akasa will not bring about the existence of two things, for number comes in only when there are diverse things. Brahman and Akasa have no such diverseness before creation as both are all-pervading and infinite and are indistinguishable like milk and water mixed together. Therefore the Sruti says: "Akasasariram Brahma – Brahman has the ether for its body". It follows that the two are identical.

Moreover all created things are one with Akasa which is one with Brahman. Therefore if Brahman is known with its effects, Akasa also is known.

The case is similar to that of a few drops of water poured into a cup of milk. These drops are taken when the milk is taken. The taking of the drops does not form something additional to the taking of the milk. Similarly the Akasa which is non-separate in place and time from Brahman, and its effects, is comprised within Brahman. Therefore, we have to understand the passages about the origin of the ether in a secondary sense.

Thus the opponent (Purvapakshin) tries to establish that Akasa is uncreated and is not an effect and that the Sruti text calls it 'Sambhuta' (created) only in a secondary sense.

Pratijna'haniravyatirekacchabdebhyah II.3.6 (222)

The non-abandonment of the proposition (viz., by the knowledge of one everything else becomes known, can result only) from the non-difference (of the entire world from Brahman) according to the words of the Veda or the Sruti texts (which declare the non-difference of the cause and its effects).

Pratijna ahanih: non-abandonment of the proposition; Avyatirekat: from non distinction, on account of non-difference, because of absence of exclusion; Sabdebhyah: from the words namely from the Srutis.

The objection raised in Sutra 1 and continued in Sutras 3, 4 and 5 is now replied to.

The Sutrakara refutes the Purvapakshin's (objector's) view and establishes his position. The scriptural assertion that from the knowledge of One (Brahman) everything else is known can be true only if everything in the world is an effect of Brahman. Because the Sruti says that the effects are not different from the cause. Therefore if the cause (Brahman) is known, the effects also will be known. If Akasa does not originate from Brahman, then by knowing Brahman we cannot know Akasa. Therefore the above assertion will not come true. Akasa still remains to be known as it is not an effect of Brahman. But if Akasa is created then there will be no such difficulty at all. Therefore Akasa is an effect. It is created. If it is not created the authoritativeness of the Vedas will disappear.

The opponent is entirely wrong in imagining that the Taittiriya Sruti is in conflict with Chhandogya Upanishad. You will have to add in the Chhandogya Sruti "After creating Akasa and Vayu". Then the text would mean that after creating Akasa and Vayu "Brahman created fire." Now there will be no conflict at all.

Moreover, the explanation that as Brahman and Akasa are one like milk and water and that as Akasa is one with all things it will be known by knowing Brahman and its effects is entirely wrong, because the knowledge of milk and water which are one is not a correct knowledge. The analogy given in the Sruti text is not milk and water, but clay and jars to indicate that all effects are not separate from the cause and because the word 'eva' in "Ekameva Advitiyam" excludes two combined things like milk and water and says that only one entity is the cause.

The knowledge of everything through the knowledge of one thing of which the Sruti speaks cannot be explained through the analogy of milk mixed with water, for we understand from the parallel instance of a piece of clay being brought forward, (Chh. Up. VI.1.4), that the knowledge of everything has to be experienced through the relation of the material cause and the material effect. The knowledge of the cause implies the knowledge of the effect. Further, the knowledge of everything, if taken to be similar to the case of knowledge of milk and water, could not be called a perfect knowledge (Samyag-Vijnana), because the water which is apprehended only through the knowledge of the milk with which it is mixed is not grasped by perfect knowledge, because the water although mixed with the milk, yet is different from it.

That nothing has an independent existence apart from Brahman is corroborated by statements in Sruti: "Sarvam khalvidam Brahma" – "Idam sarvam yadayamatma". That Self is all that is (Bri. Up. II.4.6).

Yavadvikaram tu vibhago lokavat II.3.7 (223)

But wherever there are effects, there are separateness as is seen in the world (as in ordinary life).

