Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Utkrantigatyadhikaranam: Topic 13 (Sutras 19-32)

The size of the individual soul.

Utkrantigatyagatinam II.3.19 (235)

(On account of the scriptural declarations) of (the soul's) passing out, going, and returning (the soul is not infinite in size; it is of atomic size).

Utkranti: passing out, coming out; Gati: going; Agatinam: returning.

The discussion on the character of the individual soul is continued.

From this up to Sutra 32 the question of the size of the soul, whether it is atomic, medium-sized or infinite is discussed. The first ten Sutras (19-28) state the arguments for the view that the individual soul is Anu (atomic). The next four Sutras give the reply.

Svetasvatara Upanishad declares "He is the one God, all-pervading" (VI.11). Mundaka Sruti says, "This Atman is atomic" (III.1.9). The two texts contradict each other and we have to arrive at a decision on the point.

It has been shown above that the soul is not a product and that eternal intelligence constitutes its nature. Therefore it follows that it is identical with the Supreme Brahman. The infinity of the Supreme Brahman is expressly declared in the Srutis. What need then is there of a discussion of the size of the soul? True, we reply. But Sruti texts which speak of the soul's passing out from the body (Utkranti), going (Gati) and returning (Agati), establish the prima facie view that the soul is of limited size. Further, the Sruti clearly declares in some places that the soul is of atomic size. The present discussion is therefore begun in order to clear this doubt.

The opponent or Purvapakshin holds that the soul must be of limited atomic size owing to its being said to pass out, go and return. Its passing out is mentioned in Kaushitaki Upanishad (III.3), "And when he passes out of this body he passes out together with all these." Its going is said in Kaushitaki Upanishad (I.2), "All who depart from this world go to the moon." Its returning is seen in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.4.6), "From that world he returns again to this world of action." From these statements as to the soul's passing out from the body, going to heaven, etc., and returning from there to this world, it follows that it is of limited size. Because motion is not possible in the case of an all-pervading being. If the soul is infinite, how can it rise, or go or come? Therefore the soul is atomic.

Svatmana chottarayoh II.3.20 (236)

And on account of the latter two (i.e., going and returning) being connected with their soul (i.e., agent), (the soul is of atomic size).

Svatmana: (being connected) directly with the agent, the soul; Cha: and, only, also; Uttarayoh: of the latter two, namely, of Gati and Agati, of the going away and coming back, as stated in the previous Sutra.

An argument in support of Sutra 19 is given in this Sutra.

Even if it can be said that 'passing out' means only disconnection with the body, how can they who say that the soul is infinite explain its going to the moon or returning from there?

Even if the soul is infinite still it can be spoken of as passing out, out of the body, if by that term is meant ceasing to be the ruler of the body, in consequence of the results of its former actions having become exhausted, just as somebody, when ceasing to be the ruler of a village may be said to 'go out'. The passing away from the body may mean only cessation of the exercise of a definite function just as in the case of a man no longer retained in office.

But the two latter activities viz., going to the moon, returning from there to the world, are impossible for an all-pervading soul.

Hence the soul is atomic in size.

Nanuratacchruteriti chet, na, itaradhikarat II.3.21 (237)

If it be said that (the soul is) not atomic, as the scriptures state it to be otherwise, (i.e., all-pervading), (we say) not so, because (the one) other than the individual soul (i.e., the Supreme Brahman or the Highest Self) is the subject matter (of those passages).

Na: not; Anu: minute, atomic; Atat: not that, otherwise, namely opposite of Anu; Sruteh: as it is stated in Sruti, because of a Sruti or scriptural text; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not; Itara: other than the individual soul, i.e., the Supreme Self; Adhikarat: because of the context or topic, from the subject matter of the portion in the Chapter.

An objection to Sutra 19 is raised and refuted.

The Sutra consists of an objection and its answer. The objection-portion is "Nanuratacchruteriti chet" and the answer- portion is "Na itaradhikarat."

The passages which describe the soul and infinite apply only to Supreme Brahman and not to the individual soul.

Sruti passages like "He is the one God, who is hidden in all beings, all-pervading, etc." (Svet. Up. VI.11), "He is that great unborn Self who consists of knowledge, is surrounded by the Pranas, the ether within the heart. (Bri. Up. IV.4.22), "Like the ether He is Omnipresent, eternal," "Truth, Knowledge, Infinite is Brahman" (Tait. Up. II.1) – refer not to the Jiva or the individual soul with its limitations, but to the Supreme Brahman or the Highest Self, who is other than the individual soul, and forms the chief subject matter of all the Vedanta texts, because Brahman is the one thing that is to be known or realised intuitively and is therefore propounded by all the Vedanta passages.

