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An Introduction to the Brahma Sutras

An Introduction to the Brahma Sutras

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Published by raj
Intorduction to BrahmaSutra
Intorduction to BrahmaSutra

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Published by: raj on Jan 15, 2009
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04/14/2013

 
An Introduction to The Brahma Sutras
 
http://www.sankeertanam.com/brahma_sutras.htm
“athAto Brahmajij~nAsA” (Now therefore the Enquiry into Brahman)
 VedAnta philosophy acknowledges the
PrasthAna Traya
as itsthree authoritative primary sources. The texts comprising the
PrasthAna Traya
are the Upanishads, theBhagavad-Gitaandthe Brahma sUtra. The Upanishads are the
sruti prasthAna
, therevealed texts (
sruti
- that which is heard); theBhagavad-Gita is the
smriti prasthAna
, composed by sages based on theirunderstanding of the VedAs (
smriti
- that which isremembered); the Brahma sUtra is the
nyAya prasthAna
, thelogical text that sets forth the philosophy systematically(
nyAya
- logic/order). No study of VedAnta is consideredcomplete without a close examination of the
PrasthAna Traya
.While the Upanishads and theBhagavad-Gitaare authoritativeVedAnta texts, it is in the Brahma sUtra that the teachings of VedAnta are set forth in a systematic and logical order. TheBrahma sUtra is known by many names: it is also called theVedAnta sUtra, Uttara-mimamsa sUtra, Shariraka sUtra and theBhikshu sUtra. The Brahma sUtra consists of 555 aphorisms or
sUtras
, in 4chapters, each chapter being divided into 4 sections each. Thefirst chapter (
Samanvaya
: harmony) explains that all theVedAntic texts talk of Brahman, the ultimate reality, which isthe goal of life. The second chapter (
 Avirodha
: non-conflict)discusses and refutes the possible objections against VedAntaphilosophy. The third chapter (
SAdhana
: the means) describesthe process by which ultimate emancipation can be achieved. The fourth chapter (
Phala
: the fruit) talks of the state that isachieved in final emancipation.
 
Indian tradition identifies BAdarAyaNa, the author of theBrahma SUtra, with VyAsa, the compiler of the VedAs. Manycommentaries have been written on this text, the earliestextant one being the one by Adi ShaMkara. Later commentatorsinclude BhAskara, YAdavaprakAsha, RAmAnuja, Keshava,Neelakantha, Madhva, Baladeva, Vallabha, Vijnana Bhikshu,VAcaspati and PadmapAda. Among all these, and othercommentaries, ShaMkara's commentary is considered as anexemplary model of how a commentary should be written, andmost commentators are influenced by it, even when theydisagree with ShaMkara's interpretations.
Introduction
As is well-known, there are six schools of classical Indianphilosophy, namely:· nyAya· vaisheshhika· sAMkhya· yoga· mImAmsa· vedAntaEach of these has as its authoritative source a composite textthat `threads' together all of the diverse points of doctrineclaimed by it. This text is called a collection of `
sUtra
's, pithystatements that discourse upon some specific aspect of thefield -- and is the most important work relating to that doctrine,as it codifies the entire spectrum of thought encompassed bythat doctrine, and serves as a point of reference for all mattersof philosophical import. Quite frequently, the plural nature of the collection of sUtra-s is not made explicit, and one refers tothe entire text as such-and-such a sUtra, as if it were in fact asingle work. In his commentary,
AnandatIrtha
quotes thefollowing verse from the padma purANa to define what `sUtra'means:
 
alpAxaramasa.ndigdhaM sAravadvishvatomukham.h |astobhamanavadyaM cha sUtraM sUtravido viduH || Pithy (using fewest possible letters), unambiguous, laying outall the essential aspects of each topic, and dealing with allaspects of the question, free of repetitiveness and flaw -- thoselearned in the sUtra-s say that such is a sUtra.Quite naturally, then, the author of the
sUtra
-s for each schooloccupies the highest rank among the scholars of that school,and is regarded as its founder or progenitor, and as theprimary
guru
of all others claiming loyalty to that scholarlytradition. The authors of each school's
sUtra
, aptly called its
sUtrakAra
-s, are:
gautama
for the
nyAya
school,
kaNAda
for the
vaisheshhika
school,
kapila
for the
sAMkhya
school,
patanjali
for the
 yoga
school,
 jaimini
for the
mImAmsa
school, and
BAdarAyaNa
for the
vedAnta
school.Each school has its unique aspects whereby it tries to satisfythe spiritual aspirations of its adherents. Of these, the vedAntaschool concerns itself with the understanding of 
Brahman
, theentity referred to in the VedAs and Upanishad-s, who isvariously described as the Creator, the Super soul, theSupreme Self, etc. Thus, the vedAnta-sUtra of BAdarAyaNa ismore commonly known as the
Brahma-sUtra
. The Brahma-sUtra is
the
authoritative exposition of vedAnta,but it is by no means the first, and is designed to provide anobjective criticism of views held by others. Indeed, BAdarAyaNarefers in that work to the views of other previous scholars suchas
auDulomi
,
kAshakR^itsna
,
bAdari
,
Ashmarathya
, etc.He also makes references to
 jaimini
, the mImAmsa scholar,accepting the latter's views in a few instances and modifying

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