Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Jnadhikaranam: Topic 12 (Sutra 18)

The nature of the individual soul is intelligence.

Jno'ta eva II.3.18 (234)

For this very reason (viz., that it is not created), (the individual soul is) intelligence (itself).

Jnah: intelligent, intelligence, knower; Ata eva: for this very reason, therefore.

The discussion on the essential characteristics of the individual soul is continued.

The Sankhya doctrine is that the soul is always Chaitanya or pure consciousness in its own nature.

The Vaiseshikas declare that the individual soul is not intelligent by nature, because it is not found to be intelligent in the state of deep sleep or swoon. It becomes intelligent when the soul comes to the waking state and unites with the mind. The intelligence of the soul is adventitious and is produced by the conjunction of the soul with the mind, just as for instance the quality of redness is produced in an iron rod by the conjunction of the iron rod with fire.

If the soul were eternal, essential intelligence, it would remain intelligent in the states of deep sleep, swoon etc. Those who wake up from sleep say that they were not conscious of anything. Therefore, as intelligence is clearly intermittent, we conclude that the intelligence of the soul is adventitious only.

To this we reply that the soul is of eternal intelligence. Intelligence constitutes the essential nature of Brahman. This we know from Sruti texts such as "Brahman is knowledge and Bliss" (Bri. Up. III.9.28.7). "Brahman is true, knowledge, infinite" (Tait. Up. II.1). "Having neither inside nor outside but being altogether a mass of knowledge" (Bri. Up. IV.5.13). Now if the individual soul is nothing but that Supreme Brahman, then eternal intelligence constitutes the soul's essential nature, just as light and heat constitute the nature of fire.

The intelligent Brahman Itself being limited by the Upadhis or limiting adjuncts such as body, mind etc., manifests as the individual soul or Jiva. Therefore, intelligence is the very nature of Jiva and is never altogether destroyed, nor even in the state of deep sleep or swoon.

Sruti texts directly declare that the individual soul is of the nature of self-luminous intelligence. "He not asleep, himself looks down upon the sleeping senses" (Bri. Up. IV.3.11). "That person is self-illuminated" (Bri. Up. IV.3.14). "For there is no intermission of the knowing of the knower" (Bri. Up. IV.3.30).

That the soul's nature is intelligence follows moreover from the passage (Chh. Up. VIII.12.4) where it is stated as connected with knowledge through all sense organs. "He who knows let me smell this, he is the self."

You may ask, what is the use of the senses if the Atman itself is of the nature of knowledge. The senses are needed to bring about the differentiated sensations and ideas (Vrittijnana).

From the soul's essential nature being intelligence it does not follow that the senses are useless; because they serve the purpose of determining the special object of each sense, such as smell and so on. Sruti expressly declares: "Smell (organ of smell) is for the purpose of perceiving odour" (Chh. Up. VIII.12.4).

The objection that sleeping persons are not conscious of anything is refuted by scripture, where we read concerning a man lying in deep sleep, "And when there he does not see, yet he is seeing though he does not see. Because there is no intermission of the seeing of the seer for it cannot perish. But there is then no second, nothing else different from him that he could see" (Bri. Up. IV.3.23).

The non-sentiency in deep sleep is not due to absence of Chaitanya but absence of Vishaya (objects). The Jiva does not lose its power of seeing. It does not see, because there is no object to see. It has not lost its intelligence, for it is impossible. The absence of actual intellectuality is due to the absence of objects, but not to the absence of intelligence, just as the light pervading space is not apparent owing to the absence of things to be illuminated, not to the absence of its own nature.

If intelligence did not exist in deep sleep, etc., then who would be there to say that it did not exist? How could it be known? The man after waking from deep sleep says, "I slept soundly. I enjoyed perfect rest. I did not know anything." He who says, "I did not know anything. I enjoyed perfect rest" must have been existent at that time. If it is not so how could he remember the condition of that state?

Therefore, the intelligence of the individual soul or Jiva is never lost under any condition. The reasoning of the Vaiseshikas and others is merely fallacious. It contradicts the Srutis. We therefore conclude and decide that eternal intelligence is the essential nature of the soul.