III-1 Śrī Bhāshya | Rāmānuja | 6

Topic 6 - When the souls enter into plants etc. they only get connected with them and do not participate in their life

Sutra 3,1.24

अन्याधिष्ठिते पूर्ववत्, अभिलापात् ॥ २४ ॥

anyādhiṣṭhite pūrvavat, abhilāpāt || 24 ||

anya-adhiṣṭhite—Into what is ruled by another; pūrvavat—as in the previous cases; abhilāpāt—for so the Śruti states.

24. (The descending soul enters) into what is ruled by another (Jīva or soul) as in the previous cases (i.e. becoming ether etc.); for so the Śruti states.

The text declares that (he descending souls are born as rice, corn, etc., 'they are born here as rice, corn, herbs, trees,' etc. The question here is whether the souls cling to plants animated by other souls which have those plants for their bodies; or whether the descending souls themselves are born with those plants for their bodies.--The latter view is the right one; for the text says, 'they are born as rice, grain,' and so on, and this expression is of the same kind as when we say 'he is born as a man, as a deva,' and so on. The text therefore means that the souls are embodied in the different plants.--This view the Sūtra rejects. The souls merely cling to those plants which constitute the bodies of other souls; 'since the statement is as in the previous cases,' i.e. because the text only says that the souls become plants as it had previously been said that they become ether, and so on. Where the text means to say that the soul enters on the condition of an enjoying soul (i.e. of a soul assuming a new body for the purpose of retributive enjoyment), it refers to the deeds which lead to such enjoyment; so e. g. in the passage, 'Those whose works have been good obtain a good birth,' etc. But in the text under discussion there is no such reference to karman. For those works--viz. sacrifices and the like--which were undertaken with a view to reward, such as enjoyment of the heavenly world, are, in the case of the descending souls, completely wiped out by the enjoyment of the heavenly world (which precedes the descent of the souls); and those works on the other hand, the action of which has not yet begun, lead to the embodiments mentioned further on ('Those whose works are good'). And in the interval between those two conditions no new karman originates. When, therefore, the text says that the souls are born as plants, the statement cannot be taken in its literal sense.

Sutra 3,1.25

अशुद्धमिति चेत्, न, शब्दात् ॥ २५ ॥

aśuddhamiti cet, na, śabdāt || 25 ||

aśuddham—Unholy; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; śabdāt—on account of scriptural authority.

25. If it be said (that sacrifices, which entail the killing of animals etc.) are unholy, (we say) not so, on account of scriptural authority.

The conclusion arrived at above cannot be accepted, since there is a reason why the descending soul should enter on the condition of an enjoying soul. Such works as sacrifices, the fruit of which is the enjoyment of the heavenly world, are mixed with evil, for they imply injury to living beings as in the case of the goat offered to Agnīshomau. And such injury is evil as it is forbidden by texts such as 'let him not harm any creature.' Nor can it be said that the injunctions of sacrificing animals constitute exceptions to the general rule of not harming any creature.--For the two injunctions refer to different things. The injunction to kill the goat for Agniṣṭoma intimates that the killing of the animal subserves the accomplishment of the sacrifice, while the injunction not to 'harm' teaches that such harming has disastrous consequences. Should it be said that the prohibition of harming does not refer to such actions as the sacrifice of the goat which proceed on the basis of scriptural injunction, but only to such actions as spring from natural passion or desire (rāga); we remark that in the case of sacrifices also the action is equally prompted by natural desire. Injunctions such as 'He who desires the heavenly world is to sacrifice', teach that sacrifices are to be undertaken by persons desirous of certain pleasant results, and such persons having thus learned by what means the result is to be accomplished proceed to action from the natural desire of the result. This applies to the killing of the goat also which is offered to Agniṣṭoma; man learns from Scripture that such actions help to accomplish the sacrifice which effects the result, and then performs those actions from natural desire. The case in no way differs from that of harm done in ordinary life--where the agent always is prompted by natural desire, having somehow arrived at the conclusion that his action will accomplish something aimed at by himself. The same holds good with regard to works of permanent obligation. Men learn from Scripture that through the performance of the special duties of their caste they attain happiness of the highest kind, and then apply themselves to their duties from a natural desire of such happiness, and therefore such works also are mixed with evil. Hence the souls of those who have performed sacrifices, and so on, which contain an element of evil, at first experience in the heavenly world that result which is to be enjoyed there, and then embodying themselves in non-moving things such as plants, experience the fruit of that part of their actions which is of a harmful nature. That embodiment in non-moving beings is the result of evil deeds Smriti declares: 'Owing to those defects of work which are due to the body, a man becomes a non-moving being.' From all this it follows that the souls embody themselves in plants to the end of enjoying the fruits of their works.--To this the Sūtra replies--it is not so, on account of scriptural statement. For Scripture declares that the killing of sacrificial animals makes them to go up to the heavenly world, and therefore is not of the nature of harm. This is declared in the text, 'The animal killed at the sacrifice having assumed a divine body goes to the heavenly world'; 'with a golden body it ascends to the heavenly world.' An action which is the means of supreme exaltation is not of the nature of harm, even if it involves some little pain; it rather is of beneficial nature.--With this the mantra also agrees: 'Thou dost not die, thou goest to the gods on easy paths; where virtuous men go, not evil-doers, there the divine Savitri may lead thee.' An act which has a healing tendency, although it may cause a transitory pain, men of insight declare to be preservative and beneficial.

Sutra 3,1.26

रेतः सिग्योगोऽथ ॥ २६ ॥

retaḥ sigyogo’tha || 26 ||

retaḥ sika-yogo—Connection with one who performs the act of generation; atha—then.

26. Then (the soul gets) connected with him who performs the act of generation.

The declaration that the descending souls become rice plants, and so on, cannot be taken literally for that reason also, that the text afterwards declares them to become those who perform the act of generation: 'Whoever the being may be that eats the food and begets offspring, that being he (i.e. the soul that has descended) becomes.' Now the meaning of this latter text can only be that the soul enters into conjunction with the creature which eats the grain; and hence we have to interpret the previous text, as to the soul's becoming a plant, in the same way.

Sutra 3,1.27

योनेः शरीरम् ॥ २७ ॥

yoneḥ śarīram || 27 ||

yoneḥ—From the womb; śarīram—body.

27. From the womb a (new) body (results).

Only after having reached a yoni the soul, affected with a remnant of its works, obtains a new body, and only in a body there can be the enjoyment of pleasure and pain. When, therefore, previous to that the soul is said to reach ether, wind, and so on, this can only mean that it enters into conjunction with them.-- Here terminates the Adhikaraṇa of 'that animated by another soul.'