Late Dr. S. Sankaranarayanan (1925-2014) was a Sanskrit teacher and scholar and a Veda Ghanapathi-an honorific given to a scholar proficient in reciting the Vedas with precision. Well-versed, in traditional and modern Sanskrit learning, he was honoured with the Presidential award for Sanskrit in 1994. He was an epigraphist with the Archaeological Survey of India for 21 years; Director of the Oriental Research Institute, Sri Venkateshwara University, Tirupati, for 10 years; and post-retirement was Honorary Director at the Adyar Library and Research Centre, Chennai. Dr. Sankaranarayanan has brought to bear the full measure of his scholarship in this critical edition of the Brahmasutra-sankarabhasya.
Dr. Kanshi Ram taught Sanskrit at Hans Raj College, University of Delhi for 36 years and retired as Associate Professor in 2007. Besides several research papers on different aspects of Indian Philosophy, he has published the following works: Integral Non-dualism: A Critical Exposition of vijnanabhiksu's System of Philosophy, unadisutra in the Sanskrit Grammatical Tradition, an annotated Hindi translation of Tarka-sangraha with Tarkasangrahadipika of Annambhatta, a detailed three-volume commentary in English on the Laghusiddhantakaumudi of varadaraja, an annotated English translation of Nyayaratnadipavali of Anandanubhava Vol. I and a Hindi translation of Brahrnasutravrtti of Sadasivendra Sarasvati.
The Brahma-sutra, one of the finest expositions of Vedanta and written by the great philosopher Badarayana, is known to be one of the crest-jewels of Indian philosophical literature. The great Acarya Adi Sankaracarya's lucid commentary, the Sankara-bhasya, on the Brahma-sutra is also itself a deep philosophical treatise that requires an expert to guide a student's understanding of it.
This work is a fresh, student -friendly commentary for the modern learner. The Bhasya text has been kept mostly in non-sandhi form, a boon to the fledgling learner of Sanskrit. It has been transliterated into English followed by its word-to-word meaning, and after which is given a translation of the Bhasya that is as close and literal as possible to the Acharya's original Bhasya text. Thereafter, sentences have been explained in detail to elucidate Advaita concepts and clarify the Acarya's profound thoughts on the Brahma-sutra. A detailed concept index at the end of the text rounds off the content.
The original text is "substantiated with copious citations" from 10 sub-commentaries on Sankara-bhasya so that the student is given a clear vision of the text and the various exegeses. The footnotes offer variant readings of the original compiled from 16 texts. Thus the text structure is constructed like a scaffold to help both - those with a modicum of understanding of philosophy as well as advanced readers - reach the conceptual heights of Advaita-vedanta.
The purpose of any Vedantic work is to guide a seeker on their path to the Realization of the non-dual Self. This compendium is the ideal companion to a sincere student's repetitive learning loop of 'study-reflection-contemplation', the means to Self-realization and it is offered as a labour of love to all seekers and students.
The detailed English commentary on the Sankara-bhasya of the Brahmasutra- catuhsutri and its preamble, the Adhyasa-bhasya, has been written keeping in mind primarily the modem student of Advaita-vedanta. Although it is prepared in a style easy to comprehend yet a working knowledge of Sanskrit, also accompanied by an acquaintance with the basic tenets of Advaita-vedanta, is a prerequisite for a fruitful perusal of the present work. Nevertheless the detailed exposition of the Sankara-bhasya is so comprehensive that it would not only benefit the student but also a reader who is fairly conversant with the philosophy of Advaita-vedanta.
The Sanskrit text of the Bhasya and other references in Sanskrit are mostly kept in non-sandhi form for two reasons: (1) The footnote indicators for variant readings and other elucidatory notes may be marked in a manner that they are easily comprehended. (2) Even the reader with a modicum of familiarity with Sanskrit may also be able to understand the exposition.
