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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Tadantarapratipattyadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutras 1-7)

The soul at the time of transmigration does take with it subtle parts of the elements.

Tadantarapratipattau ramhati samparishvaktah prasnanirupanabhya III.1.1 (292)

In order to obtain another body (the soul) goes enveloped (by subtle elements) (as appears from) the question and explanation (in the scripture, Chhandogya).

Tadantarapratipattau: for the purpose of obtaining a fresh body (Tat: that, i.e. a body; Antara: different, another; Prati-pattau: in obtaining); Ramhati: goes, departs, Samparishvaktah: enveloped (by subtle elements); Prasna: from question; Nirupanabhyam: aid for explanations.

In the Second Chapter all objections raised against the Vedantic view of Brahman on the ground of Sruti and reasoning have been refuted. It has been shown also that all other views are incorrect and devoid of foundation and the alleged mutual contradictions of Vedic texts do not exist. Further it has been shown that all the entities different from the individual soul such as Prana, etc., spring from Brahman for the enjoyment of the soul.

In this Chapter the manner in which the soul travels after death to the different regions with its adjuncts, the different states of the soul and the nature of Brahman, the separateness or non-separateness of the Vidyas (kinds of Upasana); the question whether the qualities of Brahman have to be cumulated or not, the attainment of the goal by right knowledge (Samyagdarsana), the diversities of the means of right knowledge and the absence of certain rules as to Moksha which is the fruit of perfect knowledge are discussed to create dispassion.

The Jiva (individual soul) along with the Pranas, the mind and the senses leaves his former body and obtains a new body. He takes with himself, Avidya, virtues and vicious actions and the impressions left by his previous births.

Here the question arises whether the soul is enveloped or not by subtle parts of the elements as the seed for the future body in his transmigration. The Purvapakshin or the opponent says – It is not so enveloped, because the subtle parts of the elements are easily available everywhere. This Sutra refutes this view and says that the soul does take with it subtle parts of the elements which are the seeds of the new body. How do we know this? From the question and answer that occurs in the scriptures. The question is "Do you know why in the fifth oblation water is called man?" (Chh. Up. V.3.3). The answer is given in the whole passage which, after explaining how the five oblations in the form of Sraddha, Soma, rain, food and seed are offered in the five fires, viz., the heavenly world, Parjanya (rain God), the earth, man and woman, concludes "For this reason is water, in the fifth oblation, called man". Go through the section Panchagnividya in Chh. Up. V. parts 3-10. Hence we understand that the soul goes enveloped by water. Though the elements are available everywhere, yet the seeds for a future body cannot be easily procured anywhere. The organs, etc., which go with the soul cannot accompany it without a material body.

Just as a caterpillar takes hold of another object before it leaves its hold of an object, so also the soul has the vision of the body to come before it leaves the present body. Hence the view of the Sankhyas that the Self and the organs are both all-pervading and when obtaining a new body only begin to function in it on account of Karma; the view of the Bauddhas that the soul alone without the organs begins to function in a new body, new senses being formed like the new body; the view of the Vaiseshikas that the mind alone goes to the new body; and the view of the Digambara Jains that the soul only flies away from the old body and alights in the new one just as a parrot flies from one tree to another are not correct and are opposing to the Vedas. The soul goes from the body accompanied by the mind, Prana, the senses and the Sukshmabhutas or subtle elements.

An objection can be raised that water only accompanies the soul and not any other element. How can it be said then that the soul goes enveloped by the subtle parts of all elements. To this objection the next Sutra gives the reply.

Tryatmakatvattu bhuyastvat III.1.2 (293)

On account of water consisting of three (elements) (the soul is 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).

Tryatmakatvattu: on account of (water) consisting of three elements; Tu: but; Bhuyastvat: on account of the preponderance (of water).

The water which envelops the soul is threefold. It denotes all the other elements by implication. The text specifies water, because it preponderates in the human body. In all animated bodies liquid substances such as juices, blood and the like preponderate.

The word 'tu' (but), removes the objection raised above. Water stands for all the elements because it is really a combination of water, fire and earth according to the tripartite creation of the gross elements. Therefore all the three elements accompany the soul. No body can be formed by water alone. Further liquid matter is predominant in the causal state of the body, i.e., semen and menstrual blood. Moreover fluid portion is predominant in Soma, milk, butter and the like which are necessary for Karma, which is an efficient cause for the building of the future body.

