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Which commentator of the Brahma Sutras followed Badarayana (Vedavyasa), the author of the Brahma Sutras, most closely?

For examples, Advaitins believe it was Shankaracharya:

The Upanishads, as already stated at the very beginning, do not teach any particular doctrine. They teach various doctrines suited to different people at different stages of spiritual evolution. They are not contradictory, but based on the principle of individual fitness for receiving a truth (Adhikaribheda). The aspirants are taken step by step to the ultimate truth, from dualism to qualified monism and finally to monism. “That thou Art” is the last word of the Upanishads in religion. The Brahma-Sutras also are as comprehensive as the Upanishads and contain references to these various stages. Hence, commentators, when they claim that their commentary alone is correct, do not reflect Badarayana’s view truly.

But is there any internal evidence from the commentaries themselves that reveals who followed Vyasa most faithfully?

  • 1
    This is opinion based. Tomorrow I can write a post finding faults with Ramanuja's interpretations. This has potential to turn into an ugly spat between followers of various schools. – user16581 Dec 26 '19 at 5:22
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion You may post that if you want. What if I modify the question to say "How do followers of Ramanujacharya justify that their commentary is the closest to Vyasa's views and not Adi Shankaracharya's?" – Ikshvaku Dec 26 '19 at 16:02
  • I find this whole business of answering one's own question strange. The system allows it. But why would anyone here want to ask a question for which one already knows the answer? – user16581 Dec 26 '19 at 16:10
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion To spread your knowledge. – Ikshvaku Dec 26 '19 at 16:25
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Which commentator of the Brahma Sutras followed Badarayana (Vedavyasa), the author of the Brahma Sutras, most closely?

Ramanujacharya's Sri Bhashya is the closest to Vyasa's views because it follows Bodhayana's Vritti. Bodhayana was a student of Vyasa, and he wrote a commentary on his guru's sutras. So, naturally the commentary that follows Bodhayana's commentary will be the most accurate to Vyasa's teachings.

We can see this from the introduction of Ramanujacharya's and Shankaracharya's commentaries on the Brahma Sutras.

Ramanujacharya says:

Bhagavad BodhAyanakrtAm vistIrNAm brahmasUtravrittim pUrvAchAryAsamchikshipuh | TanmatAnusAreNa sUtrAksharANi vyAkhyAsyante

The lengthy explanation (vritti) of the Brahma-sûtras which was composed by the Reverend Bodhâyana has been abridged by former teachers; according to their views [and his] the words of the Sûtras will be explained in this present work.

Whereas Shankaracharya says:

YathA ca ayamartho vedAntAnAm tathA vayam asyAm shArIrakamImAmsAyAm pradarshayishyAmah |

That all the Vedânta-texts have the mentioned purport we shall show in this so-called Sârîraka-mîmâmsâ.

As you can see, Ramanujacharya is writing his commentary fully based on Bodhayana's Vritti, as well as former Vedantic philosophers such as Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi, and Bharuchi, whereas Shankaracharya does not.

Here are the main differences between these two introductory sentences:

Ramanujacharya:

  1. Usage of passive voice giving importance to the subject being propounded rather than the person doing the propounding
  2. Quotes the previous acharyas and mentions that the path shown by them is being followed
  3. The tone and tenor of the sentence is of modesty and sincerity
  4. Short, crisp, and pithy introduction

Shankaracharya:

  1. Usage of active voice giving importance to the person rather than the subject
  2. Here too, usage of plural while referring to his own self
  3. No reference to the previous acharyas or mention of that path shown by them is being followed
  4. The tone and tenor of the sentence is of a sort of pride and self-esteem

Now the reason why Shankaracharya was using that tone is because he was debating Buddhists, and so he had to prove his arguments to them. Because Buddhists don't accept the Vedas, he had to prove his points through pure logic and not scripture. Hence his writing style.

From this we can see that Ramanujacharya's commentary is the closest to Vyasa's views.

Shankaracharya does cite and agree with the ancient commentator Upavarsha, but he also disagrees with "other" ancient commentators. Advaitin scholars after his time say the "other" he disagreed with is Bodhayana. Some people think Bodhayana is the same as Upavarsha, while others think he is different.

If he is a different person, he came after Bodhayana and was probably a sishya of him anyways since Upavarsha abridged Bodhayana's Vritti:

A Purva Mimamsa work called the "Prapancha Hridayam" says,

...On this Mimamsa Shastra of 20 chapters, Bodhayana wrote a Bhashya that bore the name Krtakoti. Fearing that the great length of this commentary would cast it into oblivion, Upavarsha somewhat abridged it...

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