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Books > Philosophy > The Structure and Meaning of Badarayana's Brahma Sutras
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The Structure and Meaning of Badarayana's Brahma Sutras
The Structure and Meaning of Badarayana's Brahma Sutras
Description

From the Jacket

In the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana, we find what is perhaps the most influential work in the history of Hindu theology, given that the Brahma Sutras served as the basis for the theologies of all major Hindu theologians, including Sankara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Madhva.

Unfortunately, our access to Badarayana's work has been through the biased commentaries of these scetarian theologians, who often interpret the Brahma Sutras to support their own theological positions.

In this work Dr. Adams examines the first of the Brahma Sutras' four sections in an attempt to identify their original meaning and the theology that Badarayana attempted to express Dr. Adams also offers a readable translation that provides the reader with greater insight into the cryptic Sanskrit aphorisms composed by Badarayana. As such, this work provides a valuable contribution to understanding one of the seminal works in the History of Hindu theology.

About the Author

George C. Adams, Jr. was born in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1953. Dr. Adams holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Susquehanna University, and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Theology from Fordham University, where he studied History of Religions and Hindu Theology under Dr. Jose Pereira. Currently Dr. Adams is an Instructor in the Evening Program at Susquehanna University, where he teaches courses in Religion and Philosophy. Dr. Adams' interests include Hindu Theology, comparative studies, and the relationship between religion and psychology.

Introduction

Importance of the Brahma Sutras
The subject of this work, the Brahma Sutars’ (also known as the Vedanta Sutras) of Badarayapa. holds a position of immense significance within both the Hindu tradition and the history of world religions.

Within the Hindu tradition, the significance of the Sutras derives from the tremendous task that they purport to accomplish: summarizing and systematizing the teachings of revelation and, in particular, the Upanisads. The Upanisads, of course, are the most important of the many Hindu religious scriptures. Consisting of a number of separate books, which in turn appear at times to be compilations from various sources, the Upanisads, dating from as early as 600 B.C., seek to set forth teachings on the nature of the supreme deity, the Brahman, and the relationship between the Brahman, the world, and the individual soul, or jiva. They do not represent a single, coherent system of thought, but rather contain a variety of views about the same basic themes. As Hume states,

The Upanisads are no homogeneous products, cogently presenting a philosophic theory, but they are compilations from different sources recording the ‘guesses at truth’ of the early Indians. A single, well articulated system cannot be deduced from them.

Hence, we find in the Upanisads a wide variety of theological doctrines: Idealism and Realism: Difference, Identity, and Difference- in-Identity; devotion and gnosis; theism and impersonal monism; cosmologies identifying a variety of ‘first causes’: water, space, being, non-being, and personal lord; and all of this presented in a variety of formats, including myths, rituals, hymns, and philosophical treatises. The Brahma Sutras attempted the intimidating task of systematizing this strange compilation of varied ideas expressed in varied forms, and identifying a consistent set of doctrines running throughout the Upanisads. From the apparent diversity of these scriptures, the Brahma Sutras purported to bring forth a unity, in terms of a set of theological doctrines common to all the Upanisads, however differently they might be expressed from one Upanisad to another. Whether or not the Brahma Sutras actually accomplish this task is open to debate (the Sütras, for instance, address only a small number of Upanisadic passages), but in any case they have been perceived by Hindus as doing so, and hence held in high esteem.

The Sutras were, in fact, held in such high esteem that no Hindu school of theology could expect serious recognition unless the school produced a commentary on the Sutras demonstrating that its doctrines were consistent with those of the Sütras. In order to achieve legitimacy, a new school would forego the difficult and complex task of proving its congruence with the multi-faceted Upanisads by focusing instead on the Sutras, which provided a more orderly and concise summary of Upanisadic thought. Thus, the major Vedantic theologians-.-Sankara, Ramanuja. Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Madhva— all wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, demonstrating how their doctrines were consistent with the Sütras of Bãdarayapa. Indeed, the major work of each of these theologians was a commentary on the Sütras.

