Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-3-17

Topic 17 - Relation of the individual soul to Brahman

Sutra 2,3.43

अंशो नानाव्यपदेशात्, अन्यथा चापि
दाशकितवादित्वमधीयत एके ॥ ४३ ॥

aṃśo nānāvyapadeśāt, anyathā cāpi
dāśakitavāditvamadhīyata eke || 43 ||

aṃśaḥ—Part; nānāvyapadeśāt—on account of difference being declared; anyathā—otherwise; ca—and; api—also; dāśakitavāditvam—being fishermen, knaves, etc.; adhīyate—read; eke—some (Sâkhâs of the Vedas).

43. (The soul is) part (of the Lord) on account of difference (between the two) being declared and otherwise also (i.e. as non-different from Brahman); for in some (Śākhās or recensions of the Vedic texts) (Brahman) is spoken of as being fishermen, knaves, etc.

In the last topic it has been shown that the Lord rules the soul. This brings us to the question of the relation between the two. Is it that of master and servant, or as between fire and its sparks?

The Sutra says that the relation is as between fire and its sparks, that is, of whole and part. But then, the soul is not actually a part, but a part, as it were— an imagined part, for Brahman cannot have any parts.

Why then should it be taken as a part and not identical with the Lord?

Because the scriptures declare a difference between them in texts like, “Knowing It alone one becomes a sage” (Brih. 4, 4. 22), “The Ātman is to be seen” (Brih. 2. 4. 5).

This difference, however, is spoken of from the empirical standpoint; from the absolute standpoint they are identical.

The text, “Brahman is the fishermen, Brahman the slaves, Brahman these knaves,” etc. shows that even such humble persons as these are in reality Brahman.

Sutra 2,3.44

मन्त्रवर्णाच्च ॥ ४४॥

mantravarṇācca || 44 ||

mantravarṇāt—From the words of the Mantra; ca—also.

44. Also from the words of the Mantra (it is known that the soul is a part of the Lord).

A further reason is given to show that the soul is a part of the Lord. “One foot of it are all these beings” (Chh. 3. 12. 0)—where beings, including souls, are said to be a foot or part of the Lord.

Sutra 2,3.45

अपि च स्मर्यते ॥ ४५ ॥

api ca smaryate || 45 ||

api—Also; ca—and; smaryate—it is (so) stated in the Smriti.

45. And it is also (so) stated in the Smriti.

An eternal portion of myself having become a living soul” (Gītā 15. 7).

Sutra 2,3.46

प्रकाशादिवन्नैवं परः ॥ ४६ ॥

prakāśādivannaivaṃ paraḥ || 46 ||

prakāśādivat—Like light etc. na—is not; evaṃ—like this; paraḥ—the Supreme Lord.

46. The Supreme Lord is not (affected by pleasure and pain) like this (individual soul), even as light etc. (are not affected by the shape of the things they touch).

If the soul is a part of the Lord, the question may arise that the Lord also experiences pleasure and pain like the soul, even as a cloth is soiled if its threads are soiled.

This Sutra refutes it and says that the Lord does not experience pleasure and pain like the soul, which on account of ignorance identifies itself with the body and mind, and thereby partakes of their pleasure and pain.

Just as the light of the sun, which is all-pervading, becomes straight or bent by coming in contact with particular objects,

or as the ether enclosed in a jar seems to move when the jar is moved, or as the sun appears to tremble when the water in which it is reflected trembles,

but in reality none of them undergoes those changes, so also is the Lord not affected by pleasure and pain, which are experienced by that imagined part of it, the individual soul, which is a product of ignorance and is limited by the Buddhi etc.

Sutra 2,3.47

स्मरन्ति च ॥ ४७ ॥

smaranti ca || 47 ||

smaranti—The smritis state; ca—and.

47. The Smṛti also state (that).

“Of the two, the Supreme Self is said to be eternal and devoid of qualities. It is not touched by the fruits of actions any more than a lotus leaf is by water. . . Smriti texts like this declare that the Supreme Lord does not experience pleasure and pain. The Śrutis too do the same.

 Sutra 2,3.48

अनुज्ञापरिहारौ देहसम्बन्धाज्ज्योतिरादिवत् ॥ ४८ ॥

anujñāparihārau dehasambandhājjyotirādivat || 48 ||

anujñāparihārau—Injunctions and prohibitions; dehasambandhāt—on account of the connection with the body; jyotirādi-vat—like light etc.

48. Injunctions and prohibitions (are possible) on account of the connection (of the Self) with the body; as in the case of light etc.

