III-2 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 5

Topic 5 - The nature of the Supreme Brahman

Sutra 3,2.11

न स्थानतोऽपि परस्योभयलिङ्गम्, सर्वत्र हि ॥ ११ ॥

na sthānato’pi parasyobhayaliṅgam, sarvatra hi || 11 ||

na—Not; sthānataḥ—from (difference of) place; api—even; parasya—of Brahman; ubhayaliṅgaṃ—twofold characteristic; hi—because; sarvatra—throughout (the scriptures teach otherwise).

11. Even from (difference of) place a twofold characteristic cannot (be predicated) of Brahman, because throughout (the scriptures teach It to be otherwise i.e. without any qualities).

The different states of the individual soul have been discussed, to the end that an insight into their imperfections may give rise to indifference towards all worldly enjoyments. Next now, in order to give rise to the desire of attaining to Brahman, the Sūtras proceed to expound how Brahman's nature is raised above all imperfections and constituted by mere blessed qualities. The following point requires to be considered first. Do those imperfections which cling to the individual soul in consequence of its different states--viz. the waking state, dreams, deep sleep, swoon, departure from the body--affect also the highest Brahman which as its inner Ruler abides within the soul in those different states, or not?-- They do affect it, since Brahman abides within the bodies which are in those different states.--But Sūtras such as I, 2, 8 have already declared that the highest Brahman, because not subject to the influence of karman, is free from all imperfections; how then can imperfections cling to it for the reason that it is connected with this or that place?--In the following way. As was shown under III, 2, 6, works give rise to imperfection and suffering in so far as they cause the connexion of the soul with a body. The efficient cause therein is the imperfection inherent in the connexion with a body; for otherwise the works themselves would directly give rise to pain, and what then would be the use of the connexion with a body? Hence, even in the case of a being not subject to karman, its connexion with various unholy bodies will cause imperfection and suffering. And even when such a being voluntarily enters into such bodies in order to rule them, connexion with imperfections is unavoidable; no less than to be immersed in blood and purulent matter, even if done voluntarily, will make a man unclean. Although therefore Brahman is the sole cause of the world and a treasure-house of all blessed qualities, yet it is affected by the imperfections springing therefrom that, as declared by Scripture, it abides within matter, bodies, and their parts, and thus is connected with them (cp. 'he who abides within earth, within the soul, within the eye, within the seed,' etc., Bri. Up. III, 7, 3). Of this prima facie view the Sūtra disposes by saying--'Not even from place, such as earth, soul, etc., is there possible for the highest Self a shadow even of imperfection; since everywhere in Scripture as well as Smriti Brahman is described as having characteristics of a double kind; viz. on the one hand freedom from all imperfections, and on the other possession of all blessed qualities. For Scripture says that the Supreme Person is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from grief, free from hunger and thirst; that all his wishes realise themselves, that all its purposes realise themselves' (Kh. Up. VIII, 1, 5)--And Smriti says, 'He comprises within himself all blessed qualities, by a particle of his power the whole mass of beings is supported. In him there are combined energy, strength, might, wisdom, valour, and all other noble qualities. He is the Highest of the high, no pain or other imperfections affect him, the Lord of all, high or low. From all evil he is free, he whose name is Vishnu, the highest abode.' These and other passages teach that Brahman possesses the double characteristics stated above.

 Sutra 3,2.12

न भेदादिति चेत्, न, प्रत्येकमतद्वचनात् ॥ १२ ॥

na bhedāditi cet, na, pratyekamatadvacanāt || 12 ||

na—Not; bhedāt—on account of difference (being taught in the scriptures); iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; pratyekam—with respect to each; atadvacanāt—because of the declaration of the opposite of that.

12. If it be said (that it is) not so on account of difference (being taught in the scriptures), (we reply) not so, because with respect to each (such form) the Śruti declares the opposite of that.

