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/
In answering the Purvapakshin’s objection, the Siddhaantin has pointed out that Brahman is nothing but the Atman, the self of the student itself. Further Vedanta is capable of revealing it, inspite of the lack of the properties such as rudhi, jaati, guna, karma and sambandha, using indirect techniques.
Vedanta can reveal Brahman:
The first technique was mentioned in the previous post , that Vedanta reveals Brahman using Mithya-guna-adhyaaropa , by superimposing non-existent properties on Brahman. For instance, Brahman is said to be the Sakshi, the Witness-consciousness, to differentiate it from the Witnessed world (including body-mind). However since Brahman is infinite, this Witness-Consciousness which stands apart (and thus becoming finite) from the witnessed-world, cannot be Brahman. Thus the property of being a “Witness” is an imaginary property, which is used to point out Brahman to the sadhaka.
Now we come to the next technique.
By attributing “Tatastha Lakshanaas” (तटस्थ लक्षणम्) or Incidental Attributes:
A row of same-looking houses appears on the street, in which one of them is the actual one that a person is looking for. He asks another passerby for the house, but since the houses are all looking the same it is hard for the passerby to point it out.
Incidentally a bird comes and sits on the gate of the house. Using this opportunity, the passerby points out – “You see that gate on which that bird is sitting, that is the house you are looking for”.
Soon the bird flies away from the gate. Still the person has now identified the house and reaches his destination. The bird has nothing to do really with the house. It was a temporal connection which helped the person identify with it.
The bird sitting upon the gate was the incidental cause, the tatastha lakshana, for identifying the house.
In the same way, with respect to Brahman, the Upanishads use the tatastha lakshana of Brahman being a “srishti kaaranam”, the cause for all the variegated physical and mental universe, to reveal Brahman.
How does the definition of Brahman as “Srishti Kaaranam” reveal Brahman?
Firstly the world is perceptible obviously to the saadhaka. Even without an inkling about Brahman, all individuals, irrespective of whether they are spiritual sadhakas or not, know that there is something called the world, because this is what the pratyaksha pramaanas, the sense-organs and the mind, reveal.
So once the word “Srishti” is used, the sadhaka understands it. Then the logic applies – anything in the world has a material cause (the upaadaana kaaranam, using which the thing is made), and/or an intelligent cause (the nimitta-kaaranam, conscious entity responsible for making it). This is also known obviously to the saadhaka because of various experiences.
Now the question is automatically inspired by Vedanta in the saadhaka’s mind – “Who is material and intelligent cause of Srishti?” . Vedanta says – “This is indeed Brahman, the thing which I am talking about. Just like all objects have a material or intelligent cause or both, similarly the entire creation has a material and intelligent cause, which we call Brahman”.
Using this idea, the saadhaka can latch on to Brahman as the primordial cause for all objects seen. This helps him understand that Brahman is not a finite object, because all finite objects necessarily come under creation and is not the cause for it. Similarly it also helps her understand that Brahman cannot be a witnessed object by anyone, because anything that is witnessed must be created. In this way one understands that Brahman is the Infinite and it is also must be of the nature of the Self, the witness itself.
Why is this an incidental characteristic?
Because though the world is appearing as a gigantic experience in front of the saadhaka, actually it has no relationship with Brahman at all. In a movie, inspite of the dance of the lights on the screen which supports the light to ‘create’ various images that appears as the movie, the screen is actually untouched by them. A fire in the movie does not burn the screen, nor does a flood wet the screen.
In the same way Brahman supports the entire creation, as though it were a play only . Shankaracharya says in the commentary to Brahma Sutra Bhaashya –
यद्यप्यस्माकमियं जगद्बिम्बविरचना गुरुतरसंरम्भेवाभाति, तथापि परमेश्वरस्य लीलैव केवलेयम्
(Though the Universe appears to us as a grand and magnificent expanse, but for Ishwara it is a mere play)
In the same paragraph, he says
न चेयं परमार्थविषया सृष्टिश्रुतिः ; अविद्याकल्पितनामरूपव्यवहारगोचरत्वात् , ब्रह्मात्मभावप्रतिपादनपरत्वाच्च
The description of creation within the Shruti is not absolutely true, since the creation is merely a superimposition of name-form on the unchanging Brahman, and due to the fact that goal of Vedanta is really to deliver the saadhaka to his real nature, which is infinite.
Therefore, once the saadhaka latches on to the understanding that the Atman, which is not witnessed, which is not created, using the incidental property that “Brahman is Srishti kartaa”, the purpose of the incidental property is finished. The bird can be left go off once the house is identified.
Two more methods are used by Vedanta to reveal Brahman, which we shall in a later post.