I-2 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 7

Topic 7 - Vaiśvānara is Brahman

Sutra 1,2.24

वैश्वानरः साधारणशब्दविशेषात् ॥ २४ ॥

vaiśvānaraḥ sādhāraṇaśabdaviśeṣāt || 24 ||

vaiśvānaraḥ—Vaiśvānara; sādhāraṇa śabda-viśeṣāt—because of the qualifying adjuncts to the common words (Vaiśvānara and self).

24. Vaiśvānara (is Brahman), because of the qualifying adjuncts to the common words (‘Vaiśvānara’ and ‘Self’).

The Chāṇḍogya read in their text, 'You know at present that Vaiśvānara Self, tell us that,' etc., and further on, 'But he who meditates on the Vaiśvānara Self as a span long,' etc. (Kh. Up. V, 11, 6; 18, 1). The doubt here arises whether that Vaiśvānara Self can be made out to be the highest Self or not. The Pūrvapakshin maintains the latter alternative. For, he says, the word Vaiśvānara is used in the sacred texts in four different senses. It denotes in the first place the intestinal fire, so in Bri. Up, V, 9, 'That is the Vaiśvānara fire by which the food that is eaten is cooked, i.e. digested. Its noise is that which one hears when one covers one's ears. When man is on the point of departing this life he does not hear that noise.'--It next denotes the third of the elements, so in Ri. Samh. X, 88, 12, 'For the whole world the gods have made the Agni Vaiśvānara a sign of the days.'--It also denotes a divinity, so Ri. Samh. I, 98, 1, 'May we be in the favour of Vaiśvānara, for he is the king of the kings,' etc. And finally it denotes the highest Self, as in the passage, 'He offered it in the Self, in the heart, in Agni Vaiśvānara'; and in Pra. Up. I, 7, 'Thus he rises as Vaiśvānara, assuming all forms, as breath of life, as fire.'--And the characteristic marks mentioned in the introductory clauses of the Chāṇḍogya-text under discussion admit of interpretations agreeing with every one of these meanings of the word Vaiśvānara.

Against this prima facie view the Sūtra declares itself. The term 'Vaiśvānara' in the Chāṇḍogya-text denotes the highest Self, because the 'common' term is there qualified by attributes specially belonging to the highest Self. For the passage tells us how Aupamanyava and four other great Ṛishis, having met and discussed the question as to what was their Self and Brahman, come to the conclusion to go to Uddālaka because he is reputed to know the Vaiśvānara Self. Uddālaka, recognising their anxiety to know the Vaiśvānara Self, and deeming himself not to be fully informed on this point, refers them to Aśvapati Kaikeya as thoroughly knowing the Vaiśvānara Self; and they thereupon, together with Uddālaka, approach Aśvapati. The king duly honours them with presents, and as they appear unwilling to receive them, explains that they may suitably do so, he himself being engaged in the performance of a religious vow; and at the same time instructs them that even men knowing Brahman must avoid what is forbidden and do what is prescribed. When thereupon he adds that he will give them as much wealth as to the priests engaged in his sacrifice, they, desirous of Release and of knowing the Vaiśvānara Self, request him to explain that Self to them. Now it clearly appears that as the Rishis are said to be desirous of knowing--that Brahman which is the Self of the individual souls ('what is our Self, what is Brahman'), and therefore search for someone to instruct them on that point, the Vaiśvānara Self--to a person acquainted with which they address themselves-- can be the highest Self only. In the earlier clauses the terms used are 'Self and 'Brahman,' in the later 'Self' and 'Vaiśvānara'; from this it appears also that the term 'Vaiśvānara,' which takes the place of 'Brahman,' denotes none other but the highest Self. The results, moreover, of the knowledge of the Vaiśvānara Self, which are stated in subsequent passages, show that the Vaiśvānara Self is the highest Brahman. 'He eats food in all worlds, in all beings, in all Selfs'; 'as the fibres of the Īṣikā reed when thrown into the fire are burnt, thus all his sins are burned' (V, 18, I; 24, 3).

The next Sūtra supplies a further reason for the same conclusion.

 Sutra 1,2.25

स्मर्यमाणमनुमानं स्यादिति ॥ २५ ॥

smaryamāṇamanumānaṃ syāditi || 25 ||

smaryamāṇaṃ—Described in the Smriti; anumānaṃ—indicatory mark; syāt—must be; iti—because.

25. Because that (cosmic form of the Supreme Lord) which is described in the Smriti must be an indicatory mark (from which we arrive at the meaning of this Śruti text discussed).

