Bodhayana the Vrttikara
1.1. It is said Bodhayana the Vrttikara had written commentaries on all the twenty parts of Mimamsa, covering both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa. It is also said that his commentary on Brahma Sutra (Brahma–sutra Vrtti), in particular, was quite detailed. Since the commentaries covered both karma and Jnana kanda-s, Bodhayana was respected as an adept in both aspects of Mimamsa.
1.2. Bodhayana is regarded amongst the early commentator on Brahma Sutra; and one who came to be recognized as an authority by generations of commentators that followed him. It had profound influence on the followers of his doctrine.
1.3. All the works ascribed to Bodhayana are dispersed and lost; and none is available now. It seems that fragments of his Brahma Sutra Vritti were extant till about the 11th century. But, his commentaries on Mimamsa Sutra were lost much earlier; and had passed out of existence by the time of Kumarila Bhatta (Ca. 700 A D).
2.1. As Sri Ramanuja (1017–1137 A D) was preparing to write his Bhashya (detailed commentary) on the Brahma Sutras, he wished to consult the Brahma–Sutra-Vrtti of Bodhayana. The text ascribed to Bodhayana had the reputation of being the most authoritative explanation of the Brahma Sutras, based in a philosophy of theism, which was also the way Sri Ramanuja understood the Upanishads. But, the work of Bodhayana was not available anywhere in South India. It seems that even Yamunacharya the predecessor of Ramanuja had not seen a copy of Bodhayana Vrtti.
2.2. When he learnt that fragments of Bodhayana’s Brahma-Sutra-Vrtti were available in Kashmir, Sri Ramanuja who by then was past sixty years of age set out on a long and an hazardous journey, with a small band of disciples, from Sri Rangam in deep South to Srinagar up North in the foothills of the Himalayas, a straight-distance of more than 3, 300 KMs. But, the route taken by Sri Ramanuja and his disciples was much circuitous. They are said to have travelled up from the western coastal belt of India to the eastern regions of Puri, Kasi, Naimish-aranya, Varanasi, Salagrama in Nepal; then West to Dwaraka, Pushkaram , on to Bhatti (near Lahore) and finally into the Himalayan districts of Kashmir valley.
2.3. It is said; once in Srinagar (Kashmir) Sri Ramanuja had considerable difficulty in tracing the copy of Bodhayana’s Vrtti. It was finally located in the State Library. But, the Library authorities allowed him to read it within the premises of the Library; and, they did not permit him to take the fragmented old text out of the Library. Then, it is said, Sri Ramanuja’s disciple Sri Kuresa (Kurattalvan or Srivatsanka Misra) gifted with remarkable memory-power memorized the complete text of Bhodayana’s Brahma Sutra Vrtti written in the ancient document.
2.4. Obviously, what Sri Ramanuja read and what Sri Kuresa memorized was the abridged (Sanskiptha) version of Bodhayana Vrtti. And, Sri Ramanuja based his commentary of Brahma Sutra (Sri Bhashya) on the explanations given in that abridged version.
3.1. In the opening verse of Sri Bhashya, Sri Ramanuja says: ‘The previous Masters have abridged (purvacharyah samskipuh) the detailed commentary on Brahma sutra which had been composed by Bhagavad Bodhayana (Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim). The words of the Sutra will be explained (sutraksarani vyakhyasyante) in accordance with their views and traditions (tan-mata-anusarena).
Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim purvacharyah samskipuh I tan-mata-anusarena sutraksarani vyakhyasyante II
3.2. Apart from the excerpts quoted by Sri Ramanuja nothing else of Bodhayana Vrtti is extant today. The Bodhayana Vrtti or what has remained of it is traditionally respected by the followers of Sri Ramanuja. And, their tradition regards Bodhayana second only to the author of Brahma Sutra (Badarayana).
3.3. In the Sri Bhashya of Sri Ramanuja, Bodhayana is generally addressed as Vrttikara, the commentator. Sri Ramanuja quoted seven comments / explanations of the Vrttikara Bodhayana; and, these are his only words that have survived. Even though those fragments are few in number, each of them expresses a special point of Bodhayana’s thought.
3.4. As regards the Purva-charyas, the elders of his tradition, who are said to have abridged (purvacharyah samskipuh) the detailed commentary on Brahma sutra which had been composed by Bhagavad Bodhayana (Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim), we do not know exactly who they were. But, in another context Sri Ramanuja mentions the Purva-charyas of his tradition. It is not clear whether the two sets of Purva-charyas were the same or were different.
