Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Introduction

In the previous Section (Pada 2) it has been shown that the Jiva (Tvam Pada of the Tat-Tvam-Asi Mahavakya) is identical with Brahman (Tat Pada of Tat-Tvam-Asi Mahavakya). Brahman has been shown to be Ekarasa (of homogeneous or unchanging nature). We have explained the nature of the object of cognition, i.e., Brahman.

The author of the Brahma Sutras now sets himself to ascertain the end and aim of the Vidyas (meditations of Upasanas) as prescribed in the Srutis.

The Srutis prescribe various kinds of Vidyas or meditations to enable the aspirant to attain the knowledge of identity. It is extremely difficult or rather impossible for the ordinary man to have a comprehensive understanding of the Infinite, which is transcendent, extremely subtle and beyond the reach of the senses and gross undisciplined intellect. Therefore the Srutis or the sacred scriptures prescribe easy methods of Saguna meditation for approaching the Infinite or the Absolute. They present various symbols of Brahman (Pratikas) such as Vaisvanara or Virat, Sun, Akasa, Food, Prana and mind for the neophyte or the beginner to contemplate on. These symbols are props for the mind to lean upon in the beginning. The gross mind is rendered subtle, sharp and one-pointed by such Saguna forms of meditation.

These different methods of approaching the Impersonal Absolute are known as Vidyas or Upasanas.

This Section discusses these various Vidyas by means of which the Jiva or the individual soul attains Brahman or the Supreme Soul. Similar Vidyas are described differently in different recensions of the Vedas. Now the question arises naturally whether these similar Vidyas are one and the same or different, whether similar Vidyas have to be combined into a single Upasana or meditation or to be taken separately. It is decided here which Vidyas are the same and have to be combined into one and which Vidyas are different despite certain similar features.

The aim and object of all Vidyas is the attainment of Brahman or the Imperishable. Brahman alone is the only living Reality. Brahman alone is Truth. Brahman is Sat or Existence Absolute. Hence it may be advantageous and helpful to combine the particulars of the same Vidya mentioned in different recensions or Sakhas as they have been found highly efficacious and immensely beneficial by the followers of those Sakhas.

He who meditates on Brahman as mind as is taught in the Taittiriya Upanishad, Bhrigu Valli, must collate all the attributes of the mind not only from his own particular Vedic Sakha, but from other Sakhas also where meditation on Brahman in the form of mind is taught. In meditating on Brahman as mind, he must not bring together attributes not belonging to mind such as those of food, though Brahman is taught to be meditated upon as food also. In fact only those attributes are to be supplied from other Sakhas which are taught about the particular object of meditation, and not any attribute in general.

In this Section Sri Vyasa the framer of the Brahma Sutras concludes that most of the Vidyas prescribed in the Srutis have for their object the knowledge of Brahman or Brahma-Jnana. They differ only in form but not in substance. Their final goal is the attainment of everlasting peace, eternal bliss and immortality. One meditation or Upasana or Vidya is as good as another for attaining the final emancipation.

Sruti teaches us to meditate on Brahman either directly or through the medium of some Pratikas or symbols, such as the sun, Akasa, food, mind, Prana, the Purusha residing in the eye, the empty space (Daharakasa) within the heart, Om or Pranava and the like.

You will have to search Brahman and adore Him in and through the symbols, but these symbols must not usurp His place. You must concentrate and fix the mind on these symbols and think of His attributes such as Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, Sat-Chit-Ananda, purity, perfection, freedom, etc.

The Vidyas appear to be different only from the view-point of difference in the symbols but the goal everywhere is the same. Remember this point always. Bear this in mind constantly.

Some attributes of Brahman are found common in some of the Vidyas. You should not consider yourself as a distinct entity from Brahman. This is a fundamental or vital point.

In all the Vidyas three things are common. The final goal is the attainment of eternal bliss and immortality, through the realisation of Brahman with or without the aid of the symbols or Pratikas. The attributes which are found in common in all the Vidyas such as blissfulness, purity, perfection, knowledge, immortality, Absolute Freedom or Kaivalya, Absolute Independence, eternal satisfaction and the like must be invariably associated with the conception of Brahman. The meditator must think himself identical with Brahman and must worship Brahman as his Immortal Atman.