Svasabdonmanabhyam cha II.3.22 (238)

And on account of direct statements (of the Sruti texts as to the atomic size) and infinitesimal measure (the soul is atomic).

Svasabdonmanabhyam: from direct statements (of Sruti texts) and infinitesimal measure; Cha: and. (Svasabda: the word itself; the word directly denoting 'minute'; Unmanabhyam: on account of the measure of comparison; Ut: subtle; Mana: measure, hence subtle division; hence smaller even than the small. Svasabdonmanabhyam: as these are the words directly denoting 'minute' and to expression denoting smaller than the small as measured by division.)

The argument in support of Sutra 19 is continued.

The soul must be atomic because the Sruti expressly says so and calls him infinitely small.

Mundaka Sruti declares, "This Atma is atomic" (III.1.9). Svetasvatara Upanishad says, "The individual is of the size of the hundredth part of a part, which itself is one hundredth part of the point of a hair" (V.9); "That lower one also is seen small even like the point of a goad."

Therefore the soul is atomic in size.

But an objection may here be raised. If the soul is of atomic size, it will occupy a point of the body only. Then the sensation which extends over the whole body would appear contrary to reason. And yet it is a matter of experience that those who take bath in the Ganga experience the sensation of cold all over their whole bodies. In summer people feel hot all over the body. The following Sutra gives a suitable answer to the objection.

Avirodhaschandanavat II.3.23 (239)

There is no contradiction as in the case of sandal paste.

Avirodhah: non-conflict, no contradiction, no incongruity, it is not incongruous; Chandanavat: like the sandal paste.

The argument in support of Sutra 19 is continued.

Just as one drop of sandal-wood paste, smeared on one part of the body makes the whole body thrill with joy, so also the individual soul, though naturally minute, manifests itself throughout the whole body and experiences all the sensations of pleasure and pain. Though the soul is atomic it may experience pleasure and pain extending over the whole body. Though the soul is atomic still it is possible that it pervades the entire body, just as a drop of sandal paste although in actual contact with one particular spot of the body only pervades, i.e., causes refreshing sensation all over the body.

As the soul is connected with the skin which is the seat of feeling, the assumption that the soul's sensations should extend over the whole body is not contrary to reason because the connection of the soul and the skin abides in the entire skin and the skin extends over the entire body.

Avasthitivaiseshyaditi chenna, adhyupagamaddhridi hi II.3.24 (240)

If it be said (that the two cases are not parallel), on account of the specialisation of abode (present in the case of the sandal-ointment, absent in the case of the soul), we deny that, on account of the acknowledgement (by scripture, of a special place of the soul), viz., within the heart.

Avasthiti: existence, residence, abode; Vaiseshyat: because of the speciality, on account of specialisation; Iti: thus, this; Chet: if (if it be argued); Na: not (so), no, the argument cannot stand; Adhyupagamat: on account of the admission, or acknowledgment; Hridi: in the heart; Hi: indeed.

An objection to Sutra 23 is raised and refuted by the opponent or Purvapakshin.

The Sutra consists of two parts namely, an objection, and its reply. The objection-portion is: 'Avasthitivaiseshyaditi chet', and the reply portion is: 'Nabhyupagamaddhridi hi'.

The Purvapakshin or the objector raises an objection against his own view. The argumentation relied upon in the last Sutra is not admissible, because the two cases compared are not parallel. The similarity is not exact. The analogy is faulty or inappropriate. In the case of the sandal paste, it occupies a particular point of the body and refreshes the entire body. But in the case of the soul it does not exist in any particular locality but is percipient of all sensations throughout the entire body. We do not know that it has a particular abode or special seat. When there is no special seat, for the soul, we cannot infer that it must have a particular abode in the body like the sandal paste and therefore be atomic. Because, even an all-pervading soul like ether, or a soul pervading the entire body like the skin may produce the same result.

We cannot reason like this: the soul is atomic because it causes effects extending over the entire body like a drop of sandal ointment, because that reasoning would apply to the sense of touch, the skin also, which we know not to be of atomic size. Therefore it is not easy to decide the size of the soul when there is no positive proof.

The opponent refutes the above objection by quoting such Sruti texts as: "The soul abides within the heart" (Pras. Up. III.6), "The self is in the heart" (Chh. Up. VIII.3.3), "The Self abides in the heart" (Bri. Up. IV.3.7), "Who is that self? He who is within the heart, surrounded by the Pranas, the person of light, consisting of knowledge," expressly declare that the soul has a special abode or particular seat in the body, viz., the heart. Therefore it is atomic.

