Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda

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Section 3: Aksharadhyadhikaranam: Topic 20 (Sutra 33)

The negative attributes of Brahman mentioned in various texts are to be combined in all meditations on Brahman.

Aksharadhiyam tvavarodhahsamanyatadbhavabhyamaupasadavattaduktam III.3.33 (392)

But the conceptions of the (negative) attributes of the Imperishable (Brahman) are to be combined (from different texts where the Imperishable Brahman is dealt with, as they form one Vidya), because of the similarity (of defining the Imperishable Brahman through denials) and the object (the Imperishable Brahman) being the same, as in the case of the Upasad (offerings). This has been explained (by Jaimini in the Purvamimamsa).

Aksharadhiyam: of the meditation of negative attributes belonging to the Imperishable; Tu: but, indeed; Avarodhah: combination; Samanyatadbhavabhyam: because of the similarity (of denying Brahman through denials) and the object (viz., Imperishable Brahman) being the same; Aupasadavat: as in the case of the Upasad (offering) like the hymn or the Mantra in connection with the Upasada rite; Tat: that; Uktam: has been explained (by Jaimini in the Purvamimamsa).

The negative attributes of the Imperishable are now examined, as the positive attributes were examined in Sutra 11 of this section.

We read in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, "O Gargi! The Brahmanas or the knowers of Brahman call this Akshara or the Imperishable. It is neither gross nor subtle, neither short nor long" (Bri. Up. III.8.8). Again the Mundaka says, "The Supreme Knowledge is that by which the Imperishable (Akshara) is attained." "That which is imperceivable, ungraspable, which has no family and no caste" etc. (Mun. Up. I.1.5-6). In other places also the highest Brahman, under the name of Akshara is described as that of which all qualities are to be denied.

A doubt arises now as to whether the negative qualities in the above two texts are to be combined so as to form one Vidya or they are to be treated as two separate Vidyas.

The Purvapakshin maintains that each denial is valid only for that passage in which the text actually exhibits it, and not for other places. These negative attributes do not directly indicate or specify the nature of Brahman like the positive attributes, Bliss, Peace, Knowledge, Truth, Purity, Perfection, Eternity, etc. Hence the principle stated in Sutra III.3.11 does not apply here, because no purpose is really served or gained by such a combination.

This Sutra refutes this and declares that such denials are to be combined because the method of teaching Brahman through denial is the same and the object of instruction is also the same, viz., the Imperishable Brahman (Akshara). The rule of Sutra III.3.11 applies here also. In Sutra III.3.11 positive attributes of Brahman were discussed. Here we are concerned with negative attributes which teach Brahman by an indirect method. The case is similar to the Upasad offerings. The Mantras for giving these offerings are found only in the Sama Veda. But the priests of the Yajur Veda use this Mantra given in the other Veda. The hymns which occur in the Sama Veda are recited by the Adhvaryu after the time of the Yajur Veda. This principle has been established by Jaimini in Purvamimamsa (III.3. 9).

Similarly the negative attributes have to be combined here also in the meditation on the Imperishable Brahman (Akshara).

The conception of the negative attributes of the Indestructible (Akshara) as stated in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad is to be retained in the meditations on the Indestructible everywhere (i.e., in every Akshara Vidya) because the same Akshara is recognised in every Akshara Vidya and also because those negative attributes are presupposed to be included among His essential attributes.