But, an objection is raised, we observe, that the individual soul also, although in reality possessing the same twofold attributes, viz. freedom from all evil and so on, as we learn from the teaching of Prajāpati (Kh. Up. VIII, 7), yet is affected with imperfections owing to the fact that it is connected with bodies, divine, human, and so on, and thus undergoes a variety of conditions. Analogously we cannot avoid the conclusion that the inner Ruler also, although in reality possessing those same twofold attributes, is also affected by imperfection, because through its connexion with those different bodies it likewise undergoes a variety of conditions.--This objection the Sūtra sets aside in the words, 'not so, because with reference to each the text says what is not that,' i.e. what is contrary. For where the text says that the inner Ruler dwells within the earth, within the soul, within the eye, and so on, it concludes each clause by saying, 'that is thy Self, the inner Ruler, the immortal one,' i.e. declares the inner Ruler to be immortal, and thus denies of him any imperfections due to his connexion with the bodies which he voluntarily enters in order to rule them. The true (perfect) nature of the individual soul, on the other hand, is obscured as long as it is connected with a body, as we have explained under III, 2, 5.--But, as the Pūrvapakshin has pointed out, even if the highest Self voluntarily enters into bodies, it cannot escape connexion with the imperfections which depend on the essential nature of those bodies.-- Not so, we reply. The fact is, that not even non-sentient things are, essentially or intrinsically, bad; but in accordance with the nature of the works of those beings which are under the rule of karman, one thing, owing to the will of the Supreme Person, causes pain to one man at one time and pleasure at another time, and causes pleasure or pain to one person and the opposite to another person. If the effects of things depended on their own nature only, everything would at all times be productive for all persons, either of pleasure only or of pain only. But this is not observed to be the case. In agreement herewith Smriti says, 'Because one and the same thing causes pain and pleasure and envy and wrath, the nature of a thing cannot lie in itself. As the same thing which erst gave rise to love causes pain later on, and that which once caused anger now causes satisfaction, nothing is in itself of the nature either of pleasure or of pain.' To the soul therefore which is subject to karman the connexion with different things is the source of imperfection and suffering, in agreement with the nature of its works; while to the highest Brahman, which is subject to itself only, the same connexion is the source of playful sport, consisting therein that he in various ways guides and rules those things.

 Sutra 3,2.13

अपिचैवमेके ॥ १३ ॥

apicaivameke || 13 ||

api ca—Moreover; evam—thus; eke—some.

13. Moreover some (teach) thus.

Moreover, the followers of one Śākhā explicitly teach that the connexion with one and the same body is for the individual soul a source of disadvantage, while for the highest Brahman it is nothing of the kind, but constitutes an accession of glory in so far as it manifests him as a Lord and Ruler, 'Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating' (Mu. Up. III, 1, 1).--But the text, 'Having entered by means of that Jīva-self I will differentiate names and forms,' teaches that the differentiation of names and forms depends on the entering into the elements of the Jīva-soul whose Self is Brahman, and this implies that Brahman also, as the Self of the individual soul, possesses definite shapes, divine, human, and so on, and is to be denominated by the corresponding names. Brahman thus falls within the sphere of beings to which injunctions and prohibitions are addressed--such as 'a Brāhmaṇa is to sacrifice'--and hence necessarily is under the power of karman.--To this the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 3,2.14

अरूपवदेव हि, तत्प्रधानत्वात् ॥ १४ ॥

arūpavadeva hi, tatpradhānatvāt || 14 ||

arūpavat—Formless; eva—only; hi—verily; tat-pradhānatvāt—on account of that being the main purport.

14. Verily Brahman is only formless on account of that being the main purport (of all texts about Brahman).

Brahman, although by entering into bodies, human, divine, and so on, it becomes connected with various forms, yet is in itself altogether devoid of form, and therefore does not share that subjection to karman which in the case of the soul is due to its embodiment.--Why?--Because as it is that which brings about names and forms it stands to them in the relation of a superior (pradhāna). For the text, 'The Ether (Brahman) indeed is the accomplisher of names and forms; that which is without these two is Brahman,' teaches that Brahman, although entering into all beings, is not touched by name and form, but is that which brings about name and form.--But, an objection is raised, if Brahman is the inner ruler of beings in so far as he has them for its body, how can it be said that it is altogether destitute of form?--There is a difference, we reply. The individual soul is connected with the shape of the body in which it dwells because it participates in the pleasures and pains to which the body gives rise; but as Brahman does not share those pleasures and pains, it has no shape or form. And the scriptural injunctions and prohibitions apply to those only who are under the power of karman. The highest Brahman therefore is like a being without form, and hence, although abiding within all things, free from all imperfection and endowed with all blessed qualities. But, an objection is raised, texts such as 'the True, knowledge, infinite is Brahman' suggest a Brahman whose nature is constituted exclusively by non-differentiated light; while at the same time a Brahman endowed with qualities--such as omniscience, being the cause of the world, being the inner Self of all, having the power of immediately realising its wishes and purposes--is expressly negated by texts such as 'not so, not so' (Bri. Up. II, 3, 6), and therefore must be held to be false. How then can it be maintained that Brahman possesses the 'twofold characteristics' mentioned under Sūtra 11?--To this the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 3,2.15

प्रकाशवच्चावैयर्थ्यात् ॥ १५ ॥

prakāśavaccāvaiyarthyāt || 15 ||

prakāśavat—Like light; ca—and; avaiyarthyāt—not being purportless.

