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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Purusharthadhikaranam: Topic 1 (Sutra 1-17)

Knowledge of Brahman is independent of sacrificial acts.

Purushartho'tah sabdaditi baadarayanah III.4.1 (426)

From this (Brahma Vidya or Brahma Jnana results) the purpose or the chief object of pursuit of man, because the scriptures state so; thus (holds) the sage Baadarayana.

Purusharthah: purpose of man, object of human pursuit, here the chief object, i.e., salvation; Atah: from this, from Brahma Vidya; Sabdat: from the scriptures, because the scriptures state so, from Sruti; Iti: so thus (says), this is the opinion of; Baadarayanah: the sage Baadarayana, (holds).

The result or fruit of Brahma Vidya is stated.

The Sutrakara Sri Vyasa now proceeds to show that Brahma Jnana leads not to Karma, but to the attainment of the highest Purushartha, i.e., Moksha or the final emancipation. That is Baadarayana's teaching.

The four Purusharthas are: Dharma (discharge of religious duty), Artha (acquisition of wealth, worldly prosperity), Kama (enjoyment), and Moksha (salvation). Knowledge of Brahman is not merely connected with sacrificial acts by affording to the agent a certain qualification. It definitely paves the way for the attainment of the final release or freedom from births and deaths.

Whence is this known? From the scripture.

Baadarayana bases his arguments on the Sruti texts, such as "The knower of Atman goes beyond grief – Tarati sokamatmavit" (Chh. Up. III.4.1). "He who knows the highest Brahman becomes even Brahman – Brahmavit brahmaiva bhavati" (Mun. Up. III.2.9). "He who knows Brahman attains the Highest – Brahmavidapnoti Param" (Tait. Up. II.1).

"For him who has a teacher there is delay only so long as he is not delivered; then he will be perfect" (Chh. Up. VI.14.2). "He who has searched out and understood the Self which is free from sin, etc., obtains all worlds and all desires" (Chh. Up. VIII.7.1). "The Atman is to be seen" etc., up to "Thus far goes immortality" (Bri. Up. IV.5.6-15).

These and similar texts emphatically declare that Knowledge of Brahman effects the highest purpose of man or Supreme Purushartha.

Against this the Purvapakshin raises his objection as follows. Here Jaimini comes forward with his following objections.

Seshatvatpurusharthavado yathanyeshviti jaiminih III.4.2 (427)

Because (the self) is supplementary (to sacrificial acts), (the fruits of the Knowledge of the Self) are mere praise of the agent, as in other cases; thus Jaimini opines.

Seshatvat: because of being supplementary (to sacrificial acts); Pususharthavadah: are mere praise or the agent; Yatha: as; Anyeshu: in other cases; Iti: thus (says); Jaiminih: Jaimini (holds).

Sutras 2 to 7 are Purvapaksha Sutras and Sutras 8 to 17 are Siddhanta Sutras.

Jaimini thinks that the Sruti texts merely praise the doer of Karma and that Brahmajnana is only an accessory of Karma (Karmanga).

He is of the opinion that the Vedas merely prescribe works to attain certain purposes including emancipation. He holds that the knowledge of Brahman has no independent fruit of its own because it stands in a subordinate relation to sacrificial action. This relation is meditated by the Self, the object of knowledge, which is the agent in all works and, therefore, itself stands in a subordinate relation to action. The agent becomes qualified for actions, the fruit of which will only appear after death by knowing that his self will survive the body.

A man undertakes a sacrificial act only when he is conscious that he is different from the body and that after death he will go to heaven when he will enjoy the fruits of his sacrifice.

The qualification the self thus acquires is similar to that which the rice-grains acquire by being sprinkled with water; because they become fit to be used in the sacrifice, only through this latter act of ceremonial purification.

As the knowledge of the Self has no independent position, it cannot have an independent fruit of its own. Therefore the passages which state such fruits cannot be taken as injunctions of fruits, but merely as Arthavadas (or glorificatory passages), like other Arthavadas relating to the substance (Dravya) or to the purification of the substance (Samskara) or to subordinate acts themselves (Karma), making some additional statement about the fruits of the sacrificial actions to which the knowledge of the Self is auxiliary.

