“Brahman is probably a hoax, Vedanta surely is” #2

purva mahasannidhanam and acharyal with fan standing smiling

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

These are quick notes for Brahma Sutra Bhaashya (authored by Sri Shankaracharya) classes that were taught by Swami Paramasukhananda, which I was a student of during 2011-2013. What I feel like recording I record. They are not a substitute for live classes, but done as my cogitation.

For other such short notes, check – https://vairaagya.wordpress.com/tag/brahmasutranotes/

  • Prasad.


The purvapakshin (personification of the opposition viewpoint) raises the objection

Purvapakshin: “Brahman is probably a hoax, however Vedanta surely is a hoax”

He explains the reason for this now.

Purvapakshin: “You say that Brahman means “Infinite”, “The Big”, “Without boundaries of any kind”, etc. Firstly no such object is known to exist through the pratyaksha (direct perception) and anumaana (logic applied on pratyaksha knowledge) pramaanas. Therefore I doubt if any such thing as Brahman even exists. 

Further, even if such a thing as Brahman does exist, your claim that Vedanta, in the form of shabda pramaana (verbal testimony, words as means of knowledge), can reveal such a Brahman, is wrong. 

Because anything in the world which can be the object of knowledge becomes “knowable” only because it satisfies one or more of the following properties – 

रूढिः (Roodhih : “Perceptibility”)  : The thing should be perceptible via the sense-organs or the mind by all. For instance, we can say there is something called “anger”, because everyone knows what it is clearly, it is directly experienced. Only if it is perceivable, then it becomes knowable. 

जातिः (Jaati : “Type or a species”) : Any object is of a certain type, and by identifying the type we know something about the object. For example, the bison (which is rare amidst society) is of the same type as a cow. By saying “A bison is like a cow”, we get some knowledge about the bison, which we might not have ever seen.   

गुणः  (Property): By telling the property of an object, one gets some knowledge about it. In fact, any knowledge about objects is about their properties only. For instance, “An apple is red in colour”, “An apple is somewhat round in shape”, so on. We get a mental image of the apple if we know what “red”, “round” etc mean. Thus properties help us to know about objects: 

कर्मा (action/function): By knowing what utility an object gives, it may be identified. For instance, any medical instrument, like “stethoscope” – is identified by its function – “viewing (scope) the chest (steth) ” 

संबन्धः (relationship): By knowing the relationship of the object with some other known thing, one gets to identify it or know something about it. For instance, “Whatever is lying on the table, please bring that”. The particular thing here is identified by giving the relationship of the thing with the table, an aadhaara-aadheya relationship. 

Any object in the world can be identified by these five characteristics, and at least one of them should be there for any object to be identified. 

But your Brahman, The Big, The Infinite, has none of this.

Brahman has no perceptability (rudhi)  : Because you say it is infinite, it cannot be perceived. Any object if perceived is necessarily different from the perceiver. So Brahman cannot be a perceived object. 

Brahman is not a member of any species (jaati): Brahman is infinite, it has no second entity apart from itself, that is your claim. Thus, it cannot be a member of any species as there is nothing apart from it. 

Brahman has no properties (gunas): Because of it being infinite, it cannot have properties also. It is nirguna, indeed according to your claim. Any specific property indicates difference from other things which have other properties. Being the only one and infinite, it has no properties at all. 

Brahman has no function/action (karma): For any action to be done by something, there has to be something else apart from it. For example, if you have to go somewhere, then there should be somewhere where you are and somewhere you are not, and want to go. But Brahman is infinite by your definition, it cannot be in one place and not in another. Thus it cannot have any place to go, and similarly it is not associated with any karma. 

Brahman has no relationship (sambandhah) with anything : Relationship can exist only with another entity. Since there are no other entities apart from Brahman (else Brahman becomes finite), thus it cannot have any relationship at all.

Because it has none of the above five characteristics that allow for knowing, your Veda pramaana also cannot reveal it. 

Therefore I say – “Whether Brahman exists or not, it cannot be known through Vedanta. Thus Vedanta is a hoax, and probably no such thing as Brahman also exists”. 

The Vedantin, the Siddhaantin (the person with the correct view), smiles at this and says –

Vedanta Siddhantin : “I agree that Brahman does not have any of these characteristics, indeed that is why Brahman is special. But it does exist. The proof is yourself. And it can be known through the Veda shabda, because there are other characteristics which are there for knowing something, and Brahman satisfies for them”. 

What he means by the words “The proof is yourself”, and what these special characteristics are, we will see in the next post.


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