Sage VedaVyasa, the author of Brahma Sutra
With Introduction, A substantive rendering of most
verses in simple, modern English; Copious notes
and gloss on difficult verses and words; Simpler
important verses are printed in highlighted-bold
for the first time readers; Quotations from the
Bhagavad-Gita and Upanishads; Chapter
Summary, Cross reference, References,
Om meditation technique, Appendixes.
Ramananda Prasad, Ph.D.
INTERNATIONAL GITA SOCIETY
© International Gita Society (IGS)
No permission is required for non-commercial use of materials
in this book, provided proper credit is given to IGS.
This deft rendering of the abbreviated Brahma Sutra with subsidiary supports makes an in-road and gives access to the magnificent conclusions left by the ancient sages of India. This book gives a summary view of the information which was divulged by those teachers. It is easy to read and understand and will encourage you to delve deeper into the subject matter that may or may not be necessary for most people. It’s an advanced scripture that may be read by students who have read Gita and/or the Upanishads first.
This book is meant for the first time readers who have studied Gita and have some familiarity with Vedic culture, religion and Sanskrit
words. Advanced study of the Brahma Sutra should be
pursued under guidance of a qualified spiritual master.
ISBN13: 978 151 940 0055
ISBN10: 151 940 0055
The Brahma Sutra, also known as Vedānta Sutra, is one of three most important texts in Vedānta along with the Principal Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. A thorough study of Vedānta requires a close examination of these three texts. These three texts are known in Sanskrit as the Prasthānatrayi, or the triple starting principles (canons) of spiritual tradition of India.
The Brahma Sutra, the Science of the Soul
Sutras are concise aphorisms. They give the essence of the arguments on a topic. Maximum of thought is compressed or condensed into these Sutras in as few words as possible. It is easy to remember them. Great intellectual people only, with realization, can compose Sutras. They are clues or aids to memory. They cannot be understood without a lucid commentary. The commentary also is in need of further elaborate explanation and discussion.
Sutras are a compilation of short concise statements. Each sutra is any short rule, like a theorem distilled into few words or syllables, around which "teachings of ritual, philosophy, grammar or any field of knowledge" can be woven. The definition of sutra is that it be brief, but not ambiguous; it must be clear. Not only does it have to be brief and clear, a Sutra must be also meaningful. In practice, however, the desire for brevity was carried out to such extremes that most part of Sutra literature is now unintelligible, and this is particularly so with respect to the Brahma Sutra.
The Upanishads do not contain any ready-made consistent system of thought. At first sight they seem to be full of contradictions. Hence arose the necessity of systematizing the thoughts of the Upanishads. Teacher Bādrāyana (VedaVyasa) tried to systematize the philosophy of the Upanishads that is presented in this publication “Brahma Sutra for the Beginners” in an abbreviated form. The brevity of the sutras leaves much more to be supplied by the commentators. Thus the same sutra is capable of being interpreted differently and even conveying quite the opposite meaning.
The Brahma Sutra is a Sanskrit text, composed by sage VedaVyasa. It attempts to systematize and summarize the philosophical and spiritual ideas in the Principal Upanishads and the Gita.
It is also known as the Vedānta Sutra deriving this name from Vedānta which literally means the "final aim of the Vedas. The Brahma Sutras consist of 555 aphorisms or sutras, in four chapters, with each chapter divided into four sections. Each section is further subdivided into several subsections.
The First chapter is regarded in Vedānta tradition as Samanvaya (Harmony), because it distills, synchronizes and brings into a harmonious whole the seemingly diverse and some- times conflicting passages in various Shruti texts. Shruti means "that which is heard" and refers to the body of most authoritative, ancient religious texts comprising the central canon of Hinduism. It includes the four Vedas including its four types of embedded texts—the Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas and the early Upanishads.
Smritis (such as Māhābhārata, Gita, Rāmāyanas, Purānas, Yoga sutras, Sāmkhya etc.) are considered to be human thoughts in response to the Shrutis. Traditionally, all Smritis are regarded to ultimately be rooted in or inspired by Shrutis. Both Shrutis and Smritis represent categories of texts that are used to encapsulate Hindu Philosophy. Shrutis have been considered solely of divine origin; in some way or the other the work of the Deity.
Second chapter (Avirodha: consistence): It discusses and refutes all possible objections to Vedānta philosophy about the nature of the Supreme Being, and states that the central themes of Vedānta are consistent across the various other Vedic texts.
