Passages teaching ‘vastu pariccheda abhāva’ for Brahman
There are innumerous passages in the śruti, smṛti and purāṇas to denote that Brahman is free of the limitation caused by objects. That is, there are no objects really that can cause any limitation to Brahman. In other words, if there are objects/entities that are admitted other than, different from, Brahman on absolute terms, then there is no way that Brahman can remain ananta, infinite. Finitude can occur on three grounds: time, space and objects. Brahman is eternal and there is no time-wise limitation to It. Being all-pervading, in and out, Brahman is free of space-wise limitation. Having no objects other than Itself, Brahman is free of object-wise limitation too. In order to make this last aspect clear there are several passages in the scriptures:
- सत्यंज्ञानमनन्तं ब्रह्म । (Brahman is Existence, Consciousness and Infinite) (Taittiriya Up. 2.1). The Bhāṣyam for this, in part, in particular the anantam epithet is:
कथं पुनर्वस्तुत आनन्त्यम्? सर्वानन्यत्वात् । भिन्नं हि वस्तु वस्त्वन्तरस्य अन्तो भवति, वस्त्वन्तरबुद्धिर्हि प्रसक्ताद्वस्त्वन्तरान्निवर्तते । यतो यस्य बुद्धेर्निवृत्तिः, स तस्यान्तः । तद्यथा गोत्वबुद्धिरश्वत्वान्निवर्तत इत्यश्वत्वान्तं गोत्वमित्यन्तवदेव भवति । स चान्तो भिन्नेषु वस्तुषु दृष्टः । नैवं ब्रह्मणो भेदः । अतो वस्तुतोऽप्यानन्त्यम् । कथं पुनः सर्वानन्यत्वं ब्रह्मण इति, उच्यते – सर्ववस्तुकारणत्वात् । सर्वेषां हि वस्तूनां कालाकाशादीनां कारणं ब्रह्म । कार्यापेक्षया वस्तुतोऽन्तवत्त्वमिति चेत्, न; अनृतत्वात्कार्यस्य वस्तुनः । न हि कारणव्यतिरेकेण कार्यं नाम वस्तुतोऽस्ति, यतः कारणबुद्धिर्विनिवर्तेत; ‘वाचारंभणं विकारो नामधेयं मृत्तिकेत्येव सत्यम्’ (छा. उ. ६-१-४) एवं सदेव सत्यमिति श्रुत्यन्तरात् ।
[How again is Brahman infinite object-wise? Since It is non-different from everything. An object that is different from another object, limits the latter. The awareness about the other object is annulled by the awareness of the object that is being perceived at present. That which limits the consciousness (awareness) of the other object is the limiter of the latter. Just as cow-awareness is thwarted by the horse-awareness and thus the latter is certainly the limiter of the former. Such a limitation is seen in objects that are different from each other. Not so is a difference with respect to Brahman. Therefore Brahman is infinite object-wise too. How again is Brahman non-different from everything? This is said thus: Since It is the cause of all objects. Brahman is the Cause of all objects including time and space. Objection: Brahman is object-wise limited, finite, from the standpoint of Its effects. Reply: No, since the object called ‘effect’ is unreal. Never does an object remain different from its cause so as to thwart/annul the cause-awareness. For, the Chā.up. 6.1.4 teaches: ‘all clay-transformations are mere words and the material cause, clay, alone is real.’ Likewise ‘existence alone is real’ teaches another passage.
