Brahma Sutras
by Swami Sivananda


Section 3: Amsadhikaranam: Topic 17 (Sutras 43-53)

Relation of the individual soul to Brahman.

Amso nanavyapadesad anyatha chapi dasakitavaditvamadhiyata eke II.3.43 (259)

(The soul is) a part of the Lord on account of difference (between the two) being declared and otherwise also (i.e., as non-different from Brahman); because in some (Vedic texts) (Brahman) is spoken of as being fishermen, knaves, etc.

Amsah: part; Nanavyapadesat: on account of difference being declared; Anyatha: otherwise; Cha: and; Api: also; Dasakitavaditvam: being fisher-men, knaves, etc.; Adhiyata: read; Eke: some (Srutis, Sakhas of the Vedas).

This Sutra shows that the individual soul is different from as well as the same with Brahman.

In the last topic it has been shown that the Lord rules the soul. Now the question of the relation of the individual soul to Brahman is taken up. Is it that of master and servant or as between fire and its sparks?

The Purvapakshin holds that the relation is like that of master and servant, because that connection only is well known to be the relation of ruler (Lord) and ruled (subject).

To this the Sutra says that the soul must be considered a part of the Lord, just as a spark is a part of the fire. But then the soul is not actually a part, but a part as it were. It is an imagined part only, because Brahman cannot have any parts. Brahman is Nishkala, without parts. He is Akhanda (indivisible). He is Niravayava (without limbs).

Why then should it be taken as a part and not identical with the Lord? Because the scriptures declare a difference between them in texts like "That self it is which we must search out, that it is we must try to understand" (Chh. Up. VIII.7.1). "He who knows Him becomes a Muni" (Bri. Up. IV.4.22). "He who dwelling within the self, pulls the self from within" (Bri. Up. III.7.23). "The Atman is to be seen? (Bri. Up. II.4.5). This difference is spoken of from the relative viewpoint. They are identical from the absolute viewpoint.

The text "Brahman is the fishermen, Brahman the slaves, Brahman these gamblers" etc., indicate that even such low persons are in reality Brahman and that all individual souls, men, women and children are all Brahman.

The same viewpoint is set forth in other passages such as "Thou art woman, Thou art man, Thou art the youth, Thou art the maiden; Thou as an old man totters along on Thy staff, Thou art born with Thy face turned everywhere" (Svet. Up. IV.3). Texts like "There is no other but He" and similar ones establish the same truth. Non-differentiated intelligence belongs to the soul and the Lord alike, just as heat belongs to the sparks as well as the fire.

From these two views of difference, and non-difference, there results the comprehensive view of the soul being a part of the Lord.

Mantravarnaccha II.3.44 (260)

Also from the words of the Mantra (it is known that the soul is a part of the Lord).

Mantravarnat: from the words of the Mantra, from the letters in sacred verses, because of description given in the sacred Mantras; Cha: also, and.

An argument in support of Sutra 43, that the individual soul is a part of Brahman is given.

A further reason is given to show that the soul is a part of the Lord. "Such is the greatness of it; greater than it is the Person. One foot of It are all these beings, three feet of It are the immortal in heaven," (Chh. Up. III.12.6) where beings including souls are said to be a foot or part of the Lord.

(One foot, i.e., the fourth part of Him are all beings, the whole creation covers only a fraction of Him). Purusha Sukta: Rigveda: X.90.3, declares the same thing. "All the beings are but a foot of Him".

The word 'pada' and 'amsa' are identical. Both mean part or a portion.

Hence we conclude that the individual soul is a part of the Lord, and again from the following reason.

Api cha smaryate II.3.45 (261)

And it is so stated in the Smriti.

Api: also; Cha: and; Smaryate: it is (so) stated in the Smriti.

The argument that the individual soul is a part of Brahman is concluded here.

The Smriti also says so – that the individual soul is a part of Brahman. "An eternal portion of Myself becomes the individual soul in the world of life" (Bhagavad Gita: XV.7).

Prakasadivannaivam parah II.3.46 (262)

The Supreme Lord is not (affected by pleasure and pain) like this (individual soul) just as light (is unaffected by the shaking of its reflections).

Prakasadivat: like light, etc.; Na: is not; Evam: thus, like this, like the individual soul; Parah: the Supreme Lord.

The speciality of the Supreme Lord is shown in this Sutra.

Here the Purvapakshin raises another objection. If the soul is a part of the Lord, the Lord also must experience pleasure and pain like the soul. We see in ordinary life that the entire Ramakrishna suffers from the pain affecting his hand or foot or some other limb. Hence attainment of God would mean maximum grief and pain, and the old limited pain of individual soul would be far better.

This Sutra refutes it. The Lord does not experience pleasure and pain like the individual soul. The individual soul identifies itself with the body, the senses and the mind, on account of ignorance, and therefore experiences pleasure and pain. The Supreme Lord neither identifies himself with a body, nor imagines himself to be afflicted by pain.

The pain of the individual soul also is not real but imaginary only. It is due to non-discrimination of the Self from the body, senses and mind which are the products of Avidya or ignorance.