Third chapter (Sādhanā: the means to spiritual Knowledge): Describes the process by which ultimate emancipation can be achieved. The topics discussed are diverse. Fourth chapter (Phala: the fruit): Discusses the need and benefits of Self-knowledge: The state that is achieved in final emancipation even before death.
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CHAPTER 1. RESOLUTION OF DIFFERENCES
THROUGH PROPER INTERPRETATION
The first chapter is regarded in Vedānta tradition as Samanvaya (Harmony), because it distills, synchronizes and brings into a harmonious whole the seemingly diverse and conflicting passages in various Upanishads.
1.1.1 Om! Now we start the study of Brahman.
1.1.2 Brahman is that from which the origin, survival, destruction etc. of this animate and inanimate world proceeds.
1.1.3 Brahman is the source of all scriptures, because It’s omniscient.
1.1.4 Brahman is both the instrumental and the material cause of creation, because it pervades all.
1.1.5 Brahman is not fully expressible by words.
1.1.6 Brahman or Ātmā—not prakriti—is the cause of the creation, because in the beginning was the Brahman only. (Sāmkhya doctrine considers Prakriti or Pradhāna as the cause of the creation)
1.1.7 Vedic scriptures states that one who is devoted to Brahman—not prakriti—attains liberation. Therefore, prakriti cannot be the cause of the world.
1.1.8 Brahman is not to be given up according to the scriptures. Thus the word Ātman in the scriptures refers to Brahman only and not to prakriti.
1.1.9 Scriptures talk about merging—and also emerging—of prakriti into Paramātman during dissolution, therefore, prakriti cannot be the cause of creation.
1.1.10 All Vedic scriptures expound and establish sentient Brahman—not the insentient prakriti—as the primary cause of creation. In fact, creation is caused by a combination of both Purusha (Spirit or consciousness) and Prakriti aspects of Brahman.
NOTE: In Vedānta, Purusha is consciousness, the undifferentiated Absolute, the Source of all. Prakriti is the primal material energy of Purusha out of which all matter is composed. The Supreme Spirit is the efficient cause of creation of the universe. The material Nature (Prakriti) and Spirit (Purusha) are not two independent identities but the two aspects of the Supreme Spirit. Purusha and Prakriti are one. The Supreme Spirit, Spirit (Purusha), and material Nature are the same, yet different as the sun and its light and heat are the same as well as different.
1.1.11 Brahman is called the “cause of all causes” in Vedic scriptures. Thus Brahman (or ParaBrahman Paramātmā)—and not prakriti—is the cause of creation.
1.1.12 All beings are born from and merge in Ānanda. The word Ānanda is also used for Brahman—and not for prakriti—in the Upanishads (TaU 3.6).
1.1.13 The word ‘Ānandamaya’—used for Brahman—denotes full of or pervaded by Brahman. Any other meaning—other than full of is not in common use in the Vedic scriptures.
1.1.14 Ānandamaya is that Brahman only. The suffix ‘maya’ implies storehouse. Brahman has been mentioned as the cause of creation of this world (or Jagat, cosmos) and the storehouse of bliss. Brahman gives Bliss to its Knower, because it’s the storehouse of Bliss.
1.1.15 The word ‘Ānandamaya’ in all Vedic mantras means Brahman only.
1.1.16 Jivātman being a reflection of Brahman has limited power and knowledge. It cannot be ‘Ānandamaya’ or Brahman that has limitless power and knowledge.
1.1.17 Thus, there is both qualitative and quantitative difference between Jivātmā and Paramātmā. Both are identical but not equal.
1.1.18 Only sentient Brahman can have the desire (to create as mentioned in TaU 2.6). Insentient prakriti cannot have any desire. Thus the word ‘Ānandamaya’ or the creator may not refer to insentient prakriti.
1.1.19 Jivātmā is different from Brahman due to ego, desire and attachment. After getting rid of these three, jivātmā merges into Brahman (Also see BG 18.66) (without losing its identity!). Thus we can see the (apparent) difference between the jiva and Brahman.
1.1.20 He who is in the hearts of all Devas and other beings must be Brahman only and not any insentient identity.
1.1.21 Only Brahman dwells inside individual beings, including the sun, moon and the cosmos. Thus Brahman—not prakriti—is the inner controller God.
1.1.22 The word ‘Ākāsha’ which is said to be the origin of the other four basic elements (air, fire, water and earth) also refers to Brahman (in ChU 1.9.1).
