Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 4-3
In the last section the departure of the soul of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman by the path of the gods has been described. This section deals with the path itself.
Topic 1 - The path connected with deities beginning with that of the flame is the only path to Brahmaloka
अर्चिरादिना, तत्प्रथितेः ॥ १ ॥
arcirādinā, tatprathiteḥ || 1 ||
arciḥ-ādinā—(On the path connected with deities) beginning with that of the flame; tat-prathiteḥ—that being well known (from the Śruti).
1. (On the path connected with deities) beginning with that of the flame (the soul of the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman travels to Brahmaloka after death), that being well known (from the Śruti).
In the last section it was stated that the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman travels by devayāna or the path of the gods to Brahmaloka.
About this path itself different texts make different declarations.
The Chāṇḍogya and the Brihadāraṇyaka say that the departed soul of such a person reaches first the deity identified with the flame. Vide Chh. 5. 10. 1 and Brih. 6. 2. 15.
The Brihadāraṇyaka in connection with another Vidyā says that it reaches the air. Vide Brih. 5. 10. 1. The Kaushitaki Upanishad says that it reaches the world of fire. Vide Kau. 1. 3. The Muṇḍaka says that it travels by the path of the sun. Vide Mu. 1. 2. 11.
The question is whether these texts refer to different paths or are different descriptions of the same path, the path of the gods. The opponent holds that these texts refer to different paths to Brahmaloka.
The Sutra refutes this view and says that all the texts refer to and give only different particulars of the same path, the path connected with deities beginning with that identified with the flame. Why?
On account of its being well known from the Śruti texts that this is the path for all knowers of Brahman:
“Those who know this (Panchāgni Vidyā) and those who in the forest meditate with faith and penance, reach the deity identified with flame” etc. (Chh. 5. 10. 1)
- shows that this path connected with deities beginning with that of the flame belongs to all knowers of Brahman whatever be the Vidyā through which they have attained that knowledge.
Moreover, the goal attained, i.e. Brahmaloka, being the same in all cases, and there being no justification for regarding the path as different on account of their being treated in different chapters,
since some part of the path is recognized in all texts, we have to conclude that all the texts refer to the same path, but give different particulars, which have all to be combined for a full description of the path.
Topic 2 - The departing soul reaches the deity of the year and then the deity of the air
वायुमब्दात्, अविशेषविशेषाभ्याम् ॥ २ ॥
vāyumabdāt, aviśeṣaviśeṣābhyām || 2 ||
vāyum—The deity of the air; abdāt—from the deity of the year; aviśeṣa-viśeṣābhyām—on account of the absence and presence of specification.
2. (The departed soul of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman goes) from the deity of the year to the deity of the air, on account of the absence and presence of specification.
In the last Sutra it was stated that the different texts give different particulars or stages of the same path. This Sutra fixes the order of the stages.
The Kaushitaki describes the path as follows:
“The Upāsaka, having reached the path of the gods, reaches the world of Agni (fire), of Vāyu (air), of Varuṇa, of Indra, of Prajāpati, and then of Brahman” (Kau. 1. 3).
Again the Chāṇḍogya Upanishad describes the path as follows:
“They reach the deity identified with the flame, from him to the deity of the day, from him to the deity of the bright half of the month, from him to the deities identified with the six months of the northern path of the sun, from them to the deity of the year, from him to the deity of the sun, from him to the deity of the moon, from him to the deity of lightning” (Chh. 5. 10. 1).
In these two texts the first deity they reach is said to be the deity of the flame or fire. So the starting point is clearly pointed out by both texts, for they say that having reached the path of the gods the departed souls reach this deity.
Combining these two texts we have to place the deity of air in between the deity of the year and the deity of the sun. Why?
Because of the absence and presence of specification.
“When a man departs from this world, he reaches the (deity identified with) air, which makes an opening for him . . . He goes upwards through that and reaches the (deity of the) sun” (Brih. 5. 10. 1).
This text fixes that air comes immediately before the sun because we perceive a regular order of succession.
But as regards air coming after the deity of the flame there is no specification, but simply a statement; “He comes from the world of fire to that of air.” In between these two stages we have several other stages which the Chāṇḍogya text mentions.
Again in the text,
“From the deities identified with the six months in which the sun travels northward he reaches the deity identified with the world of the gods” (Brih. 6. 2. 15).
To keep the immediate sequence of the deity identified with air and that identified with the sun, we must understand that the soul passes from the deity of the world of the gods to the deity of the air.
Again in the texts of the Chāṇḍogya and the Brihadāraṇyaka, the deity of the world of the gods is not mentioned in the former and the deity of the year in the latter.
