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Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras - The Philosophy of Spiritual Life

The Brahmasutras by Badarayana or Veda Vyasa are also known as Vedantasutras or Vyasasutras. They are the sacred philosophical book of sutras or aphorisms that summarize the teachings of the Upanishads. The Brahmasutras have 550 sutras arranged in four parts, dealing with the Ultimate Reality or Brahman, atman, jagat, maya and mukti or moksha. The sutras are very short statements, sometimes consisting of only two or three words. They cannot be understood properly without a profound teacher of a living tradition or a commentary (bhashya) of the great, erudite acharya.

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:

CommentatorSampradaya or School of VedantaName of Bhashya on the Brahmasutras
Adi ShankaracharyaKevaladvaitaShankarabhashya
BhaskaracharyaBhedabhedaBrahmasutra bhashya
MadhvacharyaDvaitaBrahmasutra bhashya

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.


Q1. What is written in Brahmasutra?


The Brahma Sutra is the Nyaya prasthana, the logical text that sets forth the philosophy systematically. The Brahma Sutra consists of 555 aphorisms or sutras, in 4 chapters, and each chapter is divided into 4 sections. The first chapter (Samanvaya: harmony) explains that all the Vedantic texts talk of Brahman, the ultimate reality, which is the goal of life.


The second chapter (Avirodha: non-conflict) discusses and refutes the possible objections against Vedanta's philosophy. The third chapter (Sadhana: the means) describes the process by which ultimate emancipation can be achieved. The fourth chapter (Phala: the fruit) talks of the state that is achieved in final emancipation.

Q2. What is Brahmasutra Lingam?


Shiva-Lingas are symbols. Specimens of various types have been traced at various levels of the archaeological strata all across the Indian subcontinent. The Hindus worship it as the apex symbol and know them as religion-related members of archaeology. Many specimens have on them a line drawn in an angled\circular format called Brahmasutra.


This is considered as Sahara-Linga and the common Shiva-Linga which have the Brahmasutra engraved on them. The Sahara-Linga; the Siva-Lingas and the Brahmasutra jointly/severally posit as extraordinary archaeological members, that embeds ancient engineering, mathematics, and elements of astronomy. A  Brahma Sutra Shiva Lingam is located at Adhabhi Ramagundam in Peddapalli Telangana.

Q3. What is Brahmasutra in Vastu?


According to Vastu principles, through the center of every building runs the central energy axis or the Brahma Sutra. Careful design of the building, utilizing the Brahma sutra brings prosperity and well-being to the inhabitants of the home. The ancient Indian row houses (or Agraharam) make use of this principle where the Brahma sutra acts as a channel for Praana replenishment for the occupants.


Taking the center, the lines from west to east is Brahmaputra, the line in the center from south to north is yamasutra, from southwest to the northeast corner is Kamasutra, that passing from northwest to the southeast corner, and is mruthyu sutra.

Q4. What does Brahmasutra say?


The Brahma Sutras distill and consolidate the extensive teachings found in a variety of Upanishads of Hinduism, summarizing, arranging, unifying, and systematizing the Upanishadic theories. This was achieved by Jaimini's Mimamsa-sutra which focused on externalized rituals as the spiritual path, while Badarayana's Brahma Sūtras focused on internalized philosophy as the spiritual path.


The text reviews and holds Yoga and Samkhya in high regard. The text cites and quotes the Kaushitaki Upanishad and the Shvetashvatara Upanishad in several sutras. The contents of the text also acknowledge, analyze, and mention the various Vedic schools.

Q5. How many Brahma Sutras are there?


According to some, there are 555 verses. Brahma Sutras According to Sri Ramanuja, by Swami Vireswarananda and Swami Adidevananda, there are 544 verses. This summary of panchayat agamas says there are 565.


The same Sutra sometimes yields just the opposite meaning by a mere shifting of the stops. The total number of Sutras differs in the various commentaries, a single Sutra is split into two, or two Sutras are combined into one, or a Sutra is dropped, or a new one is added. Some Sutras convey different meanings at different places. Hence the commentaries interpret the Sutras according to their predilections.

Q6. Who among the following was a commentator of Brahmasutra?


The commentary of Sri Nimbarkacharya is known as Vedanta Parijata Saurabha. Sri Vallabhacharya expounded his system of philosophy known as Suddhadwaita (pure monism) and his commentary on the Brahma Sutras is known as Anu Bhashya.


Sankara Bhashya is the oldest of all commentaries. It upholds Suddha Para Brahman or the Supreme Self of the Upanishads as something superior to other divine beings. It propounds a very bold philosophy and declares emphatically that the individual soul is identical to the Supreme Self. Sankara’s philosophical view accurately represents the meaning of Badarayana. His explanations only render the intended meaning of Sri Vyasa.