Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-1-1

Introduction

In the second chapter all objections based on the Śruti and reasoning against the Vedāntic view have been refuted. It has been shown that all other views are incorrect, and that the so-called scriptural contradictions do not exist with respect to the Vedāntic view.

Further, it has been shown that all entities different from the soul (like Prāṇa etc.) spring from Brahman and for the enjoyment of the soul.

In this chapter the soul’s travels to the different regions accompanied by those adjuncts are discussed to produce a spirit of dispassion.

Topic 1 - The soul, when passing out of the body at death is enveloped with fine particles of the gross elements

Sutra 3,1.1

तदन्तरप्रतिपत्तौ रंहति संपरिष्वक्तः, प्रश्ननिरूपणाभ्याम् ॥ १ ॥

tadantarapratipattau raṃhati saṃpariṣvaktaḥ, praśnanirūpaṇābhyām || 1 ||

tadantarapratipattau—With a view to obtaining a fresh body; raṃhati—goes; saṃpariṣvaktaḥ—enveloped (with subtle parts of the elements); praśnanirūpaṇābhyām—(so it is known) from the question and answer.

1. (The soul) goes (out of the body) enveloped (with subtle parts of the elements) with a view to obtaining a fresh body; (so it is known) from the question and answer (in the scripture).

The Sutra discusses whether in transmigration the soul takes with it subtle parts of the gross elements as the seed, as it were, for the future body.

The opponent holds that it does not take them, for it is useless, because the elements are easily available everywhere.

Moreover, in the absence of a definite opinion to the contrary in the scriptures, we have to understand that the soul does not take subtle parts of the elements with it.

This Sutra refutes that view and says that the soul does take with it subtle parts of the elements; that this is a fact is known from the question and answer that occurs in the scriptures:

Do you know why in the fifth oblation water is called man?” (Chh. 5. 3. 3). This is the question,

and the answer is given in the whole passage which, after explaining how the five oblations in the form, of Śraddhā (liquid oblations in subtle form), Soma, rain, food, and seed are offered in the five ‘fires’ (i.e. objects imagined to be fires for the sake of Upāsanā)—the heavens, Parjanya (rain-god), earth, man, and woman—ends, “For this reason is water in the fifth oblation called man.”

From this we understand that the soul goes enveloped with water (same as Śraddhā).

Moreover, though the elements are available everywhere, yet the seeds for a future body are not so easily available.

Again the adjuncts of the individual soul, i.e. the organs etc. which go with it (Vide Brih. 4. 4. 2) cannot accompany it unless there is a material basis.

Sutra 3,1.2

त्र्यात्मकत्वात्तु भूयस्त्वात् ॥ २ ॥

tryātmakatvāttu bhūyastvāt || 2 ||

tryātmakatvāt—On account of (water) consisting of three elements; tu—but; bhūyastvāt—on account of the preponderance (of water).

2 On account of (water) consisting of three elements (the soul goes enveloped by all these elements and not merely water); but (water alone is mentioned in the text) on account of its preponderance (in the human body).

An objection is raised that the text mentions, only water, and not the other elements as accompanying the soul.

The Sutra says that in water are found the other two elements also according to the tripartite creation of the gross elements. Hence all the three elements accompany the soul.

The mention of water is indicatory and includes all the elements. With mere water no body can be formed. But as the watery portion in the body is preponderant, water only is mentioned in the text.

Sutra 3,1.3

प्राणगतेश्च ॥ ३ ॥

prāṇagateśca || 3 ||

prāṇagateḥ—Because of the going of the sense-organs; ca—and.

3. And because of the going of the organs (with the soul, the elements also accompany the soul).

When it departs, the vital force follows. When the vital force departs, all the organs follow” (Brih. 4. 4. 2).

Since the organs go with the soul, they must have a material base; hence also it is inferred that water and other elements follow the soul, thus forming a basis for the organs.

Sutra 3,1.4

अग्न्यादिगतिश्रुतेरिति चेत्, न, भाक्तत्वात् ॥ ४ ॥

agnyādigatiśruteriti cet, na, bhāktatvāt || 4 ||

agnyādigatiḥ—Entering into fire etc.; śruteḥ—from the scriptures; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; bhāktatvāt—on account of its being so said in a secondary sense.

4. If it be said (that the organs do not follow the soul), for the scriptures declare their entering into fire etc., (we say) not so, on account of its being so said in a secondary sense.

When the vocal organ of a man who dies is merged in the fire, the nose in the air,” etc. (Brih. 3. 2. 13).

This text shows that at the time of death the organs are resolved into their presiding deities, and hence it cannot be said that they accompany the soul.

