Introduction to Brahma Sutras


Q1-1 ) What is Brahma Sutra ?

Brahman means supreme reality. Sutra means thread. Brahmasutra means logical way of presenting the knowledge of Brahman in a very compact way. It is more like weaving a garland of flowers with thread. It is a beautiful way of presenting wisdom of Vedanta. Realization of brahman the ultimate reality is subject matter of Vedanta.

Q1-2). What is Vedanta?

Vedanta is collection of most ancient spiritual wisdom forming the concluding section of sacred Vedas. Vedanta is based on collection of several texts called Upanishads from different vedas. The subject matter of Vedanta is ultimate Reality called Brahman.
Since it is concluding part of Vedas it is called Vedanta or end of Vedas. Veda means wisdom; anta means inner meaning (antararth) of Vedas. Vedanta also means end of knowledge. How can there be end for knowledge? Any knowledge involves the knower (jnatr), known (jneya) and the resulting knowledge (jnanam). It involves subject-object relationship.
All knowledge in the world is about objects (jneya). Any knowledge is incomplete without the knowledge of the subject (knower – jnatr). Knowledge of the subject is end of knowledge in the sense that it is complete knowledge. Hence the vedanta means understanding the knower which is the end of knowledge.

Q1-3). What is Upanishad?

Upanishad means uplifting (upa+nishad) thoughts. Whatever we think we become that. Thought can uplift us or lead to our downfall. Upanishads are uplifting thoughts based on the teaching of realized sages called Rishis. Rishis of ancient times share the revelations they had in deep meditative state in the form of upanishads. Traditionally, disciples used to sit at the feet of the realized master to listen to the teaching of Upanishads. Since essential subject matter of Upanishads is Brahman – supreme reality, teachings uplift the student. Students realize their essential nature as divinity – Brahman.
There are hundreds of major and minor Upanishads in four vedas Rig-Veda, Yajur-veda, Sama-veda and Atharvana-Veda. Of these hundreds of upanishads, great philosophers (Acharyas) have commented on ten major Upanishads.

Q1-4). Please name the ten major Upanishads commented by Acharyas ?
Following are the ten major Upanishads from four vedas.

From Rig-Veda Aitareya
From Krishna – Yajur-veda Katha, Taittiriya
From Shukla – Yajur-veda Isa, Brahadaranyaka
From Sama-veda Kena, Chandogya
From Atharva-veda Prasna, Mundaka, Mandukya

Q1-4). What is the importance of Brahmasutra?

Brahmasutra is one three most important text outlining the philosophy of Vedanta. The ancient texts consisting of Upanishads, Bhagavad-Gita and Brahmasutra are called three cannons of Vedanta – together called prasthana trayi. Upanishads are called Shruti prasthana – revealed texts. The meaning of Shruti is “heard”. Ancient Sages called Rishis had inner revelation of the Vedantic truths in deep meditative state. Source of Shruti is not human origin. Shruti is direct revelation by  Ishvara – Lord Mahavishnu. Since revelation happens as insight in deep meditation, it is called Shruti. Also, traditionally, teaching is passed on from Master to disciple in oral form. The disciple hears the teachings from the Master and contemplates on the teachings and hence it is called Shruti.
Bhagavad-Gita is called Smriti prasthana. Smriti means “remembered”.  While Shruti is firsthand direct experience of Rishis, smritis are texts dealing with understanding based on Shruti. .

   In Bhagavad-Gita Sri Krishna explains the summary of Vedanta. Bhagavad-Gita belongs to the category of Smriti Prasthana.

     Brahma Sutra is called Nyaya Prasthana. Nyaya means logic. Vedantic teachings spread across several Upanishads are consolidated and presented in a very logical manner in Brahma Sutras for the ease of understanding of seekers of teaching.

Q1-5). Who is the author of Brahma sutras?

Sri Vedavyasa Maharshi composed Brahma sutras approximately during the period 3150 B.C. Sri Vedavyasa Maharshi was also called Badarayana because he lived in Badri ashram in Himalayan region. Hence Brahma sutra is also called Badarayana Sutras.



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