The Mahabharata
  Srimad Bhagavatam

  Rig Veda
  Yajur Veda
  Sama Veda
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  Bhagavad Gita
  Sankara Bhashya
  By Edwin Arnold

  Brahma Sutra
  Sankara Bhashya I
  Sankara Bhashya II
  Ramanuja SriBhashya


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  Brahma Sutras

Brahma Sutra Bhashya of Sri Adi Sanakara - Part I
translated by George Thibaut


The first adhyâya has proved that all the Vedânta-texts unanimously teach that there is only one cause of the world, viz. Brahman, whose nature is intelligence, and that there exists no scriptural passage which can be used to establish systems opposed to the Vedânta, more especially the Sânkhya system. The task of the two first pâdas of the second adhyâya is to rebut any objections which may be raised against the Vedânta doctrine on purely speculative grounds, apart from scriptural authority, and to show, again on purely speculative grounds, that none of the systems irreconcilable with the Vedânta can be satisfactorily established.


Adhikarana I refutes the Sânkhya objection that the acceptation of the Vedânta system involves the rejection of the Sânkhya doctrine which after all constitutes a part of Smriti, and as such has claims on consideration.--To accept the Sânkhya-smriti, the Vedântin replies, would compel us to reject other Smritis, such as the Manu-smriti, which are opposed to the Sânkhya doctrine. The conflicting claims of Smritis can be settled only on the ground of the Veda, and there can be no doubt that the Veda does not confirm the Sânkhya-smriti, but rather those Smritis which teach the origination of the world from an intelligent primary cause.

Adhik. II (3) extends the same line of argumentation to the Yoga-smriti.

Adhik. III (4-11) shows that Brahman, although of the nature of intelligence, yet may be the cause of the non-intelligent material world, and that it is not contaminated by the qualities of the world when the latter is refunded into Brahman. For ordinary experience teaches us that like does not always spring from like, and that the qualities of effected things when the latter are refunded into their causes--as when golden ornaments, for instance, are melted and thereby become simple gold again--do not continue to exist in those causes.--Here also the argumentation is specially directed against the Sânkhyas, who, in order to account for the materiality and the various imperfections of the world, think it necessary to assume a causal substance participating in the same characteristics.

Adhik. IV (12) points out that the line of reasoning followed in the preceding adhikarana is valid also against other theories, such as the atomistic doctrine.

The one Sûtra (13) constituting Adhik. V teaches, according to Sankara, that although the enjoying souls as well as the objects of fruition are in reality nothing but Brahman, and on that account identical, yet the two sets may practically be held apart, just as in ordinary life we hold apart, and distinguish as separate individual things, the waves, ripples, and foam of the sea, although at the bottom waves, ripples, and foam are all of them identical as being neither more nor less than sea-water.--The Srî-bhâshya gives a totally different interpretation of the Sûtra, according to which the latter has nothing whatever to do with the eventual non-distinction of enjoying souls and objects to be enjoyed. Translated according to Râmânuga's view, the Sûtra runs as follows: 'If non-distinction (of the Lord and the individual souls) is said to result from the circumstance of (the Lord himself) becoming an enjoyer (a soul), we refute this objection by instances from every-day experience.' That is to say: If it be maintained that from our doctrine previously expounded, according to which this world springs from the Lord and constitutes his body, it follows that the Lord, as an embodied being, is not essentially different from other souls, and subject to fruition as they are; we reply that the Lord's having a body does not involve his being subject to fruition, not any more than in ordinary life a king, although himself an embodied being, is affected by the experiences of pleasure and pain which his servants have to undergo.--The construction which Râmânuga puts on the Sûtra is not repugnant either to the words of the Sutra or to the context in which the latter stands, and that it rests on earlier authority appears from a quotation made by Râmânuga from the Dramidabhâshyakâra.

Adhik. VI (14-20) treats of the non-difference of the effect from the cause; a Vedânta doctrine which is defended by its adherents against the Vaiseshikas according to whom the effect is something different from the cause.--The divergent views of Sankara and Râmânuga on this important point have been sufficiently illustrated in the general sketch of the two systems.

