Notes on Brahmasuutra-1

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Sun Aug 20 02:25:08 CDT 2000

>in my limited reading, I have not seen any Advaita author define a sUtra,

Nor do I recollect any elaborate definition within an Advaita text.

>period.  However, the mere word `sUtra' or `brahmasUtra' need not
>necessarily refer to Badarayana's aphorisms, because Shankara reads the

Within an Advaita work, yes. However, unless specified otherwise,
the default option is to take the reference to be to Badarayana's

>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.

All that Sankara says here is that the reference is to statements
in the Upanishads, about the nature of Brahman. He does not qualify
this in any further manner. And this is because the reference is to
the jnAna of both the kshetra and the kshetrajna. The idea that the
Advaitin considers only some things authoritative and other things
unauthoritative within the Upanishads is false. We consider them to
be all authoritative, but in different contexts and at different
times. For example, the injunction to marry and sacrifice cannot
be simultaneously applicable along with an injunction to renounce
and become a sannyAsin. The two are addressed either to different
persons or to the same person at different stages in life.

Note also that elsewhere in the gItAbhAshya, Sankara refers to quoted
verses as sUtra-sthAnIya, i.e. an entire verse can be considered
a sUtra, in certain contexts.

>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]."

Well, such a position would have to presume that the sUtras of
Badarayana were written before the gItA. On the other hand, most
of the references in the sUtras to smRti are to the gItA. How does
AnandatIrtha interpret the word sUtra in the above verse?

>The above might be a possible objection.

Nothing that can't be reconciled easily.

>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 advaita tradition does not put too fine a point on the issue
of non-repetition. We don't consider it a "dosha", but find some
explanation that satisfies why a punarukti is sometimes necessary.
And that the sUtras do not satisfy these characteristics under
Sankara's interpretation is only held by those who reject Sankara's
interpretation. Those of us who do accept it do not see any such
faults in the sUtras themselves.

>the phenomenal or lower order of reality, and Shankara clarifies this
>fact.  The refutation of the `pradhAna' of the sAN^khya as the alleged

But that is because dvirUpaM hi brahma avagamyate - Sankara's bhAshya

>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

And the justification for this is also found within the bhAshya itself.
One needs to highlight the SAstra-yonitva and the textual samanvaya,
before moving to Ikshater nASabdaM, because the reference to IkshaNa
is from the SAstra, and samanvaya from at least two different SAstra
texts is presumed here.

>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.

Without getting into a big discussion about this, not so, under the
Advaita interpretation.

>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.

Well, we don't look at either Sruti or sUtra as a legal contract that
is a drab and literal document. We allow for poetry and figures of
speech. As for conflict between sUtra and Sruti, it is simply a general
acknowledgement that the sUtra is not an apaurusheya text. If there
were a conflict, hypothetically speaking, the Sruti would be balIyasI.
I am unaware of any specific instance where Vacaspati or Anandagiri
has pointed out that sUtra does conflict with Sruti.

>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).

You seem to be suggesting that an Advaitin need not even have commented
upon the brahmasUtras at all. How so? The Advaitin does accept the
sUtras as a medium of interpretation of SAstra-pramANa. If not, Sankara
could have simply commented upon the Upanishads and gItA, and ignored
the sUtras totally. As you can see, that is hardly the case.

Best wishes,

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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