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

25. And (the case of Brahman is) like that of gods and other beings in ordinary experience.

Well, let it be admitted that milk and other non-intelligent things have the power of turning themselves into sour milk, &c. without any extraneous means, since it is thus observed. But we observe, on the other hand, that intelligent agents, as, for instance, potters, proceed to their several work only after having provided themselves with a complete set of instruments. How then can it be supposed that Brahman, which is likewise of an intelligent nature, should proceed without any auxiliary?

We reply, 'Like gods and others.' As gods, fathers, rishis, and other beings of great power, who are all of intelligent nature, are seen to create many and various objects, such as palaces, chariots, &c., without availing themselves of any

p. 348

extraneous means, by their mere intention, which is effective in consequence of those beings' peculiar power--a fact vouchsafed by mantras, arthavâdas, itihâsas, and purânas;--and as the spider emits out of itself the threads of its web; and as the female crane conceives without a male; and as the lotus wanders from one pond to another without any means of conveyance; so the intelligent Brahman also may be assumed to create the world by itself without extraneous means.

Perhaps our opponent will argue against all this in the following style.--The gods and other beings, whom you have quoted as parallel instances, are really of a nature different from that of Brahman. For the material causes operative in the production of palaces and other material things are the bodies of the gods, and not their intelligent Selfs. And the web of the spider is produced from its saliva which, owing to the spider's devouring small insects, acquires a certain degree of consistency. And the female crane conceives from hearing the sound of thunder. And the lotus flower indeed derives from its indwelling intelligent principle the impulse of movement, but is not able actually to move in so far as it is a merely intelligent being 1; it rather wanders from pond to pond by means of its non-intelligent body, just as the creeper climbs up the tree.--Hence all these illustrative examples cannot be applied to the case of Brahman.

To this we reply, that we meant to show merely that the case of Brahman is different from that of potters and similar agents. For while potters, &c., on the one side, and gods, &c., on the other side, possess the common attribute of intelligence, potters require for their work extraneous means (i.e. means lying outside their bodies) and gods do not. Hence Brahman also, although intelligent, is assumed to require no extraneous means. So much only we wanted to show by the parallel instance of the gods, &c. Our intention is to point out that a peculiarly conditioned capability which

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is observed in some one case (as in that of the potter) is not necessarily to be assumed in all other cases also.


348:1 The right reading appears to be 'svayam eva ketanâ' as found in some MSS. Other MSS. read ketanah.

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