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The past eternity of souls, that is, the concept that souls have always existed from eternity is clearly well attested in Bhagavat Gita

न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपाः |
न चैव न भविष्याम: सर्वे वयमत: परम् ||2.12||

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.

Brahma Sutras, probably on which Bhagavat Gita is based also says this in Vaisamyanairghrinyadhikaranam.

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Brahma sutras and Bhagavat Gita are said to be based on Vedas and Upanishads and is a summary of the same. So where in Vedas and Upanishads is the past eternity of souls mentioned?

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Eternality of souls implies that there is no first birth and no first Karma. There is no first karma. No one set in motion the law of karma since the transmigratory state has no beginning.

If it be argued that it is not possible (to take Karma - merit and demerit - into consideration in the beginning), since the fruits of work remain still undifferentiated, then we say, no, since the transmigratory state has no beginning.

Brahma Sutra II.i.35

...the transmigratory state has no beginning. .... if that state has no beginning, there is nothing contradictory for the fruits of work and the variety in creation to act as cause and effect of each other on the analogy of the seed and the sprout.

How again is it known that this transmigratory state has no beginning?

To this the answer is:

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankarachary II.i.35

Moreover, this is logical, and (so) it is met with (in the scriptures).

Brahma Sutra II.i.36

And it is logical for the transmigratory existence to have no beginning; for had it emerged capriciously all of a sudden, then there would have been the predicament of freed souls also being reborn here, as also the contingency of results accruing from non-existing causes, for the differences in happiness and misery would have no logical explanation. It has been pointed out already that God is not the cause of inequality, nor is ignorance by itself a source of this, it being homogeneous. Ignorance can at best become creator of inequality in consequence of the fruits of work, which are acquired as a result of the influence of past impressions of the three infatuations - love, hatred, and delusion. The fallacy of mutual dependence does not arise from the impossibility of bodies being created without karma and karma being performed without bodies; for if creation is beginningless, all this become reasonable on the analogy of the seed and the sprout, and hence there will be no defect.

And we realize the beginningless of creation from the Vedas and the Smritis. In the Vedas, for instance, occurs the text, "Myself entering into this as the embodied soul (Jiva-atma - living being)" (Chandogya Upanishad Vi.iii.2). Referring to the beginning of creation, this text speaks of the embodied soul as the "living being" on account of its sustaining life, and thereby it shows that creation had no beginning; for if creation had a beginning then, since the soul had no life to sustain (at that time), why should the "living being" have been referred to in that text through the word jiva (living one) which comes into use from the fact of supporting the life process (jivana)? It cannot be that the term jiva is used in anticipation that it will support life in future; for an existing relationship is stronger than future one, inasmuch as the former is an accomplished fact. And the mantra text, "The Ordainer created the sun and moon like those of the previous cycles (Rig Veda X.cxc.3) shows the existence of earlier cycles of creation. In the Smriti also the transmigratory state is noticed to be without beginning, as in "Its form is not here perceived as such, neither its end, nor its origin, nor its continuance" (Gita XV.3). The conclusion made in the Puranas also is that the past and future cycles of creation are numberless.

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya II.i.36

A possible interpretation of the above commentary

In the first paragraph of Sri Sankaracharya's commentary he is arguing that first creation will violate the principle of regularity. Any irregular event like first creation will make any logical explanation of happiness and misery impossible.

In the second paragraph he is quoting from various scriptures to support his position. The quotes given by Sankaracharya supporting eternality of jivas are Chandogya Upanishad vi.iii.2, Rig Veda X.cxc.3 and Gita XV.3.

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So where in Vedas and Upanishads is the past eternity of souls mentioned?

Not directly but Upanishads mention that Prakriti, Jivatma and Paramatma are eternal.

SVETÂSVATARA-UPANISHAD 1:9. Knowledge (Ishwara) and ignorance (Jivatma) are the two unborn ones. One is the ruler and the other, the ruled. Apart from these two, there is another (Prakriti) who is also unborn and who is connected with the enjoyer and his enjoyment. And then there is the infinite self, the universal form, who is non-doer. When one knows this triad, one has known Brahman.

Jiva is busy in enjoying Prakriti but when he realize the Ishwara, he become free.

SVETÂSVATARA-UPANISHAD 4:6. Two birds, inseparable friends, cling to the same tree. One of them eats the sweet fruit, the other looks on without eating. 7. On the same tree man sits grieving, immersed, bewildered, by his own impotence (Jivatma). But when he sees the other lord (îsavra) contented, and knows his glory, then his grief passes away.

Mandukya Upanishad 3.1.1. Two birds, inseparable companions, perch on the same tree,one eats the fruit, the other looks on. The first bird is our individual self feeding on the pleasures and pains of this world; The other is the universal Self, silently witnessing all.

The following Mantra describes how one Jivatma is busy in enjoying Prakriti while the one who has realized the Supreme Being is free now.

SVETÂSVATARA-UPANISHAD 4:5. Unborn (Prakriti), one, red, white and black, you create many offspring similar in form to you. One unborn (Jivatma) lies there enjoying and the other unborn having enjoyed, gives her up.

Both Jivatma and Atma are inseparable (remain together forever) and eternal. But one is the controller of Maya (Prakriti) while the other one is under it's control.

Same thing is there in vedas.

Rigveda 1:CLXIV:20. Two Birds with fair wings, knit with bonds of friendship, in the same sheltering tree have found a refuge. One of the twain eats the sweet Fig-tree's fruitage; the other eating not regardeth only.

21 Where those fine Birds hymn ceaselessly their portion of life eternal, and the sacred synods, There is the Universe's mighty Keeper, who, wise, hath entered into me the simple.

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  • Good answer I don't know why the other answer without clear vedic text reference is still accepted this why
    – Prasanna R
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 19:03

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