From the Jacket
About the Author
Dr. B.N.K. Sharma, Retired Professor of Sanskrit, Ruparel College, Bombay, has attained international renown and recognition by his scholarly contributions to the Dvaita Vedanta literary treasure. His ‘History of Dvaita School of Vedanta and its Literature’ is a monumental work which brought him the highest national literary distinction of the Sahitya Academy Award in 1964. His works, dealing with the Brahma Sutras and different commentaries on it, have Brought him to the fore-ground of the philosophical world more prominently. This Book on Brhadaranyaka Upanisad will be a very great source of instruction for Research scholars and laymen as well.
The Vedanta has played a dominant role in Indian thought. It is undoubtedly its culmination. It has however come down to us in two or three principal versions associated with the names of such distinguished Acaryas as Sankara, Ramanuja and Madhva. Of these, only Sankara and Madhva have left us complete commentaries on the ten major Upanisads which form the basis of the Vedantasastra.
It is however sad to contemplate that even at the dawn of the 21st Century, the exaggerated and one sided importance which came to be bestowed on Sankara’s interpretation of the Upanisads under certain historical circumstances connected with the discovery of Sanskrit by the Western Scholars and its repercussions on the Nationalist movement in India and the subsequent work of Vivekananda in spreading the message of the Advaita Vedanta all over the world should still stand in the way 61 the uncompromising Theistic interpretation of the Philosophy of the Upanisads and Vedanta Sutras sponsored by Madhvacarya receiving equal attention and publicity. The writings of well known Professors of Indian Philosophy like Dr. Radhakrishnan, Chandradhar Sharma, P.T. Raju and others in our own time have gone the same way of boosting the Advaita interpretation of the Upanisads paying scant attention to their robust realistic and Theistic interpretations.
My work on the Brahmasutras and Their Principal Commentaries, in three Volumes (2nd Edition) sets right this glaring imbalance of modern Indian and Western scholarship in the treatment of the Sutras of Badarayana.
In this work, I have taken up a similar task of demanding parity of study and interest of Modern scholarship from our academic circles for the Upanisad Bhasyas of Madhva, with those of Sankara, in the best interest of genuine advancement of thought.
I have started with the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad for various reasons. It is the most voluminous among the major Upanisads in prose- It has come to be regarded as the citadel of Monism of which the great Yajavalkya is supposed to be the Founder- Father with Sankara as his mediaeval expositor. And, there are nearly a dozen English translations of this Upanisad following ox based on Sankara’s bhasya on it by distinguished writers like flume, Kadhakrishnan and several Swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission, who set the pace of thinking of our Younger generation.
The earliest English Translation of Madhva’s Bhasya on the Brhadaranyaka was by Srish Chandra Vasu, published in 1916 in the SBH Series, Allahabad. Besides the gist of the Bhasya it also gave word for word meanings of the Upanisadic text. But the recondite nature of Madhva’s commentary, which embodies implicit criticisms of Sankara’s interpretation, wherever necessary, besides giving his own fresh interpretations of the text, the mixed style of prose and verse in which the Bhasya is written and the profuse quotations from a multiplicity of fading and forgotten ‘sources given by Madhva in support of his own interpretations couched in a highly condensed style of writing, render the task of a direct translation rather difficult and less useful at present. I have therefore preferred to adopt the expository method of presenting the salient contents of his powerful commentary on the topics figuring in the Upanisad.
For purposes of my exposition, I have utilized two very important Sanskrit glosses of the Dvaita School on the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. The first and the foremost is that of Sri Raghuttama Tirtha (1557-96) which is both critical and copious-explaining not only the Bhasyartha but giving the Khandartha (of the Upanisadic text as such) While dealing with the Bhasyartha, Raghuttama’s learned gloss cites relevant passages from Sankara’s bhasya on the Upanisad and discusses the admissibility of its interpretations. This offers us great assistance in understanding where, how and why Madhva has been obliged to differ from Sankara and provides valuable material for weighing the merits of their respective interpretations and their fidelity to the text of the Upanisad. Modern scholars and critical students of the Upanisad and laymen too are sure to find much to learn and unlearn from such a comparative study of the two Bhasyas on this famous Upanisad.
The gloss of Raghavendra Tirtha (1623-71) briefly elucidates the text of the Upanisad from Madhva’s standpoint.
I have here and there cited Dr. Radhakrishnan’s translation of this Upanisad from his Principals Upanisads, for passing comments. I have not thought it necessary to refer to other translations by the Svamis of the Ramakrishna Mission or D.S. Sarma, Hume or that published by the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh, as they mostly repeat Sankara’s position and have nothing original or substantial to say on textual exegesis.
In principle and in substance, the classical Upanisads are totally committed to Brahmavidya or the science of Brahman. For this reason, they are called “Adhyatmavidya.” The term ‘Atman’ here signifies the Supreme Ruler of all finite reality and its indwelling Controller, called the “.Antaryami in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad. The prefix ‘adhi’ signifies” transcendence (Adhir Isvare Pan, 1.4. 97).
While the Mantras and the Brahmanas of the Vedic literature deal with God or Brahman apparently as an external Being, the Arayakas turn pointed attention to its immanence in the world of matter and souls. The sources of man’s spiritual insight are both subjective and objective—the light of the self within and the wonders of the world without. In the Samhitas the vast order and movement of nature, rtam, (from r to move on) holds attention. The Upanisads turn to explore ‘the inner world of man (Katha Up. V. 1). From the outward physical world, the attention is here shifted to the inner immortal self and its states of waking, dreaming and dreamless sleep and beyond and its relation to the Supreme Unseen Power, which steers ‘it thro’ all these states (Brh. Up. iv.3. 15 and BS 111.2). The supreme of the Upanisads is thus the God in Man, and in the Universe. With this shifting of attention and emphasis, from the outer to the inner world of man’s states of experiences, his struggles and his quest for rest in the final source of all finite reality, (Kena Up 1.1) came the birth of true philosophy.
The idea of a central causal power behind the world had already been reached in the Samhitas. It had, however, remained at the outer level of the gods presiding over the powers of nature: Sahaiva santam na vijananti devah (T.A.iii.J I). Following the Arayakas, the Upanisads perceptibly completed the extension of sway of the inner governing principle of the universe as holding the key to the very existence, power of knowing and functioning of all finite reality (Aitadatmyam idam sarvam Chan. Up. vi. 15) meaning All this has Him as its inner Ruler (Alma). This sums up the teaching of the Upanisads. Ramanuja points out in his Sribhasya (i.l.l) that Uddalaka’s statement “Tat tvam asi”, following ‘Aitadatmyam idam sarvam’ does not make any fresh predication. It merely extends the application of the general principle, that all this has the Supreme being as its inner Ruler, to the particular case of the person addressed viz. Svetaketu, who represents the inquiring self. the Jivatman, thereby pricking the bubble of his vanity and conceit and making him realise that like everything else in the universe he too is subject to the same unseen poi or of God and is dependent on Him.
The laying down of universal propositions such as Isavasyam idam sarvam (Tea Up.)Aitadatmyam idam sarvam (Chan Up.) as the corner—stone of Upanisadic philosophy naturally led to an absorbing interest in the pursuit of serious philosophical reflection on the relationship between the human personality and its environment, the world of matter and their highest governing principle: Tam atmastham ye’nupasyanti…tesam, sukham sasvatam (Svet.up.ii 2, 13). We see here that the Lord present in the individual self needs must be different from the self.
While the Mantras adopt a laudatory approach and the Brahmanas a mandatory one, the Upanisads clothe their thoughts in colorful mystic language and imagery, analogies and parables. For this reason the logical steps of their philosophical pronouncements and postulations often remain obscure in the background and have to be drawn out and developed systematically thro’ discursive reasoning and given concrete form and shape. This was accomplished in the Nirnayaka Sutras, the Sutras-of Badarayana.
The philosophical etymology of the term ‘Upanisad’ given by Sankara in his c. on the Katha Up. on the basis of the three interrelated meanings of the root ‘sad’ with ‘Upa’ and ‘ni’ as prefixes, signifies the Vidya (lore) which loosens the bonds of transmigration, destroys the seed of Avidya and leads to Brahman, is acceptable to Madhva also. He therefore insists that being intended to give us the highest knowledge of Brahman (Cf Aupanisadah Purusah) these Upanisads ought to be interpreted uniformly consistently and exclusively so as to reveal the transcendental majesty of Brahman as the universal Creator (Visvasya karta). the indwelling controller of the world (Visvantaryami) towering high above over all finite reality (Visvatah paramom) and that they should never be deflected from their highest purpose, aim and objective (mahatatparya) or made to stray into miscellaneous topics pertaining to ‘lower Vidya’ or a duplicate Brahman called ‘Saguna’ clothed with superimposed reality and atrihutes.
Madhva shows us in his commentaries on the Upanisads how the various Vidyas (meditations) taught in them have for their principal subject matter only the transcendental majesty of Brahman possessed of infinite perfections, as being the immanent source of all cosmic life and development, without becoming at the same time tainted by their change of statns and other shortcomings, by reason of its transcending matter and souls.
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