I-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 3

Topic 3 - Akṣara is Brahman

 Sutra 1,3.10

अक्षरमम्बरान्तधृतेः ॥ १० ॥

akṣaramambarāntadhṛteḥ || 10 ||

akṣaram—The Akṣara; ambara-anta-dhṛteḥ—(because) it supports all up to Ākāśa (ether).

10. The Akṣara (the Imperishable) (is Brahman) because it supports (everything) up to Ākāśa (ether).

The Vājasaneyins, in the chapter recording the questions asked by Gārgī, read as follows: 'He said, O Gārgī, the Brāhmaṇas call that the Imperishable. It is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long, it is not red, not fluid, it is without a shadow,' etc. (Bri. Up. III, 8, 8). A doubt here arises whether that Imperishable be the Pradhāna, or the individual soul, or the highest Self.--The Pradhāna, it may be maintained in the first place. For we see that in passages such as 'higher than that which is higher than the Imperishable' the term 'Imperishable' actually denotes the Pradhāna; and moreover the qualities enumerated, viz. not being either coarse or fine, etc., are characteristic of the Pradhāna.--But, an objection is raised, in texts such as 'That knowledge by which the Imperishable is apprehended' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 5), the word 'Imperishable' is seen to denote the highest Brahman!--In cases, we reply, where the meaning of a word may be determined on the basis either of some other means of proof or of Scripture, the former meaning presents itself to the mind first, and hence there is no reason why such meaning should not be accepted.--But how do you know that the ether of the text is not ether in the ordinary sense?--From the description, we reply, given of it in the text, 'That above the heavens,' etc. There it is said that all created things past, present and future rest on ether as their basis; ether cannot therefore be taken as that elementary substance which itself is comprised in the sphere of things created. We therefore must understand by 'ether' matter in its subtle state, i.e. the Pradhāna; and the Imperishable which thereupon is declared to be the support of that Pradhāna, hence cannot itself be the Pradhāna.--Nor is there any force in the argument that a sense established by some other means of proof presents itself to the mind more immediately than a sense established by Scripture; for as the word 'akṣara' (i.e. the non-perishable) intimates its sense directly through the meaning of its constituent elements other means of proof need not be regarded at all.

Moreover Yājñyavalkya had said previously that the ether is the cause and abode of all things past, present and future, and when Gārgī thereupon asks him in what that ether 'is woven,' i.e. what is the causal substance and abode of ether, he replies 'the Imperishable.' Now this also proves that by the 'Imperishable' we have to understand the Pradhāna which from other sources is known to be the causal substance, and hence the abode, of all effected things whatsoever.

This prima facie view is set aside by the Sūtra. The 'Imperishable' is the highest Brahman, because the text declares it to support that which is the end, i. e. that which lies beyond ether, viz. unevolved matter (avyākṛta). The ether referred to in Gārgī's question is not ether in the ordinary sense, but what lies beyond ether, viz. unevolved matter, and hence the 'Imperishable' which is said to be the support of that 'unevolved' cannot itself be the 'unevolved,' i.e. cannot be the Pradhāna. Let us, then, the Pūrvapakshin resumes, understand by the 'Imperishable,' the individual soul; for this may be viewed as the support of the entire aggregate of non-sentient matter, inclusive of the elements in their subtle condition; and the qualities of non-coarseness, etc., are characteristic of that soul also. Moreover there are several texts in which the term 'Imperishable' is actually seen to denote the individual soul; so e.g. 'the non-evolved' is merged in the 'Imperishable'; 'That of which the non-evolved is the body; that of which the Imperishable is the body'; 'All the creatures are the Perishable, the non-changing Self is called the Imperishable' (Bha. GĪ. XV, 16).

To this alternative prima facie view the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 1,3.11

सा च प्रशासनात् ॥ ११ ॥

sā ca praśāsanāt || 11 ||

—This (supporting); ca—also; praśāsanāt—because of the command.

11.    Because of the command (attributed to Akṣara) this (supporting) (can be the work of the Highest Self only and not of the Pradhāna).

The text declares that this supporting of ether and all other things proceeds from command. 'In the command of that Imperishable sun and moon stand, held apart; in the command of that Imperishable heaven and earth stand, held apart,' etc. Now such supreme command, through which all things in the universe are held apart, cannot possibly belong to the individual soul in the state either of bondage or of release. The commanding 'Imperishable' therefore is none other than the supreme Person.

Sutra 1,3.12

अन्यभावव्यावृत्तेश्च ॥ १२ ॥

anyabhāvavyāvṛtteśca || 12 ||

anya-bhāva-vyāvṛtteḥ—Because the qualities of any other than Brahman have been negated; ca—also.

12. And because the qualities of any other than Brahman have been negated (by the Śruti).

Another nature, i. e. the nature of the Pradhāna, and so on. A supplementary passage excludes difference on the part of the Imperishable from the supreme Person. 'That Imperishable, O Gārgī, is unseen but seeing; unheard but hearing; unthought but thinking; unknown but knowing. There is nothing that sees but it, nothing that hears but it, nothing that thinks but it, nothing that knows but it. In that Imperishable, O Gārgī, the ether is woven, warp and woof.' Here the declaration as to the Imperishable being what sees, hears, etc. excludes the non-intelligent Pradhāna; and the declaration as to its being all-seeing, etc. while not seen by any one excludes the individual soul. This exclusion of what has a nature other than that of the highest Self thus confirms the view of that Self being meant.--Or else the Sūtra may be explained in a different way, viz. 'On account of the exclusion of the existence of another.' On this alternative the text 'There is nothing that sees but it,' etc., is to be understood as follows: 'while this Imperishable, not seen by others but seeing all others, forms the basis of all things different from itself; there is no other principle which, unseen by the Imperishable but seeing it, could form its basis,' i.e. the text would exclude the existence of any other thing but the Imperishable, and thus implicitly deny that the Imperishable is either the Pradhāna or the individual Self.--Moreover the text 'By the command of that Imperishable men praise those who give, the gods follow the Sacrificer, the fathers the Darvī-offering,' declares the Imperishable to be that on the command of which there proceed all works enjoined by Scripture and Smriti. such as sacrificing, giving, etc., and this again shows that the Imperishable must be Brahman, the supreme Person. Again, the subsequent passus, 'Whosoever without knowing that Imperishable,' etc., declares that ignorance of the Imperishable leads to the Samsāra, while knowledge of it helps to reach Immortality: this also proves that the Imperishable is the highest Brahman.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the Imperishable.'