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Bodhayana the Vrttikara – Part Three

Continued from Part Two

The Outlook of Bodhayana

1.1. In the earlier part, we talked about the fragments of Bodhayana Vrtti as quoted in Sri Ramanuja’s Sribhashya – his commentary on the Brahma Sutras. And as said, even though Bodhayana the Vrttikara is quoted only about seven times in Sribhashya, each of those fragments expresses an aspect of Bodhayana’s thought.

Based on those fragments, let’s try to reconstruct Bodhayana’s thoughts.

1.2. Both Sri Sankara and Sri Ramanuja frequently refer to a Vrttikara.  It is, somehow, presumed that both the Acharyas refer to one and the same Vrttikara, that is, Bodhayana.  But, the difference is that whenever Sri Sankara quotes the commentator (vrttikara) he does not mention his name, and he also does not quote him fully. He usually summarizes and adduces them as being the differing theories or the stand of the opponent (Purva-paksha). And, whenever Sri Sankara cites Upavarsha, he mentions the Vrttikara by his name addressing him with great respect as Bhagavan (the revered) and treats him as the elder of his own tradition.

In a similar manner, Sri Ramanuja does not mention   the Vrttikara Upavarsha. But, he treats Bodhayana with great respect addressing him as Bhagavad, the Divine. And, he quotes the views of Bodhayana from the fragments of Bodhayana Vrtti as the authority. He reckons Bodhayana as the foremost among his Purva-charyas the revered Masters of his tradition.

It is, therefore, presumed that Sri Sankara was closer to Upavarsha; and that Sri Ramanuja followed Bodhayana.

[Some critics have however pointed out that the arguments of the Vrttikara rejected by Sri Sankara are not exactly the same as the ones quoted by Sri Ramanuja. And, they wonder whether the Acharyas could be referring to different Vrttikaras..!.?

It is also said that, over a long period, since many scholars went by the name of Baudhayana or Bodhayana, the Vrttikara Bodhayana quoted by Sri Ramanuja could be quite different from the Bodhayana to whom Sri Sankara is presumed to have referred. ]

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2.1. Since Bodhayana is often addressed as Vrttikara, the commentator (sometimes without mentioning his name), it is evident that his authority was accepted by the later generations of Vedanta Schools. Generally, the views of Bodhayana are believed to go along with that of Brahma sutra.. Based on that, it is said that Bodhayana was surely closer to Sri Ramanuja than to Sri Sankara.

 Following  Sri Ramanuja, all his descendents in his line (Parampara) and all the followers of his School regard Bodhayana as an authority, next only to Badarayana the author of Brahma Sutra.  Accordingly, the Sri Vaishnava tradition reveres the commentary of Bodhayana as almost the Scripture.

2.2. Bodhayana, no doubt, was a faithful commentator (Vrttikara) of the Sutras. He tried to stay close to the words of the Brahma Sutra; and, did not seem to come up with original or fresh theories of his own. His comments are cogent and stay close to the point. Bodhayana appears to have been essentially a theist; and, his views, generally, were closer to those of Sri Ramanuja and Sri Bhaskara.

2.3. Obviously, Bodhayana   held the scriptures in great esteem. He emphasized the absolute sacredness of the Vedas. According to him, the scriptures are not open to criticism of human speculation.”We can understand the meaning of what is handed down by the scriptures; but, we cannot question scriptures” (Fragment: 13)

 2.4. He stayed close to the   Mimamsa faith according to which, Sruti that which is heard or is of divine origin cannot be questioned. But, it is only in Smrti, that which is remembered or the works authored by humans, there is a possibility of offering varied interpretations.

2.5. To revere and explain the scriptures was, for him, the highest duty. He thought that each word and each phrase of the scripture merited study with complete attention. Accordingly, his special area was commenting on the scriptures. Since commenting necessarily involves taking a certain intellectual stand and adopting a certain philosophical view, there is a particular world-view running through his commentaries.

2.6, Bodhayana was essentially a theist.  His views, generally, differ from that of Sri Sankara; but, are closer to that of Sri Ramanuja. And, Sri Ramanuja paid greater respect to his views; and, cited them as authorities.

3.1. Bodhayana, as reflected in his explanations quoted by Sri Ramanuja, laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kanda-s of the Mimamsa. According to him, the two segments – Purva and Uttara – of the Mimamsa together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).  And, because of that, perhaps, he wrote commentaries on both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa.  

3.2. He held the view that directly after completing the rituals one should take up the investigation into Brahman, which is the study of Vedanta. His position was coined by the later Vedanta Schools as jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada, the doctrine that synthesizes Jnana and Karma. Sri Ramanuja too was a votary of Samucchaya-vada.   Sri Sankara who did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana.

Besides, Bodhayana does not discuss or even mention the concept of Maya. He strongly refuted the Vijnanavada theory which reduces the objects of the material world merely to the status of dream experiences.

4.1. As regards his views on the God, Bodhayana appears to have been a theist.  For him, the individual soul (Jiva) and God were not exactly identical. God for him is the infinity Bhuman for which the individual soul aspires.    And, the importance of Bhakthi as service and as absolute surrender to God was stressed by him.

