Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Sarvavedantapratyayadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-4)

The Vidyas having identical or the same form found in scriptures constitute one Vidya.

Sarvavedantapratyayam chodanadyaviseshat III.3.1 (360)

(The Vidyas or the Upasanas) described in the various Vedanta texts (are not different, are identical) on account of the non-difference of injunction, etc., (i.e., connection, form and name).

Sarvavedantapratyayam: exposition of Brahman in all the Vedanta texts; Chodanadyaviseshat: as there is no difference in the injunctions, etc., (i.e., connection, form and name). (Sarva: all; Veda: the Vedas; Anta: the settled conclusion; Pratyayam: the knowledge, realisation; Chodanadi: or the injunction and others; Aviseshat: as there is no difference.)

Can Srutis declare different Upasanas in respect of one entity? If we say that one Sruti is correct and others are incorrect, disbelief in Srutis as a whole will follow. The Srutis which declare the nature of Brahman are not commands. They only state solid facts.

The author of the Sutras now proceeds to discuss whether the Upasana (devotional) Srutis are divergent and separate or not. Scriptures teach that like Karma, Upasanas have various results. Some of them have visible results, others unseen results. Some Upasanas create true knowledge and lead to Kramamukti or gradual liberation or release by successive steps. With a view to those meditations, therefore, we may raise the question whether the individual Vedanta-texts teach different Upasanas of Brahman or not.

There are many expositions of Brahman in Sruti. In some Sruti He is described as Vaisvanara, in another He is described as Prana and so forth. Now a doubt may arise as to whether these expositions are different or they all aim at one and the same thing.

This Sutra removes the doubt. The expositions in all the Srutis are the same. They all point to one and the same purpose of worship of Brahman, though in different forms fitted to the capacity of the meditator, because there is no difference in the injunctions about meditation. All the injunctions intimate that Brahman is to be meditated upon. Hence the object of those expositions and of meditation is one and the same.

The Upasanas of Prana are described in one way in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and in a different way in the Chhandogya Upanishad. Now a doubt arises whether such Upasanas described differently in different Sakhas of the Vedas are different or the same.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent maintains that they are different owing to the difference in form. This Sutra refutes it and declares that such meditations are one and the same owing to the non-difference as regards injunctions, connection, name and form of these in different Sakhas.

Thus, as the Agnihotra though described in different Sakhas is yet one, the same kind of human activity being enjoined in all by means of the words "He is to offer", so the injunction met with in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (VI.1.1.). "He who knows the oldest and the best", etc., is the same as that which occurs in the text of Chhandogya "He who knows the first and the best" (Chh. Up. V.1.1). The Prana-Vidya in all the Sakhas is one and the same. There is non-difference as regards the fruit of the Upasana in both texts. "He who knows it to be such becomes the first and best among his people" (Bri. Up. VI.1.1). Prana is the object of meditation in both texts. The name of the meditation in both texts is Prana-Vidya. Prana is described in both texts as the oldest and the greatest. Therefore the two Vidyas are not different, as there is no difference in all respects. The two Vidyas are one and the same. The same is true of Dahara-Vidya, Panchagni-Vidya or the knowledge of the five fires, Vaisvanara-Vidya or the knowledge of the Vaisvanara, Sandilya-Vidya, etc., described in various Sakhas.

Bhedanneti chennaikasyamapi III.3.2 (361)

If it be said that the Vidyas are separate on account of difference (in minor points), we deny that, since even in the same Vidyas (there may be such minor differences).

Bhedat: on account of difference; Na: not; Iti: as, so, this; Chet: if; Na: no, not; Ekasyam: in the one and the same (Vidya); Api: also, even.

An objection to the preceding Sutra is raised and refuted.

The Sutra consists of two parts namely an objection and its reply. The objection is "Bhedanneti chet". The reply is "Naikasyamapi".

If you say that difference exists, we say that it is not so, because such differences can exist even in the same Upasana or Vidya.

Doubtless the Vajasaneyins refer to a sixth Agni when referring to Panchagni Vidya or the doctrine of five fires "The fire becomes his fire" (Bri. Up. VI.2.24), but the Chhandogyas do not. "But he who knows these five fires" (Chh. Up. V.10.10). But this will not make them separate. The Chhandogyas also can add it if they like. Thus the Vidya as stated in the two Srutis Brihadaranyaka and Chhandogya, is identical.

The presence or absence of a sixth fire cannot make a difference as regards form, because the Shodasi vessel may or may not be taken in the same Atiratra sacrifice. The name "five fires" is no objection against this increase of number, because the number five is not a fundamental part of the injunction. Differences like this are found in different chapters even in the same Sakha and in the same Vidya, and yet the Vidya described in these different chapters is recognised by all as one.

The Chhandogya Upanishad also actually mentions a sixth fire, viz., in the passage V.9.2 "When he has departed his friends carry him, as appointed, to the fire."