1.1.23 Prāna also is that Brahman only, because it is born of Brahman. (See PrU 3.03)
1.1.24 Light is also Brahman, because Brahman is called ‘the Light of all lights’.
1.1.25 Gāyatri mantra is also Brahman as mentioned in BG 10.35.
1.1.26 All these things are but expansions of one of His four Pādas (or divisions), called Vigraha. The other three divisions (Sat, Chit and Ānanda) remain unmanifest. Thus all the manifest world is expansion of Brahman only.
1.1.27 There may be difficulty in accepting Gāyatri as Brahman. Lord Krishna has clarified this by stating: I am Gāyatri among the meters.
1.1.28 Prāna is the power of Brahman that controls the world.
1.1.29 Indra calls himself as prāna, because Indra is also a part of the power of Brahman.
1.1.30 Similarly, Vāmadeva and other Self-realized saints called themselves as Brahman. Because one who knows Brahman becomes Brahman according to scriptures.
1.1.31 There is no three different entity (jiva, prāna and Brahman). Jiva and prāna are part and parcel of Brahman. They depend on Brahman only. There is only One God that becomes many!
1.2.01 In all the Upanishads, only the well-known Brahman is taught.
1.2.02 Because unique qualities described in scriptures are only found in Brahman.
1.2.03 Those qualities of all-pervasiveness are not found in the embodied individual soul.
1.2.04 Brahman is the object of worship by the jivātman, and jivātman is the subject or the worshiper. Therefore, the individual soul is not the all-pervasive Brahman, but Brahman pervades all.
1.2.05 Also Brahman and jiva are two different words for two different entities.
1.2.06 Bhagavad Gita also mentions in verses 8.05 and12.08 that jiva is the worshiper and Brahman is the object of worship.
1.2.07 Brahman can be present in the tiny cavity of the hearts of all beings as well as He is infinite. (BG 13.15)
Brahman is not the enjoyer
1.2.08 There may be a doubt that sentient Brahman abiding in the body of all beings may also experience the pleasure and pain along with the jiva. This is clarified in the Upanishadic verses. Brahman does not enjoy the fruits of action, He just looks on without eating the fruit of karma (MuU 3.1.1).
1.2.09 Brahman devours all—movable and immovable—during death and dissolution (KaU 1.2.25).
1.2.10 This also follows from the topic under discussion that Brahman alone can be the eater or devourer of all.
1.2.11 Two who have entered into the cavity of the heart are the individual Self (jiva) and the Supreme Self (Shiva or Ishvara).
1.2.12 Both have different names and qualities. Therefore it is also appropriate to consider them as jivātmā and Paramātmā.
1.2.13 Person that stays and powers the eye and the Sun is Brahman.
1.2.14 Omnipresent Brahman is also present in certain special places and symbols such as deities.
1.2.15 Brahman is also described in the scriptures as the one possessed of bliss.
1.2.16 Those who know Brahman as described in the Upanishads and those who know the person staying in the eyes attain the highest goal. This also proves that the person in the eye is Brahman.
1.2.17 The Person in the eye (or any part of the body) can be none other than Brahman, because the qualities of the person in the eye described in the texts are not found in any other being or divine beings.
1.2.18 Brahman is also described as all-knowing, indwelling and controlling spirit in the deities and all others in the texts.
1.2.19 Qualities described above are not found in prakriti. These qualities are only found in Brahman.
1.2.20 Scriptures do not consider Jivātman as all-knowing and controller. Brahman, dwelling inside jiva, controls jiva. Thus jiva is not controller, but controlled by Brahman.
1.2.21-22 Qualities of invisibility, all-knowingness etc. are found in Brahman and not in prakriti or jiva. Therefore, jiva and/or prakriti cannot be the cause of all causes (or Brahman).
1.2.23 Bhagavad Gita and Upanishads describe Purusha or Brahman as the source of all forms. Such cosmic form can belong to Brahman only and not to prakriti or jiva.
1.2.24-25 In the Upanishad, the word Vaishvānara is primarily used for the Self and not only for the digestive fire. The Gita says that Brahman has become digestive fire in the body of all beings.
1.2.26 Description of Vaishvānara in ChU 5.18.2 is similar to that of Brahman, therfore Vaishvānara connotes Brahman.
1.2.27 For the reasons given above, Vaishvānara is neither the presiding deity of fire nor the elemental fire, but Brahman.
1.2.28 According to Jaimini, there is no contradiction even in the ordinary meaning of Vaishvānara as fire. Because, fire also has its origin in Brahman!