Just as a man feels the pain of a burn or cut which affects his body by erroneously identifying himself with the latter, so also he feels the pain which affects others such as sons or friends, by erroneously identifying himself with them. He enters as it were into them through Moha or love and imagines "I am the son, I am the friend." This clearly shows that the feeling of pain is due merely to the error of false imagination.

Some men and women are sitting together and talking. If then somebody calls out "the son has died", grief is produced in the minds of those who have Moha or love for sons on account of erroneous imagination, identification, and connection, but not in the minds of religious ascetics or Sannyasins who have freed themselves from that imagination. If even a man of right knowledge who has become an ascetic has no pain or grief consequent on death of relations or friends, God who is Supreme and alone, who is pure consciousness, who is eternal pure intelligence, who sees nothing beside the Self for which there are no objects, can have no pain at all.

To illustrate this view the Sutra introduces a comparison like light etc. Just as the light of the sun which is all-pervading becomes straight or bent by coming in contact with particular objects, but does not really become so, or the ether of a pot seems to move when the pot is moved, but does not really move, or as the sun does not tremble although its image which is reflected in water trembles, so also the Lord is not affected by pleasure, pain or grief although pleasure and pain etc., are felt by that part of Him, which is called the individual soul which is a product of ignorance and is limited by Buddhi, etc.

Just as the sun does not become contaminated by its touch through its parts, the rays with the impurities of the earth, so also the Supreme Lord does not become affected by the enjoyment and suffering of the individual soul, though latter is part and parcel of the former.

When the soul's individual state due to ignorance is sublated, it becomes Brahman, "Thou art That" etc. Thus the Supreme Lord is not affected by the pain of the individual soul.

Smaranti Cha II.3.47 (263)

The Smritis also state (that).

Smaranti: the Smritis state; Cha: and, also.

"Of the two, the Supreme Self is said to be eternal, devoid of qualities. It is not touched by the fruits of actions, any more than a lotus leaf by water." The Smriti texts like these state that the Supreme Lord does not experience pleasure and pain.

Anujnapariharau dehasambandhajjyotiradivat II.3.48 (264)

Injunctions and prohibitions (are possible) on account of the connection (of the Self) with the body, as in the case of light, etc.

Anujnapariharau: injunctions and prohibitions; Dehasamban- dhat: on account of connection with the body; Jyotiradivat: like light etc.

The necessity for observance of mandatory and prohibitory rules is explained.

The Atman or the Supreme Self is one. There can be no injunctions and prohibitions with regard to the Atman. But injunctions and prohibitions are possible when it is connected with a body. What are those permissions and injunctions? "He is to approach his wife at the proper time." "He is not to approach the wife of his Guru." "He is to kill the animal devoted to Agnistoma." and "He is not to hurt any being."

Fire is one only but the fire of the funeral pyre is rejected and that of a sacrifice is accepted. Some things consisting of earth, like diamonds, are desired; other things consisting of earth, like dead bodies, are shunned. The urine and dung of cows are considered pure and used as such; those of other animals are rejected. Water poured from a clean vessel or offered by a clean person is to be accepted; that contained in an unclean vessel or offered by an unclean man is to be rejected. Similar is the case with the Atman.

When the soul is in a state of attachment to the body, ethical ideas of purity and impurity have full application.

Asantateschavyatikarah II.3.49 (265)

And on account of the non-extension (of the soul beyond its own body) there is no confusion (of results of actions).

Asantateh: on account of non-extension (beyond its own body); Cha: and; Avyatikarah: there is no confusion (of results of actions).

The discussion on the special characteristic of the individual soul is continued.

An objection is raised that on account of the unity of the self there would result a confusion of the results of actions, there being only one master, i.e., one soul to enjoy the fruits of actions. This Sutra refutes such a possibility.

This is not so, because there is no extension of the acting and enjoying self, i.e., no connection on its part with all bodies. The individual soul depends on its adjuncts, and there is also non-extension of the soul on account of the non-extension of those adjuncts. The individual souls are different from each other. Each soul is connected with a particular body, mind, etc.

The individual soul has no connection with all the bodies at the same time. He is connected with one body only and he is affected by the peculiar properties of that one alone. Therefore the effects of works done by the soul in one body belongs to him in respect of that body only and not of any other body. All the individuals are not affected by the works done by a particular individual.

There will be no possibility for the Atman, as it is one, to experience all the pleasures and all the pains of all the bodies, because the bodies are disconnected.

Therefore there is no confusion of actions or fruits of actions.

Abhasa eva cha II.3.50 (266)

And (the individual soul is) only a reflection (of Paramatman or the Supreme Lord).

Abhasa: a reflection; Eva: only; Cha: and.

According to Vedanta, the individual soul is only a reflection of Brahman or the Supreme Soul in the mind like the reflection of the sun in the water. Just as the reflections of the sun in different pots of water are different, so also the reflections of the Supreme Soul in different minds are different. Just as, when one reflected image of the sun trembles, another reflected image does not on that account tremble also, so also when a particular soul experiences fruits of his actions, viz., pleasure and pain, it is not shared by other souls. When the individual soul in one body is undergoing the effects of his actions, the soul in any other body is not affected on that account.