Jaimini maintains that the statement that the reward of Brahma Jnana is the highest good does not mean that such knowledge of the Self by itself yields any real fruit but the statement is only an exhortation to the performance of the sacrifices. He says that the knowledge of the self is useful only so far as it produces in the performer a belief in his extramundane existence to enable him to enjoy the rewards of his sacrifices. The statement that it yields any fruit by itself is only an exhortation to purification of the sacrificer. The purification of the sacrificer is a necessary concomitant factor like other material requisites of a sacrifice; because without this purification he would not be assured of his surviving the body and enjoying the fruit of his sacrifices in a higher world after death.

Acharadarsanat III.4.3 (428)

Because we find (from the scriptures such) conduct (of men of realisation).

Acharadarsanat: because of the conduct found (from the scriptures).

The objection raised in Sutra 2 is strengthened.

Janaka the king of the Videhas performed a sacrifice in which gifts were freely distributed (Bri. Up. III.1.1). "Sirs, I am going to perform a sacrifice" (Chh. Up. V.11.5). These and similar passages indicate that those who know Brahman are connected with sacrificial action.

Janaka and Asvapati were knowers of Brahman. If they had attained the final emancipation by knowledge of Brahman there was no necessity for them to perform sacrifices. If mere knowledge could effect the purpose of man, why should they perform sacrifices troublesome in many respects? If a man would find honey in the Arka tree why should he go to the forest? But the two texts intimate that they did perform sacrifices.

This proves that one attains the final emancipation through sacrifices or works alone and not through the knowledge of Brahman, as the Vedantins maintain.

Tacchruteh III.4.4 (429)

Because scripture directly declares that (viz., that knowledge of Brahman stands in a subordinate relation to sacrificial acts.)

Tat: that, that knowledge is subsidiary and supplementary to sacrifice; Sruteh: from Sruti, because the scriptures directly declare.

The Sruti also says that Vidya is an Anga of Karma.

If one does Karma with knowledge there will be greater efficiency. "What a man does with knowledge, faith and meditation is more powerful" (Chh. Up. I.1.10). This text clearly indicates that knowledge is a part of the sacrificial act. This passage directly states that knowledge is subordinate to work and from this it follows that mere knowledge cannot effect the purpose of man.

Samanvarambhanat III.4.5 (430)

Because the two (knowledge and work) go together (with the departing soul to give fruits of actions).

Samanvarambhanat: because of the accompanying together, as they jointly follow the sacrificer to produce their effects on account of their taking hold together or being together.

The objection begun in Sutra 2 is continued.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says "The departing soul is followed by knowledge and work" (Bri. Up. IV.4.2). This passage indicates that knowledge and work go together with the soul and begin together to manifest their fruits. Therefore, it follows that knowledge is not independent. It is not able to produce any such effect independently. It is concluded that knowledge is not independent of works or sacrificial acts.

Tadvato vidhanat III.4.6 (431)

Because (the scriptures) enjoin (works) for such (only who understand the purport of the Vedas).

Tadvatah: for such (as know the purport of the Vedas); Vidhanat: because (the scriptures) enjoin (work).

The objection, begun in the Sutra 2, is continued.

Further Karma is enjoined for one who recites and studies the Vedas. "He who has learnt i.e., read the Vedas from a family of teachers, according to the sacred injunction in the leisure time left from the duties to be performed for the Guru; who after having received his discharge has settled in his own house, studying his sacred texts in some sacred spot" (Chh. Up. VIII.15.7). Such passages also indicate that those who know the purport of the whole Veda are qualified for sacrificial acts and that hence knowledge does not independently produce any result.

Niyamaccha III.4.7 (432)

And on account of prescribed rules.

Niyamat: on account of prescribed rules, because of compulsory injunction; Cha: also, and.

The argument begun in Sutra 2 is concluded here.

Doing Karma is a Niyama or life-long commandment. "Performing works here (i.e., in this life), let a man wish to live a hundred years" (Isa. Up. 2). "Agnihotra is a sacrifice lasting up to old age and death; for through old age one is freed from it or through death" (Sat. Br. XII.4.1.1). From such definite rules also it follows that Knowledge is merely supplementary to works, or stands in a subordinate relation to work.

