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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Paradhikaranam: Topic 7 (Sutras 31-37)

Brahman is one without a second.

Paramatah setunmanasambandha-bhedavyapadesebhyah III.2.31 (349)

(There is something) Superior to this (Brahman) on account of terms denoting a bank, measure, connection and difference (used with respect to It).

Param: greater; Atah: for this, than this (Brahman); Setunmanasambandhabhedavyapadesebhyah: on account of terms denoting a bridge, measure, connection and difference. (Setu: a bridge; Unmana: dimensions; Sambandha: relation; Bheda: difference; Vyapadesebhyah: from the declarations.)

It may be said that there must be something higher than Brahman because Brahman is described as a bridge, or as limited or as attained by man or as different from man.

There arises now the doubt on account of the conflicting nature of various scriptural statements whether something exists beyond Brahman or not.

The Purvapakshin holds that some entity must be admitted apart from Brahman, because Brahman is spoken of as being a bank, as having size, as being connected, as being separated. As a bank it is spoken of in the passage "The Self is a bank, a boundary" (Chh. Up. VIII.4.1). The term bank intimates that there exists something apart from Brahman, just as there exists something different from an ordinary bank. The same conclusion is confirmed by the words "Having passed the bank" (Chh. Up. VIII.4.2). In ordinary life a man after having crossed a bank, reaches some place which is not a bank, let us say a forest. So we must understand that a man after having crossed, i.e., passed beyond Brahman, reaches something which is not Brahman.

As having size Brahman is spoken of in the following passages "This Brahman has four feet (quarters), eight hoofs, sixteen parts" (Chh. Up. III.18.2). Now it is well known from ordinary experience that wherever an object, e.g., a coin has a definite limited size, there exists something different from that object. Therefore we must assume that there also exists something different from Brahman.

Brahman is declared to be connected in the following passages. "Then he is united with the True" (Chh. Up. VI.8.1). "The embodied self is embraced by the Supreme Self" (Bri. Up. IV.3.21). We observe that non-measured things are connected with the things measured, e.g., men with a town. Scripture declares that the individual souls are in the state of deep sleep connected with Brahman. Therefore we conclude that beyond Brahman there is something unmeasured.

The same conclusion is confirmed by those texts which state difference. "Now that golden person who is seen within the sun." The text refers to a Lord residing in the sun and then mentions a Lord residing in the eye distinct from the former: "Now the person who is seen within the eye."

The Sruti declares "The Atman is to be seen" etc. There is a seer and there is the seen. There is difference.

All these indicate that Brahman is not one without a second, and that there exists something different from Brahman.

Samanyattu III.2.32 (350)

But (Brahman is called a bank etc.) on account of similarity.

Samanyat: on account of similarity; Tu: but.

The objection raised in the preceding Sutra is refuted here.

The word 'tu' (but) removes the doubt. It sets aside the previously established conclusion.

There can exist nothing different from Brahman. Brahman is called the bank, etc., because He resembles it in a certain respect. He is the support of all while crossing over this ocean of the world, just as a bank is a great protection or help in crossing a canal.

There can exist nothing different from Brahman as we are not able to observe a proof for such existence. All things proceed from Brahman. The Sruti says that by knowing Brahman everything will be known. How then can there be any other entity? Bridge or bank means like a bridge or bank.

Brahman is called a bank on account of similarity, not because there exists something beyond Him. If the mere fact of Brahman being called a bank implied the existence of something beyond Him as in the case of an ordinary bank, we should also be forced to conclude that Brahman is made of earth and stones. This would go against the scriptural doctrine that Brahman is not something produced.

Brahman is called a bank because it resembles a bank in certain respects. Just as a bank dams back the water and makes the boundary of adjacent fields, so also Brahman supports the world and its boundaries.

In the clause quoted above "Having passed that bank" the verb 'to pass' cannot be taken in the sense of 'going beyond' but must rather mean 'to reach fully'. "Having passed the bank" means "having attained Brahman fully" and not having crossed it just as we say of a student "he has passed in the grammar" meaning thereby that he has fully mastered it.

Buddhyarthah padavat III.2.33 (351)

(The statement as to Brahman having size) is for the sake of easy comprehension (i.e., Upasana or devout meditation); just like (four) feet.

Buddhyarthah: for the sake of easy comprehension; Padavat: just like (four) feet.

The statements as to the size of Brahman "Brahman has four feet," "It has sixteen digits," etc., are meant for the sake of Upasana or devout meditation, because it is difficult to understand the Infinite, most subtle, all-pervading Brahman. In order to facilitate pious meditation on the part of less intelligent people four feet etc., are ascribed to Brahman.

The description of Brahman as having a limited form (Shodasakala, 16 parts) is for the sake of meditation just as Padas, i.e., speech etc., are described in respect of mind.

Just as mind conceived as the personal manifestation of Brahman is imagined to have the organ of speech, nose, eyes and ears as its four feet, so also Brahman is imagined as having size, etc., for facility of meditation but not in reality.

