The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, Commentary by Sankara (SBE38), tr. by George Thibaut  at sacred-texts.com
40. And as the carpenter, in double fashion.
That the embodied Self is an agent, has been proved by the reasons set forth in Sûtra 33, &c. We now have to consider whether this agency depends on the fundamental nature of the Self, or is due to its limiting adjuncts.--If here it be maintained that for the same reasons which were employed to prove the Self's being an agent its agency must be held to be natural, there being no reasons to the contrary, we reply as follows.
The Self's being an agent cannot be founded on its real nature, because (if it were so) the impossibility of final release would follow. For if being an agent belongs to the soul's nature, it can never free itself from it--no more than fire can divest itself of heat--and as long as man has not freed himself from activity he cannot obtain his highest end, since activity is essentially painful.--But, an objection will be raised, the end of man may be obtained, even as long as the potentiality of activity remains, viz. by man avoiding the effects of activity, and this he may accomplish by avoiding its occasions, just as fire, for instance, although endowed with the potentiality of burning, does, if fuel is withheld from it, not produce its natural effect, i.e. burning.--This objection we invalidate by the remark that the occasions, because connected (with the soul) by means of the peculiar connexion called 'potentiality' (power), cannot be avoided absolutely 1.--Nor can it be said that release will be obtained through the means effecting it being employed, because whatever depends on means to be employed is non-eternal. Scripture moreover declares that release results from the instruction about the eternally pure, intelligent, free Self. Now instruction of this nature would not be possible, if the agentship of the Self formed part of its nature. The agentship of the Self is therefore due to the attributes of its adjuncts being ascribed to it, and does not form part of its nature. Hence scripture says of the Self, 'As if thinking, as if moving' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 7), and 'He (the Self) when in union with the body, the senses, and the mind, is called the enjoyer by wise people' (Ka. Up. I. 3, 4); which passages show that the Self passes into the special condition of being an enjoyer, &c., only through its
connexion with the limiting adjuncts. For to the discerning there is no Self called the living Self and being either agent or enjoyer, apart from the highest Self; according to the scriptural passage 'There is no other seer but he,' &c. (Bri. Up. III. 7, 23). Nor must we suppose that, if there were no intelligent individual Soul, different from the highest Self and distinct from the aggregate consisting of buddhi, &c., it would follow that the highest Self is involved in the samsâra-state as agent and enjoyer. For the conditions of being agent and enjoyer are presented by Nescience merely. Scripture also, after having declared (in the passage, 'For where there is duality, as it were, there one sees the other,' &c., Bri. Up. IV, 5, 15) that the conditions of being an agent and an enjoyer belong to the state of Nescience only, excludes them from the state of knowledge, 'But where the Self only is all this, how should he see another?' And again, after having declared that the Self, in the states of waking and of dreaming, suffers weariness owing to the contact with its limiting adjuncts, like a falcon flying about in the air, scripture teaches that that fatigue ceases in deep sleep when the soul is embraced by the intelligent (highest) Self. 'This indeed is his true form in which his wishes are fulfilled, in which the Self only is his wish, in which no wish is left,--free from any sorrow'--up to 'This is his highest goal, this is his highest success, this is his highest world, this is his highest bliss' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 21-32).--This the teacher intimates in the Sûtra, 'and as the carpenter in both ways.' 'And' is here used in the sense of 'but.' It is not to be supposed that the agentship of the Self belongs to its true nature, as heat belongs to the nature of fire. But just as in ordinary life a carpenter as long as working with his axe and other tools undergoes pain, while on the other hand he enjoys ease and leisure after having finished his work, laid his tools aside and returned to his home; so the Self also, as long as it is joined with duality presented by Nescience and is an agent in the states of waking and dreaming, undergoes pain; but as soon as, for the purpose of shaking off its weariness, it enters into its own highest Self, it frees itself from the complex of effects and instruments, and enjoys full ease in
the state of deep sleep. And in the state of final release also, the Self, having dispelled the darkness of ignorance by the light of knowledge, and having reached the state of absolute isolation and rest, enjoys full ease.--The case of the carpenter must be considered as being parallel to the following extent. The carpenter is, in certain kinds of work, such as cutting wood, &c., an agent with regard to certain definite tools, such as the axe and so on, but a non-agent with his mere body; so this Self also is an agent in all its functions with regard to its instruments, such as the mind, &c., but is a non-agent by its own Self. On the other hand, the Self has no parts corresponding to the hands and other limbs of the carpenter, by means of which it could take up or put aside its instruments, as the carpenter takes up and puts aside his tools.