The analogy is not faulty. It is quite appropriate. The two cases are parallel. Hence the argumentation resorted to in Sutra 23 is not objectionable.

Gunadva alokavat II.3.25 (241)

Or on account of (its) quality (viz., intelligence), as in cases of ordinary experience (such as in the case of a lamp by its light).

Gunat: on account of its quality (of intelligence); Va: or (a further example is given); Alokavat: like a light. (Or Lokavat: as in the world, as in cases of ordinary experience).

The argument in support of Sutra 23 is continued.

Or it is like a small light which, by its own virtue, illuminates the whole house. The soul, though atomic and occupies a particular portion of the body, may pervade the whole body by its quality of intelligence as the flame pervades the whole room by its rays and thus experiences pleasure and pain throughout the whole body.

A further example is given by way of comparison to show how an atomic soul can have experience throughout the entire body.

Vyatireko gandhavat II.3.26 (242)

The extension (of the quality of intelligence) beyond (the soul in which it inheres) is like the odour (which extends beyond the fragrant object).

Vyatirekah: expansion, extension beyond (the object i.e., soul); Gandhavat: like the odour.

Sutra 23 is further elucidated by this Sutra.

Just as the sweet fragrance of flowers extends beyond them and diffuses throughout a larger space, so also the intelligence of the soul, which is atomic, extends beyond the soul and pervades the entire body.

If it be said that even the analogy in the above Sutra is not appropriate, because a quality cannot be apart from the substance, and hence the light of a lamp is only the lamp in its tenuous form, the analogy of perfume will apply. Just as though a flower is far away its scent is felt around, so though the soul is atomic its cognition of the entire body is possible. This analogy cannot be objected on the ground that even the fragrance of a flower is only the subtle particles of the flower, because our experience is that we feel the fragrance and not any particles.

Tatha cha darsayati II.3.27 (243)

Thus also, (the Sruti) shows or declares.

Tatha: thus, in the same way; Cha: also; Darsayati: (the Sruti) declares.

The Sruti also, after having signified the soul's abiding in the heart and its atomic size, declares by means of such passages as "Upto the hairs, upto the tips of the nails" (Kau. Up. IV.20, Bri. Up. I.4.7), that the soul pervades the whole body by means of intelligence, which is its quality.

Prithagupadesat II.3.28 (244)

On account of the separate teaching (of the Sruti) (that the soul pervades the body on account of its quality of intelligence).

Prithak: separate, different; Upadesat: because of teaching or statement.

This Sutra is a defence in favour of the preceding Sutra where intelligence is used as an attribute of the individual soul and so separate from it.

A further argument is given here to establish the proposition of the previous Sutra. Kaushitaki Upanishad declares "Having by Prajna, (intelligence, knowledge,) taken possession of the body" (III.6). This indicates that intelligence is different from the soul being related as instrument and agent and the soul pervades the entire body with this quality of intelligence.

Again the text "Thou the intelligent person having through the intelligence of the senses absorbed within himself all intelligence" (Bri. Up. II.1.17) shows intelligence to be different from the agent, i.e., the Jiva or the individual soul and so likewise confirms our views.

Though there is no fundamental difference between the individual soul and his intelligence, they are different in the sense that intelligence is the attribute of the individual soul which is the substance. The individual soul is the possessor of that attribute, because the Sruti states a difference between the two.

Tadgunasaratvat tu tadvyapadesah prajnavat II.3.29 (245)

But that declaration (as to the atomic size of the soul) is on account of its having for its essence the qualities of that (viz., the Buddhi), as in the case of the intelligent Lord (Saguna Brahman).

Tadgunasaratvat: on account of its possessing for its essence the qualities of that (viz., the Buddhi); Tu: but; Tadvyapadesah: that declaration (as to its atomic size); Prajnavat: as in the case of the Intelligent Lord.

The discussion on the true character of the individual soul, commenced in Sutra 16 is continued.

The word 'tu' (but), refutes all that has been said in Sutras 19-28 and decides that the soul is all-pervading.

The next four Sutras are the Siddhanta Sutras which lay down the correct doctrine.

The soul is not of atomic size as the Sruti does not declare it to have had an origin. The scripture declares that the Supreme Brahman entered the universe as the individual soul and that the individual soul is identical with Brahman, and that the individual soul is nothing else but the Supreme Brahman. If the soul is the Supreme Brahman, it must be of the same extent as Brahman. The scripture states Brahman to be all-pervading. Therefore the soul also is all-pervading.

