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

2. And because the qualities desired to be expressed are possible (in Brahman; therefore the passage refers to Brahman).

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Although in the Veda which is not the work of man no wish in the strict sense can be expressed 1, there being no speaker, still such phrases as 'desired to be expressed,' may be figuratively used on account of the result, viz. (mental) comprehension. For just as in ordinary language we speak of something which is intimated by a word and is to be received (by the hearer as the meaning of the word), as 'desired to be expressed;' so in the Veda also whatever is denoted as that which is to be received is 'desired to be expressed,' everything else 'not desired to be expressed.' What is to be received as the meaning of a Vedic sentence, and what not, is inferred from the general purport of the passage. Those qualities which are here desired to be expressed, i.e. intimated as qualities to be dwelt on in meditation, viz. the qualities of having true purposes, &c. are possible in the highest Brahman; for the quality of having true purposes may be ascribed to the highest Self which possesses unimpeded power over the creation, subsistence, and reabsorption of this world. Similarly the qualities of having true desires and true purposes are attributed to the highest Self in another passage, viz. the one beginning, 'The Self which is free from sin' (Kh. Up. VIII, 7, 1). The clause, 'He whose Self is the ether,' means 'he whose Self is like the ether;' for Brahman may be said to be like the ether on account of its omnipresence and other qualities. This is also expressed by the clause, 'Greater than the earth.' And the other explanation also, according to which the passage means 'he whose Self is the ether' is possible, since Brahman which as the cause of the whole world is the Self of everything is also the Self of the ether. For the same reasons he is called 'he to whom all works belong, and so on.' Thus the qualities here intimated as topics of meditation agree with the nature of Brahman. We further maintain that the terms 'consisting of mind,' and 'having breath for its body,' which the pûrvapakshin asserts

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cannot refer to Brahman, may refer to it. For as Brahman is the Self of everything, qualities such as consisting of mind and the like, which belong to the individual soul, belong to Brahman also. Accordingly Sruti and Smriti say of Brahman, 'Thou art woman, thou art man; thou art youth, thou art maiden; thou as an old man totterest along on thy staff; thou art born with thy face turned everywhere' (Sve. Up. IV, 3), and 'its hands and feet are everywhere, its eyes and head are everywhere, its ears are everywhere, it stands encompassing all in the world' (Bha. Gîtâ III, 13).

The passage (quoted above against our view), 'Without breath, without mind, pure,' refers to the pure (unrelated) Brahman. The terms 'consisting of mind; having breath for its body,' on the other hand, refer to Brahman as distinguished by qualities. Hence, as the qualities mentioned are possible in Brahman, we conclude that the highest Brahman only is represented as the object of meditation.


110:1 The discussion is brought on by the term 'vivakshita' in the Sûtra whose meaning is 'expressed, aimed at,' but more literally 'desired to be expressed.'

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