The credit for nourishing the Indian Philosophical literature goes to the vast and rich commentarial literature comprising of commentaries (Bhasya), glosses (Tika) and notes (Tippani). The detailed explanations in the present work are based on the renowned traditional commentaries and sub-commentaries on the Brahmasutra-sankarabhasya. Some of the important treatises that have been the bedrock for preparing the explanatory notes include the following: Pancapadika by Padmapadacarya, Bhamati by Vacaspati-misra, Bhasyaratnaprabha by Govindananda, Pancapadika-vivarana by Prakasatman, Nyayanirnaya by Anandagiri, Bhasyabhavaprakasika by Citsukhacarya, Prakatarthavivarana by Anubhutisvarupacarya, Tattvadipana by Akhandananda (disciple of Anandagiri), Vartika by Narayana-sarasvati, Rjuprakasika by Akhandananda, Brahmavidyabharana by Advaitananda and Pradipa by Anantakrishna Shastri. The explanations in the text have been substantiated with copious relevant citations from the above-mentioned commentaries. Consequently, it is hoped that these will provide the reader with definite pointers for further study and also ground for deliberation leading to contemplation, the main purpose of this kind of work.
Another distinctive feature that has enriched this text is the variant readings of the Bhasya text that have been included as footnotes marked with numerals in Devanagari. A total of sixteen manuscripts and books have been used in the preparation of these variant readings.
In order to facilitate the student who is not fully conversant with Sanskrit, an earnest effort has been made to provide within the text itself, in parentheses, translations of all the Sanskrit philosophical terms even though these may occur many times on a single page. Of course, there is also repetition of important ideas, concepts and citations (with their translations) throughout the text. This has been purposely done to make each sectional note as complete as possible. Needless to say, in such works as this, the repetition helps the reader comprehend the abstruse thoughts and subtle concepts of the text which is a sine quo non on the Vedantic path of Self- realisation.
Structurally the Bhasya text has been divided into sub-sections based on the thought-flow of the Bhasya, Thereafter, there is a transliteration into Roman English (A), followed by a word-to-word meaning (B), this is accompanied by a translation marked (C) which is as close, and as literal as possible to the Acarya's original text. Finally, the Bhasya sentences have been expounded in detail (D) in an effort to elucidate the Advaita concepts and bring out the import of the Acarya's profound thoughts on the Brahmasutra-catuhsutri.
An extensive and in-depth content index of all the important concepts has been appended at the end of the book which will serve as a ready-reckoner and facilitate the reader revisit and easily refer to any portion of the commentary.
A work of this nature and presentation on the Brahmasatracatuhsutri- sankarabhasya is not currently available for the students of Vedanta and is sure to fill a long felt need. The present exposition will be a valuable guide for comprehending the thought and spirit of the venerable Badarayana, the author of the Brahma-sutra, and Sankaracarya, the revered Bhasyakara.
The one who gains adequate familiarity with the thoughts expounded in the present work will be able to tread the spiritual path and surely come to gain a firm conviction on the nature of the non-dual Self, which alone is the chief purport of such a Vedantic work.
If the students of philosophy and the seekers of Self-knowledge find this exposition useful in their pursuit, this labour of love offered with reverential devotion unto the Acarya would be deemed to have found its fulfilment.
The term' darsana', derived from the Sanskrit verbal root' drs', literally means 'vision' or 'perspective'. In Indian philosophy the term refers to a sastra, that is the means for the knowledge of truth.' Essentially, every Darsana broadly analyses the following six topics: (1) [rva - Individual (e.g. Who am I?), (2) Jagat - World (e.g. What constitutes this world?), (3) Isvara - God or Lord (e.g. Who created the individual and the world?), (4) Bandha - Bondage (e.g. What is the cause of sorrow?), (5) Moksa - Liberation (e.g. What is the nature of freedom from sorrow?) and finally (6) Sadhana - Means (e.g. How can I become liberated from sorrow?)
Astika- and Nastika-darsanas
Traditional Indian philosophy is broadly classified into two: Astika and Nastika. The difference between Astika- and Nastika-darsanas lies not in their belief or disbelief in the existence of God (Isvara) but the touchstone is whether the Veda is, or is not, an authoritative means of knowledge (pramana). This very classification of the Darsanas being Astika or Nastika based on the acceptance of the Veda as pramana reveals the importance with which the Veda is held in the context of the Indian philosophical tradition.
The Astika-darsanas are six in number and so too are the Nastika- darsanas. The six Astika-darsanas are: Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Purva-mimamsa and Uttara-mimamsa. The six Nastika-darsanas are: Carvaka, Sautrantika, Vaibhasika, Yogacara, Madhyamika and Arhata (jaina). Of these six Nastika-darsanas, the Sautrantika, Vaibhasika, Yogacara and Madhyamika are all various sub-schools of Buddhism.
