Sri Vedanta-sutra


Oct 7, CANADA (SUN) — Sri Vedanta-sutra - Volume One by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana.


satyam jnanam anantam
brahma-sivadi-stutam bhajad-rupam
govindam tam acintyam
hetum adosham namasyamah

Lord Govinda is the Supreme Brahman, the absolute transcendental reality. He is transcendental knowledge. He is the original cause of all causes. He is limitless and faultless. Lord Siva and all the demigods praise Him. The devotees worship His transcendental form. We offer our respectful obeisances unto Him.

sutramsubhis tamamsi
vyudasya vastuni yah parikshayate
sa jayati satyavataye
harir anuvritto nata-preshthah

All glories to Srila Vyasadeva, the son of Satyavati. Vyasadeva is the incarnation of Lord Hari, and He is very dear to the devotees. With the effulgence of His Vedanta-sutra He has dispelled the darkness of ignorance and revealed the truth.

During the Dvapara-yuga the Vedas were destroyed. The Supreme Personality of Godhead, responding to the prayers of Lord Brahma and the other bewildered demigods, appeared as Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa, restored the Vedas, divided them into parts, and composed the Vedanta-sutra in four chapters to explain them. This is described in the Skanda Purana.

At that time many fools propounded various misinterpretations of the Vedas. Some said that the highest goal of life was to act piously in order to reap the benefits of good karma. Some said that Lord Vishnu is Himself bound by the laws of karma. Some maintained that the fruits of good karma, such as residence in svarga (the upper material planets) were eternal. Some said the jivas (individual living entities) and prakriti (material energy) acted independently, without being subject to any higher power, or God. Some said the jivas (individual living entities) are actually the Supreme Brahman (God), and that the jivas are simply bewildered about their identity, or that the jivas are a reflection of God, or separated fragments of God. Some said that the jiva becomes free from the cycle of repeated birth and death when He understands his real identity as the perfectly spiritual Supreme Brahman (God).

The Vedanta-sutra refutes all these misconceptions, and establishes Lord Vishnu as supremely independent, the original creator and cause of all causes, omniscient, the ultimate goal of life for all living entities, the supreme religious principle and the supreme transcendental knowledge.

The Vedanta-sutra describes five tattvas (truths): 1. isvara (The Supreme Personality of Godhead); 2. jiva (the individual living entity, or spirit-soul); 3. prakriti (matter); 4. kala (time); and 5. karma (action).

The isvara is omniscient, but the jiva has only limited knowledge. Still, both are eternal beings, are aware of the spiritual reality, and have a variety of spiritual qualities. Both are alive, have personality, and are aware of their own identity.

At this point someone may object: "In one place you have said that the Supreme Godhead is omniscient, and in another place you have said that He is knowledge itself. This is a contradiction, for the knower and the object of knowledge must be different. They cannot be the same.

To this objection I reply: Just as a lamp is not different from the light it emanates and it's light is both the object of knowledge and the method of attaining it, in the same way the Supreme Personality of Godhead is simultaneously the supreme knower and the supreme object of knowledge. There is no contradiction.

Isvara is supremely independent. He is the master of all potencies. He enters the universe and controls it. He awards both material enjoyment and ultimate liberation to the individual spirit souls (jivas) residing in material bodies. Although He is one, He manifests in many forms. They who understand the transcendental science maintain that He is not different from His own transcendental form and qualities. Although He cannot be perceived by the material senses, He can be perceived by bhakti (devotional service). He is changeless. He reveals His own spiritual, blissful form to His devotees.

The many jivas are situated in different conditions of existence. Some are averse to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and turn their faces from Him. Such jivas are bound by material illusion. Other jivas are friendly to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and turn their faces to Him. These jivas become free from the two-fold bondage of material illusion, which hides the Supreme Lord's form and qualities, and in this way they become able to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face-to-face.

Prakriti (material nature) consists of the three modes: goodness, passion, and ignorance. Prakriti is known by many names, such as tamah and maya. When the Supreme Personality of Godhead glances at Prakriti, she becomes able to perform her various duties. Prakriti is the mother of many variegated material universes.

Kala (time) is the origin of past, present, future, simultaneity, slowness, quickness, and many other similar states. Kala is divided into many different units from the extremely brief kshana to the extremely long parardha. Turning like a wheel, time is the cause of repeated creation and annihilation of the universes. Time is unconscious. It is not a person.

