Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-2-7

Topic 7 - Brahman is one without a second, and expressions which apparently imply something else as existing are only metaphorical

Sutra 3,2.31

परमतः सेतून्मानसंबन्धभेदव्यपदेशेभ्यः ॥ ३१ ॥

paramataḥ setūnmānasaṃbandhabhedavyapadeśebhyaḥ || 31 ||

param—Greater; ataḥ—than this (Brahman); setu-unmāna-saṃbandha-bheda-vyapadeśebhyaḥ—on account of terms denoting a bank, measure, connection, and difference.

31. (There is something) superior to this (Brahman), on account of terms denoting a bank, measure, connection, and difference (used with respect to It).

To say that there is nothing except Brahman is objectionable, for we find that there is something besides Brahman

on account of Its being designated as a bank separating things other than Itself in texts like, “That self is a bank, a boundary” etc. (Chh. 8. 4. 1);

as having size and therefore limited in texts like, “That Brahman has four feet” (Chh. 8. 18. 2)—it is well known that whatever is limited is limited by some other object;

as being connected with other objects: “The embodied self when embraced by the Supreme Self” (Brih. 4. 3. 21), which shows that there is something else than Brahman;

and as being different: “The Ātman is to be seen,” thereby hinting a seer and seen.

All these show that Brahman is not one without a second.

Sutra 3,2.32

सामान्यात्तु ॥ ३२ ॥

sāmānyāttu || 32 ||

tu—But; sāmānyāt—on account of similarity.

32. But (Brahman is called a bank) on account of similarity.

But’ refutes the position taken in the previous Sutra.

There can exist nothing different from Brahman. It is called a bank, not because there exists something beyond It, as in the case of a bank, but on account of a similarity.

The similarity is this: Just as a bank keeps back water and marks the boundary of adjacent fields, even so Brahman maintains the world and its boundaries.

Having passed the bank” (Chh. 8 . 4. 2) means, having attained Brahman fully and not having crossed it, even as we say he has passed in Grammar, meaning thereby that he has mastered it.

Sutra 3,2.33

बुद्ध्यर्थः पादवत् ॥ ३३ ॥

buddhyarthaḥ pādavat || 33 ||

buddhyarthaḥ—For the sake of easy comprehension; pādavat—just like (four) feet.

33. (Brahman is depicted as having size) for the sake of easy comprehension (i.e. Upāsanā); just like four feet.

The statements as to the size of Brahman, ‘Brahman has four feet’, ‘It has sixteen digits’, etc. are meant for the sake of Upāsanā; for it is difficult to comprehend the Infinite, all-pervading Brahman.

Just as mind conceived as the personal manifestation of Brahman is imagined to have the organ of speech, nose, eyes, and ears as its four feet, so also Brahman is imagined as having size etc. for the sake of Upāsanā, but not in reality.

Sutra 3,2.34

स्थानविशेषात्, प्रकाशादिवत् ॥ ३४ ॥

sthānaviśeṣāt, prakāśādivat || 34 ||

sthānaviśeṣāt—On account of special places; prakāśādivat—like light etc.

34. (The statements about connection and difference with respect to Brahman) are on account of special places; as in the case of light etc.

The statements regarding difference are made with reference to limiting adjuncts only and not to any difference in Brahman’s nature.

We speak of light inside a chamber and light outside it, though in reality light is one, the distinction being due to limiting adjuncts.

So also all statements about connection are made with reference to the removal of the adjuncts, when connection with the Supreme Self is said to take place metaphorically, even as on the destruction of the chamber the light inside it may be said to be united with light in general.

Sutra 3,2.35

उपपत्तेश्च ॥ ३५ ॥

upapatteśca || 35 ||

upapatteḥ—From reasoning; ca—and.

35. And it is reasonable.

This Sutra explains further that connection and difference are not to be taken as real, but only metaphorically. The connection of the Jīva with Brahman in deep sleep cannot be real.

It merges in its Self” (Chh. 6. 8. 1), shows that the connection of the soul with Brahman is a natural, inherent identity, and not as between two things. Similarly the difference referred to is not real, but due to ignorance, as can be gathered from hundreds of texts.

Sutra 3,2.36

तथान्यप्रतिषेधात् ॥ ३६ ॥

tathānyapratiṣedhāt || 36 ||

tathā—Similarly; anya-pratiṣedhāt—on account of the express denial of all other things.

36. Similarly on account of the express denial of all other things (there is nothing but Brahman).

A further reason is given to show that there is nothing but Brahman.

The Self is all this” (Chh. 7. 25. 2); “All this is Brahman alone” (Mu. 2. 2. 11) etc. denies the existence of anything else besides Brahman. Therefore Brahman is one without a second.

Sutra 3,2.37

अनेन सर्वगतत्वमायामशब्दादिभ्यः ॥ ३७ ॥

anena sarvagatatvamāyāmaśabdādibhyaḥ || 37 ||

anena—By this; sarvagatatvam—all-pervadingness; āyāmaśabdādibhyaḥ—as is known from scriptural statements etc. regarding (Brahman’s) extent.

37. By this (is established) the all-pervadingness (of Brahman), as is known from scriptural statements etc. regarding (Brahman’s) extent.

This Sutra explains the all-pervadingness of Brahman, which follows from the fact that It is one without a second.

By saying that texts describing Brahman as a bank etc. are not to be taken literally, and by denying all other things, it is proved that Brahman is all-pervading.

If they were taken literally, then Brahman would be limited and not all-pervading and consequently not eternal.

That Brahman is all-pervading is known from such Śruti texts as, “He is omnipresent like ether, and eternal” (Sat. Br. 10. 6. 3. 2). See also Gītā 2. 24.