I-2 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 6

Topic 6 - That which cannot be seen is Brahman

 Sutra 1,2.21

अदृश्यत्वादिगुणको धर्मोक्तेः ॥ २१ ॥

adṛśyatvādiguṇako dharmokteḥ || 21 ||

adṛśyatvādi-guṇako—Possessor of qualities like invisibility etc.; dharmokteḥ—on account of the qualities being mentioned.

21. The possessor of qualities like invisibility etc. (is Brahman) on account of (Its) characteristics being mentioned.

The Ātharvanikas read in their text, 'The higher knowledge is that by which that Indestructible is apprehended. That which is invisible, unseizable, without origin and qualities, etc., that it is which the wise regard as the source of all beings'; and further on, 'That which is higher than the high Imperishable' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 5, 6; II, 1, 2). The doubt here arises whether the Indestructible, possessing the qualities of imperceptibility, etc., and that which is higher than the Indestructible, should be taken to denote the Pradhāna and the soul of the Sānkhyas, or whether both denote the highest Self.--The Pūrvapakshin maintains the former alternative. For, he says, while in the text last discussed there is mentioned a special attribute of an intelligent being, viz. in the clause 'unseen but a seer', no similar attribute is stated in the former of the two texts under discussion, and the latter text clearly describes the collective individual soul, which is higher than the imperishable Pradhāna, which itself is higher than all its effects. The reasons for this decision are as follows:--Colour and so on reside in the gross forms of non-intelligent matter, viz. the elements, earth, and so on. When, therefore, visibility and so on are expressly negated, such negation suggests a non-sentient thing cognate to earth, etc., but of a subtle kind, and such a thing is no other than the Pradhāna. And as something higher than this Pradhāna there are known the collective souls only, under whose guidance the Pradhāna gives birth to all its effects, from the so-called Mahat downwards to individual things. This interpretation is confirmed by the comparisons set forth in the next śloka, 'As the spider sends forth and draws in its threads, as plants spring from the earth, as hair grows on the head and body of the living man, thus does everything arise here from the Indestructible.' The section therefore is concerned only with the Pradhāna and the individual soul.

This prima facie view is set aside by the Sūtra. That which possesses invisibility and the other qualities stated in the text, and that which is higher than the high Indestructible, is no other than the highest Self. For the text declares attributes which belong to the highest Self only, viz. in I, 1, 9, 'He who knows all, cognises all,' etc. Let us shortly consider the connexion of the text. The passage beginning the higher knowledge is that by which the Indestructible is apprehended' declares an indestructible being possessing the attributes of invisibility and so on. The clause 'everything arises here from the Indestructible' next declares that from that being all things originate. Next the śloka, 'He who knows all and cognises all,' predicates of that Indestructible which is the source of all beings, omniscience, and similar qualities. And finally the text, 'That which is higher than the high Indestructible,' characterises that same being--which previously had been called invisible, the source of beings, indestructible, all- knowing, etc.--as the highest of all. Hence it is evident that in the text 'higher than the high Indestructible' the term 'Indestructible' does not denote the invisible, etc. Indestructible, which is the chief topic of the entire section; for there can of course be nothing higher than that which, as being all- knowing, the source of all, etc., is itself higher than anything else. The 'Indestructible' in that text therefore denotes the elements in their subtle condition.

Sutra 1,2.22

विशेषणभेदव्यपदेशाभ्यां नेतरौ ॥ २२ ॥

viśeṣaṇabhedavyapadeśābhyāṃ netarau || 22 ||

viśeṣaṇa-bheda-vyapadeśābhyāṃ—On account of the mention of characteristic qualities and differences; na—not; itarau—the other two;

22. The other two (i.e. the individual soul and the Pradhāna) are not (referred to in the passage), because the characteristics of Brahman and the difference (of the Being which is the source of all beings from the individual soul and the Pradhāna) are mentioned.