Pranagatescha III.1.3 (294)

And because of the going out of the Pranas (the sense organs) with the soul, the elements also accompany the soul.

Prana: of the Pranas (the sense organs); Gateh: because of the going out; Cha: and.

A further reason is given to show that the subtle essences of the elements accompany the soul at the dissolution of the body. The Sruti has stated that the Pranas and senses depart along with the individual soul at the dissolution of the body. "When he thus departs the chief Prana departs after him, and when the chief Prana thus departs all the other Pranas depart after it" (Bri. Up. IV.4.2). They cannot stay without the basis or substratum or support of the elements. Therefore it follows that the individual soul departs attended by the subtle essences of the elements at the dissolution of the body. The subtle elements form the base for the moving of Pranas. The going of the Pranas is not possible without a base. The Pranas cannot either move or abide anywhere without such a base. This is observed in living beings.

There can be enjoyment only when the Prana goes to another body. When the soul departs the chief Prana also follows. When the chief Prana departs all the other Pranas and organs also follow. The essences of elements are the vehicle of Pranas. Where the elements are, there the organs and Pranas are. They are never separated.

Agnyadigatisruteriti chet na bhaktatvat III.1.4 (295)

If it be said (that the Pranas or the organs do not follow the soul) on account of the scriptural statements as to entering into Agni, etc., (we say) not so, on account of its being so said in a secondary sense (or metaphorical nature of these statements).

Agnyadi: Agni and others; Gati: entering; Sruteh: on account of the scriptures; Iti: as thus; Chet: if; Na: not so (it cannot be accepted); Bhaktatvat: on account of its being said in a secondary sense.

The Purvapakshin or the objector denies that at the time when a new body is obtained the Pranas go with the soul, because the scripture speaks of their going to Agni, etc. This Sutra refutes this view.

The text which says that Pranas on death go to Agni and other gods says so in a figurative and secondary sense just as when it says that the hair goes to the trees. The text means only that the Pranas obtain the grace of Agni and other gods.

The entering of speech, etc., into Agni is metaphorical. Although the text says that the hairs of the body enter into the shrubs and the hairs of the head into the trees. It does not mean that the hairs actually fly away from the body and enter into trees and shrubs.

The scriptural texts clearly say "When the soul departs, the Prana follows. When the Prana departs, all the organs follow" (Bri. Up. IV.4.2.)

Further the soul could not go at all if the Prana could not follow it. The soul could not enter into the new body without Prana. There could be no enjoyment in the new body without the Pranas going to this body.

The passage metaphorically expresses that Agni and other deities who act as guides of the Pranas and the senses and cooperate with them, stop their cooperation at the time of death. The Pranas and the senses consequently lose their respective functions and are supposed to be immersed in the guiding deities. The Pranas and the senses remain at that time quite inoperative, waiting for accompanying the departing soul.

The entering of speech into fire, etc., means only that at the time of death, these senses and Pranas cease to perform their functions and not that they are absolutely lost to the soul. The conclusion, therefore, is that the Pranas and the senses do accompany the soul at the time of death.

Prathame'sravanaditi chet na ta eva hi upapatteh III.1.5 (296)

If it be objected on the ground of water not being mentioned in the first of the oblations, we say not so, because that (water) only is verily meant by the word "Sraddha" because that is the most appropriate meaning of the word in that passage.

Prathame: in the first of the five oblations described in the Chhandogya Sruti; Asravanat: on account of not being mentioned; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not; Ta eva: that only, i.e., water; Hi: because; Upapatteh: because of fitness.

The Purvapakshin raises an objection: How can it be ascertained that 'in the fifth oblation water is called man' as there is no meaning of water in the first oblation? On that altar the gods offer Sraddha as oblation (Chh. Up. V.4.2).

The Siddhantin gives his answer: In the case of the first fire the word Sraddha is to be taken in the sense of 'water'. Why? Because of appropriateness. Then only there is harmony in the beginning, middle and end of the passage and the synthetical unity of the whole passage is not disturbed. Otherwise the question and answer would not agree and so the unity of the whole passage would be destroyed.

Faith by itself cannot be physically taken out and offered as an oblation. Therefore the word Sraddha must be taken to mean 'water'. Water is called Sraddha in the Sruti texts. "Sraddha va apaha – Sraddha indeed is water" (Tait. Sam. I.6.8.1). Further it is the Sraddha (faith) which leads to sacrifice which leads to rain.

