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 ...

57. There is pre-eminence of the (meditation on) plenitude (i.e. Agni Vaiśvānara in his aggregate form), as in the case of sacrifices; for thus scripture shows.

In the legend beginning 'Prācīnaśāla Aupamanyava,' the text speaks of meditations on Vaiśvānara in his distributed as well as his aggregate condition. References to him in his distributed state are made in the passage, 'Aupamanyava, whom do you meditate on as the Self? He replied: Heaven only, venerable king. He said: The Self which you meditate on is the Vaiśvānara Self called Sutejas;' and in the following passages (Ch. Up. V, 12-17). A meditation on him in his aggregate state, on the other hand, is referred to in the passage (V, 18), 'Of that Vaiśvānara Self the head is Sutejas, the eye Viśvarūpa, the breath Pṛthagvartman, the trunk Bahula, the bladder Rayi, the feet the earth' &c.--A doubt here arises whether the text intimates a meditation on Vaiśvānara in both his forms or only in his aggregate form.

The pūrvapakṣin maintains that we have to do with meditations on Vaiśvānara in his distributed form, firstly because the text exhibits a special verb, viz. 'you meditate on,' with reference to each of the limbs, Sutejas and so on; and secondly because the text states special fruits (connected with each special meditation) in the passage, 'Therefore every kind of Soma libation is seen in your house,' and the later similar passages.

To this we make the following reply. We must suppose that the entire section aims at intimating 'the pre-eminence,' i.e. at intimating as its pre-eminent subject, a meditation on 'plenitude,' i.e. on Vaiśvānara in his aggregate state, who comprises within himself a plurality of things; not a number of special meditations on the limbs of Vaiśvānara. 'As in the case of sacrifices.' In the same way as the Vedic texts referring to sacrifices such as the darśapūrṇamāsa aim at enjoining the performance of the entire sacrifice only, i.e. of the chief sacrificial action together with its members--and not in addition the performance of single subordinate members such as the prayājas, nor again the performance of the chief action together with some of its subordinate members; so it is here also.--But whence do you know that 'plenitude' is the preeminent topic of the passage?--It is shown by scripture, we reply, since we apprehend that the entire section forms a connected whole. For on examining the connexion of the parts we find that the entire section has for its subject the knowledge of Vaiśvānara. The text at first informs us that six Rishis--Prācīnaśāla, &c., up to Uddālaka--being unable to reach a firm foundation in the knowledge of Vaiśvānara, went to the king Aśvapati Kaikeya; goes on to mention the object of each Ṛṣi's meditation, viz. the sky and so on; determines that the sky and so on are only the head and so on of Vaiśvānara--in the passage 'he said: that is but the head of the Self,' and the later similar passages;--and thereupon rejects all meditations on Vaiśvānara in his distributed form, in the passage, 'Your head would have fallen if you had not come to me,' and so on. Finally having discarded all distributed meditation it turns to the meditation on the aggregate Vaiśvānara and declares that all results rest on him only, 'he eats food in all worlds, in all beings, in all Selfs.'--That the text mentions special fruits for the special meditations on Sutejas and so on we have, in accordance with our view, to explain as meaning that the results of the subordinate meditations are to be connected in their aggregate with the principal meditation. And that the text exhibits a special verb--'you do meditate'--in connexion with each member is not meant to enjoin special meditations on those members, but merely to make additional remarks about something which has another purpose (i.e. about the meditation on the aggregate Vaiśvānara).--For all these reasons the view according to which the text enjoins a meditation on the aggregate Vaiśvānara only is preferable.

Some commentators here establish the conclusion that the meditation on the aggregate Vaiśvānara is the preferable alternative, but assume, on the ground of the Sūtra employing the term 'pre-eminence' only, that the Sūtrakāra allows also the alternative of distributed meditation. But this is inadmissible, since it is improper to assume a 'split of the sentence' (i.e. to ascribe to a passage a double meaning), as long as the passage may be understood as having one meaning only. Their interpretation, moreover, contradicts those passages which expressly blame distributed meditations; such as 'Thy head would have fallen,' And as the conclusion of the section clearly intimates a meditation on the aggregate Vaiśvānara, the negation of such meditation could not be maintained as pūrvapakṣa[1]. The term 'pre-eminence' which the Sūtra employs may moreover be explained as meaning (not mere preferability, but exclusive) authoritativeness.

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Yadobhayatropāstisiddhāntas tadā vyastopāstir evātra samastopāstir eva vā pūrvapakṣaḥ syān nādya ity āha, spaṣṭe ceti, dvitīyaś ca tatrāyukto vākyopakramasthavyastopāstidhivirodhāt, Ān. Gi.

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