What Brahman IS and IS NOT? – Upadhi & Upahita – Superimposition (144)


Lesson 144 shows using logic what Brahman IS and IS not. Adhyaropa-Apavada-Nyaya method. Upadhi-upahita method.

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 12, 13, 14


  • Transitioning out of CH13, 7-11 (subject matter is jñānam, 20 Values). We enter V12-18 (subject matter is jñeyam, what is to be known by me).
    • What is to be known? Brahman / Self.
  • What is Brahman NOT?
    • NOT sat:
      • (1) Any specific manifestation.
        • Anything made from 5 elements / periodic table of elements / atoms, waves.
      • (2) Anything known as an object-of-experience. Any kind of cognition. EG: There is cognition of a pumpkin.
        • Anything heard, felt, seen, tasted, smelled. Any observable phenomena.
      • (3) If Brahman is sat, then it was also asat, since sat/asat are interdependent. Example, there's no wakefulness (sat) without sleep (asat), and vice versa. Both indicate change of 2 states and are determined by external factors like: morning, time, temperature. If Brahman is subject to same conditions of sat/asat change, then fallacy arises:
        • FALLACY: How can an infinite principle be subject to change when it's already everywhere and everything? Only a finite object undergoes transformation. In other words, infinity doesn't need two-infinities to become “more” infinite. It's already infinite, nothing can add/subtract from it, thus it's not subject to change.
      • SUMMARY: Any isolated time-bound experience identified to EXIST.
    • NOT asat:
      • (1) Anything that exists, but isn’t yet manifested. It’s in causal-potential state.
        • EG: Galaxy yet to be formed. High tide. Puberty. Fruits of past deeds. If not speaking, English language is asat.  Individuals dancing-knowledge is asat while driving car.
      • (2) Non-existing.
        • EG: I know that I don’t know. I know that my Greek language skills are non-existent. I know that square-circle doesn’t exist.
      • SUMMARY: Any reality known to be absent. IS-NOT.
  • What is Brahman? That because of which, both IS and IS-NOT… are evident… are known/identified/recognized to be-so.
    • IE: To know about 2 conditions, we need a 3rd principle, unconditioned by the 2. Just as unattached mediator is needed to identify the root cause of conflict in a 2-way partnership.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 12:

jñeyam yat tat pravakṣyāmi yat jñātvā amṛtam aśnute ।
anādimat param brahma na sat tat na asat ucyate ॥ 13-12 ॥
I shall teach you that which is to be known, upon knowing which one attains immortality. It is the supreme Brahman which is beginningless. It is said to be neither an effect nor a cause.



  • Why is Brahman NOT asat?
    • REASON 1:
      • Any cause is in potential. Meaning it’s not available here and now. But Brahman is ever available.
        • EG: Oil in seed is in potential. But can’t use it until a future time… until some OTHER intervening factor extracts it. Same with butter in milk.
      • If Brahman was asat (sleeping), then you wouldn’t be reading this right now, because existence would be in potential.
    • REASON 2:
      • Brahman can’t be asat because “absence of existence”… is known.
        • EG: We say “There is KNOWLEDGE about the fact that… there is absence of Spanish in my mind”.
  • Why is Brahman NOT sat? If it was sat, then:
    1. There would be no knowledge of asat.
    2. Brahman would become a limited object within time-space.
      • IE: The known can never be bigger then the knower, else who/what would be there to know beyond the range of the knower.
  • SUMMARY: Brahman can’t be asat (cause) nor sat (effect), because both are governed by time. How to prove? Difference between cause-effect is always determined by time.
  • How to know Brahman? Next verse.


Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 13:

sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādam tat sarvataḥ akṣi-śiraḥ-mukham ।
sarvataḥ śrutimat loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati ॥ 13-13॥
That (jñeyam brahma) has hands and legs everywhere. It has eyes, heads, and mouth everywhere. It has ears everywhere. It remains pervading everything in the world.

