[Advaita-l] BrahmaarpaNam - I

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 22 02:10:35 CST 2014


One of my nieces asked me recently in the Facebook the meaning of the sloka – brahmArpaNam brahma haviH… ,a sloka from Geeta that is routinely chanted before taking meals. Here is some explanation based on my understanding – since it may be of interest, I am posting here in two parts.  

First, this is 24th sloka in the 4th chapter of Geeta. In this sloka, Krishna uses an example that a  gRihastha or householder was familiar at that time. It is related to the daily homam or nithyagnihotra that a householder performs or supposed to perform. Hence the sloka is immediately relevant to a gRihastha mumukshu – householder how is seeking for liberation.  In this sloka the essence of whole Vedanta is packed. In essence, it says everything is Brahman and there is nothing other than Brahman.  It is also a condensation of the Vedic statements – neha naanaasti kinchana, there is no plurality whatsoever here, and sarvam khalu idam brahma, all this (that exists) is indeed nothing but Brahman only. The complete sloka is:

brahmArpaNam brahma haviH, bramhAgnou brahmaNAhutam|
brahaiva tena gantavyam brahmakarma samAdhinA|| 

Using the homam example, Krishna indicates that everything is nothing but Brahmna. Brahma arpaNam, meaning the arpaNam or the ladle that is used to pour ghee into the fire is Brahman. Brahma haviH, all the items used for homam (haviH) are Brahman. Brahmna agniH, the holy fire of homam is Brahman. BrahmaNaahutam – the one who is doing the homan (karthA) is Brahman. Brahmaiva tena gantavyam brahman karma samAdhinA – the karmaphlam or the fruit or the result of this homam is also Brahman. Thus, the kartaa, the doer, the karma, the action, kriya, the performance, the kaaraka, the instruments involved in the action and the ingredients that go into action, the field in which the action is being performed and the karmaphalam the results of the action – everything is Brahman only. Thus Krishna declares, in essence, there is nothing other than Brahman. From the point of jignaasu or the seeker of knowledge, this sloka becomes an instructional statement that
 need to be contemplated upon and assimulated as a fact. From the point of jnaani, the sloka is the statement of his understanding or statement of a fact that is recognized or understood. 

In the vishusahasranaamaavali, it says karaNam, kaaraNam, kartaa.. the intruments of action, karanam, the cause for action, kaaraNam (material as well as motivating causes for action) and the actor, kartaa, are all nothing but Lord vishnu only. Every thing that can be known or need to be known in the past, present and futuer is nothing but Lord Vishnu only. In the purusha sukta it says - purushayE vedagam sarvam, yat bhUtam yascha bhayvam - whatever that is in the past or will be in the future that was known or can be known are all nothing but Purusha only.  In essence there is nothing other than Lord Vishnu or there is nothing other than Brahman as the Krishna says in the above sloka. There is no plurality whatsoever as reality, since essence of everything is nothing but Brahman echoing the scriptural statement – aitat atmyam idagam sarvam, tat satyam, sa atmaa – where the essence of everything that is experienced or perceived or known is nothing
 but pure existence that you are. That sat, pure existence which is of the nature of consciousness and is limitless itself appears as many, says Chandogya Up. 

Now let us understand this sloka more. In understanding or interpreting the sloka the principle of samanaadhikaraNam – that is equal weightage for the two words– was applied both by Bhagavan Ramanuja and Shankara. This principle is also used in the interpretation of the tat tvam asi statement by both. However the way they apply the principle of the samanAdhikaraNam is different. 

There are four ways the samanadhikaraNa can be applied as discussed by Shankara. When two words are used with the same case and relating each other, then we apply the princile of samanAdhikaraNa. In this sloka, let us take the first statement, arpaNam = Brahman.  It says,  the ladle is equal to Brahman. Brahman means limitless or infinite. Scripture says Pure consciousness is Brahman – prajnanam brahma. Hence existence-consciousness-limitless – sat-chit-anada is the nature of Brahman as declared by Tai. Up. In this sloka Krishans says – the arpanam – this small inert ladle is Brahman, which is infinite-existence-consciousness. At the outset, the statement makes no sense since attributes of the ladles does not match any where the nature of Brahman. Hence direct meaning or vAchyArtha does not make any sense. Since this is a scriptural statement, one has to look for an implied meaning to make some sense out of this equation, arpaNam=Brahman. Hence
 the application of the principle of samanAdhikaraNa to unravel this equation. The four types of samAnAdhikaraNa are:

1. Ekatve samAnAdhikaraNam, 2. visheShaNa visheShyAbhyAm samAnAdhikaraNam.3. upasanAbhyAm samAnAdhikaraNam. 4. bhAdAbhyam SamanAdhikaraNam

1. Ekatve SamAnAdhikaraNam – that is two words are used with equal emphasis both designating the same entity. For example when we chant the vishnusahara nAmAvali – each word used there indicates the same entity, Lord Vishnu and each word has equal emphasis. Many words are used that provide the different attributive content of Lord Vishnu. For example the naamavali starts with a) viswam b) vishnuH, etc. The very first word, viswam means the entire universe of names and forms. The second word vishnuH means the one who pervades this entire universe of names and forms. Both are independently as well as together indicate the same entity, Lord vishnu. Implication is also viswam = vishnuH, the world of names and forms is indeed vishnuH which is also the essence of the Brahmarpanam sloka. To appreciate the viswaruupa Iswara we need to understand the Geeta Ch. 11, that is being discussed separately under Iswara Darshanam series. We cannot apply this principle
 in accounting the arpanam = brahman since arpanam is limited, finite entity while Brahman is infinite existence-consciousness. 

2. Visheshana VisheShAbhyam samAnAdhikaraNam. In this case the two words are used, of which one is an attribute or visheShANa and the other is the locus for the attribute, visheShya. For example when we say blue lotus, the blueness and the lotus-ness are distinctly separate but used in conjunction to indicate only one object with one as attribute to the other. That the lotus is qualified by blueness while blue itself is not lotus and distinct from lotus. Thus, even if the attributes are inseparable, they are distinctly different.
to be continued.
Hari Om!

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list