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The Philosophy of the Vedanta Sutra (Brahmasutra): A Study based on the Evaluation of the Commentaries of Samkara, Ramanuja and Madhva

The Philosophy of the Vedanta Sutra (Brahmasutra): A Study based on the Evaluation of the Commentaries of Samkara, Ramanuja and Madhva
Item Code: IDE422
Author: S.M. Srinivasa Chari
Publisher: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2010
ISBN: 9788121508094
Pages: 227
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.8" X 5.8"
weight of book: 410 gms
From the Jacket:

The Vedantasutra of Badarayana which codifies the teachings of the Upanisads is acclaimed by all as the fundamental source book for the system of Vedanta philosophy. Nevertheless several schools of thought such as the Advaita of samkara, the Visistadvaita of Ramanuja and the Dviata of Madhva have been developed from it, each one differing from the other in respect of major doctrines. This makes it difficult to determine the specific nature of the Vedanta philosophy as enunciated by Badarayana in his classic sutras apart from what is claimed by the respective commentators.

Dr. Chari's scholarly work attempts to brig out the views of Badarayana on the philosophy of Vedanta as enshrined in the sutras. He discusses comprehensively and in a systematic manner with reference to the selected sutra, the five fundamental doctrines of Vedanta namely, the nature of Brahman, the nature of the individual soul and its relation to Brahman, the nature of the universe and its relation to Brahman, the nature of the means to attain Brahman and the nature of the Supreme Goa. On the basis of an objective evaluation of the comments of three principal exponents of Vedanta, he has conclusively established that the Vedanta , he has conclusively established that the Vedanta philosophy of Badarayana is theistic monism, upholding the oneness of the Ultimate Reality as organically non-sentient cosmic matter. The book which is the first of its kind seeks to provide a deeper insight into the Vedantasutras.


About The Author:


S. M. Srinivas Chari was a Research Scholar at the University of Madras and a fellow of institute of philosophy at Amalner in Maharashtra.

Dr. Chari joined the Ministry of Education, Government of India, after the completion of his university career and worked in different capacities including the assignments at the Indian Height Commission, London and Indian Embassy, Washington D. C. He retired in 1976 as Joint Educational Adviser.

He has to his credit three scholarly works: Advaita and Visistadvaita - a study based on Vedanta Desika's Satadusani; Fundamentals of Visistadvaita Vedanta - a study based on Vedanta Desika's Tattvamukta-kalapa; and Philosophy and Theistic Mysticism of Alvars.



Most of the Indian philosophical systems in general and the expo- nents of the Vedanta system in particular are concerned with five basic doctrines. These are: (1) The nature of the Ultimate Reality which is known as Brahman in the Upanisads; (2) The nature of the individual soul (jivatman) and its relation to Brahman; (3) The nature of the universe (jagat) and its relation to Brahman; (4) The nature of the means (sadhana) to attain Brahman; and (5) The nature of the Supreme Goal (parama purusartha) known as moksa. As far as Vedanta is concerned, all the acaryas have acknowledged that the Upanisads which mainly deal with the philosophical theo- ries together with the Brahmasutras of Badarayana which systema- tize the Upanisadic teachings are the authoritative source-books for understanding these doctrines. Nevertheless, Samkara and his fol- lowers among the earliest extant schools, uphold the doctrine of Advaita or abhedavada as the true purport of Vedanta, according to which the undifferentiated Brahman (nirvisesa Brahma) alone is real, that jiva is identical with Brahman and the jagat is illusory in character. Bhaskara and his followers, who reject the nirvisesa Brahmavada, advocate the theory of bhed-bhedavada, according to which there is difference-cum-non-difference between Brahman and the two other ontological entities, jiva and jagat. Some others such as Yadava Prakasa, advance the theory that Brahman itself evolves into the sentient souls and non-sentient matter. The Dvaitavadins represented by Madhva and his followers, on the contrary, while admitted the reality of jiva and jagat, maintain absolute difference between Brahman and the jagat, Brahman and the souls and also difference between one .soul and the other but they do not accept any organic relationship between Brahman and the two other entities. The exponents of Visrgadvaita Vedanta, associated with Ramanuja, uphold that Brahman which is savisesa or endowed with attributes is the one Reality as organically related to both sentient souls (cit) and the non-sentient matter (acit) both of which are real (cid-acid-visita Brahma). All the acaryas, however, claim that the Brahmasutras support their respective doctrines. In the light of such conflicting views, each of which differ from the other in respect of the major philosophical theories, a modern student of philosophy is particular to know which individual school of thought is advanced by Badarayana in his classic sutras. Obvi- ously, he would not have advocated all the theories. It has to b either one of them or something different from them. With a vie' to determining which particular school of thought is well reflected in the Brahmasutra, Dr. S.M. Srinivasa Chari has undertaken the hard task of writing the present book under the title The Philosophy of the Vedantasutra. In this work he attempts to discuss the selected sutras bearing on the five major doctrines of Vedanta. He has dis- passionately examined the Bhasyas of Samkara, Ramanuja and Madhva-the three principal extant ancient schools of Vedanta- to find out how far the views of Badarayana as expressed in the sutras corroborate the theories advanced by them. On the basis 0 an objective and indepth evaluation of the comments of the three. acaryas, Dr. S.M.S. Chari has sought to establish that the view expressed by Ramanuja in his classic Sribhasya go to conform fully to the sutras of Badarayana. He has not allowed any sectarian o preconceived ideas to influence his thesis.

