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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Aikatmyadhikaranam: Topic 30 (Sutras 53-54)

Atman is an entity distinct from the body.

Eka atmanah sarire bhavat III.3.53 (412)

Some (maintain the non-existence) of a separate self (besides the body) on account of the existence (of the self) where a body is (only).

Eka: some (maintain the non-existence); Atmanah: of a separate self (besides the body); Sarire: in the body; Bhavat: because of existence.

In this topic the existence of an Atman apart from the body is taken up for discussion. Unless there is a soul apart from the body there is no use of the scripture teaching liberation. Nor can there be any scope for ethical commands which are the means of attainment of heaven or for the teaching that the soul is Brahman.

There must be a soul apart from the body who can enjoy the fruits of the Upasana or Vidyas, otherwise of what avail is Upasana? If there is no soul all Upasanas become useless.

At present we will prove the existence of a soul different from the body in order to establish thereby the qualification of the self for bondage and release. For if there were no selves different from the body, there would be no room for injunction that have the other world for their result, nor could it be taught of anybody that Brahman is his Self.

This Sutra gives the view of the Charvakas or Lokayatikas (materialists) who deny the existence of an Atman different from the body. They say that consciousness is a mere material product and that the body is the soul. They declare that consciousness is seen to exist only when there is a body and that it is nowhere experienced independent of the body. Therefore consciousness is only an attribute or quality of the body. There is no separate self or soul in this body.

They say man is only a body. Consciousness is the quality of the body. Consciousness is like the intoxicating quality which arises when certain materials are mixed in certain proportions. No single material has the intoxicating effect.

Although consciousness is not observed in earth, and the other external elements, either single or combined, yet it may appear in them when transformed into the shape of a body. Consciousness springs from them. No soul is found after the body dies and that hence as both are present or absent together, consciousness is only an attribute of the body just as light and heat are attributes of fire.

As life, movements, consciousness, remembrances and so on, which are regarded as qualities of the Atman by those who maintain that there is an independent Atman apart from the body, are observed only within the bodies and not outside the bodies, and as an abode of those attributes different from the body cannot be proved, it follows that they must be attributes of the body only.

Therefore, the Self is not different from the body.

The next Sutra gives a reply to this conclusion of the Charvakas or Lokayatikas (materialists).

Vyatirekastadbhavabhavitvanna tupalabdhivat III.3.54 (413)

But not (so); a self or soul separate (from the body does exist), because (Consciousness) does not exist even when there is the body (after death), as in the case of cognition or perceptive consciousness.

Vyatirekah: separation; Tadbhavabhavitvat: for (consciousness) does not exist even when there is the body; Na: not (so); Tu: but; Upalabdhivat: as in the case of knowledge or cognition.

The statement in the preceding Sutra is refuted.

The soul is separate because even when the body exists the soul goes away. They are separate just as subject and object are separate.

The view expressed by the opponent in the previous Sutra is certainly wrong, because the Atma-Dharma such as Chaitanya (consciousness), etc., are not found after death, though the body exists. Consciousness cannot be an attribute of the body, because we do not find consciousness in a body after a person dies.

This consciousness is an attribute of something which is different from the body and which abides in the body.

The subject and the object cannot possibly be identical. Fire cannot burn itself. The acrobat cannot stand upon his own shoulder. Can form sense form? Can sound hear sound? No. Consciousness is eternal, as it is of the same identical quality always. Can you say that consciousness is a quality of the light, because light is necessary to see forms? Even so consciousness is not a quality of the body. Moreover consciousness functions in dreams even without the aid of the body.

The Charvakas accept that the cogniser is different from the thing cognised. So the experiencer of this body, he who cognises this body must be different from the body. He who cognises this body is the Self.

Therefore, consciousness is an attribute of this Self, rather its very essence of nature.

As consciousness constitutes the character of the Self, the Self must be distinct from the body. That consciousness is permanent follows from the uniformity of its character and we, therefore, may conclude that the conscious Self is permanent also. That consciousness is the nature of the Self, that it is permanent, follows from the fact that the Self, although connected with a different state, recognises itself as the conscious agent a recognition expressed in judgments such as "I saw this" and from the fact of remembrance and so on being possible.

Therefore, the view that the Self is something separate from the body is free from all objections.