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Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 4-2 6-11

Topic 6 - The Prāṇas of a knower of the Nirguna Brahman do not depart from the body at death

Sutra 4,2.12

प्रतिषेधादिति चेत्, न, शारीरात् ॥ १२ ॥

pratiṣedhāditi cet, na, śārīrāt || 12 ||

pratiṣedhāt—On account of denial; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; śārīrāt—from the individual soul.

12. If it be said (that the Prāṇas of a knower of Brahman do not depart), on account of the Śruti denying it; (we say) not so, (because the scripture denies the departure of the Prāṇas) from the individual soul (and not from the body).

This Sutra gives the view of the opponent.

His Prāṇas do not depart” (Brih. 4. 4. 6). This text refers to a knower of the Nirguna Brahman. It says that his Prāṇas do not depart at death. The opponent holds that the denial of the departure of the Prāṇas is from the soul and not from the body.

It says that the Prāṇas do not depart from the soul—not that they do not depart from the body, for in the latter case there will be no death at all.

This is made all the more clear from the Mādhyandina recension, which says, “From him” etc. Therefore the soul of one who knows Brahman passes out of the body with the Prāṇas.

Sutra 4,2.13

स्पष्टो ह्येकेषाम् ॥ १३ ॥

spaṣṭo hyekeṣām || 13 ||

spaṣṭaḥ—Clear; hi—for; ekeṣām—of some (schools).

13. For (the denial of the departure) is clear (in the texts) of some (schools).

This Sutra refutes the view of the previous one by connecting the denial to the body and not to the soul.

That the Prāṇas do not depart from the body is made clear from Śruti texts like,

 “‘Yājñyavalkya’, said he, ‘When this (liberated) man dies, do his Prāṇas go up from him, or do they not?’ ‘No’ replied Yājñyavalkya, ‘they merge in him only’” etc. (Brih. 3. 2. 11).

Therefore we have to take even the Mādhyandina reading ‘from him’ to refer to the body.

It is not true that if the Prāṇas do not depart there will be no death, for they do not remain in the body, but get merged, which makes life impossible, and we say in common parlance that the person is dead.

Moreover, if the Prāṇas did depart with the soul from the body, then a rebirth of such a soul would be inevitable, and consequently there would be no Liberation.

So the Prāṇas do not depart from the body in the case of the knower of Brahman.

Sutra 4,2.14

स्मर्यते च ॥ १४ ॥

smaryate ca || 14 ||

smaryate—The Smriti says (so); ca—and.

14. And the Smriti (also) says (so).

The gods themselves are perplexed, looking for the path of him who has no path” (Mbh. 12. 270. 22)

which thus denies departure for the knower of Brahman.

Topic 7 - The organs of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman get merged in It at death

Sutra 4,2.15

तानि परे, तथाह्याह ॥ १५ ॥

tāni pare, tathāhyāha || 15 ||

tāni—Those; pare—in the Supreme Brahman; tathā—so; hi—for; āha—(the scripture) says.

15. Those (Prāṇas) (are merged) in the Supreme Brahman, for so (the scripture) says.

This Sutra describes what happens to the Prāṇas (organs) and the fine essence of the gross elements in which they abide, in the case of a knower of Brahman who dies.

These organs and the elements get merged in the Supreme Brahman: “The sixteen digits of this witness, the Purusha, having their goal in Him are dissolved on reaching Him” (Pr. 6. 5).

The text, “All the fifteen parts of their body enter into their causes” etc. (Mu. 3. 2. 7) gives the end from a relative standpoint, according to which the body disintegrates and goes back to its cause, the elements.

The former text speaks from a transcendental standpoint, according to which the whole aggregate is merged in Brahman, even as the illusory snake is merged in the rope when knowledge dawns.

Topic 8 - The digits (Kalās) of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman attain absolute non-distinction with Brahman at death

Sutra 4,2.16

अविभागः, वचनात् ॥ १६ ॥

avibhāgaḥ, vacanāt || 16 ||

avibhāgaḥ—Non-distinction; vacanāt—on account of the statement (of the scriptures).

