Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 1-1-6

Topic 6 - Concerning “the Self consisting of bliss”

Sutra 1,1.12

आनन्दमयोऽभ्यासात् ॥ १२ ॥

ānandamayo'bhyāsāt || 12 ||

ānandamayaḥ—“The Self consisting of bliss”; abhyāsāt—because of the repetition.

12. (In the passage) “The Self consisting of bliss” etc. (Brahman, which is spoken of as the tail, is put forward as an independent entity and not as something subordinate to Ānandamāyā, the Self consisting of bliss) on account of the repetition (of Brahman as the main topic in many passages of that chapter).

In topic 5 the word ‘thinking’ attributed to the First Cause is interpreted in its direct sense, thus establishing the intelligent principle Brahman as the First Cause, and the figurative meaning, which would have established the Pradhāna, is thrown out as being doubtful.

But here such a thing, that is the establishing of Brahman, is impossible, for the terms denoting parts allow no room for doubt, thus making it impossible to interpret the texts as referring to Brahman. This connects the present topic with the last one by way of objection.

The passage in question is:

Different from this self, which consists of understanding (Vijñānamaya), is the inner self which consists of bliss .... Joy is the head, satisfaction is its right wing, rapture is its left wing, bliss is its trunk, Brahman is the tail, the support” (Taitt. 2. 5).

The Sutra says that here Brahman, which is spoken of as the tail, is treated as an independent entity and is not to be taken as a part of “the self consisting of bliss,”

for ‘tail’ here does not mean the limb, in which sense it is generally used, but the support of the individual soul made up of “the self consisting of bliss”, as Brahman is the substratum of the imaginary individual soul.

This conclusion is arrived at, because Brahman without any limiting adjuncts whatsoever is again and again reiterated in these Taittirīya texts.

[Sutras 12-19 are interpreted by the Vrittikāra (who is probably Upavarsha) as follows :

The Taittirīya Upanishad 2. 1-4 after enumerating the selves consisting of food, vital force, mind, and understanding, speaks of “the self consisting of bliss” in the passage quoted above. (Taitt. 2. 5).

The question is whether this refers to the individual soul or Brahman.

The opponent holds that it refers to the individual soul, because the word ‘Ānanda-maya’ denotes a modification and therefore cannot refer to Brahman, which is unchangeable.

Moreover, five different parts are enumerated of this Ānanda-maya, the self consisting of bliss; this is not possible in the case of Brahman, which is without parts.

Sutras 12-19, according to this interpretation, maintain that ‘ānandamaya’, the self consisting of bliss, refers to Brahman on account of the repetition of the word ‘Ānandamaya’ in these Taittirīya texts.

Repetition has already been said to be one of the characteristics by which the subject-matter of a passage is ascertained.

Brahman, again, has been proved to be the main topic of the Vedānta texts (Ch. 1, Sec. 1, Sutra 4).

Therefore ‘Ānandamaya’ refers to Brahman. Moreover, the opening words of the second chapter of the Taittirīya Upanishad, “Truth, Knowledge, Infinity is Brahman” (Taitt. 2. 1), and texts like, “He projected all this” (Taitt. 2. 6) make it clear that Brahman is the topic.

The termination ‘mayat’ is also not out of place in Brahman, for it is used here to denote an abundance of bliss.

The possession of a body having parts is also ascribed to It, only because of the immediately preceding limiting condition, i.e. the self consisting of understanding and does not really belong to It.

Hence “the self consisting of bliss” is the highest Brahman.

Śankara objects to this interpretation of the Sutras and says that Ānandamaya cannot be the highest Brahman.

First of all, there is no justification, for suddenly changing the interpretation of the affix ‘mayat’ from modification in the case of Vijñānamaya, Prāṇamāyā, etc. in the preceding passages to abundance in the case of Ānandamaya, so as to make this word refer to Brahman.

Again the very idea of preponderance or abundance of bliss suggests that there is also misery in it, however slight. Such an idea with respect to Brahman is absurd.

So Śankara replaces this interpretation of the Sutras, which Ānandagiri attributes to the Vrittikāra, by another, which we have reproduced above.]

Sutra 1,1.13

विकारशब्दान्नेति चेत्, न, प्राचुर्यात् ॥ १३ ॥

vikāraśabdānneti cet, na, prācuryāt || 13 ||

vikāraśabdāt—On account of a word (‘tail’) denoting part; na—is not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; prācuryāt—on account of abundance (of terms denoting parts).

13. If it be said (that Brahman) is not (spoken of as an independent entity in the passage) on account of a word (‘tail’) denoting part, (we reply) not so, on account of abundance (of terms denoting parts).

Owing to the abundance of phraseology denoting parts or limbs in the Taittirīya texts 2. 1-5, Brahman is designated as the tail just to keep up the foregoing imagery;

but it is not intended to convey the idea that Brahman is actually a part or member of “the self consisting of bliss”.

