As I discuss in this question, by far the most popular school of Hindu philosophy is the Vedanta school, which bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras, a work by the sage Vyasa that summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here. In any case, in Adhyaya 3 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa says this:

  1. eka ātmanaḥ śarīre bhāvāt

Some deny the existence of the soul, its existence being dependent on the existence of the body.

  1. vyatirekastadbhāvabhāvitvānna tūpalabdhivat

But this is not so; there is a distinction (between the soul and the body) because consciousness may not exist even when the body exists, as it is in the case of perception.

This translation is written from the viewpoint of the Advaita philosopher Adi Shankaracharya, who believes that in these Sutras Vyasa is demonstrating that there exists a soul which is different from the body. Now in this section of Adi Shankaracharya's Brahma Sutra Bhashya, a hypothetical opponent raises the objection that it's improper for Vyasa to discuss this subject, because it was already discussed in the Purva Mimamsa Sutras. (As I discuss in this answer, Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa Sutras and Vyasa's Brahma Sutras originally formed a unified Mimamsa Shastra.) Adi Shankaracharya responds that the existence of the soul is only discussed in this excerpt from Shabara's commentary on the Purva Mimamsa Sutras, which I discuss in my question here, it's not discussed by Jaimini himself in the Purva Mimamsa Sutras. So it's fine for Vyasa to discuss it in the Brahma Sutras:

But, an objection is raised, already in the first pâda which stands at the head of this Sâstra (i.e. the first pâda of the Pûrva Mîmâmsâ-sûtras) there has been declared the existence of a Self which is different from the body and hence capable of enjoying the fruits taught by the Sâstra.--True, this has been declared there by the author of the bhâshya, but there is in that place no Sûtra about the existence of the Self. Here, on the other hand, the Sûtrakâra himself establishes the existence of the Self after having disposed of a preliminary objection. And from hence the teacher Sabara Svâmin has taken the matter for his discussion of the point in the chapter treating of the means of right knowledge. For the same reason the reverend Upavarsha remarks in the first tantra--where an opportunity offers itself for the discussion of the existence of the Self--'We will discuss this in the Sârîraka,' and allows the matter to rest there. Here, where we are engaged in an inquiry into the pious meditations which are matter of injunction, a discussion of the existence of the Self is introduced in order to show that the whole Sâstra depends thereon.

I'm interested in Adi Shankaracharya's statement about Upavarsha. For those who don't know, Upavarsha was an ancient commentator who wrote a Vritti or commentary on the entire Mimamsa Shastra, i.e. both the Purva Mimamsa Sutras and the Brahma Sutras. That Vritti is now lost, but it seems that in the part of it that discusses the Purva Mimamsa Sutras, when the subject of the existence of the soul comes up Upavarsha says "We will discuss this in the Sârîraka", i.e. in the Brahma Sutras. And Adi Shankaracharya is saying that Upavarsha is referring to the two Sutras of the Brahma Sutras quoted above.

But my question is, how do Ramanujacharya and others interpret that Upavarsha quote? The thing is, unlike Adi Shankaracharya other commentators on the Brahma Sutras do not think that these two Sutras are talking about the existence of the soul at all. Ramanujacharya thinks that these Sutras are about the fact that during meditation, one must conceive of one's own soul in its released state, not its state while inhabiting a body; see this section of Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya. And Ramanujacharya isn't the only commentator on the Brahma Sutras who says this; this excerpt from Nimbarka's commentary and this excerpt from Srikantha Shivacharya's commentary say essentially the same thing. So since they don't think that these two Sutras are about the existence of the soul, how do they interpret Upavarsha's words? Do they believe that Vyasa discusses the existence of the soul elsewhere in the Brahma Sutras?

Now one possibility is they don't view Upavarsha's Vritti as authoritative, but in Ramanujacharya's case I don't think that's true; the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Vedanta Desikan equates Upavarsha with Baudhayana, and Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya is based on Baudhayana's Vritti as I discuss here.

Is it possible that Upavarsha is just saying he will discuss the existence of the soul in the part of his commentary that discusses the Brahma Sutras, not that Vyasa himself actually discusses it in the Brahma Sutras?

  • 1
    your 'question' is very convoluted and unclear. You ask one question in the title, ramble through a lot of extraneous monologue and then ask another question at the end. What are you asking? – Swami Vishwananda Aug 21 '16 at 11:23
  • @SwamiVishwananda Sorry, it's a complicated question so I wasn't sure about what concise title to give it. And the reason my question is so long is that I wanted to provide background to readers who may not be as familiar with the subject matter. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 21 '16 at 13:02
  • @SwamiVishwananda In any case, here's the gist of my question: Adi Shankaracharya gives a quote from Upavarsha's Vritti where Upavarsha postpones discussing the existence of the soul, saying "We will discuss this in the Sariraka", which Adi Shankaracharya interprets as a reference to Brahma Sutras 3.3.53-54. But other commentators on the Brahma Sutras like Ramanujacharya don't think that Brahma Sutras 3.3.53-54 are about the existence of the soul, so I want to know what part of the Brahma Sutras they think Upavarsha is referring to. – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 21 '16 at 13:03
  • @SwamiVishwananda So is my question clear to you now? – Keshav Srinivasan Aug 23 '16 at 5:31
  • Sankara's commentary on 3.3.53-54 is only a reference to and a refutation of the views of the Carvakas, it is not really about the existence of the soul. My recension of Sri Bhasya shows the comparable sutras as 3.3.51-52. Ramanuja talk of the nature of the soul in 1.1.21, 1.2.12, 1.3.7, 2.3.19. – Swami Vishwananda Aug 24 '16 at 16:44

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