The Sutrakara (Sri Vyasa) upholds his view in the following Sutra against all those objections.

Adhikopadesaattu baadarayanasyaivam taddarsanat III.4.8 (433)

But because (the scriptures) teach (the Supreme Self to be) other (than the agent), Baadarayana's view is correct (or valid) for that is seen thus (in scriptural passages).

Adhikopadesat: because (the sriptures) teach (the Supreme Self to be) something over and above; Tu: but; Baadarayanasya: of Baadarayana; Evam: thus, such (is the opinion); Taddarsanat: for that is seen (from the scriptures). (Adhika: Supreme Being, more different; Upadesat: from the statement in Sruti, owing to the teaching about.)

Objections raised in Sutras 2 to 7 are now being refuted one by one. This Sutra refutes Sutra 2.

Sutras 2-7 give the view of the Mimamsakas which is refuted in Sutras 8-17.

The Sruti declares Isvara as higher than the individual soul. So Baadarayana's doctrine as stated in Sutra 1 is correct. The Sruti shows this. The real nature of the soul is divinity.

The word 'tu' (but) discards the Purvapaksha. The Vedanta texts do not teach the limited self which is the agent. What the Vedanta texts really teach as the object of Knowledge is something different from the embodied self, viz., the non-transmigrating Lord who is free from all attributes of transmigrating existence such as agency and the like and distinguished by freedom from sin and so on, the Supreme Self.

The knowledge of such a self does not only not promote action but rather puts an end to all actions. Hence the view of the revered Baadarayana which was stated in Sutra 1 remains valid and cannot be shaken by fallacious reasoning about the subordination of knowledge to action and the like.

That the Vedanta texts teach the Supreme Self is clear from such texts as the following: "He who perceives all and knows all" (Mun. Up. I.1.9). "From terror of it the wind blows, from terror the sun rises" (Tait. Up. II.8). "It is a great terror, a raised thunderbolt" (Katha Up. II.6.2). "By the command of that Imperishable one, O Gargi" (Bri. Up. III.8.9). "It thought, may I be many, may I grow forth. It sent forth fire" (Chh. VI.2.3).

Tulyam tu darsanam III.4.9 (434)

But the declarations of the Sruti equally support both views.

Tulyam: the same, similar, equal; Tu: but; Darsanam: declaration of the Sruti.

This Sutra refutes the view expressed in Sutra 3. It is a reply to the third Sutra.

There are equal Srutis which show that Vidya is not Karmanga. The Sruti shows that Vidya is not Karmanga.

The word 'tu' (but) is used in order to remove the idea that Vidya is subordinate to Karma. There is equal authority in the scriptures from the proposition that Vidya is not subordinate to Karma, that for one who has attained knowledge there is no work. Thus there are scriptural passages such as: knowing this the Rishis descended from Kavasa said: "For what purpose should we study the Vedas, for what purpose should we sacrifice? Knowing this indeed the ancient ones did not offer the Agnihotra", and "when Brahmanas know that self and have risen above the desire for sons, wealth and worlds, they wander about as mendicants" (Bri. Up. III.5).

Thus the sages called Kavaseyas did not care for Karma, nor did Yajnavalkya, who abandoning all Karmas went to forest. "This much indeed is the means of Immortality, my dear, saying this Yajnavalkya left home" (Bri. Up. IV.5.15). Thus we find examples of eminent men devoted to Vidya, renouncing all ceremonial actions. Therefore, scriptural texts are not all one-sided, in favour of Karmas, but there are passages to the contrary also. The examples of persons like Janaka and others indicate that these men followed Karma as an example to mankind, so that the social order may be preserved. Their work was characterised by non-attachment and therefore it was practically no work at all. Hence the argument of the Mimamsakas is weak.

There are indeed found in Srutis instances of sacrifices being performed by enlightened souls like Janaka, but there are also declarations of equal weight to the effect that performance of sacrifices is quite useless and redundant for the enlightened, i.e., those who have known Brahman.

So it cannot be asserted on the strength of the instances of Janaka and others like him, that knowledge is to be considered as secondary to the sacrifice.

