Author Topic: Sutra 1 - The Inquiry into Brahman  (Read 525 times)


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Sutra 1 - The Inquiry into Brahman
« on: April 11, 2019, 06:54:49 PM »
1. Then therefore the enquiry into Brahman

The word 'then' is here to be taken as denoting immediate consecution; not as indicating the introduction of a new subject to be entered upon; for the enquiry into Brahman (more literally, the desire of knowing Brahman) is not of that nature. Nor has the word 'then' the sense of auspiciousness (or blessing); for a word of that meaning could not be properly construed as a part of the sentence. The word 'then' rather acts as an auspicious term by being pronounced and heard merely, while it denotes at the same time something else, viz. immediate consecution as said above. That the latter is its meaning follows moreover from the circumstance that the relation in which the result stands to the previous topic (viewed as the cause of the result) is non-separate from the relation of immediate consecution.

If, then, the word 'then' intimates immediate consecution it must be explained on what antecedent the enquiry into Brahman specially depends; just as the enquiry into active religious duty (which forms the subject of the Pūrvā Mīmāṃsā) specially depends on the antecedent reading of the Veda. The reading of the Veda indeed is the common antecedent (for those who wish to enter on an enquiry into religious duty as well as for those desirous of knowing Brahman). The special question with regard to the enquiry into Brahman is whether it presupposes as its antecedent the understanding of the acts of religious duty (which is acquired by means of the Pūrvā Mīmāṃsā). To this question we reply in the negative, because for a man who has read the Vedānta-parts of the Veda it is possible to enter on the enquiry into Brahman even before engaging in the enquiry into religious duty. Nor is it the purport of the word 'then' to indicate order of succession; a purport which it serves in other passages, as, for instance, in the one enjoining the cutting off of pieces from the heart and other parts of the sacrificial animal. (For the intimation of order of succession could be intended only if the agent in both cases were the same; but this is not the case), because there is no proof for assuming the enquiry into religious duty and the enquiry into Brahman to stand in the relation of principal and subordinate matter or the relation of qualification (for a certain act) on the part of the person qualified; and because the result as well as the object of the enquiry differs in the two cases. The knowledge of active religious duty has for its fruit transitory felicity, and that again depends on the performance of religious acts. The enquiry into Brahman, on the other hand, has for its fruit eternal bliss, and does not depend on the performance of any acts. Acts of religious duty do not yet exist at the time when they are enquired into, but are something to be accomplished (in the future); for they depend on the activity of man. In the Brahma-mīmāṃsā, on the other hand, the object of enquiry, i.e. Brahman, is something already accomplished (existent),--for it is eternal,--and does not depend on human energy. The two enquiries differ moreover in so far as the operation of their respective fundamental texts is concerned. For the fundamental texts on which active religious duty depends convey information to man in so far only as they enjoin on him their own particular subjects (sacrifices, &c.); while the fundamental texts about Brahman merely instruct man, without laying on him the injunction of being instructed, instruction being their immediate result. The case is analogous to that of the information regarding objects of sense which ensues as soon as the objects are approximated to the senses. It therefore is requisite that something should be stated subsequent to which the enquiry into Brahman is proposed.--Well, then, we maintain that the antecedent conditions are the discrimination of what is eternal and what is non-eternal; the renunciation of all desire to enjoy the fruit (of one's actions) both here and hereafter; the acquirement of tranquillity, self-restraint, and the other means, and the desire of final release. If these conditions exist, a man may, either before entering on an enquiry into active religious duty or after that, engage in the enquiry into Brahman and come to know it; but not otherwise. The word 'then' therefore intimates that the enquiry into Brahman is subsequent to the acquisition of the above-mentioned (spiritual) means.

The word 'therefore' intimates a reason. Because the Veda, while declaring that the fruit of the agnihotra and similar performances which are means of happiness is non-eternal (as, for instance. Ch. Up. VIII, 1, 6, 'As here on earth whatever has been acquired by action perishes so perishes in the next world whatever is acquired by acts of religious duty'), teaches at the same time that the highest aim of man is realised by the knowledge of Brahman (as, for instance, Taitt. Up. II, I, 'He who knows Brahman attains the highest'); therefore the enquiry into Brahman is to be undertaken subsequently to the acquirement of the mentioned means.

