Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-3-13

Topic 13 - The size of the individual soul

Sutra 2,3.19

उत्क्रान्तिगत्यागतीनाम् ॥ १९ ॥

utkrāntigatyāgatīnām || 19 ||

utkrānti-gati-āgatīnām—Passing out, going, and returning.

19. (As the Śruti texts declare the soul’s) passing out, going (to other spheres) and returning (thence), (the soul is not infinite in size).

From this up to Sutra 82 the question of the size of the soul--whether it is atomic, medium-sized or infinite—is discussed.

We have in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad: “He is the one God…all-pervading” (6. 11); and again: “This Ātman is atomic” (Mu. 3. 3. 9). The two texts contradict each other and we have to arrive at a decision on the point.

Sutras 20-28 set forth the prima facie view. The opponent says, we find in the scriptures texts mentioning the soul’s passing out of the body, going to heaven etc., and returning from there.

This is possible only if the soul is atomic, and not infinite or all-pervading; for to an infinite soul there can be no going and coming. Therefore the soul is atomic.

 Sutra 2,3.20

स्वात्मना चोत्तरयोः ॥ २० ॥

svātmanā cottarayoḥ || 20 ||

svātmanā—(Being connected) directly with their agent; ca—and; uttarayoḥ—the latter two;

20. And the latter two (the going and coming) (being connected) directly with their agent (the soul), (it is of atomic size).

Even if the soul is infinite, still it can be spoken of as passing out of the body, if by that term is meant ceasing to be the ruler of the body.

But the two latter activities, i.e. the going and coming, are not possible for an entity that is all-pervading. So the soul is atomic in size.

 Sutra 2,3.21

नाणुरतच्छ्रुतेर् इति चेत्, न, इतराधिकारात् ॥ २१ ॥

nāṇuratacchruter iti cet, na, itarādhikārāt || 21 ||

na aṇuḥ—Not atomic; atat-śruteḥ—as the scriptures state it to be otherwise; iti cet—if it be said; na—not so; itarā-dhikārāt—owing to a principle other than the individual soul being the subject-matter (in these texts).

21. If it be said (that the soul is) not atomic, as the scriptures state it to be otherwise (i.e. all-pervading), (we say) not so, for (the one) other than the individual soul (i.e. Supreme Brahman) is the subject-matter (in those texts).

Śruti texts like, “He is the one God ... all-pervading” (Svet. 6. II), refer not to the individual soul, but to the Supreme Lord, who is other than the individual soul and forms the chief subject-matter of all the Vedānta texts; for that is the one thing that is to be known, and is therefore propounded by all the Vedānta texts.

Sutra 2,3.22

स्वशब्दोन्मानाभ्यां च ॥ २२ ॥

svaśabdonmānābhyāṃ ca || 22 ||

svaśabda-unmānābhyām—From direct statements (of the Śruti texts) and infinitesimal measure; ca—and.

22. And on account of direct statements (of the Śruti texts as to the atomic size) and infinitesimal measure (the soul is atomic).

This Ātman is atomic” (Mu. 3. 1. 9). Again we have, “That individual soul is to be known as part of the hundredth part of the tip of a hair divided a hundred times” (Svet. 5. 9), which shows that the soul is smaller than even the smallest.

Hence the soul is atomic in size.

 Sutra 2,3.23

अविरोधश्चन्दनवत् ॥ २३ ॥

avirodhaścandanavat || 23 ||

avirodhaḥ—No contradiction; candanavat—like sandal-paste.

23. There is no contradiction, like sandal-paste.

Even as sandal-paste applied to any particular part of the body gives an agreeable sensation all over the body, even so the soul, though of atomic size and therefore occupying only one part of the body, may experience happiness and misery extending over the entire body.

Sutra 2,3.24

अवस्थितिवैशेष्यादिति चेत्, न, अभ्युपगमाद्धृदि हि ॥ २४ ॥

avasthitivaiśeṣyāditi cet, na, abhyupagamāddhṛdi hi || 24 ||

avirodhaḥ—No contradiction; candanavat—like sandal-paste.