  • Verse 13, indirectly shows that Brahman is NOT asat (unmanifest). Verse 14, indirectly shows Brahman is NOT an individual sat manifestation.
  • Verse is showing that Brahman is the final substance from which everything made. Meanwhile, science still in process of figuring out.
  • What does Brahman mean? Existence-awareness (sat-cit).
  • How do demonstrate that final substance is sat-cit? By analyzing reality of objects.
    • STEP 1: Adj-Noun model to help grasp.
      • 2 Ways to Describe Objects:
        • MODEL 1: Adjective-noun. EG: Tall-tree, Fat-man.
          • Adj reveals a property of the noun. Noun CAN exist without adj.
        • MODEL 2: Adjective-noun. EG: Golden-ring, wooden-chair, metal-chain, glass-window.
          • Adj reveals the substance of the noun. Noun CAN NOT exist without adj.
          • Meaning there’s no substance called, “ring”. Unable to say “ring/bangle”, unless there is substance.
          • QUIZ: What is “ring” revealing?
            • Presence of Gold in shape/form of a “ring”.
            • Thus in #2, adj reveals the substance, and noun reveals the property.
          • QUIZ: Why is “ring” a property, and not a substance?
            • When form is changed, “ring” is gone.
      • Recap: Adjective can either reveal substance or property of a thing. 2 Possibilities.
    • STEP 2: Apply Step 1 to your Experience:
      • When experience world, we call out different nouns to describe our experience. EG: Sky, sun, memory, peace, man, woman.
      • What is common to all nouns? It IS. Verb “IS” refers to Substance/Existence.
        • So we’re actually saying “Existent-man. Existent-Woman”.
          • What is the adj? Existent.   What is noun? Man, woman.
      • QUIZ: Does “Existent” reveal property of man/woman or the Substance? Substance.
        • Until we analyse, assumption is: Thing is substance and word “existent” is adj.
      • CONCLUSION: The IS-ness or Existence of a thing is called: sat. And every noun/thing is a property of Existence.
        • Improving language for greater lucidity: bangly-gold, ringly-gold, chainy-gold.  When experiencing different ornaments, only fundamental substance of gold is experienced.
        • QUIZ: Considering Brahman means “sat” (existence), where is Brahman?
          • ANSWER: Where is Brahman NOT?! Because reality at every-level… IS.
            • EG: Man IS, bones ARE, veins ARE, blood IS, DNA IS.
  • QUESTION: Why is difficult to know self as Brahman ?
    • Because:
      • Jīva always experiences Existence in some form. EG: Happy-Existence, Unproductive-Existence, State-of-mind-Existence.
      • Upādhi is mixed with upahita. (See video)
    • Then how to “experience” pure Existence (Brahman)?
      1. FLAWED: Remove all names-forms. Which involves removing sense-organs. Which involves destruction of body. Flawed because after death, one’s ignorance continues being mixed with pure Existence.
      2. UNNECESSARY: Nirvikalpa-samadhi. Time-bound.
      3. CHANDOGYA UPANISHAD Chapter 6: Udalaka tells son, “You can never experience pure Existence because it’s never an object of experience”.
        • Substance/Existence/sat can never be objectified because YOU are the very Substance/Existence.
          • And what is nature of Existence? Cit (conscious presence, Awareness). Meaning Existence & Awareness are identical. How to prove?
            • Are you aware of your existence? Yes.
            • If you didn’t exist, could you be aware of your existence? No.
            • If you were not aware, could you exist? No.
            • So your nature is sat-cit … on which entire universe is resting. And Brahman means sat-cit. Thus aham brahman asmi.
  • To help clarify “I am the substance of the universe”, Upanishads employs dream analogy.
    • While dreaming, see variety of objects. Dream is capable of inducing anxiety/joy. Dream guru/śāstra says, “You are the essence of this dream world. It’s sustained by you. Upon waking, it ceases to be”.
    • Upon waking, one realizes: Entire story was taking place in me, and I was watching myself in different forms. I was only ever hurting myself, abusing and praising myself.
      • “Waking” metaphor:
        • Jīvanmukta: Perception about world changes. Everything is, as though, transparent. It’s not the world, but glorious Intelligence.
        • Videhamukti: World of appearance ceases to be because sense-organs are destroyed. I continue exactly as I am NOW in the body. But minus the limiting-adjunct / upādi.
  • Therefore, āvṛtya-sarva loke: Existence or substance pervades in-and-through the world. Can’t think of anything, unless it exists.
    • EG: Nothing between you/me? Distance IS. Concept-of-distance IS. Vacuum IS.
  • It pervades what? mukham, śrutimat, pāṇipādam: face, heads, mouths | ears | hands & feet.
    • Whatever sounds enters ears, is also Existence/Brahman.
  • VERSE 14: Clears contradiction, how Brahman everything, yet remains free of everything.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 13, Verse 14:

sarva-indriya-guṇa-ābhāsam sarva-indriya-vivarjitam ।
asaktam sarva-bhṛt ca eva nirguṇam guṇa-bhoktṛ ca ॥ 13-14 ॥
That (jñeyam brahma) appears as the one with attributes of sense-organs. (Yet) is free from all organs, is unattached, is the sustainer of all, is experiencer of the (three) gunas, yet is free from (three) gunas.