These four tattvas (isvara, jiva, prakriti, and kala) are eternal. This is confirmed by the following scriptural quotations:

nityo nityanam cetanas cetananam

"Of all the eternals one (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) is the supreme eternal. Of all conscious entities one (the Supreme Personality of Godhead) is the supreme conscious entity."
-Svetasvatara Upanishad 6.13

gaur anady anantavati

"Prakriti is like a cow who was never born and never dies."
Culika Upanishad mantra 5

sad eva saumyedam agra asit

"My dear saintly student, please understand that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is eternal. He is existed before the manifestation of this universe."
Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1

The jivas, prakriti, and kala are subordinate to isvara, and subject to His control. This is confirmed by the following statement of Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.16):

sa visva-krid visva-vid atma-yonir
jnah kala-karo guni sarva-vid yah
pradhana-k/estrajna-patir gunesah

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead (isvara) is the creator of the material universes. He is the creator of everything that exists within the universes. He is the father of all living entities. He is the creator of time. He is full of all transcendental virtues. He is omniscient. He is the master of pradhana (the unmanifested material nature). He is the master of the gunas (three modes of material nature). He is the master of the individual spirit souls residing material bodies (kshetrajna). He imprisons the conditioned souls in the material world, and He also becomes their liberator from bondage."

Karma (the result of fruitive action) is not a conscious, living person. It is an inert material force. Although no one can trace out its beginning, it has a definite end at some point in time. It is known by the name adrishta (the unseen hand of fate) and many other names also.

These four (jiva, prakriti, kala, and karma) are all potencies of isvara, the supreme master of all potencies. Because everything that exists is the potency of the Supreme, the Vedic literatures declare: "Only Brahman exists, and nothing is separate from Him." This fact is nicely explained in the four chapters of this book, the Vedanta-sutra.

In the Srimad-Bhagavatam (which is the perfect commentary on Vedanta-sutra, the Supreme isvara and His potencies are described in the following words:

bhakti-yogena manasi
samyak pranihite 'male
apasyat purusham purnam
mayam ca tad-apasrayam

"Thus he fixed his mind, perfectly engaging it by linking it in devotional service [bhakti-yoga] without any tinge of materialism, and thus he saw the Absolute Personality of Godhead along with His external energy, which was under full control.*

yaya sammohito jiva
atmanam tri-gunatmakam
paro 'pi manute 'nartham
tat-kritam cabhipadyate

"Due to this external energy, the living entity, although transcendental to the three modes of material nature, thinks of himself as a material product and thus undergoes the reactions of material miseries.*

anarthopasamam sakshad
bhakti-yogam adhokshaje
lokasyajanato vidvams
cakre satvata-samhitam

"The material miseries of the living entity, which are superfluous to him, can be directly mitigated by the linking process of devotional service. But the mass of people do not know this, and therefore the learned Vyasadeva compiled this Vedic literature, which is in relation to the Supreme Truth."*

dravyam karma ca kalas ca
svabhavo jiva eva ca
yad-anugrahatah santi
na santi yad-upekshaya

"One should definitely know that all material ingredients, activities, time and modes, and the living entities who are meant to enjoy them all, exist by His mercy only, and as soon as He does not care for them, everything becomes nonexistent."*

That Srimad-Bhagavatam is the commentary on Vedanta-sutra is confirmed by the following statement of Garuda Purana-

artho 'yam brahmasutranam

"Srimad-Bhagavatam is the commentary on Vedanta-sutra."*

In this Vedanta-sutra the first chapter explains that Brahman is the real subject matter discussed in all Vedic literatures. The second chapter explains that all Vedic literatures present the same conclusion. They do not actually contradict each other. The third chapter describes how to attain Brahman. The fourth chapter explains the result of attaining Brahman.

A person whose heart is pure, pious, and free from material desires, who is eager is associate with saintly devotees, who has faith in the Lord and the scriptures, and who is peaceful and decorated with saintly qualities, is qualified to study the scriptures and strive after Brahman.

The relationship between Brahman and the scriptures is that the scriptures describe Brahman and Brahman is the object described in the scriptures. The Vedanta-sutra and other Vedic scriptures describes Brahman as the Supreme Personality of Godhead, whose form is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, who is the master of unlimited inconceivable potencies, and who possesses unlimited pure, transcendental attributes. The result of properly understanding the Vedanta-sutra and other Vedic scriptures is that the spiritual aspirant becomes free from all material imperfections, and able to see the Supreme Brahman, Personality of Godhead, face-to-face.

