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/
The Siddhaantin’s claim is that Vedantic words can reveal Brahman, and he is elaborating on this. Inspite of Brahman being unlike any other object in the universe which possess the five characteristics (direct perception, species, properties, function, relationship), Vedanta shabda (the words of Vedanta) still functions as a valid means of knowing Brahman because it employs certain other methodology to reveal it.
The first two methodologies were
- Using Mithya guna adhyaropa : By superimposing non-existent qualitiesLlike Sakshitvam (the property of being a Witness-Consciousness), Brahman is revealed to be nothing apart from the saadhaka’s own self.
- Using Tatastha lakshana : By pointing out some incidental qualities:like being the manifestor of the Universe, the intelligent and the material cause for Srishti, Srishti Kaaranam, Vedanta makes the saadhaka understand Brahman is not a created entity or any perceivable entity, which means it has the identity with the perceiver, the subject himself, while at the same time being the only existence causing the appearance of all objects.
There are further two methodologies which are used.
3. Using Lakshana abhaava (लक्षण-अभावः) : By attributing the absence of any property.
Properties are associated with all the objects in the world. However, on some occasions, we may wish to point out an object by indicating that that object has the absence of some property. It is not a ‘positive’ definition, but rather a ‘negative’ one.
For instance, to point out a person in a crowd, we may say – “Look at that bald headed person”. Now, baldness is only absence of hair. By saying this, we have diverted the attention away from those who have hair on their heads, and this enables one to understand which person is being talked about.
In the same way, Vedantic words point out Brahman as that object which does not have any property whatsoever, thus indicating that it must not be any of the objects that are perceivable but rather the perceiver’s true identity.
For instance, it is noted that all the things in the perceivable universe of things and thoughts have some limitation, i.e., some particular form or aakaara (आकार). But Vedanta points out Brahman as “niraakaaram brahma” , i.e., “Brahman is that which is formless“. By this technique, the Vedantic words make the saadhaka understand that Brahman is not any object in the perceivable universe.
4. Lakshanaavrittih (लक्षणावृत्तिः) : By indirect implication
A witness to a crime is asked to spot the criminal in a line-up of suspects. She knows who the criminal is, however instead of pointing him out directly, she manages to point out who are there in the line-up who are not responsible for the crime.
This is an example of indirect implication. By pointing all those that a thing is not, the knowledge about that thing is communicated. Vedanta employs a similar method for Brahman also.
By pointing out that Brahman is neither knowable nor something that is known nor something that is unknown, Vedanta rejects any object in the shristi to be equated to Brahman. What is left? It must be only the knower, the saadhaka’s own self.
अन्यदेव तद्विदितादथो अविदितादधि ।
इति शुश्रुम पूर्वेषां ये नस्तद्व्याचचक्षिरे ॥ ४ ॥
(‘We have heard from our great ancestor Acharyas that Brahman is that which is different from that which is knowable, known and unknown”) – Kenopanishad 1.3
Thus, by using all the above techniques, Vedanta reveals Brahman. With this the Purvapakshin who said that ‘Vedanta cannot reveal Brahman (perhaps Brahman does not even exist)’ is made to put his objections to rest.