4.1. In his Vedartha-samgraha, Sri Ramanuja mentions the names of six teachers of Vedanta who are said to have expounded the philosophy akin to Vishishta-advaita: 1. Bodhayana; 2. Tanka; 3. Dramida; 4. Guhadeva; 5. Kapardi; and, 6. Bharuci.
Bhagavad Bodhayana- Tanaka- Dramida- Guhadeva- Kapardi – Baruchi – prabhrty- avigita-sista- parigrahita-puratana – Veda-Vedanta- vyakhyana-suvyaktar-thasrutinikaranidarshito-yam- panthah I
This path is declared in many Srutis, whose meaning has been made very clear by the ancient commentators on Veda and Vedanta, accepted by Masters such as Bhagavad Bodhayana- Tanaka- Dramida- Guhadeva- Kapardi – Baruchi, who have never advocated heretical teachings.
4.2. Sri Ramanuja acknowledges these six teachers as ancient authorities whose views are acceptable to him. And, in particular, he quotes quite often from the works ascribed to Tanaka and Dramida.
4.3. After mentioning that his own explanations of the Brahma Sutras would be in accordance with the interpretations provided by these ancient teachers, Sri Ramanuja commences his Sri Bhashya with the discussion on the first Sutra of the Brahma Sutra: Atato Brahma jignasaha. Thereafter, the words of the Sutra are taken up, one after the other, for examination of their context, meaning and grammar. He then gives the Vakyartha of the Sutra, the meaning that is conveyed by the Sutra as a whole. And, then he delves into the philosophical interpretations of the Sutras in accordance with the views of these ancient teachers of his tradition.
4.4. But, very little is known about these ancient seers. And, sadly, their works too have not survived. Though their names are recited by Sri Yamuna and Sri Ramanuja we do not know the Acharya-paramapara between these Masters named as Purva-charyas.
5.1. Before coming back to Bodhayana the Vrttikara, let’s try to find what little is known about the Purva-charyas of Sri Ramanuja’s tradition.
Tanaka also known as Brahmanandin or Nandin is described as Atreya or Atrivamsiya (descendent of Sage Atri). He is usually referred to with the epithet Vakyakara, the author. Tanaka, well versed in the field of Vedanta, is said to have written commentaries on both the Chandogya Upanishad and the Brahma-sutras. All his works are lost. But his sayings are quoted by the later scholars. His time is estimated to be around 550 AD; which is, after Bodhayana, but before Dramida, Brhatprapancha and Sri Sankara.
At the beginning of his commentary (Sribhashya) on the Brahma Sutra, Sri Ramanuja explains meditation (Dhyana) taught in the Upanishads as an un-interrupted continuous stream of thought or remembrance (Smrti) like a stream of poured out oil. Then he quotes the Vakyakara (Tanaka) :
Knowledge (Vedana) which is the means to release is worship (Upasana). When carrying out the Upasana, the object of meditation should be Brahman with attributes, endowed with many virtues. In order to complete the Prajna based meditation, cleansing of the body and mind is necessary. For this, seven types of preparations are prescribed. The meditation on Brahman, with these preparations, the attainment of emancipation is made possible.
And, he goes on to say that the worship should be continuous. Having explained that, he says that in order to gain knowledge one must perform throughout one’s life the various actions (Karma) prescribed in the scriptures.
Hence, Tanaka emphasized the union of knowledge and action, which later came to be known as: Jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada. He was opposed to the notion of instantaneous enlightenment.
In Tanaka’s work the relationship between Brahman and the phenomenal world is likened to that between the ocean and its foam. Sri Ramanuja states that Tanaka puts forth Parinama-vada and explains the phenomenal world arising out of Brahman like Dadhi (coagulated milk) from milk.
If we can try to summarize Tanaka’s views :
Brahman is the Atman of all and everything is pervaded by Brahman; That which exists in the space within the heart, the golden person seen in the eye and so on which are discussed in the Upanishads refer to Brahman. Its essence is pure consciousness Prajna. It is eternal and has a form which is beyond the senses; yet, it resides in everything and controls the desires of all the deities and beings. Thus, Tanaka, it seems, held that each of the individual selves corresponds to the body of Brahman.