Continues the bhāṣya:
आकाशो ह्यनन्त इति प्रसिद्धं देशतः; तस्येदं कारणम् ; तस्मात्सिद्धं देशत आत्मन आनन्त्यम् । न ह्यसर्वगतात्सर्वगतमुत्पद्यमानं लोके किञ्चिद्दृश्यते । अतो निरतिशयमात्मन आनन्त्यं देशतः । तथा अकार्यत्वात्कालतः ; तद्भिन्नवस्त्वन्तराभावाच्च वस्तुतः । अत एव निरतिशयसत्यत्वम् ॥] [It is quite well known that space, ākāśa, is infinite. Brahman is the cause of even space and therefore Brahman-Atman is infinite. It is not seen anywhere in the world that something all-pervading issuing forth from a finite cause. Therefore Atman’s infinitude is absolute. And since Brahman is not caused, that is, It is not a product, It is infinite time-wise too. (that which is a product, being absent before its creation, and after its destruction, is indeed finite time-wise and Brahman being uncaused, and thus indestructible, is ever existent and hence infinite time-wise too). And since there is no object other than Brahman, It is infinite object-wise too. Therefore alone is Its absolute Existence as well. ]
- The Tai.up. 2.6.1 says, in part: इदं सर्वमसृजत । यदिदं किञ्च । तत्सृष्ट्वा । तदेवानुप्राविशत् । तदनुप्रविश्य । सच्च त्यच्चाभवत् । …सत्यं चानृतं च सत्यमभवत् । [Brahman created all this and whatever is in creation and experienced as ‘this’. Having created It entered It. And became everything that is real and false…] The bhāṣya says: एतत्सर्वमभवत्, सत्यं परमार्थसत्यम्; किं पुनस्तत्? ब्रह्म, ‘सत्यं ज्ञानमनन्तं ब्रह्म’ इति प्रकृतत्वात् । यस्मात्, सत्त्यदादिकं मूर्तामूर्तधर्मजातं यत्किंचेदं सर्वमविशिष्टं विकारजातमेकमेव सच्छब्दवाच्यं ब्रह्माभवत्, तद्व्यतिरेकेणाभावान्नामरूपविकारस्य, तस्मात् तत् ब्रह्म सत्यमित्याचक्षते ब्रह्मविदः । [ Brahman became all this. Since all transformation that is denoted as formed and un-formed is a manifestation of Brahman alone, being non-existent as different from It, therefore Brahman is called ‘Satyam’.]
- The Bṛ.up. 1.4.10 teaches ब्रह्म वा इदमग्र आसीत्तदात्मानमेवावेत् । अहं ब्रह्मास्मीति । तस्मात्तत्सर्वमभवत् ।[Brahman existed before. It knew Itself as ‘I am Brahman.’ Therefore It became all. The relevant bhashyam is:
तस्मात् — यत्प्रविष्टं स्रष्टृ ब्रह्म, तद्ब्रह्म, वै-शब्दोऽवधारणार्थः, इदं शरीरस्थं यद्गृह्यते, अग्रे प्राक्प्रतिबोधादपि, ब्रह्मैवासीत्, …..तस्मात् एवं विज्ञानात् तद्ब्रह्म सर्वमभवत् – अब्रह्माध्यारोपणापगमात् तत्कार्यस्यासर्वत्वस्य निवृत्त्या सर्वमभवत् ।
(Therefore) That Brahman that has created the world and entered into it, that Brahman, ‘vā’ is for emphasis, idam: that which is available in the body, was Brahman alone before the knowledge too. Upon knowing Itself as ‘I am Brahman’, …it realized Its true nature of being ‘All’.
Here too, the Upaniṣad teaches that the nature of Brahman is to be ‘All’. That is being free of vastu-pariccheda, object-wise limitation.
- The Bṛ.up. 2.4.14 teaches: यत्र हि द्वैतमिव भवति तदितर इतरं जिघ्रति तदितर इतरं पश्यति तदितर इतरं शृणोति तदितर इतरमभिवदति तदितर इतरं मनुते मदितर इतरं विजानाति यत्र वा अस्य सर्वमात्मैवाभूत्तत्केन कं जिघ्रेत्तत्केन कं पश्येत्तत्केन कं शृणुयात्तत्केन कमभिवदेत्तत्केन कं मन्वीत तत्केन कं विजानीयात् । येनेदं सर्वं विजानाति तं केन विजानीयाद्विज्ञातारमरे केन विजानीयादिति ॥ १४ ॥ [ “For when there is duality, as it were, then one smells another, one sees another, one hears another, one speaks to another, one thinks of another, one knows another. But when everything has become the Self, then what should one smell and through what, what should one see and through what, what should one hear and through what, what should one speak and through what, what should one think and through what, what should one know and through what? Through what should One know That owing to which all this is known—through what, my dear, should one know the Knower?”] In this passage too, just as the Bṛ.up.1.4.10 shown above, the ‘corrected’ vision of infinitude is taught through the words ‘sarvam’, ‘All’. In fact the corrected vision transcends the knower-knowing-knowledge tripuṭī, along with the instrument of knowing. This is an unmistakable mark of vastu-pariccheda abhāva to teach Brahman as Infinite. The anvaya-vyatireka method is involved in this mantra too, just as in the 1.4.10 where it is implied. In the state of ignorance, there is finitude, bondage. In the vision of Knowledge, there is infinitude, liberation.
