Brahma Sutras (Ramanuja)

by George Thibaut | 1904 | 275,953 words | ISBN-10: 8120801350 | ISBN-13: 9788120801356

The English translation of the Brahma Sutras (also, Vedanta Sutras) with commentary by Ramanuja (known as the Sri Bhasya). The Brahmasutra expounds the essential philosophy of the Upanishads which, primarily revolving around the knowledge of Brahman and Atman, represents the foundation of Vedanta. Ramanjua’s interpretation of these sutras from a V...

1. Everywhere; because there is taught what is known.

We read in the Chāndogya, 'Man is made of thought; according to what his thought is in this world, so will he be when he has departed this life. Let him form this thought: he who consists of mind, whose body is breath, whose form is light,' etc. (III, 14). We here understand that of the meditation enjoined by the clause 'let him form this thought' the object is the being said to consist of mind, to have breath for its body, etc. A doubt, however, arises whether the being possessing these attributes be the individual soul or the highest Self.—The Pūrvapakshin maintains the former alternative. For, he says, mind and breath are instruments of the individual soul; while the text 'without breath, without mind,' distinctly denies them to the highest Self. Nor can the Brahman mentioned in a previous clause of the same section ('All this indeed is Brahman') be connected as an object with the meditation enjoined in the passage under discussion; for Brahman is there referred to in order to suggest the idea of its being the Self of all—which idea constitutes a means for bringing about that calmness of mind which is helpful towards the act of meditation enjoined in the clause 'Let a man meditate with calm mind,' etc. Nor, again, can it be said that as the meditation conveyed by the clause 'let him form this thought' demands an object, Brahman, although mentioned in another passage, only admits of being connected with the passage under discussion; for the demand for an object is fully satisfied by the being made of mind, etc., which is mentioned in that very passage itself; in order to supply the object we have merely to change the case-terminations of the words 'manomayaḥ prāṇaśarīraḥ,' etc. It having thus been determined that the being made of mind is the individual soul, we further conclude that the Brahman mentioned in the concluding passage of the section ('That is Brahman') is also the individual soul, there called Brahman in order to glorify it.

This primā facie view is set aside by the Sūtra. The being made of mind is the highest Self; for the text states certain qualities, such as being made of mind, etc., which are well known to denote, in all Vedānta-texts, Brahman only. Passages such as 'He who is made of mind, the guide of the body of breath' (Mu. Up. II, 2, 7); 'There is the ether within the heart, and in it there is the Person, consisting of mind, immortal, golden' (Taitt. Up. I. 6, 1); 'He is conceived by the heart, by wisdom, by the mind. Those who know him are immortal' (Ka. Up. II, 6, 9); 'He is not apprehended by the eye nor by speech, but by a purified mind' (Mu. Up. III, 1, 8); 'The breath of breath' (Bṛ. Up. IV, 4, 183); 'Breath alone is the conscious Self, and having laid hold of this body it makes it rise up' (Kau. Up. III, 3); 'All these beings merge into breath alone, and from breath they arise' (Ch. Up. I, 11, 5)—these and similar texts refer to Brahman as consisting of mind, to be apprehended by a purified mind, having breath for its body, and being the abode and ruler of breath. This being so, we decide that in the concluding passage, 'my Self within the heart, that is Brahman,' the word 'Brahman' has to be taken in its primary sense (and does not denote the individual soul). The text which declares Brahman to be without mind and breath, merely means to deny that the thought of Brahman depends on a mind (internal organ), and that its life depends on breath.