Adhikaranas I and II:

(Sutras 1-4; 5) are concerned with the question whether those Vidyas which are met with in identical or similar form in more than one sacred text, are to be considered as constituting several Vidyas or one Vidya only. The Vidyas with identical or similar form met with in the scriptures or in different recensions of the scriptures, are one Vidya. Particulars of identical Vidyas mentioned in different places or Sakhas are to be combined with one meditation.

Adhikarana III:

(Sutras 6-8) discusses the case of Vidyas which are separate on account of different subject-matter, although in other respects there are similarities. The examples selected are the Udgitha Vidyas of the Chhandogya Upanishad (I.1.3) and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (I.3.1). Although they indicate certain similarities such as bearing the same name and the Udgitha being in both identified with Prana – yet they are to be held apart, because the subject of the Chhandogya Vidya is not the whole Udgitha but only the sacred syllable OM while Brihadaranyaka Upanishad represents the whole Udgitha as the object of meditation.

Adhikarana IV:

(Sutra 9). In the passage, "Let one meditate on the syllable 'OM' (of) the Udgitha" (Chh. Up. I.1.1), the Omkara and the Udgitha stand in the relation of one specifying the other. The meaning is "Let one meditate on that Omkara which" etc.

Adhikarana V:

(Sutra 10) intimates that there should be no mistake in the identity of the Prana Vidya as taught in Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka and Kaushitaki. It determines the unity of the Prana-Vidyas and the consequent comprehension of the different qualities of the Prana, which are mentioned in the different texts within one meditation.

Adhikarana VI:

(Sutras 11-13) intimates that the essential and unalterable attributes of Brahman such as Bliss and knowledge are to be taken into account everywhere while those which admit of increase and decrease as for instance the attribute of having joy for its head, mentioned in the Taittiriya Upanishad are confined to special meditations.

Adhikarana VII:

(Sutras 14-15) teaches that the object of Katha Upanishad (III.10, 11) is one only, viz., to indicate that the Supreme Self is higher than everything, so that the passage forms one Vidya only.

Adhikarana VIII:

(Sutras 16-17) intimates that the Self referred to in Aitareya Aranyaka (II.4.1.1) is not a lower form of the self (Sutratman or Hiranyagarbha), but the Supreme Self.

Adhikarana IX:

(Sutra 18) discusses a minor point connected with the Prana-samvada. Rinsing the mouth is not enjoined in the Prana-Vidya, but only thinking the water as the dress of Prana.

Adhikarana X:

(Sutra 19) declares that the Vidyas in the same Sakha which are identical or similar have to be combined, for they are one.

Adhikarana XI:

(Sutras 20-22). In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V.5), Brahman is represented first as abiding in the sphere of the sun and then as abiding within the right eye. The names "Ahar" and "Aham" of the Supreme Brahman abiding in the sun and in the right eye respectively cannot be combined, as these are two separate Vidyas.

Adhikarana XII:

(Sutra 23). Attributes of Brahman mentioned in Ranayaniya-Khila are not to be taken into consideration in other Brahma-Vidyas, e.g., the Sandilya Vidya, as the former is an independent Vidya owing to the difference of Brahman's abode.

Adhikarana XIII:

(Sutra 24) points out that the Purusha-Vidya of Chhandogya is quite different from the Purusha-Vidya of Taittiriya though they pass by the same name.

Adhikarana XIV:

(Sutra 25) decides that certain detached Mantras like "Pierce the whole body of the enemy" etc., and sacrifices mentioned at the beginning of certain Upanishads – as for instance, a Brahmana about the Mahavrata ceremony at the beginning of the Aitareya-Aranyaka, do, notwithstanding their position which seems to connect them with the Brahma-Vidya, not belong to the latter, as they show unmistakable signs of being connected with sacrificial acts.

Adhikarana XV:

(Sutra 26) treats of the passage stating that the man dying in the possession of true knowledge shakes off all his good and evil deeds and affirms that a statement made in some of those passages, only to the effect that the good and evil deeds pass over to the friends and enemies of the deceased, is valid for all the passages.

