Sacred Texts  Hinduism  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, Commentary by Sankara (SBE38), tr. by George Thibaut [1896] at

p. 353

13. On the attainment of this (viz. Brahman) (there take place) the non-clinging and the destruction of later and earlier sins; this being declared (by scripture).

The supplement to the third adhyâya is finished herewith, and an inquiry now begins concerning the fruit of the knowledge of Brahman.--The doubt here presents itself whether, on the attainment of Brahman, sins the results of which are opposed in nature to such attainment are extinguished or not. They cannot possibly be extinguished, the pûrvapakshin maintains, before they have given their results, because the purpose of all works is their result. For we understand from scripture that work possesses the power of producing results; if, therefore, the work would perish without the enjoyment of its result, scripture would thereby be rendered nugatory. Smriti also declares that 'works do not perish.'--But from this it would follow that all scriptural instruction regarding expiatory ceremonies is meaningless!--This objection is without force, we reply, because expiatory ceremonies may be viewed as merely due to certain special occurrences; as is the case with the offering enjoined on the occasion of the house (of one who has established the sacred fireplace) being burned 1.--Let us moreover admit that expiatory ceremonies, because enjoined on account of a person being afflicted by some mischief, may be meant to extinguish that mischief. But there is no analogous injunction of the knowledge of Brahman.--But if we do not admit that the works of him who knows Brahman are extinguished, it follows that he must necessarily enjoy the fruits of his works and thus cannot obtain release!--This follows by no means; but in the same way as the results of works, release will take place in due dependence on place, time, and special causes.--For these reasons the obtainment of Brahman does not imply the cessation of (the consequences of) misdeeds.

p. 354

To this we make the following reply. On the obtainment of Brahman there take place the non-clinging (to the agent) of the posterior sins and the annihilation of anterior ones.--'On account of this being declared.' For in a chapter treating of the knowledge of Brahman scripture expressly declares that future sins which might be presumed to cling to the agent do not cling to him who knows: 'As water docs not cling to a lotus-leaf, so no evil deed clings to him who knows this' (Kh. Up. IV, 34, 3). Similarly scripture declares the destruction of previously accumulated evil deeds: 'As the fibres of the Ishîkâ reed when thrown into the fire are burned, thus all his sins are burned' (Kh. Up. V, 24, 3). The extinction of works the following passage also declares, 'The fetter of the heart is broken, all doubts are solved, extinguished are all his works when He has been beheld who is high and low' (Mu. Up. II, 1, 8).--Nor is there any force in the averment that the assumption of works being extinguished without their fruits having been enjoyed would render scripture futile. For we by no means deny the fruit-producing power of works; this power actually exists; but we maintain that it is counteracted by other causes such as knowledge. Scripture is concerned only with the existence of this power in general, not with its obstruction and non-obstruction. Thus also the Smriti passage, 'For work is not extinguished,' expresses the general rule; for as fruition of the result is the purpose of work, work is not extinguished without such fruition. But it is assumed that evil deeds are extinguished through expiatory ceremonies and the like, on account of scriptural and Smriti passages such as 'All sins transcends he, the murder of a Brâhmana transcends he who offers the asvamedha-sacrifice and who knows it thus' (Tai. Samh. V, 3, 12, 1).--Nor is there any truth in the assertion that expiatory ceremonies are due to certain special occurrences (without possessing the power of extinguishing the evil inherent in such occurrences). For as these expiatory acts are enjoined in connexion with evil events, we may assume that they have for their fruit the destruction of such evil,

p. 355

and are therefore not entitled to assume any other fruit.--Against the objection that knowledge is not actually enjoined with reference to the destruction of evil while expiatory acts are so enjoined, we make the following remark. In the case of the meditations on the qualified Brahman there exists such injunction, and the corresponding complementary passages declare that he who possesses such knowledge obtains lordly power and cessation of all sin. Now there is no reason why the passages should not expressly aim at declaring these two things 1, and we therefore conclude that the fruit of those vidyâs is the acquisition of lordly power, preceded by the annulment of all sin. In the case of vidyâs referring to Brahman devoid of qualities we indeed have no corresponding injunction; nevertheless the destruction of all works follows from the cognition that our true Self is not an agent. (With relation to these vidyâs about Brahman as devoid of qualities) the term 'non-clinging' shows that, as far as future works are concerned, he who knows Brahman does not enter at all into the state of agency. And as to works past, although he has entered as it were into that state owing to wrong knowledge, yet those works also are dissolved when, through the power of know ledge, wrong cognition comes to an end; this is conveyed by the term 'destruction.' 'That Brahman whose nature it is to be at all times neither agent nor enjoyer. and which is thus opposed in being to the (soul's) previously established state of agency and enjoyment, that Brahman am I; hence I neither was an agent nor an enjoyer at any previous time, nor am I such at the present time, nor shall I be such at any future time;' this is the cognition of the man who knows Brahman. And in this way only final release is possible; for otherwise, i.e. if the chain of works which have been running on from eternity could not be cut short, release

p. 356

could never take place.--Nor can final release be dependent on locality, time, and special causes, as the fruit of works is; for therefrom it would follow that the fruit of knowledge is non-permanent and cannot be.

It therefore is an established conclusion that on attaining Brahman there results the extinction of all sin.


353:1 Scripture enjoins the ishti in question merely on the occasion of the house being burned, not as annulling the mischief done.

355:1 I.e. there is no reason to assume that those passages mention the acquisition of lordly power and the cessation of sin merely for the purpose of glorifying the injunction, and not for the purpose of stating the result of our compliance with the injunction.

Next: IV, 1, 14