Human beings have a natural tendency to avoid painful experiences and maximize pleasurable ones. It is everyone's experience that life in general is fraught with various types of suffering. Indeed, the very process of taking birth itself is a painful experience. Life begins with crying and ends with old age and death, which is likewise an unpleasant experience. In the middle part of life we also face suffering, both at the level of body from various types of diseases, and at the level of mind in the form of stress, anxiety, fear, and envy. We try to eradicate these problems by the use of medicines, living a healthy life-style, cultivating loving relations and indulging in entertainment, but all these solutions are temporary and not very satisfactory. They do not guarantee unending peace and happiness. As soon as we mitigate one suffering, another one knocks at our door. Science and technology have done wonders to make life comfortable and have eradicated many of the common diseases that have plagued humanity in the past few centuries. Our standard of living is much better than what it was a hundred years ago, yet the level of happiness has not gone up. In affluent societies, people suffer more at the mental level. Their bodies look healthy and beautiful, but the mind is sick.
The sages of India deliberated and meditated on the root cause of human suffering. They concluded that ignorance (avidya) of the self (atma) is the basis of all ills. To counteract this ignorance, different sages formulated different knowledge systems or darsanas. Primarily, a darsana consists of a theoretical part that explains the self, material nature, the creator, the cause of bondage and the solution to get rid of bondage. Then, there is the practical part that gives a discipline, which by following a practitioner can realize or have darsana (vision) of the Truth and bring an ultimate end to suffering. One would attain the state of moksa or mukti, in which one becomes forever free of all suffering and fully situated in unending happiness.
The vedanta-sutra of sage Badarayana, also known as Brahma-sutra, teaches a system considered as the chief among all darsanas. It has a dialogue with major darsana schools of India and refutes their primary conclusions. Therefore, it is also called Uttara-mimarnsa, the later deliberation. The Vedanta-sutra is divided into four chapters (adhyaya). Each adhyaya is further divided into four sub-chapters pada). Although the Vedanta aphorisms are inter-related and their content is fixed, there is variation in their readings and numbers. Different scholars have read some of the sutras differently and have divided the sutras according to different topics (adhikarana). There is ,a very rich tradition of writing different types of explanations on the vedanta-sutra, known as bhasya, vrtti, tika, karika, vyakhyana and anuvyakhyana. The commentaries on Vedanta- sutra can primarily be divided into two groups, namely advaita-vadi and non- advaita-vadi. Among the second group, the Vaisnava commentaries are most popular. The oldest available commentary is by Sri Sankaracarya. He gives advaitic (non-dualistic) interpretation of the sutras and sets the stage for the later commentators. His followers like Vacaspati Misra wrote elaborate explanations on his commentary. Sri Ramanujacarya was the first Vaisnava commentator to refute the explanation of Sri Sankaracarya and his followers. Soon after, Sri Madhvacarya also refuted the latter's philosophy. Other prominent Vaisnava scholars who commented on the Vedanta-sutra are Sri Nimbarkacarya and Sri Vallabhacarya.
A traditional school (sampradaya) bases its teaching on prasthana-trayi, which consists of the Upanisads, 'Vedanta-sutra and Bhagavad-gita. Among these three also, it is the Vedanta-sutra that occupies the most important place because it gives the synthesis of the Upanisads. The Bhagavad-gita assists in understanding the meaning of the vedanta-sutra. Thus, the founders and propagators of different sampraddyas have derived their teachings on the basis of the Vedanta-sutra. However, Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu, the founder of the Gaudiya school of Vaisnavism, did not subscribe to this popular tradition. He gave a new vision for understanding the meaning of the Vedanta-sutra. He pointed out that the author of the prasthana-trayi, Sri Vyasadeva, was not satisfied in his heart even after composing the Vedanta-sutra and the voluminous Mahabharata, which contains the Bhagavad-gita. On the instruction of his guru, Devarsi Narada, he compiled his magnum opus, the Srimad-Bhagavata Purana, which is the explanation of the Yedanta-sutra by the author himself. Thus, if one wants to know the true intention of the author, they must study the Srimad- Bhagavata Purdna. Based upon this knowledge, the followers of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu wrote commentaries on the Srimad-Bhagavata Purana They did not feel the need to write commentaries on the prasthana-trayi. Therefore, the Gaudiya school spread the teachings of the Srimad-Bhagavata Purana.
However, in the eighteenth century, in the court of the King of Jaipur, a controversy arose about the authenticity of the Gaudiya school because they did not have commentaries on the famous prasthana-trayi, a prerequisite for a school to be genuine and thus acceptable. In order to fulfil this lacuna, on the request of the King of Iaipur, Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana wrote the Brahma-sutra- karika-bhaya, a brief explanation of the vedanta-sutra. He later wrote a longer commentary, the Govinda-bhasya, extensively interpreting the sutras in line with the teachings of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu. Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana was a scholar par excellence. He also wrote commentaries on the Bhagavad-gita and Upanisads to complete the commentary on the prasthana-trayi, and wrote the Siddhdnta-ratna as an entry book for Govinda-bhasya.