For those, such as the Sankhyas, the Vaiseshikas and the Naiyayikas on the contrary, who maintain that there are many souls and all of them all-pervading, it follows that there must be a confusion of actions and results, because each soul is present everywhere near to those causes which produce pleasure and pain.

According to the opinion of the Sankhya,s there exist many all-pervading selfs, whose nature is pure intelligence, devoid of qualities and of unsurpassable excellence. For the common purpose of all of them there exists the Pradhana through which the souls obtain enjoyment and release.

In the Sankhya philosophy the individual soul has been stated to be all-pervading. If this view be accepted there would be confusion of works and their effects. This view of Sankhyas is therefore an unfair conclusion.

Therefore there can be no confusion of the results of action.

Adrishtaniyamat II.3.51 (267)

There being no fixity about the unseen principle (there would result confusion of works and their effects for those who believe in many souls, each all-pervading).

Adrishtaniyamat: There being no fixity about the unseen principle. (Adrishta: the fate, the accumulated stock of previous actions, waiting as a latent force to bring forth fruits in future, merit or demerit acquired by the souls by thoughts, words and actions; Aniyamat: for want of any binding rule, on account of non-determinateness.)

The discussion begun in Sutra 50 is continued.

Sutras 51 to 53 refute the doctrine of the Sankhyas and other schools about the plurality of souls, each of which is all-pervading. It leads to absurdities.

This confusion cannot be avoided by bringing the Adrishta or unseen principle, because if all the souls equally are all-pervading, there cannot be any binding rule as to upon which of them the force will act.

According to the Sankhyas, the Adrishta does not inhere in the soul but in the Pradhana which is common to all souls. Hence there is nothing to fix that a particular Adrishta operates in a particular soul.

The doctrine of the other two schools is open to the same objection. According to the Nyaya and Vaiseshika schools, the unseen principle is created by the conjunction of the soul with the mind. Here also there is nothing to fix that a particular Adrishta belongs to a particular soul, as every soul is all-pervading and therefore equally connected with all minds.

Therefore the confusion of results is unavoidable.

Abhisandhyadishu api chaivam II.3.52 (268)

And this is also the case in resolutions, etc.

Abhisandhyadishu: in resolutions, etc.; Api: even; Cha: and; Evam: thus, like this, in the like manner.

The discussion begun in Sutra 50 is continued.

The same logical defect will apply also to the resolve to do actions. There will be no orderliness of resolves to do actions. That is want of order also in matters of personal determination, etc., if the individual soul be admitted to be all-pervading.

If it be held that the resolution which one makes to get something or to avoid something will allot the Adrishta to particular souls, even then there will be this confusion of results of actions, because resolutions are formed by the conjunction of the soul and the mind. Therefore the same argument applies here also.

If the individual soul is all-pervading, there cannot be any order in motives or matters of personal determination such as "I will do a certain thing" or "I will not do a certain thing" because in such a case, everyone becomes conscious of the determination of every other. Therefore no order of determination and its putting it into action can be maintained. Moreover collision between wills cannot be avoided. But order is found in this world everywhere.

Therefore it is established that the soul is not all-pervading.

Pradesaditi chenna antarbhavat II.3.53 (269)

If it be said (that the distinction of pleasure and pain etc., results) from (the difference of) place, (we say) not so, on account of the self being in all bodies.

Pradesat: on account of particular locality or environment, from (difference of) place; Iti: thus; Chet: if; Na: not so, the argument cannot stand; Antarbhavat: on account of the self being in all bodies.

An objection to Sutra 52 is raised and refuted. This Sutra consists of two parts, viz., an objection and its reply. The objection portion is 'Pradesaditi chet' and the reply portion is 'Na antarbhavat.'

The Naiyayikas and others try to get over the difficulty shown in the previous Sutra by giving the following argument. Though each soul is all-pervading, yet, confusion of results of actions will not occur if we take its connection with the mind to take place in that part of it which is limited by its body.

Even this cannot stand. This also is not possible on account of its being within all. Because, as being equally infinite all selfs are within all bodies. Every soul is all-pervading and therefore permeates all bodies. There is nothing to fix that a particular body belongs to a particular soul.

Moreover, on account of the doctrine of limitation due to difference of place, it would follow that sometimes two selfs enjoying the same pleasure or pain may effect their fruition by one and the same way, as it may happen that the unseen principle of two selfs occupies the same place.

Further, from the doctrine that the unseen principles occupy fixed places it would follow that no enjoyment of heaven can take place, because the Adrishta is effected in definite places such as, e.g., the body of a Brahmana and the enjoyment of heaven is bound to a definite different place.

There cannot be more than one all-pervading entity. If there were many all-pervading entities they would limit each other and therefore cease to be all-pervading or infinite.

Therefore there is only one Atman and not many. The Vedanta doctrine of one Atman is the only faultless doctrine. The only doctrine not open to any objections is the doctrine of the unity of the self. The plurality of selfs in Vedanta is only a product of Avidya, nescience or ignorance and not a reality.

Thus ends the Third Pada (Section 3) of the Second Adhyaya (Chapter II) of the Brahmasutras or the Vedanta Philosophy.