Thus, generally speaking, there are a total of twelve Darsanas or schools of philosophy in the Indian tradition.
The Six Nastika-darsanas
The Carvaka school of Indian philosophy is completely materialistic in nature. The Carvaka school does not believe in Atman (soul), punya or papa, rebirth, other worlds (heaven or hell) or God (Isvara). Their philosophy is captured well in this verse: "yavajjvam sukham jived rnam krtva ghrtam pibet, bhasmibhutasya dehasya punaragamanam kutah. - One ought to live life happily. It matters not if one runs even into debt if one can drink ghee (i.e. have delicacies dripping with ghee)! Indeed, where is the question of rebirth when the body (at death) has been burnt to ashes." Badarayana, the author of Brahma-sutra, identified in the Indian philosophical tradition with Krsna Dvaipayana Veda-vyasa, does not dwell at all upon the Carvaka school in the Brahma-stura, for he holds the Carvaka thesis to be unworthy of even refutation! Such is the repugnance with which the Carvaka-darsana is held by all right thinking persons (sista).
As mentioned before, the Sautrantika-, the Vaibhasika-, the Yogacara- and the Madhyamika-darsanas are all different sub-schools of Buddhism. After the death of Buddha, his teachings were collected by a council established for this purpose and three treatises reflecting the Buddha's thought were brought out: (1) Sutta-pitaka, which contains the statements of Buddha in an aphoristic form, (2) Abhidhamma-pitaka, which endeavours to encapsulate the philosophical position of Buddha and (3) Vinaya-pitaka, which deals with the code of conduct envisaged by Buddha. In course of time, divergent opinions crystalized as to what exactly is the true and the original teaching of Buddha. Four independent schools of Buddhism rose, each claiming to embody the actual spirit of Buddha's teachings: (1) the Sautrantika school that lays emphasis on Sutta-pitaka, (2) the Vaibhasika school that lays emphasis on Abhidhamma-pitaka, (3) the Yogacara school (Ksanikavijnana-vada) which lays emphasis on Vinava-pitaka and (4) Madhyamika school (Sunya-vada) which claims to follow the middle path encompassing all the essential teachings of all the Pitakas. Badarayana analyses and refutes all these four schools of Buddhism in his Brahma-sutra.
The Arhata-darsana was established by the Tirthankaras. They were altogether 24 in number, the first Tirthankara being Rsabhadeva and the last one was Mahavira. The Tirthankaras are also called 'jinas', that is those who have conquered the senses and the mind. Hence, their philosophy is also called the 'jaina-darsana'. The jaina-darsana has also been refuted by Badarayana in the Brahma-sutra.
Thus except for the Carvaka-darsana, the Brahma-sutra brings up for deliberation the various Nastika schools for refutation.
The Six Astika-darsanas
All the six Astika-darsanas are founded on their respective aphoristic texts, the 'Sutras', which have, in turn, been elaborately commented upon by their respective 'Bhasyakaras' (commentators). Notwithstanding the fact that all the above-mentioned six Astika-darsanas give credence to the Veda as being a pramana (means of knowledge), the first four Astika-darsanas - that is the Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika schools- give only a secondary importance to the Veda as being pramana, These four schools use mainly tarka (reasoning) as the means to arrive at conclusions. It is for this reason that Sankaracarya terms these Darsanas as 'tarkika'.
As compared to these four Astika-darsanas, the Purvamimamsa- and Uttaramimamsa-darsanas are strictly scriptural in nature; they keep the Veda as their primary source of authority and use reasoning only as a subsidiary means of knowledge.' Hence, these two - the Purvamimamsa- and the Uttaramimamsa-darsanas - are 'vaidika' in the truest sense of the term.
The Purvamimamsa-darsana is based on the karma-kanda, the ritual section of the Veda, while the Uttaramimamsa-darsana bases itself on the jnana-kanda, the philosophical section of the Veda. The jnana-kanda comprises of the Upanisads, which are termed 'Vedanta'. Hence the Uttaramimamsa-darsana is also called the Vedanta-darsana. Badarayana, the Sutrakara of the Uttaramimamsa-darsana (i.e. the Vedanta-darsana), takes up for analysis the philosophical doctrines of the other Astika-darsanas and refutes them too in the Brahma-sutra.
