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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

Footnote 2 S'a@nkara's bha@sya on the Brahma sutras


study of the extant commentaries on the _Brahma-sutras_ of Badaraya@na by the adherents of different schools of thought leaves us convinced that these sutras were regarded by all as condensations of the teachings of the Upani@sads. The differences of opinion were with regard to the meaning of these sutras and the Upani@sad texts to which references were made by them in each particular case. The _Brahma-sutra_ is divided into four adhyayas or books, and each of these is divided into four chapters or padas. Each of these contains a number of topics of discussion (_adhikara@na_) which are composed of a number of sutras, which raise the point at issue, the points that lead to doubt and uncertainty, and the considerations that should lead one to favour


[Footnote 1: See note on p. 432.]

[Footnote 2: S'a@nkara's bha@sya on the _Brahma-sutras_, I. iii. 19.]


a particular conclusion. As explained by S'a@nkara, most of these sutras except the first four and the first two chapters of the second book are devoted to the textual interpretations of the Upani@sad passages. S'a@nkara's method of explaining the absolutist Vedanta creed does not consist in proving the Vedanta to be a consistent system of metaphysics, complete in all parts, but in so interpreting

the Upani@sad texts as to show that they all agree in holding the Brahman to be the self and that alone to be the only truth. In Chapter I of Book II S'a@nkara tries to answer some of the objections that may be made from the Sa@mkhya point of view against his absolutist creed and to show that some apparent difficulties of the absolutist doctrine did not present any real difficulty. In Chapter II of Book II he tries to refute the Sa@mkhya, Yoga, Nyaya-Vais'e@sika, the Buddhist, Jaina, Bhagavata and S'aiva systems of thought. These two chapters and his commentaries on the first four sutras contain the main points of his system. The rest of the work is mainly occupied in showing that the conclusion of the sutras was always in strict agreement with the Upani@sad doctrines. Reason with S'a@nkara never occupied the premier position; its value was considered only secondary, only so far as it helped one to the right understanding of the revealed scriptures, the Upani@sads. The ultimate truth cannot be known by reason alone. What one debater shows to be reasonable a more expert debater shows to be false, and what he shows to be right is again proved to be false by another debater. So there is no final certainty to which we can arrive by logic and argument alone. The ultimate truth can thus only be found in the Upani@sads; reason, discrimination and judgment are all to be used only with a view to the discovery of the real purport of the Upani@sads. From his own position S'a@nkara was not thus bound to vindicate the position of the Vedanta as a thoroughly rational system of metaphysics. For its truth did not depend on its rationality but on the authority of the Upani@sads. But what was true could not contradict experience. If therefore S'a@nkara's interpretation of the Upani@sads was true, then it would not contradict experience. S'a@nkara was therefore bound to show that his interpretation was rational and did not contradict experience. If he could show that his interpretation was the only interpretation that was faithful to the Upani@sads, and that its apparent contradictions with experience could in some way be explained,

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