The significance of the Brahma Sütras for Hindu theology is thus twofold, for they not only summarized what came before them (i.e., the Upanisads) but also served as the basis of much that followed them (i.e., the Vedantic theologians). As Thibaut states of the Brahma Sütras.

They occupy a strictly central position, summarizing, on the one hand, a series of literary essays, extending over many generations, and forming, on the other hand, the head spring of an ever broadening activity of commentators as well as virtually independent writers, which reaches down to our days, and may yet have some future before itself.

The significance of the Brahma Sutras extends, however, beyond the realm of Hindu theology, for it is probable that they represent the first complete systematic theology, or at least the oldest systematic theology that has survived to our time, dating back to perhaps as early as the fifth century B.C.6 While there are, of course, many religious writings, both within Hinduism and within other religious traditions, that are older than the Brahma Sutras, these are either purported revelations found in the form of myth, hymn, ritual, and theological speculation or short theological works that are not of an all-encompassing and strictly systematic nature. The Brahma Sutras are the oldest example of man’s attempt to organize and systematize the unorganized body of revelation and discern a meaningful and consistent set of theological ideas out of revelation’s apparent diversity. Badarãyara’s work represents an early effort at accomplishing the same task that was to inspire theologians of all traditions for centuries, culminating perhaps in Catholic scholasticism: the urge to transform the complexity and diversity of revelation into the logic and unity of a systematic theology. Regardless of how well Badarayana accomplished this task—and one can argue that he hardly formulated an exhaustive summary of Upanisadic doctrines— his significance in the history of theology remains merely because the Sutras are our oldest example of systematic theology.

Scope and Purpose
The Brahma Sutras hold a somewhat paradoxical position in the history of theology, in that while on the one hand they have enjoyed considerable attention through the commentaries written on them by the Vedantic theologians, particularly Sankara and Ramanuja, on the other hand, as an independent work the Sütras have received relatively little attention. They have served as the vehicle by which the systems of Ramanuja, Sankara, and others have been made known to the world, and particularly to Western readers, but while serving this role the Sun-as have been relatively neglected as an independent work. The magnificence and depth of the Vedantic commentaries have overshadowed the short, cryptic, and sometimes seemingly meaningless sütras of Badarayana.

In contrast, this work is devoted to the Brahman Sutras as a work in itself. Our concern is not with what Sankara, Rämanuja, or other theologians have said about the Brahma Sun-as, but what the Brahma Sutras themselves say. Our goal is to discern what l3adarayaua actually meant, rather than what other Vedantic theologians claim he meant. While the Vedantic theologians will be referred to frequently, it will only be insofar as they help us shed light on the original meaning of the Sutras.

There have, of course been other works which have attempted to focus on Bädaräyat3a’s Sun-as, rather than on the commentators’ interpretations of the Sutras: in particular, the works of Radhakrishnan, Sharma, an S Ghate come to mind. Each of these works, however, has a significant flaw which prevents it from being a definitive and reliable analysis of Badarayana’s thought. Radha Krishnan offers a lengthy verse by verse description of all 555 Sutras however his analysis concentrates almost exclusively on the commentators differing interpretations of the Sutras with little references to Badarayana’s own meaning. B.N.K. Sharma presents a lengthy and detailed analysis of the sutras and devotes considerable attention to the question of the original meaning of the Sutras. Unfortunately Sharma writes as a devoted follower of Madhva’s dualism and his book despite its excellent scholarship amounts to little more than an eloquent defense of Madhva’s interpretation of the Sutras.

 

Contents

 

