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Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 4: Ashramakarmadhikaranam: Topic 8 (Sutras 32-35)

The duties of Ashrama are to be performed by even one who is not desirous of salvation.

Vihitatvacchasramakarmapi III.4.32 (457)

And the duties of the Ashramas (are to be performed also by him who does not desire emancipation) because they are enjoined (on him by the scriptures).

Vihitatvat: because they are enjoined; Cha: and; Ashrama- karma: duties of the Ashrama, or order of life; Api: also.

This and the subsequent three Sutras show who are required to perform sacrifices and do other prescribed duties.

Under Sutra 26 it has been proved that the works enjoined on the Ashramas are means to knowledge. The question arises now, why should one who does not desire knowledge or final release do these works?

The present Sutra declares that since these duties are enjoined on all who are in these Aramas or orders of life, viz., student-life, householder's life, and hermit life, one should observe them.

In the case of a man who keeps to the Ashramas but does not seek liberation, the Nityakarmas or the permanent obligatory duties are indispensable. The Sruti says "Yavajjivam agnihotram juhoti – as long as his life lasts, one is to offer the Agnihotra."

Sahakaritvena cha III.4.33 (458)

And (the duties are to be performed also) as a means to knowledge.

Sahakaritvena: as, an auxiliary, on account of cooperativeness, as means to knowledge; Cha: and.

The topic commenced in Sutra 32 is continued.

The duties or works are helpful in producing knowledge but not its fruit, viz., emancipation. In the former case the connection between Karma and fruit is inseparable (Nitya-Samyoga), but in the latter case it is separable (Anitya-Samyoga). Salvation or Moksha is attainable only through knowledge of Brahman or Brahma-Jnana.

Works (Karmas) are an aid to Vidya or knowledge of Self. Those who are desirous of emancipation should also perform religious rites as a help to enlightenment. Brahma Vidya is independent in producing its results. Karma is merely the handmaid and cooperator of Vidya. Works are means for the origination of knowledge.

Sarvathapi ta evobhayalingat III.4.34 (459)

In all cases the same duties (have to be performed), because of the twofold indicatory marks.

Sarvatha: in all cases, in every respect, under any circumstance; Api: also; Ta eva: the same duties (have to be performed); Ubhayalingat: because of the twofold inferential signs. (Ta: they, the sacrificial works; Eva: certainly.)

The previous topic is continued.

The word 'Api' in the Sutra has the force of 'indeed', 'even'. The words 'Sarvatha Api' are equal to 'Sarvatha Eva'.

The question arises whether the works performed as enjoined on the Ashramas, and those done as auxiliaries to knowledge are of two different kinds.

The present Sutra declares that in either case, whether viewed as duties incumbent on the Ashramas or as cooperating with knowledge, the very same Agnihotra and other duties have to be performed, as is seen from the Sruti and the Smriti texts.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad declares, "Him the Brahmanas seek to know through the study of the Vedas, sacrifices etc." (Bri. Up. IV.4.22). This text indicates that sacrifices etc., enjoined in Karmakanda for different purposes are to be performed as means to knowledge also.

The Smriti also says the same thing, "He who performs obligatory works without aiming at the fruit of work" etc. (Gita VI.1). Those very obligatory duties subserve the origination of knowledge also.

Moreover the Smriti passage "He who is qualified by that forty-eighty purifications" etc., refers to the purifications required for Vedic works, with a view to the origination of knowledge in him who has undergone these purifications.

In every respect, whether viewed as duties incumbent on a householder or as practices auxiliary to knowledge or illumination, the sacrificial works, prescribed to be performed, are recognised to be the same and not different, because they are indispensable requisites for both orders of life, as permanent duties for a householder and as auxiliary aids to meditation for a Sannyasi.

The Sutrakara, therefore, rightly emphasises the non-difference of the works.

Anabhibhavam cha darsayati III.4.35 (460)

And the scripture also declares (that he who is endowed with Brahmacharya) is not overpowered (by passion, anger, etc.).

Anabhibhavam: not being overpowered; Cha: and; Darsayati: the scripture shows, the Srutis declare.

The previous topic is concluded here.

This Sutra points out a further indicatory mark strengthening the conclusion that works cooperate towards knowledge. Scripture also declares that he who is endowed with such means as Brahmacharya, etc.. is not overpowered by such afflictions as passion, anger and the like. "For that Self does not perish which one attains by Brahmacharya" (Chh. Up. VIII.5.3). This passage indicates that like work, Brahmacharya, etc., are also means to knowledge. He who is endowed with celibacy is not overcome by anger, passion, jealousy, hatred. His mind is ever peaceful. As his mind is not agitated, he is able to practise deep and constant meditation which leads to the attainment of knowledge.

It is thus a settled conclusion that works are obligatory on the Ashramas and are also means to knowledge.