The Vedanta-sutra is written in adhikaranas, Vedic syllogisms, which consist of five parts: 1. vishaya (thesis, or statement); 2. samsaya (the arisal of doubt in the tenability of the statement); 3. purvapaksha (presentation of a view opposing the original statement) 4. siddhanta (determination of the actual truth, the final conclusion, by quotation from Vedic scriptures), and sangati (confirmation of the final conclusion by quotation from Vedic scriptures).

Adhikarana 1 - Inquiry Into Brahman

The first adhikarana of the Vedanta-sutra discusses brahma-jijnasa (inquiry into Brahman). The adhikarana may be shown in its five parts in the following way:

1. Vishaya (statement): One should inquire about Brahman. This statement is confirmed by the following statements of Vedic scripture:

yo vai bhuma tat sukham nanyat sukham asti bhumaiva sukham bhumatveva vijijnasitavyah

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead (bhuma) is the source of genuine happiness. Nothing else can bring one actual happiness. Only the Supreme Personality of Godhead can bring one happiness. For this reason one should inquire about the Supreme Personality of Godhead.
Chandogya Upanishad 7.25.1

atma va are drashtavyah srotavyo mantavyo nididhyasitavyo maitreyi

"O Maitreyi, one should see, hear, remember, and inquire about the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad 2.4.5

2. Samsaya (doubt): If one has studied the Vedas and dharma-sastras, need he inquire about Brahman or not? The following statements of Vedic scriptures nourish this doubt:

apama somam amrita abhuma

"We have attained immortality by drinking the soma-juice."
Rig Veda 8.18.3

akshayyam ha vai caturmasyajinah sukritam bhavati

"They who follow the vow of caturmasya attain an eternal reward."

3. Purvapaksha (presentation of the opposing view): There is no need to inquire about Brahman. Simply by discharging ordinary pious duties described in the dharma-sastras one can attain immortality and an eternal reward.

4. Siddhanta (the conclusive truth): In the first sutra Bhagavan Vyasadeva replies to his philosophical opponent.

Sutra 1

athato brahma-jijnasa
atha-now; atah-therefore; brahma-about Brahman; jijnasa-there should be inquiry.

Now, therefore, one should inquire about Brahman.*

Purport by Srila Baladeva Vidyabhushana

In this sutra the word atha means "now", and the word atah means “therefore". The sutra means "Now one should inquire about Brahman."

Atha (now): When a person has properly studied the Vedic literature, understood its meaning, adhered to the principles of varnasrama-dharma, observed the vow of truthfulness, purified his mind and heart, and attained the association of a self-realized soul, he is qualified to inquire about Brahman.

Atah (therefore): Because material piety brings results of material sense-happiness, which is inevitably limited and temporary, and because the transcendental form of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, which is realized by the proper attainment of real transcendental knowledge, and which is full of imperishable, limitless bliss, eternity, transcendental knowledge, and all transcendental attributes, brings eternal bliss to the devotee-beholder, therefore one should renounce all material pious duties for attaining material sense-gratification, and inquire about Brahman by studying the four chapters of Vedanta-sutra.

At the point someone may object: Is it not true that simply by studying the Vedas one attains knowledge of Brahman, and as result of this knowledge one abandons the path of material piety and fruitive work and instead takes to the worship of the Supreme Personality of Godhead? If this result is obtained simply by studying the Vedas,, what need is there to study the four chapters of Vedanta-sutra?

To this objection I reply: Even if one carefully studies the Vedas, misunderstanding and doubt may destroy his intelligence and lead him away from the real meaning of the Vedas. For this reason it is necessary to study the Vedanta-sutra, to strengthen the student’s understanding.

Performing the duties of asrama-dharma are also helpful in purifying the heart and understanding the transcendental reality. How the asrama duties of the brahmana help in this regard is described in the following statement of Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad (4.4.22): tam etam vedanuvacanena brahmana vividisanti yajena danena tapasanasanena

"By Vedic study, sacrifice, charity, austerity, and fasting, the brahmanas strive to understand the Supreme Personality of Godhead."