"Practise meditation, taking the mind as Brahman," – this is the form of worship with the aid of the constituents of the individual soul – "This Brahman is of four feet, namely, the speech as a foot, the chief vital energy as a foot, the eyes as a foot, and the ears as a foot" (Chh. Up. III.18.1-2).

Sthanaviseshat prakasadivat III.2.34 (352)

(The statements concerning connection and difference with respect to Brahman) are due to special places: as in the case of light and the like.

Sthanaviseshat: on account of special places; Prakasavat: like light and the like.

Sutra 33 is further confirmed.

The statements regarding connection and difference are made with a view to difference of place. The statements regarding difference are made with reference to limiting adjuncts (Buddhi, etc.) only and not to any difference in the nature of Brahman.

When the cognition of difference which is produced by Brahman's connection with different places i.e., with the Buddhi and the other limiting adjuncts, ceases owing to the cessation of those limiting adjuncts themselves, connection with the Supreme Self is metaphorically said to take place; but that is done with a view to the limiting adjuncts only, not with a view to any limitation on the part of Brahman.

This is similar to the case of light and the like. The light of the sun also is differentiated by its connection with limiting adjuncts. The light is said to be divided on account of these adjuncts. It is said to enter into connection or union when the adjuncts are removed.

We see two moons on account of an eye-disease. We see only one when the disease is removed.

Light is really one but we speak of light inside a room and light outside it. The distinction is due to limiting adjuncts. The light inside the room may be said to be united with the light in general when the room is destroyed.

Other examples of the effect of limiting adjuncts are furnished by the ether entering into connection with the eyes of needles and the like.

Upapattescha III.2.35 (353)

And it is reasonable.

Upapatteh: as it becomes reasonable; Cha: also, and.

Further only such a connection as described above is possible. Because scriptural passages such as "He is gone to his self" (Chh. Up. VI.8.1) declare that the connection of the soul with the Supreme Soul is one of essential nature. The essential nature of a thing is imperishable. Hence the connection cannot be like that of the inhabitants with the town.

The connection can only be explained with reference to an observation owing to ignorance of the true nature of the soul.

Similarly the difference referred to by scripture cannot be real but due to ignorance, because many texts declare that there exists only one Brahman.

Scripture teaches that the one ether is made manifold as it were by its connection with different places. "The ether which is outside man is the ether which is inside man, and the ether within the heart" (Chh. Up. III.12.7).

Hence connection and difference are not to be taken as real, but only metaphorically.

Tathanyapratishedhat III.2.36 (354)

Similarly on account of the express denial of all other things (there is nothing but Brahman).

Tatha: similarly; Anyapratishedhat: on account of the express denial of all other things. (Anya: any other, of the other; Pratishedhat: owing to the denial, or prohibition or negation.)

Further the Sruti denies expressly that there is any other entity besides Brahman. (Brahmaivedam Sarvam; Atmaivedam Sarvam). Brahman is described as the innermost of all.

Having thus refuted the arguments of the Purvapakshin, the author or Sutrakara in conclusion strengthens his view by a further reason.

A great number of Vedic passages distinctly deny the existence of anything else besides Brahman. "He indeed is below; I am below; the Self is below" etc. (Chh. Up. VII.25.1.2). "Whosoever looks for anything elsewhere than in the Self was abandoned by everything" (Bri. Up. II.4.6). "Brahman alone is all this" (Mun. Up. II.2.11). "The Self is all this" (Chh. Up. VII.25.2). "In it there is no diversity" (Bri. Up. IV.4.19). "He to whom there is nothing superior, from whom there is nothing different" (Svet. Up. III.9). "This is the Brahman without cause and without effect, without anything inside or outside" (Bri. Up. II.5.19). That there is no other self within the Highest Self follows from that scriptural passage which teaches Brahman to be within everything (Bri. Up. II.5.19).

Therefore Brahman is one without a second.

Anena sarvagatatvamayamasabdadibhyah III.2.37 (355)

By this the Omnipresence (of Brahman is established) in accordance with the scriptural statements regarding (Brahman's) extent.

Anena: by this; Sarvagatatvam: all-pervadingness; Ayama: (regarding Brahman's) extent; Sabdadibhyah: from scriptural statements.

By the rejecting of the taking of the description as bridge or bank etc., in their actual sense, it is clear that Brahman has all-pervadingness. Such Omnipresence is clear also from such words as Ayama. If you take the description as bridge etc., in their actual sense but not in the figurative sense, Brahman will become limited, and consequently not eternal. But the Sruti and Smriti describe Brahman as unlimited and all-pervasive. The word Ayama means pervasive. The all-pervadingness of Brahman follows from the very fact that it is one without a second.

That Brahman is Omnipresent follows from the texts proclaiming its extent. "As large as this ether is, so large is that ether within the heart" (Chh. Up. VIII.1.3). "Like the ether, he is Omnipresent and eternal." "He is greater than the sky, greater than the ether" (Sat. Br. X.6.3.2). "He is eternal, Omnipresent, firm, immovable" (Gita. II.24).