Both have to be included in the full description of the path, and since the year is connected with the months, the deity of the year precedes the deity of the world of the gods.
Topic 3 - After reaching the deity identified with lightning the soul reaches the world of Varuṇa
तडितोऽधि वरुणः संबन्धात् ॥ ३ ॥
taḍito’dhi varuṇaḥ saṃbandhāt || 3 ||
taḍito’dhi—After the deity of lightning; varuṇaḥ—(comes) Varuṇa (rain-god); saṃbandhāt—on account of the connection.
3. After (reaching) the deity of lightning (the soul reaches) Varuṇa, on account of the connection (between the two).
The Chāṇḍogya text reads, “From the sun to the moon, from moon to lightning.”
The Kaushitaki text reads, “From Vāyu to Varuṇa.”
Combining these two texts we have to place Varuṇa after lightning, on account of the connection between the two.
Varuṇa is the god of rain, and lightning precedes rain. So after lightning comes Varuṇa. And after Varuṇa come Indra and Prajāpati, for there is no other place for them, and the Kaushitaki text also puts them there.
So the complete enumeration of the stages of the path of the gods is as follows:
First the deity of the flame or fire, then the deity of the day, the deity of the bright half of the month, the deities of the six months when the sun travels to the north,
the deity of the year, the deity of the world of gods, the deity of the air, the sun, the moon, the deity of lightning, the world of Varuṇa, the world of Indra, the world of Prajāpati, and finally Brahmaloka.
Topic 4 - Flame etc. referred to in the text describing the path of the gods mean deities identified with the flame etc., which conduct the soul stage after stage till Brahmaloka is reached
आतिवाहिकाः, तल्लिङ्गात् ॥ ४ ॥
ātivāhikāḥ, talliṅgāt || 4 ||
ātivāhikāḥ—(These are) deities conducting the soul; tat-liṅgāt—on account of indicatory marks of that.
4. (These are) deities conducting the soul (on the path of the gods), on account of indicatory marks to that effect.
In the texts cited in the previous Sutras, flame, bright half of the month, year, etc. are the deities identified with these, which receive the departed soul and conduct it on its way to Brahmaloka.
That deities are meant here, and not marks or places of enjoyment, is indicated by the text of the Chāṇḍogya, which ends thus:
“From the moon to the lightning. Then a being who is not a man leads them to Brahman” (Chh. 4. 15. 5; 5. 10. 1). This text shows that unlike the previous guides who were more or less human, this particular guide is not human in nature.
उभयव्यामोहात्तत्सिद्धेः ॥ ५ ॥
ubhayavyāmohāttatsiddheḥ || 5 ||
ubhaya-vyāmohāt—From the benumbed state of both; tat-siddheḥ— that is established.
5. (That deities are meant in those texts) is established, because both (i.e. the traveller and the path) are benumbed (i.e. unconscious).
The departed souls, because their organs etc. are withdrawn into the mind, are incapable of guiding themselves. And the flame etc. being without intelligence cannot guide the souls.
Hence it is proved that intelligent deities identified with the flame etc. guide the souls to Brahmaloka.
Moreover, as the organs of the departed souls are withdrawn into the mind, they cannot enjoy, and so flame and the rest cannot be worlds where they enjoy.
वैद्युतेनैव ततः, तच्छ्रुतेः ॥ ६ ॥
vaidyutenaiva tataḥ, tacchruteḥ || 6 ||
vaidyutena—By (the superhuman) guide connected with lightning; eva—alone; tataḥ—from thence; tat-śruteḥ—that being known from the Śruti.
6. From thence (the souls are guided) by the very same (superhuman) person who comes to lightning, that being known from the Śruti.
After they have reached the deity identified with lightning, they are led by that very superhuman person who takes charge of them from the deity of lightning to Brahmaloka through the worlds of Varuṇa, Indra, and Prajāpati. This is known from Chh. 4.15.5, 5.10 and Brih. 6.2.15.
Varuṇa and others do not actually guide the soul like the earlier guides, since the superhuman person guides them all through after lightning up to Brahmaloka. They only favour the souls either by not obstructing or helping them in some way.
Therefore it is established that by flame etc. deities are meant.
Topic 5 - The Brahman to which the departed souls go by the path of the gods is the Saguṇa Brahman
कार्यं बादरिः, अस्य गत्युपपत्तेः ॥ ७ ॥
kāryaṃ bādariḥ, asya gatyupapatteḥ || 7 ||
kāryaṃ—The relative (Brahman); bādariḥ—Bādari; asya—its; gati-upapatteḥ—on account of the possibility of being the goal.