Yavat vikaram: so far as all modifications go, wherever there is an effect; Tu: but; Vibhagah: division, separateness, distinction, specification; Lokavat: as in the world. (Yavat: whatever; Vikaram: transformation.)

The argument begun in Sutra 6 is concluded here.

The word 'tu' (but) refutes the idea that Akasa is not created. It shows that the doubt raised in the last Sutra is being removed.

The Chhandogya Upanishad purposely omits Akasa and Vayu from the list enumerated, because it keeps in view the process of Trivritkarana, combination of the three visible elements (Murta, i.e., with form), instead of Panchikarana, combination of five elements which is elsewhere developed.

It is to be noted here that though all the elements originate from Brahman, yet Akasa and air are not mentioned by name in the Sruti, Chhandogya Upanishad, whereas fire, water and earth are distinctly stated therein to have originated from Brahman. The specification is like that found in similar cases of ordinary experience in the world, for instance, to mean all the sons of a particular person, Ramakrishna, only a few of them are named.

This is just like what we find in the ordinary world. If a man says "all these are sons of Narayana" and then he gives certain particulars about the birth of one of them, he implies thereby that it applies to the birth of all the rest. Even so when the Upanishad says that "all this has its self in Brahman" and then it goes on to give the origin of some of them from Brahman such as fire, water and earth, it does not mean that others have not their origin in Him, but it only means that it was not thought necessary to give a detailed account of their origin. Therefore, though there is no express text in the Chhandogya Upanishad as to the origin of Akasa, yet we infer from the universal proposition therein that "everything has its self in Brahman", that Akasa has its self in Brahman, and so is produced from Brahman.

Akasa is an element like fire and air. Therefore it must have an origin. It is the substratum of impermanent quality like the sound, and so it must be impermanent. This is the direct argument to prove the origin and destruction of Akasa. The indirect argument to prove it is, "whatever has no origin is eternal as Brahman" and whatever has permanent qualities is eternal as the soul, but Akasa not being like Brahman in these respects, cannot be eternal.

Akasa takes its origin from Brahman, though we cannot conceive how space can have any origin.

We see in this universe that all created things are different from each other. Whatever we observe: effects or modifications of a substance such as jars, pots, bracelets, armlets, and ear-rings, needles, arrows, and swords we observe division or separateness. Whatever is divided or separate is an effect, as jars, pots, etc. Whatever is not an effect is not divided as the Atman or Brahman. A pot is different from a piece of cloth and so on. Everything that is divided or separate is created. It cannot be eternal. You cannot think of a thing as separate from others and yet eternal.

Akasa is separate from earth, etc. Hence Akasa also must be an effect. It cannot be eternal. It must be a created thing.

If you say that Atman also, being apparently separate from Akasa etc., must be an effect we reply that it is not so, because Akasa itself has originated from Atman. The Sruti declares that "Akasa sprang from the Atman" (Tait. Up. II.1). If Atman also is an effect, Akasa etc., will be without an Atman i.e., Svarupa. The result will be Sunyavada or the doctrine of nothingness. Atman is Being, therefore it cannot be negatived. "Atmatvacchatmano nirakaranasankanupapattih". It is self-existent. "Na hyatma- gantukah kasyachit, svayam siddhatvat". It is self-evident. "Na hyatma atmanah pramanapekshaya siddhyati."

Akasa etc., are not stated by any one to be self-existent. Hence no one can deny the Atman, because the denier is himself, Atman. Atman exists and is eternal.

The All-pervasiveness and eternity of Akasa are only relatively true. Akasa is created. It is an effect of Brahman.

In the clauses, "I know at the present moment whatever is present, I knew at former moments, the nearer and the remoter past; I shall know in the future, the nearer and remoter future" the object of knowledge changes according as it is something past or something future or something present. But the knowing agent does not change at all as his nature is eternal presence. As the nature of the Atman is eternal presence it cannot be annihilated even when the body is burnt to ashes. You cannot even think that it ever should become something different from what it is. Hence the Atman or Brahman is not an effect. The Akasa, on the contrary, comes under the category of effects.