Dravida (also Dramida) is respectfully referred to as Dramidacharya, the Bhashyakara or Bhashyakrt, the commentator par excellence. His views are often cited by Sri Ramanuja in Sribhashya and in Vedarthasamgraha. Dravida is said to have written a commentary on Brahma Sutra as also commentaries on Chandogya Upanishad and Mandukya Upanishad. Dravida was later than Tanaka, as Dramida is said to have written a Bhashya on the Vakyas of Tanaka (Brahmanandi – virachitam vakyanam sutra-rupanam bhashyakarta Dravidacharyo api).
Sri Sankara also cites Dravida as an authority at the beginning of his commentary on Chandogya Upanishad (3.10).
It is said; Dravida explained Brahman as the absolute principle, creator of the universe (Visva-srj); as the Supreme Divinity (Para-devata) having internal attributes (Antarguna); and, as Lord of the world (Lokeshvara) who creates the phenomenal world and regulates all the worlds.
Dravida did not seem to make a distinction between Brahman and Isvara. Brahman or Isvara’s relation to the universe is compared to that of a King with his Kingdom. The theistic doctrine of liberation is presented on the basis of relation between the Lord and the individual self.
According to Dravida the Highest Self and individual self belong to the same genus (Jati) just as the sparks coming out of the fire but are not identical.
The individual self purified from all taints by performing meditation is liberated by the grace of the Lord; and then attains union with the Lord. The liberation according to Dravida is that the individual self residing in peace with the Highest Self; and that is granted by the grace of the Lord.
And, while it is with the Lord, the individual self still retains its identity as before. Though it is in union with the Highest Self, it does not possess the powers of creation, sustenance and dissolution. On this point Tanaka and Dravida are one; and it is close to the doctrine of Sri Ramanuja.
Bharuchi (Baruchi) said to be an ancient scholar on Vedanta. Traditionally, he is placed before Dramidacharya. He is said to have held the view that Samkhya and Yoga as two systems that complement each other. Bharuchi, it seems, also advocated combination of knowledge (Jnana) and action (Karma)- Jnana-karma-samucchaya . Sri Ramanuja held Bharuchi in high esteem; but, does not explicitly quote any of his views.
Bharuchi is also recognized as an author or a commentator on Dharmasatra. He is said to have written a commentary on certain chapters (first four chapters, parts of chapter 5 and verses of later chapters) of Manusmrti. He is also credited with commentary on Vishnudharmasutra. Bharuchi is mentioned as an authority in Vijnaneshvara’s Mithakshara on Yajnavalkya-smrti ; and, in Sri Madhvacharya’s Tika on Parasara-samhita. One of his quotations also occurs in the commentary composed on the Apastamba Grhyasutra by Sudarshana Suri, a teacher of Visishtadvaita Vedanta.
However, none of his works on Vedanta has survived. Vishal Agarwal, a noted scholar, has attempted to reconstruct Bharuci’s views on Vedanta issues as gleamed from the comments on certain verses of Manusmrti. According to that:
(a) Bharuchi appeared to have believed in the combination of action and knowledge as essential for salvation. Bharuchi says: in all the stages of life, combination of knowledge and action is to be known as the means of attaining Brahmaloka. Performing rites such as Agnihotra, regularly all through one’s life is obligatory no matter whether one takes Sanyasa or not.
(b) Bharuchi seemed to believe in a distinction between Jivas and Brahman. Bharuchi supports the Samkhya doctrine of duality of Purusha and Pradhana.
(c) Bharuchi appears to believe that the soul is ‘nirguna’ in the sense that it does not have Gunas such as: sattva, rajas and tamas. However, Bharuchi believes in the duality of souls and matter in the effected world.
(d): Bharuchi refers to the distinction between dualists and non-dualists amongst Vedantins.
In summary, it appears that Bharuchi’s Vedantic views resembled those of Sri Ramanuja, Bhaskara Bhatta and other non-Advaitins, more than they resembled the views of Advaita Vedanta.
[For more, please check:
Guhadeva and Kapardin were said to be ancient Vedanta teachers and authors. The two were referred to by Sri Ramanuja as Sista– wise and erudite. But, nothing much is known these scholars; and Sri Ramanuja does not also seem to quote from their works.
As regards Guhadeva, some scholars surmise: if Guhadeva mentioned by Sri Ramanuja is the same as the ancient scholar Guhasvamin, then it is possible that he could be the one who flourished during the first century B.C.E; and, to whom the commentaries on the Apastamba-shrautasutra and the Taittiraya-aranyaka are attributed.
