The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, Commentary by Sankara (SBE38), tr. by George Thibaut  at sacred-texts.com
21. And on account of the declaration (of scripture).
Scripture moreover declares that the highest Brahman enters into the body and the other limiting adjuncts, 'He made bodies with two feet, he made bodies with four feet. Having first become a bird he entered the bodies as purusha' (Bri. Up. II, 5, 18); and 'Having entered into them with this living (individual) Self' (Kh. Up. VI, 3, 2).--For all these reasons the comparison set forth in Sutra 18 is unobjectionable.
Some teachers assume that the preceding discussion (beginning from Sutra 11) comprises two adhikaranas, of which the former discusses the question whether Brahman is an absolutely uniform being in which all the plurality of the apparent world vanishes, or a being multiform as the apparent world is; while the latter tries to determine
whether Brahman--whose absolute uniformity was established in the former adhikarana--is to be defined as that which is (sat), or as thought (intelligence; bodha), or as both.--Against this we remark that in no case there is a valid reason for beginning a second adhikarana. For what should be the subject of a special second adhikarana? Sûtra 15 and foll. cannot be meant to disprove that Brahman possesses a plurality of characteristics; for that hypothesis is already sufficiently disposed of in Sûtras 11-14. Nor can they be meant to show that Brahman is to be defined only as 'that which is,' not also as 'thought;' for that would imply that the scriptural passage, 'consisting of nothing but knowledge' (Bri. Up. II, 4, 12), is devoid of meaning. How moreover could Brahman, if devoid of intelligence, be said to be the Self of the intelligent individual soul? Nor again can the hypothetical second adhikarana be assumed to prove that Brahman must be defined as 'thought' only, not at the same time as 'that which is;' for if it were so, certain scriptural passages--as e.g. Ka. Up. II, 6, 13, 'He is to be conceived by the words, He is'--would lose their meaning. And how, moreover, could we admit thought apart from existence?--Nor can it be said that Brahman has both those characteristics, since that would contradict something already admitted. For he who would maintain that Brahman is characterised by thought different from existence, and at the same time by existence different from thought, would virtually maintain that there is a plurality in Brahman, and that view has already been disproved in the preceding adhikarana.--But as scripture teaches both (viz. that Brahman is one only and that it possesses more than one characteristic) there can be no objection to such a doctrine!--There is, we reply, for one being cannot possibly possess more than one nature.--And if it finally should be said that existence is thought and thought existence and that the two do not exclude each other; we remark that in that case there is no reason for the doubt 1 whether Brahman is that which is, or intelligence,
or both.--On the other hand we have shown that the Sûtras can be explained as constituting one adhikarana only. Moreover, as the scriptural texts concerning Brahman disagree in so far as representing Brahman as qualified by form and again as devoid of form we, when embracing the alternative of a Brahman devoid of form, must necessarily explain the position of the other texts, and if taken in that sense the Sûtras (15-21) acquire a more appropriate meaning. And if it is maintained that those scriptural passages also which speak of Brahman as qualified by form have no separate meaning of their own, but likewise teach that Brahman is devoid of all form, viz. by intimating that the plurality referred to has to be annihilated; we reply that this opinion also appears objectionable. In those cases, indeed, where elements of plurality are referred to in chapters treating of the highest knowledge, we may assume them to be mentioned merely to be abstracted from; so e.g. in the passage, Bri. Up. II, 5, 19, 'His horses are yoked hundreds and ten. This is the horses, this is the ten and the thousands, many and endless,' which passage is immediately followed by the words, 'This is the Brahman without cause and without effect, without anything inside or outside.' But where elements of plurality are referred to in chapters treating of devout meditation, we have no right to assume that they are mentioned only to be set aside. This is the case e.g. in the passage, 'He who consists of mind, whose body is prâna, whose form is light' (Kh. Up. III, 14, 2), which is connected with an injunction of devout meditation contained in the preceding passage, 'Let him have this will and belief.' In passages of the latter kind, where the determinations attributed to Brahman may be taken as they stand and viewed as subserving the purposes of devout meditation, we have no right to assume that they are mentioned with the indirect purpose of being discarded. Moreover, if all texts concerning Brahman equally aimed at discarding all thought of plurality, there would be no opportunity for stating the determinative reason (why Brahman is to be viewed as devoid of all form) as was done in Sûtra 14. And further scripture