The usefulness of the brahminical duties such as truthfulness, austerity, and mantra chanting is described in the following scriptural statements: satyena labhayas tapasa hy esha atma samyak jnanena brahmacaryena nityam

"By constant truthfulness, austerity, transcendental knowledge, and austerity, one becomes eligible to associate with the Supreme Personality of Godhead."
Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.5

japyenaiva ca samsiddhyad
brahmana natra samsayah
kuryad anyan na va kuryan
maitro brahmana ucyate

"Whether he performs other rituals and duties or not, one who perfectly chants mantras glorifying the Supreme Personality of Godhead should be considered a perfect brahmana, eligible to understand the Supreme Lord."
Manu-samhita 2.87

Association with those who understand the truth also brings one transcendental knowledge. By this association Narada and many other spiritual aspirants attained interest to ask about spiritual life and were finally eligible to see the Supreme Personality of Godhead face-to-face. Sanat-kumara and many other great sages have also helped many devotees by giving their association in this way. The great value of contact with a self-realized soul is described in the following statement of Bhagavad-gita (4.34):

tad viddhi pranipatena
pariprasnena sevaya
upadekshyanti te jnanam
jnaninas tattva-darsinah

"Just try to learn the truth by approaching a spiritual master. Inquire from him submissively and render service unto him. The self-realized soul can impart knowledge unto you because he has seen the truth."*

The material benefits obtained by following the pious rituals of the karma-kanda section of the Vedas are all temporary in nature. This fact is confirmed by the following statement of Chandogya Upanishad (8.1.3):

tad yatheha karma-cito lokah kshiyante evam evamutra punya-cito lokah kshiyate

"By performing good works (karma) one is elevated to the celestial material world after death. One is not able to stay there forever, however, but one must lose that position after some time and accept another, less favorable residence. In the same way, by amassing pious credits (punya) one may reside in the upper planets. Still, he cannot stay there, but must eventually relinquish his comfortable position there, and accept a less favorable residence somewhere else."

The following statement of Mundaka Upanishad (1.2.12) affirms that only transcendental knowledge will help one approach the Supreme Brahman:

parikshya lokan karma-citan brahmano
nirvedam ayan nasty akritah kritena
tad-vijnanartham sa gurum evabhigacchet
samit-panih srotriyam brahma-nishtham

"Seeing that the celestial material planets, which one may obtain by pious work, provide only temporary benefits, a brahmana, in order to understand the truth the of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, should humbly approach a bona-fide spiritual master learned in the scriptures and full of faith in the Supreme Lord." In contrast to the temporary material benefits obtained in the celestial material planets, the Supreme Brahman is the reservoir of eternal, limitless bliss. This is confirmed by the following statements of Taittiriya Upanishad (2.1.1):

satyam jnanam anantam brahma

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is limitless, eternal, and full of knowledge."

anando brahmeti vyajanat

"He then understood that the Supreme Personality of Godhead is full of transcendental bliss."

The Supreme Brahman is eternal, full of knowledge and endowed with all transcendental qualities. This is confirmed by the following statements of Svetasvatara Upanishad:

na tasya karyam karanam ca vidyate
na tat-samas cabhyadhikas ca drisyate
parasya saktir vividhaiva sruyate
sva-bhaviki jnana-bala-kriya ca

"He does not possess bodily form like that of an ordinary living entity. There is no difference between His body and His soul. He is absolute. All his senses are transcendental. Any one of His senses can perform the action of any other sense. Therefore, no one is greater than Him or equal to Him. His potencies are multifarious, and thus His deeds are automatically performed as a natural sequence."*

asaktam sarva-bhric caiva
nirgunam guna-bhoktri ca

"The Supersoul is the original source of all senses, yet He is without senses. He is unattached, although He is the maintainer of all living beings. He transcends the modes of nature, and at the same time He is the master of all modes of material nature."*

bhava-grahyam anidakhyam
bhavabhava-karam sivam
kala-sarga-karam devam
ye vidus te jahus tanum

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead is the creator and destroyer of the entire material cosmic manifestation. He is supremely auspicious, and He does not possesses a material body, for His body is spiritual in all respects. He may be reached and understood only by loving devotional service. Those who thus serve Him and understand Him may become free from having to repeatedly accept various material bodies for continued residence in the material world. They become liberated from this world, and obtain eternal spiritual bodies with which to serve Him." -5.14

That the Supreme Personality of Godhead grants eternal transcendental bliss to His devotees is confirmed by the following statement of Gopala-tapani Upanishad (1.5):

tam pitha-stham ye tu yajanti dhiras, tesham sukham sasvatam netaresham

"The saintly devotees who worship the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the spiritual world attain eternal transcendental bliss. Except for them no others can attain this eternal bliss."

