As I discuss in this answer, each of the four Vedas consists of four portions: Samhitas, the core part of the Vedas which consist of verses heard from the gods; Brahmanas, which provide instructions on the proper conducting of important rituals; Aranyakas, which provide a guide to rituals meant for forest-dwellers and hermits; and Upanishads, which consist of conversations between teachers and students which clarify the philosophical message of the Vedas. Traditionally there are said to be 108 Upanishads in total; here is the canonical list of Upanishads given in the Muktika Upanishad of the Shukla Yajur Veda.

Unfortunately, the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads is notoriously unreliable, as I discuss in this answer, because it was passed down by a poor oral tradition process (as opposed to the painstakingly rigorous process used to preserve the Vedic Samhitas). Students in the disciplic succession could freely add works to the list, some works in the list are very likely not genuine Upanishads, like the Kali Santarana Upanishad as I discuss in this question. So we can't be sure of the authenticity of an Upanishad just because it's included in the Muktika canon.

On the other extreme, there are the Mukhya Upanishads, the ten Upanishads that Adi Shankaracharya wrote commentaries on. Adi Shankaracharya commented on the oldest of the Upanishads, so we can be confident in the authenticity of these ten. But I'm wondering whether we can expand the set of confirmed Upanishads. As I discuss in this answer, Vyasa, the sage who compiled the Vedas in the first place, also composed a work called the Brahma Sutras, a work summarizing and systematizing the philosophical teaching of the Upanishads. The most popular school of Hindu philosophy, the Vedanta school, bases its tenets on the doctrines laid out in the Brahma Sutras.

So my question is, what are the Upanishads which are quoted from in the Brahma Sutras? Vyasa, being the compiler of the Vedas, would presumably know exactly what the actual Upanishads are. So if an Upanishad is quoted in the Brahma Sutras, there be little doubt about its authenticity. You can read the Brahma Sutra here, as well as Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on it (the Brahma Sutra Bhashya) here and Ramanujacharya's commentary (the Sri Bhashya) here. These commentaries give the source of each quote, but does anyone know if there's a definitive list of all the quotes or all the Upanishads from which quotes are taken?


The Badarayana-Vyasa Brahma Sutras are a compilation of extremely terse Sutras. These Sutras are impossible to understand without the commentary attached to them. There is no direct quote from any Upanishad in any of these Sutras. These Sutras are often not even complete sentences. It is the commentaries that claim that the Sutras are talking about particular shlokas from specific Upanishads. The Upanishads quoted by Sri Sankaracharya to explain the various Sutras are Aitereya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isavasya, Jabala, Katha, Kausitaki, Kena, Mandukya, Mundaka, Prasna, Svetasvatara and Tattiriya, a total of 13. The Upanishads quoted by Sri Ramanuja to explain the Sutras are Aitereya, Brhadaranyaka, Chandogya, Isavasya, Katha, Kausitaki, Kena, Mahanarayana, Mundaka, Mudgala, Prasna, Subala, Svetasvara and Taittiriya, a total of 14.

  • First of all, it is definitely possible to understand the Brahma Sutras without commentary. They're certainly difficult to understand if you don't have a good knowledge of the Upanishads, but definitely not impossible. Second of all, the Brahma Sutras are filled with direct quotes from the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here: advaita.it/library/brahmasutras2.htm They don't mention where each quote is taken from, but they definitely quote from the Upanishads. In fact, the Brahma Sutras basically constitute a commentary on various quotes from the Upanishads. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 10 '14 at 15:35
  • So is the list of Upanishads you give for Ramanujacharya, for instance, the set of Upanishads that Ramanujacharya thinks the Brahma Sutras refer to, or is it merely the set of Upanishads that Ramanujacharya finds it useful to refer to for one reason or another in the course of his commentary? – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 10 '14 at 15:41
  • 1
    I would say that Sri Ramanuja definitely uses Upanishads to buttress his position and point out Shankara's errors (he writes a 80 page essay filled with references to Upanishads even before Topic I of the Sutras is discussed). He also refers to Upanishads which he thinks Brahma Sutra refers to. For example, Brahma Sutra 1.1.3 says, 'The scriptures being the source of right knowledge'. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Nov 10 '14 at 17:29
  • Sri Ramanuja fills in the blanks and turns Brahma Sutra 1.1.3 into 'The scriptures (alone) being the source of right knowledge (with respect to Brahman) (the scriptural text, Tai. III.1., is proof of Brahman). Then he claims that 1.1.3 cites that particular Upanishadic Shloka. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Nov 10 '14 at 17:32
  • Shankara thinks Brahma Sutra 1.1.3 says, 'The scriptures (alone) being the means of right knowledge (with regard to Brahman, the proposition laid in Sutra 2 becomes corroborated). He does not think that Sutra 1.1.3 cites any Upanishadic Shloka. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Nov 10 '14 at 17:48

