Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-4-1


In the last section were discussed the Vidyās, the means to the knowledge of Brahman.

This section discusses whether this knowledge of Brahman is connected with ritualistic work through the agent, or whether it independently serves the purpose of man (Puruṣārtha).

Man tries to attain the fulfilment of his desires, discharge of duties, acquisition of wealth, and Liberation.

The question is whether knowledge of Brahman serves any of these purposes, or is merely connected with sacrificial acts in so far as it imparts to the agent a certain qualification.

Topic 1 - Knowledge of Brahman is not subordinate to sacrificial acts

 Sutra 3,4.1

पुरुषार्थोऽतः, शब्दादिति बादरायणः ॥ १ ॥

puruṣārtho'taḥ, śabdāditi bādarāyaṇaḥ || 1 ||

puruṣārthaḥ—Purpose of man; ataḥ—from this; śabdāt—from the scriptures; iti—thus (says); bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa.

1. From this (results) the purpose of man, because of the scriptures; thus (says) Bādarāyaṇa.

Bādarāyaṇa basing his arguments on the Śruti texts says that the knowledge of Brahman effects man’s highest purpose and is not a part of sacrificial acts. It leads to Liberation.

The scriptural authority referred to is texts like: “The knower of the Self goes beyond grief” (Chh. 7. 1. 3); “He who knows that Supreme Brahman becomes indeed Brahman” (Mu. 3. 2. 9); “The knower of Brahman attains the Highest” (Taitt. 2. 1).

Sutra 3,4.2

शेषत्वात्पुरुषार्थवादो यथाऽन्येष्विति जैमिनिः ॥ २ ॥

śeṣatvātpuruṣārthavādo yathā’nyeṣviti jaiminiḥ || 2 ||

śeṣatvāt—On account of being supplementary (to sacrificial acts); puruṣa-arthavādaḥ—are mere praise of the agent; yathā—even as; anyeṣu—in other cases; iti—thus (says) jaiminiḥ—Jaimini.

2. Because (the Self) is supplementary (to sacrificial acts), (the fruits of the knowledge of the Self) are mere praise of the agent, even as in other cases; thus says Jaimini.

According to Jaimini the Vedas merely prescribe acts to attain certain purposes including Liberation, and nothing more.

He argues that the knowledge of the Self does not yield any independent results, as Vedānta holds, but is connected with the acts through the agent.

No one undertakes a sacrificial act unless he is conscious of the fact that he is different from the body and that after death, he will go to heaven, where he will enjoy the results of his sacrifices.

Texts dealing with Self-knowledge serve merely to enlighten the agent and so are subordinate to sacrificial acts.

The fruits, however, which the Vedanta texts declare with regard to Self-knowledge are merely praise, even as texts declare such results by way of praise with respect to other matters.

In short, Jaimini holds that by the knowledge that his Self will outlive the body, the agent becomes qualified for sacrificial actions even as other things become fit in sacrifices through purification ceremonies.

Sutra 3,4.3

आचारदर्शनात् ॥ ३ ॥

ācāradarśanāt || 3 ||

ācāra-darśanāt—Because of the conduct found (from the scriptures).

3. Because we find (from the scriptures such) conduct (of men of realization).

Janaka, emperor of Videha performed a sacrifice in which gifts were freely distributed” (Brih. 3. 1. 1); “I am going to perform a sacrifice, sirs” (Chh. 5. 11. 5).

Now both Janaka and Aśvapati were knowers of the Self.

If by this knowledge of the Self they had attained Liberation, there was no need for them to perform sacrifices. But the two texts quoted show that they did perform sacrifices.

This proves that it is through sacrificial acts alone that one attains Liberation, and not through the knowledge of the Self, as the Vedāṅtins hold.

Sutra 3,4.4

तच्छ्रुतेः ॥ ४ ॥

tacchruteḥ || 4 ||

tat-chruteḥ—Because the scriptures directly declare that.

4. That (i.e. that knowledge of the Self stands in a subordinate relation to sacrificial acts) the scriptures directly declare.

That alone which is performed with knowledge, faith, and meditation becomes more powerful” (Chh. 1. 1. 10);

This text clearly shows that knowledge is a part of the sacrificial act.

