Ataḥ eva prāṇaḥ अतः एव प्राणः (I.i.23)

ataḥ eva – for the very same reason (as discussed earlier that the universe has originated only from Brahman); prāṇaḥ - prāṇa (is also Brahman).

Prāṇa is the vital force that is needed for existence. Anything that is said in contrary to the teachings of Upanishad-s cannot be accepted. Right from the beginning Brahma Sūtra follows this principle. This Brahma Sutra says that prāṇa is also Brahman, because, it is said in Chāndogya Upanishad (I.xi.5). It says, “In prāṇa we see both sentient and insentient things and in the same prāṇa, all these are dissolved at the time of dissolution.” But, where is the authority that prāṇa is Brahman? It is enough to quote this Upanishad alone, because the Upanishad clearly says that without prāṇa, beings cannot exist. In order to reconfirm this, there is another saying in Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad (IV.iv.18), which says Brahman is “prāṇsya prāṇaḥ”, which means that Brahman is prāṇa of prāṇa (or chief of prāṇa), which clearly proves that prāṇa is nothing but Brahman. There is also another verse in Chāndogya Upanishad (VI.viii.1) which says, “Mind runs in every direction and when the mind fails to get a resting place, it surrenders itself to prāṇa. Beyond this, we do not need any further substantiation. Prāṇa is present during three normal states of human consciousness – active, dream and deep sleep states. Is there any stage in human life that can exist without prāṇa? Since the answer is negative, it also goes to prove that Brahman is extremely subtle in nature and is omnipresent.

Jyotiścaraṇābhidhānāt ज्योतिश्चरणाभिधानात् (I.i.24)

jyotiḥ - Light; caraṇa - as said earlier (this is also explained as pāda or meter or Gāyatrī chandas) ; ābhidhānāt – which is being mentioned now.

This Brahma Sutra says that Light is Brahman. There are complicated interpretations for this Brahma Sutra, which are not necessary to understand the essence of this Brahma Sutra. Chāndogya Upanishad (III.xiii.7) says, “It is that Light, which is the same as in a human.” Thus, the light referred here is not the light that is useful for seeing.” The light that aids in seeing is only a minuscule of That Light, the Light of Brahman (Prakāśa). How this is to be ascertained? Kaṭha Upanishad (II.ii.15) endorses this by saying, “In the presence of Brahman, the sun does not shine, nor do the moon, star, lightning and fire. When Brahman shines, everything else shines. By His Light, everything else is lighted.”
Brahman is bliss, space, prāṇa and light. Brahman is not someone or something different from us. He is within and that is why Chāndogya Upanishad (III.xiii.7) said that the same Light is within all humans. Seeking Him outside our body and mind is due to illusion and ignorance.

Chando'bhidhānānneti cenna tathā ceto'rpaṇanigadāttathā hi darśanam

छन्दोऽभिधानान्नेति चेन्न तथा चेतोऽर्पणनिगदात्तथा हि दर्शनम् (I.i.25)

chandaḥ abhidhānāt – (chandas refers to metrical science, on the basis of which, Vedic verses are formed and while reciting,  the one who recites may feel the incantatory or magical effect. Chandas referred in this Brahma Sutra is Gāyatrī. Why Gāyatrī chandas (three pāda-s of eight syllables each, making it to 24 syllables) is mentioned here suddenly? It is due to the interpretation of caraṇa in the previous aphorism as meter (chandas) or foot or pāda) Because of the reference to Gāyatrī meter; na iti cet – if this is not said so; tathaḥ - likewise; cetaḥ arpaṇa nigadāt – because of the teaching relating to the mind (as discussed in previous aphorism); tathā hi – similarly; darśanam – (because) other passages are also found.

In the previous Brahma Sutra, many have interpreted caraṇa to mean Gāyatrī chandas (meter). Since only a Vedic meter is referred in the previous aphorism, and not Brahman, Brahman cannot be accepted as Supreme. It is said that caraṇa does not mean chandas, but means only the mind, as this has been taught elsewhere.

The argument is, as Brahman cannot be referred by limiting factors such as meter, also known as chandas, Brahman is not referred in the previous aphorism. It is not so. Chandas is not referred in the previous aphorism. Previous aphorism talked only about the mind and not about limiting factors such as meters. Hence, the Brahma Sutra only refers to Brahman and not anything else.
Since Brahma Sūtra reveals Brahman in stages, there is no need to talk about any limiting factors. Even, assuming for a moment that Gāyatrī chandas is referred in the previous aphorism, Chāndogya Upanishad (III.xii.1) says, “All that exists in this world is Gāyatrī.” This means there is no adjunct to Brahman and He alone prevails everywhere. If Brahman is given a name such as Gāyatrī, then Gāyatrī alone prevails everywhere. If one realizes Brahman within his self, he looks at the world from the eyes of Brahman, in the sense, that he will feel that everyone he comes across is his own self. This is the ultimate stage of Self-realization.