Therefore it is quite clear that the Vidyas of the same class are one and not different notwithstanding these differences in different Sakhas.

The Purvapakshin says: Then again in the conversation between the Pranas, the Chhandogyas mention in addition to the most important Prana four other Pranas viz., speech, the eye, the ear and the mind, while the Vajasaneyins mention a fifth one also. "Seed indeed is generation. He who knows that becomes rich in offspring and cattle" (Bri. Up. VI.1.6).

We reply: nothing stands in the way of some additional qualification being included in the Vidya concerning the colloquy of the Pranas. The addition or omission of some particular qualification is not able to create difference in the object of knowledge and thereby in the knowledge itself, because the objects of knowledge may differ partly, yet their greater part and at the same time the knowing person are understood to be the same.

Therefore the Vidya also remains the same.

Svadhyayasya tathatvena hi samachare'dhikaraccha savavaccha tanniyamah III.3.3 (362)

(The rite of carrying fire on the head is connected) with the study of the Veda (of the Atharvanikas), because in the Samachara (it is mentioned) as being such. And (this also follows) from its being a qualification (for the students of the Atharva Veda) as in the case with the (seven) oblations (viz., Saurya etc.).

Svadhyayasya: of the study of the Vedas; Tathatvena: on account of being such; Hi: because; Samachare: in the book named Samachara containing the rules for the performance of Vedic rites; Adhikarat: on account of the qualification; Cha: and; Savavat: as in the case of the seven oblations (viz., Saurya, etc.); Cha: and, also; Tanniyamah: that rule.

An objection based on a statement of the Mundaka Upanishad is explained and refuted.

A further objection is raised. In the Mundaka Upanishad which deals with the knowledge of Brahman, the carrying of fire on the head by the student (Sirovrata) is mentioned. The Purvapakshin or the opponent maintains that the Vidyas of the Atharvanikas are different from all other Vidyas on account of this particular ceremony which is practised by the followers of the Atharva Veda.

This Sutra refutes this and says that the rite of carrying fire on the head is an attribute not of the Vidya, but merely of the study of the Veda on the part of the Atharvanikas. So it is described in the book Samachara which treats of Vedic observances.

At the close of the Upanishad moreover we have the following sentence, "A man who has not performed the rite (carrying fire on the head) does not read this" (Mun. Up. III.2.11). This clearly intimates that it is connected with the study of the Upanishad and not with the Vidya.

The Sutra adds another illustrative instance in the words "as in the case of the libations there is limitation of that". The rite of carrying the fire is associated only with the study of that particular Veda and not others, like the seven oblations from the Saurya libation up to the Sataudana libation, which are not connected with the fires taught in the other Vedas, but only with those of Atharva Veda. The command is to those studying the Mundaka Upanishad just as the command to perform the seven Savas is to them. The carrying of a fire-pot on their head will not make the Vidya different.

Therefore there is unity of Vidya in all cases. The doctrine of the unity of the Vidyas thus remains unshaken.

Darsayati cha III.3.4 (363)

(The scripture) also instructs (thus).

Darsayati: (Sruti) shows, instructs; Cha: also.

An argument in support of Sutra 1 is given.

The Veda also declares the identity of the Vidyas, because all Vedanta texts represent the object of knowledge, as one, e.g., Katha Upanishad (I.2.15), "That word which all the Vedas declare"; Aitareya Aranyaka (III.2.3.12) "Him only the Bahvrichas consider in the great hymn, the Adhvaryus in the sacrificial fire, the Chhandogyas in the Mahavrata ceremony."

To prove the unity of the Vidyas some other instances may be quoted. Kathopanishad (I.6.2) mentions as one of the Lord's qualities that He causes fear. Now this very same quality is referred to in the Tait. Up. II.7: "For if he makes but the smallest distinction in the Self, there is fear for him. But that fear is only for him who knows a difference and does not know oneness."

The Impersonal Absolute is the one purport of all the Vedanta texts. Hence all Vidyas which pertain to It must also be one. The meditation on the Saguna Brahman as Vaisvanara, who is represented as extending from heaven to the earth in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is referred to in the Chhandogya Upanishad, "But he who adores that Vaisvanara Self as extending from heaven to the earth" (Chh. Up. V.18.1). This clearly indicates that all Vaisvanara Vidyas are one.

Nirguna Brahman is one and not many. Saguna Brahman also is one and not many. Hence particular Vidyas which pertain to either Saguna Brahman or Nirguna Brahman are also one and not many. This also follows from the same hymns and the like enjoined in the one place being employed in other places for the purpose of devout meditation or Upasana.

The same rule applies to other Vidyas also besides the Vaisvanara Vidya. Therefore, Vidyas are not many, though they are differently described in different Sakhas. All Vedantic texts intimate identical devout meditations. Thus the unity of Vidyas is established.