Dear AastikAs,

By U. Ve. , MahAmahOpAdhyaya, Dr. Sriman Srirangam Nallan Chakravarthy Raghunathacharya Swami: Translated into English by Sriman K.S. Rajaji I.A.S.,

we continue with the 3rd mantra in this posting.
Mantra – 3

s’aunako havai mahAs’Alongirasam
vidhiva dupasannah paprachcha
kasminnu bhagavO! vijnAthE
sarvamidam vijnAtham bhavatheethi||

Word meaning

mahAs’Alah s’aunakah : sage S’aunaka, who was a great householder
angirasam vidhivath upasannah
: being a qualified disciple according to the scriptures,
approached sage Angiras as a disciple,
paprachcha havai : said to have asked as follows-
bhagavah! : O, respected sir!
idam sarvam : this entire universe, a combination of sentient and
kasminnu vijnAthE : by knowing which object
vijnAtham bhavathi : will become known?
Ithi 🙁 so asked)


From the first two mantras, it is clear that this Akshara Brahmavidya is not a creation of a single person, but it has been obtained through successive acharyas. This proves its excellence. The Upanishads which speak about the different Brahmavidyas commence with a story. One may entertain a doubt as to the purpose the story serves. The vEdas say “pAriplavam Achaksheetha”; “AkhyAnAni s’amsanthi” – when the AsvamEdha sacrifice is being performed, the king, the beneficiary of the sacrifice, his family members and his retinue should be offered proper seating and every day a story is to be narrated to them. Narration of such stories are specified as a part of the performing the sacrifice. This exercise is called pAriplava. Such narration of the stories serves no other purpose than engaging the king and his retinue. It has no significance in the conducting the AsvamEdha sacrifice. In the same manner, these story narrations have no significant value addition to the Brahma Vidyas but for narrative purposes only. This is the manner in which the purvapakshin, the person holding a prima facie view, and in general, one who raises objections; concludes his understanding of the pAriplavam. It is to be noted significantly at this juncture, that this sort of interpretation providing non-significance to the pAriplavam is countered and clarified by the siddhAntin in the pAriplavAdhikaraNa of the VEdAntasUtras that the sole purpose of such exercises of story narration is to emphasize and establish the importance and excellence of the Brahma Vidyas.
Coming to the present meaning of the 3rd mantra, it is stated in the mantra that S’aunaka, desirous of knowing – the thaththvas, the constituent elements of the universe, approaches sage Angiras with diligence, duly prepared with the samidhas- the wooden twigs from the specified trees, to be offered in the sacrificial ritual fires. Prior to approaching the AchArya, he acquired the required qualities a disciple should possess for getting accepted by the learned AchArya. The essence of his question to the AchArya is as follows – O learned sage! Kindly tell me about such an object, by knowing about it, one can know about the entire universe – a combination of the sentient and insentient. S’aunaka had often heard from elders that there exists an object, by knowing that object thoroughly, the whole universe becomes known. Is it not impossible for such an object to exist? Is it possible to know about a tree by knowing about the mound on which it grows? Can one know about the cotton plant to know everything about a cloth? As an explanatory answer to these questions, he had heard the illustration of mrithpiNda, the lump of clay from the same elders. A lump of clay is transformed into several pots, pans, bricks etc. If a person, who had seen the lump of clay in the morning before the transformation took place, sees these pots, pans etc after the transformation, he understands that these pots, pans etc are made from the same lump of clay which was seen by him earlier. Similarly if a person sees a big steel ball which is brought for transformation into objects before the transformation, and subsequently he sees the various items such as knives, spears etc. at the same place, he can easily conclude himself that these items are transformed from the steel ball seen by him earlier. Applying same analogy, if one knows that object, which is the raw material for the universe to be created, before embarking on knowing about the universe, and that is enough to know the entire universe. Saunaka, who concluded that such an object which is the cause for the entire knowledge about the created universe exists, desired to know in detail about that object. This is the underlying meaning of the above question raised in this 3rd Mantra.
From this meaning is of the s’ruthi vAkya “eka vijnAnena sarva vijnAnam“, it is clearly established that upAdAna kAraNa –the raw material or basic cause for the creation of entire visual universe. An object which undergoes transformation into a different stage is called upAdAna kAraNa. The transformed objects kAryas are called as upAdeyas. From the cited example of the lump of clay and the pots, pans etc., it is clear that the Brahman and the universe have a relationship which is called upAdanOpAdEyabhAva – the relationship between the cause and effect.

Likewise, since all the objects which are seen belong to the category kArya – the effect, there is no other object, which is nimitta kAraNa for this transformation and hence it should be noted that the lone Brahman, who is the material cause – the upAdAna kAraNa, is the instrumental cause – the nimitta kAraNa also. From this the statement by the thArkikas – a class of persons who base their arguments and postulations based on logic – “the Brahman is only an instrumental cause and the atomic particles only are the material cause; and the same object can never be the material cause and also the instrumental cause” is contrary to the vEda vAkya. The specific word eka in the s’ruthi vAkya“eka vijnAnena …” as well as the word advitheeya in the s’ruthi vAkya –” sadeva somyedamagra Aseeth – ekamevAdvitheeyam” of ChAndOgya Upanishad make it clear that there is no other object which is the instrumental cause; and the Brahman alone is capable of being the both the causes for the creation of the entire universe.
What is a material cause? Is it not the one which undergoes transformation into another state? (Note the transformation of a lump of clay into pots, pans etc.). How can Brahman who is the repository of knowledge and consciousness transform into the inactive universe, a combination of the sentient and insentient, devoid of knowledge and consciousness? – This is the objection raised for Brahman to become the material cause for the universe. But as can be seen from the previous paragraph, this objection is not at all tenable. The S’ruthi vAkya “eka vijNAna…” indicates that the Brahman is Omnipotent and is having all the requisite wonderful powers and eminence to be capable of being the material cause as well as the instrumental cause. From the example of the lump of clay and the pots, pans etc., it is clear that one should not have the delusion that all visible objects are alike as in the case of seeing one cow and having an impression that all cows will be alike. One should not derive that illusory meaning from “eka vijnAnena sarva vijnAnam”. This has to be explained with the relation of the upAdAna and upAdeya only.

In our next posting we shall see how this s’ruthi is confirming the VisishtAdhvaithA system only.

…to be continued
Courtesy–  Srinivasa Ramanuja DAsan.

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