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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 Vyasa which summarizes and systematizes the philosophical teachings of the Upanishads. You can read the Brahma Sutras here; they consist of concise sayings that people often consider hard to understand without a commentary. In any case, near the end of the Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa says this:

  1. (The individual souls are) parts of God because of the mention that they are different, also because some read otherwise of (Brahman’s) identity with fishermen, slaves, gamblers and others.

  2. This follows from the words of the mantras also.

  3. And this is also stated in the Smriti (Gita).

My question is about Sutra 45, which refers to the Bhagavad Gita. Note that the parenthetical mention of "Gita" was added by the translator; the Sanskrit just says "api smaryate" or "thus it is stated in the Smriti". (The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata, which is a Smriti text.) In any case, that Sutra is clearly referring to this verse of the Bhagavad Gita:

The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.

This is confirmed in both Adi Shankaracharya's commentary the Brahmasutra Bhashya and in Ramanujacharya's commentary the Sri Bhashya. So this suggests that the Bhagavad Gita is older than the Brahma Sutra Bhashya. Now here is where things get weird. In another chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says this:

That knowledge of the field of activities and of the knower of activities is described by various sages in various Vedic writings. It is especially presented in Vedānta-sūtra with all reasoning as to cause and effect.

Note that the translator says "Vedanta-Sutras", an alternate name for the Brahma Sutras, but in any case the Sanskrit says "Brahma Sutras". So to sum up, the Brahma Sutras refer to Bhagavad Gita, a text that refers back to the Brahma Sutras!

My question is, how is it possible for these two texts to have references to each other? Which text came first? Could it be that one or both of these references are interpolations? This web pages argues that they're not:

It might be argued that at least one text has had spurious insertions made into it to apparently refer to the other[.]... However, it is not found that the various rescensions of the Brahma-sUtra are different, with some not having the questionable references; all copies of the Brahma-sUtra as obtained from a variety of sources carry them. Moreover, considering the flow of the discourse in the Bhagavad-Gita and the Brahma-sUtra, it seems very unlikely that the references are spurious insertions; they fit in well with the general background of the discussion, and do not stand out as later insertions presumably would.

Here is webpage's alternate explanation:

[T]he same author could very well have written both works in any order; he could add a reference to an as-yet-unwritten text, knowing that he was going to write it, and also knowing what he was going to write in it.

There's one problem with this explanation though: Vyasa may have composed the Mahabharata as a whole, but Bhagavad Gita constitutes the words of Krishna himself on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. The Bhagavad Gita is part of the 8800-verse core of the Mahabharata Known as the Jaya, and as I discuss in this answer the Jaya is a record of Sanjaya's narration of the Mahabharata war to Dhritarashtra. So Vyasa did not insert any content into the Bhagavad Gita, and thus this wouldn't explain things if the Bhagavad Gita came after the Brahma Sutras

Could it be that Vyasa, being a Trikalanyani, knew what Krishna was going to say in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, or could it be that the Mahabharata war had already happened by the time of the composition of the Brahma Sutras, but Vyasa hadn't finalized the Mahabharata yet?

  • Please give the specific chapter and verses you are referring to in the Gita. You also say that it is confirmed in both Shankara's and Ramanuja's commentaries. Where specifically? Their comments on verse 45 you reference? – Swami Vishwananda Dec 13 '14 at 10:34
  • @SwamiVishwananda I provided links to everything in my question. The Brahma Sutra line that refers to the Gita is listed as Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 Sutra 45 here: advaita.it/library/brahmasutras2.htm Adi Shankaracharya's commentary on this Sutra says "In the Îsvaragitâs (Bhagavad-gîtâ) also it is said that the soul is a part of the Lord, 'an eternal part of me becomes the individual soul in the world of life' (Bha. Gî. XV, 7)." sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe38/sbe38046.htm – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 13 '14 at 16:18
  • @SwamiVishwananda And Ramanujacharya's commentary on this sutra says "Smriti moreover declares the individual soul to be a part of the highest Person, 'An eternal part of myself becomes the individual soul (gîva) in the world of life' (Bha. Gî. XV, 7)." sacred-texts.com/hin/sbe48/sbe48290.htm And the Bhagavad Gita verse that references the Brahma Sutras is chapter 13 verse 5. – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 13 '14 at 16:21
  • The Brahma Sutra verse you reference is 2.3.44. When you look on sacred texts it only shows the verse number. Let me look at some commentators. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 14 '14 at 8:27
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    @Sai By the way, you mentioned that the Brahma Sutras refer to a verse of Vamadeva in the Rig Veda. Coincidentally, I just asked a question about that exact same verse of Vamadeva: hinduism.stackexchange.com/q/4050/36 – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 20 '14 at 18:32
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Lord Krishna at one more place claims that he is the compiler of vedanta (makes sense as vyasa was an incarnation of Lord vishnu)

Here- Chapter 15: The Yoga of the Supreme Person

TEXT 15

sarvasya caham hrdi sannivisto mattah smrtir jnanam apohanam ca vedais ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedanta-krd veda-vid eva caham

SYNONYMS

sarvasya—of all living beings; ca—and; aham—I; hrdi—in the heart; sannivistah—being situated; mattah—from Me; smrtih—remembrance; jnanam—knowledge; apohanam ca—and forgetfulness; vedaih—by the Vedas; ca—also; sarvaih—all; aham—I am; eva—certainly; vedyah—knowable; vedanta-krt—the compiler of the Vedanta; veda-vit—the knower of the Vedas; eva—certainly; ca—and; aham—I.