This uselessness of the temporary benefits obtained by following the material piety of the karma-kanda section of the Vedas will be described in the third chapter of this Vedanta-sutra.

This may be summed up by saying: One who has studied the Vedas, Upavedas, and Upanishads, understood them, associated with a self-realized soul, and in this way understood the difference between the temporary and the eternal, who has lost all attraction for the temporary and chosen the eternal, becomes a student of the four chapters of Vedanta-sutra.

It cannot be said that simply by completely studying and understanding the karma-kanda section of the Vedas one will naturally take up the study of Vedanta-sutra. They who have studied karma-kanda but not associated with saintly devotees do not become eager to understand Brahman. On the other hand, they who have not studied karma-kanda, but who have become purified by association with saintly devotees, naturally become attracted to understand Brahman.

Neither can it be said that simply by understanding the difference between the temporary and the eternal, and simply by attaining the four qualities of saintly persons, one will become attracted to understand Brahman. These things are not enough. However, if one attains the association of a self-realized soul and follows his instructions, then these ordinarily difficult-to-attain qualifications are automatically attained at once.

Three kinds of persons inquire into the nature of Brahman: 1. Sa-nishtha (they who faithfully perform their duties); 2. Parinishtha (they who act philanthropically for the benefit of all living entities); and 3. Nirapeksa (they who are rapt in meditation and aloof from the activities of this world). According to their own respective abilities all these persons understand the nature of Brahman. They become more and more purified, and they eventually attain the association of Brahman.

At this point someone may raise the following objection: Is it not so that the words om and atha are auspicious sounds that sprang from Lord Brahma's throat in ancient times? Is it not also so that these words are traditionally used at the beginning of books to invoke auspiciousness and drive away all obstacles? For this reason I think the word atha in this sutra does not mean "now". It is simply a word to invoke auspiciousness, and has no other meaning.

To this objection I reply: This is not true. Srila Vyasadeva, the author of Vedanta-sutra, is the incarnation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself, and therefore He has no particular need to invoke auspiciousness or drive away obstacles and dangers. That Vyasadeva is the Supreme Personality of Godhead is confirmed by the following statement of the smriti-sastra:

viddhi narayanam prabhum

"Please understand that Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa is actually the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Narayana."

Still, ordinary people may take it that Lord Vyasadeva has spoken the word atha at the beginning of Vedanta-sutra just to invoke auspiciousness, just as one may sound a conch-shell to invoke auspiciousness. In conclusion, we have described here how at a certain point in time, after certain understandings (atha), a person may become eager to inquire about the nature of Brahman.

At this point someone may raise the following objection: Is it not so that the word bhuma or brahma may also refer to the individual spirit soul and not only to the Supreme Personality of Godhead? This fact is explained in Chandogya Upanishad. Even the dictionary explains: "The word brahma means that which is big, the brahmana caste, the individual spirit soul, and the demigod Brahma who sits on a great lotus flower."

To clear away the misunderstanding of this objector, the following scriptural passages may be quoted:

bhrigur vai varunir varunam pitaram upasasara adhihi bho bhagavo brahma. . . yato va imani bhutani jayante yena jatani jivanti yat prayanty abhisamvisanti tad brahma tad vijijasasva

"Bhrigu asked his father Varuna: `My lord, please instruct me about the nature of Brahman.' Varuna replied: `All living entities have taken their birth because of Brahman. They remain alive because they are maintained by Brahman, and at the time of death they again enter into Brahman. Please try to understand the nature of Brahman.'"

At this point someone may doubt: "In this Vedanta-sutra does the word `Brahman' refer to the individual spirit soul or the Supreme Personality of Godhead?"

Someone may indeed claim that the word "Brahman" here refers to the individual spirit soul, and to support his view he may quote the following statement of Taittiriya Upanishad (2.5):

vijnanam brahma ced veda
tasmac cen na pramadyati
sarire papmano hitva
sarvan kaman samasnute

"If one understands the true nature of the Brahman who lives in the body and uses the senses of the body to perceive the material world, then such a knower of Brahman will never become bewildered by illusion. Such a knower of the Brahman in the body refrains from performing sinful actions, and at the time of leaving the body at death, he attains an exalted destination where all his desires become at once fulfilled."

Our philosophical opponent may claim in this way that the word "Brahman" should be interpreted to mean the individual spirit soul. In order to refute this false idea, Srila Vyasadeva describes the true nature of Brahman in the next sutra.


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