7. The relative (Brahman) (is attained by the soul going by the path of the gods), (so says) Bādari, on account of the possibility of its being the goal (of a journey).
In the previous Sutra the way was discussed. Now from this Sutra onwards the discussion is about the goal reached.
The Chāṇḍogya text quoted in connection with the way, says, “Then a being who is not a man leads them to Brahman” (Chh. 5. 10. 1). The question is whether this Brahman is the Saguṇa Brahman or the Supreme Brahman.
Bādari says it is the Saguṇa Brahman, for such a journey is possible only with respect to the Saguṇa Brahman, which is finite and therefore occupies a particular place to which the souls may go. But it is not possible with respect to the Nirguna Brahman, which is all-pervading.
विशेषितत्वाच्च ॥ ८ ॥
viśeṣitatvācca || 8 ||
viśeṣitatvāt—On account of the qualification; ca—and.
8. And on account of the qualification (with respect to this Brahman in another text).
“And conducts them to the worlds of Brahman” (Brih. 6. 2. 15).
The plural number is not possible with respect to the Supreme Brahman, while it is possible in the case of the Saguṇa Brahman, which may abide in different conditions.
सामीप्यात् तु तद्व्यपदेशः ॥ ९ ॥
sāmīpyāt tu tadvyapadeśaḥ || 9 ||
sāmīpyāt—On account of the nearness; tu—but; tat-vyapadeśaḥ—(its) designation as that.
9. But on account of the nearness (of the Saguṇa Brahman to the Supreme Brahman, it is) designated as that (Supreme Brahman).
‘But’ sets aside any doubt that may arise on account of the word ‘Brahman’ being used for the Saguṇa Brahman in the Chāṇḍogya text.
This designation, the Sutra says, is because of the nearness of the Saguṇa Brahman to the Supreme Brahman.
कार्यात्यये तदध्यक्षेण सहातः परम्, अभिधानात् ॥ १० ॥
kāryātyaye tadadhyakṣeṇa sahātaḥ param, abhidhānāt || 10 ||
kārye-atyaye—On the dissolution of the Brahmaloka; tat-adhyakṣeṇa saha—along with the ruler of that world (i.e. Saguṇa Brahman); ataḥ param—higher than that (i.e. the Supreme Brahman); abhidhānāt—on account of the declaration of the Śruti.
10. On the dissolution of the Brahmaloka (the souls attain), along with the ruler of that world, what is higher than that (i.e. the Supreme Brahman), on account of the declaration of the Śruti.
If the souls going by the path of the gods reach the Saguṇa Brahman, then how can a statement like “They no more return to this world” (Brih. 6. 2. 15) be made with respect to them, as there can be no permanency anywhere apart from the Supreme Brahman?
This Sutra explains it saying that at the dissolution of the Brahmaloka the souls, which by that time have attained Knowledge, along with the Saguṇa Brahman attain what is higher than the Saguṇa Brahman, i.e. the Supreme Brahman.
So the Śruti texts declare.
स्मृतेश्च ॥ ११ ॥
smṛteśca || 11 ||
smṛteḥ—On account of the Smriti; ca—and.
11. And on account of the Smriti (texts supporting this view).
परं जैमिनिः, मुख्यत्वात् ॥ १२ ॥
paraṃ jaiminiḥ, mukhyatvāt || 12 ||
paraṃ—The Supreme (Brahman); jaiminiḥ—(so says) Jaimini; mukhyatvāt—on account of that being the primary meaning (of the word ‘Brahman’).
12. The Supreme (Brahman) (is attained by the souls going by the path of the gods), (so says) Jaimini, on account of that being the primary meaning (of the word ‘Brahman’).
Sutras 12-14 give a prima facie view of the matter.
Jaimini thinks that the word ‘Brahman’ in the Chāṇḍogya text refers to the Supreme Brahman, as that is the primary meaning of the word.
दर्शनाच्च ॥ १३ ॥
darśanācca || 13 ||
darśanāt—On account of the Śruti texts; ca—and.
13. And because the Śruti declares that.
“Going upwards by that he reaches immortality” (Chh. 8. 6. 6; Kath. 2. 6. 16).
This text says that the soul which passes out of the body by the nerve Sushumnā reaches immortality, and this can be attained only in the Supreme Brahman.
न च कार्ये प्रतिपत्त्यभिसंधिः ॥ १४ ॥
na ca kārye pratipattyabhisaṃdhiḥ || 14 ||
na—Not; ca—and; kārye—in the Saguṇa Brahman; pratipatti-abhisaṃdhiḥ—the desire to attain Brahman.
14. And the desire to attain Brahman (which an Upāsaka has at the time of death can) not (be with respect to) the Saguṇa Brahman.