It is the other four offerings Soma, rain, food and seed that are described to be the effects of Sraddha. It is Sraddha which modifies itself into these four. Therefore it must be a substance belonging to the same category as these four, because the cause cannot be different from its effect. An effect is only a modification of the cause. Therefore it is reasonable to interpret Sraddha to mean water here.

Asrutatvaditi chet na ishtadikarinam pratiteh III.1.6 (297)

If it be said that on account of (the soul) not being stated in the Sruti (the soul does not depart enveloped by water, etc.) (we say) not so, because it is understood (from the scriptures) that the Jivas who perform sacrifices and other good works (alone go to heaven).

Asrutatvat: on account of this not being stated in the Sruti; Iti: this; Chet: if; Na: not; Ishtadikarinam: in reference to those who perform sacrifices; Pratiteh: on account of being understood.

An objection is raised that in the Chhandogya Upanishad (V.3.3) there is mention of water only but no reference to the soul (Jiva). This objection cannot stand. The passage refers to the persons performing sacrifices, i.e., the performers of Ishta (sacrifice) and Purta (digging tanks, building temples, etc.) and Dana (charity), going by the path of smoke (Dhumamarga or Dakshinayana Path to the world of moon) Chh. Up. V.10.3.

To those persons who have performed Ishtis, etc., water is supplied in the form of materials used in the Agnihotra, the Darsapurnamasa and other sacrifices, viz., sour milk, milk, curd, etc. The materials like milk, curds, etc., that are offered as oblations in sacrifices assume a subtle form called Apurva and attach themselves to the sacrificer. The Jivas thus go enveloped by water which is supplied by the materials that are offered as oblations in sacrifices. The water forming the oblations assumes the subtle form of Apurva, envelops the souls and leads them to the heaven to receive their reward.

Another objection is raised now by the Purvapakshin. He says "that is the food of the gods. The gods do eat it" (Chh. Up. V.10.4.) "Having reached the moon they become food and then the Devas feed on them there" (Bri. Up. VI.2.16). If they are eaten by gods as by tigers, how could they enjoy the fruit of their actions? The following Sutra gives a suitable answer. The performers of sacrifices obtain the name of 'Somaraja' when they reach Chandraloka. This technical name 'Somaraja' is applied here to the soul.

Bhaktam vanatmavittvat tatha hi darsayati III.1.7 (298)

But (the souls' being the food of the gods in heaven is used) in a secondary or metaphorical sense, on account of their not knowing the Self because the Sruti declares like that.

Bhaktam: Metaphorical; Va: but, or; Anatmavittvat: on account of their not knowing the Self; Tatha: so; Hi: because; Darsayati: (Sruti) declares, shows.

"The soul becomes the food of gods" has to be understood in a metaphorical or secondary sense and not literally. Otherwise the statement of scriptures such as "He who is desirous of heaven must perform sacrifice" is meaningless. If the Devas were to eat the souls why should men then exert themselves to go there and why should they perform sacrifices like Jyotistoma and the rest? Food is the cause of enjoyment. 'Eating' is the rejoicing of the gods with the performers of sacrifices. The sacrifices are objects of enjoyment to the gods just as wives, children and cattle are to men. It is not actual eating like the chewing and swallowing of sweetmeats. The gods do not eat in the ordinary way. The scripture says "The gods do not eat or drink. They are satisfied by seeing the nectar."

Those who perform sacrifices rejoice like servants of a king, although they are subordinate to the gods. They give enjoyment to the gods and rejoice with them. Those who do not know the Self are objects of enjoyment for the gods. This is known from texts like "Now, if a man worships another deity, thinking the deity is one and he is another, he does not know. He is like a beast for the Devas" (Bri. Up. I.4.10). That means he in this life propitiates the gods by means of oblations and other works, serves them like a beast and does so in the other world also, depending on them like a beast and enjoys the fruits of his works as assigned by them. They (the performers of such sacrifices) become serviceable companions to the gods. They enjoy the companionship of the gods. So they are said to be the food of the gods in the figurative or metaphorical sense. They contribute to the enjoyment of the gods by their presence and service in that world. Therefore it is quite clear that the soul goes enveloped with the subtle essence of elements when it goes to other spheres for enjoying the fruits of his good deeds. He enjoys in the Chandraloka and returns to the earth at the end of his store of merit.