Adhik. VII (21-23) refutes the objection that, from the Vedic passages insisting on the identity of the Lord and the individual soul, it follows that the Lord must be like the individual soul the cause of evil, and that hence the entire doctrine of an all-powerful and all-wise Lord being the cause of the world has to be rejected. For, the Sûtra-kâra remarks, the creative principle of the world is additional to, i.e. other than, the individual soul, the difference of the two being distinctly declared by Scripture.--The way in which the three Sûtras constituting this adhikarana are treated by Sankara on the one hand and Râmânuga on the other is characteristic. Râmânuga throughout simply follows the words of the Sûtras, of which Sûtra 21 formulates the objection based on such texts as 'Thou art that,' while Sûtra 22 replies that Brahman is different from the soul, since that is expressly declared by Scripture. Sankara, on the other hand, sees himself obliged to add that the difference of the two, plainly maintained in Sûtra 22, is not real, but due to the soul's fictitious limiting adjuncts.

Adhik. VIII (24, 25) shows that Brahman, although destitute of material and instruments of action, may yet produce the world, just as gods by their mere power create palaces, animals, and the like, and as milk by itself turns into curds.

Adhik. IX (26-29) explains that, according to the express doctrine of Scripture, Brahman does not in its entirety pass over into the world, and, although emitting the world from itself, yet remains one and undivided. This is possible, according to Sankara, because the world is unreal; according to Râmânuga, because the creation is merely the visible and tangible manifestation of what previously existed in Brahman in a subtle imperceptible condition.

Adhik. X (30, 31) teaches that Brahman, although destitute of instruments of action, is enabled to create the world by means of the manifold powers which it possesses.

Adhik. XI (32, 33) assigns the motive of the creation, or, more properly expressed, teaches that Brahman, in creating the world, has no motive in the strict sense of the word, but follows a mere sportive impulse.

Adhik. XII (34-36) justifies Brahman from the charges of partiality and cruelty which might be brought against it owing to the inequality of position and fate of the various animate beings, and the universal suffering of the world. Brahman, as a creator and dispenser, acts with a view to the merit and demerit of the individual souls, and has so acted from all eternity.

Adhik. XIII (37) sums up the preceding argumentation by declaring that all the qualities of Brahman--omniscience and so on--are such as to capacitate it for the creation of the world.


The task of the second pâda is to refute, by arguments independent of Vedic passages, the more important philosophical theories concerning the origin of the world which are opposed to the Vedânta view.--The first adhikarana (1-10) is directed against the Sânkhyas, whose doctrine had already been touched upon incidentally in several previous places, and aims at proving that a non-intelligent first cause, such as the pradhâna of the Sânkhyas, is unable to create and dispose.--The second adhikarana (11-17) refutes the Vaiseshika tenet that the world originates from atoms set in motion by the adrishta.--The third and fourth adhikaranas are directed against various schools of Bauddha philosophers. Adhik. III (18-27) impugns the view of the so-called sarvâstitvavâdins, or bâhyârthavâdins, who maintain the reality of an external as well as an internal world; Adhik. IV (28-32) is directed against the viânavâdins, according to whom ideas are the only reality.--The last Sûtra of this adhikarana is treated by Râmânuga as a separate adhikarana refuting the view of the Mâdhyamikas, who teach that everything is void, i.e. that nothing whatever is real.--Adhik. V (33-36) is directed against the doctrine of the Gainas; Adhik. VI (37-41) against those philosophical schools which teach that a highest Lord is not the material but only the operative cause of the world.

The last adhikarana of the pâda (42-45) refers, according to the unanimous statement of the commentators, to the doctrine of the Bhâgavatas or Pâñkarâtras. But Sankara and Râmânuga totally disagree as to the drift of the Sûtrakâra's opinion regarding that system. According to the former it is condemned like the systems previously referred to; according to the latter it is approved of.--Sûtras 42 and 43, according to both commentators, raise objections against the system; Sûtra 42 being directed against the doctrine that from the highest being, called Vâsudeva, there is originated Sankarshana, i.e. the gîva, on the ground that thereby those scriptural passages would be contradicted which teach the soul's eternity; and Sûtra 43 impugning the doctrine that from Sankarshana there springs Pradyumna, i. e. the manas.--The Sûtra on which the difference of interpretation turns is 44. Literally translated it runs, 'Or, on account of there being' (or, 'their being') 'knowledge and so on, there is non-contradiction of that.'--This means, according to Sankara, 'Or, if in consequence of the existence of knowledge and so on (on the part of Sankarshana, &c. they be taken not as soul, mind, &c. but as Lords of pre-eminent knowledge, &c.), yet there is non-contradiction of that (viz. of the objection raised in Sûtra 42 against the Bhâgavata doctrine).'-- According to Râmânuga, on the other hand, the Sûtra has to be explained as follows: 'Or, rather there is non-contradiction of that (i.e. the Pañkarâtra doctrine) on account of their being knowledge and so on (i. e. on account of their being Brahman).' Which means: Since Sankarshana and so on are merely forms of manifestation of Brahman, the Pâñkarâtra doctrine, according to which they spring from Brahman, is not contradicted.--The form of the Sûtra makes it difficult for us to decide which of the two interpretations is the right one; it, however, appears to me that the explanations of the 'vâ' and of the 'tat,' implied in Râmânuga's comment, are more natural than those resulting from Sankara's interpretation. Nor would it be an unnatural proceeding to close the polemical pâda with a defence of that doctrine which--in spite of objections--has to be viewed as the true one.