- The famous passage पुरुष एवेदं सर्वम् (All this is verily the Puruṣa, Brahman) of the Puruṣa sūkta too teaches Brahman as one devoid of object-wise limitation. There is this explanation from the Dvaita school for this mantra: The identity between the ‘all’ and ‘Puruṣa’ is not the one of advaita but it signifies only a dependence of the all on the Puruṣa for its very existence, sattā. However, such a view only culminates in the ‘all’ being non-different from the category of the ‘rope-snake’ where alone there is dependence of the imagined snake on the real rope for its very existence. Ultimately such an explanation as above will render the ‘all’ no different from a superimposition. And thru that, the Advaitic identity.
- The Māṇḍūkya upaniṣad too teaches that everything is non-different from the Supreme: सर्वं ह्येतद्ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोऽयमात्मा चतुष्पात् ॥ २ ॥ [All this is, indeed, Brahman. This Atman is Brahman. This same Atman has four quarters.]
- The Chāndogya up. 7.25.2 teaches: आत्मैवेदं सर्वमिति[All this is verily the Ātman]
- The Muṇḍakopaniṣat 2.2.11 too teaches on the same lines as the above: ब्रह्मैवेदममृतं पुरस्ताद्ब्रह्म पश्चाद्ब्रह्म दक्षिणतश्चोत्तरेण ।
अधश्चोर्ध्वं च प्रसृतं ब्रह्मैवेदं विश्वमिदं वरिष्ठम् ॥ १२ ॥ [11 That immortal Brahman alone is before, that Brahman is behind, that Brahman is to the right and left. Brahman alone pervades everything above and below; this universe is that Supreme Brahman alone.]
- The Bṛ.up 2.4.6 makes this teaching extremely lucid: ब्रह्म तं परादाद्योऽन्यत्रात्मनो ब्रह्म वेद क्षत्त्रं तं परादाद्योऽन्यत्रात्मनः क्षत्त्रं वेद लोकास्तं परादुर्योऽन्यत्रात्मनो लोकान्वेद देवास्तं परादुर्योऽन्यत्रात्मनो देवान्वेद भूतानि तं परादुर्योऽन्यत्रात्मनो भूतानि वेद सर्वं तं परादाद्योऽन्यत्रात्मनः सर्वं वेदेदं ब्रह्मेदं क्षत्त्रमिमे लोका इमे देवा इमानि भूतानीदं सर्वं यदयमात्मा ॥ ६ ॥[“The brahmin rejects one who knows him as different from the Self. The kshatriya rejects one who knows him as different from the Self. The worlds reject one who knows them as different from the Self. The gods reject one who knows them as different from the Self. The beings reject one who knows them as different from the Self. The All rejects one who knows it as different from the Self. This brahmin, this kshatriya, these worlds, these gods, these beings and this All — are that Self.]
- The Smṛti, Bhagavadgītā 7.19 emphatically teaches the mode of realization of the Self: बहूनां जन्मनामन्ते ज्ञानवान्मां प्रपद्यते । वासुदेवः सर्वमिति स महात्मा सुदुर्लभः ॥ १९ ॥ [19 At the end of many births the man of Knowledge attains Me, (realizing) that Vasudeva is all. Such a high-souled one is very rare.] Shankaracharya’s commentary:
बहूनां जन्मनां ज्ञानार्थसंस्काराश्रयाणाम् अन्ते समाप्तौ ज्ञानवान् प्राप्तपरिपाकज्ञानः मां वासुदेवं प्रत्यगात्मानं प्रत्यक्षतः प्रपद्यते । कथम् ? वासुदेवः सर्वम् इति । यः एवं सर्वात्मानं मां नारायणं प्रतिपद्यते, सः महात्मा ; न तत्समः अन्यः अस्ति, अधिको वा । अतः सुदुर्लभः, ‘मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु’ (भ. गी. ७-३) इति हि उक्तम् ॥ 7.19 Ante, at the end, after the completion; bahūnām, of many; janmanām, births, which became the repository for accumulating the tendencies leading to Knowledge; jnānavān, the man of Knowledge, who has got his Knowledge matured; directly prapadyate, attains; mām, Me, Vāsudeva, who am the inmost Self; (realizing)-in what way?-iti, that; Vāsudeva is sarvam, all. Sah, such a one, who realizes Me [Here Ast. adds the word Narayana.-Tr.] thus as the Self of all; is mahatma, a high-souled one. There is none else who can equal or excel him. Therefore he is su-durlabhah, very rare among thousands of men, as it has been said (in verse 3).
