II-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 11

Topic 11 - The individual soul is permanent, eternal, etc.

Sutra 2,3.17

नात्मा, आश्रुतेर्नित्यत्वाच्च ताभ्यः ॥ १७ ॥

nātmā, āśruternityatvācca tābhyaḥ || 17 ||

na—Is not (produced); ātmā—the individual self; āśruteḥ—not being (so) mentioned by the scriptures; nityatvāt—being eternal; ca—also; tābhyaḥ—from them (Śrutis);

17. The individual self is not (produced), (for it is) not (so) mentioned by the scriptures; also (on account of its) being eternal, (for so it is known) from them (the Śruti texts).

The Sūtras so far have stated that this entire world, from Ether downwards, originates from the highest Brahman. It now becomes a matter for discussion whether the individual soul also originates in the same way or not.--It does so originate, the Pūrvapakshin maintains. For on this assumption only the scriptural statement as to the cognition of all things through the cognition of one thing holds good, and moreover Scripture declares that before creation everything was one. Moreover, there are texts directly stating that the soul also was produced in the same way as Ether and other created things.

'Prajāpati sent forth all creatures'; 'All these creatures have their root in the True, they abide in the True, they rest on the True' (Kh. Up. VI, 8, 6); 'From whence these beings are produced' (Taitt. Up. III, 1, 1). As these passages declare the origination of the world inclusive of sentient beings, we conclude that the souls also originate. Nor must this be objected to on the ground than from the fact that Brahman is eternal, and the other fact that texts such as 'That art them' teach the soul to be of the nature of Brahman, it follows that the soul also is eternal. For if we reasoned in this style we should have to admit also that the Ether and the other elements are eternal, since texts such as 'in that all this has its Self' and 'all this indeed is Brahman 'intimate them also to be of the nature of Brahman. Hence the individual soul also originates no less than Ether and the rest.--To this the Sūtra replies, 'Not the Self, on account of scriptural statement.' The Self is not produced, since certain texts directly deny its origination; cp. 'the intelligent one is not born nor does he die' (Ka. Up. I, 2, 18); 'There are two unborn ones, one intelligent and strong, the other non- intelligent and weak' (Svet. Up. I, 9). And the eternity of the soul is learned from the same texts, cp. 'There is one eternal thinker,' &c. (Ka. Up. II,5, 13); 'Unborn, eternal, everlasting is that ancient one; he is not killed though the body is killed' (Ka. Up. I, 2, 18).--For these reasons the soul is not produced.

But how then about the declaration that through the cognition of one thing everything is known?-There is no difficulty here, since the soul also is an effect, and since effect and cause are non-different.--But this implies that the soul is an originated thing just like Ether and so on!--Not so, we reply. By a thing being an effect we mean its being due to a substance passing over into some other state; and from this point of view the soul also is an effect. There is, however, the difference, that the 'other condition' which is represented by the soul is of a different kind from that which constitutes non-sentient things, such as Ether and so on. The 'otherness' on which the soul depends consists in the contraction and expansion of intelligence; while the change on which the origination of Ether and so on depends is a change of essential nature. And change of the latter kind is what we deny of the soul. We have shown that there are three entities of distinct nature, viz. objects of fruition, enjoying subjects, and a Ruler; that origination and so on which are characteristic of the objects do not belong to the subjects, and that the latter are eternal; that the characteristic qualities of the objects and likewise those of the subjects--viz. liability to pain and suffering--do not belong to the Ruler; that the latter is eternal, free from all imperfections, omniscient, immediately realising all his purposes, the Lord of the lords of the organs, the highest Lord of all; and that sentient and non-sentient beings in all their states constitute the body of the Lord while he constitutes their Self. While Brahman thus has for its modes (prakāra) the sentient and non-sentient beings in which it ever is embodied, during certain periods those beings abide in so subtle a condition as to be incapable of receiving designations different from that of Brahman itself; Brahman then is said to be in its causal state. When, on the other hand, its body is constituted by all those beings in their gross state, when they have separate, distinct names and forms, Brahman is said to be in its effected condition. When, now, Brahman passes over from the causal state into the effected state, the aggregate of non-sentient things which in the causal state were destitute of name and form undergoes an essential change of nature--implying the possession of distinct names and so on--so as to become fit to constitute objects of fruition for sentient beings; the change, on the other hand, which the sentient beings (the souls) undergo on that occasion is nothing more than a certain expansion of intelligence (or consciousness), capacitating them to experience the different rewards or punishments for their previous deeds. The ruling element of the world, i.e. the Lord, finally, who has the sentient and non-sentient beings for his modes, undergoes a change in so far as he is, at alternating periods, embodied in all those beings in their alternating states. The two modes, and he to whom the modes belong, thus undergo a common change in so far as in the case of all of them the causal condition passes over into a different condition.

