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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 1: Kritatyayadhikaranam: Topic 2 (Sutras 8-11)

The souls descending from heaven have a remnant of Karma which determines their birth.

Kritatyaye'nusayavan drishtasmritibhyam yathetamanevam cha III.1.8 (299)

On the exhaustion of good work the soul returns to the earth with a remainder of the Karmas, as can be understood from direct statement in Sruti and Smriti, by the same route through which he ascended after death and differently too.

Krita: of what is done, of the Karma; Atyaye: at the end, at the exhaustion; Anusayavan: with a remainder of the Karma; Drishtasmritibhyam: as can be understood from direct statement in Sruti and Smriti; Yatha itam: by the way he went; Anevam: differently; Cha: and.

A fresh topic is discussed here. This Adhikarana teaches the mode of return from heaven. The question is raised whether the souls, after having enjoyed the fruits of all their works, return to the earth with any remnant of Karma (Karmasesha) or not. The Purvapakshin or the opponent says that there is no remnant of Karma. Why? On account of the specification "Yavat sampatam". The Sruti says "Having dwelt there till their work is exhausted, they return again the way they went by" (Chh. Up. V.10.5). This indicates that all their karma is completely exhausted there and there is nothing left.

This view is wrong. The right view is that the souls return to the earth by the force of some unenjoyed remnant or Anusaya of Karma. When the totality of works which helped the souls to go to the Chandraloka for enjoyment of the fruits of good deeds is exhausted, then the body made up of water which had originated there for the sake of enjoyment is dissolved by the fire of sorrow springing from the thought that the enjoyment comes to an end, just as hailstones melt by contact with the rays of the sun, just as ghee melts by contact with the fire. Then the souls come down with a remainder yet left.

This is proved by Sruti and Smriti as well. The Sruti says "Those whose conduct, during the previous life, has been good, presently obtain good birth, such as the birth of a Brahmin, a Kshatriya or a Vaisya; those whose conduct has been bad presently obtain some evil birth such as that of a dog or a pig" (Chh. Up. V.10.7).

The Smriti says "The members of the different castes and of the different orders of life who are engaged in the works prescribed for them, after leaving this world and enjoying the fruits of their works in the other world, are born again owing to the unenjoyed portion of their rewards, in distinguished castes and families, with special beauty, longevity, knowledge, conduct, property, comfort and intelligence". Hence the soul is born with residual Karma.

What is such Anusaya (residual work) of Karma which leads to higher or lower birth? Of what kind is that remainder? Some say that thereby we have to understand a remainder of the works which had been performed in the previous birth to obtain heaven and whose fruits have for the greater part been enjoyed. That residue might be compared to the remainder of oil which sticks to the inside of a vessel previously filled with oil even after it has been emptied or to a courtier of a king who loses his Durbar robe and therefore comes out with his shoes and umbrella alone. These analogies are obviously wrong, because when a virtuous deed leads the soul to heaven, we cannot assume that a portion of it brings him down to the earth. This would contradict the text which declares clearly that heaven alone is the fruit of meritorious acts and no residue continues to exist.

Moreover the scriptural passage distinguishes remainders of a different kind, viz., 'those whose conduct has been good; those whose conduct has been bad'. The latter cannot be a portion of the virtuous deed which leads the soul to the heaven. Therefore the Anusaya is the residue or remnant of some other store of Karmas bearing fruit. After the fruits of the meritorious acts have completely been enjoyed in heaven, the remaining other set of works (good and bad) whose fruits are to be enjoyed in this world forms the Anusaya with which the souls come to the earth.

Another view is that after death the entire store of Karmas about to bear fruit fructifies. Therefore the souls come to the earth without any Anusaya or residue of Karma. This is wrong. This is untenable. Some of those Karmas can be enjoyed only in one kind of birth and some in another. They cannot combine in one birth. It cannot be said that one portion ceases to bear fruit. There is no such cessation save by Prayaschitta or expiation. If all Karmas bear fruit after death, there will be no cause for rebirth after life in heaven or hell or in animal bodies, because in these there is no means of virtue or vice. Moreover some capital sins like the killing of a Brahmin involve many births.

How then can the totality of Karmas lead to one birth alone? The scripture is the sole source of virtue and vice. Similarly the Kariri Ishti, a sacrifice offered by those who are desirous of rain, causes rain. Therefore you cannot ascribe it to the fructification of past acts after death. Therefore the view that death manifests all actions, that all events are due to the fructification of complete store of Karmas after death is entirely incorrect and baseless.

The Purvapakshin or the objector argues that just as a lamp shows all objects, so also death exhausts all Karmas. This analogy is not correct. Because a lamp, although equally distant from a big and a very small object, may manifest only the big one and not the small object. So death excites the operation of the stronger actions only, not the weaker ones, although there is equal opportunity for both sets of works for fructification. Therefore the view that all actions are manifested by death cannot be upheld, because it is contradicted by Sruti, Smriti and reason.

You need not be afraid that if any Karmas are left in store there will be no salvation, because knowledge of Self will annihilate all Karmas. Therefore it is an established conclusion that the souls descend to the earth from heaven with a remainder of works (Anusaya).

