Brahma Sūtra II.i.5

Speech, elements, etc are referred as deities. For example, we say, “Earth produces” or “prāṇa enters”, etc. Does this mean that the earth really produces and if so whether earth is sentient or insentient and similarly whether prāṇa is sentient or insentient? In other words, is there any difference between sentient deities and insentient organs? In reality, there is no difference and sentient nature is attributed to these elements, etc only for the purpose of understanding. What is the understanding about? There is a reference to this Chāndogya Upaniṣhad (V.i.7) which says, “The organs went to their father Prajāpati (lord of creatures also considered as the lord of procreation) and said, “Respected Sir, amongst us who is the best?” Similarly, there is also a reference in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad (VI.i.13). When prāṇa is about to go out of a body, it is prayed thus. “Please do not go out sir, as we cannot live without you.” Thus, even insentient things such as prāṇa is considered as sentient things only for the purpose of understanding and their importance in sustaining the universe. Hence, by giving sentiency, does not mean that they are entities different from Brahman. Both sentient and insentient things are created only due to the will of Brahman and they do not have any independent powers.

Brahma Sūtra II.i.6

It is argued that the universe has not originated from or cannot have originated from Brahman simply because there are different characters in the universe with different levels of sensory faculty. Growth of hair and nails, which are insentient in nature originate from Brahman. Similarly, certain creatures originate from insentient things. Birth of scorpion from cow dung is cited an example. Cow dung is an insentient thing and how can a sentient being scorpion be created from the cow dung? Based on these perceptible facts, Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣhad (I.i.6 & 7) says, “Brahman is the source of everything. The spider brings out its web from within its own body and again takes it back within itself. Similarly, the universe arises from Brahman.” When a spider can both create and absorb its creation (web) unto itself, why not Brahman, who is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient. Now let us proceed to compare a spider with Brahman. When a spider spins its web, no change takes place in the spider and similarly when the spider absorbs its web unto itself, no change takes place in the spider. Therefore, when a spider can do this, why not omnipotent Brahman? This is further explained in Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣhad (I.i.9), “From Brahman comes Hiraṇyagarbha (Brahmā, the god of creation, and the first manifestation of Brahman) and also other names and forms, etc.” Thus the cause and effect need not always be the same. An example is cited with clay. Clay is the cause for a jar as well as an earthen lamp. Though the cause is the clay effect is different. Thus the cause is always Brahman and effects are His infinite shapes and forms. But what are the qualities Brahman (technically speaking Brahman has no qualities or attributes; here the word quality is used to explain His Supremacy. It is like comparing sun to Brahman for His illumination, as the sun is a known object to us)? Brahman is full of existence and intelligence, which is the basic quality of the universe. That is why Upaniṣhads describe Brahman as Sat (existence) and jñāna (knowledge).

Brahma Sūtra II.i.7

The rebuttal is for this question. When Brahman, who is Pure (without any attributes whatsoever) and devoid of any attributes how can He create the universe which is full of attributes. Therefore, a few say that universe also existed along with Brahman at the time of creation (they say that Brahman has not created the universe, which continued to exist along with Brahman and is considered as a separate entity). This argument itself is considered as unqualified, because it is said that this argument is put forth without any valid reasoning. Such argument is not worthy of any rebuttal because it is said so in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣhad (II.iv.5). “Worlds oust one, who understands them (both sentient and insentient beings) as different from the Self.” Another example is cited in this Upaniṣhad about different manifestations of Brahman. “When a drum is beaten, we get different notes.” Drum is the same, drum sticks are the same and the drummer is the same, but we get different musical notes. Manifestation of Brahman is based on this fundamental principle.

Brahma Sūtra II.i.8

A question is raised in this sūtra as to what would happen at the time of annihilation of the universe? All that is created by Brahman is impure (due to various factors such as ego, desire, attachment, etc). When these impure beings get absorbed into Brahman, will not Brahman also become impure? Though this has been addressed with the example of spider web in sūtra 7, again this question is posed here, in order to avoid any confusion later. The next sūtra answers this question.

Brahma Sūtra II.i.9

The question itself is not right. When everything is Brahman, where is the question of anything else except Brahman? Because of everything is Brahman, He is called omnipresent. Let us take the example of gold. Gold is melted and is made into different ornaments. When these ornaments are melted, again the original gold is attained. Gold is the cause of these ornaments and the ornaments are the effect of the gold. When the effect is dissolved, it goes back to the cause, from which the effect has originated. Similarly, when Brahman dissolves the universe, everything merges unto Him. Still, there will be no changes in Brahman. When there is no change in the spider when it absorbs its web and where there is no change in the gold when the ornaments are melted, how can there be a change in Brahman, when He absorbs His entire creation unto Himself, at the time of annihilation.  

Chāndogya Upaniṣhad (VI.xx5.2) explains the omnipresence of Brahman authoritatively. Not only it explains His omnipresence with authority, but also proceeds to say that those who do not understand Brahman have no place in any of the worlds. This means that they transmigrate and continues to undergo the pains of births and deaths. “The Self is below; the Self is above, behind, in front, to the right, to the left. The Self is all this. He, who sees in this way and knows in this way, has love for the Self, sports with the Self, enjoys the company of the Self and has the joy in the Self (possibly referring to Bliss)….But those who think otherwise are under the control of others (ego). They cannot remain in the worlds they live in nor can they move about in the worlds they like (they cannot reach higher Cosmic realms and will continue to suffer through transmigration).” In other words, the Upaniṣhad says that one has to learn to love Brahman. Mere devotion and ritualistic practices will not take us anywhere near Him. He can be attained only through the mind. But why Brahman is considered as different from us? It is due to our inherent spiritual ignorance known as māyā (more on māyā later). But what is spiritual ignorance? Chāndogya Upaniṣhad (VI.ix.3) says, “Whatever they were before in this world, whether a tiger of lion or leopard or boar or bug or insect or flea or mosquito, all of them are born again (but they never know that have originated from the Self).” The moment a life is born, it forgets its past life’s experience. This can be avoided if one realizes Brahman. Death is not liberation and this will be discussed in detail subsequently.

Therefore, during creation and annihilation, Brahman eternally remains Pure, as purity is His synonym. Unless, our mind becomes pure, Brahman cannot be realized, though the fact remains that we are Brahman Himself.

Further Readings:

Brahma Sutra - I.iv.21 - 28

Brahma Sutra - II.i.1 - 4

Brahma Sutra II.i.10 - 17