Even though the Self is one and indescribable, and with reference to it there can be no injunctions and prohibitions, yet as connected with a body, such injunctions and prohibitions are possible.

Fire is one; but the fire of the funeral pyre is rejected, and that of a sacrifice is accepted. Similar is the case with the Ātman.

 Sutra 2,3.49

असन्ततेश्चाव्यतिकरः ॥ ४९ ॥

asantateścāvyatikaraḥ || 49 ||

asantateḥ—Non-extension (beyond its own body); ca—and; avyatikaraḥ—there is no confusion (of results of actions).

49. And on account of the non-extension (of the soul beyond its own body) there is no confusion (of results of actions).

An objection is raised that on account of the unity of the Self there would result a confusion of the results of actions; that is, everyone would get the results of the actions of everyone else.

This Sutra refutes such a possibility; for an individualized soul means the connection of the Ātman with a particular body, mind, etc., and since these are not overlapping, the individual souls are different from each other.

Hence there is no such possibility of confusion.

Sutra 2,3.50

आभास एव च ॥ ५० ॥

ābhāsa eva ca || 50 ||

ābhāsaḥ—A reflection; eva—only; ca—and.

50. And (the individual soul is) only a reflection (of the Supreme Lord).

According to Vedanta the individual soul is but a reflection, an image, of the Supreme Lord in Its Upādhi (adjunct), the Antahkaraṇa (inner organ).

So the reflections of the Lord in different Anṭahkaraṇas are different, even as the reflections of the sun in different sheets of water are different.

Therefore just as the trembling of a particular reflection of the sun does not cause the other reflections to tremble so also the experiencing of happiness and misery by a particular Jīva or individualized soul is not shared by other souls.

Hence there can be no confusion of the results of action.

 Sutra 2,3.51

अदृष्टानियमात् ॥ ५१ ॥

adṛṣṭāniyamāt || 51 ||

adṛṣṭa-aniyamāt—There being no fixity about the unseen principle.

51. There being no fixity about the unseen principle (there would result that confusion for those who believe in many souls, each all-pervading).

The Sānkhyas, the Vaiśeṣikās and the Naiyāyikas accept a plurality of souls, each of which is all-pervading.

Under such circumstances there cannot but result a confusion of the fruits of action, for each soul is present everywhere, in close proximity to whatever causes those results in the shape of happiness or misery.

Nor can this confusion be avoided by introducing the Adriṣṭa or unseen principle, which is religious merit and demerit acquired by the souls.

According to the Sānkhyas it inheres not in the soul, but in the Pradhāna, which is common to all souls, and as such there is nothing to fix that a particular Adriṣṭa operates in a particular soul.

According to the other two schools the unseen principle is created by the conjunction of the soul with the mind; and since every soul is all-pervading and therefore equally connected with all minds, here also there is nothing to fix that a particular Adriṣṭa belongs to a particular soul.

Hence that confusion of results is inevitable.

 Sutra 2,3.52

अभिसन्ध्यादिष्वपि चैवम् ॥ ५२ ॥

abhisandhyādiṣvapi caivam || 52 ||

abhisandhyādiṣu—In resolve; api—even; ca—and; evam—like this.

52. And even as regards resolve etc., (it would be) like this.

If it be maintained that the resolve etc. one makes to achieve something or to avoid something will allocate the Adriṣṭa to particular souls, even then there will be this confusion. For resolve etc. are also formed by the conjunction of the soul and the mind. Hence the same argument applies here also.

Sutras 51-53 refute the doctrine of the Sānkhyas and other schools about the plurality of souls each of which is all-pervading. It leads to absurdities.

Sutra 2,3.53

प्रदेशादिति चेत्, न, अन्तर्भावात् ॥ ५३ ॥

pradeśāditi cet, na, antarbhāvāt || 53 ||

pradeśāt—From (difference of) place; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; antarbhāvāt—on account of the self being in all bodies.

53. If it be said (that the distinction of pleasure and pain etc. results) from (the difference of) place, (we say) not so, on account of the self being in all bodies.

The Naiyāyikas and others try to get over the difficulty shown in the previous Sutra thus:

Though each soul is all-pervading, yet if we take its connection with the mind to take place in that part of it which is limited by its body, then such confusion is not likely.

Even this cannot stand; since every soul is all-pervading and therefore permeates all bodies, and there is nothing to fix that a particular body belongs to a particular soul.

Again there cannot be more than one all-pervading entity; if there were, they would limit each other and consequently cease to be all-pervading or infinite.

Hence there is only one Self and not many. The plurality of selves in Vedanta is only a product of ignorance and not a reality.