Sūtra I.ii.24

Brahman is addressed in this sūtra as Vaiśvānara. Vaiśvānara has multiple interpretations and contextually, it means omnipresent or relating to all men. The latter interpretation can be explained to mean ‘belonging to all men (beings)’. Agni (fire) is also known as Vaiśvānara. Agni gāyatri uses Vaiśvānara. It is also known as jaṭharāgni, the digestive fire. Vaiśvānara. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (V.ix) says, “The fire that is within a man and digests the food that is eaten is Vaiśvānara.” This digestive fire causes some subtle sounds during digestion and if these sounds stop, it means that the death is about is come for him. Probably this could be one of the reasons for addressing Brahman as Vaiśvānara.

By referring Brahman as Vaiśvānara, this aphorism says that He is a Cosmic Person and the Supreme Lord. How can Vaiśvānara be called as Brahman, who is beyond any explanation? It is explained in Chāndogya Upaniṣad (V.11.6), which says, “imam eva ātmānam vaiśvānaram” (this Vaiśvānara alone is Ātman). The next verse says, “The Self you worship is Vaiśvānara, which is bright and beautiful.”  There are many such references in this Upaniṣad. There are references in Vedas too about Vaiśvānara. The purport of this aphorism is to confirm that there is no difference between Vaiśvānara, the Self and Brahman. This is supported by next few aphorisms.

Sūtra I.ii.25

This sūtra correlates this with smṛti (Upaniṣad-s, etc; Śruti means Vedas). Where is the need to introduce Vaiśvānara here, as the Cosmic Person is is already known as Brahman, the Self, etc? In Mahābhārata (XII.47.68), it is said, “Salutation in the three worlds with fire as His mouth, heaven as His head, sky as his navel, the earth as His two feet, the sun as His eyes, and cardinal directions as His ears.” This is the closest possible description of Brahman. This aphorism not only depends upon Upaniṣad- texts, but also relies on Yajur Veda, which says (V.vii), “knower of Brahman is Vaiśvānara”. There are few more references in Yajur Veda about Vaiśvānara. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā (XV.14), “Taking the form of Vaiśvānara lodged in the body of all creatures and united with their breaths, it is I (Brahman) who consumes all kinds of food.” Therefore, it is clear that without Vaiśvānara being present in the body, none can exist. Hence it is important to know that Brahman is also known as Vaiśvānara and this is explained here in order to avoid any possible confusion later.

Sūtra I.ii.26

This sūtra is almost like a verse. Now a doubt arises that when Brahman is explained as Vaiśvānara, the digestive fire, or Cosmic Person (Puruṣa) etc, Vaiśvānara cannot be known as Brahman and by saying so, His powers become limited. No, His powers cannot be limited, as all powers originate only from Him. Whether Brahman is called as Puruṣa, Vaiśvānara or by any other name, everything is only His manifestation. There cannot be a second to Him, be it sentient or insentient; big or small; subtle or gross. For the purpose of meditation, Brahman is described as Vaiśvānara or the sun (Vaiśvānara also means the sun). Because one cannot meditate on nothingness in the initial stages of meditative practices, as an aspirant is asked to first meditate on forms and later on light. This light on which one has to fix his consciousness during meditation is called Vaiśvānara.

Sūtra I.ii.27

In view of the above deliberations, this sūtra says that by referring to Vaiśvānara, it does not mean one of the five principle elements viz. fire or Vaiśvānara is a deity. Vaiśvānara is neither the fire, which we often speak about nor it is a god. By referring to god, it is always meant to mean one or more powers of Brahman, which is symbolically represented in a particular shape and form*. Even assuming for a moment that Vaiśvānara is not Brahman, the very idea overrides the basic theory of Advaita. In other words, even if do not accept that Vaiśvānara is not Brahman, going by the Advailta philosophy, everything is Brahman, including Vaiśvānara. Therefore, Vaiśvānara cannot be something different from Brahman with a shape and form. Only for the purpose of focussing our mind, it is said that we should meditate on Vaiśvānara, the illuminating light (Prakāśa).

Sūtra I.ii.28

Vaiśvānara comprises of two words viśva nara; viśva means everything or universal and nara means a person. That is why Vaiśvānara is explained as Cosmic Puruṣa, the ‘person’ who controls the universe. Since Brahman is in the form of Light (Prakāśa), that light known as Vaiśvānara (Brahman) is to be meditated upon.

