I-2 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 1

Topic 1 - The Being consisting of the mind is Brahman

Sutra 1,2.1

सर्वत्र प्रसिद्धोपदेशात् ॥ १ ॥

sarvatra prasiddhopadeśāt || 1 ||

sarvatra—Throughout (the scriptures); prasiddhopadeśāt—because there is taught (the Brahman which is) well known.

1. (That which consists of the mind [Manomaya] is Brahman) because there is taught (in this text) (that Brahman which is) well known (as the cause of the universe) throughout (the scriptures).

We read in the Chāṇḍogya, 'Man is made of thought; according to what his thought is in this world, so will he be when he has departed this life. Let him form this thought: he who consists of mind, whose body is breath, whose form is light,' etc. (III, 14). We here understand that of the meditation enjoined by the clause 'let him form this thought' the object is the being said to consist of mind, to have breath for its body, etc. A doubt, however, arises whether the being possessing these attributes be the individual soul or the highest Self.--The Pūrvapakshin maintains the former alternative. For, he says, mind and breath are instruments of the individual soul; while the text 'without breath, without mind,' distinctly denies them to the highest Self. Nor can the Brahman mentioned in a previous clause of the same section ('All this indeed is Brahman') be connected as an object with the meditation enjoined in the passage under discussion; for Brahman is there referred to in order to suggest the idea of its being the Self of all--which idea constitutes a means for bringing about that calmness of mind which is helpful towards the act of meditation enjoined in the clause 'Let a man meditate with calm mind,' etc. Nor, again, can it be said that as the meditation conveyed by the clause 'let him form this thought' demands an object, Brahman, although mentioned in another passage, only admits of being connected with the passage under discussion; for the demand for an object is fully satisfied by the being made of mind, etc., which is mentioned in that very passage itself; in order to supply the object we have merely to change the case-terminations of the words 'Manomāyā prāṇa śarīraḥ,' etc. It having thus been determined that the being made of mind is the individual soul, we further conclude that the Brahman mentioned in the concluding passage of the section ('That is Brahman') is also the individual soul, there called Brahman in order to glorify it.

This prima facie view is set aside by the Sūtra. The being made of mind is the highest Self; for the text states certain qualities, such as being made of mind, etc., which are well known to denote, in all Vedānta- texts, Brahman only. Passages such as 'He who is made of mind, the guide of the body of breath' (Mu. Up. II, 2, 7); 'There is the ether within the heart, and in it there is the Person, consisting of mind, immortal, golden' (Taitt. Up. I. 6, 1); 'He is conceived by the heart, by wisdom, by the mind. Those who know him are immortal' (Ka. Up. II, 6, 9); 'He is not apprehended by the eye nor by speech, but by a purified mind' (Mu. Up. III, 1, 8); 'The breath of breath' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 183); 'Breath alone is the conscious Self, and having laid hold of this body it makes it rise up' (Kau. Up. III, 3); 'All these beings merge into breath alone, and from breath they arise' (Kh. Up. I, 11, 5)--these and similar texts refer to Brahman as consisting of mind, to be apprehended by a purified mind, having breath for its body, and being the abode and ruler of breath. This being so, we decide that in the concluding passage, 'my Self within the heart, that is Brahman,' the word 'Brahman' has to be taken in its primary sense (and does not denote the individual soul). The text which declares Brahman to be without mind and breath, merely means to deny that the thought of Brahman depends on a mind (internal organ), and that its life depends on breath.

Or else we may interpret the Vedic text and the Sūtra as follows. The passage 'All this is Brahman; let a man meditate with a calm mind on this world as originating, ending, and breathing in Brahman,' conveys the imagination of meditation on Brahman as the Self of all. The subsequent clause 'Let him form the thought,' etc., forms an additional statement to that injunction, the purport of which is to suggest certain attributes of Brahman, such as being made of mind. So that the meaning of the whole section is 'Let a man meditate on Brahman, which is made of mind, has breath for its body, etc., as the Self of the whole world.'--Here a doubt presents itself. Does the term 'Brahman' in this section denote the individual soul or the highest Self?--The individual soul, the Pūrvapakshin maintains, for that only admits of being exhibited in co-ordination with the word 'all.' For the word 'all' denotes the entire world from Brahmā down to a blade of grass; and the existence of Brahmā and other individual beings is determined by special forms of karman, the root of which is the beginningless Nescience of the individual soul. The highest Brahman, on the other hand, which is all-knowing, all-powerful, free from all evil and all shadow of Nescience and similar imperfections, cannot possibly exist as the 'All' which comprises within itself everything that is bad. Moreover we find that occasionally the term 'Brahman' is applied to the individual soul also; just as the highest Lord (Parameśvara) may be called 'the highest Self' (paramātman) or 'the highest Brahman.' That 'greatness' (brihattva; which is the essential characteristic of 'Brāhman') belongs to the individual soul when it has freed itself from its limiting conditions, is moreover attested by scripture: 'That (soul) is fit for infinity' (Svet. Up. V, 9). And as the soul's Nescience is due to karman (only), the text may very well designate it--as it does by means of the term 'taggalān'--as the cause of the origin, subsistence, and reabsorption of the world. That is to say--the individual soul which, in its essential nature, is non-limited, and therefore of the nature of Brahman, owing to the influence of Nescience enters into the state of a god, or a man, or an animal, or a plant.