By what way does it descend? They return by the same way that they went by, but with some difference. From the expression "as they came" and from the fact of 'ether and smoke' it is concluded that they descend by the way they went to the heaven (Chh. Up. V.10.5). That there is some difference too is known from night, etc., not being mentioned and from the cloud, etc., being added (Chh. Up. V.10.6). He descends by the route by which he went to a certain stage and then by a different route. The word 'Ramaniyacharana' means works which are Ramaniya or good. 'Kapuyacharana' means evil acts. The word 'Yavat sampatam' does not mean the exhaustion of all Karmas, but the exhaustion of the works that took the soul to heaven and which is exhausted in heaven by enjoyment.

Charanaditi chet na upalakshanartheti karshnajinih III.1.9 (300)

If it be objected that on account of conduct (the assumption of the remnant of Karma, Anusaya is not necessary for rebirth on earth), (we say) not so (because the word 'conduct' is used) to signify indirectly (the remainder). So Karshnajini thinks.

Charanat: on account of conduct; Iti: thus, so; Chet: if; Na: not so; Upalakshanartha: to signify secondarily, indirectly, meant to imply or connote; Iti: thus; Karshnajinih: Karshnajini thinks, holds, says.

An objection is raised with reference to the residual Karma, Anusaya, stated in the preceding Sutra and is refuted.

The Purvapakshin or the objector says in the text cited (Chh. Up. V.10.7.) "those whose conduct has been good" etc., get a good birth.

The quality of the new birth depends on 'Charana' or conduct, not on Anusaya or remainder of work. 'Charana' and 'Anusaya' are different things because 'Charana' is the same as Charitra, Achara, Sila – all of which mean conduct, while Anusaya means remainder of work.

Scripture also says that action and conduct are different things "According as he acts and according as he conducts himself so will he be" (Bri. Up. IV.4.5).

The objection is without force. This Sutra refutes this and says that the term 'conduct' is meant to denote the remainder of the works (good Karmas) after enjoyment in the other world. Conduct stands for Karma which depends on good conduct. This is the opinion of the sage Karshnajini. This is secondary implication of the term.

Anarthakyamiti chet na tadapekshatvat III.1.10 (301)

If it be said (by such interpretation of the word 'conduct' – good conduct would become) purposeless, (we say) not so, on account of (Karma) being dependent on that (good conduct).

Anarthakyam: purposeless, useless, irrelevancy; Iti: thus, as; Chet: if; Na: not so; Tat: that (conduct); Apekshatvat: on account of dependence on that.

A further objection with reference to the word 'Charana – conduct' is raised and refuted in this Sutra.

The Purvapakshin or the objector says that may be, but why should we give up that meaning which the word 'Charana' directly conveys viz., 'conduct' and take up the merely connotative meaning 'residue of Karma'. Then good conduct would be purposeless in man's life, as it has no result of its own, not being a cause of the quality of new birth. Conduct which is the direct meaning of the word may have for its fruit either a good or an evil birth according as it is good or bad. Some fruit will have to be allowed to it in any case for otherwise it would be purposeless.

This Sutra refutes this. The Sutra denies this view on the ground that only those who are of good conduct are entitled to perform Vedic sacrifices. This objection is without force on account of the dependence on it. It cannot stand. The Smriti says, "Him who is devoid of good conduct the Vedas do not purify." He, whose conduct is not good, does not attain religious merit by mere performance of sacrifices. Conduct enhances the fruit of Karma (Atisaya). Good conduct is an aid or auxiliary to Karma. Therefore it has a purpose. When the sacrifice begins to produce its fruit, the conduct which has reference to the sacrifice will originate in the fruit some addition. It is, therefore, the view of Karshnajini that the residue of works only which is the indirect meaning of the term 'Charana' or conduct and not just conduct is the cause of the new birth. If a man is able to run by means of his feet he will certainly not creep on his knees. If a man cannot run on his legs, can he run on his knees?

Sukritadushkrite eveti tu baadarih III.1.11 (302)

But conduct (Charana) means merely good and evil works; thus the sage Baadari thinks.

Sukrita: good or righteous deeds; Dushkrite: (and) bad or unrighteous deeds; Eva: only, merely; Iti: thus; Tu: but; Baadarih: (Sage) Baadari.

Further discussion on the meaning of the word 'Charana' is made here. The Sutra says that there is no difference between conduct and Karma. According to the sage Baadari the phrases 'Ramaniyacharana' and 'Kapuyacharana' mean good and evil works.

Charana means the same as Anusthana or Karma (work). The root 'Char' (to walk, to conduct oneself) is used in the general sense of acting. People say in common parlance of a man who does sacrifices. "That man walks in righteousness." The term Achara also denotes only a kind of religious duty. A sacrifice is a meritorious act (Dharma). Achara is also Dharma. When Karma and Charana are separately described it is as when you speak of Brahmanas and Parivrajakas, i.e., Sannyasis. Though Charana and Karma are one, yet they are spoken of sometimes as different on the maxim of "Kuru-Pandavas." Though the Pandavas were also Kurus, yet in the phrase Kurus and Pandavas the word Kuru is used in a narrower sense. Thus 'men of good conduct or character' means those whose actions are praiseworthy: 'men of evil conduct or evil Charana' are those whose actions are to be censured. Conduct is used in the general sense of action. As Charana is Karma only, it is established, therefore, that those who go to heaven have remainder of Karma (Anusaya) as the cause of a new birth on earth.

Eva – only: The force of this word in this Sutra is to indicate that this is the opinion of the author of the Sutras.

Tu – 'but' is used to indicate speciality, one's own conclusion and to add emphasis.