II-3 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 17

Topic 17 - Relation of the individual soul to Brahman

Sutra 2,3.43

अंशो नानाव्यपदेशात्, अन्यथा चापि
दाशकितवादित्वमधीयत एके ॥ ४३ ॥

aṃśo nānāvyapadeśāt, anyathā cāpi
dāśakitavāditvamadhīyata eke || 43 ||

aṃśaḥ—Part; nānāvyapadeśāt—on account of difference being declared; anyathā—otherwise; ca—and; api—also; dāśakitavāditvam—being fishermen, knaves, etc.; adhīyate—read; eke—some (Sâkhâs of the Vedas).

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

The Sūtras have declared that the individual soul is an agent, and as such dependent on the highest Person. The following question now arises--Is the individual soul absolutely different from Brahman? or is it nothing else than Brahman itself in so far as under the influence of error? or is it Brahman in so far as determined by a limiting adjunct (upādhi)? or is it a part (amśa) of Brahman?--The doubt on this point is due to the disagreement of the scriptural texts.--But this whole matter has already been decided under Sū. II, 1, 22.--True. But as a difficulty presents itself on the ground of the conflicting nature of the texts-- some asserting the difference and some the unity of the individual soul and Brahman--the matter is here more specially decided by its being proved that the soul is a part of Brahman. As long as this decision remains unsettled, the conclusions arrived at under the two Sūtras referred to, viz. that the soul is non- different from Brahman and that Brahman is 'additional' to the soul, are without a proper basis.

Let it then first be said that the soul is absolutely different from Brahman, since texts such as 'There are two, the one knowing, the other not knowing, both unborn, the one strong, the other weak' (Svet. Up. I, 9) declare their difference. Texts which maintain the non-difference of a being which is knowing and another which is not knowing, if taken literally, convey a contradiction--as if one were to say, 'Water the ground with fire'!-and must therefore be understood in some secondary metaphorical sense. To hold that the individual soul is a part of Brahman does not explain matters; for by a 'part' we understand that which constitutes part of the extension of something. If, then, the soul occupied part of the extension of Brahman, all its imperfections would belong to Brahman. Nor can the soul be a part of Brahman if we take 'part' to mean a piece (khāṇḍa); for Brahman does not admit of being divided into pieces, and moreover, the difficulties connected with the former interpretation would present themselves here also. That something absolutely different from something else should yet be a part of the latter cannot in fact be proved.

Or else let it be said that the soul is Brahman affected by error (bhrama). For this is the teaching of texts such as 'Thou art that'; 'this Self is Brahman.' Those texts, on the other hand, which declare the difference of the two merely restate what is already established by perception and the other means of knowledge, and therefore are shown, by those texts the purport of which it is to teach non-duality not established by other means, to lie--like perception and the other means of knowledge themselves--within the sphere of Nescience.

Or let it be assumed, in the third place, that the individual soul is Brahman as determined by a beginningless limiting adjunct (upādhi). For it is on this ground that Scripture teaches the Self to be Brahman. And that upādhi must not be said to be a mere erroneous imagination, for on that view the distinction of bondage, release, and so on, would be impossible.

