Brahma Sutra I.iii.34
This aphorism says that everyone is entitled to Brahmavidyā, the highest level of spiritual knowledge. Brahmavidyā is predominantly imparted through various Upanishad-s, Brahma Sūtra and Bhagavad Gītā. What is meant by everyone? Contextually, it means that irrespective of their capacity to analyze the depth of spiritual teaching, still Brahmavidyā can be imparted to everyone. This is however subject to the following discussions.
Kṛṣṇa explains this in Bhagavad Gītā (XVIII. 40-44), “Men are classified under four broad categories based upon their inherent qualities, which is based on the three guṇa-s. Subjugation of mind and senses, enduring hardships for the discharge of one’s prescribed obligations, both internal and external purity, forgiveness, honesty, behaviour, belief in Vedas and Sacred Scriptures, faith in God and life after death, gallantry, fearlessness, firmness, cleverness, solemnity in battles, bestowing gifts, leadership qualities, agriculture, breeding of cattle , etc.” Therefore, classification of humanity purely depends upon the predominance of one of the three guṇa-s.
The underlying conveyance of this Brahma Sutra is that Brahmavidyā can be imparted to anyone, but understanding and following this supreme knowledge can be done only by those who have predominantly sattva guṇa.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.35
Who are excluded from practicing Brahmavidyā? Technically speaking none, but there are injunctions. Those who have predominantly tamo guṇa (inertia) are excluded. It is not that they should not be taught Brahmavidyā. They can still be taught, but the time and energy of the teacher is wasted, as the one with tamo guṇa cannot understand and practice what is taught. He is always in the state of inertia, unwilling to learn and work. What is the purpose of teaching Brahmavidyā to them? Therefore, though it is said that Brahmavidyā can be taught to everyone, it would always be better to identify students to impart this supreme knowledge about Brahman.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.36
Knowing Saguṇa Brahman is not Brahmavidyā. All those who practice ritualistic worship know Saguṇa Brahman. Knowing Saguṇa Brahman is known only as Vidyā or knowledge and associated with purāṇa-s (epics). Their perception about Brahman is still in incipient stage. But, they have the inherent knowledge and capabilities, which will make them to follow Brahmavidyā at some point of time. There is a strong possibility for their transformation. Their depth of devotion will make this transformation happen at the appropriate time.
Praśna Upanishad opens with this concept. Six young men approached a Sage to know about Nirguṇa Brahman (Parabrahman) as they already know Saguṇa Brahman (they have done enough rituals). The sage informed his disciples to stay with him for one year and perform austerities prescribed by him. After one year of rigorous austerities, the sage begins to answer their questions and after answering series of questions, at the end the sage says, “I know only this much about Parabrahman. There is nothing further to know about It”. There are two subtle messages in his statement. First, it shows that he is devoid of any traces of ego and this is the most significant qualification to become a Guru. In the second part he says that he has discussed every aspect of Brahman, and this question answer session forms Praśna Upanishad. The sage further says that there is nothing more to learn about Brahman and it is now up to the disciples to ponder, explore, understand, analyse, grasp and ultimately follow and implement his teachings for experiencing. The end of Supreme knowledge is only the experience of Bliss and not siddhi-s as often misunderstood.
Having understood his teachings and thoroughly satisfied with their Guru, they pay their respects to this sage thus. “You are our father (tvaṁ hi naḥ pitā त्वं हि नः पिता), as you have led us beyond ignorance.” Not satisfied by paying respects to their Guru alone, the six disciples proceeded to pay respects to all the teachers; his teachers and beyond, which is commonly known as Guru Parampara. They said, “namaḥ paramaṛṣibhyaḥ नमः परमऋषिभ्यः” “We now bow down to the entire lineage of teaches who have passed on this knowledge about the Self.”
This sūtra says that this kind of Supreme knowledge can be imparted to those who become eligible by their conduct and level of understanding. This means that though, Brahmavidyā can be imparted to anyone there is no point in doing so. Only in order to test the level of their tolerance and depth of their perseverance, these six students were made to wait for a year to get this sacred knowledge.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.37
Those who are with tamo guṇa are not entitled for Brahmavidyā, because they cannot be active and will not have any inclination towards austerities. Strictly following austerities requires complete synchronisation of both body and mind, which will be totally lacking in them.
Chāndogya Upanishad (IV.iv.1) says, “I will initiate you, as you have not deviated from the truth.” The teacher is willing to impart Brahmavidyā to anyone, the only condition being that he has to speak the truth. It is not enough that one should strictly follow austerities, but also has to speak
Brahma Sutra I.iii.38
This reemphasises that Brahmavidyā should not be imparted to those who are either incapable of learning, understanding and practicing or unwilling to learn, understand and practice. There is difference between the two. Incapable means his nature and he cannot be held responsible for his inherent quality. Unwillingness means, though one has the capacity, yet he is either disinterested in acquiring this knowledge or does not take spiritual path seriously.
With this sūtra, eligibility criteria to acquire Brahmavidyā are concluded. The next few sūtra-s discuss on vibrations (Cosmic vibrations).