A dispassionate study of the sutras as well explained in this book would bear testimony to the above conclusion. The definition 0 Brahman as the primary cause of the threefold cosmic process based on the Taittiriya Upanisad and the description of Brahman if terms of distinguishing attributes (dharmas) in several sutras, reveal beyond doubt that Badarayana conceives Brahman as savisesa. A large number of sutras explicitly state that jiva is different from Brahman (bheda-vyapadesat). Even in the state of mukti, jiva is stated to be distinct from Brahman (bhogamatra samya). The specific mention of jiva as an amsa of Brahman by Badarayana in order to reconcile bheda Srutis and abheda Srutis is a clear indication that he accepts non-difference between them in the sense that Brahman by virtue of its immanence in the jiva, as stated in the Antaryami Brahmana, is integrally related to jiva. The sutras do not explicitly mention the concept of maya as conceived by Samkara. This term which is used only on sutra refers to the objects of dream only (maya-matra) but it does not imply that objects of waking state are also illusory. Nor do the sutras speak of the illusory character of the universe. The fact that Badarayana employs the term ananyatva or non-difference to explain the causal relationship between Brah- man and the universe affirms the reality of jagat as a karya (effect) of Brahman for the reason that cause and effect are different states of the same one substance. It can, therefore, be established that the system advocated by Badarayana is savisesa Advaita.

These important points are brought out convincingly by Dr. Chari in his book with unquestionable textual support under ten chapters. The first four chapters discuss comprehensively the na- ture of Brahman and its distinguishing attributes. The fifth chapter explains how Brahman is the material cause of the universe and the latter as its effect is organically related to the former. The sixth chapter deals with the nature of javatman and brings out the integral relationship between jiva and Brahman, although the two are different by virtue of their intrinsic nature. The seventh chapter discusses the nature of sadhana and establishes that upasana or the unceasing meditation on Brahman along with the karma and other ethical requisites is the direct means to moksa. The eighth chapter brings out the fact that in the state of mukti, jiva, after it is liberated from bondage, attains equality with Brahman and enjoys the bliss of Brahman for ever without a return to the mundane existence. The ninth chapter dealing with the Upanisads and the Vedantasutras shows that there is perfect harmony between the two. The final chapter sums up the points of difference and agreement between Badarayana and three acarya in. respect of major doctrines and concludes that Badarayana upholds Theistic Monism (savisesa Advaita) or visista abhedavada.

. This is undoubtedly an authoritative and well referenced work written for the first time in English by a distinguished scholar. It will help students of Vedanta to acquire a deeper insight into the teachings of Vedantasutras.


The Yedantasutra' of Badarayana, also known as Brahmasutra, constitutes the fundamental text of the Vedanta, which is the most important Indian philosophical system. The term 'Vedanta' means the concluding portion of the Vedas known as the Upanisads and as such it should normally refer to the philosophical teachings contained in the Upanisads, These teachings are systematized by Badarayana in the form of aphorisms known as Vedantasutra. Hence in a broad' sense Vedanta stands for the system of philosophy developed on the basis of both the Upanisads and the Vedantasutra. Besides these two source-books, Bhagavadgita is also acknowledged as an important text of the Vedanta, the three constituting as prasthana-traya or the triple foundation of the Vedanta system.

The Vedantasutra is ascribed to the sage Badarayana as is evident from the fact that his name finds a mention in a few sutras in the context of asserting his own view as against those of a few ancient acaryas such as Atreya, Asmarathya, Badari, Audulomi, Jaimini, Kasakrtsna, and Karsnajini, According to tradition, he is identified with Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata and considered as a divine incarnation. If we accept this fact, Badarayana enjoys a great antiquity and would have lived long before Christian era.

