Brahma Sutra I.ii.19

The inner Self is not the one, mentioned in Sāṅkhya Philosophy. Pradhāna (Prakṛti) is mentioned as the internal ruler in Sāṅkhya Philosophy, which also proceeds to say that Prakṛti is the ultimate cause of all objects. This is being refuted in this sūtra. If Prakṛti is accepted as the inner Self, the entire theory of Advaita Philosophy becomes untenable. When we say that Brahman is omnipresent, it means that He is everywhere, both internally and externally. If this to be argued further, Brahman always remains as a witness, though, He is the cause. This concept has already discussed in the form of a seed, its germination and growth.

Why Prakṛti is refuted as the cause because, it needs the Self to manifest and it cannot do so on its own. But, Brahman is different and He does not need anyone to manifest, both as sentient and insentient beings, as explained in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad (III.vii.23), “He is never known but He is the Knower. There is no other witness but Him. He is the Internal Ruler, your own immortal Self. Everything else but Him is mortal.”

Brahma Sutra I.ii.20

This Brahma Sutra is important as this differentiates between the Self and the individual soul. This sūtra says that the individual soul is not the Internal Ruler. Again, a reference is drawn from Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad (III.vii.22), which says, “He, who inhabits the intellect (buddhi), but the intellect does not know this, and whose body is the intellect (body here refers to the invisible and subtle body of Brahman) and who controls the intellect within (within here refers to the pervasion of intellect by Him) is the Internal Ruler, which is nothing but your own Immortal Self.” Brahman is addressed as the Internal Ruler, because He is to be realized within. Once He is realized within, His universal form or the cosmic form can be realized. There are some explanations which say that inhabiting the intellect means inhabiting or pervading the jīvātman. When Brahman enters the individual self, then only it is known as the individual soul. In other words, activity of the soul begins only if the Self enters the individual soul. Otherwise, individual soul remains inactive and immobile.

{Further reading: Though this does not form part of Brahma Sūtra, let us now analyze individual soul. What happens at the time of death? The individual soul (with the Self within), exits along with prāṇa, through any one of the nine apertures of body. What is an individual soul? Individual soul is the deeply embedded impressions of the subconscious mind. This subconscious mind is always immobile, and it is made mobile by pervasion of the Self. When the individual soul exits the body at the time of death, the Self is within the individual soul (embedded impressions of subconscious mind); otherwise, individual self cannot transmigrate (due to lack of mobility). Individual soul is very minute and is said to be smaller than an atom. When the Self pervades the individual soul, naturally the Self has to be still minuter. This is the reason for addressing the Self as smaller than the smallest (Kaṭha Upanishad I.ii.20 - aṇoraṇīyān). Self realization means, realizing the Self within and not the individual soul. More on this will be discussed later in this series.}

Brahma Sutra I.ii.21

Why Brahman alone is omnipresent, smaller than the smallest, etc? Now this is being taken up for discussion. Brahman alone is Supreme, as He alone has certain qualities. The word quality is used here, as there is no other appropriate word to express His Supremacy. In reality, He is the source of all qualities, but He is not affected with any of these qualities. But, due to spiritual ignorance (māyā), many meditate on the individual soul instead of the Supreme Self.

Now, a reference is cited from Muṇḍaka Upanishad (I.i.5). The Upanishad says that there are two types of knowledge. One is aparā and another is parā. It is said that the four Vedas (including rituals) form aparā, which is explained as the secular knowledge.  It is secular knowledge because aparā is associated with senses. It is not the knowledge that gives liberation. For liberation, what we need is only the mind. Knowledge through senses can at the most be the cause for laying a strong foundation for spiritual life, but this kind of knowledge will not give liberation. Then, which knowledge can give liberation, as our motive is only liberation and nothing else? Parā knowledge alone can give liberation. For the purpose of liberation, the Upanishad says that the aspirant approaches His Guru and asks him, “O! Lord! What should a person know, so that everything becomes known to him?” Everything here means the universe. Everything becomes known only if one sees through the “eyes” of Brahman. In order to reach that stage, one has to become Brahman himself (the state of I am That). Hence, great importance is attached to realizing the Self within. When we look at beautiful scenery, we enjoy the scenery through our eyes, which form part of our sense organs.

Guru himself answers this in Muṇḍaka Upanishad (I.i.6). He tells his disciple, “He is invisible, He cannot be grasped, and whose origin is not known, He is indestructible, extensive.....wise see Him everywhere and in every being.”  Thus, this becomes the essence of Self-realization. In other words, grasping someone who cannot be grasped is the knowledge about Brahman. This is parā knowledge and this alone is the spiritual knowledge that is required to realize Him. But, why there is a need for a Guru? Though Brahman can be explained as Supreme, for making an aspirant to realize this, a Guru is needed. Guru will impart this knowledge by quoting various examples. This is the difference between theory classes followed by practical classes.

Brahma Sutra I.ii.22

On this very account, Brahman cannot be compared with either the individual soul or Prakṛti. Why Brahman cannot be compared with these two? Muṇḍaka Upanishad (II.i.2) says, “That radiant Brahman is formless and is present both within and outside (sa-bāhya-abhyantaraḥ), without birth (His origin is not known, hence it is said without birth), without breath (a-prāṇaḥ), without mind, He is pure and is higher than Brahman with attributes, who is also known as saguṇa Brahman.” What is the difference between nirguṇa Brahman and saguṇa Brahman? It is only in the form of attributes. Nirguṇa Brahman does not have any attributes or qualities and hence, He cannot be explained. If we understand this through Trika Philosophy, it is the state of Paramaśiva, beyond whom, there is nothing and Paramaśiva cannot even be contemplated even by the best meditators. What we speak about and discuss about, are all about saguṇa Brahman.

Thus, except Brahman, neither the individual soul nor Prakṛti can be the reason for the creation of the universe or its sustenance and annihilation. This is because, these two have qualities and attributes and they cannot function on their own. Without Brahman being present in them, they continue to remain inert.

Brahma Sutra I.ii.23

Muṇḍaka Upanishad (II.i.4) makes an attempt to explain Brahman. It only makes an attempt in describing Him, by using many words conveying infinity. The Upanishad says, “His head is the heaven; His eyes are sun and moon; his ears are the cardinal points (directions).....” This is not the perfect description of Brahman, simply because, He cannot be described. By saying that His head is heaven, the Upanishad attempts to elucidate His infinity. Examples are given here only to make us understand His grandeur, which otherwise cannot be put in words. There are several such verses throughout Muṇḍaka Upanishad. Naturally, a question may arise, why we should realize Him? This Upanishad answers this question. It says (II.i.10), “The one who knows Him thus, is liberated.” Such discussions are needed only in order to attain liberation in this birth itself. Getting liberated in this birth itself should be our aim, because, one more transmigration will again be painful. If we have the will, we can surely avoid that.

More related articles:

Brahma Sutra - I.ii.13 - 18

Brahma Sutra I.ii.24 - 31