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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-1-2

Topic 2 - The souls descending from heaven have a residual Karma, which determines their birth

Sutra 3,1.8

कृतात्ययेऽनुशयवान्, दृष्टस्मृतिभ्याम्, यथेतमनेवं च ॥ ८ ॥

kṛtātyaye’nuśayavān, dṛṣṭasmṛtibhyām, yathetamanevaṃ ca || 8 ||

kṛtātyaye—On the exhaustion of (good) work; anuśayavān—possessed of residual Karma; dṛṣṭasmṛtibhyām—as is known from the Śruti and Smriti; yathā etam—as (it) went; anevam—differently; ca—and.

8. On the exhaustion of (good) work (the soul) with the residual Karma (descends to this earth), as is known from the Śruti and Smriti, along the path (it) went by (from here) and differently too.

A fresh topic is taken up for discussion—the descent of the soul from heaven. The question is raised whether it descends with any residual Karma or not.

The opponent holds that there is no residual Karma, for Śruti says: “Having dwelt there till their work is consumed, they return again the way they went by” etc. (Chh. 5. 10. 5), which means that all their Karma is exhausted and there is nothing left.

Moreover, it is reasonable to think that Karma done in one life (as man) is worked out in the next as god.

The Sutra, refuting this view, says that what is exhausted in heaven is only that Karma which gave the soul a birth as god in heaven, but on the exhaustion of this Karma the remaining Karma, good and bad, brings it back to earth.

Otherwise it is difficult to explain the happiness or misery of a new-born child. Neither is it possible that in one life the entire Karma of the previous life is worked out.

For a man might have done both good work like sacrifices, as a result of which he is born as a god, and bad work, which can be worked out in an animal body; and the working out of both kinds of Karma simultaneously in one birth is impossible.

So though by the enjoyment of heaven the result of good work like sacrifices etc. is exhausted, there are other Karmas in store according to which a man is born again in good or bad environments.

The Śruti says, “Those whose conduct has been good will quickly attain some good birth” etc. (Chh. 5. 10. 7).

The Smriti also says, “With the remainder of their Karma they are born in a noteworthy place, caste, and family, with becoming appearance, longevity, knowledge, wealth, happiness, and intellect.”

So the soul is born with residual Karma. By what way does it descend?

Following the same way that it went by, but with some difference.

That they follow the same way as they went by, is understood from the mention of smoke and ether in the path, (Vide Chh, 5. 10. 5), and that there is some difference too is known from the fact that the text omits night etc. (Vide Chh. 5. 10. 3), but mist etc. are mentioned (Vide Chh. 5. 10. 6).

 Sutra 3,1.9

चरणादिति चेत्, न, उपलक्षणार्थेति कार्ष्णाजिनिः ॥ ९ ॥

caraṇāditi cet, na, upalakṣaṇārtheti kārṣṇājiniḥ || 9 ||

caraṇāt—On account of conduct; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; upalakṣaṇārthā—to denote indirectly; iti—thus; kārṣṇājiniḥ—Kârshnâjini (thinks).

9. If it be said that on account of conduct (the assumption of residual Karma is not necessary for a rebirth on earth), (we say) not so, (for the word ‘conduct’ is used) to denote indirectly (the remaining Karma). So (thinks) Kārṣnājini.

In the text cited (Chh. 5. 10. 7) the Śruti says those of ‘good conduct’ get a good birth.

Now conduct is one thing, and residual Karma quite another thing, even according to the Śruti (Vide Brih. 4. 4. 5).

Since the Śruti does not mention residual Karma, the soul is not born with any Karma, conduct alone being the cause of good birth. This is the main objection.

This the Sutra refutes and says that ‘conduct’ here is used to denote good Karma. It is a case of Arahat Lakṣaṇā, conduct standing for Karma which is dependent on good conduct.

This is the view of the sage Kārṣnājini.

Sutra 3,1.10

आनर्थक्यमिति चेत्, न, तदपेक्षत्वात् ॥ १० ॥

ānarthakyamiti cet, na, tadapekṣatvāt || 10 ||

ānarthakyam—Irreievancy; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; tadapekṣatvāt—on account of dependence on that.

10. If it be said (by such interpretation of the word ‘conduct’ good conduct would become) purposeless, (we say) not so, on account of (Karma) being dependent on that (good conduct).

An objection is raised that if the word ‘conduct’ be interpreted indirectly to mean ‘residual Karma’, leaving its direct meaning, then good conduct would be purposeless in man’s life, as it has no result of its own, not being a cause of the quality of the new birth.

The Sutra denies this on the ground that only those who are of good conduct are expected to perform Vedic sacrifices. “Him who is devoid of good conduct the Vedas do not purify.” Thus good conduct is an aid to Karma and therefore has a purpose.

So it is the view of Kārṣnājini that it is Karma and not conduct that is the cause of the new birth.

Sutra 3,1.11

सुकृतदुष्कृते एवेति तु बादरिः ॥ ११ ॥

sukṛtaduṣkṛte eveti tu bādariḥ || 11 ||

sukṛtaduṣkṛte—Good and evil work; eva—merely; iti—thus; bādariḥ—Bādari.

11. But (conduct) is merely good and evil work; thus (the sage) Bādari (thinks).

This Sutra says that as a matter of fact there is no difference between conduct and Karma in common parlance, for people say of a person who performs sacrifices etc. “That man practises righteousness,” showing thereby that ‘conduct’ is used in the general sense of action.

Thus ‘men of good conduct’ means those whose actions (Karma) are praiseworthy.

Therefore it is settled that those who go to heaven performing sacrifices have residual Karma as the cause of a new birth on earth.