Do all VedAnta philosophies, that is, philosophies based on badarAyana's brahma sutra, reject creation of souls by God?


1 Answer 1


Yes, all Vedantic philosophies say the Jiva does not originate from Brahman. In Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras, the defining text of the Vedanta school, Vyasa says this:

Topic-11: Origin of the Soul
17. The individual soul has no origin; because the Upanishads do not mention this, because its eternality is known from them and (because of other reasons).

All the commentators on the Brahma Sutras agree on this issue. Here is what Adi Shankaracharya says in this section of his Brahma Sutra Bhashya:

There is a Self called the living one (the individual soul), which rules the body and the senses, and is connected with the fruits of actions. With regard to that Self the conflict of scriptural passages suggests the doubt, whether it is produced from Brahman like ether and the other elements, or if, like Brahman itself, it is unproduced. Some scriptural passages, by comparing it to sparks proceeding from a fire and so on, intimate that the living soul is produced from Brahman; from others again we learn that the highest Brahman, without undergoing any modification, passes, by entering into its effects (the elements), into the condition of the individual soul. These latter passages do not thus record an origination of the individual soul....

To all this we reply, that the individual soul is not a product.--Why?--On account of the absence of scriptural statement. For in the chapters which treat of the creation, the production of the soul is, in most cases, not mentioned.--But, it was admitted above that the circumstance of something not being stated in some places does not invalidate the statements made about it elsewhere.--True, that was admitted; but we now declare that the production of the soul is not possible.--Why?--'On account of the eternity, &c., resulting from them' (i.e. the scriptural passages). The word '&c.' implies non-originatedness and similar attributes.... From all this it follows that the individual soul does not either originate or undergo destruction.

Here is what Ramanujacharya says in this section of his Sri Bhashya:

The Sûtras so far have stated that this entire world, from Ether downwards, originates from the highest Brahman. It now becomes a matter for discussion whether the individual soul also originates in the same way or not.... To this the Sûtra replies, 'Not the Self, on account of scriptural statement.' The Self is not produced, since certain texts directly deny its origination; cp. 'the intelligent one is not born nor does he die' (Ka. Up. I, 2, 18); 'There are two unborn ones, one intelligent and strong, the other non-intelligent and weak' (Svet. Up. I, 9). And the eternity of the soul is learned from the same texts, cp. 'There is one eternal thinker,' &c. (Ka. Up. II,5, 13); 'Unborn, eternal, everlasting is that ancient one; he is not killed though the body is killed' (Ka. Up. I, 2, 18).--For these reasons the soul is not produced.... Texts such as 'Pragâpati sent forth the creatures,' which declare the origination of the soul, really mean only to state that the souls are by turns associated with or dissociated from bodies--the effect of which is that their intelligence is either contracted or expanded.

Here is what Madhvacharya says in this excerpt from his Brahma Sutra Bhashya:

By the text "He who is the eternal of the eternal" (Kath. V. 13), the indestructability has been said of the individual soul too. There is another text which says, "All these intelligent beings proceed (from their mother's womb)" hence there is a conflict between the texts. To reconcile them, the Sutrakara says: ... Though the soul is eternal, still it is possible to speak of him as being born, with reference to the (embodied) condition (to which he is subjected). And this is said in the Vyoma Samhita. "From the eternal Lord the eternal beings of intelligence are born. It is with reference to the condition of their bodily existence, birth or creation is predicated of them (souls)."

Here is what Baladeva Vidyabhushana says in this excerpt from the Govinda Bhashya:

Because he is the origin of everything, the Supreme Personality of Godhead has no other origin from which He was created. This has already been described. Now we will determine the nature of the individual spirit soul. Fist the idea that the individual soul has an origin will be refuted.... The individual spirit soul was never created. Why not? The Sutra explains: "shruteh" (because of the statements of Shruti-shastra). In Katha Upanishad (1.2.18) it is said: ... "O wise one, for the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." That the individual spirit soul was never born is also declares in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad (1.9) ... "Neither the Supreme Personality of Godhead nor the individual spirit souls were ever born."

Here is what Srikantha Shivacharya says in this excerpt from the Srikantha Bhashya:

In the former section, Akasha, etc., are said to have been born directly from Brahman. Here a doubt arises as to whether, on the same principle, jiva also is born of Brahman or not.... Atman is not born; for the shruti declares "the intelligent has neither born nor death;" ... The Shruti illustrating creation by sparks of fire only points to their manifestation in name and form, but not to their birth; otherwise it would involve the fallacy of one's deeds being destroyed without yielding their fruits, and to other such fallacies. Wherefore jiva is not born of Brahman.

Finally, here is what Nimbarka says in this excerpt from his Vedanta Parijata Saurabha:

The individual soul does not originate. Why? Because there is no text about its having origin by nature; and because from the scriptural texts 'A wise man is neither born nor dies' (Katha. 2.18) 'Eternal among the eternal' (Katha 5.13) 'An unborn one, verily, lies by, enjoying' (Shvet. 4.5) and so on, the eternity of the individual soul is known.

These are all the commentaries on the Brahma Sutras I have, and they're unanimous in their conclusion.

By the way, you may be wondering, if the Jiva is eternal and never originated from Brahman, what has it been doing with its time? As I discuss in this answer, it has taken infinitely many births going infinitely far back in time, without any starting point. Here is what Adi Shankaracharya says in another section of his Brahma Sutra Bhashya:

[F]or although the activity of the soul is not independent, yet the soul does act. The Lord indeed causes it to act, but it acts itself. Moreover, the Lord in causing it to act now has regard to its former efforts, and he caused it to act in a former existence, having regard to its efforts previous to that existence; a regressus against which, considering the eternity of the samsâra, no objections can be raised.

On a side note, there are some people who accept the authority of the Upanishads but not the Brahma Sutras. This applies to many philosophical Shaivites, for instance many adherents of Shaiva Siddhanta sect as I discuss here. Now there are some Shaiva Siddhantins who do subscribe to the Vedanta school, like Srikantha Shivacharya whom I quoted above. But others reject the Brahma Sutras, and in particular the Saiva Siddhanta Church believes that the Jiva does originate from Brahman as I discuss here. But if we are defining the Vedanta school in terms of adherence to the Brahma Sutras, then the Vedanta school is unanimous in its verdict that the Jiva never originated from Brahman.

  • Great answer, thanks. I am new here so I am not sure whether digression is allowed in comments but this reminded me. Didn't one of the reason adi sankara gave for ishvara is that some power/supervisor is needed for deeds to get their results or something similar. It feels like idea of brahman and idea of law of karma are central unquestionable concepts in Hinduism. When shrutis seem to conflict like with issue of soul creation, interpretation which agrees with law of karma is accepted. Other religions would have given "God's creative power" more importance!
    – Aks
    Jun 8, 2016 at 15:18

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