The text describes the shape of Vaiśvānara, of whom heaven, etc., down to earth constitute the several limbs; and it is known from Scripture and Smriti that such is the shape of the highest Self. When, therefore, we recognise that shape as referred to in the text, this supplies an inferential mark of Vaiśvānara being the highest Self.--The 'thus' (iti) in the Sūtra denotes a certain mode, that is to say, 'a shape of such a kind being recognised in the text enables us to infer that Vaiśvānara is the highest Self.' For in Scripture and Smriti alike the highest Person is declared to have such a shape. Cp. e.g. the text of the Atharvana. 'Agni is his head, the sun and moon his eyes, the regions his cars, 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' (Mu. Up. II, I, 4). 'Agni' in this passage denotes the heavenly world, in agreement with the text 'that world indeed is Agni.' And the following Smṛiti texts: 'He of whom the wise declare the heavenly world to be the head, the ether the navel, sun and moon the eyes, the regions the ears, the earth the feet; he whose Self is unfathomable is the leader of all beings'; and 'of whom Agni is the mouth, heaven the head, the ether the navel, the earth the feet, the sun the eye, the regions the ear; worship to him, the Self of the Universe!'--Now our text declares the heavenly world and so on to constitute the head and the other limbs of Vaiśvānara. For Kaikeya on being asked by the Rishis to instruct them as to the Vaiśvānara Self recognises that they all know something about the Vaiśvānara Self while something they do not know(for thus only we can explain his special questions), and then in order to ascertain what each knows and what not, questions them separately. When thereupon Aupamanyava replies that he meditates on heaven only as the Self, Kaikeya, in order to disabuse him from the notion that heaven is the whole Vaiśvānara Self, teaches him that heaven is the head of Vaiśvānara, and that of heaven which thus is a part only of Vaiśvānara, Sutejas is the special name. Similarly he is thereupon told by the other Rishis that they meditate only on sun, air, ether, and earth, and informs them in return that the special names of these beings are 'the omni-form,' 'he who moves in various ways,' 'the full one, ''wealth and 'firm rest,' and that these all are mere members of the Vaiśvānara Self, viz. its eyes, breath, trunk, bladder, and feet. The shape thus described in detail can belong to the highest Self only, and hence Vaiśvānara is none other but the highest Self.

The next Sūtra meets a further doubt as to this decision not yet being well established.

Sutra 1,2.26

शब्दादिभ्योऽन्तः प्रतिष्ठानाच्च नेति चेत्, न, तथा दृष्ट्युपदेशात्, असंभवात्, पुरुषमपि चैनमधीयते ॥ २६ ॥

śabdādibhyo'ntaḥ pratiṣṭhānācca neti cet, na, tathā dṛṣṭyupadeśāt, asaṃbhavāt, puruṣamapi cainamadhīyate || 26 ||

śabdādibhyaḥ—Because of the word and other reasons; antaḥ—inside; pratiṣṭhānāt—on account of (its) existing; ca—and; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; tathā—as such; dṛṣṭyupadeśāt—on account of the instruction to conceive it; asaṃbhavāt—being impossible; puruṣam—as person; api—also; ca—also; enam—him; adhīyate—(they) describe.

26. If it be said that (Vaiśvānara) is not (Brahman) because of the word (‘Vaiśvānara’, which has a definite meaning, i.e. gastric fire) and other reasons, and on account of its existing inside (which is true of gastric fire),

(we say) not so, because there is the instruction to conceive (Brahman) as such (as the gastric fire), because it is impossible (for the gastric fire to have the heaven etc. for its head and other limbs) and also because (the Vājasaneyins) describe him (Vaiśvānara) as a person (which the gastric fire is not).

An objection is raised. Vaiśvānara cannot be ascertained to be the highest Self, because, on the account of the text and of the abiding within, we can understand by the Vaiśvānara in our text the intestinal fire also. The text to which we refer occurs in the Vaiśvānara-vidyā of the Vājasaneyins, 'This one is the Agni Vaiśvānara,' where the two words 'Agni' and 'Vaiśvānara' are exhibited in co-ordination. And in the section under discussion the passage, 'the heart is the Gārhapatya fire, the mind the Anvāhāryapacana fire, the mouth the Āhavanīya fire' (Kh. Up. V, 18, 2), represents the Vaiśvānara in so far as abiding within the heart and so on as constituting the triad of sacred fires. Moreover the text, 'The first food which a man may take is in the place of Soma. And he who offers that first oblation should offer it to Prāṇa' (V, 19, 1), intimates that Vaiśvānara is the abode of the offering to Prāṇa. In the same way the Vājasaneyins declare that Vaiśvānara abides within man, viz. in the passage 'He who knows this Agni Vaiśvānara shaped like a man abiding within man.' As thus Vaiśvānara appears in co- ordination with the word 'Agni,' is represented as the triad of sacred fires, is said to be the abode of the oblation to Breath, and to abide within man, he must be viewed as the intestinal fire, and it is therefore not true that he can be identified with the highest Self only.