1.2.29 Brahman manifests Itself in the form of fire and other elements. Thus extended meaning of the word originally denoting Brahman is acceptable.
1.2.30 According to Vyasa, Brahman may be meditated upon in the form of fire.
1.2.31 According to Jaimini, worshippers of Brahman as fire reaches Brahman, because one who meditates on a thing becomes that thing.
1.2.32 Scriptures tell us that the all-pervading Brahman is in the Fire. Brahman is the source of all, therefore Vaishvānara (fire) must be the Supreme Self.
1.3.1 Brahman, the Supreme Self, is called the repository or the container of heaven, earth etc. in the scriptures.
1.3.2 That repository is the goal to be attained by the liberated Jivātman.
1.3.3-4 Ādi prakriti (or Jivātmā) is not mentioned as the repository of the cosmos in the Vedic scriptures.
1.3.5 Jiva or the individual soul is instructed in the texts to know the Supreme Soul. This also shows that jiva cannot be the repository to hold all.
1.3.6 The Upanishads talk about the abode of heaven etc., is Brahman only, and not Pradhāna (also known as prakriti or Ādi prakriti) or the individual soul (jiva).
1.3.7 The example of two birds given in the Upanishads also illustrates the (apparent) difference between the two aspects of Brahman. Jiva aspect is dependent on Brahman and hence jiva cannot contain the cosmos.
1.3.8 Brahman is the source of prāna also (PrU 3.03) and prāna is considered above jiva because it supports jiva. Thus Brahman is the source and support of all, including jiva, prakriti and prāna.
1.3.9 The characteristics of Brahman such as omnipresence etc. described in the texts do not apply to anything other than Brahman.
1.3.10 The word Akshara mentioned in the texts refers to Brahman only because it is said to be the support of everything up to and including the space or sky. Akshara also means everlasting, and that is Brahman only.
1.3.11 Support to everything is also said to be through the supreme command of this Akshara Brahma in the text.
1.3.12 same as 1.3.9
1.3.13 Brahman alone—and none other—is said to be the object of realization or Knowledge.
BrahmaLoka is within our heart
1.3.14 What dwells in the small cavity (Dahar) in the heart of a being is also Brahman. Because Brahman is called smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest in the texts.
1.3.15 It is mentioned that creatures (jiva) go every night to BrahmaLoka, the abode of Brahman, during deep sleep and this Loka is not far away somewhere in the outer space, but right in the small cavity of the causal heart.
The words ‘Loka’, ‘ParamDhāma’ etc. may not refer to a physical place somewhere in the outer space, but a psychological or transcendental state of existence that is very different from our normal state of existence and is inexplicable! It has to be experienced.
1.3.16 What dwells in the small space of the heart is none other than Brahman on account of distinctive attributes, powers and glory found only in Brahman as described in the Vedic texts.
1.3.17 Word Ākāsha (or space/Dahar) has been also used in ChU 1.9.1 for Brahman. It says that “all these beings originate from Ākāsha” in this order: from Ākāsha came air, then fire, water and the earth.
1.3.18 What dwells in the small cavity of the heart cannot be Jivātman, because jiva does not have those distinctive attributes of being free from sin, immortal etc.
1.3.19 Liberated souls may have the freedom of movement of Brahman in its own original bodiless form, but an ordinary embodied soul cannot have Brahman-like attributes.
1.3.20 Reference to “this Ātman” in the texts speaks about Supreme Being or Paramātmā only, and not about individual soul or Jivātman.
1.3.21 Like the space, Brahman can also dwell in a tiny and limited micro-space in the cavity of the heart. Also see verse 1.2.7.
1.3.22 Brahman and jiva always live together, therefore, it is also proper to call Brahman as small.
1.3.23 Brahman is called “smaller than the smallest” in the Upanishad and in the Bhagavad Gita (see BG 8.09)
1.3.24 The person of the size of a thumb residing in the heart, as mentioned in the Upanishad, can be the Supreme Being alone (and not the individual soul), because He has been described as the ruler of the past, present and the future (KaU 2.1.12).
1.3.25 Infinite Brahman is said to be of the size of a thumb with reference to the space available in the human heart only. Because scriptures are meant for human beings.
NOTE: Sutras 26 to 38 discuss who are qualified to study the Vedas. These controversial issues are skipped over, as the subject matter in these Sutras is not very helpful for the beginners to understand Brahman.
