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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 2: Phaladhikaranam: Topic 8 (Sutras 38-41)

The Lord is the giver of the fruits of actions.

Phalamata upapatteh III.2.38 (356)

From Him (the Lord) are the fruits of actions, for that is reasonable.

Phalam: the fruit; Atah: from Him only; Upapatteh: for that is reasonable.

Another characteristic of Brahman is established.

The Mimamsakas hold that the Karma (work) and not the Lord gives the fruits of one's actions.

The Sutra refutes it and declares that the fruits of one's work viz., pain, pleasure and a mixture of the two, come only from the Lord.

The Lord of all who knows all the differences of place and time alone is capable of bestowing fruits in accordance with the merit of the agents. Karma is insentient and short-lived. It ceases to exist as soon as it is done. It cannot therefore bestow the fruits of actions at a future date according to one's merit.

How can fruit which is positive result from such non-existence?

You cannot say that Karma died after generating the fruit which attaches itself to the doer in due time, because it is called fruit only when it is enjoyed.

You cannot say also that Karma generates Apurva which gives fruit. Apurva is Achetana (non-sentient). It cannot act unless moved by some intelligent being. It cannot, therefore, bestow rewards and punishments. Further there is no proof whatever for the existence of such an Apurva.

Therefore the fruits of actions come to men from Isvara or the Lord only, who is Eternal, Omnipotent, Omniscient, All-compassionate.

Srutatvaccha III.2.39 (357)

And because the Sruti so teaches.

Srutatvat: because the Sruti so teaches, from the declaration of the Sruti to that effect; Cha: also, and.

The preceding Sutra is strengthened on the support of Sruti.

The Sruti also declares that the fruits of actions come from the Lord. "This indeed is the great, unborn Self, the giver of food, and the giver of wealth (the fruit of one's work)" (Bri. Up. IV.4.24).

Dharmam Jaiminirata eva III.2.40 (358)

Jaimini thinks for the same reasons (viz., scriptural authority and reasoning, on the same ground as stated in Sutras 38 and 39) that religious merit (is what brings about the fruits of actions).

Dharmam: practice of religious duties, religious merits; Jaiminih: the sage Jaimini; Ata eva: for the same reasons.

An objection is raised to Sutras 38 and 39.

The view of the Sutras 38 and 39 is being criticised.

Jaimini says that Dharma gives fruits of actions as Sruti and reason support such a view.

Scripture, Jaimini argues, proclaims injunctions such as the following one "He who is desirous of the heavenly world is to sacrifice". It is admitted that every scriptural injunction has an object. Therefore it is reasonable to think that the scripture itself brings about the fruit or the result, i.e., the attainment of the heavenly world. If this were not so, nobody would perform sacrifices and thereby scriptural injunctions would be rendered purposeless.

But it may be objected that an action cannot produce a result at a future time as it is destroyed.

Jaimini says: A deed cannot produce result at some future time, unless before passing away, it gives birth to some unseen result. We, therefore, assume that there exists some extraordinary principle called Apurva which is produced by the Karma before it is destroyed. The result is produced at some future time on account of this Apurva.

This hypothesis removes all difficulties. But on the contrary it is impossible that the Lord should effect the fruits of Karmas. Because one uniform cause (Isvara) cannot cause variety of effects. He will have partiality and cruelty; and Karma will become purposeless, i.e., if the deed itself cannot bring about its own fruit, it would be useless to perform it at all.

For all these reasons the result springs from the action only, whether meritorious or non-meritorious. (This is the view of Jaimini).

Purvam Baadarayano hetuvyapadesat III.2.41 (359)

But Baadarayana thinks the former (i.e., the Lord to be the cause of the fruits of action) on account of His being declared to be the cause (of the actions themselves).

Purvam: the former, i. e., the Lord as the giver of the fruits of actions; Tu: but; Baadarayanah: Baadarayana, the framer of the Sutras (holds); Hetuvyapadesat: on account of His being declared the cause (of the actions themselves).

The view of Jaimini expressed in Sutra 40 is refuted by citing a contrary one.

The word 'Tu' (but) refutes the view of Sutra 40. It sets aside the view of the fruit being produced either by the mere action or the mere Apurva.

The sage Baadarayana holds the former, i.e., the Lord is the Dispenser of the fruit of actions. The Sruti clearly states that all rewards whether heaven or union with the Lord come from Him, "He takes one to a purer world by virtue of one's piety – Punyena punyam lokam nayati". Also Katha Upanishad (I.2.23) declares "He gives Himself away to whomsoever He chooses – Yamevaisha vrinute tena labhyah".

Baadarayana says that the Lord bestows the fruits of deeds because Sruti says that the Lord induces the doing of actions and gives the fruits thereof. As the Lord acts according to the variety of Karmas, he can produce and give a variety of results and has no partiality and cruelty, and Karma will not become purposeless.

The Lord is the causal agent with reference to all actions whether good or evil. Kaushitaki Upanishad (III.8) declares "He makes him whom He wishes to lead up from these worlds do a good deed and the same makes him whom He wishes to lead down from these worlds do a bad deed."

The same is said in Bhagavad Gita (VII.21-22), "Whichever divine form a devotee wishes to worship with faith, to that form I render his faith steady. Holding that faith he strives to propitiate the deity and obtains from it the benefits he desires, as ordained by Me."

Moreover all Vedanta texts declare that the Lord is the only cause of all creations. The Lord creates all beings in forms and conditions corresponding to and retributive of their former Karmas. Hence the Lord is the cause of all fruits of actions. As the Lord has regard for the merit and demerit of the souls, the objections raised above that a uniform cause is incapable of producing various effects, etc., are without any foundation.

To sum up, the nature of the Supreme Brahman has been described. Brahman has been shown to be formless, self-luminous and without difference. It has been established through "Neti-Neti" "not this, not this" doctrine that Brahman is one without a second. It has been conclusively proved that the Lord is the Dispenser of the fruits of Karmas of the people.

Thus ends the Second Pada (Section II) of the Third Adhyaya (Chapter III) of the Brahma Sutras or the Vedanta Philosophy.