Against all these views the Sūtra declares that the soul is a part of Brahman; since there are declarations of difference and also 'otherwise,' i.e. declarations of unity. To the former class belong all those texts which dwell on the distinction of the creator and the creature, the ruler and the ruled, the all-knowing and the ignorant, the independent and the dependent, the pure and the impure, that which is endowed with holy qualities and that which possesses qualities of an opposite kind, the lord and the dependent. To the latter class belong such texts as 'Thou art that' and 'this Self is Brahman.' Some persons even record that Brahman is of the nature of slaves, fishermen, and so on. The Ātharvanikas, that is to say, have the following text,' Brahman are the slaves. Brahman are these fishers,' and so on; and as Brahman there is said to comprise within itself all individual souls, the passage teaches general non-difference of the Self. In order, then, that texts of both these classes may be taken in their primary, literal sense, we must admit that the individual soul is a part of Brahman. Nor is it a fact that the declarations of difference refer to matters settled by other means of knowledge, such as perception and so on, and on that account are mere reiterations of something established otherwise (in consequence of which they would have no original proving force of their own, and would be sublated by the texts declaring non-duality). For the fact that the soul is created by Brahman, is ruled by it, constitutes its body, is subordinate to it, abides in it, is preserved by it, is absorbed by it, stands to it in the relation of a meditating devotee, and through its grace attains the different ends of man, viz. religious duty, wealth, pleasure and final release--all this and what is effected thereby, viz. the distinction of the soul and Brahman, does not fall within the cognisance of perception and the other means of proof, and hence is not established by something else. It is therefore not true that the texts declaring the creation of the world, and so on, are mere reiterations of differences established by other means of authoritative knowledge, and hence have for their purport to teach things that are false.--[Nor will it do to say that the texts declaring duality teach what indeed is not established by other means of knowledge but is erroneous.] 'Brahman conceives the thought of differentiating itself, forms the resolution of becoming many, and accordingly creates the ether and the other elements, enters into them as individual soul, evolves all the different forms and names, takes upon himself all the pleasures and pains which spring from experiencing the infinite multitude of objects thus constituted, abides within and inwardly rules all beings, recognises itself in its Jīva-condition to be one with the universal causal Brahman, and finally accomplishes its release from the samsāra and the body of sacred doctrine by which this release is effected'--all this the Veda indeed declares, but its real purport is that ail this is only true of a Brahman under the influence of an illusion,and therefore is unreal!--while at the same time Brahman is defined as that the essential nature of which is absolutely pure intelligence! Truly, if such were the purport of the Veda, what more would the Veda be than the idle talk of a person out of his mind!

Nor finally is there any good in the theory of the soul being Brahman in so far as determined by a limiting adjunct. For this view also is in conflict with the texts which distinguish Brahman as the ruling and the soul as the ruled principle, and so on. One and the same Devadatta does not become double as it were--a ruler on the one hand and a ruled subject on the other--because he is determined by the house in which he is, or by something else.

In order to be able to account for the twofold designations of the soul, we must therefore admit that the soul is a part of Brahman.

Sutra 2,3.44

मन्त्रवर्णाच्च ॥ ४४॥

mantravarṇācca || 44 ||

mantravarṇāt—From the words of the Mantra; ca—also.

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

'One part (quarter) of it are all beings, three feet (quarters) of it are the Immortal in heaven' (Kh. Up. III, 12, 6)--on account of this mantra also the soul must be held to be a part of Brahman. For the word 'foot' denotes a part. As the individual souls are many the mantra uses the plural form 'all beings.' In the Sūtra (42) the word 'part' is in the singular, with a view to denote the whole class. For the same reason in II, 3, 18 also the word 'atman' is in the singular. For that the individual Selves are different from the Lord, and are many and eternal, is declared by texts such as 'He who, eternal and intelligent, fulfils the desires of many who likewise are eternal and intelligent' (Ka. Up. II, 5, 13). Since thus the plurality of the eternal individual Selves rests on good authority, those who have an insight into the true nature of Selves will discern without difficulty different characteristics distinguishing the individual Selves, although all Selves are alike in so far as having intelligence for their essential nature. Moreover the Sūtra II, 3, 48 directly states the plurality of the individual Selves.

Sutra 2,3.45

अपि च स्मर्यते ॥ ४५ ॥

api ca smaryate || 45 ||

api—Also; ca—and; smaryate—it is (so) stated in the Smriti.

45. And it is also (so) stated in the Smriti.

Smriti moreover declares the individual soul to be a part of the highest Person, 'An eternal part of myself becomes the individual soul (Jīva) in the world of life' (Bha. Gī. XV, 7). For this reason also the soul must be held to be a part of Brahman.

But if the soul is a part of Brahman, all the imperfections of the soul are Brahman's also! To this objection the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 2,3.46

प्रकाशादिवन्नैवं परः ॥ ४६ ॥

prakāśādivannaivaṃ paraḥ || 46 ||

prakāśādivat—Like light etc. na—is not; evaṃ—like this; paraḥ—the Supreme Lord.

46. The Supreme Lord is not (affected by pleasure and pain) like this (individual soul), even as light etc. (are not affected by the shape of the things they touch).