Kapardin is a peculiar name. It does not seem to be the proper name of the person. It is a descriptive term. Kapardin indicates one who has matted, braided hair or hair twisted into a bun on top (Kaparda– kapardi) – jatilo mundah smasänagrhasevakah I ugra vratadharo Rudro yogi tripuradärunah II. Rudra is often addressed as Kapardin (E.g. Ima Rudraya tavase Kapardine – RV.1.114.1 – Rudra with hair knotted like Kaparda , a cowry shell ) .
And, it seems during the Vedic times some men and women sported braids or plaits of hair. For instance; a woman having four plaits of hair was called Chatush-kapardin; and, the Vasithas wearing their hair in a plait on the right side were known as Dakshinatas – kaparda. [Ref: Vedic Index of Names and Subjects, Volume 1; Volume 5 by Arthur Berriedale Keith]
It is also said; a certain Kapardin (Ca. 800-25 A.D.) assisted a Rashtrakuta Chieftain in extending his rule in the region due to which act the region came to be known in his honour as Kapardika–Dvipa or Kavadi–Dvipa. The term Kapardika Dvipa occurs in the inscriptions of the Kadamba Kings who ruled over Goa and Banavasi region of North Karnataka. Some surmise that the name of the strip along the west coast – Konkan, may have derived from Kapardika.
In the context of Vedanta texts, Karpadi might refer to a sage who is said to have written commentaries on the texts of the Taittiriya (Apastamba) Shakha of the Krishna Yajurveda. We do not know if Sri Ramanuja was referring to this Kapardin. In any case nothing much is known about the commentator Kapardin.
6.1. As said earlier, even though Bodhayana is quoted only about seven times in Sribhashya, each of those fragments expresses a particular aspect of Bodhayana’s thought. In the Sribhashya, Bodhayana is usually referred to as Vrttikara, the author of the Vrtti.
6.2. In his interpretation of the first sutra of the Brahma sutra (athāto Brahma jijñāsā: BS: 1.1.1), Sri Ramanuja explains: ‘Therefore, the Vrttikara says: immediately after acquiring the knowledge of the rituals, the enquiry into the Brahman is to be undertaken. He later will declare that Karma-Mimamsa and Brahma-Mimamsa together constitute one-body of doctrine (shastra), saying: The Sariraka (that is Brahma sutra) is combined with the sixteen chapters of Jaimini School. It is thus established that the two constitute one body of doctrine”. (Samhitam etac sarirakam Jaiminiyena sodasa-lakshne-neti shastraikatva siddhih)
Bodhayana is quoted to support the interpretation that the two Mimamsas are indeed parts of one text; and to establish the unity of karma and Jnana (Jana-Karma-samucchaya).
6.3. Next, Sri Ramanuja takes up a quotation from Vrttikara’s Brahma Sutra Vrtti: Vrttir api “jagad-vyapara-varjam samano jyothisho” iti (Sribhasyha). This passage is taken from Vrttikara’s commentary on Brahma Sutra (4. 4.17). The Sutra (4.4.17) jagadvyāpāravarjam, prakaraṇāt, asamnihitatvācca, in effect, says the released soul attains all powers of the Lord (Isvara) except the powers of creation etc.
Sri Ramanuja explains: The commentary (Vrtti) also says: In the state of final release, the individual self is equal (samano) to the Highest light- jyothisho (Brahman), except for the cosmic actions ( of creation, of maintenance and of dissolution of the universe). (Jagad-vyapara-varjam samano jyothisho)
[A similar explanation is also attributed to Bhashyakara Dramida: Since the emancipated individual self is in union with the Divine, although it has no physical body, like the divine it can accomplish all purposes – “Devata-sayujyad asarirasyapi devatavat sarva-artha-siddhis syat “]
6.4. In the Chandogya Upanishad (6.8.1) the philosopher Uddalaka Aruni is said to have taught his son Svetaketu:
“My Dear, understand from me the true nature of sleep. When a person is absorbed in dreamless sleep (svapiti) he is one with the Being (Sat), he has returned to his self (svam apitah), though he knows it not. Therefore, they say of him “he sleeps (svpiti), for he has gone to his self (svam apitah).