Moreover, you say that there must be many and similar causal factors before an effect can be produced. This argument is not correct. Threads are Dravya (substance). Their combination (Samyoga) is a Guna (attribute) and yet both are factors in the production of an effect. Even if you say that the need for many and similar causal factors applies only to Samavayikarana, this sort of explanation is not correct, for a rope or a carpet is spun out of thread, wool, etc.

Moreover, why do you say that many causal factors are needed? In the case of Paramanu or ultimate atom or mind, the initial activity is admittedly not due to many causal factors. Nor can you say that only for a Dravya (substance) many causal factors are necessary. That would be so, if combination causes the effect as in the case of threads and cloth. But in many instances, (e.g., milk becomes curd) the same substance changes into another substance. It is not the Lord's law that only several causes in conjunction should produce an effect. We therefore decide on the authority of the Sruti that the entire world has sprung from the one Brahman, Akasa being produced first and later on the other elements in due succession (Vide II.1.24).

It is not right to say that with reference to the origin of Akasa we could not find out any difference between its pre-causal state and its post-causal state (the time before and after the origination of ether). Brahman is described as not gross and not subtle (Asthulam na anu) in the Sruti. The Sruti refers to an Anakasa state, a state devoid of Akasa.

Brahman does not participate in the nature of Akasa as we understand from the passage. "It is without Akasa" (Bri. Up. III.8.8). Therefore it is a settled conclusion that, before Akasa was produced, Brahman existed without Akasa.

Moreover, you (Purvapakshin or opponent) are certainly wrong in saying that Akasa is different in its nature from earth, etc. The Sruti is against the uncreatedness of Akasa. Hence there is no good in such inference.

The inference drawn by you that Akasa has no beginning because it differs in nature from these substances which have a beginning such as earth, etc., is without any value, because it must be considered fallacious as it is contradicted by the Sruti. We have brought forward cogent, convincing and strong arguments showing that Akasa is an originated thing.

Akasa has Anitya-guna (non-eternal attribute). Therefore it also is Anitya (non-eternal). Akasa is non-eternal because it is the substratum of a non-eternal quality, viz., sound, just as jars and other things, which are the substrata of non-eternal qualities are themselves non-eternal. The Vedantin who takes his stand on the Upanishads does not admit that the Atman is the substratum of non-eternal qualities.

You cannot say that Atman also may be Anitya (non-eternal) for Sruti declares that Atman is eternal (Nitya).

The Sruti texts which describe Akasa as eternal (Amrita) describe it so in a secondary sense only (Gauna), just as it calls heaven-dwelling gods as eternal (Amrita). The origin and destruction of Akasa has been shown to be possible.

Even in the Sruti text, "Akasavat sarvagatacha nityah" which describes Atman as similar to Akasa in being all-pervading and eternal, these words are used only in a secondary and figurative sense (Gauna).

The words are used only to indicate infiniteness or super-eminent greatness of Atman and not to say that Atman and Akasa are equal. The use is as "when the sun is said to go like an arrow." When we say that the sun moves with the speed of an arrow, we simply mean that he moves fast, not that he moves at the same rate as an arrow.

Such passages as "Brahman is greater or vaster than Akasa" prove that the extent of Akasa is less than that of Brahman. Passages like "There is no image of Him. There is nothing like Brahman – Na tasya pratimasti" (Svet. Up. IV.19) show that there is nothing to compare Brahman to. Passages like "Everything else is of evil" (Bri. Up. III.4.2) show that everything different from Brahman such as Akasa is of evil. All but Brahman is small. Hence Akasa is an effect of Brahman.

Srutis and reasoning show that Akasa has an origin. Therefore the final settled conclusion is that Akasa is an effect of Brahman.