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 IV, Adhikarana II

Adhikarana summary: The Tri-coloured Aja of the Svetasvatara Upanishad is not the Sankhyan Pradhana

In the last topic the opponent was refuted on the ground that the mere mention of the word ‘Avyakta’ was not sufficient reason to identify it as the Sankhyan category called the Pradhana. The opponent here gives more analogies from the Sruti texts to uphold his view.


Brahma-Sutra 1.4.8: Sanskrit text and English translation.

चमसवदविशेषात् ॥ ८ ॥

camasavadaviśeṣāt || 8 ||

camasavat—Like the bowl; aviśeṣāt—for want of special characteristics.

8. (The word ‘Aja’ cannot be asserted to mean the Pradhana) for want of special characteristics, as in the case of the bowl.

“There is one Aja, red, white, and black producing manifold offspring of the same appearance (colour)” (Svet. 4. 5).

The question is whether this ‘Aja’ refers to the Sankhya category Prakriti or to the fine elements fire, water, and earth. The Sankhyas hold that ‘Aja’ here means the Pradhana, the unborn; and red, white, and black refer to its three constituents, the GunasSattva, Rajas, and Tamas. This Sutra refutes this, saying that in the absence of special characteristics there is no' basis for such a special assertion. The text can be interpreted otherwise also. “There is a bowl that has its opening below and bulging at the top” (Brih. 2 . 2 . 3). It is impossible to decide from the text itself what kind of bowl is meant. So also it is impossible to fix the meaning of ‘Aja’ from the text alone. As in the case of the bowl the complementary texts fix what kind of bowl is meant, so also here we have to refer this passage to supplementary scriptural texts to fix the meaning of ‘Aja’ and not assert that it means the Pradhana.


Brahma-Sutra 1.4.9: Sanskrit text and English translation.

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ ९ ॥

jyotirupakramā tu, tathā hyadhīyata eke || 9 ||

jyotirupakramā—(Elements) beginning with light; tu—but; tathā—so; hi—because; adhīyata—read; eke—some.

9. But (the elements) beginning with light (are meant by the word Aja), because some read so.

The Chhandogya assigns to the elements fire, water, and earth, created by the Lord, red, white, and black colours. Vide Cbh. 6 . 2 . 2-4 and G. 4. 1 .

This passage fixes the meaning of the word ‘Aja’ here. It refers to the three elementary substances viz. fire, earth, and water, from which the rest of the creation has been produced. It is not the Prakriti of the Sankhyas consisting of the three Gunas. In the former interpretation the three colours can be taken in their primary sense, whereas they can represent the three Gunas in a secondary sense only. Moreover, the force of the recognition of the Sruti is stronger; that is to say, if we can beyond doubt recognize in this passage what is elsewhere mentioned in the Sruti, that will be more reasonable than to recognize categories of a Smriti in the Sruti texts.


Brahma-Sutra 1.4.10: Sanskrit text and English translation.

ज्योतिरुपक्रमा तु, तथा ह्यधीयत एके ॥ १० ॥

kalpanopadeśācca madhvādivadavirodhaḥ || 10 ||

kalpanopadeśāt—Instruction having been given through; ca—and imagery; madhvādivat—as in the case of ‘honey’ etc.; avirodhaḥ—no incongruity.

10. And instruction having been given through the imagery (of a goat) (there is) no incongruity, (even) as in the case of ‘honey’ (standing for the sun in Madhuvidya for the purpose of devout meditation) and such other cases.

The word ‘Aja’ refers to something unborn; so how can it refer to the three causal elements of the Chhandogya, which are something created? It is incongruous, says the objector.

There is no incongruity in it, answers the Sutra, as the elements are spoken of through the imagery of a she-goat (Aja). Even as the sun in Madhuvidya is represented as honey in the text, “The sun indeed in the honey” (Chh. 3. 1 . 1), so also are the three elementary substances of the Chhandogya represented as the goat. A she-goat may be black, white, and red, and may give birth to offspring representing her in colour. Similarly out of the combination of fire, water, and earth, having red, white, and black colours respectively, are produced all the inanimate and animate beings of similar colours. The combination of the fine elements, fire, water, and earth is here spoken of by the imagery of a tri-coloured goat, and that is why it is called an Aja, which does not however mean unborn.

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