24. If it be said that on account of the particular position (of the sandal-paste in the body the analogy is not just), (we say) not so, on account of the admission (by the scriptures of a special seat for the soul, i.e.) in the heart alone.

A possible objection is raised by the opponent against his own view.

In the case of the sandal-paste we see that it occupies a particular part of the body and yet gladdens the whole body.

But in the case of the soul we do not know that it occupies a particular place, and in the absence of that we cannot infer that like the sandal-paste it must occupy a particular portion of the body and therefore be atomic. For even an all-pervading soul or a soul pervading the whole body like the skin can give rise to the same result.

So in the absence of any proof it is difficult to settle the size of the soul.

This objection the opponent refutes by saying that such Śruti texts as, “The self-effulgent one within the heart” (Brih. 4. 3. 7) declare that the soul has a particular abode in the body, i.e. the heart, and hence it is atomic.

Sutra 2,3.25

गुणाद्वा लोकवत् ॥ २५ ॥

guṇādvā lokavat || 25 ||

guṇāt—Owing to (its) quality; —or; lokavat—as in the world;

25. Or owing to (its) quality (i.e. intelligence) as in the world.

This Sutra gives another argument to show how an atomic soul can have experience throughout the body.

In the world we find that a light placed in one corner of a room illumines the whole room.

So also the soul, though atomic and therefore occupying a particular portion of the body, may, because of its quality of intelligence, which pervades the whole body, experience pleasure and pain throughout the body.

 Sutra 2,3.26

व्यतिरेको गन्धवत् ॥ २६ ॥

vyatireko gandhavat || 26 ||

vyatirekaḥ—The extension beyond (the object i.e. the soul); gandhavat—like odour.

26. The extension (of the quality of intelligence) beyond (the soul, in which it inheres) is like odour (which extends beyond the fragrant object).

We find that the sweet odour of flowers extends beyond them to the surrounding region.

Even so the intelligence of the soul, which is atomic, extends beyond the soul and pervades the whole body.

Sutra 2,3.27

तथा च दर्शयति ॥ २७ ॥

tathā ca darśayati || 27 ||

tathā—Thus; ca—also; darśayati—(the Śruti) shows or declares.

27. Thus also (the Śruti) declares.

The Śruti also declares that it is by the quality of intelligence that the atomic soul pervades the whole body. For instance, it says:

Just so has the intelligent self penetrated this body up to the very hairs and the finger nails” (Kau. 4. 20).

 Sutra 2,3.28

पृथगुपदेशात् ॥ २८ ॥

pṛthagupadeśāt || 28 ||

pṛthak—Separate; upadeśāt—on account of the teaching.

28. On account of the separate teaching (of the Śruti) (that the soul so pervades the body owing to its quality of intelligence).

A further argument is given to establish the proposition of the last Sutra.

The text, “Having by Prajñā (intelligence) taken possession of the body” (Kau. 3. 6), shows that intelligence is different from the soul, being related as instrument and agent, and that with this quality the soul pervade the whole body.

Sutra 2,3.29

तद्गुणसारत्वात् तु तद्व्यपदेशः, प्राज्ञवत् ॥ २९ ॥

tadguṇasāratvāt tu tadvyapadeśaḥ, prājñavat || 29 ||

tadguṇasāratvāt—On account of its having for its essence the qualities of that (i.e. the Buddhi); tu—but; tadvyapadeśaḥ—that declaration (as to its atomic size); prājñavat—even as the Intelligent Lord (is declared to be atomic).

29. But that declaration (as to the atomic size of the soul) is on account of its having for its essence the qualities of that (i.e. the Buddhi), even as the Intelligent Lord (Brahman, which is all-pervading, is declared to be atomic).

The word ‘but’ refutes all that has been said in Sutras 19-28, and decides that the soul is all-pervading, because the all-pervading Brahman Itself is said to have entered the universe as the individual soul, which again is stated to be identical with It.

How then is the soul declared to be atomic?

Such declarations are on account of its preponderating in the qualities of the Buddhi (intellect) so long as it is imagined to be connected with the latter and in bondage. Passing out, going and coming are qualities of the Buddhi and are only imputed to the individual soul.