By Brahman is to be understood that the definition of which will be given in the next Sūtra (I, 1, 2); it is therefore not to be supposed that the word Brahman may here denote something else, as, for instance, the brahminical caste. In the Sūtra the genitive case ('of Brahman;' the literal translation of the Sūtra being 'then therefore the desire of knowledge of Brahman') denotes the object, not something generally supplementary (śeṣa); for the desire of knowledge demands an object of desire and no other such object is stated.--But why should not the genitive case be taken as expressing the general complementary relation (to express which is its proper office)? Even in that case it might constitute the object of the desire of knowledge, since the general relation may base itself on the more particular one.--This assumption, we reply, would mean that we refuse to take Brahman as the direct object, and then again indirectly introduce it as the object; an altogether needless procedure.--Not needless; for if we explain the words of the Sūtra to mean 'the desire of knowledge connected with Brahman' we thereby virtually promise that also all the heads of discussion which bear on Brahman will be treated.--This reason also, we reply, is not strong enough to uphold your interpretation. For the statement of some principal matter already implies all the secondary matters connected therewith. Hence if Brahman, the most eminent of all objects of knowledge, is mentioned, this implies already all those objects of enquiry which the enquiry into Brahman presupposes, and those objects need therefore not be mentioned, especially in the Sūtra. Analogously the sentence 'there the king is going' implicitly means that the king together with his retinue is going there. Our interpretation (according to which the Sūtra represents Brahman as the direct object of knowledge) moreover agrees with Scripture, which directly represents Brahman as the object of the desire of knowledge; compare, for instance, the passage, 'That from whence these beings are born, &c., desire to know that. That is Brahman' (Taitt. Up. III, I). With passages of this kind the Sūtra only agrees if the genitive case is taken to denote the object. Hence we do take it in that sense. The object of the desire is the knowledge of Brahman up to its complete comprehension, desires having reference to results. Knowledge thus constitutes the means by which the complete comprehension of Brahman is desired to be obtained. For the complete comprehension of Brahman is the highest end of man, since it destroys the root of all evil such as Nescience, the seed of the entire Saṃsāra. Hence the desire of knowing Brahman is to be entertained.

But, it may be asked, is Brahman known or not known (previously to the enquiry into its nature)? If it is known we need not enter on an enquiry concerning it; if it is not known we can not enter on such an enquiry.

We reply that Brahman is known. Brahman, which is all-knowing and endowed with all powers, whose essential nature is eternal purity, intelligence, and freedom, exists. For if we consider the derivation of the word 'Brahman,' from the root bṛh, 'to be great,' we at once understand that eternal purity, and so on, belong to Brahman. Moreover the existence of Brahman is known on the ground of its being the Self of every one. For every one is conscious of the existence of (his) Self, and never thinks 'I am not.' If the existence of the Self were not known, every one would think 'I am not.' And this Self (of whose existence all are conscious) is Brahman. But if Brahman is generally known as the Self, there is no room for an enquiry into it! Not so, we reply; for there is a conflict of opinions as to its special nature. Unlearned people and the Lokāyatikas are of opinion that the mere body endowed with the quality of intelligence is the Self; others that the organs endowed with intelligence are the Self; others maintain that the internal organ is the Self; others, again, that the Self is a mere momentary idea; others, again, that it is the Void. Others, again (to proceed to the opinion of such as acknowledge the authority of the Veda), maintain that there is a transmigrating being different from the body, and so on, which is both agent and enjoyer (of the fruits of action); others teach that that being is enjoying only, not acting; others believe that in addition to the individual souls, there is an all-knowing, all-powerful Lord. Others, finally, (i.e. the Vedāntins) maintain that the Lord is the Self of the enjoyer (i.e. of the individual soul whose individual existence is apparent only, the product of Nescience).

Thus there are many various opinions, basing part of them on sound arguments and scriptural texts, part of them on fallacious arguments and scriptural texts misunderstood. If therefore a man would embrace some one of these opinions without previous consideration, he would bar himself from the highest beatitude and incur grievous loss. For this reason the first Sūtra proposes, under the designation of an enquiry into Brahman, a disquisition of the Vedānta-texts, to be carried on with the help of conformable arguments, and having for its aim the highest beatitude.

So far it has been said that Brahman is to be enquired into. The question now arises what the characteristics of that Brahman are, and the reverend author of the Sūtras therefore propounds the following aphorism.
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