I Introduction  
  Importance of the Brahma Sutras 1
  Scope and purpose 3
II Background of the Brahma Sutras  
  Dating 7
  Brahma Sutras as Uttara Mimamsa 9
  Predecessors of Badaryana 10
  The Structure of the Brahma Sutras 12
  The Sutra style and its problems for the modern interpreter 13
III Important Expositors on The Brahma Sutras  
  Introduction 19
  Sankara 19
  Ramanuja 23
  Nimbarka 27
  Vallabha 29
  Madhva 31
IV An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:1  
  Topic Five Intelligibility Aphorisms 37
  Topic Six: The Self consisting of joy 53
  Topic Seven: The Solar Indweller 57
  Topic Eight: Space 59
  Topic Ten: Light 60
  Topic Eleven: Indra as Breath 62
V An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:2  
  Topic One: The Being Consisting of Mind 67
  Topic Two: The Eater 71
  Topic Three: The Two persons in the cave 72
  Topic Four: the person within the eye 73
  Topic Five: The Inner Controller 75
  Topic Six: The Invisible 78
  Topic Seven: The Gastric fire 79
VI An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:3  
  Topic One: The Support of the Universe 87
  Topic Two: The Abundance 88
  Topic Three: The Imperishable 90
  Topic Four: The Object of Seeing 92
  Topic Five: The Small space in the heart 93
  Topic Six: Persons the size of the thumb 93
  Topic Seven: The Deities as students of the Vedas 98
  Topic Eight: The Sudras Intelgibility for Brahman knowledge 101
  Topic Nine: Breath 103
  Topic Ten: Light 104
  Topic Eleven: Space 104
VII An analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:4  
  Topic One: The Unmanifest 107
  Topic Two: The Unborn 110
  Topic Three: The five groups of five 112
  Topic Four: The Brahman as creator 113
  Topic Five: Whose work is the world 114
  Topic Six: The Self to be seen heard etc. 117
  Topic Seven: The Material and efficient cause 120
  Topic Eight: Closing 123
VIII Conclusion  
  Preliminary Consideration 125
  Badarayana’s methodologies 126
  The Theology of the Brahma Sutras Chapter one 128
  The Theology of the Brahma Sutras: A Summary of Chapter Two three and four 131
  Closing Remarks 133
  Bibliography 135
  Appendices  
  A. A Comparison of Adhikarana and Sutra Breakdowns 139
  B. An Analysis of Sutra Length 140
  C. Badarayana’s Methodology 141
  Index 143

 

Sample Pages









The Structure and Meaning of Badarayana's Brahma Sutras

Item Code:
IDD345
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Hardcover
Edition:
1993
ISBN:
81-208-0931-9
Language:
English
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9.0 inch X 6.0 inch
Pages:
155
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Weight of the Book: 375 gms
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From the Jacket

In the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana, we find what is perhaps the most influential work in the history of Hindu theology, given that the Brahma Sutras served as the basis for the theologies of all major Hindu theologians, including Sankara, Ramanuja, Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Madhva.

Unfortunately, our access to Badarayana's work has been through the biased commentaries of these scetarian theologians, who often interpret the Brahma Sutras to support their own theological positions.

In this work Dr. Adams examines the first of the Brahma Sutras' four sections in an attempt to identify their original meaning and the theology that Badarayana attempted to express Dr. Adams also offers a readable translation that provides the reader with greater insight into the cryptic Sanskrit aphorisms composed by Badarayana. As such, this work provides a valuable contribution to understanding one of the seminal works in the History of Hindu theology.

About the Author

George C. Adams, Jr. was born in Danville, Pennsylvania in 1953. Dr. Adams holds a B.A. degree in Sociology from Susquehanna University, and the M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Theology from Fordham University, where he studied History of Religions and Hindu Theology under Dr. Jose Pereira. Currently Dr. Adams is an Instructor in the Evening Program at Susquehanna University, where he teaches courses in Religion and Philosophy. Dr. Adams' interests include Hindu Theology, comparative studies, and the relationship between religion and psychology.

Introduction

Importance of the Brahma Sutras
The subject of this work, the Brahma Sutars’ (also known as the Vedanta Sutras) of Badarayapa. holds a position of immense significance within both the Hindu tradition and the history of world religions.

Within the Hindu tradition, the significance of the Sutras derives from the tremendous task that they purport to accomplish: summarizing and systematizing the teachings of revelation and, in particular, the Upanisads. The Upanisads, of course, are the most important of the many Hindu religious scriptures. Consisting of a number of separate books, which in turn appear at times to be compilations from various sources, the Upanisads, dating from as early as 600 B.C., seek to set forth teachings on the nature of the supreme deity, the Brahman, and the relationship between the Brahman, the world, and the individual soul, or jiva. They do not represent a single, coherent system of thought, but rather contain a variety of views about the same basic themes. As Hume states,

The Upanisads are no homogeneous products, cogently presenting a philosophic theory, but they are compilations from different sources recording the ‘guesses at truth’ of the early Indians. A single, well articulated system cannot be deduced from them.

Hence, we find in the Upanisads a wide variety of theological doctrines: Idealism and Realism: Difference, Identity, and Difference- in-Identity; devotion and gnosis; theism and impersonal monism; cosmologies identifying a variety of ‘first causes’: water, space, being, non-being, and personal lord; and all of this presented in a variety of formats, including myths, rituals, hymns, and philosophical treatises. The Brahma Sutras attempted the intimidating task of systematizing this strange compilation of varied ideas expressed in varied forms, and identifying a consistent set of doctrines running throughout the Upanisads. From the apparent diversity of these scriptures, the Brahma Sutras purported to bring forth a unity, in terms of a set of theological doctrines common to all the Upanisads, however differently they might be expressed from one Upanisad to another. Whether or not the Brahma Sutras actually accomplish this task is open to debate (the Sütras, for instance, address only a small number of Upanisadic passages), but in any case they have been perceived by Hindus as doing so, and hence held in high esteem.

The Sutras were, in fact, held in such high esteem that no Hindu school of theology could expect serious recognition unless the school produced a commentary on the Sutras demonstrating that its doctrines were consistent with those of the Sütras. In order to achieve legitimacy, a new school would forego the difficult and complex task of proving its congruence with the multi-faceted Upanisads by focusing instead on the Sutras, which provided a more orderly and concise summary of Upanisadic thought. Thus, the major Vedantic theologians-.-Sankara, Ramanuja. Nimbarka, Vallabha, and Madhva— all wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutras, demonstrating how their doctrines were consistent with the Sütras of Bãdarayapa. Indeed, the major work of each of these theologians was a commentary on the Sütras.

The significance of the Brahma Sütras for Hindu theology is thus twofold, for they not only summarized what came before them (i.e., the Upanisads) but also served as the basis of much that followed them (i.e., the Vedantic theologians). As Thibaut states of the Brahma Sütras.

They occupy a strictly central position, summarizing, on the one hand, a series of literary essays, extending over many generations, and forming, on the other hand, the head spring of an ever broadening activity of commentators as well as virtually independent writers, which reaches down to our days, and may yet have some future before itself.

The significance of the Brahma Sutras extends, however, beyond the realm of Hindu theology, for it is probable that they represent the first complete systematic theology, or at least the oldest systematic theology that has survived to our time, dating back to perhaps as early as the fifth century B.C.6 While there are, of course, many religious writings, both within Hinduism and within other religious traditions, that are older than the Brahma Sutras, these are either purported revelations found in the form of myth, hymn, ritual, and theological speculation or short theological works that are not of an all-encompassing and strictly systematic nature. The Brahma Sutras are the oldest example of man’s attempt to organize and systematize the unorganized body of revelation and discern a meaningful and consistent set of theological ideas out of revelation’s apparent diversity. Badarãyara’s work represents an early effort at accomplishing the same task that was to inspire theologians of all traditions for centuries, culminating perhaps in Catholic scholasticism: the urge to transform the complexity and diversity of revelation into the logic and unity of a systematic theology. Regardless of how well Badarayana accomplished this task—and one can argue that he hardly formulated an exhaustive summary of Upanisadic doctrines— his significance in the history of theology remains merely because the Sutras are our oldest example of systematic theology.

Scope and Purpose
The Brahma Sutras hold a somewhat paradoxical position in the history of theology, in that while on the one hand they have enjoyed considerable attention through the commentaries written on them by the Vedantic theologians, particularly Sankara and Ramanuja, on the other hand, as an independent work the Sütras have received relatively little attention. They have served as the vehicle by which the systems of Ramanuja, Sankara, and others have been made known to the world, and particularly to Western readers, but while serving this role the Sun-as have been relatively neglected as an independent work. The magnificence and depth of the Vedantic commentaries have overshadowed the short, cryptic, and sometimes seemingly meaningless sütras of Badarayana.