The section distinguishes the indestructible being, which is the source of all, etc., from the Pradhāna as well as the individual soul, in so far, namely, as it undertakes to prove that by the cognition of one thing everything is known; and it moreover, in passages such as 'higher than the high Indestructible,' explicitly states the difference of the indestructible being from those other two.-- The text first relates that Brahmā told the knowledge of Brahman, which is the foundation of the knowledge of all, to his eldest son Atharvan: this introduces the knowledge of Brahman as the topic of the section. Then, the text proceeds, in order to obtain this knowledge of Brahman, which had been handed down through a succession of teachers to Aṅgiras, Saunaka approached Aṅgiras respectfully and asked him: 'What is that through which, if known, all this is known?' i.e. since all knowledge is founded on the knowledge of Brahman, he enquires after the nature of Brahman. Aṅgiras replies that he who wishes to attain Brahman must acquire two kinds of knowledge, both of them having Brahman for their object: an indirect one which springs from the study of the śāstras, viz. the Veda, Śiksha, Kalpa, and so on, and a direct one which springs from concentrated meditation (yoga). The latter kind of knowledge is the means of obtaining Brahman, and it is of the nature of devout meditation (bhakti), as characterised in the text 'He whom the Self chooses, by him the Self can be gained' (III, 2, 3). The means again towards this kind of knowledge is such knowledge as is gained from sacred tradition, assisted by abstention and the other six auxiliary means (sec above, p. 17); in agreement with the text, 'Him the Brahmattas seek to know by the study of the Veda, by sacrifice, by gifts, by penance, by fasting' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 22).--Thus the Reverend Parāsara also says, 'The cause of attaining him is knowledge and work, and knowledge is twofold, according as it is based on sacred tradition or springs from discrimination.' The Muṇḍaka-text refers to the inferior kind of knowledge in the passage 'the lower knowledge is the Rig-Veda,' etc., up to 'and the dharma- śāstras'; this knowledge is the means towards the intuition of Brahman; while the higher kind of knowledge, which is called 'upāsanā,' has the character of devout meditation (bhakti), and consists in direct intuition of Brahman, is referred to in the clause 'the higher knowledge is that by which the Indestructible is apprehended.' The text next following, 'That which is invisible, etc., then sets forth the nature of the highest Brahman, which is the object of the two kinds of knowledge previously described. After this the passage 'As the spider sends forth and draws in its thread' declares that from that indestructible highest Brahman, as characterised before, there originates the whole universe of things, sentient and non-sentient. The next śloka (tapasā kīyate, etc.) states particulars about this origination of the universe from Brahman. 'Brahman swells through brooding'; through brooding, i.e. thought--in agreement with a later text, 'brooding consists of thought'--Brahman swells, i.e. through thought in the form of an intention, viz. 'may I become many,' Brahman becomes ready for creation. From it there springs first 'anna,' i.e. that which is the object of fruition on the part of all enjoying agents, viz. the non-evolved subtle principles of all elements. From this 'anna' there spring successively breath, mind, and all other effected things up to work, which is the means of producing reward in the form of the heavenly world, and Release. The last śloka of the first chapter thereupon first states the qualities, such as omniscience and so on, which capacitate the highest Brahman for creation, and then declares that from the indestructible highest Brahman there springs the effected (kārya) Brahman, distinguished by name and form, and comprising all enjoying subjects and objects of enjoyment.--The first śloka of the second chapter declares first that the highest Brahman is absolutely real ('That is true'), and then admonishes those who desire to reach the indestructible highest Self, which possesses all the blessed qualities stated before and exists through itself, to turn away from other rewards and to perform all those sacrificial works depending on the three sacred fires which were seen and revealed by poets in the four Vedas and are incumbent on men according to caste and āśrama. The section 'this is your path' (I, 2, 1) up to 'this is the holy Brahma- world gained by your good works' (I, 2, 6) next states the particular mode of performing those works, and declares that an omission of one of the successive works enjoined in Śruti and Smriti involves fruitlessness of the works actually performed, and that something not performed in the proper way is as good as not performed at all. Stanzas 7 and ff. ('But frail in truth are those boats') declare that those who perform this lower class of works have to return again and again into the Samsāra, because they aim at worldly results and are deficient in true knowledge. Stanza 8 ('but those who practise penance and faith') then proclaims that works performed by a man possessing true knowledge, and hence not aiming at worldly rewards, result in the attainment of Brahman; and stanzas 12 a, 13 ('having examined all these worlds') enjoin knowledge, strengthened by due works, on the part of a man who has turned away from mere works, as the means of reaching Brahman; and due recourse to a teacher on the part of him who is desirous of such knowledge.--The first chapter of the second section of the Upanishad (II, 1)then clearly teaches how the imperishable highest Brahman, i.e. the highest Self-- as constituting the Self of all things and having all things for its body--has all things for its outward form and emits all things from itself. The remainder of the Upanishad ('Manifest, near,' etc.) teaches how this highest Brahman, which is imperishable and higher than the soul, which itself is higher than the Unevolved; which dwells in the highest Heaven; and which is of the nature of supreme bliss, is to be meditated upon as within the hollow of the heart; how this meditation has the character of devout faith (bhakti); and how the devotee, freeing himself from Nescience, obtains for his reward intuition of Brahman, which renders him like Brahman.

It thus clearly appears that 'on account of distinction and statement of difference' the Upanishad does not treat of the Pradhāna and the soul. For that the highest Brahman is different from those two is declared in passages such as 'That heavenly Person is without body; he is both without and within, not produced, without breath and without mind, pure, higher than what is higher than the Imperishable' (II, 1, 2); for the last words mean 'that imperishable highest Self possessing invisibility and similar qualities, which is higher than the aggregate of individual souls, which itself is higher than the non-evolved subtle elements.' The term 'Akṣara' (imperishable) is to be etymologically explained either as that which pervades (aśnute) or that which does not pass away (a- kṣarati), and is on either of these explanations applicable to the highest Self, either because that Self pervades all its effects or because it is like the so-called Mahat (which is also called Akṣara), free from all passing away or decaying.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'invisibility and so on.'

Sutra 1,2.23

रूपोपन्यासाच्च ॥ २३ ॥

rūpopanyāsācca || 23 ||

rūpopanyāsāt—Form being mentioned; ca—also.

23. Also because (its) form is mentioned (the passage discussed refers to Brahman).

'Fire is his head, his eyes the sun and the moon, the regions his ears, his speech the Vedas disclosed, the wind his breath, his heart the universe; from his feet came the earth; he is indeed the inner Self of all things' (II, 1, 4)--the outward form here described can belong to none but the highest Self; that is, the inner Self of all beings. The section therefore treats of the highest Self.