The 'but' discards the objection. 'Like light and so on.' The individual soul is a part of the highest Self; as the light issuing from a luminous thing such as fire or the sun is a part of that body; or as the generic characteristics of a cow or horse, and the white or black colour of things so coloured, are attributes and hence parts of the things in which those attributes inhere; or as the body is a part of an embodied being. For by a part we understand that which constitutes one place (deśa) of something, and hence a distinguishing attribute (viśeṣaṇa) is a part of the thing distinguished by that attribute. Hence those analysing a thing of that kind discriminate between the distinguishing clement or part of it, and the distinguished element or part. Now although the distinguishing attribute and the thing distinguished thereby stand to each other in the relation of part and whole, yet we observe them to differ in essential character. Hence there is no contradiction between the individual and the highest Self--the former of which is a viśeṣaṇa of the latter--standing to each other in the relation of part and whole, and their being at the same time of essentially different nature. This the Sūtra declares 'not so is the highest,' i.e. the highest Self is not of the same nature as the individual soul. For as the luminous body is of a nature different from that of its light, thus the highest Self differs from the individual soul which is a part of it. It is this difference of character--due to the individual soul being the distinguishing clement and the highest Self being the substance distinguished thereby--to which all those texts refer which declare difference. Those texts, on the other hand, which declare non-difference are based on the circumstance that attributes which are incapable of separate existence are ultimately bound to the substance which they distinguish, and hence are fundamentally valid. That in declarations such as 'Thou art that' and 'this Self is Brahman,' the words thou and Self, no less than the words that and Brahman, denote Brahman in so far as having the individual souls for its body, and that thus the two sets of words denote fundamentally one and the same thing, has been explained previously.

Sutra 2,3.47

स्मरन्ति च ॥ ४७ ॥

smaranti ca || 47 ||

smaranti—The smritis state; ca—and.

47. The Smṛti also state (that).

That the world and Brahman stand to each other in the relation of part and whole, the former being like the light and the latter like the luminous body, or the former being like the power and the latter like that in which the power inheres, or the former being like the body and the latter like the soul; this Parāsara also and other Smriti writers declare, 'As the light of a fire which abides in one place only spreads all around, thus this whole world is the power (śakti) of the highest Brahman.' The 'and' in the Sūtra implies that scriptural texts also ('of whom the Self is the body' and others) declare that the individual Self is a part of Brahman in so far as it is its body.

But if all individual souls are equal in so far as being alike parts of Brahman, alike actuated by Brahman, and alike knowing subjects, what is the reason that, as Scripture teaches, some of them are allowed to read the Veda and act according to its injunctions, while others are excluded therefrom; and again that some are to see, feel, and so on, while others are excluded from these privileges?--This question is answered by the next Sūtra.

 Sutra 2,3.48

अनुज्ञापरिहारौ देहसम्बन्धाज्ज्योतिरादिवत् ॥ ४८ ॥

anujñāparihārau dehasambandhājjyotirādivat || 48 ||

anujñāparihārau—Injunctions and prohibitions; dehasambandhāt—on account of the connection with the body; jyotirādi-vat—like light etc.

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

Although all souls are essentially of the same nature in so far as they are parts of Brahman, knowing subjects and so on, the permissions and exclusions referred to are possible for the reason that each individual soul is joined to some particular body, pure or impure, whether of a Brāhmaṇa or Kshattriya or Vaisya or Śūdra, and so on. 'As in the case of fire and so on.' All fire is of the same kind, and yet one willingly fetches fire from the house of a Brāhmaṇa, while one shuns fire from a place where dead bodies are burnt. And from a Brāhmaṇa one accepts food without any objection, while one refuses food from a low person.

Sutra 2,3.49

असन्ततेश्चाव्यतिकरः ॥ ४९ ॥

asantateścāvyatikaraḥ || 49 ||

asantateḥ—Non-extension (beyond its own body); ca—and; avyatikaraḥ—there is no confusion (of results of actions).

