Author Topic: ADHYAASA  (Read 614 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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« on: February 22, 2015, 10:10:36 AM »
      Notes on Shankara's examination of the nature of 'Error' in the introduction to the Brahmasutra.

      These notes are essentially a rewording, omitting most of the Sanskrit, of the notes provided by Kuntimaddi Sadananda on the Advaitin List and I gratefully acknowledge his permission for this. In turn, he wishes that I acknowledge his own indebtedness to H.H. Swami Paramaarthaananda of Madras, himself a student of Swami Chinmayananda and Swami Dayananda. His lectures form the basis of these notes.

      The Brahmasuutra is the third of the so called 'Three pillars of Vedanta', the first two being the upanishhad-s (shruti - the scriptures 'revealed' and not 'authored' by anyone) and the Bhagavad Giitaa (smRRiti - the 'heard' scriptures passed down by memory). The Brahmasuutra is a very terse and logical examination of the essential teaching of the upanishhad-s, seeking to show the nature of Brahman and the superiority of the philosophy of Vedanta. It is usually studied with the help of a commentary or bhaashhya, the best known being the one by Shankara.

      It is in the nature of man, with his intellect, that he seeks to enquire into the causes of observed phenomena. The six topics of enquiry for a 'student of life' relate to the individual, the world, the cause for these two, suffering, liberation from this suffering and the means for attaining such liberation. Any consistent explanation for all of these is deemed a philosophy or darshana.

      There are 12 specific philosophies identified in India. Six of these are called aastika and the other six naastika. Aastika refers to those systems which accept the Vedas as a valid means for acquiring knowledge. Conversely, the naastika philosophies do not recognise the Vedas as valid or reliable sources of knowledge. These latter philosophies prefer to rely upon direct perception and inference or reasoning as the means for knowledge. The first of the six naastika philosophies is materialism, said to originate with the teacher of the Gods, BRRihaspati. It is said that this was devised in order to mislead the demons so that they could be destroyed. It emphasises the sense pleasures as being the purpose of life and does not accept such things as heaven and hell, the soul or Vedas. Modern science, with its belief that consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter, may come close to this philosophy.

      Materialism only recognises direct perception as a valid means of knowledge. This philosophy is not discussed in the Brahmasuutra since it is not considered worthwhile.

      The second naastika philosophy is Jainism. Some aspects of this are discussed and refuted later. The remaining four cover the various aspects of Buddhism. Buddha himself did not teach any real system of philosophy; he only had various dialogues with his disciples. Hence Buddhism was not initially well-developed. Later however it developed into four branches, each of which is analysed and criticised in the Brahmasuutra.

      Although all of the six aastika philosophies accept the Vedas as a valid means of knowledge, three of them do not accept Brahman and four of them given more importance to reasoning than to the Vedas. Only two give primary importance to the Vedas. One of these however, considers that the first part of the Vedas - the one concerned with ritualistic action - is more important than the upanishhad-s. The second gives primary importance to the last portion of the Vedas, and it is this that is the principal subject of the Brahmasuutra-s.

      A suutra literally means 'a thread'. It is a very concise statement expressing the essential meaning of a given idea in a logical manner, free from any defects. A simple translation is therefore not adequate on its own and requires additional explanation in the form of a commentary or bhaashhya. Because there exist possibilities for ambiguity, the various commentaries have led to 10 different teachings each claiming that theirs represents the intended meaning.

      The three most popular (in historical sequence) are known as Advaita, VishishhTaadvaita and Dvaita,. The commentary by Shankara is concerned with Advaita.