The third pâda discusses the question whether the different forms of existence which, in their totality, constitute the world have an origin or not, i. e. whether they are co-eternal with Brahman, or issue from it and are refunded into it at stated intervals.

The first seven adhikaranas treat of the five elementary substances.--Adhik. I (1-7) teaches that the ether is not co-eternal with Brahman, but springs from it as its first effect.--Adhik. II (8) shows that air springs from ether; Adhik. IV, V, VI (10; 11; 12) that fire springs from air, water from fire, earth from water.--Adhik. III (9) explains by way of digression that Brahman, which is not some special entity, but quite generally 'that which is,' cannot have originated from anything else.

Adhik. VII (13) demonstrates that the origination of one element from another is due, not to the latter in itself, but to Brahman acting in it.

Adhik. VIII (14) teaches that the reabsorption of the elements into Brahman takes place in the inverse order of their emission.

Adhik. IX (15) remarks that the indicated order in which the emission and the reabsorption of the elementary substances take place is not interfered with by the creation and reabsorption of the organs of the soul, i.e. the sense organs and the internal organ (manas); for they also are of elemental nature, and as such created and retracted together with the elements of which they consist.

The remainder of the pâda is taken up by a discussion of the nature of the individual soul, the gîva.--Adhik. X (16) teaches that expressions such as 'Devadatta is born,' 'Devadatta has died,' strictly apply to the body only, and are transferred to the soul in so far only as it is connected with a body.

Adhik. XI (17) teaches that the individual soul is, according to Scripture, permanent, eternal, and therefore not, like the ether and the other elements, produced from Brahman at the time of creation.--This Sûtra is of course commented on in a very different manner by Sankara on the one hand and Râmânuga on the other. According to the former, the gîva is in reality identical--and as such co-eternal--with Brahman; what originates is merely the soul's connexion with its limiting adjuncts, and that connexion is moreover illusory.--According to Râmânuga, the gîva is indeed an effect of Brahman, but has existed in Brahman from all eternity as an individual being and as a mode (prakâra) of Brahman. So indeed have also the material elements; yet there is an important distinction owing to which the elements may be said to originate at the time of creation, while the same cannot be said of the soul. Previously to creation the material elements exist in a subtle condition in which they possess none of the qualities that later on render them the objects of ordinary experience; hence, when passing over into the gross state at the time of creation, they may be said to originate. The souls, on the other hand, possess at all times the same essential qualities, i.e. they are cognizing agents; only, whenever a new creation takes place, they associate themselves with bodies, and their intelligence therewith undergoes a certain expansion or development (vikâsa); contrasting with the unevolved or contracted state (sankoka) which characterised it during the preceding pralaya. But this change is not a change of essential nature (svarûpânyathâbhâva) and hence we have to distinguish the souls as permanent entities from the material elements which at the time of each creation and reabsorption change their essential characteristics.

Adhik. XII (18) defines the nature of the individual soul. The Sûtra declares that the soul is 'a.' This means, according to Sankara, that intelligence or knowledge does not, as the Vaiseshikas teach, constitute a mere attribute of the soul which in itself is essentially non-intelligent, but is the very essence of the soul. The soul is not a knower, but knowledge; not intelligent, but intelligence.--Râmânuga, on the other hand, explains 'a' by 'atri,' i.e. knower, knowing agent, and considers the Sûtra to be directed not only against the Vaiseshikas, but also against those philosophers who--like the Sânkhyas and the Vedântins of Sankara's school--maintain that the soul is not a knowing agent, but pure kaitanya.--The wording of the Sûtra certainly seems to favour Râmânuga's interpretation; we can hardly imagine that an author definitely holding the views of Sankara should, when propounding the important dogma of the soul's nature, use the term a of which the most obvious interpretation âtri, not ânam.

