The Brahmasutras are one of the three most important
works of Indian philosophy, called the Prasthanatrayi. The
Upanishads are called Shrutiprasthana, the Brahmasutras are
Nyayaprasthana and the Bhagavad Gita is Smrutiprasthana.
Prasthana means a treatise.
The Brahmasutras are a work of philosophy based
on logic or Nyaya, whereas the other two are based on
Shruti and Smruti traditions respectively. The Brahmasutras were a part of the ancient oral tradition of the Vedanta system. Their sutras were memorized by students and the meanings were explained by authorized teachers.
The Brahmasutras begin with the sutra, "Athato Brahma
jignasa", which means, "Now then [let us have] an enquiry
about Brahman" and concludes with the sutra, "Anavruttihi
sabdat, Anavruttihi sabdat," which means, "Not returning
back in samsara in the mundane world – which means the attainment of mukti."
In the first chapter (or pada) there is a discussion on
Brahman as the sole and supreme cause of all things and
rejection of other philosophical systems (i.e., Sankhya, etc.)
that do not accept Brahman to be the Supreme Reality.
In the second chapter, arguments for the rejection of
Sankhya continue from the first chapter. The Bhagavata
system is mentioned at the end.
The third chapter deals with jivatma. There is also
a discussion on the state of dreams, dreamless sleep,
meditation and types of knowledge of Brahman.
The fourth chapter continues discussing the topic of
meditation and it ends with the description of conditions of
a knower of Brahman after his death.
The Brahmasutras say that Vedic authority is the highest
in matters of moksha. The Brahmasutras became so popular
that almost all the renowned acharyas wrote their commentaries on them. The first commentary available to us is that of Adi Shankaracharya who wrote the Shankarabhashya to establish his own school of Kevaladvaita Vedanta.
Some of the acharyas who have written commentaries on
the Brahmasutras are as follows:
The above mentioned eight well-known schools of
Vedanta are but a few of the many important ones. Each of
the acharyas explained the most diverse philosophical and
theological views in their interpretation of the very same
aphorisms. They have the liberty to interpret, because the
sutras are brief, containing mostly two, three or four Sanskrit
words which have more than two or three meanings.
Undoubtedly the Brahmasutras have influenced all
important aspects of Hindu philosophy, religion and culture,
including the modern Hindu movements.
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