Author Topic: A brief outline of the brahmasuutra  (Read 485 times)

Dr. Sadananda

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 679
    • View Profile
A brief outline of the brahmasuutra
« on: February 22, 2015, 10:07:34 AM »
A brief outline of the brahmasuutra.

      The Brahmasuutra consists of four chapters; each chapter is divided into four sections and each section is divided into topics of which there is a total of 191 or 192 depending on how the suutra-s are divided. Most of the topics are concerned with statements in the 10 principal upanishhad-s. The topics are divided into suutra-s of which there is a total of 555.

      Each of the four chapters is concerned with a particular theme. The first chapter endeavours to establish that the central theme of the upanishhad-s is Brahman. This is necessary because some of the other philosophies do not accept this. The second chapter shows there are no contradictions in the teaching since this would constitute a defect. There are three types of contradiction defined - internal (i.e. the Vedic statements themselves contradicting each other); contradiction with statements from smRRiti; contradiction with logic. The third chapter discusses the means for attaining Brahman, both direct and indirect (the latter covering such aspects as ritual etc., which are merely means for purifying the mind). The fourth chapter is about the 'fruits' of knowledge of Brahman, namely liberation from bondage and suffering, both delayed and immediate.

      Each topic consists of 5 aspects. The first is the 'subject', which is usually an idea from one of the ten principal upanishhad-s. The second element is the 'doubt' inherent in the subject (if there is none, there is no need for enquiry). Thirdly, the objections and reasoning of other philosophies are considered. Fourthly, these objections are logically refuted and a conclusion consistent with Advaita is drawn. Finally, the connection with the previous topic is shown.

      Shankara's introduction to the bhaashhya (called adhyaasa bhaashhya) is central to the entire advaitic philosophy, covering the explanation of the basic errors or mistakes (adhyaasa) that we make that lead us to our belief in a separate existence and hence to the eternal cycle (samsaara) of suffering. Prior to discussing this, however, there is an introduction to the use of inferential logic, since this is fundamental for understanding the arguments of the Brahmasuutra.

      A distinction is made between valid and illusory knowledge. What constitutes a valid means of knowledge is crucial to the understanding of this subject of adhyaasa. (Indeed, all Indian philosophies discuss epistemology before moving on to ontological issues.) The senses are usually regarded as our principal source of knowledge but, apart from the fact that information from the senses is not always reliable, much of what is discussed is not directly observable to the senses. Thus we have to be aware of the source of the information and the types of error that can occur in using this as a means of knowledge.

      There are six accepted means of knowledge or pramaaNa. The first is direct perception either through one of the senses or possibly imagined by the mind (of things which are not directly present). The senses are however very specific.

      For example the eyes can only detect colour and form and are unable to hear sounds from an object. In fact, each pramaaNa has validity in its own sphere. If something is directly perceived, inference is not needed; if something can be inferred, the shaastra-s are not required.

      The next valid means of knowledge is inference from something that cannot be directly perceived. If something cannot be seen directly, nor inferred, it may it be reported in the scriptures or science or directly from someone who can be trusted. For this latter means, the principal source is the Vedas. It is believed that the Vedas were not written by humans and are thus free from the defects associated with human authorship. Effectively they are presumed to have been revealed to the sages, who then passed them on to their disciples by word of mouth. Since they are heard from a teacher they are called shruti. The three remaining means of knowledge are considered as part of inference itself.

      The Brahmasuutra relies heavily on inference and shruti as sources of knowledge.

      It should be noted that the Brahmasuutra itself was written by a human and therefore cannot itself be considered as a valid means of knowledge.