TRANSLATION

I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.

So it's most likely that gita is referring back to brahma sutras.

Lord Krishna himself was God he could probably see future, after all to prove his divinity he showed "what there ever have and will be" to arjuna, he knew that he in form of vyasa will write the vedanta.

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The verse in the Gita (13.5) does not specifically refer to the 'Brahma Sutras'. Three different advaita sources use similar language for 13.5 (which is in some versions is 13.4 as there is in opening verse not included in all versions) - "All this has been sung by sages in many and different ways, in various distinctive hymns, and also in well reasoned and convincing passages indicative of Brahman." - There is no reference to the book 'Brahma Sutras' specifically in these versions.

Some of your confusion may be translation. The Sanskrit for this verse refers to brahma sutra, but the sanskrit is not to a specific book, but ALL sutras about Brahman (meaning samhitas, upanishads, etc.)

A Vashnavite version translation with several different Vashnavite commentators also refers in Sanskrit to brahma sutra in the verse 13.5, but the Vashnavite commentators do not refer to the 'Brahma Sutras' specifically in their translation and commentary to this verse. From the commentaries they seem to interpret the same verse as the advaita commentators and refer to Upanishads in their commentaries on this verse...

Only one version, the version by A.C. Bahktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, does refer to the 'Brahma Sutras' in his translation of 13.5. He has in his version, Bhagavad Gita As It Is - "...-especially in the Vedanta-sutra-..." It would appear that this is a interpolation by him, not supported by either other Vashnavite or Advaita translations.

In his introduction to his translation of 'Brahma Sutra Sri Bhasya', Swami Vireswarananda refers to the text as 'Brahma-Sutras' or 'Sariraka-Sutras'. The same text also goes by the name of Vedanta Sutras and Vyasa Sutras.

Given all of the above, I do not think there is any reference in the Gita to the text we call the 'Brhama Sutras' specifically. There is no circular referral.

  • Ramanujacharya clearly refers to the actual Brahma Sutras in his commentary on chapter 13 verse 5. "Also the Vedanta Sutra verses reveal in its sublimely concise aphorisms the nature of the brahman and its relationship with the Supreme Lord. It is also called the Sariraka Sutras because of its conclusive authoritative judgement on these esoteric topics. For example in Vedanta Sutra II.III.I beginning no viyadasruteh... Another example is seen in II.III.XVIII beginning utcrantigatyagatinam... But in verse II.III.XXXX beginning kritaprayatnapekshastu vihita pratisiddha..." – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 14 '14 at 16:26
  • Yes Sri Ramanuja does, but that is not your question. – Swami Vishwananda Dec 14 '14 at 16:30
  • The Sri Vaishnava commentary on this verse by Ramanujacharya, the Rudra Vaishnava commentary by Sridhara Swami, and the Kumara Vaishnava commentary by Kesava Kashmiri all refer to the actual Brahma Sutras: bhagavad-gita.org/Gita/verse-13-04.html I'm disputing your statement that "the Vashnavite commentators do not refer to the 'Brahma Sutras' specifically in their translation and commentary to this verse." – Keshav Srinivasan Dec 14 '14 at 16:31
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    The online Vashnavite version with several commentaries is here - bhagavad-gita.org/index-english.html. I have also done some more research. There are several that interpret the verse with the specific Brahma Sutra reference and several without. It would appear that the commentators and translators are divided as to the exact interpretation of the Sanskrit. As such, I think both are equally valid interpretations. To quote Anandagiri "A knower of Reality is never a slave of the Vedas. Whatever interpretation he gives to the Vedas is their true meaning." – Swami Vishwananda Dec 16 '14 at 5:49
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    They are equally valid. But none of the great commentators, including those who use the term referring to the actual Brahma Sutras, have brought up anything in their commentaries as to there being a need for an explanation or that there is a conflict existing. If they saw no need for an explanation, who am I? – Swami Vishwananda Dec 18 '14 at 8:30
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Bhagavad Gita is older than (or prior to) Brahma Sutra of Vedavyasa according to the Timeline of Hindu texts or say the chronology of Hindu texts.