1.3.39 Prāna is Brahman because of the mention of prāna supporting life by its vibrational energy.
1.3.40 Light energy comes from Brahman and therefore light is Brahman. Brahman is called “the light of all lights” in the texts.
1.3.41 The word Ākāsha is also used for Brahman. Ākāsha is something different from name and form (or sky). It’s Brahman, the origin and sustenance of name and form. Also see 1.3.17.
1.3.42 Ākāsha may also refer to the individual soul in released state or in deep sleep when it is fully embraced by the Self.
1.3.43 Brahman is said to be the ruler of all, lord of all and the controller of all in the texts.
1.4.1 The term Avyakta in scriptures does not mean prakriti. It just means ‘unmanifest’ or indescribable Supreme Being, Brahman.
1.4.2 The causal body is also meant by Avyakta. This unmanifest causal body manifests as physical body. The physical
body has been compared to a
1.4.3 The Vedas consider prakriti as a part of the maya-power of Brahman, and not an independent cause of the creation. Prakriti is dependent on Brahman.
NOTE: If we take the alternate meaning of ‘Pradhāna’ as ‘the Chief’ or the Supreme Being and not prakriti, then the major differences between the Veda and Sāmkhya doctrines disappear!!
1.4.4 Sāmkhya doctrine considers Pradhāna the object of knowledge. Thus, Pradhāna does not seem to be different from Brahman.
1.4.5 The Vedas do not consider prakriti as the object of knowledge. Thus, Pradhāna and Brahman both seem to refer to the Source, the creator of all.
NOTE: Lord Buddha may have meant indescribable Akshara Brahma by his silence. This may have been later misunderstood by his disciples as Shunya, void, and even a Godless creation!! Thus, both words Shunya and Ākāsha mean Brahman.
1.4.6 There is no mention of Pradhāna in the Upanishads. Nachiketā wanted to know only three things: fire sacrifice, individual soul and the Supreme soul from Yama.
1.4.7 Paramātmā alone is meant by ‘Param Mahat’ in scriptures, because it means biggest or the greatest of all.
1.4.8 Words such as Chamas, Ajā, Mahat etc. have been used to mean different things at different places in the Upanishads.
1.4.9 The word Jyoti or light is also used for Brahman.
1.4.10 The word Ajā stands for Brahman as well as prakriti, because both do not take birth. It also means a goat. (Thus words are used to mean different things).
1.4.11 The word Madhu and jyoti are used for Brahman as well as honey and light also.
1.4.12 That in which five sets of five are established, that alone is regarded as Brahman.
NOTE: The five sets of five are: Five prānas, five gross elements, five organs of perception, five organs of action, and five senses. This five sets of five is not the same as mentioned in Sāmkhya’s 24 or 25 divisions of prakriti.
1.4.13 Some substitute ‘light’ for prāna or Annam.
1.4.14 Brahman is spoken of as the cause of all causes in all the Upanishads.
1.4.15 The visible world did not come from void or nothing, it came from Brahman, the Cosmic Energy Field that is invisible to human eyes.
1.4.16 Insentient prakriti cannot produce sentient beings, therefore, sentient Brahman is the cause of both sentient and insentient world.
1.4.17 see 1.1.31
1.4.18-20 Jaimini also agrees that Brahman is the cause of all, including prāna and jiva.
1.4.21-22 Teachers such as Audolomi and other sages say that the identity of jiva and Brahman comes to a realized soul before it departs from the body. Thus Brahman is the source of creation and dissolution.
1.4.23 Vedic scriptures such as Upanishad and the Gita also consider ParaBrahman as both the material and instrumental cause of creation, and not Pradhāna (translated as prakriti by Vedāntins) as proposed by Sāmkhya doctrine.
1.4.24-25 This is also understood from the teachings about the Will to create: “Let Me be many”. (TaU 2.6 and ChU 6.2.3) and the ruler of all (ShU 6.12)
1.4.26 Brahman is called ‘self-made’ (Svayambhu in TaU 2.7.1). This also indicates that Brahman is both the material and instrumental cause of creation.
1.4.27 One entity (called Brahman)—that transformed Itself into all created beings (BG 7.07, 7.19)—is also agreed upon by modern scientist as well as the Upanishads.
1.4.28-29 Because Brahman is defined in the Vedas as the source (yoni) of all that exists. Thus, Brahman is the material cause of all, including the prakriti. Hereby all other theories of the cause of the universe are explained.
OM TAT SAT