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 II, Section I, Adhikarana VI

Adhikarana summary: The non-difference of the effect from the cause

Brahma-Sutra 2.1.14: Sanskrit text and English translation.

तदनन्यत्वमारम्भणशब्दादिभ्यः ॥ १४ ॥

tadananyatvamārambhaṇaśabdādibhyaḥ || 14 ||

tadananyatvam—Its non-difference; ārambhaṇa-śabdādibhyaḥ—from words like ‘origin’ etc.

14. Its (of the effect) non-difference (from the cause results) from words like ‘origin’ etc.

In the last Sutra the objection against Brahman being the material cause, that it contradicts perception, was answered from the standpoint of' Parinama-vada or the theory of Brahman actually undergoing modification. Now the same objection is refuted from the standpoint of Vivartavada or apparent modification, which is the standpoint of Advaita. The objection is: Texts like “There is no manifold-nfess whatever here (in Brahman)” (Kath. 2. 4. 11) contradict perception. Reason also says that among things which get transformed into each other there cannot be difference and non-difference at the same time. Hence the doubt. In a single moon we cannot see two moons. What was spoken of in the lapt Sutra, viz. that the difference between them is one of name and form, even that is unreal, for in a thing which is one without a second, which is non-duality, even the difference due to name and form is impossible. The example of the sea is not apt, for here both the sea and its modifications, waves and foam, are objects of the senses, but Brahman is not. It is realized only through the scriptures and in Samadhi. What then is the truth? It is oneness, non-duality. As the effect is non-different from the cause, the latter alone is real.

The Sruti also establishes this by the example of clay etc. in the Chhandogya Upanishad.

“Just as, by the knowledge of one lump of earth, my dear, everything made of earth is known, the modification being only a name arising from speech, but the truth being that all is earth, . . . thus, my dear, is that instruction” (Chh. 6 . 1 . 4-6).

Here the Sruti by using the word ‘modification’ tries to prove that there is no separate reality of‘the pots etc., which are mere modifications of the lump of earth. They are not separate things but merely different conditions, just as the boyhood, youth, etc. of Deva-datta are mere conditions, and not real. So by knowing the lump of earth the real nature of the pots etc. is known. It matters little that the various forms are not known, for they are not worth knowing, being unreal. Even though these pots etc. are objects of the senses, yet discrimination tells us that besides earth nothing real is found in these. They are merely names arising out of speech and nothing more. They are cognized through ignorance, hence they are unreal. The clay, on the other hand, is realized even apart from name and form and is therefore real. Similarly Brahman alone is real and this world is unreal. The world being non-different from its cause, Brahman, the truth is oneness, non-duality, Brahman, the one without a second. To people who through want of experience have not this insight into things, there will always be difference and non-differ-ence, even as in the case of the sea and its waves, but in reality these differences are relative and not true.


Brahma-Sutra 2.1.15: Sanskrit text and English translation.

भावे चोपलब्धेः ॥ १५ ॥

bhāve copalabdheḥ || 15 ||

bhāve—On the existence; ca—and; upalabdheḥ—is experienced.

15. And (because) on the existence (of the cause) is (the effect) experienced.

The effect is not experienced in the absence of the cause, which shows that the effect is not different from the cause. The world phenomena appear only because Brahman exists and not without It. Hence the world is non-different from Brahman.


Brahma-Sutra 2.1.16: Sanskrit text and English translation.

सत्त्वाच्चापरस्य ॥ १६ ॥

sattvāccāparasya || 16 ||

sattvāt—On account of (its) existing; ca—and; aparasya—of the posterior.

16. And on account of the posterior (i.e. the effect, which comes into being after the cause) existing (as the cause before creation).

The Sruti says that before creation the world had its being in the cause, Brahman, as one with It : “Verily in the beginning this was Self, one only” (Ait. Ar. 2. 4, 1. 1); “In the beginning, my dear, this was only existence” (Chh. 6. 2. 1). Now since before creation it was non-different from the cause, it continues to be so even after creation.


Sutra 2,1.17

असद्व्यपदेशान्नेति चेत्, न, धर्मान्तरेण
वाक्यशेषात् ॥ १७ ॥

asadvyapadeśānneti cet, na, dharmāntareṇa
vākyaśeṣāt || 17 ||

asat-vyapadeśāt—On account of its being described as non-existent; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—no; dharmāntareṇa—by another characteristic; vākyaśeṣāt—from the latter part of the text.

17. If it be said that on account of (the effect) being described as non-existent (before creation) (the conclusion of the previous Sutra is) not (true); (we say) not so, (it being described) by another characteristic (as is seen) from the latter part of the text.

“Non-existent indeed this was in the beginning” (Chh. 3. 19. 1). The word “non-existent” does not mean absolute non-existence, but that the world did not exist in a differentiated condition. It was undifferentiated—had not yet developed name and form—in which sense the word “non-existence” is also used in common parlance. It was in a fine condition, and after creation it became gross, developing name and form. This sense is shown by the immediately succeeding portion of the text, “It became existent, it grew.” Hence the conclusion of the last Sutra is all right.


Brahma-Sutra 2.1.18: Sanskrit text and English translation.

युक्तेः शब्दान्तराच्च ॥ १८ ॥

yukteḥ śabdāntarācca || 18 ||

yukteḥ—From reasoning; śabdāntarāt—from another Sruti text; ca—and.

18. From reasoning and another Sruti text (this relation between cause and effect is established).

From reasoning also we find that the effect is non-different from the cause and exists before its origination. Otherwise everything could have been produced from anything. Particular causes producing particular effects only shows this relationship between cause and effect. Before creation the effect exists in the cause as unmanifest. Otherwise something new being created, anything could have been created from all things. The fact is, it gets manifested on creation, that is all. That which is absolutely non-existent like the horns of a bare can never come into existence. So the cause cannot produce altogether a new thing which was not existing in it already. Moreover, that the effect exists even before creation we find from such Sruti texts as “In the beginning, my dear, this was only existence, one without a second” (Chh. 6. 2. 1).


Brahma-Sutra 2.1.19: Sanskrit text and English translation.

पटवच्च ॥ १९ ॥

paṭavacca || 19 ||

paṭavat—Like cloth; ca—and.

19. And like a piece of cloth.

Even as is cloth folded and spread out, so is the world before and after creation. In the folded state one cannot make out whether it is a cloth or anything else, which is clearly discernible when it is spread out. In the state of Pralaya (dissolution), i.e. before creation, the world exists in a fine potential state in Brahman and after creation takes the gross form.


Brahma-Sutra 2.1.20: Sanskrit text and English translation.

यथा च प्राणादिः ॥ २० ॥

yathā ca prāṇādiḥ || 20 ||

yathā—As; ca—and; prāṇādiḥ—in the case of Pranas.

20. And as in the case of the different Pranas.

When the five different Pranas (vital forces) are controlled by Pranayama, they merge and exist as the chief Prana (which ftegulates respiration) merely maintaining life. From this we find that the effects, the various Pranas are not different from their cause, the chief Prana. So also with all effects; they are not different from their cause. Therefore it is established that the effect, the world, is identical with its cause, Brahman. Hence by knowing It everything is known.

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