Notes on Brahmasuutra-1

Shrisha Rao shrao at NYX.NET
Sun Aug 20 15:38:07 CDT 2000

On Sun, 20 Aug 2000, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:

> >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
> brahmasUtras.

Certainly; I am trying to lay out the context as "within an Advaita work,"
only, and trust I haven't misinterpreted anything.

> >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.

That is all that really is needed.

> 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.

Very good, but then, a generic definition of what a `sUtra' is must match
all of these contexts (with each of them being a special case), and I
haven't seen one in an Advaita work; the `alpAxaramasandigdhaM' one seems

> >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.

Correct, but tradition has generally had few if any qualms living with
such apparent paradoxes; many others such could be found.

> How does AnandatIrtha interpret the word sUtra in the above verse?

As referring to the `shArIraka', i.e., Badarayana, sUtra-s only, a
position I believe is shared by Ramanuja also.

> >The above might be a possible objection.
> Nothing that can't be reconciled easily.

It's not so much a question of reconciliation, as of finding a _generic_
definition for sUtra as used in shaastra contexts.

> The advaita tradition does not put too fine a point on the issue
> of non-repetition.

Which is my point precisely; that is exactly why the qualities from the
Puranic verse are not claimed for the Badarayana sUtra-s.

> 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.

Actually, there are a few instances where Shankara's commentators (who
presumably did not reject his interpretations!) have "seen faults" in the
sUtra-s; I'm not making that up.  It will take me a little while to come
up with the right references, but I can if you're interested.

> You seem to be suggesting that an Advaitin need not even have commented
> upon the brahmasUtras at all. How so?

Certainly; Gaudapada did not.

> The Advaitin does accept the sUtras as a medium of interpretation of
> SAstra-pramANa.

That's the difference; *a* medium, rather than *the* medium.


Shrisha Rao

> Vidyasankar

bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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