With reference to the indicatory sign as to the dependence of knowledge to work, which is implied in the passage "Sirs, I am going to perform a sacrifice" we say, that it belongs to a section which treats of Vaisvanara.

Now the texts may declare that a Vidya of Brahman as limited by adjuncts is accompanied by works; but all the same the Vidya does not stand in a subordinate relation to works as the leading subject matter and the other means of proof are absent.

The author or Sutrakara (Baadarayana) next answers the objection raised in the Sutra 4.

Asarvatriki III.4.10 (435)

(The scriptural declaration referred to in Sutra 4) is not of universal application.

Asarvatriki: not universal, not applicable everywhere.

The refutation of the objections is continued. This Sutra specially refutes Sutra 4.

The statement of the Sruti referred to in Sutra 4 to the effect that the combination of meditation and sacrifice makes the sacrifice effective is not applicable everywhere. The above-mentioned statement of the Sruti does not refer to meditations in general, but only to the Udgitha Vidya which forms the subject matter of the discourse concerned.

The declaration of the Sruti that Knowledge increases the fruit of the sacrifice does not refer to all knowledge (all Vidyas), as it is connected only with the Udgitha (Udgitha Vidya) which is the topic of the section "Let a man meditate on the syllable OM as the Udgitha."

The text says that if this Udgitha Vidya is recited by a person with knowledge, then it is more fruitful than if it is recited without such Vidya.

Therefore, Vidya is not an auxiliary to work in every instance.

The author next answers the objection raised in III.4.5.

Vibhagah satavat III.4.11 (436)

There is division of knowledge and work as in the case of a hundred (divided between two persons).

Vibhagah: (there is) division of knowledge and work; Satavat: as in the case of a hundred (divided between two persons).

This Sutra specially refutes Sutra 5.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad declares "The departing soul is followed by Vidya (Knowledge) and Karma (work) and past experiences" (IV.4.2). Here we have to take knowledge and work in a distributive sense. It means the knowledge follows one and work another. Just as when we say, "Give Rs. 100 to Rama and Krishna" it means "Give Rs. 50 to Rama and Rs. 50 to Krishna", the above passage means that the Vidya relates to the souls seeking emancipation and Karma to other souls. There is no combination of the two.

The text quoted refers only to knowledge and work which concern the soul that transmigrates but not the soul which is about to obtain final release. Because the passage, "Thus does the man who desires to transmigrate" (Bri. Up. IV.4.6) indicates that the previous text refers to the soul that transmigrates. The Sruti declares of the soul who is about to be released, "But the man who never desires never transmigrates" (Bri. Up. IV.4.6).

The next Sutra refutes the Sutra 6.

Adhyayanamatravatah III.4.12 (437)

(The scriptures enjoin work) on those who have merely read the Vedas.

Adhyayanamatravatah: of one who has merely read the Vedas.

This Sutra specially refutes Sutra 6.

He who has read the Vedas and known about the sacrifices is entitled to do sacrifice. But no work is prescribed for one who has knowledge of Brahman (Brahma Jnana).

Naviseshat III.4.13 (438)

There being no specification (the rule does) not (specially apply to him who knows, i. e., a Jnani).

Na: not, compulsion does not apply; Aviseshat: on account of the absence of any specification, because there is no special mention.

This Sutra specially refutes Sutra 7.

The Sruti "Kurvanneveha" "performing works here let a man live" etc., of the Isavasya Upanishad does not specially apply to a Brahma Jnani. It is general in its terms. There is no special mention in it that it is applicable to a Jnani also. It is not binding on a Jnani when there is no specification.

The Sruti of the Isavasya does not lay down any such restrictive rule that even the illumined sage must perform Karma throughout his life. Why so? Aviseshat. Because there is no specification. All that it says is "Let one perform Karmas throughout his life". There is nothing to show to which class of people, that particular rule is addressed. On the other hand there are express texts of the Srutis which show that immortality is not to be obtained by Karmas, but by knowledge alone.

Mahanarayana Upanishad of the Tait. Ar. X.5 declares "Not by Karmas (sacrifices), not by progeny, nor by wealth can one obtain immortality. It is by renunciation alone that some great souled beings have obtained immortality."