This view is rejected by the Sūtra. 'Everywhere,' i.e. in the whole world which is referred to in the clause 'All this is Brahman' we have to understand the highest Brahman--which the term 'Brahman' denotes as the Self of the world--, and not the individual soul; 'because there is taught what is known,' i.e. because the clause 'All this is Brahman'--for which clause the term 'taggalān' supplies the reason--refers to Brahman as something generally known. Since the world springs from Brahman, is merged in Brahman, and depends on Brahman for its life, therefore-- as the text says--'All this has its Self in Brahman'; and this shows to us that what the text understands by Brahman is that being from which, as generally known from the Vedānta texts, there proceed the creation, and so on, of the world. That the highest Brahman only, all-wise and supremely blessed, is the cause of the origin, etc., of the world, is declared in the section which begins. 'That from which these beings are born,' etc., and which says further on, 'he knew that Bliss is Brahman, for from bliss these beings are born' (Taitt. Up. III, 6); and analogously the text 'He is the cause, the lord of lords of the organs,' etc. (Svet. Up. VI, 9), declares the highest Brahman to be the cause of the individual soul. Everywhere, in fact, the texts proclaim the causality of the highest Self only. As thus the world which springs from Brahman, is merged in it, and breathes through it, has its Self in Brahman, the identity of the two may properly be asserted; and hence the text--the meaning of which is 'Let a man meditate with calm mind on the highest Brahman of which the world is a mode, which has the world for its body, and which is the Self of the world'--first proves Brahman's being the universal Self, and then enjoins meditation on it. The highest Brahman, in its causal condition as well as in its so-called 'effected' state, constitutes the Self of the world, for in the former it has for its body all sentient and non-sentient beings in their subtle form, and in the latter the same beings in their gross condition. Nor is there any contradiction between such identity with the world on Brahman's part, and the fact that Brahman treasures within itself glorious qualities antagonistic to all evil; for the imperfections adhering to the bodies, which are mere modes of Brahman, do not affect Brahman itself to which the modes belong. Such identity rather proves for Brahman supreme lordly power, and thus adds to its excellences. Nor, again, can it rightly be maintained that of the individual soul also identity with the world can be predicated; for the souls being separate according to the bodies with which they are joined cannot be identical with each other. Even in the state of release, when the individual soul is not in any way limited, it does not possess that identity with the world on which there depends causality with regard to the world's creation, sustentation, and reabsorption; as will be declared in Sūtra IV, 4, 17. Nor, finally, does the Pūrvapakshin improve his case by contending that the individual soul may be the cause of the creation. etc., of the world because it (viz. the soul) is due to karman; for although the fact given as reason is true, all the same the Lord alone is the cause of the Universe.--All this proves that the being to which the text refers as Brahman is none other than the highest Self.

This second alternative interpretation of the Sūtra is preferred by most competent persons. The Vrittikāra, e.g. says, 'That Brahman which the clause "All this is Brahman" declares to be the Self of all is the Lord.'

Sutra 1,2.2

विवक्षितगुणोपपत्तेश्च ॥ २ ॥

vivakṣitaguṇopapatteśca || 2 ||

vivakṣitaguṇopapatteḥ—Because qualities desired to be expressed are befitting; ca—moreover.

2. Moreover the qualities desired to be expressed are befitting (only in the case of Brahman; and so the passage refers to Brahman).

