Brahma Sutras – According to Shankara 3-3-16

Topic 16 - The discarding of good and evil by the knower of Brahman takes place at the time of death and not on his way to Brahmaloka

Sutra 3,3.27

सांपराये तर्तव्याभावात्, तथा ह्यन्ये ॥ २७ ॥

sāṃparāye tartavyābhāvāt, tathā hyanye || 27 ||

sāṃparāye—At the time of death; tartavya-abhāvāt—there being nothing to be attained; tathā—so also; hi— for; anye—others.

27. (He who attains Knowledge gets rid of his good and evil works) at the time of death, there being nothing to be obtained (by him on the way to Brahmaloka through works); for other texts also say so.

The question is raised as to when the individual soul gets rid of the effects of its good and evil works.

He comes to the river Virajā and crosses it by the mind alone, and there he shakes off good and evil” (Kau. 1. 4). On the basis of this text the opponent holds that the effects are got rid of on the way to Brahmaloka and not at the time of death.

This Sutra refutes it and says that the man of realization gets rid of them at the time of death.

The Sanchita and Āgamic Karma, (work) is destroyed with Knowledge and the Prārabdha is destroyed at death. So at the time of death he is rid of all effects of his good and evil deeds.

The reasons for this conclusion are: On the way to Brahmaloka, the destination of the knower of Brahman, it is not possible to discard good and evil effects for then the soul has no gross body, and so cannot practise any Sādhana that will destroy them.

Nor does the soul experience anything on the way, for which one would have to admit the persistence of good and evil till then. Rather they are destroyed by the Vidyā practised by the aspirant before he leaves the body.

The scripture also says, “Having shaken off his evil as a horse shakes off his hairs” etc. (Chh. 8. 13. 1). Moreover, it is not possible to cross the river Virajā unless one is free from all good and evil.

Therefore we have to take it that all the good and evil are discarded at the time of death and the Kaushitaki text has to be explained accordingly.

Sutra 3,3.28

छन्दतः, उभयाविरोधात् ॥ २८ ॥

chandataḥ, ubhayāvirodhāt || 28 ||

chandataḥ—According to his liking; ubhaya-avirodhāt—on account of there being harmony between the two.

28. (The interpretation that the individual soul practising Sādhana) according to his liking (gets rid of good and evil while living, is reasonable) on account of there being harmony (in that case) between the two (i.e. cause and effect as well as between the Chāṇḍogya and another Śruti).

Since the individual soul attains Brahman after death as a result of the Vidyā, why not understand that the getting rid of good and evil, the result of the Vidyā, is also attained after death?

Not so, for it is possible to practise Sādhana to one’s liking only during one’s life time, and from Sādhana alone results the destruction of good and evil.

And it is not reasonable to say that the cause being there, the effect is delayed till some time after death. Therefore there is harmony between the texts quoted above.

The attainment of Brahmaloka is not possible so long as there is a body, but there is no such difficulty about the shaking off of good and evil.