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  By Edwin Arnold

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Ramanujacharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya translated By George Thibaut
SriBhashya - Ramanuja's Commentary On Brahma Sutra (Vedanta Sutra)

Sri Bhashya (also spelled as Sri Bhasya) is a commentary of Ramanujacharya on the Brama Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras) of Badarayana. In this bhashya, Ramanuja presents the fundamental philosophical principles of Visistadvaita based on his interpretation of the Upanishads, Bhagavad-gita and other smrti texts. In his Sri-bhashya he describes the three categories of reality (tattvas): God, soul and matter, which have been used by the later Vaisnava theologians including Madhva. The principles of bhakti as a means to liberation were also developed.

27. Owing to modification.

This means--owing to the essential nature of modification (parinâma). The modification taught in our system is not such as to introduce imperfections into the highest Brahman, on the contrary it confers on it limitless glory. For our teaching as to Brahman's modification is as follows.

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[paragraph continues] Brahman--essentially antagonistic to all evil, of uniform goodness, differing in nature from all beings other than itself, all-knowing, endowed with the power of immediately realising all its purposes, in eternal possession of all it wishes for, supremely blessed--has for its body the entire universe, with all its sentient and non-sentient beings--the universe being for it a plaything as it were--and constitutes the Self of the Universe. Now, when this world which forms Brahman's body has been gradually reabsorbed into Brahman, each constituent element being refunded into its immediate cause, so that in the end there remains only the highly subtle, elementary matter which Scripture calls Darkness; and when this so-called Darkness itself, by assuming a form so extremely subtle that it hardly deserves to be called something separate from Brahman, of which it constitutes the body, has become one with Brahman; then Brahman invested with this ultra-subtle body forms the resolve 'May I again possess a world-body constituted by all sentient and non-sentient beings, distinguished by names and forms just as in the previous aeon,' and modifies (parinâmayati) itself by gradually evolving the world-body in the inverse order in which reabsorption had taken place.

All Vedânta-texts teach such modification or change on Brahman's part. There is, e.g., the text in the Brihad-Âranyaka which declares that the whole world constitutes the body of Brahman and that Brahman is its Self. That text teaches that earth, water, fire, sky, air, heaven, sun, the regions, moon and stars, ether, darkness, light, all beings, breath, speech, eye, ear, mind, skin, knowledge form the body of Brahman which abides within them as their Self and Ruler. Thus in the Kânva-text; the Mâdhyandina-text reads 'the Self' instead of 'knowledge'; and adds the worlds, sacrifices and vedas. The parallel passage in the Subâla-Upanishad adds to the beings enumerated as constituting Brahman's body in the Brihad-Âranyaka, buddhi, ahamkâra, the mind (kitta), the Un-evolved (avyakta), the Imperishable (akshara), and concludes 'He who moves within death, of whom death is the body,

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whom death does not know, he is the inner Self of all, free from all evil, divine, the one god Nârâyana. The term 'Death' here denotes matter in its extremely subtle form, which in other texts is called Darkness; as we infer from the order of enumeration in another passage in the same Upanishad, 'the Unevolved is merged in the Imperishable, the Imperishable in Darkness.' That this Darkness is called 'Death' is due to the fact that it obscures the understanding of all souls and thus is harmful to them. The full text in the Subâla-Up. declaring the successive absorption of all the beings forming Brahman's body is as follows, 'The earth is merged in water, water in fire, fire in air, air in the ether, the ether in the sense-organs, the sense-organs in the tanmâtras, the tanmâtras in the gross elements, the gross elements in the great principle, the great principle in the Unevolved, the Unevolved in the Imperishable; the Imperishable is merged in Darkness; Darkness becomes one with the highest Divinity.' That even in the state of non-separation (to which the texts refer as 'becoming one') non-sentient matter as well as sentient beings, together with the impressions of their former deeds, persists in an extremely subtle form, will be shown under II, 1, 35. We have thus a Brahman all-knowing, of the nature of supreme bliss and so on, one and without a second, having for its body all sentient and non-sentient beings abiding in an extremely subtle condition and having become 'one' with the Supreme Self in so far as they cannot be designated as something separate from him; and of this Brahman Scripture records that it forms the resolve of becoming many--in so far, namely, as investing itself with a body consisting of all sentient and non-sentient beings in their gross, manifest state which admits of distinctions of name and form--and thereupon modifies (parinâma) itself into the form of the world. This is distinctly indicated in the Taittirîya-Upanishad, where Brahman is at first described as 'The True, knowledge, infinite,' as 'the Self of bliss which is different from the Self of Understanding,' as 'he who bestows bliss'; and where the text further on says, 'He desired, may I be many, may