Your argument is that though the soul is Anu, it can cognise all that goes on in the body because of its contact with the skin. But that argument is untenable because when a thorn pricks we feel pain only in the pricked spot. Moreover, your analogy of the lamp and its light and of the flower and its fragrance has no real applicability, because a Guna (quality) can never be apart from the substance (Guna). The light and the perfume are only subtle portions of the flame and the flower. Further, as Chaitanya is the nature or Svarupa of the soul, the soul also must be of the size of the body if there is cognition of the whole body. This latter doctrine has been already refuted. Therefore the soul must be infinite.

The Jiva is declared to be atomic by reason of its identification with the Buddhi.

According to the extent of intellect, the size of the individual soul has been fixed. It is imagined that the soul is connected with the Buddhi or intellect and bound. Passing out, going and coming are qualities of the intellect and are superimposed on the Jiva or the individual soul. The soul is considered to be atomic on account of the limitation of the intellect. That the non-transmigrating eternally free Atman, which neither acts nor enjoys is declared to be of the same size as the Buddhi is due only to its having the qualities of the Buddhi (intellect) for its essence, viz., as long as it is in fictitious connection with the Buddhi. It is similar to imagining the all-pervading Lord as limited for the sake of Upasana or worship.

Svetasvatara Upanishad (V.9) says, "That living soul is to be known as part of the hundredth part of the point of a hair divided a hundred times and yet it is to be infinite." This Sruti text at first states the soul to be atomic and then teaches it to be infinite. This is appropriate only if the atomicity of the soul is metaphorical and its infinity is real, because both statements cannot be taken in their primary sense at the same time. The infinity certainly cannot be understood in a metaphorical sense, as all the Upanishads aim at showing that Brahman constitutes the Self of the soul.

The other passage (Svet. Up. V.8) which treats of the measure of the soul "The lower one endowed with the quality of mind and the quality of the body, is seen small even like the point of a goad" teaches the soul's small size to depend on its connection with the qualities of the Buddhi, not upon its own Self.

Mundaka Upanishad declares, "That small (Anu) Self is to be known by thought" (III.1.9). This Upanishad does not teach that the soul is of atomic size, as the subject of the chapter is Brahman in so far as not to be fathomed by the eye, etc., but to be realised by the light of knowledge. Further, the soul cannot be of atomic size in the primary sense of the word.

Therefore the statement about Anutva (smallness, subtlety) has to be understood as referring either to the difficulty of knowing the soul, or else to its limiting adjuncts.

The Buddhi abides in the heart. So it is said that the soul abides in the heart. Really the soul is all-pervading.

As the soul is involved in the Samsara and as it has for its essence the qualities of its limiting adjunct viz., Buddhi, it is spoken of as minute.

Yavadatmabhavitvacca na doshastaddarsanat II.3.30 (246)

And there is no defect or fault in what has been said in the previous Sutra (as the conjunction of the soul with the intellect exists) so long as the soul (in its relative aspect) exists; because it is so seen (in the scriptures).

Yavat: so long as; Atmabhavitvat: as the soul (in its relative aspect) exists; Cha: also, and; Na doshah: there is no defect or fault; Taddarsanat: because it is so seen (in the scriptures), as Sruti also shows that.

An additional reason is given in support of Sutra 29.

The Purvapakshin or the opponent raises an objection. Very well, let us then assume that the transmigratory condition of the soul is due to the qualities of the intellect forming its essence. It will follow from this that, as the conjunction of the intellect and soul which are different entities must necessarily come to an end, the soul when disjoined from the intellect will either cease to exist altogether or at least cease to be a Samsarin (individual soul).

To this objection this Sutra gives a reply. There can be no such defect in the argument of the previous Sutra, because this connection with the Buddhi (intellect) lasts so long as the soul's state of Samsara is not brought to an end by means of perfect knowledge. As long as the soul's connection with the Buddhi, its limiting adjunct lasts, so long the individual soul remains individual soul, involved in transmigratory existence.

There is no Jiva or individual soul without identification with intellect. The connection of the soul with the intellect will cease only by right knowledge. The scripture declares "I know that Person of sunlike lustre beyond darkness. A man who knows Him passes over death, there is no other path to go (Svet. Up. III.8).

