Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 2-3-14

Topic 14 - The individual soul as agent

Sutra 2,3.33

कर्ता, शास्त्रार्थवत्त्वात् ॥ ३३ ॥

kartā, śāstrārthavattvāt || 33 ||

kartā—Agent; śāstrārthavattvāt—in order that the scriptures may have a meaning.

33. (The soul is) an agent, on account of scriptural (injunctions) having a meaning on that ground only.

The question as regards the size of the soul has been settled. Now another characteristic of the soul is taken up for discussion.

The individual soul is an agent for only on that basis do scriptural injunctions like, “He is to sacrifice” etc. have a sense.

In these the Śruti enjoins certain acts to be done by the agent and if the soul be not an agent these injunctions would become meaningless.

 Sutra 2,3.34

विहारोपदेशात् ॥ ३४ ॥

vihāropadeśāt || 34 ||

vihāra-upadeśāt—On account of the Śruti teaching wandering about.

34. And on account of (the Śruti) teaching (its) wandering about.

It, taking the organs, moves about as it pleases in its own body” (Brill. 2. I. 18).

This text which describes the wandering of the soul in the dream state clearly shows that it is an agent.

Sutra 2,3.35

उपादानात् ॥ ३५ ॥

upādānāt || 35 ||

35. On account of its taking (the organs).

The text quoted in the last Sutra also shows that the soul in dream state takes the organs with it, thereby declaring that it is an agent.

 Sutra 2,3.36

व्यपदेशाच्च क्रियायाम्, न चेन्निर्देशविपर्ययः ॥ ३६॥

vyapadeśācca kriyāyām, na cennirdeśaviparyayaḥ || 36 ||

vyapadeśāt—On account of mention; ca—also; kriyāyām—in respect of action; na cet—if it were not so; nirdeśa-viparyayaḥ—the reference (would have been) of a different kind.

36. Also on account of the (the scriptures) mentioning (the soul as an agent) with respect to action. If it were not so, the reference (would have been) of a different kind.

Intelligence performs sacrifices, and it also performs all acts” (Taitt. 2. 5).

Here by ‘intelligence’ the soul is meant and not the Buddhi, thereby showing that the soul is an agent.

If the intention of the Śruti were to refer to the Buddhi then it would have used the word not in the nominative case, but in the instrumental case, as ‘by intelligence,’ meaning, through its instrumentality, as it has done elsewhere in similar circumstances. Vide Kau. 3. 6.

Sutra 2,3.37

उपलब्धिवदनियमः ॥ ३७ ॥

upalabdhivadaniyamaḥ || 37 ||

upalabdhivat—As in the case of perception; aniyamaḥ—(there is) no rule (here also).

37. As in the case of perception, (there is) no rule (here also).

An objection is raised that if the soul were a free agent, then it would have performed only what is beneficial to it, and not both good and bad deeds.

This objection is being refuted. Just as the soul, although it is free, perceives both agreeable and disagreeable things, so also it does both good and bad deeds. There is no rule that it should do only what is good and avoid what is bad.

 Sutra 2,3.38

शक्तिविपर्ययात् ॥ ३८ ॥

śaktiviparyayāt || 38 ||

38. On account of the reversal of power (of the Buddhi, which is inadmissible).

If the Buddhi, which is an instrument, becomes the agent and ceases to function as an instrument, we shall have to imagine some other thing as the instrument.

Hence the dispute is only as regards terms, for in either case an agent different from the instrument has to be admitted.

Sutra 2,3.39

समाध्यभावाच्च ॥ ३९ ॥

samādhyabhāvācca || 39 ||

samādhi-abhāvāt—On account of the impossibility of Samādhi; ca—and.

39. And on account of the impossibility of Samādhi.

If the soul is not an agent, then the realization prescribed by texts like, “The Ātman is to be realized” (Brih. 2. 4. 5), through Samādhi would be impossible.

It will not be capable of activities like “hearing, reasoning, and meditation” that lead to Samādhi, in which state perfect Knowledge dawns. Therefore there will be no Liberation for the soul.

So it is established that the soul alone is the agent, and not the Buddhi.