The Sri Bhashya is a commentary on the Brahma Sutras by the famous Sri Vaishnava Acharya Ramanujacharya. And the Shruta Prakashika is a subcommentary on Ramanujacharya’s Sri Bhashya by the Sri Vaishnava Acharya Sudarshana Suri. In this excerpt from the Shruta Prakashika, Sudarshana Suri discusses the importance of using the commentaries of Rishis to understand the works of other Rishis. In particular, using the Vritti or commentary of the Rishi Baudhayana to understand the Brahma Sutras of the Rishi Vyasa:

The works composed by the supreme sages are fit to be commented upon; and if great sages have written commentaries on them, these, indeed, have to be esteemed and followed.... That other commentators have disdained the commentaries by sages is clearly brought out in such contexts as “because the worship of the Brahman has a threefold nature”, “In all this, because that is prominently taught”, “What is denoted by the word Brahman, because he is taught to be greater than the Samprasada”, “The little ether because the reasons found in the subsequent statements in the context refer to him”. But here (in the Sri Bhashya) it has been declared that it will follow the Vritti.

I’m interested in the part in bold. Sudarshana Suri says “other commentators”, but I think he’s referring to the Advaita philosopher Adi Shankaracharya here. He’s pointing out various examples of passages in Adi Shankaracharya’s Brahmasutra Bhashya where Adi Shankaracharya disagrees with Baudhayana’s Vritti.

My question is, what are each of the passages that Sudarshana Suri is referring to?

1 Answer 1


Let me go through the passages one by one.  For convenience I’ll use Adi Shankaracharya’s Sutra numbering for the Brahma Sutras:

  1. “Because the worship of the Brahman has a threefold nature”: This refers to Adhyaya 1 Pada 1 Sutra 31 of the Brahma Sutras.  Adi Shankaracharya interprets this Sutra as saying that the Pratardana Vidya of the Kaushitaki Upanishad only refers to Brahman, not to three different entities, because then it would prescribe three different medications.  But then he refers to an alternate interpretation of the Sutra, according to which the Sutra is saying that the chapter does prescribe three different medications, it’s just that Brahman is the object of meditation in all three, so Brahman is the sole entity described in the chapter:

    The second part of the Sûtra is explained in a different manner also, as follows: Characteristic marks of the individual soul as well as of the chief vital air are not out of place even in a chapter whose topic is Brahman. How so? 'On account of the threefoldness of devout meditation.' The chapter aims at enjoining three kinds of devout meditation on Brahman, according as Brahman is viewed under the aspect of prâna, under the aspect of pragñâ, and in itself. The passages, 'Meditate (on me) as life, as immortality. Life is prâna,' and 'Having laid hold of this body it makes it rise up. Therefore let man worship it alone as uktha,' refer to the prâna aspect. The introductory passage, 'Now we shall explain how all things become one in that pragñâ,' and the subsequent passages, 'Speech verily milked one portion thereof; the word is its object placed outside;' and, 'Having by pragñâ taken possession of speech he obtains by speech all words &c.,' refer to the pragñâ aspect. The Brahman aspect finally is referred to in the following passage, 'These ten objects have reference to pragñâ, the ten subjects have reference to objects. If there were no objects there would be no subjects; and if there were no subjects there would be no objects. For on either side alone nothing could be achieved. But that is not many. For as in a car the circumference of the wheel is set on the spokes and the spokes on the nave, thus are these objects set on the subjects and the subjects on the prâna.' Thus we see that the one meditation on Brahman is here represented as threefold, according as Brahman is viewed either with reference to two limiting conditions or in itself. In other passages also we find that devout meditation on Brahman is made dependent on Brahman being qualified by limiting adjuncts; so, for instance (Kh. Up. III, 14, 2), 'He who consists of mind, whose body is prâna.' The hypothesis of Brahman being meditated upon under three aspects perfectly agrees with the prâna chapter; as, on the one hand, from a comparison of the introductory and the concluding clauses we infer that the subject-matter of the whole chapter is one only, and as, on the other hand, we meet with characteristic marks of prâna, pragñâ, and Brahman in turns. It therefore remains a settled conclusion that Brahman is the topic of the whole chapter.

    The translator says in a footnote that this is the explanation given “by the Vrittikara”, i.e. Baudhayana.  Ramanujacharya agrees with Baudhayana’s explanation of this Sutra; see this section of the Sri Bhashya.

  2. “In all this, because that is prominently taught”: This is Adhyaya 1 Pada 2 Sutra 1 of the Brahma Sutras.  Adi Shankaracharya interprets this Sutra as saying that verse 2 of the Shandilya Vidya of the Chandogya Upanishad refers to Brahman, because it mentions various attributes which are used in all Upanishad verses to denote Brahman:

    The highest Brahman only is what is to be meditated upon as distinguished by the attributes of consisting of mind and so on.--Why?--'On account of there being taught here what is known from everywhere.' What is known from all Vedânta-passages to be the sense of the word Brahman, viz. the cause of the world, and what is mentioned here in the beginning words of the passage, ('all this indeed is Brahman,') the same we must assume to be taught here as distinguished by certain qualities, viz. consisting of mind and so on.