The sutras are concise aphoristic sentences and often expressed in a few cryptic words which are pregnant with philosophic ideas." They codify the Upanisadic teachings in a systematic order. Their total number vary from 545 to 564, depending upon how the commentators read some of them either by splitting a single sutra into two or combining two into one. The entire text comprising these sutras are divided into four chapters known as adhyayas. Each chapter is again divided into four parts known as padas. Each part comprises number of topical sections, designated as adhikaranas, each of which consists of either a single or more sutras dealing with a specific subject. The adhikarana follows a methodology adopted in traditional philosophical disputation. It sets down a specific subject for discussion (visaya), raises alternative views on it (samsaya), states prima facie view (purvapaksa), answers it after a methodical examination (uttara) and arrives at the final conclusion (siddhanta) on the subject.The number of adhikaranas again varies from one commentator to another. It is 191 for Samkara, 156 for Ramanuja and 222 for Madhva. This wide variation arises as a result of the manner in which the sutras are grouped together with reference to the subject-matter of the discussion. Despite the changes introduced by the commentators regarding the names and numbering of the adhikaranas, there is some unanimity among them on the general theme of Vedantasutra and the main subject-matter dealt in each adhyaya.

The central theme of Brahmasutra, as the very title indicates, is the study of Brahman, the ultimate metaphysical reality. The very first aphorism commences with the statement that Brahman is to be enquired into. The entire first adhyaya is devoted to discuss the nature of Brahman. At the very beginning it offers a definition of Brahman as the sole cause of the origin, sustenance and dissolution of the universe. On the basis of this criterion, it examines metho- dically all the important passages of the major Upanisads which have a direct and indirect reference to Brahman to determine its nature and rule out from the purview of Reality other ontological entities, such as pradhana (the primordial cosmic matter) of Sam- khya, jiva (the individual self), akasa (cosmic ether), prana (vital breath), etc., which are claimed to be the cause of the universe. After a critical examination of all the relevant Upanisadic texts, it is conclusively established that Brahman is the primary cause of the universe. The first chapter of the Brahmasutra is therefore titled as Samanvayadhyaya or the chapter devoted to establish the correlation of various texts of the Upanisads with Brahman as the ground of the cosmos.

The second adhyaya of Brahmasutra, known as Avirodhadhyaya or the chapter proving the absence of contradictions, is primarily devoted to uphold the .main thesis of the first chapter, viz., that Brahman is the primary cause of the universe by way of refutation of the theories advanced by the rival schools of thought which stand opposed to the Vedanta theory of Reality. The schools which come up for critical examination in the order in which it is stated in the Vedantasutra are Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya-Vaisesika, Buddhism ,jainism, Pasupata, and Pancaratra, This adhyaya also takes up for consider- ation whether or not the jiva and some of the evolutes of Prakrti such as viyat (ether), tejas (fire), vayu (air), prana (vital breath), and indriyas (sense-organs) have an origin unlike Brahman. In this connection, the sutras also deal with the nature of the jiva and its relation to Brahman and also the causal relationship between Brahman and the universe.

The third adhyaya, which is named as Sadhanadhyaya or the chapter dealing with the means of attainment, is devoted to discuss the ways and means of attaining Brahman. In this connection it covers the condition of the jiva in different states for the purpose of developing non-attachment (vairagya), the cultivation of ethical virtues, the fulfilment of other requisite preliminaries for upasana or meditation and the nature of different types of vidyas (medi- tation) to be practised for the realization of Brahman.

The fourth adhyaya which is designated as Phaladhyaya or the chapter dealing with the fruit of spiritual discipline, considers the nature of the Supreme Goal of human endeavour (purusartha) and covers the manner in which the prescribed sadhana is to be observed, the exit of the individual soul from the physical body at the time of liberation from bondage, the path through which liberated soul passes to reach the ultimate goal and the nature of moksa or final liberation from bondage.


This book attempts to present the Philosophy of Vedanta as enunciated by Badarayana in his classic Vedantasutra, the earliest aphoristic manual on the Vedanta system. Though there is an extensive literature on the Vedanta philosophy contributed by modern scholars, both Indian and Western, besides English translations of Brahmasutra along with the principal commentaries, there is no authoritative book which presents objectively and in a systematic manner, the views of Badarayana on Vedanta as enshrined in the sutras. It is generally believed that the cryptic aphorisms expressed in a few words are so vague and incomprehensible that their full import cannot be understood except with the aid of the commentary. Though this observation is partly true, it is possible to make out from the sutras the views of Badarayana on the five fundamental doctrines of Vedanta, namely, the nature of Brahman. the nature of the Individual Self and its relation to Brahman, the nature of the Universe and its relation to Brahman, the nature of the means to attain Brahman and the nature of the Supreme Goal. The important and selected sutras related to these theories are not ambiguous. Most of these are formulated on the basis of the passages of the principal Upanisads. A dispassionate study of these sutras along with the connected Upanisads would reveal the views of Badarayana on the major philosophical doctrines. This is the task which is undertaken in the present work.