informs us that devout meditations on Brahman as characterised by form have results of their own, viz. either the warding off of calamities, or the gaining of power, or else release by successive steps. All these reasons determine us to view the passages concerning devout meditation on the one hand and the passages concerning Brahman on the other hand as constituting separate classes, not as forming one whole. In what way moreover, we ask, could the two classes of texts be looked upon as constituting one whole?--Our opponent will perhaps reply, 'Because we apprehend them to form parts of one injunction, just as we do in the case of the darsapûrnamâsa-sacrifice and the oblations called prayâgas.'--But this reply we are unable to admit, since the texts about Brahman, as shown at length under I, 1, 4, merely determine an existing substance (viz. Brahman), and do not enjoin any performances. What kind of activity, we moreover ask, are those texts, according to our opponent's view, meant to enjoin? For whenever an injunction is laid upon a person, it has reference to some kind of work to be undertaken by him.--Our opponent will perhaps make the following reply. The object of the injunction is in the present case, the annihilation of the appearance of duality. As long as the latter is not destroyed, the true nature of Brahman is not known; hence the appearance of duality which stands in the way of true knowledge must be dissolved. Just as the Veda prescribes the performance of certain sacrifices to him who is desirous of the heavenly world, so it prescribes the dissolution of the apparent world to him who is desirous of final release. Whoever wants to know the true nature of Brahman must first annihilate the appearance of plurality that obstructs true knowledge, just as a man wishing to ascertain the true nature of some jar or similar object placed in a dark room must at first remove the darkness. For the apparent world has Brahman for its true nature, not vice versa; therefore the cognition of Brahman is effected through the previous annihilation of the apparent world of names and forms.
This argumentation we meet by asking our opponent
of what nature that so-called annihilation of the apparent world is. Is it analogous to the annihilation of hardness in butter which is effected by bringing it into contact with fire? or is the apparent world of names and forms which is superimposed upon Brahman by Nescience to be dissolved by knowledge, just as the phenomenon of a double moon which is due to a disease of the eyes is removed by the application of medicine 1? If the former, the Vedic injunctions bid us to do something impossible; for no man can actually annihilate this whole existing world with all its animated bodies and all its elementary substances such as earth and so on. And if it actually could be done, the first released person would have done it once for all, so that at present the whole world would be empty, earth and all other substances having been finally annihilated.--If the latter, i.e. if our opponent maintains that the phenomenal world is superimposed upon Brahman by Nescience and annihilated by knowledge, we point out that the only thing needed is that the knowledge of Brahman should be conveyed by Vedic passages sublating the apparent plurality superimposed upon Brahman by Nescience, such as 'Brahman is one, without a second;' 'That is the true, it is the Self and thou art it.' (Kh. Up. VI, 2, 1; 8, 7.) As soon as Brahman is indicated in this way, knowledge arising of itself discards Nescience, and this whole world of names and forms, which had been hiding Brahman from us, melts away like the imagery of a dream. As long, on the other hand, as Brahman is not so indicated, you may say a hundred times, 'Cognize Brahman! Dissolve this world!' and yet we shall be unable to do either the one or the other.
But, our opponent may object, even after Brahman has been indicated by means of the passages quoted, there is room for injunctions bidding us either to cognize Brahman or to dissolve the world.--Not so, we reply; for both these
things are already effected by the indication of the true nature of Brahman as devoid of all plurality; just as the pointing out of the true nature of the rope has for its immediate result the cognition of the true nature of the rope, and the dissolution of the appearance of a snake or the like. And what is done once need not be done again 1.--We moreover ask the following question: Does the individual soul on which the injunction is laid belong to the unreal element of the phenomenal world or to the real element, i.e. Brahman, which underlies the phenomenal world? If the former, the soul itself is dissolved just as earth and the other elements are, as soon as the knowledge of Brahman's true nature has arisen, and on whom then should the dissolution of the world be enjoined, or who should, by acting on that injunction, obtain release?--If the latter, we are led to the same result. For as soon as there arises the knowledge that Brahman, which never can become the subject of an injunction, is the true being of the soul while the soul as such is due to Nescience, there remains no being on which injunctions could be laid, and hence there is no room for injunctions at all.