The term 'Sutra'
The Sanskrit term 'Sutra', translated as 'aphorism' in English, literally means 'thread' or a 'string'. The Sutra strings together the important ideas and manifold thoughts pertaining to a particular topic." Also, being aphoristic in structure, the Sutra has to be pithy and concise. The Indian philosophical tradition defines the Sutra thus: “alpaksaram asandigdham saravad visvatomukham, astobham anavadyam ca sutram sutravido viduh." Accordingly, the Sutra has the following six characteristics: (1) alpaksaram=- made of few words, (2) asandigdham - clear and unambiguous, (3) saravat - contains the essence of the topic under deliberation, (4) visvatomukham- having multiple facets, meaning it can be interpreted in more than one way, enabling thus more than one valid interpretation, (5) astobham - devoid of redundant words (usually added for eulogy) that do not particularly add to the meaning of the sentence and (6) anavadyam - faultless (devoid of errors in grammar etc.) in the construction of the sentence or its meaning.
The term ‘Bhasya'
Bhasya is a term that is used in the Indian philosophical tradition to refer to a commentary. The term 'Bhasya' has been defined thus: "sutrartho varnyate yatra vakyaih sutranukaribhih,svapadani ca varnyante bhasyam bhasyavido viduh - Bhasya is a treatise that explains the meaning of the Sutra (i.e, source text) by statements compatible with the very words of the Sutra and which also further elaborates its own words (i.e. the words used to explain the Sutra)."
Bhasyas on the Brahma-sutra
The Brahma-sutra has been commented upon by Sankaracarya as explicating the doctrine of Advaita. Ramanujacarya has explained the Brahma-sutra as explaining the doctrine of Visistadvaita (qualified monism) while Madhvacarya has commented upon the Brahma-sutra as explaining the doctrine of Dvaita (dualism). Ramanujacarya's and Madhvacarya's Bhasyas are known as Sribhasya and Purnaprajna-bhasya respectively.
Commentators of the various other schools of Vedanta like Bhaskara (Bhedabheda), Nimbarka (Dvaitadvaita) have also written commentaries on the Brahma-euira to explicate their respective views on the Vedanta-darsana.
The following tabulation will give an overview of the important schools of Vedanta-darsana, their commentators (Bhasyakara) and the names of their respective commentaries:
Aphorisms in Brahma-sutra - Total Number
The commentators differ in their opinion regarding the total number of aphorisms in the Brahma-stura. For example, according to Sankaracarya, the number of aphorisms in Brahma-sutra is a total of 555, while according to Ramanujacarya, it is 562; and according to Madhvacarya it is 545. Ramanujacarya, Madhvacarya and the other commentators are later in period to Sankaracarya and they have arrived at the Brahma-sutra as having a particular number of Sutras by construing a Sutra as more than one (by breaking it into shorter Sutras) or by joining more than one Sutra into a single Sutra in order to delineate their respective theses.
The Brahma-sutra - its Various Appellations
The term Brahma-sutra indicates that the aphorisms of the treatise are meant to deliberate upon the true nature of Brahman. The Brahma-sutra is known variously as the Vedanta-sutra (for the text contains the aphorisms of the Vedanta-darsana), the Uttaramimasa-sutra (as it deals with the Uttaramimamsa-darsana), Vedantamimamsa-sastra (as it inquiries into Vedanta, the Upanisads) the Badarayana-sutra (since Badarayana is the author), the Sariraka-sutra (as it delineates the nature of the 'sariraka - the embodied soul') and as the Bhiksu-sutra (for the dispassionate monks are qualified to delve into its thoughts).
Brahma-sutra - the Nyaya-prasthana
Of the three foundational or canonical texts of the Uttaramimamsa-darsana, that is the Vedanta-darsana, the Brahma-sutra is one, the other two being the Upanisads and the Bhagavad-gita. All these three - the Upanisads, the Bhagavad-gita and the Brahma-sutra - are together referred to in the Vedantic tradition as the 'Prasthana-traya'.
The Upanisads constitute the Sruti-prasthana (by 'sruti - heard' is meant the 'revealed' primary source); the Bhagavad-gita constitutes the Smrti- prasthana (by 'smrti - remembered' is meant the authored secondary text); and the Brahma-sutra constitutes the Nyaya-prasthana, for it presents the teachings of Vedanta-darsana found in the Sruti- and Smrti-prasthana in a logical manner.
