Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Pratikadhikaranam: Topic 3 (Sutra 4)

The symbols of Brahman should not be meditated upon as identical with the meditator.

Na pratike na hi sah IV.1.4 (481)

(The meditator is) not (to see the Self) in the symbol, because he is not (that).

Na: not; Pratike: in the symbol (such as Akasa, the sun, the mind, etc.); Na: not; Hi: because; Sah: he.

This and the following two Sutras examine the value of a Pratika or symbol in worship.

Pratikas, symbols, would not be regarded as one with us. The meditator cannot regard them as being one with him, as they are separate from him.

Chhandogya Upanishad III.18.1 declares "The mind is Brahman".

A doubt arises whether in such meditations where the mind is taken as a symbol of Brahman, the meditator is to identify himself with the mind, as in the case of the meditation: "I am Brahman – Aham Brahma Asmi".

The Purvapakshin maintains that he should, because the mind is a product of Brahman and as such it is one with It. So the meditator, the individual soul, is one with Brahman. Therefore, it follows that the meditator also is one with the mind, and hence he should see his Self in the mind in this meditation also.

The present Sutra refutes this. We must not attach to symbols the idea of Brahman. Because the meditator cannot comprehend the heterogeneous symbols as being of the nature of the Self.

We must not regard Pratikas (symbols or images) as being ourselves. They are different from ourselves and cannot be regarded as being identical with ourselves. Nor can we say that they being derivatives of Brahman and Brahman being one with Atman, they are also to be treated as one with the Atman. They can be one with Brahman only if they go above name and form and when they go above name and form, they will not be Pratikas.

Atman is Brahman only when freed from Kartritva (doership). Two gold jewels cannot be identical but both can be one with gold.

If the symbol mind is realised as identical with Brahman, then it is no longer a symbol, just as when we realise an ornament as gold, it ceases to be an ornament. If the meditating person realises his identity with Brahman, then he is no longer the Jiva or the individual soul, the meditator. The distinctions of meditator, meditation and the meditated exist in the beginning when oneness has not been realised. Whenever there is the distinction between the meditator and the meditated there is the process of meditation. Where there is consciousness of difference, diversity or plurality, the meditator is quite distinct from the symbol.

For these reasons the self is not meditated in symbols. The meditator is not to see his self in the symbol.