Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-4-2

Topic 2 - Sannyāsa is prescribed by the scriptures

 Sutra 3,4.18

परामर्शं जैमिनिरचोदना च, अपवदति हि ॥ १८ ॥

parāmarśaṃ jaiminiracodanā ca, apavadati hi || 18 ||

parāmarśaṃ—Mere reference; jaiminiḥ—Jaimini; acodanā—there is no injunction; ca—and; apavadati hi—because (the scripture) condemns (it).

18. Jaimini (thinks that in the texts referred to in the last Sutra there is) a mere reference (to Sannyāsa), and not injunction, because (other texts) condemn (Sannyāsa).

In the text quoted in the last Sutra (Chh. 2. 23. 1) Jaimini says that as there is no word showing that Sannyāsa is enjoined on man, it is a mere reference and not an injunction.

The Brihadāraṇyaka text quoted in the last Sutra says that some person do like that. Śruti here makes a mere statement of fact. It does not enjoin Sannyāsa.

Moreover, the text here praises steadfastness in Brahman. “But only one who is firmly established in Brahman attains immortality.

Sacrifice, study, charity, austerity, studentship, and lifelong celibacy result in the attainment of the virtuous world. But immortality is gained only by him who is firmly established in Brahman. That is what the text says.

Further, there are other texts which condemn Sannyāsa:

Having brought to your teacher the wealth that he likes, do not cut off the line of progeny” (Taitt. 1. 11); “To him who is without a son (this) world does not belong” (Taitt. Br. 7. 18. 12) and so on.

Sutra 3,4.19

अनुष्ठेयं बादरायणः, साम्यश्रुतेः हि ॥ १९ ॥

anuṣṭheyaṃ bādarāyaṇaḥ, sāmyaśruteḥ || 19 ||

anuṣṭheyam—Ought to be gone through; bādarāyaṇaḥ—Bādarāyaṇa; sāmyaśruteḥ—for the scriptural text refers equally to all the four Āśramas.

19. Bādarāyaṇa (thinks that Sannyāsa or monastic life) also must be gone through, for the scriptural text (cited) refers equally; to all the four Āśramas (stages of life).

In the text cited, sacrifice etc. refer to the householder’s life, penance to Vānaprastha, studentship to Brahmacharya and ‘one who is firmly established in Brahman’ to Sannyāsa.

So the text equally refers to all the four stages of life. The text relating to the first three stages refers to what is enjoined elsewhere. So also does the text relating to Sannyāsa.

Hence Sannyāsa also is enjoined and must be gone through by all.

Sutra 3,4.20

विधिर्वा धारणवत् ॥ २० ॥

vidhirvā dhāraṇavat || 20 ||

vidhiḥ—Injunction; —or rather; dhāraṇavat—as in the case of the carrying (of the sacrificial fuel).

20. Or rather (there is an) injunction (in this text), as in the case of the carrying (of the sacrificial fuel).

This Sutra now tries to establish that there is an injunction about Sannyāsa in the Chāṇḍogya passage cited.

There is a Śruti text referring to Agnihotra performed for the manes, which runs as follows: “Let him approach, carrying the sacrificial fuel below; for above he carries it for the gods.”

The last clause Jaimini interprets as an injunction, though there is no word in it to that effect, because such an injunction is nowhere else to be found in the scriptures. On account of its newness (Apurvatā) it is an injunction.

Following this argument this Sutra says that in Chh. 2.23.1 there is an injunction with respect to Sannyāsa, and not a mere reference, as it is not enjoined anywhere else.

Moreover, there are Śruti texts which directly enjoin Sannyāsa: “Or else he may wander forth from the students’ life, or from the house, or from the forest” (Jāb. 4).

Again Jaimini himself says that even glorification, to be relevant, must be in a complimentary relation to an injunction. In the text cited steadfast devotion to Brahman is being praised, and so it has an injunctive value.

Now is it possible for one engaged in sacrificial rites etc. to be wholly devoted to Brahman?

Devotion to Brahman means constant meditation on It without any disturbing thought. Such a thing is impossible for a householder engaged in ritualistic work. It is possible only for a Sannyāsin who has renounced all work, and not for others.

Neither is it true that Sannyāsa is prescribed only for those who are lame, blind, etc., and therefore unfit for ritualistic work. The text cited above (Jāb. 4) makes no such difference.

Moreover, Sannyāsa is meant as a means to the realization of Brahman, and it is to be acquired in a regular prescribed way: “The wandering mendicant with coloured dress, shaven-headed, accepting no gifts, qualifies himself for the realization of Brahman.

Therefore Sannyāsa is prescribed by the scriptures and Knowledge, because it is enjoined on Sannyāsins, is independent of work.