That the Brahma-sutra is the Nyaya-prasthana of the Vedanta-darsana is evident, for Badarayana uses anumana, the syllogism, while presenting the Sutras. Often he merely states the hetu (probans), and by anuvrtti, that is the process of bringing in the required information from a preceding Sutra, the other aspects of the syllogistic statement like paksa (minor term or subject) and sadhya (probandum) are brought in to complete the sense of the Sutra.
Purpose Served by the Brahma-sutra
Badarayana has penned the Brahma-sutra for the following reasons: (1) to resolve the apparent contradictions that are seen within the corpus of the Upanisadic literature, (2) to give clarity on the Upanisadic thought where the sentences of the Upanisads seem ambiguous, (3) to defend the Uttaramimamsa-darsana from the criticisms of the other schools - both Astika and Nastika, and also (4) to bring to our attention the errors, fallacies and defects of the other Darsanas.
Structure of the Brahma-sutra
The Brahma-sutra is divided into four adhyayas (chapters). Each adhyaya is in turn divided into four padas (quarters) and each pada is further sub- divided into many adhikaranas (topical section). There are altogether 191 adhikaranas in the Brahma-sutra. It should be noted that there is no hard and fast rule about the number of Sutras that an adhikarana should contain.
The First Four Adhyayas of the Brahma-sutra
The four chapters of the Brahma-sutra are the Samanvaya-, Avirodha-, Sadhana- and Phala-adhyayas.
In the first Samanvaya-adhyaya, which consists of 39 adhikaranas and134 Sutras, Badarayana establishes that there is absolute harmony existing within the Upanisadic passages in concordantly revealing as their purport Brahman, the abhinna-nimittopadana-karana (efficient cum material cause) of the world. By establishing this, the Sutrakara also thus proves that the Astika-darsanas such as the Purva-mimamsa, Sankhya, Nyaya- Vaisesika that respectively posit karma (sacrificial act) as the purport of the Veda, and Pradhana, or Paramanu as the cause of the world are all built on faulty premises.
In the second Avirodha-adhyaya, which consists of 47 adhikaranas and 157 Sutras, Badarayana establishes that the Upanisads which explicate the Brahmatmaikya-vidya (knowledge of the oneness of the Self and Brahman) is free of the three virodhas (i.e. inconsistencies): (1) paraspara-virodha - contradiction between the Upanisadic passages themselves, (2) smrti- virodha - contradiction between the Upanisadic passages and the Smrti texts and (3) yukti-virodha - contradiction between the Upanisads and reasoning. It is in the second Avirodha-adhyaya that the Sutrakara takes up for critical analysis all the Astika- and Nastika-darsanas and refutes them.
The third Sadhana-adhyaya consists of 67 adhikaranas and 186 Sutras. Herein the Sutrakara discusses the various sadhanas (means), both antaranga-sadhana (sravana, manana and nididhyasana) and bahiranga- sadhana (karma and upasana). The fourth and the last Phala-adhyaya consists of 38 adhikaranas and altogether 78 Sutras. In this chapter, Mukti (jivan-mukti, Videha-mukti and Krama-mukti), the result, is deliberated upon.
The Brahmasutra-catuhsutri and Its Importance
The first four adhikaranas of the first Samanvayadhyaya are the Jijnasadhikarana, Janmadyadhikarana, Sastrayonitvadhikarana and Samanvayadhikarana. Each of these four adhikaranas contains only one Sutra: the first Jijnasadhikarana consists of the first Sutra "athato brahmajijnasa"; the second Janmadyadhikarana consists of the second Sutra "janmadyasya yatah"; the third Sastrayonitvadhikarana consists of the third Sutra "sastrayoniyvat"; and the fourth Samanvayadhikarana consists of the fourth Sutra "tattu samanvayat." These four Sutras are together termed the Brahmasatra-catuhsutra.
The entire treatise of the Brohma-sutra truly speaking is only an amplification of these first four Sutras. And, along with the detailed, analytical and lucid commentary of the Bhasyakara Sankaracarya on them, the Brahmasutra-catuhsutri forms the best compendium and the most comprehensive treatment on the Advaita-vedanta ever.
Any sincere student who makes a thorough and careful perusal of the Brahmasutra-catuhsutri is sure to get clarity of all the important concepts of the Advaitavedanta-darsana and is certain to attain the summum bonum of life.
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