As is evident from the title of the present book, this is a commentary in the form of karikas or verses. In total there are 852 karikas in explanation to 552 sutras. This book was not even known to the Gaudiya community so far. There has been no mention of it anywhere in the lists of works written by Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana, Dr. Demian Martins, who has been dedicating his life to bringing out the works of Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana into the light for the benefit of devotees and scholars, has been working tirelessly in search of lost manuscripts and travels extensively all over India and Bangladesh. In due course, he came across this unpublished manuscript in the library of the City Palace in Jaipur. His enthusiasm is exemplary, and although he faces many obstacles and hardships, he never gives up or feels despondent. He not only collects copies of the manuscrips, but also deciphers them, endeavours to get correct readings and then translates them into English. It is so his credit that he has already translate Visvanatha Cakravarti’s Gaura-gana Svarupa-tattva Candrika and Prabodhananda Saraswati Viveka-Satakam. He is certainly blessed by Acarya Baladeva Vidyabhusana to do this marvellous service. The whole Gaudiya community should feel indebted to him.
During its history spanning thousands of years, the Indian subcontinent has seen the dawn and decline of countless philosophical schools. Many of them rose and vanished without leaving behind any records that can. be traced at present, and their existence in the remote past is sometimes knowa only from vague references in ancient manuscripts. The schools that accepted the Vedas as the foremost evidence became known as Astikas (believers), and those that did not, became known as Nastikas (non-believers). The Vedas ale primarily divided into three sections, as pertaining to ritualistic activities (karma-kanda), pertaining to worship (upasana-kanda), and pertaining to knowledge (jnana- kanda). The jnana-kanda of each Veda is dealt with in the Upanisads, whose central theme is spiritual knowledge and the means to acquire it. There are more than a hundred Upanisads, and they present a great variety of topics and statements from different Vedic branches, some of which may seem to conflict with each other's descriptions and conclusions. Understanding the need to reconcile many Upanisadic passages and establish the basis for their exegesis and systematic study, Badarayana, better known as Vyasadeva, compiled the Brahma- sutra, which consists of several hundred aphorisms about the Supreme Absolute Truth, also named the Vedanta-sutra because they present the ultimate conclusion (anta) of the Vedas.
Due to the preaching efforts of Sankaracarya (ea, 7th - 8th century AD), Vedanta was propagated far and wide, and not only played a major role in curbing the then flourishing non-Vedic systems but also in suppressing Vedic schools that held a relative and limited concept about the Supreme Absolute Truth and the ultimate goal of life. Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika and Purva-mimamsa are some of the prominent among the so-called Vedic philosophies, but their acceptance of Vedic authority is tainted by misinterpretations and distortions, and therefore their views and conclusions were criticised and refuted in the Brahma-sutra. Sankara's commentary on the Brahma-sutra exerted a Significant influence in the course of the history of philosophy in India. Although later philosophers from other schools substantially diverged from his non-dualistic interpretations, most of them closely followed Sankara's contextual interpretations of the aphorisms and the relevant scriptural passages to a great extent. There is also a noticeable congruity between the Upanisadic statements based on which Sankara interprets each sutra and those attributed by later commentators. In one sense, this attended well their purpose to rebut his explanations in the light of the very same scriptural evidences.
Among those who staunchly opposed Sankara's advaitavada, Ramanujacarya (1017-1137 AD) was the first philosopher who could not only respond to it by composing his Sri-bhasya on the Brahma-sutra, in which he exhaustively met each of his arguments on the highest level of scholarship, but also by his untiring missionary endeavours all over India. He was thoroughly successful in establishing the validity of his visistadvaita (qualified monism) philosophy and thus gave new impetus to the ancient Vaisnava tradition, particularly in South India. The appearance of Madhvacarya (1238-1317 AD) was also a turning point in the propagation of Vaisnava philosophy and dharma. His commentaries on Vedanta from the view-point of dualism (dvaita) established another important tradition that has remained strong throughout the centuries. Vyasa Tirtha (ea. 1446-1539 AD) was the eleventh pontiff after Madhvacarya and had thousands of disciples in all parts of the country. Some of his most notable disciples are Kanaka Dasa and Purandara Dasa, who redefined the propagation of Vaisnavism by introducing a new genre of devotional poetry and music, especially among common people and the lower social classes. Another amongst Vyasa Tirtha's disciples was Laksmipati Tirtha, about whom nothing definite is known at present. As the successor of Vyasa TIrtha in the post of pontiff was Srinivasa Tirtha, the name of Laksmipati Tirtha is obviously not mentioned in the list of the disciplic succession of the Vyasaraja Matha. On the other hand, Laksmipati Tirtha's name does appear in the lists of the disciplic succession that came to be known as the Madhva-pararnpara in Northern India, from which we learn that Madhavendra Puri was his disciple. Despite the consistent title "Tirtha" in this line and the apparently sudden change into the title "Puri," Madhavendra Puri was widely known in those days as a Madhva. One of the possible explanations is that he may have taken sannyasa from the Visnu- sampradaya. There is a rumour that he took sannyiisa in the line descending from Visnu Puri, the author of Bhakti-ratnavali, who was also known as a disciple of ayadharma Tirtha. There is also a possibility that Laksmipati Tirtha named some of his sannyasa disciples in Northern India with different titles to distinguish them from the orthodox Southern tradition.
Brahma Sutras (79)
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