Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-1-6

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.

A view is put forward that the soul’s passage through the stages of corn etc. is not a mere connection with them, as in the earlier stages with ether etc., but that it is actually born in the form of corn etc. For the Śruti says, “Then he is born as rice” etc. (Chh. 5. 10. 6).

It also seems reasonable that those who fall from heaven after having exhausted their good deeds should be born as herbs, plants, etc., owing to their bad Karma such as the killing of animals that remains. So the word ‘born’ is to be taken literally.

The Sutra refutes this view and says that the word ‘born’ implies mere connection with corn, herbs, etc., which are animated by other souls actually born as such. For in these stages there is no reference to their Karma, even as in the earlier stages of ether etc.

They enter these plants etc. independently of their Karma, and while there, they do not experience the fruits at all.

Where birth in the primary sense takes place and experience of the fruits of action begins, it is made clear by a reference to Karma, as in, “Those whose conduct has been good will quickly attain a good birth” (Chh. 5. 10. 7).

Therefore the descending souls only dwell, as it were, in plants etc. animated by other souls till they get the opportunity for a new birth.

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.

This Sutra refutes the point raised by the opponent in the previous Sutra that the descending soul is enveloped by its bad Karma such as the killing of animals in sacrifices and so is born as herbs etc.

The killing of animals etc. in sacrifices does not entail any bad Karma for the person, for it is sanctioned by the scriptures.

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.

For whoever eats food and performs the act of generation, (the soul) becomes one with him” (Chh. 5. 10. 6).

Here the soul’s becoming literally identical with the person is impossible, and we have to understand that it gets connected with him.

This further proves that the soul’s becoming plants etc. in the immediately preceding stages is also mere connection with them and not actual birth as such.

Sutra 3,1.27

योनेः शरीरम् ॥ २७ ॥

yoneḥ śarīram || 27 ||

yoneḥ—From the womb; śarīram—body.

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

Finally the actual birth of the soul is referred to in this Sutra.

Till now it was only a connection with the successive stages, but now through its connection with a person performing the act of generation the soul enters the woman and there gets a new body fit for experiencing the results of its past residual Karma.