Brahma Sutra I.iii.39
This sūtra is extremely crisp and it says, “kampanāt”. Kampana means trembling or shaking, which is often explained as vibrations in spiritual terminology. What is the cause of this vibration or pulsation? Prāṇa is the cause. How do we know that prāṇa is the cause? It is said in Kaṭha Upanishad (II.iii.2), “The world has come from prāṇa and in prāṇa all this rests and functions...” In other words, vibrations are nothing but power of Brahman and prāṇa is supercharged with His Power. How do we know that prāṇa supercharged with His power? This is explained in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.iv.17) says, “Those who have known the Vital Force* (Brahman) of the vital force**......have realized Brahman.” The first Vital Force* refers to Brahman and the second vital force** refers to prāṇa. (Neither Brahma Sūtra nor Upanishad talk about Śakti. It should be understood that Brahman’s Absolute Power is known as Śakti, which is referred as Māyā.) When Brahman wants to create, initial pulsation happens (this is known as spanda, the initial throb or pulsation) within Him*** (nothing happens outside this Self) and as a result prāṇa is produced and from this prāṇa, further manifestation begins. Therefore, typically speaking there is no difference between Brahman and prāṇa. How it is concluded that they are one? It is said that the universe rests on prāṇa (Kaṭha Upanishad II.iii.2). Similarly, Brahman supports the entire universe, says Chāndogya Upanishad (VIII.iv.1). Further Chāndogya Upanishad (VII.24.1) says, “That which is infinite is immortal and that which is finite is mortal. It rests on its own power – or not even on that power (as it depends on nothing else, not even its own power).” This is known as nirādhārā and Brahman alone is nirādhārā and the world exists on His support (ādhāra).
When this vibration happens, it happens within Him and not outside, as everything that exists is only Brahman and nothing else and this is the essence of Self-realization.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.40
This aphorism says that Light is also Brahman. This Light is known as Paraṁjyotiḥ, which is explained as the radiance of the Cosmic Self. Only Brahman has this kind of radiance and only from this radiance or Light, luminaries draw their light to perform their duties. Kaṭha Upanishad (II.ii.15) says, “In the presence of Brahman, sun, moon, stars and fire do not shine. By Its Light, all these are lighted.”
What does this Light mean? Is it a light like the sun? No, because this has been ruled out in Kaṭha Upanishad (II.ii.15). This Light is known as unadulterated Consciousness. Pure Consciousness shines, because it is devoid of any type of impurity. Brahman is pure and hence He has natural illumination. How do we know that the Self is devoid of impurities? Chāndogya Upanishad (VIII.vii.1) says so. “The Self is free from sin, free from old age, free from death, free from sorrow, free from hunger and thirst.” If one is free from modifications, devoid of desires, devoid of dualities, etc, he is fit enough to realize Brahman. Based on this aspect, previous aphorisms prescribed certain qualifications to follow the spiritual path. Chāndogya Upanishad (VIII.iii.4) says, “This person, who is the embodiment of happiness, emerging from the body and attaining the highest Light, assumes his real nature. This is the Self.” No further proof is needed to establish that Brahman is in the form of Light.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.41
After having said that Brahman is Prāṇa and Light, this sūtra says, He is ākāśa too. Brahman’s omnipresence is being explained. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (VIII.xiv.1) says, “That which is described as ākāśa manifests names and forms and these names and forms are within Brahman***.” How do we say that names and forms are within Brahman? The same Upanishad again says (VI.iii.2) “....I shall manifest myself in many names and forms.” Therefore, all the acts of Brahman, creation, sustenance and dissolution happen within Himself and not outside, and this is the basic principle on which the theory of omnipresence relies upon.
We can also understand this sūtra through Taittirīya Upanishad (II.1) which says, “From this Self comes ākāśa....” When Brahman decides to manifest, first He manifests as ākāśa, the vaset space. Generally ākāśa is used to indicate infinity.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.42
This sūtra asks who Brahman is and what is the difference between the Self and the self? Though both are different, we often get confused which one is the self and which one is the Self. In reality, there is nothing called the self or individual soul. This is based on the fact that without Brahman nothing can exist, hence He is omnipresent. When the Self is connected to intellect in the middle of organs of action and organs of perception, the Self becomes the self (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.iii.7); at least that is what we think. Due to our efforts we happened to realize Brahman, that is Self –realization. How is that state? This is beautifully explained in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.iii.21). “A man fully embraced by his beloved wife does not know anything, both external and internal.” This is the state of a Self-realized person. He is not affected by external and internal disturbances. In fact, his mind will never be aware of any disturbances, as his mind is always in the state of Bliss. This Bliss is daily experienced by us during our deep sleep state. How do we call deep sleep state as Bliss? It fact, it is not right to call this state as Blissful state. This state is beyond experience, as we do not have consciousness during deep sleep state. This is exactly the state of a sthitaprajña, a yogi and a jīvanmukta. Is there any difference between these three states? Answer would be both yes and no. The mind of a sthitaprajña is fixed on the Self; in the case of a yogi the union between individual consciousness and Supreme Consciousness has taken place and in the case of jīvanmukta, he is already liberated as he continued to remain as a yogi for some time and exists in the world only to ward off the remnants of his karma.
The state of Self realized person is explained in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.iii.22). “In this state, no father, no mother, no worlds, no gods, no Vedas, no good and no evil and in fact there is nothing in this state.” This is the essence of Brahma Sūtra. In order to make us understand the Self and get liberated, it proceeds step by step and in the last sūtra it says, “There is no return, which is called anāvṛtti (अनावृत्ति), also known as final emancipation.
Brahma Sutra I.iii.43
This sūtra is in conclusion of discussions on I.iii of Brahma Sūtra. At the end of this chapter, we know that there is nothing in this universe except Brahman and this has been established through the above aphorisms.