Brahma Sutras (Shankara Bhashya)

by Swami Vireshwarananda | 1936 | 124,571 words | ISBN-10: 8175050063

This is the English translation of the Brahma-sutras including the commentary (Bhashya) of Shankara. The Brahma-sutra (or, Vedanta-sutra) is one of the three canonical texts of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy and represents an early exposition the Vedantic interpretation of the Upanishads. This edition has the original Sanskrit text, the r...

Chapter I, Section III, Adhikarana III

Adhikarana summary: Akshara is Brahman

In the previous section because the epithet ‘Truth’ is generally applied to Brahman, the Bhuman was interpreted as Brahman. Following the same argument the opponent holds that the word ‘Akshara’ should mean the syllable ‘Om’ in the texts to be taken up for discussion in this section, for ‘Akshara’ generally means word or syllable.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.10: Sanskrit text and English translation.

अक्षरमम्बरान्तधृतेः ॥ १० ॥

akṣaramambarāntadhṛteḥ || 10 ||

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

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

“O Gargi, the Brahmanas call this Akshara” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 8). Here the question is whether ‘Akshara’ means the syllable ‘Om’ or Brahman. The doubt arises because ‘Akshara’ etymologically means a syllable and therefore commonly represents the syllable ‘Om’, which is also an object of meditation. The Sutra however says ‘Akshara’ here stands for Brahman. Why? For the text says, “In that Akshara, O Gargi, is the ether woven like warp and woof” (Brih. 3. 8. 11). This attribute of supporting everything, even the Akasa, the first entity in the order of creation, can be true only of Brahman. Then again “it is neither gross nor minute, neither short nor long” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 8) shows that all relative qualities are absent in it. Therefore the ‘Akshara’ is Brahman.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.11: Sanskrit text and English translation.

सा च प्रशासनात् ॥ ११ ॥

sā ca praśāsanāt || 11 ||

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

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

 “Under the mighty rule of that Immutable (Akshara), O Gargi, the sun and the moon are held in their positions” (Brih. 3. S. 9).

This command or rulership cannot be the work of the non-intelligent Pradhana. So the Pradhana cannot be the ‘Akshara’ which supports everything up to Akasa.


Brahma-Sutra 1.3.12: Sanskrit text and English translation.

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 Sruti).

All other qualities referred to in the text, as, for example, seeing, hearing, thinking, knowing, etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 11) point to a conscious principle and therefore negate the Pradhana etc. Nor can it be the individual soul, which is not free from limiting adjuncts as the Akshara is described.

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