“Brahman is probably a hoax, Vedanta surely is” – Not at all, Narayana ! #3



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 (opposition person) had raised an important doubt regarding Brahman and Vedanta claiming to be the source of knowledge about Brahman. He said

“You (Vedantins) say that Brahman is The Infinite, not limited by space, time or causation, or by anything else. Being infinite it cannot be perceived (for then subject-object should indicate finiteness, it has no rudhi). Further, being infinite, there is no other Brahman like it (no jaati) which we can compare with, nor it has any properties as it cannot be limited by them (no guna), nor it can do any action (no kriya or karma) as it is present everywhere, nor it has relationship for it is everything (no sambandha). 

I doubt if such a thing is even there. Further even if it is, Vedantic words cannot reveal them because to reveal anything, the thing has to have at least one of the five – rudhi, jaati, guna, karma, sambandha)”

In response to this, the Siddhaantin (Vedantin) says

Vedantin: “I agree with you that Brahman does not have any of these five characteristics. Indeed the words of Vedanta also do not reveal Brahman directly, as though revealing an object of perception. However such a Brahman does exist, as you exist, and Vedanta does reveal it, in an indirect fashion, by pointing it out via four special methods (which also serve to know other objects)”.

We now unpack this slowly.

“Brahman does exist : “

Vedanta says “The Atman, which is known to everyone as existing, in the form of “I”, is itself Brahman”. No one can meaningfully say “I don’t exist” (the very fact of saying it confirms the existence of the Atman). It is this very same “I” that is conveyed to be the infinite. There is no such thing as Brahman separate from the Atman. What the Vedanta calls Brahman is nothing but the Atman without all the wrong superimpositions placed on it by our minds.

Thus Brahman does exist. It is the self of the sadhaka, in this case the reader.

Why Vedanta can reveal it : 

Apart from the five characteristics that the Purvapakshin has mentioned, there are four other characteristics which can be used to reveal an object of knowledge. These are used by Vedanta to reveal Brahman. We see what they are –

  1. Mithya-guna Adhyaropa (By superimposition of unreal qualities) : Inspite of something having no gunas (properties) that one can point out, still one can superimpose them on to the object which one wants to understand.

    For instance, a child asks, “What do you mean by the word ‘space’ ?”, to which the parent says “All around you, there is space”. Still the child does not understand. Then the parent says , “Do you see that blue dome over us, that is what it is”.

    In this dialogue, the child understands (to some extent) that space is that which surrounds the earth. This is not accurate , but it is still some partial knowledge the child has gained. How did the child gain this? By the word “blue”, which is not really associated with space, however it is available for the child’s perception. However due to some apparent relationship between “blueness” (which is a result of the refraction of light through the atmosphere) and the “space”, the meaning of “space” is understand (at least partially).

    Another example is that of the “rising sun”. The sun does not really rise or set, but it is available for our perception, so by the word “rising”, we understand what the sun is. That luminous object in the sky.

    In the same way, Brahman  is also indicated by Vedanta by words such as “Brahman is that which is the Sakshi, the Witness Consciousness”. This property of being the Witness Consciousness is not really attributable to Brahman, since Brahman is not finite (however the Witness is the divided from that which is witnessed). However, by the word “Sakshi/Witness”, one understands, “It is indeed “I” myself, as I know myself to be the Witness of everything”.

The other three we see in the next post.





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