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[paragraph continues] I grow forth. He brooded over himself, and having thus brooded he sent forth all whatever there is. Having sent forth he entered it. Having entered it he became sat and tyat, defined and undefined, supported and non-supported, knowledge and non-knowledge, real and unreal.' The 'brooding' referred to in this text denotes knowing, viz. reflection on the shape and character of the previous world which Brahman is about to reproduce. Compare the text 'whose brooding consists of knowledge' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 9). The meaning therefore is that Brahman, having an inward intuition of the characteristics of the former world, creates the new world on the same pattern. That Brahman in all kalpas again and again creates the same world is generally known from Sruti and Smriti. Cp. 'As the creator formerly made sun and moon, and sky and earth, and the atmosphere and the heavenly world,' and 'whatever various signs of the seasons are seen in succession, the same appear again and again in successive yugas and kalpas.'

The sense of the Taittirîya-text therefore is as follows. The highest Self, which in itself is of the nature of unlimited knowledge and bliss, has for its body all sentient and non-sentient beings--instruments of sport for him as it were--in so subtle a form that they may be called non-existing; and as they are his body he may be said to consist of them (tan-maya). Then desirous of providing himself with an infinity of playthings of all kinds he, by a series of steps beginning with Prakriti and the aggregate of souls and leading down to the elements in their gross state, so modifies himself as to have those elements for his body--when he is said to consist of them--and thus appears in the form of our world containing what the text denotes as sat and tyat, i.e. all intelligent and non-intelligent things, from gods down to plants and stones. When the text says that the Self having entered into it became sat and tyat, the meaning is that the highest Self, which in its causal state had been the universal Self, abides, in its effected state also, as the Self of the different substances undergoing changes and thus becomes this and that. While the highest Self thus

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undergoes a change--in the form of a world comprising the whole aggregate of sentient and non-sentient beings--all imperfection and suffering are limited to the sentient beings constituting part of its body, and all change is restricted to the non-sentient things which constitute another part. The highest Self is effected in that sense only that it is the ruling principle, and hence the Self, of matter and souls in their gross or evolved state; but just on account of being this, viz. their inner Ruler and Self, it is in no way touched by their imperfections and changes. Consisting of unlimited knowledge and bliss he for ever abides in his uniform nature, engaged in the sport of making this world go round. This is the purport of the clause 'it became the real and the unreal': although undergoing a change into the multiplicity of actual sentient and non-sentient things, Brahman at the same time was the Real, i.e. that which is free from all shadow of imperfection, consisting of nothing but pure knowledge and bliss. That all beings, sentient and non-sentient, and whether in their non-evolved or evolved states, are mere playthings of Brahman, and that the creation and reabsorption of the world are only his sport, this has been expressly declared by Dvaipâyana, Parâsara and other Rishis,'Know that all transitory beings, from the Unevolved down to individual things, are a mere play of Hari'; 'View his action like that of a playful child,' &c. The Sûtrakâra will distinctly enounce the same view in II, 1, 33. With a similar view the text 'from that the Lord of Mâya sends forth all this; and in that the other is bound by Mâyâ' (Svet. Up. IV, 9), refers to Prakriti and soul, which together constitute the body of Brahman, as things different from Brahman, although then, i.e. at the time of a pralaya, they are one with Brahman in so far as their extreme subtlety does not admit of their being conceived as separate; this it does to the end of suggesting that even when Brahman undergoes the change into the shape of this world, all changes exclusively belong to non-sentient matter which is a mode of Brahman, and all imperfections and sufferings to the individual souls which also are modes of Brahman. The

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text has to be viewed as agreeing in meaning with 'that Self made itself.' Of a similar purport is the account given in Manu, 'He being desirous to send forth from his body beings of many kinds, first with a thought created the waters and placed his seed in them' (I, 8).

It is in this way that room is found for those texts also which proclaim Brahman to be free from all imperfection and all change. It thus remains a settled conclusion that Brahman by itself constitutes the material as well as the operative cause of the world.

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