As a tethered bird grows tired of flying about in vain to find a place of rest and settles down at last on its own perch, so the mind, tired of wandering about hither and thither, settles down at last in the Self, dear one, to whom it is bound. All creatures, dear one, have their source in That. That is their home; That is their strength. There is nothing that does not come from That. Of everything That is the inmost Self. That is the truth; the Self supreme. You are That, Svetaketu; you are That.” (Ch.Up.6.8.1-2)”
Sri Ramanuja notes the interpretation of the Vrttikara on this passage of the Chandogya Upanishad (6.8.1) at 1.1.10 of Sribhashya:
Therefore, the Vrttikara (meaning Bodhayana) says (tad aha Vrttikarah): “The passage, ‘he has become one with the Being (Sat) ‘, is established by the fact that the beings become one with Sat (Being = Brahman) and again are separated from Sat. And the scripture describing deep sleep says. ‘Just as a man embraced by his beloved wife is aware of nothing external or internal, so also this Purusha (the individual self) when embraced by the intelligent-self (Prajna-atman) is aware of nothing external or internal’,”
[tad aha Vrttikarah – ‘sata somya tada sampanno bhavatiti samapt-tasya-samapttibhyam etad adhyavastyate; prajnenatmana samparisvaktah – iti caha’ iti]
6.5. In explaining Brahma Sutra (1.2.1) [Savatra-prasiddhopadesat, – the being which consists of mind is Sat (Brahman)] Sri Ramanuja says that the famous sage Shandilya in Chandogya Upanishad (3.14) teaches not the individual self, but the highest Self. He then quotes the Vrttikara, who says: “And all this is indeed Brahman. Brahman the self of all is the Lord (Isha).” (Sarvam khilva iti sarvatma brahmesah)
[A similar statement is attributed to Vakyakara Tanaka: All beings are achieved by Atman – Aymety eva tu grhniyat sarvasya tannispatter iti. The realization that Atman is identical with Brahman will destroy all bondages together with its causes.]
6.6. While commenting on the famous passage in Chandogya Upanishad (7.24.1) – yatra na anyat pashyati, na anyah srunoti, na anyath vijananathi sa Bhumah – which declares “where one sees nothing else; hears nothing else; cognizes nothing else, that is the infinite (Brahman). But, where one sees something else; hears something else; cognizes something else, that is small (finite)”, Sri Ramanuja (BS: 1.3.7) explains that ‘Infinite Bhuma’ here is the Supreme Self; and is not the individual self.
In support of explanation, Sri Ramanuja quotes the Vrttikara, who says: “that infinite Bhuma, which Chandogya declares, is the highest Brahman. First, the name is mentioned then a series up to the infinite, and then the Atman is taught”
(Bhuma tu eveti bhumaparam Brahma, namadi paramparayati-mana urdhvam asyopadeshat)
6.7. In regard to the honey-doctrine (madhu vidya) which occurs in the third Book of Chandogya Upanishad (3. 1-5) Sri Ramanuja comments (BS: 1.3.32) : This is a teaching that one who meditates in accordance with the doctrine becomes the god Vasu, the god Aditya and the others; and, he ultimately can reach Brahman. Though it might seem like meditation on the forms of sun, its real meaning is to meditate on those forms leading to meditation on Brahman”.
Then, he quotes the Vrttikara who says: “It is Brahman that has to be meditated upon in regard to all things. Verily, this applies to Madhu Vidya also” (tad aha Vrttikarah – ‘asti hi madhu vidyeshu sambhavo Brahmana eva sarvatra nicayyatvat iti’)
The import of the Vrttikara’s comment is understood to be that the various forms of worship taught in the Upanishads are truly directing towards meditation on Brahman (Asti hi madhu vidyeshu sambhavo Brahmana eva sarvatra nicayyatvati)
7.1. The above seven quotations are the only ones from the Vrttikara in Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya.
[The views of a certain Vrttikara are also cited in Sri Sankara’s Brahma-sutra-bhashya, but they are presented as the ‘other’ or the opposing view
It is generally believed that the Vrttikara whom Sri Sankara rejects and the Vrttikara that Sri Ramanuja accepts is the same person, despite lack of definite proof.
However, the problem arises when the views of the Vrttikara as rejected by Sri Sankara are not the same as quoted by Sri Ramanuja. ]
8.1. In the next part let’s try to reconstruct Bodhayana’s thoughts or philosophical outlook based on his comments/explanations as quoted in Sribhashya of Sri Ramanuja.
Sources and References
- 1. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Volume 2; by Hajime Nakamura
- The Vedanta-sutras with the Sri-bhashya of Ramanujacharya; translated into English by M. Rangacharya, and M. B. Varadaraja Aiyangar; Volume I; published by the Brahmavidin Press.; 1899