The scope of this study is confined to the discussion of the selected adhikaranas that have a direct bearing on the five important doctrines on the basis of an objective evaluation of the comments of Sarnkara, Ramanuja and Madhva on the concerned sutras. Without going into the exegetical and doctrinal details as well as the criticisms and counter criticisms of the commentators, an attempt is made to present the essential points that reveal the true purport of these sutras in order to delineate the views of Badarayana on the Vedanta philosophy. It is hoped that this book will be found useful to the students of Vedanta to get a deeper insight into the philosophy of the Vedantasutra and assess which school of Vedanta represents it faithfully.

In the preparation of this book I have drawn material mostly from the original Sanskrit texts-the three basic commentaries on the Vedantasutra by Samkara, Ramanuja and Madhva and the major Upanisads referred to by them. The subject-matter covered in them is no doubt highway technical and written in terse traditional style replete with subtleties of dialectical arguments, but I have attempted to present the same in as simple and lucid manner as possible to make it comprehensible. In a work of this type the use of the Sanskrit words and quotations is unavoidable, but wherever they are used, an English rendering of them is given along with a glossary of the Sanskrit terms.

It is with great pleasure that I record my obligations. I must first pay my respects to my revered acaryas, the late Sri Gostipuram Sowmyanarayanacharya Swami, the late Sri Madhurantakam Veera- raghavacharya Swami and Sri Saragur Madabhushi Varadacharya Swami, under whom I studied Vedanta in the traditional manner. I am deeply indebted to them. I have derived help and guidance for understanding the crucial Vedantsutras from the traditional scholars, Sri K.S. Varadacharya of Parakala Mutt, Sri Krishna Jois of Samkara Mutt and Sri D. Prahladachar of Purnaprajna Vidyapeetha. I express my grateful thanks to them. I should also thank my esteemed friends, Dr. N.S. Anantharangachar, Sri Anantanarasimhachar, Sri Krishna Prasad Kalale and Sri S. Srinivasachar who have gone through the major part of the typescript and offered useful sug- gestions for improvement. My thanks are also due to all those who have helped me in one way or the other and in particular, to my wife and other family members without whose loving cooperation I would not have completed this book in my advanced age. I also express my grateful thanks to the eminent Sanskrit scholar, Sri N .S. Ramanuja Tatacharya for writing a Foreword to this book.




Foreword xi
Preface xv
Abbreviations xvii
Introduction xix
Chapter 1
Meaning of the Term Brahman 1
Definition of the Term Brahman 4
Proof for the Existence of Brahman 6
Chapter 2
Brahman as Sentient Being 10
Brahman as Anandamaya 13
Brahman as Distinct from Celestial Deities 17
Brahman as Distinct from Non-sentient Cosmic Entities 22
Chapter 3
Brahman as Sarvatma or the Self of All 27
Brahman as Atta or the Inner Controller 31
Brahman as Antaryamin 33
Brahman as Akasara or the Imperishable Reality 35
Brahman as Vaisvanara or the Ruler of all Souls 41
Brahman as Ayatana or the Abode of Heaven and Earth 43
Brahman as Bhuma or the Infinitely Great 47
Brahman as Daharakasa or the Subtle Space 50
Chapter 4
Description of Brahman as Ubhayalinga 55
The Negation of Two Modes of Brahman 60
Chapter 5
Brahman as Material Cause of the Universe 66
The Relation of the Universe to Brahman 74
The Ontological Status of the Universe 82
Chapter 6
Jiva as Eternal 88
Jiva as Jnata 91
Jiva as Anu 93
Jiva as Karta 100
The Relation of Jiva to Brahman 103
Chapter 7
The Nature of Sadhana to attain the Supreme Goal 115
The Nature and Components of Upasana 118
Chapter 8
The Nature of the Supreme Goal 124
The Status of Jiva in the State of Mukti 127
The Theory of Krama-mukti 134
Chapter 9
The Doctrine of Brahman 140
The Doctrine of the Jiva 148
The Doctrine of the Universe 151
The Doctrine of Sadhana 159
The Doctrine of Parama Purusartha 161
Chapter 10
Glossary 180
Bibliography 193
Index 196


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