The object of the scriptures, is to teach the knowledge of the real Self.

If the “self consisting of bliss” were the real Self, the scriptures would refer to this in the concluding texts, but as a matter of fact they do not; on the other hand they refer to the Nirguna Brahman, which is therefore the real subject-matter.

Brahman’s being the tail means, not that It is a part, but that It is the main support or abode of everything.

Sutra 1,1.14

तद्धेतुव्यपदेशाच्च ॥ १४ ॥

taddhetuvyapadeśācca || 14 ||

taddhetuvyapadeśāt—Because (It) is declared to be the cause of it; ca—and.

14. And because (Brahman) is declared to be the cause of it (the self consisting of bliss, Brahman cannot be taken as a part of it).

Brahman is the cause of everything, even of “the self consisting of bliss”, as also of the four earlier named ones; i.e. the self consisting of food, vital force, mind, and understanding.

He projected all this whatever there is” (Taitt. 2. 6). The cause cannot be a part of the effect.

Sutra 1,1.15

मान्त्रवर्णिकमेव च गीयते ॥ १५ ॥

māntravarṇikameva ca gīyate || 15 ||

māntravarṇikam—That which has been referred to in the Mantra portion; eva—the very same; ca—moreover; gīyate—is sung.

15. Moreover that very Brahman which has been referred to in the Mantra portion is sung (in this Brāhmaṇa passage as the tail).

The second chapter of the Taittirīya Upanishad begins, “He who knows Brahman attains the Highest . . . Brahman is Truth, Knowledge and Infinity.” This very Brahman is finally declared to be the tail.

Otherwise there would be a contradiction between the Mantra and Brāhmaṇa portions, which cannot be, for the Brāhmaṇas only explain what the Mantras declare.

Therefore Brahman is the primary subject-matter and is not treated as a part of “the self consisting of bliss”.

 Sutra 1,1.16

नेतरोऽनुपपत्तेः ॥ १६ ॥

netaro'nupapatteḥ || 16 ||

na—Not; itaraḥ—the other (Jiva); anupapatteḥ—on account of impossibility.

16. (Brahman and) not the other (the individual soul, is meant here) on account of the impossibility (of that assumption).

He who is referred to in the passage, “The self consisting of bliss” etc. is said to be the creator of everything.

He projected all this whatever there is” (Taitt. 2. 6). This the individual soul cannot possibly do and so is not referred to in the passage, “The self consisting of bliss” etc.

 Sutra 1,1.17

भेदव्यपदेशाच्च ॥ १७ ॥

bhedavyapadeśācca || 17 ||

bhedavyapadeśāt—On account of the declaration of difference; ca—and.

17. And on account of the declaration of difference (between the two, i.e. the one referred to in the passage, “The self consisting of bliss” etc. and the individual soul, the latter cannot be the one referred to in the passage).

That which is referred to in the passage, “The self consisting of bliss” etc. is said to be of the essence of flavour, attaining which the individual soul is blissful.

It (That which is referred to in the passage, “The self consisting of bliss” etc.) is flavour; only after attaining (this essence of) flavour is this (soul) blissful” (Taitt. 2. 7).

Now that which is attained and the attainer cannot be the same. So the individual soul is not referred to in that passage under discussion.

Sutra 1,1.18

कामाच्च नानुमानापेक्षा ॥ १८ ॥

kāmācca nānumānāpekṣā || 18 ||

kāmāt—On account of the word ‘bliss’, literally ‘desire’, (denoting Brahman); ca—and; nānumānāpekṣā—(Ānandamāyā also) cannot be inferred as Brahman.

18. And on account of the word ‘bliss’, literally ‘desire’, (referring to Brahman), (you) cannot infer (Ānanda-maya is also Brahman, since the suffix ‘mayat’ is used to denote modification).

In the scriptures the word ‘bliss’ is often used for Brahman; from this we cannot infer that Ānandamāyā, the self consisting of bliss, is also Brahman, for the suffix ‘mayat’ shows that it is a modification.

This sets aside the whole of the interpretation of the Vrittikāra mentioned under Sutra 12.

 Sutra 1,1.19

अस्मिन्नस्य च तद्योगं शास्ति ॥ १९ ॥

asminnasya ca tadyogaṃ śāsti || 19 ||

asmin—In this; asya—its (the Jiva’s); ca—also; tadyogaṃ—mergence as that; śāsti—teaches.

19. (The Vedas) also teach of its (the Jīva’s) becoming (on the dawning of Knowledge) one with this (referred to in the passage under discussion).

Since the individual soul, on the dawning of Knowledge, becomes one with that which is referred to in the passage under discussion, the latter must be Brahman.

Hence “the self consisting of bliss” is in no way the principal topic of these texts.

It is Brahman which is the support of everything that is dealt with as an independent entity in these texts.