16. (Absolute) non-distinction (with Brahman of the parts merged takes place) according to the statement (of the scriptures).

Their names and forms are destroyed, and people speak of the Purusha only. Then he becomes devoid of digits and immortal” (Pr. 6. 5). The digits get absolutely merged in the Supreme Brahman.

The merging in the case of the knower of Brahman is absolute, whereas in the case of an ordinary person it is not so; they exist in a fine potential state, the cause of future rebirth.

But in the case of the knower of Brahman, Knowledge having destroyed ignorance, all these digits which are but its effects, get merged absolutely, without any chance of cropping up again.

Topic 9 - The soul of the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman comes to the heart at the time of death and thence goes out through the Sushumnā

Sutra 4,2.17

तदोकोऽग्रज्वलनं तत्प्रकाशितद्वारः, विद्यासामर्थ्यात्
तच्छेषगत्यनुस्मृतियोगाच्च हार्दानुगृहीताः शताधिकया ॥ १७ ॥

tadoko’grajvalanaṃ tatprakāśitadvāraḥ, vidyāsāmarthyāt
taccheṣagatyanusmṛtiyogācca hārdānugṛhītāḥ śatādhikayā || 17 ||

tat-okaḥ-agrajvalanam—The illumining of the top of its (soul’s) abode (the heart); tat-prakāśitat-hāraḥ—with the passage illumined by this light; vidyā-sāmarthyāt—owing to the efficacy of knowledge; tat-śeṣa-gati-anusmṛti-yogāt—because of the appropriateness of constant meditation of the way which is a part of that knowledge; ca—and; hārdānugṛhītāḥ—being favoured by Him who resides in the heart; śatādhikayā—by the one that is beyond the hundred.

17. (When the soul of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman is about to depart from the body, there is) the illumining of the top of its abode (the heart);

with the passage (for the exit of the soul) illumined by this light (the soul departs), being favoured by Him who resides in the heart,

along that nerve which is beyond the hundred (i.e. the hundred and first nerve or the Sushumnā) owing to the efficacy of the knowledge and the appropriateness of his constant meditation on the way which is a part of that knowledge.

This Sutra describes the exit from the body of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman.

It has already been stated in Sutra 7 that till the soul’s entering on the path, the mode of departure of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman and an ignorant man is the same.

The Brihadāraṇyaka text describing the death of a person says, “When this self becomes weak and senseless, as it were, the organs come to it ... it comes to the heart” (Brih. 4. 4. 1);

again, “The top of the heart brightens. Through that brightened top the self departs, either through the eye, or through the head, or through any other part of the body” (Brih. 4. 4. 2).

These texts show that at the time of death the soul together with the organs comes to the heart.

At that moment the departing soul, on account of its past works, has a peculiar consciousness picturing to it its next life, and goes to the body which is revealed by that consciousness. This is what is referred to as the illumining of the top of the heart.

With this particular consciousness the soul goes out, along one of the nerves that issue from the heart, to the eyes, or ears, or the skull, or other parts of the body, which it finally leaves through that particular exit.

The question now is whether this departure is the same for a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman and an ordinary man.

This Sutra says that though the illumining of the top of the heart is common to both, yet the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman, through the grace of the Lord who abides in the heart, departs through the skull only, while others depart through other parts.

This is consistent with his knowledge and constant meditation on the way out through the hundred and first nerve, the Sushumnā.

The following text elucidates it: “There are a hundred and one nerves of the heart; one of them penetrates the head; going up along that, one attains Immortality; the others serving for departure in various directions” (Chh. 8. 6. 6.).

Topic 10 - The soul of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman follows the rays of the sun after death and goes to Brahmaloka

Sutra 4,2.18

रश्म्यनुसारी ॥ १८ ॥

raśmyanusārī || 18 ||

raśmi-anusārī—Following the rays.

18. (The soul of a knower of the Saguṇa Brahman when he dies) follows the rays (of the sun).

