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Athaatho Brahma Jijnaasaa
Sutra (aphorism) enshrines, in a few words, vast expanses of meaning, vast depths of fundamental significance. The Brahma Sutras build up the science of Vedantha. They gather multicoloured flowers from all the Upanishads and string them together to form an enchanting garland. Each Sutra can be elaborated and explained in a number of learned ways, according to each one's understanding, faith, preference, experience and pleasure.
The very first Sutra is "Athaatho Brahma Jijnaasaa". The initial Atha has many literal meanings. But, in this Sutra, the most appropriate sense is: "Thereafter". So, "After what?" is the question that arises. It is obvious that it refers to Brahma Jijnaasa, 'the yearning to understand the nature of Brahman'. It means, "After such a yearning has dawned". How can this yearning emerge? It can come into the mind only after one acquires proper qualifications. "Thereafter" means, "after equipping oneself with these qualifications."
Jijnaasa cannot yield fruit if the Vedas are merely studied. The Vedas deal with Dharma. For understanding Brahman, Vedantha has to be studied.
Among the preliminary qualifications for Brahma Jijnaasa, the first is
Viveka: Discrimination between the transitory and the eternal.
In other words, the discovery that the Atma alone is beyond Time, and
that all objects perceivable by the senses of sight, etc., are only transitory.
The Atma alone suffers no change. It alone is Nitya Sathya (Timeless Truth).
As a result of prolonged investigation, one has to gain this unshakable
conviction and be established in it.