This objection is set aside by the Sūtra. It is not so 'on account of meditation (on the highest Self) being taught thus,' i.e. as the text means to teach that the highest Brahman which, in the manner described before, has the three worlds for its body should be meditated upon as qualified by the intestinal fire which (like other beings) constitutes Brahman's body. For the word 'Agni' denotes not only the intestinal fire, but also the highest Self in so far as qualified by the intestinal fire.--But how is this to be known?--'On account of impossibility;' i.e. because it is impossible that the mere intestinal fire should have the three worlds for its body. The true state of the case therefore is that the word Agni, which is understood to denote the intestinal fire, when appearing in co-ordination with the term Vaiśvānara represented as having the three worlds for his body, denotes (not the intestinal fire, but) the highest Self as qualified by that fire viewed as forming the body of the Self. Thus the Lord also says, 'As Vaiśvānara fire I abide in the body of living creatures and, being assisted by breath inspired and expired, digest the fourfold food' (Bha Gī. XIV, 15). 'As Vaiśvānara fire' here means 'embodied in the intestinal fire.'--The Chāṇḍogya text under discussion enjoins meditation on the highest Self embodied in the Vaiśvānara fire.--Moreover the Vājasaneyins read of him, viz. the Vaiśvānara, as man or person, viz. in the passage 'That Agni Vaiśvānara is the person' (Sa. Brā. X, 6, 1, 11). The intestinal fire by itself cannot be called a person; unconditioned personality belongs to the highest Self only. Compare 'the thousand-headed person' (Ri. Samh.), and 'the Person is all this' (Sve. Up. III, 15).

Sutra 1,2.27

अत एव न देवता भूतं च ॥ २७ ॥

ata eva na devatā bhūtaṃ ca || 27 ||

ata eva—For the same reason; na—(is) not; devatā—deity; bhūtaṃ—element; ca—and.

27. For the same reason (Vaiśvānara) is not the deity (fire) or the element (fire).

For the reasons stated Vaiśvānara can be neither the deity Fire, nor the elemental fire which holds the third place among the gross elements.

Sutra 1,2.28

साक्षादप्यविरोधं जैमिनिः ॥ २८ ॥

sākṣādapyavirodhaṃ jaiminiḥ || 28 ||

sākṣāt—Directly; api—even; avirodhaṃ—no contradiction; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini.

28. Even (if by ‘Vaiśvānara’ Brahman is) directly (taken as the object of worship), there is no contradiction; (so says) Jaimini.

So far it has been maintained that the word 'Agni,' which stands in co-ordination with the term 'Vaiśvānara,' denotes the highest Self in so far as qualified by the intestinal fire constituting its body; and that hence the text under discussion enjoins meditation on the highest Self. Jaimini, on the other hand, is of opinion that there is no reasonable objection to the term 'Agni,' no less than the term: 'Vaiśvānara,' being taken directly to denote the highest Self. That is to say--in the same way as the term 'Vaiśvānara,' although a common term, yet when qualified by attributes especially belonging to the highest Self is known to denote the latter only as possessing the quality of ruling all men; so the word 'Agni' also when appearing in connexion with special attributes belonging to the highest Self denotes that Self only. For any quality on the ground of which 'Agni' may be etymologically explained to denote ordinary fire--as when e.g. we explain 'agṇi' as he who 'agre nayati'--may also, in its highest non-conditioned degree, be ascribed to the supreme Self. Another difficulty remains. The passage (V, 18, 1) 'yas tv etam evam prādesamātram abhivimānam,' etc. declares that the non-limited highest Brahman is limited by the measure of the pradesas, i.e. of the different spaces- heaven, ether, earth, etc.--which had previously been said to constitute the limbs of Vaiśvānara. How is this possible?

Sutra 1,2.29

अभिव्यक्तेरित्याश्मरथ्यः ॥ २९ ॥

abhivyakterityāśmarathyaḥ || 29 ||

abhivyakteḥ—On account of manifestation; iti—so; āśmarathyaḥ—(says) Āśmarathya.

29. On account of manifestation—so says Āśmarathya.

The teacher Āśmarathya is of opinion that the text represents the highest Self as possessing a definite extent, to the end of rendering the thought of the meditating devotee more definite. That is to say--the limitation due to the limited extent of heaven, sun, etc. has the purpose of rendering definite to thought him who pervades (abhi) all this Universe and in reality transcends all measure (Vimāna).--A further difficulty remains. For what purpose is the highest Brahman here represented like a man, having a head and limbs?--This point the next Sūtra elucidates.

