Brahma Sutras (Shankaracharya)

by George Thibaut | 1890 | 203,611 words

English translation of the Brahma sutras (aka. Vedanta Sutras) with commentary by Shankaracharya (Shankara Bhashya): One of the three canonical texts of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. The Brahma sutra is the exposition of the philosophy of the Upanishads. It is an attempt to systematise the various strands of the Upanishads which form the ...

22. Cessation dependent on a sublative act of the mind, and cessation not so dependent cannot be established, there being no (complete) interruption.

The Bauddhas who maintain that universal destruction is going on constantly, assume that 'whatever forms an object of knowledge and is different from the triad is produced (saṃskṛta) and momentary.' To the triad there mentioned they give the names 'cessation dependent on a sublative act of the mind,' 'cessation not dependent on such an act,' and 'space.' This triad they hold to be non-substantial, of a merely negative character (abhāvamātra), devoid of all positive characteristics. By 'cessation dependent on a sublative act of the mind,' we have to understand such destruction of entities as is preceded by an act of thought[1]; by 'cessation not so dependent' is meant destruction of the opposite kind[2]; by 'space' is meant absence in general of something covering (or occupying space). Out of these three non-existences 'space' will be refuted later on (Sūtra 24), the two other ones are refuted in the present Sūtra.

Cessation which is dependent on a sublative act of the mind, and cessation which is not so dependent are both impossible, 'on account of the absence of interruption.' For both kinds of cessation must have reference either to the series (of momentary existences) or to the single members constituting the series.--The former alternative is impossible, because in all series (of momentary existences) the members of the series stand in an unbroken relation of cause and effect so that the series cannot be interrupted[3].--The latter alternative is likewise inadmissible, for it is impossible to maintain that any momentary existence should undergo complete annihilation entirely undefinable and disconnected (with the previous state of existence), since we observe that a thing is recognised in the various states through which it may pass and thus has a connected existence[4]. And in those cases also where a thing is not clearly recognised (after having undergone a change) we yet infer, on the ground of actual observations made in other cases, that one and the same thing continues to exist without any interruption.--For these reasons the two kinds of cessation which the Bauddhas assume cannot be proved.

Footnotes and references:


As when a man smashes a jar having previously formed the intention of doing so.


I. e. the insensible continual decay of things.--Viparīta iti pratikṣaṇaṃ ghaṭādīnāṃ yuktyā sādhyamāno'kuśalair avagantum aśakyaḥ sūkṣmo vināśo'pratisaṃkhyānirodhaḥ. Brahmāv.


A series of momentary existences constituting a chain of causes and effects can never be entirely stopped; for the last momentary existence must be supposed either to produce its effect or not to produce it. In the former case the series is continued; the latter alternative would imply that the last link does not really p. 411 exist, since the Bauddhas define the sattā of a thing as its causal efficiency (cp. Sarvadarśaṇasaṃgraha). And the non-existence of the last link would retrogressively lead to the non-existence of the whole series.


Thus clay is recognised as such whether it appears in the form of a jar, or of the potsherds into which the jar is broken, or of the powder into which the potsherds are ground.--Analogously we infer that even things which seem to vanish altogether, such as a drop of water which has fallen on heated iron, yet continue to exist in some form.

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