I-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 12

Topic 12 - The Ākāśa which reveals names and forms is Brahman

Sutra 1,3.41

आकाशोऽर्थान्तरत्वादिव्यपदेशात् ॥ ४१॥

ākāśo'rthāntaratvādivyapadeśāt || 41 ||

ākāśaḥ—Ākāśa; arthāntaratvādi-vyapadeśāt—because it is declared to be something different etc.

41. Ākāśa (is Brahman) because it is declared to be something different etc. (from names and forms and yet their revealer).

We read in the Chāṇḍogya. 'The ether is the evolver of forms and names. That within which these forms and names are (or "that which is within--or without--these forms and names") is Brahman, the Immortal, the Self' (VIII, 14). A doubt here arises whether the being here called ether be the released individual soul, or the highest Self.--The Pūrvapakshin adopts the former view. For, he says, the released soul is introduced as subject-matter in an immediately preceding clause, 'Shaking off all as a horse shakes his hair, and as the moon frees himself from the mouth of Rāhu; having shaken off the body I obtain, satisfied, the uncreated world of Brahman' Moreover, the clause 'That which is without forms and names' clearly designates the released soul freed from name and form. And 'the evolver of names and forms' is again that same soul characterised with a view to its previous condition; for the individual soul in its non-released state supported the shapes of gods, and so on, and their names. With a view, finally, to its present state in which it is free from name and form, the last clause declares 'that is Brahman, the Immortal'. The term 'ether' may very well be applied to the released soul which is characterised by the possession of non-limited splendour.--But, as the text under discussion is supplementary to the section dealing with the small ether within the heart (VIII, 1, 1 ff.), we understand that that small ether is referred to here also; and it has been proved above that that small ether is Brahman!-- Not so, we reply. The text under discussion is separated from the section treating of the small ether within the heart, by the teaching of Prajāpati. and that teaching is concerned with the characteristics of the individual soul in its different conditions up to Release; and moreover the earlier part of the section under discussion speaks of the being which shakes off evil, and this undoubtedly is the released individual soul introduced in the teaching of Prajāpati. All this shows that the ether in our passage denotes the released individual soul.

This view is set aside by the Sūtra. The ether in our passage is the highest Brahman, because the clause 'Ether is the evolver of forms and names' designates something other than the individual soul. The ether which evolves names and forms cannot be the individual soul either in the state of bondage or that of release. In the state of bondage the soul is under the influence of karman, itself participates in name and form, and hence cannot bring about names and forms. And in its released state it is expressly said not to take part in the world-business (Ve. Sū. IV, 4, 17), and therefore is all the less qualified to evolve names and forms. The Lord, on the other hand, who is the ruling principle in the construction of the Universe is expressly declared by scripture to be the evolver of names and forms; cp. 'Entering into them with this living Self, let me evolve names and forms' (Kh. Up. VI, 3, 2); 'Who is all-knowing, whose brooding consists of knowledge, from him is born this Brahman, name, form, and matter' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 9), etc. Hence the ether which brings about names and forms is something different from the soul for which name and form are brought about; it is in fact the highest Brahman. This the next clause of the text confirms, 'That which is within those forms and names'; the purport of which is: because that ether is within names and forms, not being touched by them but being something apart, therefore it is the evolver of them; this also following from his being free from evil and endowed with the power of realising his purposes. The 'and so on' in the Sūtra refers to the Brahma-hood, Self-hood, and immortality mentioned in the text ('That is the Brahman, the Immortal, the Self'). For Brahma-hood, i.e. greatness, and so on, in their unconditioned sense, belong to the highest Self only. It is thus clear that the ether is the highest Brahman.--Nor is the Pūrvapakshin right in maintaining that a clause immediately preceding ('shaking off all evil') introduces the individual soul as the general topic of the section. For what the part of the text immediately preceding the passage under discussion does introduce as general topic, is the highest Brahman, as shown by the clause 'I obtain the Brahma-world.' Brahman is, it is true, represented there as the object to be obtained by the released soul; but as the released soul cannot be the evolver of names and forms, etc., we must conclude that it is Brahman (and not the released soul), which constitutes the topic of the whole section. Moreover (to take a wider view of the context of our passage) the term 'ether' prompts us to recognise here the small ether (mentioned in the first section of the eighth book) as the general topic of the book; and as the teaching of Prajāpati is meant to set forth (not the individual soul by itself but) the nature of the soul of the meditating devotee, it is proper to conclude that the text under discussion is meant finally to represent, as the object to be obtained, the small ether previously inculcated as object of meditation. In conclusion we remark that the term 'ether' is nowhere seen to denote the individual Self.--The ether that evolves names and forms, therefore, is the highest Brahman.

But, an objection is raised, there is no other Self different from the individual Self; for scripture teaches the unity of all Selves and denies duality. Terms such as 'the highest Self, 'the highest Brahman,' 'the highest Lord,' are merely designations of the individual soul in the state of Release. The Brahma-world to be attained, therefore, is nothing different from the attaining individual soul; and hence the ether also that evolves names and forms can be that soul only.--To this objection the next Sūtra replies.