Sutra 1,2.30

अनुस्मृतेर्बादरिः ॥ ३० ॥

anusmṛterbādariḥ || 30 ||

anusmṛteḥ—For the purpose of constant remembrance; bādariḥ—(so says) Bādari.

30. For the purpose of constant remembrance—so says Bādari.

The teacher Bādari thinks that the representation in the text of the supreme Self in the form of a man is for the purpose of devout meditation. 'He who in this way meditates on that Vaiśvānara Self as "prādesamātra" and "abhivimāna," he eats food in all worlds, in all beings, in all Selves.' What this text enjoins is devout meditation for the purpose of reaching Brahman. 'In this way' means 'as having a human form.' And 'the eating' of food in all worlds, etc. means the gaining of intuitional knowledge of Brahman which abides everywhere and is in itself of the nature of supreme bliss. The special kind of food, i.e. the special objects of enjoyment which belong to the different Selves standing under the influence of karman cannot be meant here; for those limited objects have to be shunned by those who desire final release. A further question arises. If Vaiśvānara is the highest Self, how can the text say that the altar is its chest, the grass on the altar its hairs, and so on? (V, 18, 2.) Such a statement has a sense only if we understand by Vaiśvānara the intestinal fire.-- This difficulty the next Sūtra elucidates.

Sutra 1,2.31

संपत्तेरिति जैमिनिः, तथा हि दर्शयति ॥ ३१ ॥

saṃpatteriti jaiminiḥ, tathā hi darśayati || 31 ||

saṃpatteḥ—Because of imaginary identity; iti—so; jaiminiḥ—(says) Jaimini; tathā hi—for so; darśayati—declares (the Śruti).

31. Because of imaginary identity (the Supreme Lord may be called span long), so says Jaimini; for so (the Śruti) declares.

The teacher Jaimini is of opinion that the altar is stated to be the chest of Vaiśvānara, and so on, in order to effect an imaginative identification of the offering to Prāṇa which is daily performed by the meditating devotees and is the means of pleasing Vaiśvānara, having the heaven and so on for his body, i.e. the highest Self, with the Agnihotra-offering. For the fruit due to meditation on the highest Self, as well as the identity of the offering to breath with the Agnihotra, is declared in the following text, 'He who without knowing this offers the Agnihotra--that would be as if removing the live coals he were to pour his libation on dead ashes. But he who offers this Agnihotra with a full knowledge of its purport, he offers it in all worlds, in all beings, in all Selves. As the fibres of the Īṣikā reed when thrown into the fire are burnt, thus all his sins are burnt.' (V, 24, 1-3.)

Sutra 1,2.32

आमनन्ति चैनमस्मिन् ॥ ३२ ॥

āmananti cainamāsmin || 32 ||

āmananti—Teach; ca—moreover; enam—this; asmin—in this.

32. Moreover (the Jābālas) teach that this (Supreme Lord is to be meditated upon) in this (space between the head and the chin).

They (i.e. the Vājasaneyins) speak of him, viz. Vaiśvānara who has heaven for his head, etc.--i.e. the highest Self--as within that, i.e. the body of the devotee, so as to form the abode of the oblation to Prāṇa; viz. in the text, ‘Of that Vaiśvānara Self the head is Sutejas,' and so on. The context is as follows. The clause 'He who meditates on the Vaiśvānara Self as prādesamātra,' etc. enjoins meditation on the highest Self having the three worlds for its body, i.e. on Vaiśvānara. The following clause 'he eats food in all worlds' teaches that the attaining of Brahman is the reward of such meditation. And then the text proceeds to teach the Agnihotra offered to Prāṇa, which is something subsidiary to the meditation taught. The text here establishes an identity between the members--fire, sun, etc.--of the Vaiśvānara enjoined as object of meditation (which members are called Sutejas, Viśvarupa, etc.), and parts--viz. head, eye, breath, trunk, bladder, feet--of the worshipper's body. 'The head is Sutejas'--that means: the head of the devotee is (identical with) heaven, which is the head of the highest Self; and so on up to 'the feet,' i.e. the feet of the devotee are identical with the earth, which constitutes the feet of the highest Self, The devotee having thus reflected on the highest Self, which has the three worlds for its body, as present within his own body, thereupon is told to view his own chest, hair, heart, mind and mouth as identical with the altar, grass and the other things which are required for the Agnihotra; further to identify the oblation to Prāṇa with the Agnihotra, and by means of this Prāṇa-agnihotra to win the favour of Vaiśvānara, i.e. the highest Self. The final-- conclusion then remains that Vaiśvānara is none other than the highest Self, the supreme Person.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'Vaiśvānara.'