11. The Viṣṇu purāṇa brings out the above teaching thus: सकलमिदमहं च* *वासुदेवः*
*परमपुमान्*परमेश्वरः स एकः ।
इति मतिरचला भवत्यनन्ते
हृदयगते व्रज तान्विहाय दूरात् ॥ 3.7.32 ||
[‘All this including me is nothing but Vāsudeva, the supreme Person (uttama puruṣaḥ), the supreme Ishwara, One alone.’ He who has fixed his mind thus in the Infinite Brahman that is established in his heart (‘yo veda nihitam guhāyām parame vyoman’ of the Taittiriya which teaches that the Supreme has to be realized in the heart) – will never be touched by death, samsāra).
Shankara cites another verse from the same Vishnupurāṇa in that
introduction, a little later:
*अहं हरिः सर्वमिदं जनार्द्दनो* नान्यत् ततः कारणकार्य्यजातम् ।
ईदृङूमनो यस्य न तस्य भूयो भवोद्भवा द्वन्द्वगदा भवन्ति ।। 1.22.86 ।।
(‘I am Hari, all this (universe) is Janārdana, there is none other than Him
as cause-effect combine. He who has thus realized will never be caught in samsāra.)
- Apart from the above kind of ‘postive’ teaching of ‘all’ being Brahman, there is the ‘negative’ kind of teaching too to drive home the same message: Bṛ.up.4.4.19: मनसैवानुद्रष्टव्यं नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन । मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ १९ [ ‘Through the mind alone is Brahman to be realized. There is in It no diversity. He goes from death to death who sees in It, as it were, diversity.’ ] All such non-advaitic explanations for the above mantra such as ‘this mantra only denies difference between the various Avatāras of Viṣṇu as Rāma and Kṛṣṇa and one who holds such absolute difference will go from death to death’ does not convey the Upaniṣadic purport. For, the Upaniṣad is never of the opinion anywhere that the perception of difference between Rāma and Kṛṣṇa is the cause of samsāra. The Upaniṣad comes to redeem us from ignorance that is the cause of samsāra. Anyone with a basic knowledge of purāṇa will know that Rāma, Kṛṣṇa, etc. are only manifestations of one Viṣṇu and there is no absolute difference between those forms/persons. The Upaniṣad need not therefore teach that such difference is censurable. On the other hand, it is not common knowledge that the perception of difference, duality, nānātva, is what is samsāra and the knowledge that annuls this is the one of Ekatva. Innumerable passages such as ‘यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतानि आत्मैवाभूद्विजानतः । तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥ ७ ॥ [7 To the seer, all things have verily become the Self: what delusion, what sorrow, can there be for him who beholds that oneness? ] teach us that it is the knowledge of Unity, oneness, that redeems one from delusion and misery, the manifestations of samsāra.
The foregoing passages from the śruti, smṛti and purāṇa are only a representative sample of several such passages that unmistakably teach that Brahman is devoid of the finitude caused by object-wise difference. In other words, if there are objects/persons/entities that are admitted to be absolutely different, atyanta bheda, from Brahman, then Brahman cannot be admitted to be ananta. Vastu-pariccheda will bring about paricchinnatva, finitude, limitation, in Brahman, by that very vastu, object/person/entity, that is admitted to be different from Brahman. Thus the Vedanta does not admit of such a finitude in Brahman. The Advaitic commentaries alone bring out in no unmistakable terms this aupaniṣadic ānantya of Brahman. In non-advaitic interpretations the ānantya of Brahman is only compromised as they do not admit of the vastu-pariccheda abhāva taught by the innumerable passages cited above. To sum up, the word ‘sarvam’ is the key to understand the negation of vastu-pariccheda in Brahman-Ātman.
Om Tat Sat