Although Brahma Sutras are very concise 555 aphorisms and they do not themselves mention from where they are taken. However they can be traced to 13 Upanishads as I also mention in my answer here

This book lists those 13 Upanishads quoted in Brahma Sutras. It says:

We are dealing here only with the famous thirteen Upanishads which are associated with a Brahmana book or Aranyaka book, typically constituting their ending chapter or chapters. They are famous because the great commentator on Upanishads, Badarayana quoted only from these 13 Upanishads in his classic sutra book, "brahma sutras''. They are:

Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Aitareya, Taittiriya, Chhandogya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaushitaki, Shvetashvatara, Mahanarayana.

Thus above mentioned 13 Upanishads are quoted inside Brahma Sutras.


Although often called the Vyasa Sutra, or the Vedanta Sutra, the Brahma Sutra was composed by Badarayana, not Vyasa. Swami Vireshwarananda points this out in the introduction to his and Swami Adidevananda's translation of the Brahma Sutras Sri-Bhasya. (Ramanuja's Sri-Bhasya).

Although there is no definitive list of all the Upanishad quotes in the Bhasyas, Vireshwarananda's translation has a list of abbreviations at the beginning of the book for the different scriptures referenced in the book. There are 29 different scriptures referenced, of which 14 are listed as Upanishads.

Sorry for the late edit, but have finished a review. The Upanishads quoted directly in the Brahma Sutras are the following (list includes the Brahma Sutra verse where it is quoted).

1.1.3 - Taittiriya (III. 1.)

1.2.26 - Chandogya (V. xviii. 2.)

3.3.6 - Brhadaranyaka (I. iii. 7.) and Chandogya (I. ii. 7.)

3.3.24 - Chandogya and Taittiriya

4.4.16 - Brhadaranyaka (IV. iii. 21)

  • 1
    First of all, Badarayana is traditionally identified with Vyasa. This is attested in the Padma Purana, in Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya, in Kumarila Bhatta's Sloka Vartikka, in the ancient Tamil epic Manimekalai, etc. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 9 '14 at 16:59
  • 1
    In any case, as it stands this doesn't answer my question. If you want to copy down the Upanishads mentioned in Vireshwarananda's list of abbreviations, that would be a good start. By the way, are all the Upanishads in his list of abbreviations actually quoted in the Brahma Sutras, or could some of them just be quoted from in his commentary? – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 9 '14 at 17:05
  • 1
    But Badarayana is not the Vyasa of the Upanishads. This is pretty uniformly agreed. I will put a list of the Upanishads for you. It's pretty much the usual suspects plus a few more obscure ones. There are almost no references directly in the Slokas. The referenced Upanishads are in Ramanuaja's commentary. – Swami Vishwananda Nov 10 '14 at 7:34
  • 1
    "But Badarayana is not the Vyasa of the Upanishads. This is pretty uniformly agreed." No, this is not uniformly agreed upon. The texts I mentioned all say that the Badarayana who wrote the Brahma Sutras is the same as Vyasa son of Parashara who compiled the Vedas and wrote the Mahabharata. Modern scholars tend to argue that the two are separate, but there are plenty of august sources that identify the two. – Keshav Srinivasan Nov 10 '14 at 7:45

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .