Throughout this document, we avoid the normal practice of capitalizing the first letters of proper nouns in case of Sanskrit names, so as to avoid any conflict with the ITRANS scheme used for transliterating Sanskrit names.
Commentaries upon the brahma-sUtra -- who have commented and how.
Notes -- interesting facts about the brahma-sUtra.
Each of these has as its authoritative source a composite text that `threads' together all of the diverse points of doctrine claimed by it. This text is called a collection of `sUtra'-s, pithy statements that discourse upon some specific aspect of the field -- and is the most important work relating to that doctrine, as it codifies the entire spectrum of thought encompassed by that doctrine, and serves as a point of reference for all matters of philosophical import. Quite frequently, the plural nature of the collection of sUtra-s is not made explicit, and one refers to the entire text as such-and-such a sUtra, as if it were in fact a single work.
In his commentary, AnandatIrtha quotes the following 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 out all the essential aspects of each topic, and dealing with all aspects of the question, free of repetitiveness and flaw -- those learned in the sUtra-s say that such is a sUtra.
Quite naturally, then, the author of the sUtra-s for each school occupies the highest rank among the scholars of that school, and is regarded as its founder or progenitor, and as the primary guru of all others claiming loyalty to that scholarly tradition. The authors of each school's sUtra, aptly called its sUtrakAra-s, are:
The brahma-sUtra is the authoritative exposition of vedAnta, but it is by no means the first, and is designed to provide an objective criticism of views held by others. Indeed, bAdarAyaNa refers in that work to the views of other previous scholars such as 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 them in others. He also refers to himself by name, apparently implying that he refers to some point he has expounded in another work. As such, it is clear that the brahma-sUtra was written at a time when the six schools in general, and vedAnta in particular, were already widely known, and discourse among their scholars had already developed to a very great degree.
There is a tradition of thought that says that all scholars named by bAdarAyaNa were in fact his own disciples and that he has immortalized them through the medium of his sUtra-s, by referring to their contributions in interpreting difficult propositions, while supporting or modifying their views in his final conclusions. After bAdarAyaNa, all scholars have accepted his authority in the final interpretation of vedAnta.
There are three kinds of vedAntic texts, called the prasthAna-traya, which are considered to be of prime importance: these are the veda-s and upanishhad-s, the brahma-sUtra, and the bhagavadgItA.
It is possible to date the bhagavadgItA, and the mahAbhArata that it is part of, to a time before the advent of Buddhism. Considering that there is a specific reference to the brahma-sUtra in the 'gItA, in verse XIII-5 of the latter work, it is possible to date the brahma-sUtra also to a time before Buddhism. In fact, bodhAyana, a scholar dated to 400 B.C., refers to the bhagavadgItA and mahAbhArata. In his commentary upon the brahma-sUtra, rAmAnuja refers to a varttika (explanatory text) by bodhAyana in which the latter shows familiarity with both the mImAmsa-sUtra and the brahma-sUtra, and in fact considers them to be two parts of a complete exposition. Unfortunately, no copies of this varttika survive to the present day, and it is also not quoted from by any other scholar. However, it may be presumed that the text did exist in rAmAnuja's time, and combined with the known familiarity of bodhAyana with the bhagavadgIta, goes to show that the brahma-sUtra was definitely already accepted as a canonical text by his time.
A problem arises because most commentators upon the brahma-sUtra have held that it also paradoxically refers back to the 'gItA in a few instances -- for instance, in saying `api cha smaryate' in sUtra-s 2.3.45 and 4.2.21; how can both works refer to each other, thus indicating that each of them was written previous to the other?
This problem may be resolved if we consider that tradition identifies bAdarAyaNa, the author of the brahma-sUtra, with veda-vyAsa, the author of the mahAbhArata (of which the bhagavadgItA is a part). Although there seems to be little evidence apart from the word of tradition to back up this claim, it seems to make sense, since then the apparent paradox can be resolved; the same author could very well have written both works in any order; he could add a reference to an as-yet-unwritten text, knowing that he was going to write it, and also knowing what he was going to write in it.
It might be argued that at least one text has had spurious insertions made into it to apparently refer to the other, and that it is thus unnecessary to posit that the authors of the two are the same. However, it is not found that the various rescensions of the brahma-sUtra are different, with some not having the questionable references; all copies of the brahma-sUtra as obtained from a variety of sources carry them. Moreover, considering the flow of the discourse in the bhagavadgItA and the brahma-sUtra, it seems very unlikely that the references are spurious insertions; they fit in well with the general background of the discussion, and do not stand out as later insertions presumably would. Thus, the hypothesis that the author of the brahma-sUtra is also the author of the bhagavadgItA stands reaffirmed.
An ITRANS encoding of the text may also be had.
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This section is due to Shrisha Rao and N. A. P. S. Rao, with the guidance of D. Prahladacharya.
Created on June 1, 1996; last modified January 04, 2003.