Or else we may interpret the Vedic text and the Sūtra as follows. The passage 'All this is Brahman; let a man meditate with a calm mind on this world as originating, ending, and breathing in Brahman,' conveys the imagination of meditation on Brahman as the Self of all. The subsequent clause 'Let him form the thought,' etc., forms an additional statement to that injunction, the purport of which is to suggest certain attributes of Brahman, such as being made of mind. So that the meaning of the whole section is 'Let a man meditate on Brahman, which is made of mind, has breath for its body, etc., as the Self of the whole world.'—Here a doubt presents itself. Does the term 'Brahman' in this section denote the individual soul or the highest Self?—The individual soul, the Pūrvapakshin maintains, for that only admits of being exhibited in co-ordination with the word 'all.' For the word 'all' denotes the entire world from Brahmā down to a blade of grass; and the existence of Brahmā and other individual beings is determined by special forms of karman, the root of which is the beginningless Nescience of the individual soul. The highest Brahman, on the other hand, which is all-knowing, all-powerful, free from all evil and all shadow of Nescience and similar imperfections, cannot possibly exist as the 'All' which comprises within itself everything that is bad. Moreover we find that occasionally the term 'Brahman' is applied to the individual soul also; just as the highest Lord (paramesvara) may be called 'the highest Self' (paramātman) or 'the highest Brahman.' That 'greatness' (bṛhattva; which is the essential characteristic of 'brahman') belongs to the individual soul when it has freed itself from its limiting conditions, is moreover attested by scripture: 'That (soul) is fit for infinity' (Śvet. Up. V, 9). And as the soul’s Nescience is due to karman (only), the text may very well designate it—as it does by means of the term 'tajjalān'—as the cause of the origin, subsistence, and reabsorption of the world. That is to say—the individual soul which, in its essential nature, is non-limited, and therefore of the nature of Brahman, owing to the influence of Nescience enters into the state of a god, or a man, or an animal, or a plant.

This view is rejected by the Sūtra. 'Everywhere,' i.e.

in the whole world which is referred to in the clause 'All this is Brahman' we have to understand the highest Brahman—which the term 'Brahman' denotes as the Self of the world—, and not the individual soul; 'because there is taught what is known,' i.e. because the clause 'All this is Brahman'—for which clause the term 'tajjalān' supplies the reason—refers to Brahman as something generally known. Since the world springs from Brahman, is merged in Brahman, and depends on Brahman for its life, therefore—as the text says—'All this has its Self in Brahman'; and this shows to us that what the text understands by Brahman is that being from which, as generally known from the Vedānta texts, there proceed the creation, and so on, of the world. That the highest Brahman only, all-wise and supremely blessed, is the cause of the origin, etc., of the world, is declared in the section which begins. 'That from which these beings are born,' etc., and which says further on, 'he knew that Bliss is Brahman, for from bliss these beings are born' (Taitt. Up. III, 6); and analogously the text 'He is the cause, the lord of lords of the organs,' etc. (Śvet. Up. VI, 9), declares the highest Brahman to be the cause of the individual soul. Everywhere, in fact, the texts proclaim the causality of the highest Self only. As thus the world which springs from Brahman, is merged in it, and breathes through it, has its Self in Brahman, the identity of the two may properly be asserted; and hence the text—the meaning of which is 'Let a man meditate with calm mind on the highest Brahman of which the world is a mode, which has the world for its body, and which is the Self of the world'—first proves Brahman’s being the universal Self, and then enjoins meditation on it. The highest Brahman, in its causal condition as well as in its so-called 'effected' state, constitutes the Self of the world, for in the former it has for its body all sentient and non-sentient beings in their subtle form, and in the latter the same beings in their gross condition. Nor is there any contradiction between such identity with the world on Brahman’s part, and the fact that Brahman treasures within itself glorious qualities antagonistic to all evil; for the imperfections adhering to the bodies, which are mere modes of Brahman, do not affect Brahman itself to which the modes belong. Such identity rather proves for Brahman supreme lordly power, and thus adds to its excellences. Nor, again, can it rightly be maintained that of the individual soul also identity with the world can be predicated; for the souls being separate according to the bodies with which they are joined cannot be identical with each other. Even in the state of release, when the individual soul is not in any way limited, it does not possess that identity with the world on which there depends causality with regard to the world’s creation, sustentation, and reabsorption; as will be declared in Sūtra IV, 4, 17. Nor, finally, does the Pūrvapakshin improve his case by contending that the individual soul may be the cause of the creation. etc., of the world because it (viz. the soul) is due to karman; for although the fact given as reason is true, all the same the Lord alone is the cause of the Universe.—All this proves that the being to which the text refers as Brahman is none other than the highest Self.

This second alternative interpretation of the Sūtra is preferred by most competent persons. The Vṛttikāra, e.g. says, 'That Brahman which the clause "All this is Brahman" declares to be the Self of all is the Lord.'

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