Adhik. XIII (19-32) treats the question whether the individual soul is anu, i. e. of very minute size, or omnipresent, all-pervading (sarvagata, vyâpin). Here, again, we meet with diametrically opposite views.--In Sankara's opinion the Sûtras 19-38 represent the pûrvapaksha view, according to which the gîva is anu, while Sûtra 29 formulates the siddhânta, viz. that the gîva, which in reality is all-pervading, is spoken of as anu in some scriptural passages, because the qualities of the internal organ--which itself is anu--constitute the essence of the individual soul as long as the latter is implicated in the samsâra.--According to Râmânuga, on the other hand, the first Sûtra of the adhikarana gives utterance to the siddhânta view, according to which the soul is of minute size; the Sûtras 20-25 confirm this view and refute objections raised against it; while the Sûtras 26-29 resume the question already mooted under Sûtra 18, viz. in what relation the soul as knowing agent (âtri) stands to knowledge (âna).--In order to decide between the conflicting claims of these two interpretations we must enter into some details.--Sankara maintains that Sûtras 19-28 state and enforce a pûrvapaksha view, which is finally refuted in 29. What here strikes us at the outset, is the unusual length to which the defence of a mere primâ facie view is carried; in no other place the Sûtras take so much trouble to render plausible what is meant to be rejected in the end, and an unbiassed reader will certainly feel inclined to think that in 19-28 we have to do, not with the preliminary statement of a view finally to be abandoned, but with an elaborate bonâ fide attempt to establish and vindicate an essential dogma of the system. Still it is not altogether impossible that the pûrvapaksha should here be treated at greater length than usual, and the decisive point is therefore whether we can, with Sankara, look upon Sûtra 29 as embodying a refutation of the pûrvapaksha and thus implicitly acknowledging the doctrine that the individual soul is all-pervading. Now I think there can be no doubt that Sankara's interpretation of the Sûtra is exceedingly forced. Literally translated (and leaving out the non-essential word 'prâavat') the Sûtra runs as follows: 'But on account of that quality (or "those qualities;" or else "on account of the quality--or qualities--of that") being the essence, (there is) that designation (or "the designation of that").' This Sankara maintains to mean, 'Because the qualities of the buddhi are the essence of the soul in the samsâra state, therefore the soul itself is sometimes spoken of as anu.' Now, in the first place, nothing in the context warrants the explanation of the first 'tat' by buddhi. And--which is more important--in the second place, it is more than doubtful whether on Sankara's own system the qualities of the buddhi--such as pleasure, pain, desire, aversion, &c.--can with any propriety be said to constitute the essence of the soul even in the samsâra state. The essence of the soul in whatever state, according to Sankara's system, is knowledge or intelligence; whatever is due to its association with the buddhi is non-essential or, more strictly, unreal, false.

There are no similar difficulties in the way of Râmânuga's interpretation of the adhikarana. He agrees with Sankara in the explanation of Sûtras 19-35, with this difference that he views them as setting forth, not the pûrvapaksha, but the siddhânta. Sûtras 26-28 also are interpreted in a manner not very different from Sankara's, special stress being laid on the distinction made by Scripture between knowledge as a mere quality and the soul as a knowing agent, the substratum of knowledge. This discussion naturally gives rise to the question how it is that Scripture in some places makes use of the term viâna when meaning the individual soul. The answer is given in Sûtra 29, 'The soul is designated as knowledge because it has that quality for its essence,' i.e. because knowledge is the essential characteristic quality of the soul, therefore the term 'knowledge' is employed here and there to denote the soul itself. This latter interpretation gives rise to no doubt whatever. It closely follows the wording of the text and does not necessitate any forced supplementation. The 'tu' of the Sûtra which, according to Sankara, is meant to discard the pûrvapaksha, serves on Râmânuga's view to set aside a previously-raised objection; an altogether legitimate assumption.