What then, it may be asked, is the meaning of those Vedic passages which speak of the highest Brahman as something to be seen, to be heard, and so on?--They aim, we reply, not at enjoining the knowledge of truth, but merely at directing our attention to it. Similarly in ordinary life imperative phrases such as 'Listen to this!' 'Look at this!' are frequently meant to express not that we are immediately to cognize this or that, but only that we are to direct our attention to it. Even when a person is face to face with some object of knowledge, knowledge may either arise or not; all that another person wishing to inform him about the object can do is to point it out to him; knowledge will thereupon spring up in his mind of itself, according to the object of knowledge and according
to the means of knowledge employed.--Nor must it be said that an injunction may have the purpose of modifying the knowledge of a thing which was originally obtained by some other means of knowledge 1. For the modified knowledge due to such injunctions is not knowledge in the true sense of the word, but merely a mental energy (i.e. the product, not of an object of knowledge presented to us through one of the means of true knowledge, but of an arbitrary mental activity), and if such modification of knowledge springs up in the mind of itself (i.e. without a deliberate mental act) it is mere error. True knowledge on the other hand, which is produced by the means of true knowledge and is conformable to its object, can neither be brought about by hundreds of injunctions nor be checked by hundreds of prohibitions. For it does not depend on the will of man, but merely on what really and unalterably exists.--For this reason also injunctions of the knowledge of Brahman cannot be admitted.
A further point has to be considered here. If we admitted that injunctions constitute the sole end and aim of the entire Veda, there would remain no authority for the, after all, generally acknowledged truth that Brahman--which is not subject to any injunction--is the Self of all.--Nor would it be of avail to maintain that the Veda may both proclaim the truth stated just now and enjoin on man the cognition of that truth; for that would involve the conclusion that the one Brahma-sâstra has two--and moreover conflicting--meanings.--The theory combated by us gives moreover rise to a number of other objections which nobody can refute; it compels us to set aside the text as it stands and to make assumptions not guaranteed by the text; it implies the doctrine that final release is, like the results of sacrificial works, (not the direct result of true knowledge but) the mediate result of the so-called unseen
principle (adrishta), and non-permanent &c. &c.--We therefore again assert that the texts concerning Brahman aim at cognition, not at injunction, and that hence the pretended reason of 'their being apprehended as parts of one injunction' cannot induce us to look upon the entire Veda as one whole.
And finally, even if we admitted that the texts concerning Brahman are of an injunctive character, we should be unable to prove that the texts denying plurality, and the texts setting forth plurality enjoin one and the same thing; for this latter conclusion cannot be accepted in the face of the several means of proof such as difference of terms 1, and so on, which intimate that there is a plurality of injunctions. The passages respectively enjoining the darsapûrnamâsa-sacrifice and the offerings termed prayâgas may indeed be considered to form one whole, as the qualification on the part of the sacrificer furnishes an element common to the two 2. But the statements about the Brahman devoid of qualities and those about the qualified Brahman have not any element in common; for qualities such as 'having light for one's body' contribute in no way towards the dissolution of the world, nor again does the latter help in any way the former. For the dissolution of the entire phenomenal world on the one hand, and regard for a part of that world on the other hand do not allow themselves to be combined in one and the same subject.--The preferable theory, therefore, is to distinguish with us two classes of texts, according as Brahman is represented as possessing form or as devoid of it.
160:1 And hence no reason for a separate adhikarana.
163:1 i.e. does the injunction bidding us to annihilate the phenomenal world look on it as real or as fictitious, due to Nescience only?
164:1 I.e. after the true nature of Brahman has been once known, there is no longer room for a special injunction to annihilate this apparent world.
165:1 The pûrvapakshin might refer e.g. to the Vedic injunction, 'he is to meditate upon woman as fire,' and maintain that the object of this injunction is to modify our knowledge of woman derived from perception &c., according to which a woman is not fire.
166:1 'Difference of terms' (sabdântaram) is according to the Pûrva Mîmâmsâ the first of the six means of proof showing karmabheda or niyogabheda. Cp. Sabara bhâshya on II, 1, 1.
166:2 For the sacrifice as well as its subordinate part--the offering of the prayâgas--has to be performed by a sacrificer acting for one end, viz. the obtainment of the heavenly world.