The qualities about to be stated can belong to the highest Self only. 'Made of mind, having breath for its body,' etc. 'Made of mind' means to be apprehended by a purified mind only. The highest Self can be apprehended only by a mind purified by meditation on that Self, such meditation being assisted by the seven means, viz. abstention, etc. (see above, p. 17). This intimates that the highest Self is of pure goodness, precluding all evil, and therefore different in nature from everything else; for by the impure minded impure objects only can be apprehended.--'Having the vital breath for its body' means--being the supporter of all life in the world. To stand in the relation of a body to something else, means to abide in that other thing, to be dependent on it, and to subserve it in a subordinate capacity, as we shall fully show later on. And all 'vital breath' or 'life' stands in that relation to the highest Self. 'Whose form is light'; i.e. who is of supreme splendour, his form being a divine one of supreme excellence peculiar to him, and not consisting of the stuff of Prakriti.--'Whose purposes are true'; i.e. whose purposes realise themselves without any obstruction. 'Who is the (or "of the") Self of ether'; i.e. who is of a delicate and transparent nature, like ether; or who himself is the Self of ether, which is the causal substance of everything else; or who shines forth himself and makes other things shine forth.--'To whom all works belong'; i.e. he of whom the whole world is the work; or he to whom all activities belong.--'To whom all wishes belong'; i.e. he to whom all pure objects and means of desire and enjoyment belong. 'He to whom all odours and tastes belong'; i.e. he to whom there belong, as objects of enjoyment, all kinds of uncommon, special, perfect, supremely excellent odours and tastes; ordinary smells and tastes being negated by another text, viz. 'That which is without sound, without touch, without taste,' etc. (Ka. Up. I, 3, l5).--'He who embraces all this'; i.e. he who makes his own the whole group of glorious qualities enumerated.--'He who does not speak,' because, being in possession of all he could desire, he 'has no regard for anything'; i.e. he who, in full possession of lordly power, esteems this whole world with all its creatures no higher than a blade of grass, and hence abides in silence.--All these qualities stated in the text can belong to the highest Self only.

Sutra 1,2.3

अनुपपत्तेस्तु न शारीरः ॥ ३ ॥

anupapattestu na śārīraḥ || 3 ||

anupapatteḥ—Because (they) are not appropriate; tu—on the other hand; na—is not; śārīraḥ—the individual soul.

3. On the other hand the individual soul is not (referred to by the text) because these qualities are not appropriate (to it).

Those who fully consider this infinite multitude of exalted qualities will recognise that not even a shadow of them can belong to the individual soul--whether in the state of bondage or that of release-- which is a thing as insignificant as a glow-worm and, through its connexion with a body, liable to the attacks of endless suffering. It is not possible therefore to hold that the section under discussion should refer to the individual soul.

Sutra 1,2.4

कर्मकर्तृव्यपदेशाच्च ॥ ४ ॥

karmakartṛvyapadeśācca || 4 ||

karma—Object; kartṛ—agent; karmakartṛvyapadeśāt—on account of the mention; ca—and.

4. And on account of the mention of the attainer and the object attained (“He who consists of the mind” refers to Brahman and not to the individual soul).

The clause 'When I shall have departed from hence I shall obtain him' denotes the highest Brahman as the object to be obtained, and the individual soul as that which obtains it. This shows that the soul which obtains is the person meditating, and the highest Brahman that is to be obtained, the object of meditation: Brahman, therefore, is something different from the attaining soul.

 Sutra 1,2.5

शब्दविशेषात् ॥ ५ ॥

śabdaviśeṣāt || 5 ||

5.  Because of the difference (indicated by the case-endings) of the words.

The clause 'That is the Self of me, within the heart' designates the embodied soul by means of a genitive form, while the object of meditation is exhibited in the nominative case. Similarly, a text of the Vājasaneyins, which treats of the same topic, applies different terms to the embodied and the highest Self, 'Like a rice grain, or a barley grain, or a canary seed, or the kernel of a canary seed, thus that golden Person is within the Self' (Sat. Br. X, 6, 3, 2). Here the locative form, 'within the Self,' denotes the embodied Self, and the nominative, 'that golden Person,' the object to be meditated on.--All this proves the highest Self to be the object of meditation.

Sutra 1,2.6

स्मृतेश्च ॥ ६ ॥

smṛteśca || 6 ||

smṛteḥ—From the Smriti; ca—also.

6. From the Smriti also (we learn that the individual soul is different from the one referred to in the text discussed).

'I dwell within the hearts of all, from me come memory and knowledge, as well as their loss'; 'He who free from delusion knows me to be the highest Person'; 'The Lord, O Arjuṇa, is seated in the heart of all Beings, driving round by his mysterious power all beings as if mounted on a machine; to him fly for refuge' (Bha. Gi. XV, 15, 19; XVIII, 61). These Smriti-texts show the embodied soul to be the meditating subject, and the highest Self the object of meditation.