In contrast, this work is devoted to the Brahman Sutras as a work in itself. Our concern is not with what Sankara, Rämanuja, or other theologians have said about the Brahma Sun-as, but what the Brahma Sutras themselves say. Our goal is to discern what l3adarayaua actually meant, rather than what other Vedantic theologians claim he meant. While the Vedantic theologians will be referred to frequently, it will only be insofar as they help us shed light on the original meaning of the Sutras.

There have, of course been other works which have attempted to focus on Bädaräyat3a’s Sun-as, rather than on the commentators’ interpretations of the Sutras: in particular, the works of Radhakrishnan, Sharma, an S Ghate come to mind. Each of these works, however, has a significant flaw which prevents it from being a definitive and reliable analysis of Badarayana’s thought. Radha Krishnan offers a lengthy verse by verse description of all 555 Sutras however his analysis concentrates almost exclusively on the commentators differing interpretations of the Sutras with little references to Badarayana’s own meaning. B.N.K. Sharma presents a lengthy and detailed analysis of the sutras and devotes considerable attention to the question of the original meaning of the Sutras. Unfortunately Sharma writes as a devoted follower of Madhva’s dualism and his book despite its excellent scholarship amounts to little more than an eloquent defense of Madhva’s interpretation of the Sutras.

 

Contents

 

I Introduction  
  Importance of the Brahma Sutras 1
  Scope and purpose 3
II Background of the Brahma Sutras  
  Dating 7
  Brahma Sutras as Uttara Mimamsa 9
  Predecessors of Badaryana 10
  The Structure of the Brahma Sutras 12
  The Sutra style and its problems for the modern interpreter 13
III Important Expositors on The Brahma Sutras  
  Introduction 19
  Sankara 19
  Ramanuja 23
  Nimbarka 27
  Vallabha 29
  Madhva 31
IV An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:1  
  Topic Five Intelligibility Aphorisms 37
  Topic Six: The Self consisting of joy 53
  Topic Seven: The Solar Indweller 57
  Topic Eight: Space 59
  Topic Ten: Light 60
  Topic Eleven: Indra as Breath 62
V An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:2  
  Topic One: The Being Consisting of Mind 67
  Topic Two: The Eater 71
  Topic Three: The Two persons in the cave 72
  Topic Four: the person within the eye 73
  Topic Five: The Inner Controller 75
  Topic Six: The Invisible 78
  Topic Seven: The Gastric fire 79
VI An Analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:3  
  Topic One: The Support of the Universe 87
  Topic Two: The Abundance 88
  Topic Three: The Imperishable 90
  Topic Four: The Object of Seeing 92
  Topic Five: The Small space in the heart 93
  Topic Six: Persons the size of the thumb 93
  Topic Seven: The Deities as students of the Vedas 98
  Topic Eight: The Sudras Intelgibility for Brahman knowledge 101
  Topic Nine: Breath 103
  Topic Ten: Light 104
  Topic Eleven: Space 104
VII An analysis of the Brahma Sutras 1:4  
  Topic One: The Unmanifest 107
  Topic Two: The Unborn 110
  Topic Three: The five groups of five 112
  Topic Four: The Brahman as creator 113
  Topic Five: Whose work is the world 114
  Topic Six: The Self to be seen heard etc. 117
  Topic Seven: The Material and efficient cause 120
  Topic Eight: Closing 123
VIII Conclusion  
  Preliminary Consideration 125
  Badarayana’s methodologies 126
  The Theology of the Brahma Sutras Chapter one 128
  The Theology of the Brahma Sutras: A Summary of Chapter Two three and four 131
  Closing Remarks 133
  Bibliography 135
  Appendices  
  A. A Comparison of Adhikarana and Sutra Breakdowns 139
  B. An Analysis of Sutra Length 140
  C. Badarayana’s Methodology 141
  Index 143

 

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