“I come to the assembly-house of Prajāpati” (Chh. 8. 14. 1).
This desire to attain ‘the house’ cannot be with respect to the Saguṇa Brahman, but is appropriate only with respect to the Supreme Brahman. For the text quoted says earlier, “And that within which these (names and forms) are contained is Brahman,” where the Supreme Brahman is referred to.
Sutras 12-14 give the opponent’s view against what has been said in Sutras 7-11. The arguments of Sutras 12-14 are refuted thus:
The Brahman attained by those who go by the path of the gods cannot be the Supreme Brahman. They attain only the Saguṇa Brahman.
The Supreme Brahman is all-pervading, the Inner Self of all. Such a Brahman cannot be attained, for It is the Self of everyone. Journey or attainment is possible only where there is difference, where the attainer is different from the thing attained.
What is called realization of the Supreme Brahman is nothing but the removal of ignorance about It. In such a realization there is no going or attaining. When the ignorance is removed Brahman manifests Itself.
But the attainment of Brahman spoken of in the texts connected with the path of the gods is not merely the removal of ignorance but actual. Such an attainment is not possible with Respect to the Supreme Brahman.
Again the passage, “I enter the assembly-house of Prajāpati,” etc., can be separated from what precedes and be connected with the Saguṇa Brahman.
The fact that Chh. 8.14.1 says,
“I am the glory of the Brāhmaṇas, of the kings” cannot make it refer to the Nirguna Brahman, for the Saguṇa Brahman can also be said to be the Self of all, as we find in texts like, “He to whom all works, all desires belong” etc. (Chh. 3. 14. 2).
The reference to the journey to Brahman, which belongs to the sphere of relative knowledge, in a chapter which deals with Supreme Knowledge is only by way of glorification of the latter.
Therefore the view expressed in Sutras 7-11 by Bādari is the correct one.
Topic 6 - Only those who have worshipped the Saguṇa Brahman without a symbol attain Brahmaloka
अप्रतीकालम्बनान्नयतीति बादरायणः, उभयथाऽदोषात्, तत्क्रतुश्च ॥ १५ ॥
apratīkālambanānnayatīti bādarāyaṇaḥ, ubhayathā’doṣāt, tatkratuśca || 15 ||
apratīka-ālambanāt—Those who do not use a symbol (of Brahman) in their meditations; nayati—(the superhuman being) leads; iti bādarāyaṇaḥ—so says Bādarāyaṇa; ubhayathā— if this distinction is made; adoṣāt—there being no contradiction; tat-kratuḥ—as is the meditation on that (so does one become); ca—and.
15. Bādarāyaṇa says that (the superhuman being) leads (to Brahmaloka only) those who do not use a symbol (of Brahman) in their meditations, there being no contradiction if this distinction is made, and (it being construed by the principle) as is the meditation on that (so does one become).
The question is raised whether all worshippers of the Saguṇa Brahman go to Brahmaloka, being led by the superhuman being mentioned in Chh. 4.15.5.
The opponent holds that they do, according to 3.3.81 ante, where it is expressly stated that all, whatever be their Vidyā, go to Brahmaloka.
This Sutra says that only those worshippers of the Saguṇa Brahman who do not use any symbol of Brahman in their meditation go there.
This, however, does not contradict what is said in 3.3.81 if we understand that by ‘all’ are meant all those worshippers who do not take the help of any symbol.
Moreover, this view is justified by the Śruti and Smriti declarations which say, “In whatever form they meditate on Him, that they become.”
In the worship of the symbols the meditations are not fixed on Brahman, the symbols being the chief thing in them, and so the worshipper does not attain Brahmaloka.
But the case of one who worships the five fires is different, as there is a direct scriptural statement saying that he goes to Brahmaloka.
Where there is no such direct scriptural statement, we have to hold that only those whose object of meditation is Brahman, go to Brahmaloka, not others.
विशेषं च दर्शयति ॥ १६ ॥
viśeṣaṃ ca darśayati || 16 ||
viśeṣaṃ—Difference; ca—and; darśayati—the scripture declares.
16. And the scripture declares a difference (with respect to meditations on symbols).
“One who meditates upon name as Brahman becomes independent so far as name reaches” (Chh. 7. 1. 5);
“One who meditates upon speech as Brahman becomes independent so far as speech reaches” (Chh. 7. 2. 2).
In these texts the Śruti tells of different results according to the difference in the symbols.
This is possible because the meditations depend on symbols, while there could be no such difference in results if they depended on the one non-different Brahman.
Hence it is clear that those who use symbols for their meditations cannot go to Brahmaloka like those who meditate on the Saguṇa Brahman.