Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Introduction

In the previous Section the inconsistency of the doctrines of the various non-Vedantic schools has been shown. After showing the untenability and unreliability of other systems, Sri Vyasa, the author of Vedanta Sutras now proceeds to explain the apparent contradictions and inconsistencies in the Sruti system because there appear to be diversities of doctrines with reference to the origin of the elements, the senses, etc.

We now clearly understand that other philosophical doctrines are worthless on account of their mutual contradictions. Now a suspicion may arise that the Vedantic doctrine also is equally worthless on account of its intrinsic contradictions. Therefore a new discussion is begun in order to remove all doubts in the Vedanta passages which refer to creation and thus to remove the suspicion in the minds of the readers. Here we have to consider first the question whether ether (Akasa) has an origin or not.

In Sections III and IV the apparent contradictions in Sruti texts are beautifully harmonised and reconciled. The arguments of the opponent (Purvapakshin) who attempts to prove the Self-contradiction of the scriptural texts are given first. Then comes the refutation by the Siddhantin.


The Third Section of Chapter II deals with the order of creation as it is taught in Sruti, of the five primal elements namely Akasa, air, fire, water and earth. It discusses the question whether the elements have an origin or not, whether they are co-eternal with Brahman or issue from it and are withdrawn into it at stated intervals. The essential characteristics of the individual is also ascertained.

The first seven Adhikaranas deal with the five elementary substances.

Adhikarana I:

(Sutras 1-7) teaches that the ether is not co-eternal with Brahman but originates from it as its first effect. Though there is no mention of Akasa in the Chhandogya Upanisad, the inclusion of Akasa is implied.

Adhikarana II:

(Sutra 8) shows that air originates from ether.

Adhikarana III:

(Sutra 9) teaches that there is no origin of that which is (i.e., Brahman) on account of the impossibility of there being an origin of Brahman, and as it does not stand to reason.

Adhikarana IV, V, VI:

(Sutras, 10, 11, 12) teach that fire springs from air, water from fire, earth from water.

Adhikarana VII:

(Sutra 13) teaches that the origination of one element from another is due not to the latter in itself but to Brahman acting in it. Brahman who is their Indweller has actually evolved these successive elements.

Adhikarana VIII:

(Sutra 14) shows that the absorption of the elements into Brahman takes place in the inverse order of their creation.

Adhikarana IX:

(Sutra 15) teaches that the order in which the creation and the re-absorption of the elements takes place is not interfered with by the creation and re-absorption of Prana, mind and the senses, because they also are the creations of Brahman, and are of elemental nature and therefore are created and absorbed together with the elements of which they consist.

The remaining portion of this Section is devoted to the special characteristics of the individual soul by comparing different Srutis bearing on this point.

Adhikarana X:

(Sutra 16) shows that expressions such as "Ramakrishna is born" "Ramakrishna has died", strictly apply to the body only and are transferred to the soul in so far only as it is connected with a body.

Adhikarana XI:

(Sutra 17) teaches that the individual soul is according to the Srutis permanent, eternal. Therefore it is not like the ether and the other elements, produced from Brahman at the time of creation. The Jiva is in reality identical with Brahman. What originates is merely the soul's connection with its limiting adjuncts such as mind, body, senses, etc. This connection is moreover illusory.

Adhikarana XII:

(Sutra 18) defines the nature of the individual soul. The Sutra declares that intelligence is the very essence of the soul.

Adhikarana XIII:

(Sutras 19-32) deals with the question whether the individual soul is Anu, i.e., of very minute size or omnipresent, all-pervading. The Sutras 19-28 represent the view of the Purvapakshin according to which the individual soul is Anu, while Sutra 29 formulates the Siddhanta viz., the individual soul is in reality all-pervading; it is spoken of as Anu in some scriptural passages because the qualities of the internal organ itself are Anu which constitute the essence of the Jiva so long as he is involved in the Samsara.

Sutra 30 explains that the soul may be called Anu as it is connected with the Buddhi as long as it is implicated in the Samsara.

Sutra 31 intimates that in the state of deep sleep the soul is potentially connected with the Buddhi while in the waking state that connection becomes actually manifest.

Sutra 32 intimates that if no intellect existed there would result constant perception or constant non-perception.

Adhikaranas XIV and XV:

(Sutras 33-39 and 40) refer to the Kartritva of the individual soul, whether the soul is an agent or not.

Sutras 33-39 declare that the soul is an agent. The soul is an agent when he is connected with the instruments of action, Buddhi, etc. Sutra 40 intimates that he ceases to be an agent when he is dissociated from them, just as the carpenter works as long as he wields his instruments and rests after having laid them aside.

Adhikarana XVI:

(Sutras 41-42) teaches that the agentship of the individual soul is verily subordinate to and controlled by the Supreme Lord. The Lord always directs the soul according to his good or bad actions done in previous births.

Adhikarana XVII:

(Sutras 43-53) treats of the relation of the individual soul to Brahman.

Sutra 43 declares that the individual soul is a part (Amsa) of Brahman. This Sutra propounds Avacchedavada i.e., the doctrine of limitation i.e., the doctrine that the soul is the Supreme Self in so far as limited by its adjuncts.

The following Sutras intimate that the Supreme Lord is not affected by pleasure and pain like the individual soul, just as light is unaffected by the shaking of its reflections.

According to Sankara, 'Amsa' must be understood to mean 'Amsa iva', a part as it were. The one universal indivisible Brahman has no real parts but appears to be divided owing to its limiting adjuncts.

Sutra 47 teaches that the individual souls are required to follow the different injunctions and prohibitions laid down in the scriptures, when they are connected with bodies, high and low. Fire is one only but the fire of a funeral pyre is rejected and that of the sacrifice is accepted. Similar is the case with the Atman. When the soul is attached to the body, ethical rules, ideas of purity and impurity have full application.

Sutra 49 shows that there is no confusion of actions or faults of actions. The individual soul has no connection with all the bodies at the same time. He is connected with one body only and he is affected by the peculiar properties of that one alone.

Sutra 50 propounds the doctrine of reflection (Abhasavada) or Pratibimbavada, the doctrine that the individual soul is a mere reflection of the Supreme Brahman in the Buddhi or intellect.

In the Sankhya philosophy the individual soul has been stated to be all-pervading. If this view be accepted there would be confusion of works and their effects. This view of the Sankhyas is, therefore, an unfair conclusion.