    But Ramanujacharya interprets this Sutra as saying when verse 1 of the Shandilya Vidya uses the word Brahman, it means the supreme Brahman and not the Jivatma, because it describes him as the cause of all things, and the cause of all things is known from other Upanishads to be the supreme Brahman.  And Ramanujacharya quotes Baudhayana’s Vritti to support his interpretation:

    Everywhere,' i.e. in the whole world which is referred to in the clause 'All this is Brahman' we have to understand the highest Brahman--which the term 'Brahman' denotes as the Self of the world--, and not the individual soul; 'because there is taught what is known,' i.e. because the clause 'All this is Brahman'--for which clause the term 'taggalân' supplies the reason--refers to Brahman as something generally known. Since the world springs from Brahman, is merged in Brahman, and depends on Brahman for its life, therefore--as the text says--'All this has its Self in Brahman'; and this shows to us that what the text understands by Brahman is that being from which, as generally known from the Vedânta texts, there proceed the creation, and so on, of the world.... This second alternative interpretation of the Sûtra is preferred by most competent persons. The Vrittikâra, e.g. says, 'That Brahman which the clause "All this is Brahman" declares to be the Self of all is the Lord.'

  3. “What is denoted by the word Brahman, because he is taught to be greater than the Samprasada”: This is Adhyaya 1 Pada 3 Sutra 8 of the Brahma Sutras.  Adi Shankaracharya interprets this Sutra as saying that that when the Bhuma Vidya of the Chandogya Upanishad uses the word Bhuman, it refers to Brahman and not Prana, because it talks about Bhuman after it talks about Prana:

    Bhûman can mean the highest Self only, not the vital air.--Why?--'On account of information being given about it, subsequent to bliss.' The word 'bliss' (samprasâda) means the state of deep sleep, as may be concluded, firstly, from the etymology of the word ('In it he, i.e. man, is altogether pleased--samprasîdati')--and, secondly, from the fact of samprasâda being mentioned in the Brihadâranyaka together with the state of dream and the waking state. And as in the state of deep sleep the vital air remains awake, the word 'samprasâda' is employed in the Sûtra to denote the vital air; so that the Sûtra means, 'on account of information being given about the bhûman, subsequently to (the information given about) the vital air.' If the bhûman were the vital air itself, it would be a strange proceeding to make statements about the bhûman in addition to the statements about the vital air.

    But Ramanujacharya interprets this Sutra as saying that Bhuman refers to Brahman and not the Jivatma because Bhuman is mentioned after the Jivatma.  And he quotes Baudhayana’s Vritti to support his interpretation:

    The being characterised in the text as 'bhûman' is not the individual Self, but the highest Self, since instruction is given about the bhûman in addition to 'serenity' (samprasâda). 'Samprasâda' denotes the individual soul, as we know from the following text, 'Now that "serenity", having risen from out this body, and having reached the highest light, appears in its true form' (Kh. Up.VIII, 3, 4). Now in the text under discussion instruction is given about a being called 'the True,' and possessing the attribute of 'bhûman,' as being something additional to the individual soul; and this being called 'the True' is none other than the highest Brahman. Just as in the series of beings beginning with name and ending with breath, each successive being is mentioned in addition to the preceding one--wherefrom we conclude that it is something really different from what precedes; so that being also which is called 'the True,' and which is mentioned in addition to the individual Self called Prâna, is something different from the individual Self, and this being called 'the True' is the same as the Bhûman; in other words, the text teaches that the Bhûman is the highest Brahman called 'the True.' This the Vrittikâra also declares: 'But the Bhûman only. The Bhûman is Brahman, because in the series beginning with name instruction is given about it subsequently to the individual Self.'

  4. “The little ether because the reasons found in the subsequent statements in the context refer to him”: This is Adhyaya 1 Pada 3 Sutra 14 of the Brahma Sutras. Adi Shankaracharya interprets this Sutra as saying that when Dahara Vidya of the Chandogya Upanishad speaks of Akasha or ether/space, it’s referring to Brahman and not actual Akasha, because later on in the passage it is contrasted with actual Akasha.

    For the text carrying on, as the subject of discussion, the ether that is the abode of heaven, earth, &c.--by means of the clauses, 'In it all desires are contained,' 'It is the Self free from sin,' &c., and the passage, 'But those who depart from hence having discovered the Self, and the true desires' (in which passage the conjunction 'and' has the purpose of joining the desires to the Self)--declares that the Self as well, which is the abode of the desires, as the desires which abide in the Self, are the objects of knowledge.

    But Ramanujacharya interprets this Sutra as saying that Akasha refers to Brahman because later on in the passage other Kalyana Gunas or auspicious qualifies of Brahman are mentioned. And to support his interpretation, Ramanujacharya quotes not Baudhyana’s Vritti like in the previous two cases, but another ancient pre-Shankara commentary, Tanka’s Vakya:

    The small ether within the heart is the highest Brahman, on account of the subsequent reasons, contained in clauses of the same section. The passage 'That Self which is free from evil, free from old age, free from death, free from grief, free from hunger and thirst, whose wishes and purposes come true' (VIII, 7, 1) ascribes to that small ether qualities--such as unconditioned Selfhood, freedom from evil, &c.--which clearly show that ether to be the highest Brahman.... On the ground of this connected consideration of the whole chapter we are able to decide that the text enjoins as the object of search and enquiry both the highest Brahman and the whole body of auspicious qualities abiding within it. This the Vâkyakâra also renders clear in the passage beginning 'In the text "what is within that" there is designation of wishes (i.e. desirable qualities).'

    So I guess Sudarshana Suri is saying that Tanka is also a Rishi.

Whew! It’s interesting to note, by the way, that these four Sutras are in order. So Sudarshana Suri might have written up a longer list and then chosen the first four to serve as examples.

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