9. The Imperishable (is Brahman), on account of its supporting that which is the end of ether.
The Vâgasaneyins, in the chapter recording the questions asked by Gârgî, read as follows: 'He said, O Gârgî, the Brâhmanas call that the Imperishable. It is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long, it is not red, not fluid, it is without a shadow,' &c. (Bri. Up. III, 8, 8). A doubt here arises whether that Imperishable be the Pradhâna, or the individual soul, or the highest Self.--The Pradhâna, it may be maintained in the first place. For we see that in passages such as 'higher than that which is higher than the Imperishable' the term 'Imperishable' actually denotes the Pradhâna; and moreover the qualities enumerated, viz. not being either coarse or fine, &c., are characteristic of the Pradhâna.--But, an objection is raised, in texts such as 'That knowledge by which the Imperishable is apprehended' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 5), the word 'Imperishable' is seen to denote the highest Brahman!--In cases, we reply, where the meaning of a word may be determined on the basis either of some
other means of proof or of Scripture, the former meaning presents itself to the mind first, and hence there is no reason why such meaning should not be accepted.--But how do you know that the ether of the text is not ether in the ordinary sense?--From the description, we reply, given of it in the text, 'That above the heavens,' &c. There it is said that all created things past, present and future rest on ether as their basis; ether cannot therefore be taken as that elementary substance which itself is comprised in the sphere of things created. We therefore must understand by 'ether' matter in its subtle state, i.e. the Pradhâna; and the Imperishable which thereupon is declared to be the support of that Pradhâna, hence cannot itself be the Pradhâna.--Nor is there any force in the argument that a sense established by some other means of proof presents itself to the mind more immediately than a sense established by Scripture; for as the word 'akshara' (i.e. the non-perishable) intimates its sense directly through the meaning of its constituent elements other means of proof need not be regarded at all.
Moreover Yâgñavalkya had said previously that the ether is the cause and abode of all things past, present and future, and when Gârgî thereupon asks him in what that ether 'is woven,' i.e. what is the causal substance and abode of ether, he replies 'the Imperishable.' Now this also proves that by the 'Imperishable' we have to understand the Pradhâna which from other sources is known to be the causal substance, and hence the abode, of all effected things whatsoever.
This primâ facie view is set aside by the Sûtra. The 'Imperishable' is the highest Brahman, because the text declares it to support that which is the end, i. e. that which lies beyond ether, viz. unevolved matter (avyâkritam). The ether referred to in Gârgî's question is not ether in the ordinary sense, but what lies beyond ether, viz. unevolved matter, and hence the 'Imperishable' which is said to be the support of that 'unevolved' cannot itself be the 'unevolved,' i.e. cannot be the Pradhâna. Let us, then, the Pûrvapakshin resumes, understand by the 'Imperishable,'
the individual soul; for this may be viewed as the support of the entire aggregate of non-sentient matter, inclusive of the elements in their subtle condition; and the qualities of non-coarseness, &c., are characteristic of that soul also. Moreover there are several texts in which the term 'Imperishable' is actually seen to denote the individual soul; so e.g. 'the non-evolved' is merged in the 'Imperishable'; 'That of which the non-evolved is the body; that of which the Imperishable is the body'; 'All the creatures are the Perishable, the non-changing Self is called the Imperishable' (Bha. GÎ. XV, 16).
To this alternative primâ facie view the next Sûtra replies.