II-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 14

Topic 14 - The individual soul as agent

Sutra 2,3.33

कर्ता, शास्त्रार्थवत्त्वात् ॥ ३३ ॥

kartā, śāstrārthavattvāt || 33 ||

kartā—Agent; śāstrārthavattvāt—in order that the scriptures may have a meaning.

33. (The soul is) an agent, on account of scriptural (injunctions) having a meaning on that ground only.

It has been shown that the individual Self is a knowing subject and atomic. Now the question arises whether that Self is an agent or, being itself non-active, erroneously ascribes to itself the activity of the non-sentient guṇas. The prima facie answer is that the individual Self is not an agent, since the sacred texts concerned with the Self declare that the Self does not act, while the guṇas do act. Thus, e.g. in the Kaṭha Valli, where the text at first denies of the individual Self all the attributes of Prakriti, such as being born, ageing and dying ('he is not born, he does not die'), and then also denies that the Self is the agent in acts such as killing and the like, 'If the slayer thinks that he slays, if the slain thinks that he is slain, they both do not understand; for this one does not slay, nor is that one slain' (I, 2, 19). This means--if one thinks the Self to be the slayer one does not know the Self. And the Lord himself teaches that non- agency is the essential nature of the individual soul, and that it is mere delusion on the Self's part to ascribe to itself agency. 'By the attributes (guṇa) of Prakriti, actions are wrought all round.' He who is deluded by self-conceit thinks 'I am the agent'; 'when the seer beholds no other agent than the guṇas'; 'Prakriti is said to be the cause of all agency of causes and effects, whilst the soul is the cause of all enjoyment of pleasure and pain' (Bha. Gī. III, 27; XIV, 19; XIII, 20).--The soul, therefore, is an enjoyer only, while all agency belongs to Prakriti--To this the Sūtra replies, 'an agent, on account of Scripture thus having a meaning.' The Self only is an agent, not the guṇas, because thus only Scripture has a meaning. For the scriptural injunctions, such as 'he who desires the heavenly world is to sacrifice,' 'He who desires Release is to meditate on Brahman,' and similar ones, enjoin action on him only who will enjoy the fruit of the action--whether the heavenly world, or Release, or anything else. If a non-sentient thing were the agent, the injunction would not be addressed to another being (viz. to an intelligent being--to which it actually is addressed). The term 'śāstra' (scriptural injunction) moreover comes from sās, to command, and commanding means impelling to action. But scriptural injunctions impel to action through giving rise to a certain conception (in the mind of the being addressed), and the non-sentient Pradhāna cannot be made to conceive anything. Scripture therefore has a sense only, if we admit that none but the intelligent enjoyer of the fruit of the action is at the same time the agent. Thus the Pūrva Mimāṁsa declares 'the fruit of the injunction belongs to the agent' (III, 7, 18). The Pūrvapakshin had contended that the text 'if the slayer thinks, &c.,' proves the Self not to be the agent in the action of slaying; but what the text really means is only that the Self as being eternal cannot be killed. The text, from Smriti, which was alleged as proving that the guṇas only possess active power, refers to the fact that in all activities lying within the sphere of the samsara, the activity of the Self is due not to its own nature but to its contact with the different guṇas. The activity of the guṇas, therefore, must be viewed not as permanent, but occasional only. In the same sense Smriti says 'the reason is the connexion of the soul with the guṇas, in its births, in good and evil wombs' (Bha. Gī. XIII, 21). Similarly it is said there  (XVIII, 16) that 'he who through an untrained understanding looks upon the isolated Self as an agent, that man of perverted mind does not see'; the meaning being that, since it appears from a previous passage that the activity of the Self depends on five factors (as enumerated in sl. 16), he who views the isolated Self to be an agent has no true insight.

 Sutra 2,3.34

विहारोपदेशात् ॥ ३४ ॥

vihāropadeśāt || 34 ||

vihāra-upadeśāt—On account of the Śruti teaching wandering about.

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

Sutra 2,3.35

उपादानात् ॥ ३५ ॥

upādānāt || 35 ||

35. On account of its taking (the organs).

The text beginning 'And as a great king,' &c., declares that 'the Self taking the prāṇas moves about in its own body, according to its pleasure' (Bri. Up. II, 1, 18), i.e. it teaches that the Self is active in taking to itself the prāṇas and moving about in the body.

Sutra 2,3.36

व्यपदेशाच्च क्रियायाम्, न चेन्निर्देशविपर्ययः ॥ ३६॥

vyapadeśācca kriyāyām, na cennirdeśaviparyayaḥ || 36 ||

vyapadeśāt—On account of mention; ca—also; kriyāyām—in respect of action; na cet—if it were not so; nirdeśa-viparyayaḥ—the reference (would have been) of a different kind.

36. Also on account of the (the scriptures) mentioning (the soul as an agent) with respect to action. If it were not so, the reference (would have been) of a different kind.

Because in the text 'Knowledge performs the sacrifice, it performs all works' (Taitt. Up. II, 5) the Self is designated as the agent in all worldly and Vedic works, for this reason also the Self must be held to be an agent. And should it be said that the word 'knowledge' in that text denotes not the Self, but the internal organ or buddhi, we point out that in that case there would be a change of grammatical expression, that is to say, as the buddhi is the instrument of action, the text would exhibit the instrumental case instead of the nominative case 'by knowledge, and so on' (vijñānena instead of vijñānam).

Sutra 2,3.37

उपलब्धिवदनियमः ॥ ३७ ॥

upalabdhivadaniyamaḥ || 37 ||

upalabdhivat—As in the case of perception; aniyamaḥ—(there is) no rule (here also).

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

The Sūtra points out a difficulty which arises on the view of the Self not being an agent. Sūtra 32 has declared that if the Self were all-pervading it would follow that there would be no definite determination with regard to consciousness. Similarly, if the Self were not an agent but all activity belonged to Prakriti it would follow that as Prakriti is a common possession of all souls, all actions would result in enjoyment (experience) on the part of all souls, or else on the part of none; for as each Self is held to be omnipresent, they are all of them in equal proximity to all parts of the Pradhāna. For the same reason it could not be maintained that the distribution of results between the different souls depends on the different internal organs which are joined to the souls; for if the souls are omnipresent, no soul will be exclusively connected with any particular internal organ.

 Sutra 2,3.38

शक्तिविपर्ययात् ॥ ३८ ॥

śaktiviparyayāt || 38 ||

38. On account of the reversal of power (of the Buddhi, which is inadmissible).

If the internal organ were the agent, then--since it is impossible that a being other than the agent should be the enjoyer of the fruit of the action--the power of enjoyment also would belong to the internal organ, and would consequently have to be denied of the Self. But if this were so, there would be no longer any proof for the existence of the Self; for they expressly teach that 'the person (i.e. the soul) exists, on account of the fact of enjoyment.'

Sutra 2,3.39

समाध्यभावाच्च ॥ ३९ ॥

samādhyabhāvācca || 39 ||

samādhi-abhāvāt—On account of the impossibility of Samādhi; ca—and.

39. And on account of the impossibility of Samādhi.

If the internal organ were the agent, it would be such even in that final state of meditation, called samādhi, which is the instrument of Release. But that state consists therein that the meditating being realises its difference from Prakriti, and this is a conception which Prakriti itself (of which the internal organ is only a modification) cannot form. The Self alone, therefore, is the agent. But this would imply that the activity of the Self is never at rest! Of this difficulty the next Sūtra disposes.