15. And like light (taking form in connection with bodies having form, Brahman takes form in connection with Upādhis), because (texts ascribing form to Brahman) are not purportless.

In order that texts such as 'the True, knowledge, infinite is Brahman' may not be devoid of meaning, we have to admit that light (intelligence) constitutes the essential nature of Brahman. But analogously we have also to admit that Brahman possesses the 'twofold characteristics'; for otherwise the texts declaring it to be free from all imperfections, all-knowing, the cause of the world, and so on, would in their turn be devoid of meaning.

Sutra 3,2.16

आह च तन्मात्रम् ॥ १६ ॥

āha ca tanmātram || 16 ||

āha—Declares; ca—and; tat-mātram—that (i.e. intelligence) only.

16. And (the scripture) declares (that Brahman is) that (i.e. intelligence) only.

Moreover the text 'the True, knowledge, infinite is Brahman' only teaches that Brahman has light for its essential nature, and does not negative those other attributes of Brahman--omniscience, being the cause of the world, etc.--which are intimated by other texts. What is the object of the negation in 'not so, not so' will be shown further on.

Sutra 3,2.17

दर्शयति च, अथो अपि स्मर्यते ॥ १७ ॥

darśayati ca, atho api smaryate || 17 ||

darśayati—(Scripture) shows; ca—also; atho—thus; api—also; smaryate—(it is) stated by the Smritis.

17. (The scripture) also shows (this, and) thus also (is it) stated by the Smṛti.

That Brahman is a treasure as it were of all blessed qualities and free from all imperfections, the whole body of Vedānta-texts clearly declares: 'That highest great lord of lords, that highest deity of deities'; 'He is the cause, the lord of the lords of the organs, and there is of him neither parent nor lord '; 'There is no effect and no cause known of him, no one is seen like unto him or higher. His high power is revealed as manifold, as essential action of knowledge and strength' (Svet. Up. VI, 7-9); 'He who is all-knowing, whose brooding consists of knowledge' (Mu. I, 1,9); 'From fear of him the wind blows, from fear of him the sun moves'; 'That is one bliss of Brahman' (Taitt. Up. II, 8); 'That from which all speech with the mind turns away, not having reached it, knowing the bliss of that Brahman man fears nothing' (Taitt. Up. II, 9); 'He who is without parts, without action, tranquil, without fault, without taint' (Svet. Up. VI, l9).-- And Smriti: 'He who knows me to be unborn and without a beginning, the Supreme Lord of the worlds'; 'Pervading this entire universe, by one part of mine I do abide'; 'With me as supervisor Prakriti brings forth the universe of the movable and the immovable, and for this reason the world does ever move round'; 'But another is the Supreme Person, who is called the Supreme Spirit, who pervading the three worlds supports them--the eternal Lord' (Bha. Gī. X, 3; 42; IX, 10; XV, 17); 'The all-working, all-powerful one, rich in knowledge and strength, who becomes neither less nor more, who is self-dependent, without beginning, master of all; who knows neither weariness nor exhaustion, nor fear, wrath and desire; the blameless one, raised above all, without support, imperishable.'--As thus Brahman in whatever place it may abide has the 'twofold characteristics,' the imperfections dependent on those places do not touch it.

Sutra 3,2.18

अत एव चोपमा सूर्यकादिवत् ॥ १८ ॥

ata eva copamā sūryakādivat || 18 ||

ata eva—Therefore; ca—also; copamā—comparison; sūryakādivat—like the images of the sun etc.

18. Therefore also (with respect to Brahman we have) comparisons like the images of the sun etc.

Because Brahman, although abiding in manifold places, ever possesses the twofold characteristics, and hence does not share the imperfections due to those places, scriptural texts illustrate its purity in the midst of inferior surroundings by comparing it to the sun reflected in water, mirrors, and the like. Compare e.g., 'As the one ether is rendered manifold by jars and the like, or as the one sun becomes manifold in several sheets of water; thus the one Self is rendered manifold by abiding in many places. For the Self of all beings, although one, abides in each separate being and is thus seen as one and many at the same time, as the moon reflected in water.'