Adhikarana XVI:

(Sutras 27-28) decides that the shaking of the good and evil deeds takes place not as the Kaushitaki Upanishad states on the road to Brahmaloka or the world of Brahman but at the moment of the soul's departure from the body.

Adhikarana XVII:

(Sutras 29-30) intimates that the knower of the Saguna Brahman alone goes by the path of the gods after death and not the knower of the Nirguna Brahman. The soul of him who knows the Nirguna Brahman becomes one with it without moving to any other place.

Adhikarana XVIII:

(Sutra 31) decides that the road of the gods is followed not only by those who know the Vidyas which specially mention the going on that road but all who are acquainted with the Saguna Vidyas of Brahman.

Adhikarana XIX:

(Sutra 32) decides that, although the general effect of true knowledge is release from all forms of body, yet even perfected souls may be reborn for the fulfilment of some divine mission.

Adhikarana XX:

(Sutra 33) teaches that the negative attributes of Brahman mentioned in some Vidyas such as its being not gross, not subtle, etc., are to be combined in all meditations on Brahman.

Adhikarana XXI:

(Sutra 34) determines that Kathopanishad (III.1), and Mundaka (III.1), constitute one Vidya only, because both passages refer to the highest Brahman.

Adhikarana XXII:

(Sutras 35-36) maintains that the two passages (Bri. Up. III.4 and III.5), constitute one Vidya only, the object of knowledge being in both cases Brahman viewed as the Inner Self of all.

Adhikarana XXIII:

(Sutra 37) decides that the passage in Aitareya Aranyaka (II.2.4.6) constitutes not one but two meditations. The Sruti enjoins reciprocal meditation and not merely one way.

Adhikarana XXIV:

(Sutra 38) determines that the Vidyas of the True (Satya Brahman) contained in Bri. Up. (V.4.1 and V.5.2) is one only.

Adhikarana XXV:

(Sutra 39) decides that the attributes mentioned in Chh. Up. (VIII.1.1) and Bri. Up. (IV.4.32) are to be combined on account of a number of common features in both the texts.

Adhikarana XXVI:

(Sutras 40-41) maintains that Pranagnihotra need not be observed on days of fast.

Adhikarana XXVII:

(Sutra 42) decides that those meditations which are connected with certain sacrifices are not parts of them and therefore not inseparably connected with them.

Adhikarana XXVIII:

(Sutra 43) teaches that in a Bri. Up. passage and a similar Chh. Up. passage, meditations on Vayu and Prana are to be kept separate in spite of the essential oneness of these two.

Adhikarana XXIX:

(Sutras 44-52) decides that the fire-altars made of mind etc., which are mentioned in the Agnirahasya of the Brihadaranyaka are not part of the sacrificial act, but constitute a separate Vidya.

Adhikarana XXX:

(Sutras 53-54) determines that the self is a separate entity distinct from the body.

Adhikarana XXXI:

(Sutras 55-56) decides that Upasanas or meditations connected with sacrificial acts, e.g., the Udgitha Upasana, are valid for all Sakhas.

Adhikarana XXXII:

(Sutra 57) decides that the Vaisvanara Upasana of Chh. Up. (V.11) is one entire Upasana. Vaisvanara Agni is to be meditated upon as a whole, not in his single parts.

Adhikarana XXXIII:

(Sutra 58) decides that various Vidyas like the Sandilya-Vidya, Dahara-Vidya and so on, are to be kept separate and not combined into one entire Upasana.

Adhikarana XXXIV:

(Sutra 59) teaches that those meditations on Brahman for which the texts assign one and the same fruit, are optional, there being no reason for their being cumulated.

Any one Vidya should be selected according to one's choice.

Adhikarana XXXV:

(Sutra 60) decides that those meditations on the other hand which refer to special desires may or may not be combined according to choice or liking.

Adhikarana XXXVI:

(Sutras 61-66) decides that meditations connected with members of sacrificial acts, such as the Udgitha may or may not be combined according to liking.