For the same reason also, i.e. limitation of the intellect, is the Ātman regarded as atomic. It is like imagining the all-pervading Lord as limited for the sake of Upāsanā, devout meditation.

Sutra 2,3.30

यावदात्मभावित्वाच्च न दोषः, तद्दर्शनात् ॥ ३० ॥

yāvadātmabhāvitvācca na doṣaḥ, taddarśanāt || 30 ||

yāvat-ātmabhāvitvāt—So long as the sould (in its relative aspect) exists; ca—and; na doṣaḥ—there is no defect; taddarśanāt—because it is so seen (in the scriptures).

30. And there is no defect (in what has been said in the previous Sutra), (as the conjunction of the soul with the intellect exists) so long as the soul (in its relative aspect) exists: because it is so seen (in the scriptures).

An objection might be raised against what has been said in the previous Sutra that since the conjunction of the soul and the intellect, which are different entities, must necessarily come to an end some time, the soul, when so disjoined from the Buddhi, will either cease to exist altogether or at least cease to be a Samsārin (individualized).

This Sutra replies: There can be no such defect in the argument of the previous Sutra, for this connection with the intellect lasts so long as the soul’s state of Samsāra is not destroyed by the realization of supreme Knowledge.

How is this known?

It is known from the declaration of the scriptures that even at death this connection is not severed:

This infinite entity that is identified with the intellect .... Assuming the likeness of the intellect it moves between the two worlds, it thinks, as it were, it moves, as it were,” (Brih. 4. 3. 7).

The terms “thinks, as it were”, “moves, as it were” also mean that the self does not think and move on its own account, but only through its association with the intellect.

Sutra 2,3.31

पुंस्त्वादिवत् त्वस्य सतोऽभिव्यक्तियोगात् ॥ ३१ ॥

puṃstvādivat tvasya sato’bhivyaktiyogāt || 31 ||

puṃstvādivat—Like virility etc.; tu—verility; asya—its (i.e. of the connection with the intellect); sataḥ—existing; abhivyaktiyogāt—on account of the manifestation being possible.

31. On account of the manifestation (of the connection with the intellect in the awakened state) being possible only on its existing (potentially in Suṣupti), like virility etc.

An objection is raised that in Suṣupti or deep sleep there can be no connection with the intellect, for it is said, “Then he becomes united with the True, he is gone to his own” (Chh. 6. 8. 1); how then can it be said that this connection lasts so long as the individualized state exists.

This Sutra refutes it and says that even in Suṣupti this connection exists in a fine or potential form. But for this it could not have become manifest in the awakened state.

Virile power becomes manifest in youth only if it exists in a potential condition in the child. So this connection with the intellect lasts so long as the individualized state exists.

Sutra 2,3.32

वान्यथा ॥ ३२ ॥

vānyathā || 32 ||

nityopalabdhi-anupalabdhi-prasaṅgaḥ—There would result perpetual perception or non-perception; anyataraniyamaḥ—limitation of the power of either of the two; —or else; vānyathā—otherwise;

32. Otherwise (i.e. if the intellect or mind be not accepted) there would result either perpetual perception or perpetual non-perception, or else the limitation of the power of either of the two (i.e. the soul or the senses).

What is the necessity of accepting an internal organ (Antahkaraṇa), of which the intellect is only a mode?

The Sutra says that if it be not accepted, the senses being always in contact with their objects, there would always result perception of everything, for all the requisites, i.e. the soul, the senses, and the objects, are present.

If, however, this be denied, then it would mean that knowledge can never result, and nothing would ever be cognized.

So the opponent will have to accept the limitation of the power either of the soul or of the senses.

Such a thing is not possible in the Ātman, which is changeless. Nor can it be said that the power of the senses, which is not impeded either in the previous moment or in the subsequent moment, is so limited in the middle.

Hence we have to accept an internal organ (Antahkaraṇa), through whose connection and disconnection perception and non-perception take place. The Śruti also refers to a common experience of ours, “I was absent-minded, I did not hear it” (Brih. 1. 5. 3).

Hence there exists an internal organ, of which the intellect is a mode, and it is the connection with this that causes the Ātman to appear as the individualized soul, as explained in Sutra 29.