Sūtra I.ii.29

Now the opinions of few Sages are being discussed.

This aphorism talks about the opinion of a great sage by name Aśmarathya. He says that Brahman manifests in a particular shape or form to shower His Grace* on the practitioners. In other words, the infinite Self at His own will becomes finite. When He manifests in the body of a human, He normally manifests in the heart. Just because He has manifested in the form of a limited being, it does not mean that Vaiśvānara has limitations and that He cannot be compared to Brahman. Even such manifestations happen only in the mind. This misconception is ruled out through this sūtra.

Sūtra I.ii.30

This aphorism talks about the opinion of another great sage by name Bādari. He is of the opinion that Brahman becomes partially limited (like digestive fire Vaiśvānara). Unlimited aspect of Brahman which prevails in the mind (mind is also unlimited) becomes limited in the heart, which has boundaries and thus becomes limited. In order to manifest to shower His Grace, He becomes limited and reveals Himself in the heart of the aspirant, in the sense infinite Brahman manifests as limited and this is Vaiśvānara.

Sūtra I.ii.31

In continuation of the previous aphorism, such manifestation of Brahman is known as superimposition, says another great Sage Jaimini. According to Him, such realization happens between the top of the head (brahmarandra) and the chin (this portion of the body is considered as the head of Vaiśvānara). Therefore Brahman’s manifestation in a bound form is only superimposition and His true identity is not revealed.  (This is māyā).

Superimposition can be explained, as a person wearing a mask not revealing his true identity*.

Sūtra I.ii.32

This chapter (I.ii) is concluded that Brahman is to be meditated upon in the middle space between the head and the chin (probably indicating to ājñācakra; however, Brahma Sūtra does not talk about kuṇḍalinī meditation, which is tilted more towards Tantra.) If He is realized during this meditation, it is said that the sins of those who realize Him thus (in a superimposed form) are annihilated, accrual of further sins are prevented and he becomes a liberated person.

{*Further reading: Brahman is devoid of any forms. In the initial stages of one’s spiritual path, one has to necessarily contemplate Brahman as a limited form (in the form of various gods and goddesses) and worship these forms. This stage only lays a strong foundation for spiritual path, but this is not the actual spiritual path. Worshipping various forms of gods is related to senses. Anything related to senses is only temporary. Brahman can be realized only in the mind. Therefore, one has to learn to cleanse the mind. Mind is always afflicted with multiple through processes. In order to remove these thought processes, one has to enter into the next stage of mantra japa. When a mantra is repeated (repetition of a mantra several times is called japa), one has to fix his or her concentration on the mantra and the connected deity. When significant advance is made in mantra japa, one has to fix his or her consciousness on ājñācakra, which gets activated with practice. When ājñācakra is fully active, it will not be difficult to reach brahmaranda, an orifice at the top of the head (sahasrāra). This is the final stage of human life. This stage is possible only if a person learns to love Brahman. No amount of devotion and rituals can help to reach this stage. This stage can be attained only through mind with persistent practice of meditation. Unless this stage is reached, there is no question of liberation. Even in the case of mantra japa, there are various stages. A perfect stage in mantra japa can be attained in a span of six months to one year under normal conditions. To reach this stage, help of a Guru is surely needed. Without Guru’s guidance, it will never be possible to get liberated.

Superimposition discussed above is māyā. The original Splendour of Brahman is veiled by māyā, which is His own power. Māyā suppresses the true nature of Brahman and projects Him as someone with a shape and form. Afflicted with māyā, many entangle themselves only with rituals, without attempting to move forward to realize Him. In order to realize Him, one has to certainly transform himself, slowly disconnecting from the senses and getting associated with his mind. When thought about Brahman transforms into Love for Him, the actual process of realization begins. This is the stage when one becomes too emotional and frequent emotional outbursts happen.

The concept of Divine Grace is also explained in the Bible. In Ephesians, several references are available about Divine Grace. “In whom we have redemption...the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His Grace (1:7)”. It means that when His Grace is there, all our sins are redeemed and forgiven.

With this Chapter I.ii of Brahma Sūtra is concluded.