Of the three remaining Sûtras of the adhikarana (30-32), 30 explains, according to Sankara, that the soul may be called anu, since, as long as it exists in the samsâra condition, it is connected with the buddhi. According to Râmânuga the Sûtra teaches that the soul may be called viâna because the latter constitutes its essential quality as long as it exists.--Sûtra 31 intimates, according to Sankara, that in the states of deep sleep, and so on, the soul is potentially connected with the buddhi, while in the waking state that connexion becomes actually manifest. The same Sûtra, according to Râmânuga, teaches that âtritva is properly said to constitute the soul's essential nature, although it is actually manifested in some states of the soul only.--In Sûtra 32, finally, Sankara sees a statement of the doctrine that, unless the soul had the buddhi for its limiting adjunct, it would either be permanently cognizing or permanently non-cognizing; while, according to Râmânuga, the Sûtra means that the soul would either be permanently cognizing or permanently non-cognizing, if it were pure knowledge and all-pervading (instead of being âtri and anu, as it is in reality).--The three Sûtras can be made to fit in with either interpretation, although it must be noted that none of them explicitly refers to the soul's connexion with the buddhi.

Adhik. XIV and XV (33-39; 40) refer to the kartritva of the gîva, i. e. the question whether the soul is an agent. Sûtras 33-39 clearly say that it is such. But as, according to Sankara's system, this cannot be the final view,--the soul being essentially non-active, and all action belonging to the world of upâdhis,--he looks upon the next following Sûtra (40) as constituting an adhikarana by itself, and teaching that the soul is an agent when connected with the instruments of action, buddhi, &c., while it ceases to be so when dissociated from them, 'just as the carpenter acts in both ways,' i.e. just as the carpenter works as long as he wields his instruments, and rests after having laid them aside.--Râmânuga, perhaps more naturally, does not separate Sûtra 40 from the preceding Sûtras, but interprets it as follows: Activity is indeed an essential attribute of the soul; but therefrom it does not follow that the soul is always actually active, just as the carpenter, even when furnished with the requisite instruments, may either work or not work, just as he pleases.

Adhik. XVI (41, 42) teaches that the soul in its activity is dependent on the Lord who impels it with a view to its former actions.

Adhik. XVII (43-53) treats of the relation of the individual soul to Brahman. Sûtra 43 declares that the individual soul is a part (amsa) of Brahman, and the following Sûtras show how that relation does not involve either that Brahman is affected by the imperfections, sufferings, &c. of the souls, or that one soul has to participate in the experiences of other souls. The two commentators of course take entirely different views of the doctrine that the soul is a part of Brahman. According to Râmânuga the souls are in reality parts of Brahman; according to Sankara the 'amsa' of the Sûtra must be understood to mean 'amsa iva,' 'a part as it were;' the one universal indivisible Brahman having no real parts, but appearing to be divided owing to its limiting adjuncts.--One Sûtra (50) in this adhikarana calls for special notice. According to Sankara the words 'âbhâsa eva ka.' mean '(the soul is) a mere reflection,' which, as the commentators remark, is a statement of the so-called pratibimbavâda, i.e. the doctrine that the so-called individual soul is nothing but the reflection of the Self in the buddhi; while Sûtra 43 had propounded the so-called avakkhedavâda, i.e. the doctrine that the soul is the highest Self in so far as limited by its adjuncts.--According to Râmânuga the âbhâsa of the Sûtra has to be taken in the sense of hetvâbhâsa, a fallacious argument, and the Sûtra is explained as being directed against the reasoning of those Vedântins according to whom the soul is Brahman in so far as limited by non-real adjuncts.


Adhik. I, II, III (1-4; 5-6; 7) teach that the prânas (by which generic name are denoted the buddhîndriyas, karmen-driyas, and the manas) spring from Brahman; are eleven in number; and are of minute size (anu).

Adhik. IV, V, VI (8; 9-12; 13) inform us also that the mukhya prâna, i.e. the vital air, is produced from Brahman; that it is a principle distinct from air in general and from the prânas discussed above; and that it is minute (anu).

Adhik. VII and VIII (14-16; 17-19) teach that the prânas are superintended and guided in their activity by special divinities, and that they are independent principles, not mere modifications of the mukhya prâna.

Adhik. IX (20-22) declares that the evolution of names and forms (the nâmarûpavyâkarana) is the work, not of the individual soul, but of the Lord

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