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

Although the souls, as being parts of Brahman and so on, are of essentially the same character, they are actually separate, for each of them is of atomic size and resides in a separate body. For this reason there is no confusion or mixing up of the individual spheres of enjoyment and experience. The Sūtrakāra introduces this reference to an advantage of his own view of things, in order to intimate that the views of the soul being Brahman deluded or else Brahman affected by a limiting adjunct are on their part incapable of explaining how it is that the experiences of the individual Self and the highest Self, and of the several individual Selves, are not mixed up.

But may not, on the view of the soul being Brahman deluded, the distinction of the several spheres of experience be explained by means of the difference of the limiting adjuncts presented by Nescience?-- This the next Sūtra negatives.

Sutra 2,3.50

आभास एव च ॥ ५० ॥

ābhāsa eva ca || 50 ||

ābhāsaḥ—A reflection; eva—only; ca—and.

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

The argumentation by which it is sought to prove that that being whose nature is constituted by absolutely uniform light, i.e. intelligence, is differentiated by limiting adjuncts which presuppose an obscuration of that essential nature, is a mere apparent(fallacious) one. For, as we have shown before, obscuration of the light of that which is nothing but light means destruction of that light.--If we accept as the reading of the Sūtra 'ābhāsāh' (in plural) the meaning is that the various reasons set forth by the adherents of that doctrine are all of them fallacious. The 'and' of the Sūtra is meant to point out that that doctrine, moreover, is in conflict with texts such as 'thinking himself to be different from the Mover'(Svet. Up. I, 6); 'there are two unborn ones, one a ruler, the other not a ruler' (I, 9); 'of those two one eats the sweet fruit' (V, 6); and others. For even if difference is due to upādhis which are the figment of Nescience, there is no escaping the conclusion that the spheres of experience must be mixed up, since the theory admits that the thing itself with which all the limiting adjuncts connect themselves is one only.

But this cannot be urged against the theory of the individual soul being Brahman in so far as determined by real limiting adjuncts; for on that view we may explain the difference of spheres of experience as due to the beginningless Adriṣṭas which are the cause of the difference of the limiting adjuncts!--To this the next Sūtra replies.

Sutra 2,3.51

अदृष्टानियमात् ॥ ५१ ॥

adṛṣṭāniyamāt || 51 ||

adṛṣṭa-aniyamāt—There being no fixity about the unseen principle.

51. There being no fixity about the unseen principle (there would result that confusion for those who believe in many souls, each all-pervading).

As the Adriṣṭas also which are the causes of the series of upādhis have for their substrate Brahman itself, there is no reason for their definite allotment(to definite individual souls), and hence again there is no definite separation of the spheres of experience. For the limiting adjuncts as well as the Adriṣṭas cannot by their connexion with Brahman split up Brahman itself which is essentially one.

Sutra 2,3.52

अभिसन्ध्यादिष्वपि चैवम् ॥ ५२ ॥

abhisandhyādiṣvapi caivam || 52 ||

abhisandhyādiṣu—In resolve; api—even; ca—and; evam—like this.

52. And even as regards resolve etc., (it would be) like this.

For the same reason there can be no definite restriction in the case of purposes and so on which are the causes of the different Adriṣṭas. (For they also cannot introduce plurality into Brahman that is fundamentally one.)

Sutra 2,3.53

प्रदेशादिति चेत्, न, अन्तर्भावात् ॥ ५३ ॥

pradeśāditi cet, na, antarbhāvāt || 53 ||

pradeśāt—From (difference of) place; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; antarbhāvāt—on account of the self being in all bodies.

53. 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.

Although Brahman is one only and not to be split by the several limiting adjuncts with which it is connected, yet the separation of the spheres of enjoyment is not impossible since the places of Brahman which are connected with the upādhis are distinct.--This the Sūtra negates on the ground that, as the upādhis move here and there and hence all places enter into connexion with all upādhis, the mixing up of spheres of enjoyment cannot be avoided. And even if the upādhis were connected with different places, the pain connected with some particular place would affect the whole of Brahman which is one only.--The two Sūtras II, 3, 32 and 37 have stated an objection against those who, without taking their stand on the Veda, held the view of an all-pervading soul. The Sūtras II, 3, 50 and ff., on the other hand, combat the view of those who, while basing their doctrine on the Veda, teach the absolute unity of the Self.--Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'the part.'