Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, Commentary by Sankara (SBE38), tr. by George Thibaut [1896] at

p. 1




p. 3




1. Ether 1 (does) not (originate), on account of the absence of scriptural statement.

In the Vedânta-texts we meet in different places with different statements concerning the origination of various things. Some of those passages declare that ether originated; some do not. Some record the origination of air; others do not. Other passages again make analogous statements concerning the individual soul and the vital airs.--Similarly we observe that other scriptural texts contradict one another concerning order of succession and the like.--Now, as we ourselves have inferred the worthlessness of other philosophical doctrines from their mutual contradictions, a suspicion might arise that our doctrine is equally worthless, owing to its intrinsic contradictions. Hence a new discussion is begun in order to clear from all doubt the sense of all those Vedânta-texts which refer to creation, and thus to remove the suspicion alluded to.

Here we have to consider in the first place the question

p. 4

whether ether has an origin or not.--The pûrvapakshin maintains that ether does not originate, since there is no scriptural statement to that effect. For in the chapter which treats of the origin (of the world) ether is not mentioned at all. In the passage 'In the beginning there was that only which is, one only, without a second' the Khândogya at first introduces Brahman as the general subject-matter, by means of the clause 'that which is,' and thereupon (in the passages 'It thought,' 'It sent forth fire,' &c.) records the origin of three elements, viz. fire, water, and earth; giving the first place to fire which (ordinarily) occupies the middle place among the five elements. 1 Now, as scriptural statement is our (only) authority in the origination of the knowledge of supersensuous things, and as there is no scriptural statement declaring the origin of ether, ether must be considered to have no origin.


3:1 Here, as generally in the preceding parts of this translation, âkâsa is rendered by 'ether.' There is no doubt that occasionally the appropriate--and in some cases the only possible-rendering is not 'ether' but 'space;' but the former rendering, after all, best agrees with the general Vedântic view of âkâsa. The Vedântins do not clearly distinguish between empty space and an exceedingly line matter filling all space, and thus it happens that in many cases where we speak of the former they speak of âkâsa, i.e. the all-pervading substratum of sound; which howsoever attenuated is yet one of the material elements, and as such belongs to the same category as air, fire, water, and earth.

4:1 The usual order being ether, air, fire, water, earth.

Next: II, 3, 2