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As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here. In any case, in the beginning of Adhyaya 3 Pada 2 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa discusses the nature of different states of consciousness. For instance, as I discuss here, he shows that during deep sleep, the Jiva resides in Brahman. But my question is about another state of consciousness discussed by Vyasa, the state of fainting. Here's what Vyasa says in Adhyaya 3 Pada 2 Sutra 10:

mugdhe'rthasampattirpariśeṣāt

In the case of one in swoon, there is only partial attainment (of the state of sleep), that being the last alternative.

Now most commentators interpret this as saying that fainting is a state half-way between deep sleep and death; for instance see this section of Adi Shankaracharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya and this section of Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya.

But the Dvaita philosopher Madhvacharya interprets it differently, in this excerpt from his commentary on the Brahma Sutras:

When falling into a swoon, the soul has a half-entering to Brahman. The following is said in the Varaha Purana, "When the soul is at a distance from the Lord he will be in the state of wakefulness; when he is nearer to him he is in dreams. When he has entered into the Lord he sleeps. These three states being of such a description, the state of being in a swoon has this only explanation left, that is, it is half-entering into The Lord; for in this state there is the sensation of pain only continued (as observed on recovery)."

Baladeva Vidyabhushana, the Gaudiya Vaishnava commentator on the Brahma Sutras, says the same thing as Madhvacharya in this section of his Govinda Bhashya:

When a man is in a swooning or stunned condition, he is in half combination with Brahman, because of the rule of the remainder. In this condition the jīva soul does not reach Brahman fully as in deep sleep, because he is conscious of pain. Nor is there total lack of attaining Brahman, as in the waking state, because the soul is unconscious of external objects. Thus by the rule of the remainder, we conclude that there is half combination. We find this described in the Varāha Purāṇa: “When the soul is at a distance from the Supreme Lord in the heart—that is, when he is in the eyes—then he is in waking consciousness. When he is nearer to the Lord—that is, in the throat—then he is in the dream consciousness. But when he has entered into the Lord, then he is in deep sleep. Therefore these are the three states; but swoon is an intermediate state, in which there is half combination with Brahman, because on recovery, there is memory of the consciousness of pain.”

My question is, what do Madhvacharya and Baladeva Vidyabhushana mean when they say that the Jiva "half-enters" into Brahman during fainting. How can a Jiva half-enter into Brahman? Does part of the Jiva's subtle body enter Brahman, or does part of the Jiva itself enter Brahman, or what? I'm not sure how the latter would work as the Jiva is atomic.

Are there any subcommentaries on either of their works that address this? Also, does anyone know where in the Varaha Purana the verse quoted by Madhvacharya and Baladeva Vidyabhushana is from? As I discuss in this question Madhvacharya's scriptural quotes tend to be untraceable in available copies of scriptures, so it may be hard to find.

  • So according to Varaha purana Sayujya means complete sleep state? – Yogi Oct 2 '16 at 5:16
  • The putative Varaha Purana quote is saying that deep sleep involves entering into Brahman, which is something that all the commentators on the Brahma Sutras agree on. What there isn't agreement on is the notion that during fainting there is half-entering into Brahman. – Keshav Srinivasan Oct 2 '16 at 5:41
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    I think the "half entering" thing is a logical consequence of the different states of consciousness and the Jiva's relation to Brahman in each state. In sleep he has fully entered Brahman, so he experiences nothing. In waking state he does not experience Brahman, so he experiences the external world. Because a swoon has intermediary properties of experience of all the other stages, the acharyas infer that the Jiva partially enters Brahman. – Ikshvaku Nov 8 '17 at 1:38
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    The Varaha Purana quote basically answers your question. It is about proximity to Brahman. Deep sleep is complete entrance into Brahman, but swoon is right at the edge. – Ikshvaku Nov 8 '17 at 1:40
  • @Ikshvaku It's worth noting that that quote is almost certainly not present in the Varaha Purana . In any case, my question isn't about where Madhvacharya got the notion of half-entering into Brahman, but what the notion means. I'm not sure how it's physically possible for a Jiva to half-enter Brahman. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 8 '17 at 1:53

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