  • Reminder: We are discussing word “jñeyam”, that which is to be known, final reality (Brahman). V12-18.
  • First let’s refine definition of Brahman:
    • Consciousness (cit): What is Consciousness?
      • Not a part, product or property of matter (body-mind). Independent reality.
      • Pervades and enlivens matter. Just as prāṇa pervades/enlivens body. Or electricity enlivens complex circuitry.
      • Survives upon death of body. Although surviving Consciousness is unseen because it’s stripped of the manifesting-medium (body).
        • EG: If light shining into hole VS. on surface.
    • Existence (sat): What is Existence?
      • Same as Consciousness (cit). TWO standpoints.
        • EG: I can't be conscious (of my existence) unless I exist.   I don’t exist, unless I am conscious (of my existence).
      • Not an individual part, product or property of body/object. Independent reality which is the CONTENT of every name-form.
      • Not limited by boundaries of body/object, just as light shines on more then one object in room.
      • It survives after death of body, just as existence-of-light survives even after hand is removed.
  • CHALLENGE: If Existence-Consciousness is CONTENT of every name-form (meaning it’s always associated with name-form), then how to reveal the PURE Existence-Consciousness?
    • For example, we can’t reveal pure light, because it’s always associated with an object. Paradoxically, only way reveal pure reveal light is THROUGH an object. How…
      • Krishna employs METHOD called: adyhāropa-apavāda-nyāya.
        • Adhyāropa: Superimposed attribute/property.
        • Apavāda: Withdrawal of adhyāropa (superimposition).
        • Nyāya: Logic.
      • CONCEPT USING HAND-LIGHT: Adyhāropa (hand) apavāda (withdrawal of hand) nyāya:
        • Method 1: To teach light > I show hand > What do you see? > Hand! > It’s not only hand, but also THAT because of which hand is seen.
        • Method 2: Show hand > Withdraw hand > Where hand WAS, there formless light still shines. Because when bring hand back, it’s recognized because light is already present.
          • Light was never gone, even though it seemed like it due to absence of reflecting medium.
        • SUMMARY: Intro hand (adhyāropa) > Intro light > remove hand (apavāda) > reveal pure light (as an UNDERSTANDING).
      • How method is used everyday:
        • Bring me water! > You bring cup of water > I didn’t ask for CUP of water, but WATER! > You reply: Are you ok? How can I bring water alone? Water requires a container to transfer/communicate it. Then container is discarded.
  • Using adyhāropa-apavāda-nyāya method, how to identify PURE existence-consciousness?
    • To help reveal Brahman > Show any object > What do you perceive? > Hand (IS), Sound (IS), Taste (IS) > Remove Hand… IS remains / Remove Sound… IS remains.
    • SUMMARY: Show object (adyhāropa) > Dismiss object (apavāda) > What remains? IS-ness (of some other object) or IS-NOTness of the removed object.
      • Can only apply this method when gain knowledge of definition of “Existence”. Doesn’t refer to existence-of-objects, but template of IS-ness present in every name-form.
  • Relating with: sarva-indriya-guṇa-ābhāsam: Existence manifests or appears (all the time) in form of sight, sound, taste…. which is identified through (functioning of) 5 senses.
    • EG: In every perception, light is recognized (else object wouldn’t be perceived). In every sensory perception (sight/sound/taste), Existence is recognized.
      • EG: Sound IS. The IS-ness refers to Existence. Fact of sound existing, is Brahman.
  • sarva-indriya-vivarjitam: Even though Existence is the substance of all (manifest/appeared) forms (including the sense organs which perceives the forms) — jñeyam brahma is simultaneously free from them.
    • EG: Light illumining hand, but hand is not intrinsic to light, else wherever light there will be hand.
  • sarva-bhṛt ca eva: Existence accommodates/supports everything.
    • Because of Brahman alone, everything is Existent. Every object enjoys existence only because of Brahman.
    • EG: Gold alone lends existence to ornaments.
  • asaktam: Unattached. Brahman is free from any object.
    • EG: Space accommodates everything in creation, yet no object is stuck/intrinsic to space.
    • Brahman is even free from space… because:
      1. Space IS.
      2. Space (concept) is absent in deep sleep.
      3. Space (concept) changes in dream.
      4. Space is reducible (by our thought of it or perspective of it). EG: 1 meter = 100 cm. 1cm = 10mm.
  • nirguṇam guṇa-bhoktṛ ca:
    • guṇa-bhoktṛ: Existence is associated with all properties. Our experience proves it by saying, “Property IS”. The “IS” represents association to Existence.
    • nirguṇam: At the same time, no property is glued to Brahman.
      • EG: Movie objects associated with screen, yet screen remains free of movie’s fire, wetness, heat, cold, sorrow, joy.
        • Far as screen is concerned, there is no movie character who is ignorant or liberated.
      • So from Brahman’s standpoint… there is no world, universe, Vedanta classes.
  • VERSE 15: Brahman is both THIS and THAT.

Keywords: adhyaropa, apavada, nyaya, upadhi, upahita

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 21 Sept, 2021


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