In reply to the reasons brought forward in favour of the soul's agentship being natural, as, for instance, the reason based on scripture having a purport, we remark that the scriptural injunctions in prescribing certain acts presuppose an agentship established somehow, but do not themselves aim at establishing the (direct) agentship of the Self. Now we have shown that the agentship of the Self does not constitute part of its real nature because scripture teaches that its true Self is Brahman; we therefore conclude that the Vedic injunctions are operative with reference to that agentship of the soul which is due to Nescience. Such scriptural passages also as 'The agent, the person whose Self is understanding' (Pr. Up. IV, 9), must be assumed, because being of the nature of anuvâdas 1, to refer to an agentship already established elsewhere, and being the product of Nescience.
The preceding remarks refute also the reasons founded on 'the wandering about' and the 'taking' (Sûtras 34, 35), as the statements about them also are mere anuvâdas.--But an objection may be raised, the passage which teaches that the soul while its instruments are asleep, 'moves about,
according to its pleasure, within its own body' (Bri. Up. II. 1, 18), clearly implies that the pure Self is an agent. And in the passage relative to the taking ('(the purusha) having through the intelligence of the senses absorbed all intelligence'), the fact of the instruments appearing in the objective and instrumental cases likewise intimates that the pure Self is the agent.--To this we reply that even in the state of dream the instruments of the Self are not altogether at rest; for scripture states that even then it is connected with the buddhi, 'Having become a dream, together with buddhi it passes beyond this world.' Smriti also says, 'When, the senses being at rest, the mind not being at rest is occupied with the objects, that state know to be a dream.' And scripture says that desire, &c., are modifications of the mind (cp. Bri. Up. I, 5, 3). Now these are observed in dreams; therefore the Self wanders about in dreams together with the mind only. That wandering about moreover is founded on the mental impressions (vâsanâ) only, is not real. Thus scripture also in describing our doings in dreams qualifies them by an 'as it were:' 'As it were rejoicing together with women, or laughing as it were, or seeing terrible sights' (Bri. Up. IV, 3, 13). Ordinary people also describe their dreams in the same manner, 'I ascended as it were the summit of a mountain,' 'I saw a tree as it were.'--And although it is true that, in the statement about the taking, the instruments are exhibited in the objective and instrumental cases, still the agentship of the Self must be considered as connected with those instruments, since we have shown that the pure Self cannot be an agent.
In ordinary language also we meet with similar variations of expression; the two sentences, for instance, 'the warriors fight' and 'the king fights by means of his warriors,' really have the same meaning. Moreover, the statement about the taking means to express only the cessation of activity on the part of the instruments, not the independent activity of any one.--The passage referred to above, 'understanding performs the sacrifice,' establishes the agentship of the buddhi merely, as the word 'understanding' is known to
have that sense, and as the mind is mentioned close by, and as in the passage, 'Faith is its head,' &c., faith and so on are declared to be the members of the Self which consists of understanding, and as faith, &c., are known to be attributes of the buddhi. Another reason is furnished by the complementary sentence, 'All gods worship understanding as the oldest, as Brahman' (Taitt. Up. II, 5), for buddhi is known to be the oldest, i.e. the first produced 1. Another scriptural passage also avers that that sacrifice is accomplished by means of speech and buddhi, 'The sacrifice is what results from speech and mind.' Nor can it rightly be maintained (cp. Sûtra 38) that to view the instruments as agents would lead to an exchange of power on the part of the buddhi; for all instruments must necessarily be considered as agents in regard of their special functions 2. But with reference to perception (upalabdhi) those instruments are (not agents, but) mere instruments, and perception belongs to the Self. Nor can agentship be ascribed to the Self on account of perception, since permanent perception constitutes its nature (and hence cannot be viewed as a mere transitory activity). Nor can the agentship which has self-consciousness for its antecedent belong to the perceiving principle (upalabdhri); for self-consciousness itself is an object of perception (on the part of the upalabdhri, i.e. the pure, isolated, intelligent Self). And on this doctrine there is no occasion for assuming a further instrument, as we maintain the buddhi itself to be the instrument.
The objection founded on the impossibility of meditation (Sûtra 39) is already refuted by the fact, pointed out above, of scripture having a purport, meditation being enjoined by scripture with reference to such agentship as is already established by other passages.--The result of all this is
that the agentship of the Self is due to its limiting adjuncts only.
53:1 Kartritvasya dharmâdîni nimittâni teshâm gñânânivartyatve muktâv api sambhavât kartritvam syât gñânena tannivrittau teshâm agñânakâryatvât kritam kartritvam api tathâ syât, saktes ka sakta-sakyasâpekshatayâ sanimittakriyâlakshanasakyâpekshakatvâd anirmokshas tasmân nimittaparihârasya duranushthânatvân na saktivâde muktir iti. Ân. Gi.
Saktasakyâsrayâ saktih svasattayâvasyam sakyam âkshipati. Bhâ.
55:1 I.e. being only incidental remarks about matters established or taught elsewhere.
57:1 According to the sruti: mahad yaksham prathamagam veda yo ha vai gyeshtham ka sreshtham ka veda.
57:2 Wood, for instance, is an 'agent' in regard of the function of burning, while it is a mere instrument with reference to the action of cooking.