Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Characharavyapasrayadhikaranam: Topic 10 (Sutra 16)

Births and deaths are not of the soul.

Characharavyapasrayastu syat tadvyapadeso bhaktah tadbhavabhavitvat II.3.16 (232)

But the mention of that (viz., birth and death of the individual soul) is apt only with reference to the bodies of beings moving and non-moving. It is secondary or metaphorical if applied to the soul, as the existence of those terms depends on the existence of that (i.e., the body).

Characharavyapasrayah: in connection with the bodies fixed and movable; Tu: but, indeed; Syat: may be, becomes; Tadvyapadesah: mention of that, that expression, i.e., to popular expressions of births and deaths of the soul; Bhaktah: secondary, metaphorical, not literal; Tadbhavabhavitvat: on account of (those terms) depending on the existence of that. (Tadbhave: on the existence of that, i.e., the body; Bhavitvat: depending.)

The essential nature or character of the individual soul is discussed now.

A doubt may arise that the individual soul also has births and deaths because people use such expressions as "Ramakrishna is born", "Ramakrishna is dead" and because certain ceremonies such as the Jatakarma etc., are prescribed by the scriptures at the birth and death of people.

This Sutra refutes such a doubt, and declares that the individual soul has neither birth nor death. Birth and death pertain to the body with which the soul is connected but not to the soul. If the individual soul perishes there would be no sense in the religious injunctions and prohibitions referring to the enjoyment and avoidance of pleasant and unpleasant things in another body (another birth).

The connection of the body with the soul is popularly called birth, and the disconnection of the soul from the body is called death in the common parlance. Scripture says, "This body indeed dies when the living soul has left it, the living soul does not die" (Chh. Up. VI.11.3). Hence birth and death are spoken primarily of the bodies of moving and non-moving beings and only metaphorically of the soul.

That the words 'birth' and 'death' have reference to the conjunction with and separation from a body merely is also shown by the following Sruti text, "On being born that person assuming his body, when he passes out of the body and dies" etc. (Bri. Up. IV.3.8).

The Jatakarma ceremony also has reference to the manifestation of the body only because the soul is not manifested.

Hence the birth and death belong to the body only but not to the soul.