How is it known that the soul is connected with the Buddhi as long as it exists? We reply, because that is seen, viz., in scripture. It is known from the Srutis that this connection is not severed even at death. The scripture declares, "He who is within the heart, consisting of knowledge, surrounded by Pranas, the person of light, he remaining the same wanders along the two worlds as if thinking, as if moving" (Bri. Up. IV.3.7). Here the term "consisting of knowledge" means 'consisting of Buddhi'. The passage "He remaining in the same wanders along the two worlds" declares that the Self, even when going to another world, is not separated from the Buddhi etc. The term "as if thinking," "as if moving" mean that the individual soul does not think and move on its own account, but only through its association with the Buddhi. The individual soul thinks as it were, and moves as it were, because the intellect to which it is joined really moves and thinks.

The connection of the individual soul with the intellect, its limiting adjunct, depends on wrong knowledge. Wrong knowledge (Mithyajnana) cannot cease except through perfect knowledge. Therefore, as long as there does not arise the realisation of Brahman or Brahmajnana, so long the connection of the soul with the intellect and its other limiting adjuncts does not come to an end.

Pumstvadivat tvasya sato'bhivyaktiyogat II.3.31 (247)

On account of the appropriateness of the manifestation of that (connection) which exists (potentially) like virile power, etc.

Pumstvadivat: like the virile power etc.; Tu: verily, but; Asya: its, i.e., of the connection with the intellect; Satah: existing; Abhivyaktiyogat: on account of the manifestation being possible, because of appropriateness of the manifestation.

A proof is now given in support of Sutra 29 by showing the perpetual connection between the individual soul and the intellect. The word 'tu' (but), is used in order to set aside the objection raised above.

An objection is raised that in Sushupti or deep sleep and Pralaya there can be no connection with the intellect, as the scripture declares, "Then he becomes united with the True; he is gone to his own" (Chh. Up. VI.8.1). How then can it be said that the connection with the intellect lasts so long as the individual soul exists?

The Sutra refutes it and says that this connection exists in a subtle or potential form even in deep sleep. Had it not been for this, it could not have become manifest in the waking state. Such connection is clear from the appropriateness of such connection becoming manifest during creation, after dissolution and during the waking state after sleep, as in the case of virility dormant in boyhood and manifest in manhood.

The connection of the soul with the intellect exists potentially during deep sleep and the period of dissolution and again becomes manifest at the time of waking and the time of creation.

Virile power becomes manifest in manhood only if it exists in a fine or potential state in the body. Hence this connection with the intellect lasts so long as the soul exists in its Samsara-state.

Nityopalabdhyanupalabdhiprasango'nyataraniyamo va'nyatha II.3.32 (248)

Otherwise (if no intellect existed) there would result either constant perception or constant non-perception, or else a limitation of either of the two (i.e., of the soul or of the senses).

Nityopalabdhyanupalabdhiprasangat: there would result perpetual perception or non-perception; Anyatara: otherwise, either of the two; Niyamah: restrictive rule; Va: or; Anyatha: otherwise. (Upalabdhi: perception, consciousness; Anupalabdhi: non-perception, non-consciousness.)

The internal organ (Antahkarana) which constitutes the limiting adjunct of the soul is called in different places by different names such as Manas (mind), Buddhi (intellect), Vijnana (knowledge), and Chitta (thought) etc. When it is in a state of doubt it is called Manas; when it is in a state of determination it is called Buddhi. Now we must necessarily acknowledge the existence of such an internal organ, because otherwise there would result either perpetual perception or perpetual non-perception. There would be perpetual perception whenever there is a conjunction of the soul, and senses and the objects of senses, the three together forming the instruments of perception. Or else, if on the conjunction of the three causes the effect did not follow, there would be perpetual non-perception. But neither of these two alternatives is actually observed.

Or else we will have to accept the limitation of the power either of the soul or of the senses. But the limiting of power is not possible, as the Atman is changeless. It cannot be said that the power of the senses which is not obstructed either in the previous moment or in the subsequent moment is limited in the middle.

Therefore we have to acknowledge the existence of an internal organ (Antahkarana) through whose connection and disconnection perception and non-perception take place. The scripture declares, "My mind was elsewhere, I did not see, my mind was elsewhere, I did not hear; for a man sees with his mind and hears with the mind" (Bri. Up. I.5.3). The scripture further shows that desire, representation, doubt, faith, want of faith, memory, forgetfulness, shame, reflection, fear, all this is mind.

Therefore there exists an internal organ, the Antahkarana, and the connection of the soul with the internal organ causes the Atman to appear as the individual soul or as the soul its Samsara state as explained in Sutra 29. The explanation given in Sutra 29 is therefore an appropriate one.