Notes on Brahmasuutra-1

Shrisha Rao shrao at NYX.NET
Fri Aug 18 18:54:06 CDT 2000

On Thu, 17 Aug 2000, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

[In connection with `alpAxaramasandigdhaM sAravadvishvatomukham.h;
astobhamanavadyaM cha sUtraM sUravido viduH':]

> The quoted verse seems generic enough, regarding the principles behind the
> composition of a sUtra. I have not seen any Advaita author defining a sUtra
> in a wholly different manner.

It should be obvious to everyone that I am not well-read in Advaita, but
in my limited reading, I have not seen any Advaita author define a sUtra,
period.  However, the mere word `sUtra' or `brahmasUtra' need not
necessarily refer to Badarayana's aphorisms, because Shankara reads the
word in the Bhagavad Gita verse (XIII-5):

  R^ishhibhirbahudhA gItaM chhandobhirvividhaiH pR^ithak.h  |
  brahmasUtrapadaishchaiva hetumadbhirvinishchitaiH  ||

-- as referring to authoritative (monistic) statements in the Upanishads.
Any definition of what a `sUtra' is has to be consistent with this
explanation (which again, to my limited knowledge, is not shared by any
other commentator on the 'Gita, even neo-Advaitins often casting
themselves adrift from Shankara and explaining `brahmasUtrapadaiH' as "in
the words of the brahma sUtra [of Badarayana]."

> Given its origin in a purANa, I don't see why the Advaitin should
> particularly reject this description.

The above might be a possible objection.

Secondly, the Badarayana sUtra does not fit these characteristics
(clarity, non-repetition, authoritativeness, etc.) under Shankara's
interpretation.  In many a case, their interpretations are concerned with
the phenomenal or lower order of reality, and Shankara clarifies this
fact.  The refutation of the `pradhAna' of the sAN^khya as the alleged
efficient cause of Creation should have occurred immediately after Brahman
is stated in I.1.2 to be the cause: `janmAdyasya yataH', but the sUtrakAra
has delayed addressing the objection immediately, and brings in two other
sUtra-s before addressing it in the IxatyadhikaraNa.  In any case the same
point (refutation of sAN^khya pradhAna/prakR^iti) has also occurred later
also.  Thus, there is both loss of sequence and repetition.  Also, for the
sUtra-s to have the quality of `sAravatva' Badarayana should not have
mixed up the lower and higher orders of reality as he has, and should have
concluded with a statement about the higher order only, unlike what he has
actually done.

I believe Bhamati and/or Anandagiri has also clarified that in case of
conflict between sUtra and Shruti, the former should be discarded; I don't
have the reference for this at hand, but I can look it up.  This means
that the sUtra-s are not `vishvatomukhaM' either.

> What are the other things in the source passage that would be
> unacceptable to Advaita?

You can look it up, but generally, the passage is saying that in the Krta
Yuga, Narayana alone was known and worshipped as the Supreme, and no doubt
about this existed in any quarter; some doubts arose in the Treta, and in
the Dvapara, due to the sage Gautama's curse upon the Vaidika-s, the
knowledge was severely dissipated and the Vedic traditions got mixed up.
Thus, when Narayana Himself was approached by the gods headed by Brahma,
Rudra, etc., He incarnated in Satyavati and Parashara, and arranged the
Vedas four-fold, with the divisions further having 21, etc., rescensions.
Further, in order to settle the purport of these conclusively, He composed
the sUtra-s, those having the qualities of `alpAxaramasandigham.h,' etc.
These sUtra-s are the ultimate tool for deciding the meanings of all the
Vedic literature, and indeed of all text-based pramANa-s.  In this manner,
having established the knowledge for the benefit of all including Brahma,
Rudra, etc., the Lord Narayana sports, etc.

The notion that the sUtra-s are the `nirNayaka' or the texts by whom
meaning is decided, with all the other texts being `nirNeya' or texts
whose meaning is decided, is based on this and a suitable interpretation
of BG XIII-5, but I don't think any Advaitin would agree with it (also
because the BG verse itself is not so interpreted).


Shrisha Rao

> Vidyasankar

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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