It is with reference to this change undergone by one substance in passing over into a different state that the Chāṇḍogya says that through the knowledge of one thing everything is known, and illustrates this by the case of the lump of clay (knowing which we know all things made of clay). Texts such as 'Prajāpati sent forth the creatures,' which declare the origination of the soul, really mean only to state that the souls are by turns associated with or dissociated from bodies--the effect of which is that their intelligence is either contracted or expanded. Texts again which deny the origination of the soul and affirm its permanency ('He is not born and does not die,' &c.) mean to say that the soul does not, like the non-sentient element of creation, undergo changes of essential nature. And finally there are texts the purport of which it is to declare the absence of change of essential nature as well as of alternate expansion and contraction of intelligence-- cp. 'That is the great unborn Self, undecaying, undying, immortal, Brahman' (Bri. Up. IV, 4, 25); 'the eternal thinker,' &c. (Ka. Up. II, 5, 13); such texts have for their subject the highest Lord.--All this also explains how Brahman, which is at all times differentiated by the sentient and non-sentient beings that constitute its body, can be said to be one only previous to creation; the statement is possible because at that time the differentiation of names and forms did not exist. That that which makes the difference between plurality and unity is the presence or absence of differentiation through names and forms, is distinctly declared in the text, 'Now all this was undifferentiated. It became differentiated by form and name' (Bri. Up. I, 4, 7).--Those also who hold that the individual soul is due to Nescience; and those who hold it to be due to a real limiting adjunct (upādhi); and those who hold that Brahman, whose essential nature is mere Being, assumes by itself the threefold form of enjoying subjects, objects of enjoyment, and supreme Ruler; can all of them explain the unity which Scripture predicates of Brahman in the pralaya state, only on the basis of the absence of differentiation by names and forms; for according to them also (there is no absolute unity at any time, but) either the potentiality of Nescience, or the potentiality of the limiting adjunct, or the potentialities of enjoying subjects, objects of enjoyment, and supreme Ruler persist in the pralaya condition also. And, moreover, it is proved by the two Sūtras, II, 1, 33; 35, that the distinction of the several individual souls and the stream of their works are eternal.

There is, however, the following difference between those several views. The first-mentioned view implies that Brahman itself is under the illusive influence of beginningless Avidyā. According to the second view, the effect of the real and beginningless limiting adjunct is that Brahman itself is in the state of bondage; for there is no other entity but Brahman and the adjunct. According to the third view, Brahman itself assumes different forms, and itself experiences the various unpleasant consequences of deeds. Nor would it avail to say that that part of Brahman which is the Ruler is not an experiencing subject; for as Brahman is all-knowing it recognises the enjoying subject as non-different from itself, and thus is itself an enjoying subject.--According to our view, on the other hand, Brahman, which has for its body all sentient and non-sentient beings, whether in their subtle or their gross state, is always--in its effected as well as in its causal condition free from all shadow of imperfection, and a limitless ocean as it were of all exalted qualities. All imperfections, and suffering, and all change belong not to Brahman, but only to the sentient and non-sentient beings which are its modes. This view removes all difficulties.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the Self.'