Bhutādipādavyapadeśopapatteścauvam भुतादिपादव्यपदेशोपपत्तेश्चौवम् (I.i.26)

bhutādi – elements such as air, fire, earth, body, etc; pāda – part; vyapadeśa – statement of declaration; upapatteḥ - conclusively demonstrated; ca evam – and this must be like this.

It is conclusively proved and declared that all the elements such as air, body, etc (anything, both sentient and insentient) are only part of Brahman. Same logic applies to Gāyatrī mantra. Chāndogya Upanishad (III.xii.5) says, “Gāyatrī has four feet and each foot has six quarters”. Gāyatrī mantra encompasses everything and the six parts referred here are speech, all beings, the earth, the body, the heart and the prāṇa. The same Upanishad also describes a human body as Gāyatrī and describes Gāyatrī as a word (pāda or part or foot; foot is not the appropriate reference here. The appropriate reference would be only part), that gives a name to Brahman, like names given all beings.

Supremacy of Gāyatrī is not spoken here, as there is nothing supreme to Brahman. Secondly, there is no need for Brahma Sūtra to talk about any form or shape, as Brahman is without particular shape and form. It is like referring Brahman as Śiva, Śakti, etc. Whether we call Brahman as Gāyatrī, Śiva, Śakti, etc does not matter, as long as we are able to understand that everything that prevails in universe is nothing but Brahman. Those are only the names.

Upadeśabhedānneti cainnobhayasminnapyavirodhāt

उपदेशभेदान्नेति चैन्नोभयस्मिन्नप्यविरोधात् (I.i.27)

Upadeśa bhedāt – due to difference in teachings; na – not; iti chet – if argued this way; avirodhāt – due to lack of contradiction; ubhayasmin api – in both the instances.
Suppose someone argues that there are differences in teachings (such as Brahman is Gāyatrī, Light, vital air, etc) and due to the differences in teachings (revelation of Brahman), his argument is invalid, because, there is no contradiction at all.

Attributes of Brahman were highlighted in the previous aphorisms. Because it is said that Brahman is Light, Bliss, Gāyatrī, etc, it does not mean that Brahman has different attributes. Let us take an example. We walk, we eat, we sleep, etc. We do many activities at the same time. Does this mean that we are different during our different activities? No, because, these are the acts done by our body. We are one single entity, but we perform different actions. Therefore Bliss, Light, prāṇa, etc are all Brahman. There is nothing that cannot be Brahman, as He has no second and no adjunct. Because of the inherent dvaita (dualism) quality in our mind, we consider everything as different from Brahman. The fact is that all we see is only Brahman.

Prāṇastathānugamāt प्राणस्तथानुगमात् (I.i.28)

prāṇa – vital air; tatha anugamāt – comprehended thus.

Prāṇa is already discussed in I.i.23 above. This sūtra reemphasizes that prāṇa is Brahman. Prāṇa is not something created and different from Brahman. Where is the question of creation for use by someone else, when Brahman prevails everywhere? Prāṇa is consciousness. Kauṣītaki Upanishad says (III.2), “I am the Spirit of the vital breath, the intelligent Self. As such, worship me as life, as immortality. Life is the vital breath: the vital breath is life. For as long as the vital breath remains in the body there is life.” This is the teaching of Indra, the chief of gods.

Therefore, this sūtra re-affirms that prāṇa is also Brahman.

Na vakturātmopadeśāditi cedadhyātmasambandhabhūmā hyasmin

न वक्तुरात्मोपदेशादिति चेदध्यात्मसम्बन्धभूमा ह्यस्मिन् (I.i.29)

na ātma upadeśāt vaktu – no, this is not the teaching of the self (individual soul) of the teacher (in the instance case it is Indra, as referred in the previous aphorism); iti cet – if this is going to be the objection (Indra’s teaching); hi asmin – because it happens here; adhyātma sambandha bhūmā – there are innumerable references to the Self within.

The question here is, when Indra says that he is prāṇa, then how Brahman can be prāṇa? After all Indra is only a god head. Indra is right in saying so, because he is talking about his inner Self, Brahman within. He is a god head and he knows about Brahman. He could not have reached this position without knowing Brahman.