The apparent conflict in the two Sruti texts is to be reconciled by giving them different scopes. One is addressed to Karma-nishtha-devotees, the other to the Jnana-nishtha-devotees.

Stutaye'numatirva III.4.14 (439)

Or rather the permission (to do work) is for the glorification (of knowledge).

Stutaye: for the purpose of glorification (of knowledge); Anumatih: permission; Va: or, rather.

This Sutra also refutes Sutra 7.

The passage "performing works here" may be treated in another way also. The injunction to do work for the knowers of Brahman or the illumined sages is for eulogising this knowledge. A Brahma Jnani or knower of the Self may work all his life but he will not be bound by its effects, on account of the power of knowledge. Knowledge nullifies the effect of Karma. "No work clings to the man." This clearly glorifies Knowledge.

Kamakarena chaike III.4.15 (440)

And some according to their own liking (have abandoned all works).

Kamakarena: according to their own liking; Cha: and; Eke: some.

The argument in refutation of Jaimini's views is continued.

In Sutra 3 it was stated that Janaka and others performed sacrifices even after attaining knowledge of Brahman. This Sutra says that some have abandoned all works according to their own liking. Some may like to work to set an example to others after attaining knowledge, while others may abandon all works. There is no compulsion on the knowers of Brahman or liberated sages as regards work.

A scriptural text of the Vajasaneyins runs as follows: "Knowing this the people of old did not wish for offspring. What shall we do with offspring, they said, we who have this self and this world" (Bri. Up. IV.4.22). From this it follows that knowledge is not subordinate to action and that the scriptural statements as to the fruit of knowledge cannot be taken in any but their true sense.

Upamardam cha III.4.16 (441)

And (scripture teaches that the) destruction (of all qualifications for work results from knowledge).

Upamardam: complete destruction, putting an end to all actions; Cha: and.

The previous argument is continued.

Further, such knowledge brings the realisation that everything is Atman or Brahman. How then can the knower act?

Again, far from being a part of work, knowledge puts an end to all works, all obligatory duties. Mundaka Upanishad declares, "Brahman in both His superior and inferior aspects being realised, the knot of the heart (egoism, etc.) is cut down, all doubts are dispelled and works are destroyed" (Mun. Up. II.2.9).

Knowledge of Brahman annihilates all ignorance and its effects like agent, deed and fruit, "But when to the Knower of Brahman everything has become the Self, then what should one see and through what?" (Bri. Up. IV.5.15). The knowledge of Brahman is antagonistic to all actions. Hence it cannot be subsidiary to work. It is independent.

Urdhvaretassu cha sabde hi III.4.17 (442)

And (knowledge belongs) to those who observe perpetual celibacy, because in scripture (that stage of life is mentioned).

Urdhvaretassu: to those who observe perpetual celibacy, in those stages of life where the sexual energy has an upward flow; Cha: and; Sabde: in the Sruti; Hi: because.

The previous argument is continued.

Further the Sruti declares Jnana in relation to Sannyasins. Knowledge is said to be in Sannyasins. They have not to do any Karmas. Such Sannyasa can be taken even without going through the householder's life.

Scripture shows that knowledge is valid also for the stages of life for which perpetual celibacy is prescribed. Now in their case knowledge cannot be subordinate to work, because work is absent, because the works prescribed by Vedas such as the Agnihotra are not performed by men who have reached those stages. To a Sannyasin there is no work prescribed except enquiry of Brahman and meditation on the Supreme Self. So how can knowledge be subordinate to work?

We find from the Sruti texts that there is a stage of life called Sannyasa. "There are three branches of duty" (Chh. Up. II.23.1). "Those who in the forest practise faith and austerity" (Chh. Up. V.10.1). "Those who practise penance and faith in the forest" (Mun. Up. I.10.11). "Wishing for that world only, mendicants renounce their homes and wander forth" (Bri. Up. IV.4.22). "Let him wander forth at once from the state of studentship." "All these attain to the worlds of the virtuous; but only one who is finally established in Brahman, attains immortality." (Chh. Up. II.23. 1-2).

Everyone can take to this life, without being a householder etc. This indicates the independence of knowledge.

Thus, the theory of Jaimini that Knowledge is subordinate to Karma has no legs to stand upon, and has been refuted.