Notes on Brahmasuutra-1

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vsundaresan at HOTMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 21 01:02:30 CDT 2000

Shrisha Rao <shrao at NYX.NET> wrote:

>> 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

sUtra-bhUta and sUtra-sthAnIya indicate that something else is being
substituted, in lieu of a sUtra. That presumes that there is an expectation
regarding what a sUtra itself is, or should be. The other question is
whether this should be descriptive or prescriptive.

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

Any generic definition should take into account the general nature of the
sUtra style of composition. One cannot have one definition for the vedAnta
sUtras and another for say the nyAya or vaiSeshika sUtras.

>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.

The only one I can remember is madhusUdana sarasvatI praising Sankara and
sureSvara as having explained the meaning of the vedAnta better than the
sUtrakAra himself. Whether anything more than praise is intended in this
statement is not evident. In poetic alankAras, no negative judgement is
intended of the other, when praise is made of one.

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

Change the "need not" to "should not". I wrote in haste.

>Certainly; Gaudapada did not.

Not every philosopher belonging to a given school needs to comment primarily
upon the sUtras of that school, in order to prove his standing.

>> The Advaitin does accept the sUtras as a medium of interpretation of
>> SAstra-pramANa.
>That's the difference; *a* medium, rather than *the* medium.

That is because we also accept that the mImAMsA sUtras are another medium
for interpreting the SAstra, but with respect to the karmakANDa. And we
don't see the pUrva and uttara mImAMsA as forming one particularly unified
system. dharma is codanA-lakshaNa, but brahma is svataH-siddha. Accordingly,
the two systems differ, and the media also differ, with the same SAstra as
pramANa. The multiple perspectives that get reconciled in the Advaita
central position allows to accept more than one medium, but for different
purposes. After all, like a prakaraNa or a bhAshya or a vRtti, a sUtra is
only a text composed by a human being, in accordance with his anubhava and
yukti. Sruti itself has multiple SAkhAs, along with mantra and brAhmaNa


bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam

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