Here is what Adi Shankaracharya said in his Bhasya on Bhagavad Gita verse 13.5:

English Translation Of Sri Shankaracharya's Sanskrit Commentary By Swami Gambirananda

13.5 Gitam, It has been sung of, spoken of; bahudha, in various ways; rsibhih, by the Rsis, by Vasistha and others; sung prthak, separately; vividhaih, by the different kinds of; chandobhih, Vedic texts-chandas mean the Rg-veda etc; by them; ca, and; besides, hetumadbhih, by the rational; and viniscitaih, by the convincing, i.e. by those which are productive of certain knowledge-not by those which are in an ambiguous form; brahma-sutra-padaih eva, sentences themselves which are indicative of and lead to Brahman. Brahma-sutras are the sentences indicative of Brahman. They are called padani since Brahman is reached, known, through them. By them indeed has been sung the true nature of the field and the Knower of the field (-this is understood). The Self is verily known through such sentences as, 'The Self alone is to be meditated upon' (Br. 1.4.7), which are indicative of and lead to Brahman.

So, the sentences which are indicative of and lead to Brahman are called Brahma-Sutra. The example of one Sutra/sentence which is indicative of and lead to Brahman is given as आत्मेत्येवोपासीत् from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.7.

So, ब्रह्मसूत्रपदै: (BG 13.5) may refer to the sentences (of Upanishads) which are indicative of and lead to Brahman, rather than Brahma Sutra of Vedavyasa.

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Vysa (Krishna Dwaipayana) is referred to avatara of the supreme, Krishna is also one of the avatara of the supreme. Thats the reason there is a reference of Gita in Vedanta Sutra and vice-versa. For the same reason, all the vedanta school acharyas followed Parasthanatrayam (Three superior pranamanas (authority)) namely Vedas including upanishads, Brahma sutras, and Bhagavath Gita.

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This is a very interesting question. Gita does refer to Brahma Sutra.

Rsibhir bahudha gitam chandobhir vividhaik prthak| brahma-sutra-padais caiva hetumadbhir viniscitaih

In many and different ways have the Rishis sung about this subject in metres of varying description. The well-reasoned and definite aphorisms of the Brahma-sutras too have discussed it.

Gita 13.4

The opposite is also true. Brahma Sutra also refers to the Gita. Here is one example.

And this is also stated in the Smriti (Gita).

Brahma Sutra II.III.45

This raises the interesting question about the relationship between the two texts, Gita and Brahma Sutra. Did the authors of the two texts know each other? Did the author of the Gita write parts of the Brahma Sutra? What does this mutual cross reference tell us about possible dates of the two texts?

I am posting excerpts from Swami Vireswarananda's detailed discussion, albeit speculative, on this question.

Moreover, that the Vedanta-Sutras were known to exist before Buddha can also be made out from the Gita. The date of the Gita and the original Mahabharata, of which the Gita is a part, can be fixed before the time of Buddha. Both of them are pre-Buddhistic, for they contain no reference to Buddha and Buddhism. Quotations from both are found in Bodhayana who belongs to 400 B.C. The language of the Gita also seems to belong to a period before Panini. He [Badararayana] is also conversant with epic characters.So we can well say that the Gita and the Mahabharata were known before Buddha. Now we find a clear reference to the Brahma Sutras, in Gita 13.4, where the word 'Brahma-Sutra-padaih' occurs. This is a definite reference to the Vedanta Sutras. .....Tilak argues in his Gita-Rahasya that the first half [of Gita 13.4] refers to teachings which are disconnected and unsystematic and therefore refers to the Upanishad, while the later half to something definite and logical - a difference that is clearly brought out by this stanza and therefore refers to the systematized thought in the Vedanta Sutras. Max Mueller too is of the opinion that the Vedanta-Sutras belong to an earlier period than the Gita and in the text just quoted he finds a clear reference to the recognized title of the Vedanta or Brahma-Sutras. Indian commentators on the Gita like Ramayana, Madhva and others identify the Vedanta-Sutras in this passage of the Gita.

But if the Vedanta-Sutras be of an earlier date than the Gita, how could it contain references to the Gita? In Sutras 2.3.45 and 4.2.21 all the commentators quote the same text of the Gita, and there seems to be no doubt that they are right. These cross references show that the author of the Gita had a hand in the present recension of the Sutras. This is made clear by the rejection of the four-fold Vyuha of the Bhagavatas both by the Gita and the Sutras and the great predominance given to the Samkhya school in both. The Gita accepts the Samkhya view of creation but modifies it to some extent and makes the Pradhana subservient to the Supreme Brahman which is non-dual. In the Vedanta-Sutras also the author refutes the dualism of the Samkhyas. Otherwise he has no objection in accepting the Pradhana or Prakrti as a principle dependent on the supreme Lord (vide 1.4.2-3). Sankara in his Bhasya on these Sutras makes this quite clear.

From what has been said above we find that there are strong grounds for believing that the Vedanta-Sutras must have existed before Buddha and that if Badarayana and Veda-Vyasa are not one and the same person as tradition holds, the latter must have had a hand in the present recension of the Sutras, though it is very difficult to say to what extent - whether it was by way of merely revising the original Sutras of Badarayana or writing them down in toto after the teachings of Badarayana.

Brahma Sutras according to the commentary of Sri Sankaracharya translated by Swami Vireswarananda

  • This is just.posting the pasaage please make clear.if they refer each other or.not with verses.and bold the important points – Rakesh Joshi May 4 '18 at 20:54

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