 Sutra 3,4.5

समन्वारम्भणात् ॥ ५ ॥

samanvārambhaṇāt || 5 ||

5. Because the two (knowledge and work) go together (with the departing soul to produce the results).

It is followed by knowledge, work, and past experience” (Brih. 4. 4. 2).

This text shows that knowledge and work go together with the soul and produce the effect which it is destined to enjoy.

Knowledge independently is not able to produce any such effect.

Sutra 3,4.6

तद्वतो विधानात् ॥ ६ ॥

tadvato vidhānāt || 6 ||

tadvataḥ—For such (as know the purport of the Vedas); vidhānāt—because (the scriptures) enjoin (work).

6. Because (the scriptures) enjoin (work) for such (as know the purport of the Vedas).

The scriptures enjoin work only for those who have knowledge of the Vedas, which includes the knowledge of the Self.

Hence Knowledge does not independently produce any result.

Sutra 3,4.7

नियमाच्च ॥ ७ ॥

niyamācca || 7 ||

niyamāt—Or account of prescribed rules; ca—and.

7. And on account of prescribed rules.

Performing works here let a man wish to live a hundred years” (Is. 2);

Agnihotra is a sacrifice lasting up to old age and death; for through old age one is freed from it or through death” (Sat. Br. 12. 4. 1. 1).

From such prescribed rules also we find that Knowledge stands in a subordinate relation to work.

Sutra 3,4.8

अधिकोपदेशात्तु बादरायणस्यैवम्, तद्दर्शनात् ॥ ८ ॥

adhikopadeśāttu bādarāyaṇasyaivam, taddarśanāt || 8 ||

adhika-upadeśāt—Because (the scriptures) teach (the Supreme Self to be) something over and above; tu—but; bādarāyaṇasya—Bādarāyaṇa’s (view); evam— such i.e. correct; tat-darśanāt—for that is seen (from the scriptures).

8. But because (the scriptures) teach (the Supreme Self to be) other (than the agent), Bādarāyaṇa’s (view is) correct; for that is seen (from the scriptures).

Sutras 2-7 give the view of the Mimāmsakas, which is refuted in Sutras 8-17.

The Vedānta texts do not teach the limited self, which is the agent, but the Supreme Self, which is different from the agent. Thus the knowledge of the Self which the Vedānta texts declare is different from that knowledge of the self which an agent possesses.

The knowledge of such a Self, which is free from all limiting adjuncts, not only does not help, but puts an end to all actions.

That the Vedānta texts teach the Supreme Self is clear from such texts as the following: “He who perceives all and knows all” (Mu. 1. 1. 9); “Under the mighty rule of this Immutable, O Gārgī” etc. (Brih. 3. 8. 9).

 Sutra 3,4.9

तुल्यं तु दर्शनम् ॥ ९ ॥

tulyaṃ tu darśanam || 9 ||

tulyam—Equal; tu—but; darśanam—declarations of the Śruti.

9. But the declarations of the Śruti equally support both views.

This Sutra refutes the view expressed in Sutra 3. There it was shown that Janaka and others even after attaining Knowledge were engaged in work.

This Sutra says that scriptural authority equally supports the view that for one who has attained Knowledge there is no work: “Knowing this very Self the Brāhmaṇas renounce the desire for sons, for wealth, and for the worlds, and lead a mendicant life” (Brih. 3.5.1).

We also see from the scriptures that knowers of the Self like Yājñyavalkya gave up work: “‘This much indeed is (the means of) immortality, my dear.’ Saying this Yājñyavalkya left home” (Brih. 4. 5. 15).

The work of Janaka and others was characterized by non-attachment, and as such it was practically no work; so the Mīmāṃsā argument is weak.

Sutra 3,4.10

असार्वत्रिकी ॥ १० ॥

asārvatrikī || 10 ||

10. (The declaration of the scripture referred to in Sutra 4) is not universally true.

The declaration of the Śruti that knowledge enhances the fruit of the sacrifice does not refer to all knowledge, as it is connected only with the Udgītha, which is the topic of the section.

Sutra 3,4.11

विभागः शतवत् ॥ ११ ॥

vibhāgaḥ śatavat || 11 ||

vibhāgaḥ—(There is) division of knowledge and work; śatavat—as in the case of a hundred (divided between two persons).

11. (There is) division of knowledge and work, as in the case of a hundred (divided between two persons).

This Sutra refutes Sutra 5. “It is followed by knowledge, work and past experiences” (Brih. 4. 4. 2).

Here we have to take knowledge and work in a distributive sense, meaning that knowledge follows one and work another.

Just as when we say a hundred be given to these two persons, we divide it into two halves and give each man fifty. There is no combination of the two.

Even without this explanation Sutra 5 can be refuted. For the text quoted refers only to knowledge and work, which concern the transmigrating soul, and not an emancipated soul.

For the passage, “Thus does the man who desires (transmigrate)” (Brih. 4. 4. 6) shows that the previous text refers to the transmigrating self.

And of the emancipated soul Śruti says, “But the man who never desires (never transmigrates)” etc. (Brih. 4. 4. 6).

Sutra 3,4.12

अध्ययनमात्रवतः ॥ १२ ॥

adhyayanamātravataḥ || 12 ||

12. (The scriptures enjoin work) only on those who have read the Vedas.

This Sutra refutes Sutra 6.

Those who have read the Vedas and known about the sacrifices are entitled to perform work.

No work is prescribed for those who have knowledge of the Self from the Upanishads. Such a knowledge is incompatible with work.

Sutra 3,4.13

न, अविशेषात् ॥ १३ ॥

na, aviśeṣāt || 13 ||

na—not; aviśeṣāt—owing to the absence of any specification.

13. Because there is no special mention (of the Jñāni, it does) not (apply to him).

This Sutra refutes Sutra 7.

The text quoted there from the Iśa Upanishad is a general statement, and, there is no special mention in it that it is applicable to a Jñānī also. In the absence of such a specification it is not binding on him.

Sutra 3,4.14

स्तुतयेऽनुमतिर्वा ॥ १४ ॥

stutaye’numatirvā || 14 ||

stutaye—For the praising (of Knowledge); anumatiḥ—permission; —or rather.

14. Or rather the permission (to do work) is for praising (Knowledge).

The injunction to do work for the knowers of the Self is for the glorification of this Knowledge. The praise involved in it is this: A knower of the Self may work all his life, but on account of this Knowledge he will not be bound by its effects.

Sutra 3,4.15

कामकारेण चैके ॥ १५ ॥

kāmakāreṇa caike || 15 ||

kāmakāreṇa—According to their choice; ca—and; eke—some.

15. And some according to their choice (have refrained from all work).

In Sutra 3 it was said that Janaka and others were engaged in work even after Knowledge.

This Sutra says that some have of their own accord given up all work. The point is that after Knowledge some may choose to work to set an example to others, while others may give up all work. There is no binding on the knowers of the Self as regards work.

Sutra 3,4.16

उपमर्दं च ॥ १६ ॥

upamardaṃ ca || 16 ||

upamardaṃ—Destruction; ca—and.

16. And (the scriptures say that the) destruction (of all qualifications for work results from Knowledge).

Knowledge destroys all ignorance and its products like agent, act, and result.

But when to the knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what” etc. (Brih. 4. 5. 15).

The knowledge of the Self is antagonistic to all work and so cannot possibly be subsidiary to work.

Sutra 3,4.17

ऊर्ध्वरेतःसु च, शब्दे हि ॥ १७ ॥

ūrdhvaretaḥsu ca, śabde hi || 17 ||

ūrdhvaretaḥ su—To those who observe continence; ca—and; śabde—(this Āśrama is mentioned) in the scriptures; hi—because.

17. And (Knowledge belongs) to those who observe continence (i.e. to Sannyāsins); because (this fourth Āśrama is mentioned) in the scriptures.

The scriptures declare that Knowledge is gained in that stage of life in which continence is prescribed, i.e. the fourth stage or Sannyāsa Āśrama. To a Sannyāsin there is no work prescribed except discrimination.

So how can Knowledge be subservient to work?

That there is a stage of life called Sannyāsa we find from the scriptures themselves in texts like:

There are three branches of duty; sacrifice, study and charity are the first; . . . All these attain to the worlds öf the virtuous; but only one who is firmly established in Brahman attains immortality” (Chh. 2. 23. 7-2);

Desiring this world (the Self) alone monks renounce their homes” (Brih. 4. 4. 22). See also Mu. 1. 2. 11 and Chh. 5. 10. 1.

Everyone can take to this life without being a householder etc., which shows the independence of Knowledge.