This Sutra refutes that view and says that such interpretations would go against many texts which declare that they do accompany the soul, as, for example:

When it departs, the vital force follows; when the vital force departs, all the organs follow” (Brih. 4. 4. 2).

Hence the text cited must be interpreted in a secondary sense like the words, “The hair on the body in the herbs” (Brih. 3. 2. 13).

 Sutra 3,1.5

प्रथमेऽश्रवणादिति चेत्, न, ता एव हि, उपपत्तेः ॥ ५ ॥

prathame’śravaṇāditi cet, na, tā eva hi, upapatteḥ || 5 ||

prathame—In the first of the oblations; aśravaṇāt—not being mentioned; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; tāḥ eva—that only (i.e. water); hi—because; upapatteḥ—on account of the appropriateness;

5. If it be objected on account of (water) not being mentioned in the first of the oblations, (we say) not so, because that (i.e. water) only (is meant by the word ‘Śraddhā’) on account of the appropriateness (of such an interpretation).

An objection is raised that as there is no mention of water in the first oblation: “On that altar the gods offer Śraddhā as oblation” (Chh. 5. 4. 2), but only Śraddhā (faith) is mentioned, to substitute water for Śraddhā will be arbitrary.

So how can it be ascertained “that in the fifth oblation water is called man.”

The Sutra says that by ‘Śraddhā’ water is meant, for in that case alone syntactical unity of the whole passage remains undisturbed. Otherwise the question and answer would not agree.

Moreover, faith (Śraddhā), which is a mental attribute, cannot be offered as an oblation.

Water is also called Śraddhā in the Śruti texts: “Śraddhā indeed is water” (Taitt. Sam. 1. 6. 8. 1).

Sutra 3,1.6

अश्रुतत्वादिति चेत्, न, इष्टादिकारिणां प्रतीतेः ॥ ६ ॥

aśrutatvāditi cet, na, iṣṭādikāriṇāṃ pratīteḥ || 6 ||

aśrutatvāt—On account of not being mentioned in the Śruti; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; iṣṭādikāriṇām—the performers of sacrifices etc.; pratīteḥ—being understood.

6. If it be said that on account of (the soul) not being mentioned in the text (the soul does not depart enveloped with water etc.), (we say) not so, for it is understood (from the scriptures) that the Jīvas who perform sacrifices etc. (alone go to heaven).

An objection is raised that in the Chāṇḍogya text cited (5.3.3), there is mention of water only but no reference to the soul; and it is explained how this water becomes man.

So how can it be taken that the soul departs enveloped with water and then is born again as man?

This Sutra refutes it and says that if we examine all the scriptural texts like,

But they who being in the village practise sacrifices and works of public utility and give alms, go to the (deity of) smoke ... to the moon” (Chh. 5. 10. 3-4),

which describe the journey to the moon, we find that only the Jīvas who perform such good acts go to heaven, and that in so doing they go enveloped with water, which is supplied by the materials like curds etc. that are offered as oblations in sacrifices; these assume a subtle form called Apūrva and attach themselves to the sacrificer.

 Sutra 3,1.7

भाक्तं वानात्मवित्त्वात्, तथा हि दर्शयति ॥ ७ ॥

bhāktaṃ vānātmavittvāt, tathā hi darśayati || 7 ||

bhāktaṃ—In a secondary sense; —but; anātmavittvāt—on account of their (souls) not knowing the Self; tathā—so; hi—because; darśayati—(Śruti) declares.

7. But (the souls’ being the food of the gods in heaven is used) in a secondary sense, on account of their not knowing the Self; because (the Śruti) declares like that.

In the scriptures it is stated that those who go to heaven become the food of the gods; so how could they be enjoying the fruits of their good actions in heaven?

That is Soma, the king. He is the food of the gods. They eat him” (Chh. 5. 10. 4).

This Sutra says that the word ‘food’ is used not in a primary sense, but metaphorically, meaning an object of enjoyment.

Otherwise, if this is the fate of souls who go to heaven, texts like, “Those who want to go to heaven shall perform sacrifices” are meaningless.

Therefore what the text means is that they are objects of enjoyment to the gods even as wives, children, and cattle are to men. Thus the Jīvas, while giving enjoyment to the gods, are happy, and rejoice with them in their turn.

That they are objects of enjoyment to the gods is known from texts like: “While he who worships another deity . . . He is like a beast to the gods. And as many beasts serve a man, so does every man serve the gods” (Brih. 1. 4. 10).

Therefore it is decided that the soul goes enveloped with subtle parts of the elements when it goes to other spheres for enjoying the fruits of its good Karma.