by Swami Sivananda
When the souls enter into plants, etc., they only cling to them and do not themselves become those species.
Anyadhishthiteshu purvavadabhilpat III.1.24 (315)
(The descending soul enters) into (plants) animated other (souls), as in the previous cases, on account of scriptural declaration.
Anyadhishthiteshu: into what is possessed or occupied by another; Purvavat: like the previous cases; Abhilapat: on account of the scriptural statement.
The discussion on the way of descent of the individual soul is continued.
In the description of the soul's descent, it is said then they are born as rice and corn, herbs and beans. Now a doubt arises, are these souls descending with a remnant of their Karmas, themselves born as rice, corn, etc., or do they merely cling to those plants, etc.
The Purvapakshin holds that they are born as rice, corn, etc., and enjoy their pleasures and pains on account of the remainder of works still attaching to them and do not merely cling to them. The condition of a plant may be a place of enjoyment of the fruits of actions. Sacrifices which entail killing of animals may lead to unpleasant results. Hence the word 'born' is to be taken literally.
This Sutra refutes this view. The souls are merely connected with rice and plants which are already animated by other souls and do not enjoy there pleasures and pains as in previous cases. As the souls becoming air, smoke, was decided to mean only that they become connected with them, so here also their becoming rice, etc., merely means that they become connected with those plants. Because in these stages there is no reference to their Karma, just as in the earlier stages of ether etc. They enter these plants independently of their Karma. They do not enjoy pleasure and pain while they abide there. The souls use the rice and plants as their halting station without being identified with it, as it is expressly stated in Sruti to be a passing stage, like the previous stages of ether, air etc. They do not lose their identity. The souls are not born there for the purpose of retributive enjoyment. Where real birth takes place and experience of pleasure and pain commences, the fruits of actions begin, the text refers to the operation of Karma as in "Those whose conduct has been good will quickly attain a good birth" (Chh. Up. V.10.7).
Further if the word 'born' is taken in its literal sense, then the souls which have descended into the rice plants and are animating them would have to leave them when they are reaped, husked, cooked and eaten. When a body is destroyed the soul that animates it abandons it.
Therefore the descending souls are merely outwardly connected with the plants animated by other souls. They abide till they attain the opportunity for a new birth.
Asuddhamiti chet na sabdat III.1.25 (316)
If it be said that (sacrificial work is) unholy, (we say) not so, on account of scriptural authority.
Asuddham: unholy; Iti: so, thus; Chet: if; Na: no, not so, (the objection cannot stand); Sabdat: on account of the word, on account of the scriptural authority.
An objection to Sutra 24 is raised and refuted.
An objection may be raised that the sacrificial work, such as the Jyotistoma sacrifice and the like where animals are killed is unholy. Therefore its result may cause the sacrificer to be actually born as a corn or a plant as penalty for his cruel action. Such objection is groundless, because the killing of animals in sacrifices causes no demerit as it is sanctioned by the scriptures.
The sacrifices are not impure or sinful because the scriptures declare them to be meritorious. The scriptures alone can tell us what is Dharma and what is Adharma, what is holy and what is unholy. Our knowledge of what is duty and the contrary of duty depends entirely on Sastras, because these are Atindriya, i.e., beyond sense perception and there is in the case of right and wrong an entire want of binding rules as to place, time and occasion. What in one place, at one time on one occasion is performed as a right action, is a wrong action in another place, at another time, on another occasion. Therefore no one can know without a scripture, what is either right or wrong. No doubt the scripture says that one must not cause injury (Ma himsyat sarva bhutani – let not any animal be injured (killed). That is the general rule. 'Let him offer an animal sacred to Agnistoma' is an exception. General rule and exception have different spheres of application. They have different scopes settled by usage, and so there is no conflict between them.
Therefore we conclude that the souls become enclosed in plants when scripture says that the descending souls from the Chandraloka become plants. They are perfectly unconscious in these stages.
Retah sigyogo'tha III.1.26 (317)
Then (the soul gets) connected with him who performs the act of generation.
Retah: one who ejects the seminal fluid; Yoga: connection with; Atha: then afterwards.
The discussion on the way of descent of the soul is continued. What becomes of the soul after its clinging to the plants is now mentioned.
Chhandogya text (V.10.6.) declares "For whoever eats the food and performs the act of generation, that again he (the soul) becomes". Here again the soul's 'becoming', i.e., he who performs the act of generation cannot be taken in its literal sense, because a man is able to procreate when he attains puberty. We have to understand that the soul gets connected with one who performs the act of generation. We again infer from this that the soul's becoming a plant merely means its entering into connection with the plant and not actual birth as such.
The soul after having entered into a corn or a plant becomes connected to him who eats the corn or the fruit and performs the act of copulation. In every stage of its passage it retains its distinctive identity from the bodies with which it may be connected.
Whenever one eats the food, whenever one performs the act of coition, the descending soul becomes again that food and that semen. The soul remains in him in copulation only till he enters into the mother's womb, with the semen injected. He has a touch with the seminal fluid created by eating such grain and ultimately attains a body in wombs. The soul does not really take the form of and become identical with its procreator, because one thing cannot take the form of another thing. If it were to become literally the procreator, then there would be no possibility of the soul's getting another body.
Yoneh sariram III.1.27 (318)
From the womb a (new) body (springs).
Yoneh: from the womb; Sariram: the body.
The discussion on the nature of the descent of the soul is concluded here.
After having passed through the various preceding stages, the soul at last enters into the womb of the mother. He attains a fully developed human body in the womb of the mother which is fit for experiencing the fruits of the remainder of works. The family in which it is to be born is regulated by the nature of this remainder as mentioned in Chh. Up. V.10.7. "Of these, those whose conduct here has been good will quickly attain some good birth, the birth of a Brahmana, or a Kshatriya or a Vaisya. But those whose conduct here has been bad will quickly attain an evil birth, the birth of a dog, or a Chandala".
Thus it has been clearly shown that the soul becomes plant, etc., in the same sense as it becomes ether, etc.
The whole object of teaching this law of incarnation is that you should realise that the Atman or the Absolute alone is the Highest Bliss. This Atman alone must be your sole object of quest. You should get disgusted with this world of pain and sorrow and develop dispassion and discrimination and try earnestly to attain the Eternal Bliss of the Absolute.
O ignorant man! O foolish man! O miserable man! O deluded soul! Wake up from your long slumber of ignorance. Open your eyes. Develop the four means of salvation and attain the goal of life, the summum bonum, right now in this very birth. Come out of this cage of flesh. You have been long imprisoned in this prisonhouse of body for time immemorial. You have been dwelling in the womb again and again. Cut the knot of Avidya and soar high in the realms of Eternal Bliss.
Thus ends the First Pada (Section 1) of the Third Adhyaya (Chapter III) of the Brahma Sutras or the Vedanta Philosophy.