Sutra 3,2.19

अम्बुवदग्रहणात् तु न तथात्वम् ॥ १९ ॥

ambuvadagrahaṇāt tu na tathātvam || 19 ||

ambuvat—Like water; agrahaṇāt—not being experienced; tu—but; na—no; tathātvam—similarity.

19. But (there is) no similarity (in the case of Brahman, any second thing) not being experienced like water.

The 'but' indicates an objection.--The highest Self is not apprehended in earth and other places in the same way as the sun or a face is apprehended in water or a mirror. For the sun and a face are erroneously apprehended as abiding in water or a mirror; they do not really abide there. When, on the other hand, Scripture tells us that the highest Self dwells in the earth, in water, in the soul, etc., we apprehend it as really dwelling in all those places. That the imperfections caused by water and mirrors do not attach themselves to the sun or a face is due to the fact that the sun and the face do not really abide in the water and the mirror. Hence there is no real parallelism between the thing compared (the highest Self) and the thing to which it is compared (the reflected image).

Sutra 3,2.20

वृद्धिह्रासभाक्त्वमन्तर्भावाद्, उभयसामञ्जस्यादेवम् ॥ २० ॥

vṛddhihrāsabhāktvamantarbhāvād, ubhayasāmañjasyādevam || 20 ||

vṛddhi-hrāsa-bhāktvam—Participating in the increase and decrease; antarbhāvāt—on account of its being inside; ubhaya-sāmañjasyāt—on account of the similarity in the two cases; evam—thus.

20. On account of Brahman being inside (Its adjuncts) (It appears) to participate in their increase and decrease. On account of this similarity in the two cases (mentioned in Sutra 18) it is thus (i.e. the comparison is not defective).

Sutra 3,2.21

दर्शनाच्च ॥ २१ ॥

darśanācca || 21 ||

darśanāt—On account of scriptural instruction; ca—and.

21. And on account of scriptural instruction.

The comparison of the highest Self to the reflected sun and the rest is meant only to deny of the Self that it participates in the imperfections--such as increase, decrease, and the like--which attach to the earth and the other beings within which the Self abides.--How do we know this?--From the circumstance that on this supposition both comparisons are appropriate. In the scriptural text quoted above Brahman is compared to ether, which although one becomes manifold through the things--jars and so on--within it; and to the sun, which is multiplied by the sheets of water in which he is reflected. Now the employment of these comparisons--with ether which really does abide within the jars and so on, and with the sun which in reality does not abide in the water--is appropriate only if they are meant to convey the idea that the highest Self does not participate in the imperfections inherent in earth and so on. Just as ether, although connecting itself separately with jars, pots, and so on, which undergo increase and decrease, is not itself touched by these imperfections; and just as the sun, although seen in sheets of water of unequal extent, is not touched by their increase and decrease; thus the highest Self, although abiding within variously-shaped beings, whether non-sentient like earth or sentient, remains untouched by their various imperfections--increase, decrease, and so on--,remains one although abiding in all of them, and ever keeps the treasure of its blessed qualities unsullied by an atom even of impurity.--The comparison of Brahman with the reflected sun holds good on the following account. As the sun is not touched by the imperfections belonging to the water, since he does not really abide in the water and hence there is no reason for his sharing those imperfections, thus the highest Self, which really abides within earth and the rest, is not affected by their imperfections; for as the nature of the highest Self is essentially antagonistic to all imperfection, there is no reason for its participating in the imperfection of others.--'And as this is seen.' This means--Since we observe in ordinary life also that comparisons are instituted between two things for the reason that although they do not possess all attributes in common, they yet have some attribute in common. We say, e.g. 'this man is like a lion.'-- The conclusion from all this is that the highest Self, which is essentially free from all imperfections and a treasure as it were of all blessed qualities, in no way suffers from dwelling within the earth and the rest. An objection is raised. In the Brihadāraṇyaka, in the chapter beginning 'There are two forms of Brahman, the material and the immaterial,' the whole material world, gross and subtle, is at first referred to as constituting the form of Brahman, and next a special form of Brahman is mentioned: 'And what is the form of that Person? Like a saffron-coloured raiment,' etc. But thereupon the text proceeds, 'Now follows the teaching--not so, not so; for there is not anything else higher than this "not so." 'This passage, referring to all the previously mentioned forms of Brahman by means of the word 'so,' negatives them; intimating thereby that Brahman is nothing else than pure Being, and that all distinctions are mere imaginations due to Brahman not knowing its own essential nature. How then can Brahman possess the twofold characteristics?

--To this the next Sūtra replies.