Sutra 1,2.7

अर्भकौकस्त्वात् तद्व्यपदेशाच्च नेति चेत्, न, निचाय्यत्वादेवं व्योमवच्च ॥ ७ ॥

arbhakaukastvāt tadyapadeśācca neti cet, na, nicāyyatvādevaṃ vyomavacca || 7 ||

arbhakaukastvāt—Because of the smallness of the abode; tadyapadeśāt—on account of its being designated as such (i.e. small); ca—also; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; nicāyyatvāt—for the sake of contemplation; evaṃ—so; vyomavat—like the ether; ca—and.

7. If it be said that (the passage does) not (refer to Brahman) because of the smallness of the abode (referred to, i.e. the heart) and also on account of its being designated as such (i.e. as minute); (we say,) not so, (because Brahman has been so characterized) for the sake of contemplation and because the case is similar to that of the ether.

It might be contended that, as the text 'he is my Self within the heart' declares the being meditated on to dwell within a minute abode, viz. the heart; and as moreover another text--'smaller than a grain of rice,' etc., declares it to be itself of minute size, that being cannot be the highest Self, but only the embodied soul. For other passages speak of the highest Self as unlimited, and of the embodied soul as having the size of the point of a goad (cp. e.g. Mu. Up. I, 1, 6, and Svet. Up. V, 8).--This objection the Sūtra rebuts by declaring that the highest Self is spoken of as such, i.e. minute, on account of its having to be meditated upon as such. Such minuteness does not, however, belong to its true nature; for in the same section it is distinctly declared to be infinite like ether--'greater than the earth, greater than the sky, greater than heaven, greater than all these worlds' (Kh. Up. III, 14, 3). This shows that the designation of the highest Self as minute is for the purpose of meditation only.--The connexion of the whole section then is as follows. The clause 'All this is Brahman; let a man meditate with calm mind on this world as beginning, ending, and breathing in Brahman,' enjoins meditation on Brahman as being the Self of all, in so far as it is the cause of the origin and destruction of all, and entering into all beings as their soul gives life to them. The next clause, 'Man is made of thought; according as his thought is in this world, so will he be when he has departed this life,' declares the attainment of the desired object to depend on the nature of the meditation; and the following clause, 'Let him therefore form the following thought,' thereupon repeats the injunction with a view to the declaration of details. The clause 'He who consists of mind,' etc., up to 'who is never surprised,' then states the nature and qualities, of the being to be meditated upon, which are to be comprised in the meditation. Next, the clause 'He is my Self,' up to 'the kernel of a canary seed, 'declares that the highest Person, for the purpose of meditation, abides in the heart of the meditating devotee; representing it as being itself minute, since the heart is minute. After this the clause 'He also is my Self,' up to 'who is never surprised,' describes those aspects of the being meditated upon as within the heart, which are to be attained by the devotee. Next, the words 'this my Self within the heart is that Brahman' enjoins the reflection that the highest Brahman, as described before, is, owing to its supreme kindness, present in our hearts in order thereby to refresh and inspirit us. Then the clause 'When I shall have departed from hence I shall obtain him' suggests the idea that there is a certainty of obtaining him on the basis of devout meditation; and finally the clause 'He who has this faith has no doubt' declares that the devotee who is firmly convinced of his aim being attainable in the way described, will attain it beyond any doubt.--From all this it appears that the 'limitation of abode,' and the 'minuteness' ascribed to Brahman, are merely for the purpose of meditation.

Sutra 1,2.8

संभोगप्राप्तिरिति चेत्, न, वैशेष्यात् ॥ ८ ॥

saṃbhogaprāptiriti cet, na, vaiśeṣyāt || 8 ||

saṃbhogaprāptiḥ—That it has experience (of pleasure and pain); iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; vaiśeṣyāt—because of the difference in nature;

8. If it be said that (being connected with the hearts of all individual souls on account of Its omnipresence, It would also) have experience (of pleasure and pain), (we say,) not so, because of the difference in the nature (of the two).

But, if the highest Brahman is assumed to dwell within bodies, like the individual soul, it follows that, like the latter, it is subject to the experience of pleasure and pain, such experience springing from connexion with bodies!--Of this objection the Sūtra disposes by remarking 'not so, on account of difference (of reason).' For what is the cause of experiences, pleasurable or painful, is not the mere dwelling within a body, but rather the subjection to the influence of good and evil deeds; and such subjection is impossible in the case of the highest Self to which all evil is foreign. Compare the scriptural text 'One of the two eats the sweet fruit, the other one looks on without eating’ (Mu. Up. III, 1, 1).--Here finishes the Adhikaraṇa of 'what is known everywhere.'

Well then, if the highest Self is not an enjoyer, we must conclude that wherever fruition is referred to, the embodied soul only is meant!--Of this view the next Adhikaraṇa disposes.