Whether Indra exists or not is another question. Assuming that Indra exists as god head, he got this pivotal position, by realising Brahman. His position is possibly a reward for his knowledge, bliss and realization. Thus, the teaching of Indra is also right. It is like saying “I am Brahman”. Presence of the Self within cannot be refuted, as it is taught in every Upanishad. Kaṭha Upanishad (II.i.12) says, “In the size of the thumb, Brahman rests in the body”.

Naturally a question comes to our mind as to why we seek Him elsewhere? It is because of the innate ignorance, which is due to the effect of māyā, we seek Him outside our body. What happens, if we continue to seek Him elsewhere? We are only wasting the precious little time of human birth, gifted to us to realize Him within. There is no point in saying this is Brahman, that is Brahman, etc. These sayings will not take us to the desired destination.  Having known through Scriptures, what prevents us in not realizing Him within? Again it is due to lack of will and determination and our inability to adapt ourselves to the reality. This is known as innate ignorance.

śāstrdṛṣṭayā tupadeśo vāmadevavat शास्त्र्दृष्टया तुपदेशो वामदेववत् (I.i.30)

tu upadeśaḥ - but, the teaching; śāstrdṛṣṭayā – inner vision of the sage as revealed in Scriptures (Upanishad-s); vāmadevavat – as in the case of Vāmadeva.

Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad (I.iv.9) says, “Sage Vāmadeva, while realising that his inner self (the Self within) as Brahman knew that he was Manu and he was the sun”. This is perfect realization. If we are Brahman, how can the sun or moon or fellow being could be different from our own self? Even the sun, moon, etc will get annihilated one day. But the Self within is eternal, without which no shape of form can ever exist. In any shape and form, essence is the Self and the external or gross body will be shed one day (death). But, as long as we exist, we should know that all that exist in different shapes and forms are only Brahman. Though electric current is always the same, its final destination is in the form of lights, TVs, air-conditioners, etc. Without electricity, how these gadgets can function?
Similarly, without Brahman no object can function and understanding this is Self-realization. This is the ultimate aim of Brahma Sūtra. It aims only for liberation. Except liberation, everything else is only transitory in nature. Therefore, we should know Brahman and He can be known only through knowledge.

Jīvamukhyaprāṇaliṅgāanneti cennopāsātraividhyādāśritatvādiha tadyogāt

जीवमुख्यप्राणलिङ्गान्नेति चेन्नोपासात्रैविध्यादाश्रितत्वादिह तद्योगात् (I.i.31)

Jīva mukhyaprāṇa liṅgāt – on account of indication of characteristics of the individual self and vital prāṇa; na iti cet – not so, if this is the objection; upāsā traividhyāt – because, it could lead to three fold manifestation; āśritatvat – acceptance of prāṇa; iha – in the Scripture (contextually it is Kauṣītaki Upanishad); tadyogāt – due to the presence of characteristics of Brahman.

Three fold meditation means meditating on individual soul, prāṇa and Brahman. If it is argued that Brahman is not referred here as there is also reference about individual soul and prāṇa, apart from Brahman and this could lead to misconception that Brahman is not Supreme as there are other references other than Brahman in Upanishad-s. For example, Indra says that he (Indra) should be meditated upon as prāṇa. Bṛihadāraṇyaka Upanishad (I.iv.10) says, “This self (individual self) was indeed Brahman in the beginning (in the form of a seed for a body; body grows from the Self within, like a tree growing out of a tiny seed). It only knew itself as “I am Brahman”. We must always remember that what we are discussing about Brahman is Brahman with attributes. Brahman without attributes cannot be explained. The only sentence that can explain nirguṇa Brahman is “Nirguṇa Brahman is Nirguṇa Brahman”.

Meditating on Brahman is fine. But why meditate on the other two, prāṇa and individual soul? Is not causing contradiction? No, it is not contradiction, because, both prāṇa and individual soul verily are Brahman alone. Nothing can be different from Brahman, who is in the form of Consciousness. That is why, prāṇa is said to be consciousness. What is the difference between Consciousness and consciousness? In fact nothing; it is like understanding prāṇa and individual soul as different from Brahman. In fact, Chāndogya Upanishad (III.xiv.2) describes how to meditate on Brahman. We have the mind and with the help of the mind, we can decide our actions. This mind is Brahman. What one wills in this life, he becomes that when he leaves this world, says this Upanishad.

This concludes section I of Chapter I consisting of 31 aphorisms (out of 555 aphorisms).

From the next part onwards, aphorisms in Sanskrit will be removed and only the essence of each aphorism will be taken up for discussion.

More related articles:

Brahma Sutra - I.i.18 - 22

Brahma Sutra - I.ii.1 - 6