Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Avrittyadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-2)

Meditation on Brahman should be continued till knowledge is attained.

Avrittirasakridupadesat IV.1.1 (478)

The repetition (of hearing, reflection and meditation on Brahman is necessary) on account of the repeated instruction by the scriptures.

Avrittih: repetition, practice of meditation on Brahman (is necessary); Asakrit: not only once, many times, repeatedly; Upadesat: because of instruction by the scriptures.

This Sutra states that constant practice of meditation is necessary.

Frequent practice of meditation on Brahman is necessary as there is instruction to that effect in the Sruti.

"Verily, the Self is to be seen, to be reflected upon, and meditated upon" (Bri. Up. II.4.5). "The intelligent aspirant knowing about Brahman should attain Brahma-Sakshatkara or direct Self-realisation" (Bri. Up. IV.4.21). "That is what we must search out, that is what we must try to understand" (Chh. Up. VIII.7.1).

A doubt arises whether the mental action (reflection and meditation) referred to in them is to be preformed once only or repeatedly.

The Purvapakshin maintains that it is to be observed once only as in the case of Prayaja offerings and the like.

"Let us then repeat exactly as the scripture says, i.e., let us hear the self once, let us reflect on it once, let us meditate on it once and nothing more".

The present Sutra refutes this view and says that hearing, etc., must be repeated till one attains knowledge of Brahman or direct Self-realisation, just as paddy is husked till we get rice. There is the necessity of repetition till there is dawn of knowledge of Brahman. The repetition of mental acts of reflection and meditation eventually leads to direct Self-realisation. Repetition is to be performed because scripture gives repeated instruction.

Thus in the Chh. Up. VI.8.7 the teacher repeats nine times the saying, "Tat Satyam Sa Atma Tat-Tvam-Asi Svetaketo – That Truth, That Atman, That thou art, O Svetaketu!" Here Svetaketu is taught the mystery about Brahman nine times before he understood it.

The analogy of the Prayaja is faulty. It is not to the point at all because there is the Adrishta which is the result gives fruit at some particular future time in the next world. But here the result is directly realised. Direct intution of the Self is a visible result to be gained in this very life. Therefore, if the result is not there, the process must be repeated, till the result is realised. Such acts must be repeated, because they subserve a seen purpose.

When we speak of the Upasana of the Guru or the king or of the wife thinking about her absent husband, we do not mean a single act of service or thought but a continuous series of acts and thoughts. We say in ordinary life that a person is devoted to a teacher or a king if he follows him with a mind steadily set on him, and of a wife whose husband has gone on a journey we say that she thinks of him only if she steadily remembers him with longing.

In Vedanta, Vid (knowing) and Upasati (meditating) are used as identical. That 'knowing' implies repetition follows from the fact that in the Vedanta texts the terms 'knowing' and 'meditating' are seen to be used one in the place of the other. In some passages the term 'knowing' is used in the beginning and the term 'meditating' in the end: thus, e.g., "He who knows what he knows is thus spoken of by me" and "teach me sir, the deity which you meditate on" (Chh. Up. IV.1.4; 2.2). In other places the text at first speaks of 'meditating' and later on of 'knowing'; thus e.g., "Let a man meditate on mind as Brahman" and "He who knows this shines and warms through his celebrity, fame and glory of countenance" (Chh. Up. III.18.1, 6).

Meditation and reflection imply a repetition of the mental act. When we say "He meditates on it" the continuity of the act of remembrance of the object is implied. Similar is the case with reflection also.

From this it follows that repetition has to be practised there also, where the text gives instruction once only. Where, again, the text gives repeated instruction, repeated performance of the mental acts is directly intimated.

When the scripture speaking about the rice for the sacrifice says, "The rice should be beaten" the sacrificer understands that the injunction means "The rice should be beaten over and over again, till it is free from husk" for no sacrifice can be performed with the rice with its husk on. So when the scripture says, "The Self must be seen through hearing, reflection and meditation" it means the repetition of these mental processes, so long as the Self is not seen or realised.

Lingaccha IV.1.2 (479)

And on account of the indicatory mark.

Lingat: because of the indicatory mark or sign; Cha: and.

The same topic is continued.

An indicatory mark also shows that repetition is required. In the Sruti there is a teaching of repeated meditation. It says that one son will be born if there is a single act of meditation whereas many sons will be born if there are many and repeated acts of meditation. "Reflect upon the rays and you will have many sons" (Chh. Up. I.5.2). In the Section treating of meditation on the Udgitha the text repeats the meditation on the Udgitha viewed as the sun, because its result is one son only and the clause "Reflect upon his rays" enjoins a meditation on his manifold rays as leading to the possession of many sons. This indicates that the repetition of meditation is something well known. What holds good in this case holds good for other meditations also.

In the case of first class type of aspirant with intense purity, dispassion, discrimination and extremely subtle and sharp intellect, a single hearing of that great sentence "Tat-Tvam-Asi" Mahavakya will be quite sufficient. Repetition would indeed be useless for him who is able to realise the true nature of Brahman even if the Mahavakya "Tat-Tvam-Asi" is enounced once only. But such advanced souls are very rare. Ordinary people who are deeply attached to the body and objects cannot attain realisation of Truth by a single enunciation of it. For such persons repetition is of use. The erroneous notion "I am the body" can be destroyed only through constant meditation or repeated practice. Knowledge can dawn only when there is incessant and frequent meditation.

Repetition has the power of annihilating this erroneous idea gradually. Meditation should be continued till the last trace of body idea is destroyed. When the body consciousness is totally annihilated, Brahman shines Itself in all Its pristine glory and purity. The meditator and the meditated become one. Individuality vanishes in toto.

If repetition is not necessary the Chhandogya Upanishad would not have taught the truth of the great sentence "Thou art That" repeatedly.

In the Taittiriya Upanishad III.2 we find that Bhrigu goes several times to his father Varuna and asks him again and again, to be taught the nature of Brahman.

Bhrigu Varuni went to his father Varuna saying, "Sir, teach me Brahman." He told him this, viz., food, breath, the eye, the ear, mind and speech. Then he said again to him "That from whence these beings are born, that by which when born they live, that into which they enter at their death, try to know that. That is Brahman."

This injunction about repetition is meant for those only who lack in purity and subtle understanding and in whom a single enunciation is not sufficient to give them the direct cognition of Brahman.

The individual soul is taught step by step to be subtler than the body, etc., till it is realised as pure Chaitanya. When we have the knowledge of the object only, we can have full knowledge of the affirmation about it. In the case of those who have ignorance or doubt or wrong knowledge, the affirmation (Tat-Tvam-Asi) cannot bring on immediate realisation but to those who have no such obstruction there will be realisation. Hence reiteration with reasoning is only for leading us to full Vachyartha Jnana.

We observe that men by repeating again and again a sentence which they, on the first hearing, had understood imperfectly only, gradually rid themselves of all misconceptions and arrive at a full understanding of the true sense.

All this establishes the conclusion that, in the case of cognition of the Supreme Brahman, the instruction leading to such realisation may be repeated.