In the Chāṇḍogya Upanishad we have, “... so do these rays of the sun go to both the worlds, this as well as the other. They proceed from the sun and enter into these nerves” (8. 6. 2);

again, “When he thus departs from this body, then along these very rays he proceeds upwards” etc. (8. 6. 5).

In these texts we learn that the soul of the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman, after departing from the body along the Sushumnā, follows the rays of the sun.

A doubt arises whether the soul of one who passes away in the night also follows the rays.

The Sutra says that the soul, whether it departs in the night or during the day, follows the rays.

Sutra 4,2.19

निशि न इति चेत्, न, सम्बन्धस्य यावद्देहभावित्वाद्, दर्शयति च ॥ १९ ॥

niśi na iti cet, na, sambandhasya yāvaddehabhāvitvād, darśayati ca || 19 ||

niśi—In the night; na—not; iti cet—if it be said; na—not; sambandhasya yāvat-deha-bhāvitvād—because the connection continues as long as the body lasts; darśayati— (the Śruti) declares; ca—also.

19. If it be said (that the soul does) not (follow the rays) in the night, (we say) not so, because the connection (of the nerves and the rays) continues as long as the body lasts; (the Śruti) also declares (this).

The text quoted in the last Sutra, Chh. 8.6.2, shows that the connection between the rays and the nerves lasts as long as the body lasts. So it is immaterial whether the soul passes out by day or by night.

Moreover, the sun’s rays continue even during the night, though we do not feel their presence owing to the fact that at night their number is limited.

The Śruti also says, “Even by night the sun sheds his rays.” The result of knowledge cannot be made to depend on the accident of death by day or night.

Topic 11 - The soul of the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman goes to Brahmaloka even if he should die during the southern course of the sun

Sutra 4,2.20

अतश्चायने’पि दक्षिणे ॥ २० ॥

ataścāyane’pi dakṣiṇe || 20 ||

ataḥ—For the same reason; —and; ayane—during the sun’s course; api—even; dakṣiṇe—southern.

20. And for the same reason (the soul follows the rays) even during the sun’s southern course.

An objection is raised by the opponent that the soul of the knower of Brahman who passes away during the southern course of the sun does not follow the rays to Brahmaloka, as both the Śruti and Smriti say that only one who dies during the northern course of the sun goes there.

Moreover, it is also written that Bhīshma waited for the northern course of the sun to leave the body.

This Sutra says that for the same reason as mentioned in the last Sutra, i.e. the unreasonableness of making the result of knowledge depend on the accident of death happening at a particular time,

the knower of the Saguṇa Brahman goes to Brahmaloka even if he should die during the southern course of the sun.

In the text, “Those who know thus ... go to light, from light to day, from day to the bright half of the month, and from that to the six months of the northern course of the sun” (Chh. 5. 10. 1), the points in the northern course of the sun do not refer to any division of time but to deities as will be shown under 4. 3. 4.

Bhīśma’s waiting, however, was for upholding approved custom and for showing that on account of his father’s boon he could die at will.

Sutra 4,2.21

योगिनः प्रति च स्मर्येते, स्मार्ते चैते ॥ २१ ॥

yoginaḥ prati ca smaryete, smārte caite || 21 ||

yoginaḥ prati—With respect to the Yogis; ca—and; smaryete—the Smriti declares; smārte—belonging to the class of Smriti; ca—and; ete—these two.

21. And (these times) the Smriti declares with respect to the Yogis; and these two (Yoga and Sānkhya according to which they practise Sādhana) are classed as Smṛiti (and not Śrutis).

In the Gītā we have passages which declare that persons who die during the day etc. do not return any more to this mortal world. Vide Gītā 8. 23, 24. On the strength of these texts, the opponent says that the decision of the previous Sutra cannot be correct.

This Sutra refutes that objection saying that these details as to time mentioned in the Gītā apply only to Yogis who practise Sādhana according to Yoga and Sānkhya systems; and these two are Smṛiti, not Śrutis.

Hence the limitations as to time mentioned in them do not apply to those who meditate on the Saguṇa Brahman according to the Śruti texts.