Sri Ramanuja has written nine works viz., Sribhasyam, Vedantasara, Vedantadipa, Vedarthasangraha, Gitabhasya, Saranagatigadya, Srirangagadya, Srivaikunthagadya and Nityagrantha. Vedantasara is the commentary on the Brahmasutras following the Visistadvaita school. This brings out in a nutshell the upanisadic philosophy contained in the Brahmasutras. It is very useful to the beginners who are not in a position to study the elaborate commentary on Brahmasutras viz. Sribhasyam.
The Academy of Sanskrit Research has a desire to publish the original texts of Bhagavad Ramanuja for the benefit of the readers who are interested in Vedanta Philosophy. This is the first of its kind in that scheme. It is hoped that this will serve the purpose.
The revered Acarya Ramanuja has written nine works which are considered to be the nine gems of Visistadvaitic literature. Sribhasya the magnum opus of Ramanujacarya’s works, is the well known commentary on Brahmasutras of Badarayana, severaly argumentative, controversial, technical and terse. To make his views on Brahmasutras easily understandable, Ramanujacarya has abbreviated forms of commentaries viz., Vedantadipa and Vedantasara.
In Vedantasara the purport and the kernel-concepts (Visayavakyas) of the sutras have been presented in just one or two lines. It is a comprehensive treatise useful to those who lack the time to study the longer Sribhasyam.
With a view to facilitate the seekers of knowledge in their study of Ramanujacarya’s works, the Academy has taken up publication of critical editions of his nine works. In this series, Sribhasyam has been published in four volumes with compendious notes and appendices. Another work Vedarthasangraha is to be released shortly.
Meanwhile Academy had cherished a desire to publish the bare texts of the original works of Visistadvaita, as they are out of print. Such publications will be useful for repeated reading of the original.
We are glad to place before the readers Vedantasara, the original text with variations in reading. It is hoped that the works will find a ready welcome.
Our thanks are due to Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams for the financial assistance provided for the publication of this work. We are also thankful to the scholars who have helped in its preparation.
Ramanuja is the only acarya who has written three commentaries on the Brahmasutras namely Vedantasara, Sribhasyam and Vedantadipah. It is said that Vedantasara was his first commentary on Brahmasutras. This might have given room for many arguments and counter-arguments by his opponents and followers, respectively, during the time of Ramanuja himself. Faced by such arguments, he might have felt the need to justify his own thesis by writing an elaborate commentary which culminated in Sribhasyam. Since Sribhasyam was felt too elaborate, he might have written Vedantadipah which is an abridged from of Sribhasyam. Vedantadipah strictly follow the systematic way of presenting (1) Topic (2) Doubt raised with regard to the topic, (3) Primafacie view, (4) Reply to primafacie view and (5) Conclusions. At the outset of Vedantasara, Ramanuja clearly mentions that he will bring out the essence of the Vedanta with the grace of supreme Brahman in this commentary “Paramapurusaprasadat vedantasara uddhriyate”.
There is a popular belief that these three commentaries were written by Ramanujacarya keeping in view the needs of the readers. Sribhasyam, dealing with the Upanisadic philosophy as systematized in the Brahmasutras is full of dialectics. Only a pandit wellversed in other sastras such as sankhya, yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika ets. Is capable of grasping the dialectics of Sribhasyam.
While Vedantasara brings out the essence of the Upanisadic philosophy, systematically depicted in the Brahmasutras in a concise form, Vedantadipa has an elaborate introduction in which Ramanuja critically review the advaitic system of philosophy and shows how it is untenable as it is not in accordance with either logic or scriptures. Strangely enough, we do not find such a review of advaita in Vedantasara. A thorough study of Vedantasara shows that the intention of the author is to bring out the essence of Upanisads, without entering into any dialectics.
While commenting on the Brahmasutras, Ramanuja wanted to explain in details that Brahman alone is the efficient and material cause of this universe. For example a lump of mud transforms itself into a pot with the efficient activity of the potter. Here we can see that the potter who is said to be the efficient cause of the pot, is different from the material cause viz. the lump of mud. On the other hand if the universe is considered as a product then Brahman Himself transforms in to the universe as its material cause. He alone is the efficient cause of this activity as there is no other efficient cause like a potter in this case. This is the meaning of the concept viz. ‘abhinnanimittopadanatva’, which is the bed rock on which the superstructure of the philosophy of Visistadvaita is built upon. It was absolutely necessary for Acarya Ramanuja to deal with the concept of ‘abhinnanimittopadanatva’ in detail when he was expounding the second sutra i.e. ‘janmadyasya yatah’ since this was his first commentary written on the Brahmasutras. While dealing with the other sutras he gives the bare essentials of this philosophy without going into details. Vedantasara is a work meant for the beginners. Even ordinary persons having good knowledge of Sanskrit can understand this commentary.
Now, let us try to understand the gist of Vedantasara. In the first chapter called Samanvayadhyaya, the co-ordination and integration of all the major upanisadic passages are brought out showing Brahman as the ground of this universe. Here the apparently uncertain, doubtful and controversial portions of the Upanisads are subjected to detailed examination and they signify beyond doubt that Brahman is the supreme principle.
In the second chapter defensive reasoning and further classification of the thesis developed in the first chapter is seen. Hence it is appropriately called ‘Avirodhadhyaya’ meaning that all controversies raised against the thesis developed in the first chapter are put an end to. This chapter in a through and methodical way fulfils the role of justifying, defensive elaboration and the demonstration of philosophical inconsistencies of other philosophical systems.
First half of the third chapter clearly elucidates the sufferings of individual soul in all its states of existence and conscience which is due to their involvement in the cycle of birth and death, due to their good and bad deeds performed in the previous births. Contrary to this the perfection and blessedness that lie in Brahman are also brought out. These are devised to produce discontent with regards to ones own actual life longing to aspire for the attainment of that perfect Brahman. In keeping with its name Sadhanadhyaya further portions of third chapter cover the entire ground of the Upanisadic literature and distinguishes the various methods of meditation prescribed in it. Essential attributes of Brahman that should go into every type of meditation and the special attributes that should go in specific meditations are also determined. The last portion of this chapter discusses the claims of Jnana and Krama as the means of final emancipation and concludes that Jnana culminating in the form of meditation mentioned above as the means of salvation.
The fourth chapter which is relatively short deals with the deliverance and perfection. Here the fundamental nature of meditation on the Supreme Brahman is stated for the purpose of decisive recapitulation and it is shown further that the maturity of meditation transcends the stage of means and becomes an end by itself. This state of Sadhana or means results in breaking the chain of Karma of past and present life, the sole cause of bondage and eliminating the fears of karma in further. Further the manner of departure of such a perfect man and the eschatology of the liberation as expounded in the Upanisads are dealt with. Finally, the nature of spiritual liberation of man, which constitutes the consummation of Vedantic life is defined.
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