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  By Edwin Arnold

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  Ramanuja SriBhashya


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Ramanujacharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya translated By George Thibaut
SriBhashya - Ramanuja's Commentary On Brahma Sutra (Vedanta Sutra)

Sri Bhashya (also spelled as Sri Bhasya) is a commentary of Ramanujacharya on the Brama Sutras (also known as Vedanta Sutras) of Badarayana. In this bhashya, Ramanuja presents the fundamental philosophical principles of Visistadvaita based on his interpretation of the Upanishads, Bhagavad-gita and other smrti texts. In his Sri-bhashya he describes the three categories of reality (tattvas): God, soul and matter, which have been used by the later Vaisnava theologians including Madhva. The principles of bhakti as a means to liberation were also developed.

33. (The soul is) an agent, on account of Scripture (thus) having a purport.

It has been shown that the individual Self is a knowing subject and atomic. Now the question arises whether that Self is an agent or, being itself non-active, erroneously ascribes to itself the activity of the non-sentient gunas. The primâ facie answer is that the individual Self is not an agent, since the sacred texts concerned with the Self declare that the Self does not act, while the gunas do act. Thus, e.g. in the Kathavallî, where the text at first denies of the individual Self all the attributes of Prakriti, such as being born, ageing and dying ('he is not born, he does not die'), and then also denies that the Self is the agent in acts such as killing and the like, 'If the slayer thinks that he slays, if the slain thinks that he is slain, they both do not understand; for this one does not slay, nor is that one slain' (I, 2, 19). This means--if one thinks the Self to be the slayer one does not know the Self. And the Lord himself teaches that non-agency is the essential nature of the individual soul, and that it is mere delusion on the Self's part to ascribe to itself agency. 'By the attributes (guna) of Prakriti, actions are wrought all round.' He who is deluded by self-conceit thinks 'I am the agent'; 'when the seer beholds no other agent than the gunas'; 'Prakriti is said to be the cause of all agency of causes and effects, whilst the soul is the cause of all enjoyment of pleasure and pain' (Bha. Gî. III, 27; XIV, 19; XIII, 20).--The soul, therefore, is an enjoyer only, while all agency belongs to Prakriti--To this the Sûtra replies, 'an agent, on account of Scripture thus having a meaning.' The Self only is an agent, not the gunas, because thus only Scripture has a meaning. For the scriptural injunctions, such as 'he who desires the heavenly world is to sacrifice,' 'He who desires Release is to meditate on Brahman,' and similar ones, enjoin action on him only who will enjoy the fruit

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of the action--whether the heavenly world, or Release, or anything else. If a non-sentient thing were the agent, the injunction would not be addressed to another being (viz. to an intelligent being--to which it actually is addressed). The term 'sâstra' (scriptural injunction) moreover comes from sâs, to command, and commanding means impelling to action. But scriptural injunctions impel to action through giving rise to a certain conception (in the mind of the being addressed), and the non-sentient Pradhâna cannot be made to conceive anything. Scripture therefore has a sense only, if we admit that none but the intelligent enjoyer of the fruit of the action is at the same time the agent. Thus the Pûrva Mimamsa declares 'the fruit of the injunction belongs to the agent' (III, 7, 18). The Pûrvapakshin had contended that the text 'if the slayer thinks, &c.,' proves the Self not to be the agent in the action of slaying; but what the text really means is only that the Self as being eternal cannot be killed. The text, from Smriti, which was alleged as proving that the gunas only possess active power, refers to the fact that in all activities lying within the sphere of the samsara, the activity of the Self is due not to its own nature but to its contact with the different gunas. The activity of the gunas, therefore, must be viewed not as permanent, but occasional only. In the same sense Smriti says 'the reason is the connexion of the soul with the guwas, in its births, in good and evil wombs' (Bha. Gî. XIII, 21). Similarly it is said there (XVIII, 16) that 'he who through an untrained understanding looks upon the isolated Self as an agent, that man of perverted mind does not see'; the meaning being that, since it appears from a previous passage that the activity of the Self depends on five factors (as enumerated in sl. 16), he who views the isolated Self to be an agent has no true insight.

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