Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Vedanta Sutras, commentary by Sankaracharya (SBE34), tr. by George Thibaut [1890] at

14. (Although there is a conflict of the Vedânta-passages with regard to the things created, such as) ether and so on; (there is no such conflict with regard to the Lord) on account of his being represented (in one passage) as described (in other passages), viz. as the cause (of the world).

In the preceding part of the work the right definition of Brahman has been established; it has been shown that all the Vedânta-texts have Brahman for their common topic; and it has been proved that there is no scriptural authority for the doctrine of the pradhâna.--But now a new objection presents itself.

It is not possible--our opponent says-to prove either that Brahman is the cause of the origin, &c. of the world, or that all Vedânta-texts refer to Brahman; because we observe that the Vedânta-texts contradict one another. All the Vedânta-passages which treat of the creation enumerate its successive steps in different order, and so in reality speak of different creations. In one place it is said that from the Self there sprang the ether (Taitt. Up. II, 1); in another place that the creation began with fire (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 3); in another place, again, that the Person created breath and from breath faith (Pr. Up. VI, 4); in another place, again, that the Self created these worlds, the water (above the heaven), light, the mortal (earth), and the water (below the earth) (Ait. Âr. II, 4, 1, 2; 3). There no order is stated at all. Somewhere else it is said that the creation originated from the Non-existent. 'In the beginning this was non-existent; from it was born what exists' (Taitt. Up. II, 7); and, 'In the beginning this was non-existent; it became existent; it grew' (Kh. Up. III, 19, 1). In another place,

p. 264

again, the doctrine of the Non-existent being the antecedent of the creation is impugned, and the Existent mentioned in its stead. 'Others say, in the beginning there was that only which is not; but how could it be thus, my dear? How could that which is be born of that which is not?' (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 1; 2.) And in another place, again, the development of the world is spoken of as having taken place spontaneously, 'Now all this was then undeveloped. It became developed by form and name' (Bri. Up. I, 4, 7).--As therefore manifold discrepancies are observed, and as no option is possible in the case of an accomplished matter  1, the Vedânta-passages cannot be accepted as authorities for determining the cause of the world, but we must rather accept some other cause of the world resting on the authority of Smriti and Reasoning.

To this we make the following reply.--Although the Vedânta-passages may be conflicting with regard to the order of the things created, such as ether and so on, they do not conflict with regard to the creator, 'on account of his being represented as described.' That means: such as the creator is described in any one Vedânta-passage, viz. as all-knowing, the Lord of all, the Self of all, without a second, so he is represented in all other Vedânta-passages also. Let us consider, for instance, the description of Brahman (given in Taitt. Up. II, 1 ff.). There it is said at first, 'Truth, knowledge, infinite is Brahman.' Here the word 'knowledge,' and so likewise the statement, made later on, that Brahman desired (II, 6), intimate that Brahman is of the nature of intelligence. Further, the text declares  2 that the cause of the world is the general Lord, by representing it as not dependent on anything else. It further applies to the cause of the world the term 'Self (II, 1), and it represents it as abiding within the series of sheaths beginning

p. 265

with the gross body; whereby it affirms it to be the internal Self within all beings. Again--in the passage, 'May I be many, may I grow forth'--it tells how the Self became many, and thereby declares that the creator is non-different from the created effects. And--in the passage, 'He created all this whatever there is'--it represents the creator as the Cause of the entire world, and thereby declares him to have been without a second previously to the creation. The same characteristics which in the above passages are predicated of Brahman, viewed as the Cause of the world, we find to be predicated of it in other passages also, so, for instance, 'Being only, my dear, was this in the beginning, one only, without a second. It thought, may I be many, may I grow forth. It sent forth fire' (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 1; 3), and 'In the beginning all this was Self, one only; there was nothing else blinking whatsoever. He thought, shall I send forth worlds?' (Ait. Âr. II, 4, 1, 1; 2.) The Vedânta-passages which are concerned with setting forth the cause of the world are thus in harmony throughout.--On the other hand, there are found conflicting statements concerning the world, the creation being in some places said to begin with ether, in other places with fire, and so on. But, in the first place, it cannot be said that the conflict of statements concerning the world affects the statements concerning the cause, i.e. Brahman, in which all the Vedânta-texts are seen to agree--for that would be an altogether unfounded generalization;--and, in the second place, the teacher will reconcile later on (II, 3) those conflicting passages also which refer to the world. And, to consider the matter more thoroughly, a conflict of statements regarding the world would not even matter greatly, since the creation of the world and similar topics are not at all what Scripture wishes to teach. For we neither observe nor are told by Scripture that the welfare of man depends on those matters in any way; nor have we the right to assume such a thing; because we conclude from the introductory and concluding clauses that the passages about the creation and the like form only subordinate members of passages treating of Brahman. That all the passages

p. 266

setting forth the creation and so on subserve the purpose of teaching Brahman, Scripture itself declares; compare Kh. Up. VI, 8, 4, 'As food too is an offshoot, seek after its root, viz. water. And as water too is an offshoot, seek after its root, viz. fire. And as fire too is an offshoot, seek after its root, viz. the True.' We, moreover, understand that by means of comparisons such as that of the clay (Kh. Up. VI, i, 4) the creation is described merely for the purpose of teaching us that the effect is not really different from the cause. Analogously it is said by those who know the sacred tradition, 'If creation is represented by means of (the similes of) clay, iron, sparks, and other things; that is only a means for making it understood that (in reality) there is no difference whatever' (Gaudap. Kâ. III, l5).--On the other hand, Scripture expressly states the fruits connected with the knowledge of Brahman, He who knows Brahman obtains the highest' (Taitt. Up. II, i); 'He who knows the Self overcomes grief' (Kh. Up. VII, i, 3); 'A man who knows him passes over death' (Sve. Up. III, 8). That fruit is, moreover, apprehended by intuition (pratyaksha), for as soon as, by means of the doctrine, 'That art thou,' a man has arrived at the knowledge that the Self is non-transmigrating, its transmigrating nature vanishes for him.

It remains to dispose of the assertion that passages such as 'Non-being this was in the beginning' contain conflicting statements about the nature of the cause. This is done in the next Sutra.


264:1 Option being possible only in the case of things to be accomplished, i.e. actions.

264:2 According to Go. Ân. in the passage, 'That made itself its Self (II, 7); according to Ân. Giri in the passage, 'He created all' (II, 6).

Next: I, 4, 15