by Swami Sivananda
The shaking off of good and evil by the man of Knowledge occurs only at the time of his death.
Samparaye tarttavyabhavattathahyanye III.3.27 (386)
(He who attains knowledge gets rid of his good and evil deeds) at the time of death, there being nothing to be attained (by him on the way to Brahmaloka through those works); for thus others (declare in their sacred texts).
Samparaye: at the time of death; Tarttavyabhavat: there being nothing to be attained; Tatha: in this way, so; Hi: because, for; Anye: others.
This Sutra decides when the individual soul shakes off his good and evil deeds.
The question now arises as to when the individual soul gets rid of his good and evil deeds. In the Kaushitaki Upanishad (I.4) we find "He comes to the river Viraja and crosses it by the mind alone, and there he shakes off good and evil." On the strength of this text the Purvapakshin or the opponent maintains that the good and evil deeds are discarded on his way to Brahmaloka and not at the time of departing from the body.
This Sutra refutes it and declares that the liberated sage frees himself from the effects of good and evil works at the time of death through the strength of his knowledge.
Though the Kaushitaki Sruti refers to the discarding of good and evil on the Devayana way or the way to Brahmaloka, after crossing the Viraja river, the good and evil deeds are cast off at death, because there is nothing to be attained through them after death, there remaining nothing to be enjoyed by him through his good and evil works. The good and evil works are no longer of any use to him and not fit to be retained by him thereafter.
The Sanchita Karma or accumulated works are destroyed as soon as one attains knowledge of Brahman. Prarabdha is destroyed at death. So he is freed from the effects of all his merits and sins at the time of death.
As the results of his good and evil deeds are contrary to the result of knowledge, they are destroyed by the power of the latter. The moment of their destruction is that moment in which he sets out towards the fruit of his knowledge, i.e., the world of Brahman.
Moreover it is not possible to cast off the effects of good and evil deeds on the way to Brahmaloka because the soul has no gross body and so it cannot take recourse to any practice that can destroy them.
Further one cannot cross the river Viraja unless he is freed from all good and evil.
The Sruti declares "shaking off all evil as a horse shakes off his hairs" (Chh. Up. VIII.13.1).
Therefore the settled conclusion is that all good and evil works are cast off at the time of death.
Chhandata ubhayavirodhat III.3.28 (387)
(The interpretation that the individual soul practising Yama-Niyama) according to his liking (discards good and evil works while living is reasonable) on account of there being harmony in that case between the two (viz., cause and effect, as well as between the Chhandogya and another Sruti).
Chhandatah: according to his liking; Ubhayanirodhat: on account of there being harmony between the two. (Ubhaya: of either; there being no contradiction.)
The view is correct because voluntary performance of Yama, Niyma, etc., to get rid of Karma is possible only before death, and because it is opposed to all texts. The above view is in agreement or unison with all Srutis.
If the soul frees himself from his good and evil deeds on the way after having departed from the body and having entered on the way of the gods (Devayana), we land ourselves in impossibilities, because after the body has been left behind, he cannot practise according to his liking self-restraint and pursuit of knowledge which can effect destruction of his good and evil deeds. Therefore there cannot be annihilation of his good and evil works.
It does not certainly stand to reason that the effect is delayed till some time after death when the cause is there already. When there is a body it is not possible to attain Brahmaloka. There is no difficulty in discarding good and evil.