Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Kartradhikaranam: Topic 14 (Sutras 33-39)

The individual soul is an agent.

Karta sastrarthavattvat II.3.33 (249)

(The soul is) an agent on account of the scripture having a purport thereby.

Karta: agent; Sastrarthavattvat: in order that the scriptures may have a meaning, on account of the scriptures having a purport.

Another characteristic of the individual soul is being stated.

The question as regards the size of the soul has been stated. Now another characteristic of the soul is taken up for discussion. The Jiva is a doer or an agent, for otherwise the scriptural injunctions will be useless. On that assumption scriptural injunctions such as "He is to sacrifice," "He is to make an oblation into the fire," "He is to give," etc., have a purport, otherwise they would be purportless. The scriptures enjoin certain acts to be done by the agent. If the soul be not an agent these injunctions would become meaningless. On that supposition there is meaning to the following passage also, "For, it is he who sees, hears, perceives, conceives, acts, he is the person whose self is knowledge" (Pras. Up. IV.9). "He who desires to attain heaven, has to perform sacrifices; and he, who desires to attain salvation, has to worship Brahman in meditation."

Viharopadesat II.3.34 (250)

And on account of (the Sruti) teaching (its) wandering about.

Vihara: wandering at will, play, sporting about; Upadesat: on account of declaration, as Sruti declares.

An argument in support of Sutra 33 is given.

The Sruti declares "The immortal one goes wherever he likes" (Bri. Up. IV.3.12), and again "He taking the senses along with him moves about according to his pleasure, within his own body" (Bri. Up. II.1.18). These passages which give a description of the wandering of the soul in the dream indicate clearly that the soul is an agent.

Upadanat II.3.35 (251)

(Also it is a doer) on account of its taking the organs.

Upadanat: on account of its taking (the organs).

Another argument in support of Sutra 33 is given.

The text quoted in the last Sutra also indicates that the soul in dream state takes the organs with it. "Having taken through the intelligence of the senses, intelligence, and having taken the senses" (Bri. Up. II.1.18, 19). This clearly shows that the soul is an agent.

It is a doer or an agent because it is said to use the senses. The individual soul is to be admitted as the agent, because he is described in Sruti to take the senses along with him as instruments of his work, while roaming within his own body during the dream state. "Thus, he taking the senses along with him, moves about within his own body, just as he pleases." (Bri. Up. II.1.18).

In the Gita also we find "when the soul acquires a body and when he abandons it, he seizes these and goes with them, as the wind takes fragrance from the flowers" (Gita. XV.8).

Vyapadesaccha kriyayam na chennirdesaviparyayah II.3.36 (252)

(The soul is an agent) also because it is designated as such with regard to actions; if it were not so, there would be a change of designation.

Vyapadesat: on account of mention, from a statement of Sruti; Cha: also, and; Kriyayam: in respect of performance of rites; Na chet: if it were not so, or else, otherwise; Nirdesaviparyayah: reversal of the statement, change of designation.

The argument in support of Sutra 33 is continued.

In the passage "Vijnanam yajnam tanute, Karmani tanute'pi cha" – "Intelligence (i.e., the intelligent person, Jiva) performs sacrifices, and it also performs all acts" (Tait. Up.II.5), by 'Intelligence' the soul is meant and not the Buddhi. This clearly shows that the soul is an agent.

Vijnana refers to Jiva and not to Buddhi, because if Buddhi is referred to, the word would be 'Vijnanena'. The nominative case in 'Vijnanam yajnam tanute', should be instrumental case, 'Vijnanena', 'by intelligence' meaning through its instrumentality.

We see that in another text where the Buddhi is meant the word 'intelligence' is exhibited in the instrumental case "Having through the intelligence of these senses it takes all understanding" (Bri.Up. II.1.17). In the passage under discussion, on the contrary, the word 'intelligence' is given in the characteristic of the agent, viz., nominative case and therefore indicates the soul which is distinct from the Buddhi.

Upalabdhivadaniyamah II.3.37 (253)

As in the case of perception (there is) no rule (here also).

Upalabdhivat: as in the case of perception; Aniyamah: (there is) no rule.

The argument in support of Sutra 33 is continued.

An objection is raised that if the soul were a free agent, then why should he do any act productive of harmful effects? He would have done only what is beneficial to him and not both good and evil actions.

This objection is refuted in this Sutra. Just as the soul, although he is free, perceives both pleasant and unpleasant things, so also he performs both good and evil actions. There is no rule that he should perform only what is beneficial and avoid what is bad or harmful.

In the performance of actions, the soul is not absolutely free as he depends on differences of place, time and efficient causes. But an agent does not cease to be so because he is in need of assistance. A cook remains the agent in action of cooking, although he needs fuel, water, etc. His function as a cook exists at all times.

Saktiviparyayat II.3.38 (254)

On account of the reversal of power (of the Buddhi).

Saktiviparyayat: on account of the reversal of power (of the Buddhi).

The argument in support of Sutra 33 is continued.

If the Buddhi which is an instrument becomes the agent and ceases to function as an instrument there would take place a reversal of power, i.e., the instrumental power which pertains to the Buddhi would have to be set aside and to be replaced by the power of an agent.

If the Buddhi has the power of an agent, it must be admitted that it is also the object of self-consciousness (Aham-pratyaya), as we see that everywhere activity is preceded by self-consciousness: "I go, I come, I eat, I drink, I do, I enjoy."

If the Buddhi is endowed with the power of an agent and affects all things, we have to assume for it another instrument by means of which it affects everything, because every doer needs an instrument. Hence the whole dispute is about a name only. There is no real difference, since in either case that which is different from the instrument of action is admitted to be the agent. In either case an agent different from the instrument has to be admitted.

Samadhyabhavaccha II.3.39 (255)

And on account of the impossibility of Samadhi.

Samadhyabhavat: on account of the impossibility of Samadhi; Cha: and, also. (Samadhi: superconscious state; Abhavat: for want, for impossibility, as it becomes an impossible thing).

The argument in support of Sutra 33 is continued.

If the soul is not a doer, there will be non-existence of attainment of liberation. If the Jiva or soul is not an agent, then the realisation prescribed by Sruti texts like "The Atman is to be realised" (Bri. Up. II.4.5.) through Samadhi would be impossible. The meditation taught in the Vedanta texts is possible only if the soul is the agent. "Verily, the Atman is to be seen, to be heard, to be perceived, to be searched." "The Self we must seek out, we must try to understand" (Chh. Up. VIII.7.1.) "Meditate on the Self as OM" (Mun. Up. II.2.6). Therefrom also it follows that the soul is an agent.

"The soul will not be capable of practising hearing, reasoning, reflection, and meditation" which lead to Samadhi and the attainment of Knowledge of the Imperishable. Hence there will be no emancipation for the soul. Therefore it is established that the soul alone is the agent, but not the Buddhi.