4.2. According to Sri Ramanuja’s account, Bodhayana took Para Brahman, the Supreme Brahman, as the absolute principle. And, in Bodhayana’s view Brahman is identical with Lord (Isha), the Supreme Lord (Parameshwara).It is the source, the womb of all matter (bhuta yoni). Thus, Brahman, besides being the personified God, is also the cause (sarva-vikara-karana) from which everything evolves (parinama paksha). It is also the Atman of all things; the God that dwells within everything (sarva-bhutha-antaratman), controlling and directing them. Sri Ramanuja extended it further; and said that Brahman has all the spiritual and physical existence as his body.

Bodhayana, however, does not seem to attribute Brahman with a body (vigrahavat). But, somehow, he appeared to believe in the Upanishad description of Brahman with four feet (chatush paada).It is not clear in which sense he understood it.

5.1. As regards the individual self (Jiva) , Bodhayana thought that it has two aspects. One is the gross body (sthulam sariram) which we experience ordinarily, and which perishes at its death.  And the other is the subtle body (sukshmam sariram) composed of extremely fine elements, and which is not visible to naked eye. At the death of the physical body, the subtle body that was hitherto enwrapped in it moves and eventually sets up the next gross body. That is to say, sukshmam sariram is the seed of the body that manifests. Thus, subtle body is un-manifest (a-vyakta), while the gross body is manifest (vyakta).

5.2.According to Bodhayana, in state of deep sleep the individual self is united with Brahman as existence, Sat; and, on waking it gets separated. This seems nearer to the explanation offered by Uddalaka Aruni (Chandogya Upanishad: 6.8.1), and to the Brahma Sutra.

6.1. Bodhayana believed that the state of ‘bondage and final release (bandha –moksha) ’is more aptly related to the subtle body, and to its activities. And, therefore, the subtle body is superior (para) to the embodied self (sarira) which is ‘feeble in power’ (tanumahiman). This, in a way, is closer to the Samkhya view of Purusha; but, it markedly differed from the view taken by Brahma sutra.

6.2. As for the final release, Bodhayana believed that the individual self eventually unites with Brahman.  But, the release comes in stages. And, even after full release (Moksha), the individual self retains its identity but without the false sense of ego; and, does not entirely merge with Brahman. And, even after attaining Moksha, it does not acquire the power to create, to preserve and to withdraw the manifest world. Therefore, even in the state of final release, the individual self and the Supreme self are not entirely identical.

Following that, Sri Ramanuja explained Moksha as a state of blessedness in the company of the Highest Being (Paramatman). Sri Ramanuja emphasized the importance of Bhakthi, absolute devotion, and Parapatti complete surrender to the will of the Supreme, making oneself worthy of His grace, as the best means to attain salvation.

7.1. Sri Sankara and Sri Ramanuja apart from their doctrinal differences on the question of Duality and Non-duality also seemed to differ in their approach to Brahma Sutra and in treatment of the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa of the Vedanta School.

7.2. At the outset, it seems   Sri Ramanuja treated the Brahma Sutra as the basic text and interpreted it in the light of the comments and explanations offered in the Vritti of Bodhayana, other Vrttikaras, Vakyakaras and the revered Masters of his tradition (Purva-charyas).  He also seemed to support the view that the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa together formed one text. And that he believed in the coordinated union of Jana and Karma. Sri Ramanuja is said to be   much closer to the Brahma Sutras in its literal interpretation.

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The approach of Sri Sankara

Shankarar - Smarta Tradition Deities

The approach of Sri Sankara to the Upanishads in general and to the Brahma Sutra in particular presents a very interesting and a striking contrast.

8.1. Upanishads

(a) Sri Sankara regards himself as the votary of Upanishads (Aupanishada).He even calls his way of thinking or the doctrine as Aupanishadam Darshanam, the Upanishad System. He defines the Upanishads as the texts that lead the aspirants close to the highest reality. He said, the primary meaning of the word Upanishad was knowledge, while the secondary meaning was the text itself.

He insists Upanishads constitute the final purpose and the import of the Vedic lore; and that is the reason he chose to write commentaries on the Upanishads and on the other two texts that depend almost entirely on the Upanishads – Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita. While doing so, he isolates Upanishad portion of the Vedic lore from the rest and narrows down the scriptural authority to ten or twelve ancient Upanishads.

(b) According to him, the goal held out by the Upanishad tradition is liberation (Moksha) from worldly involvements. Sri Sankara described himself as Moksha-vadin (Sarvesham Mokshavadi – nama-abhyupagam- VSB: 2.1.11; and, Sarve Mokshavadi abhirbhyupa gamyate: VSB: 1.1.4)

(c) Sri Sankara strongly advocated study of Upanishads; and at the same time cautioned that study of Upanishad alone would not lead to Moksha. He also recognized that the study of Upanishads is not absolutely necessary or is it a pre-condition for attainment of Moksha. The function of knowledge as expounded in the Upanishads, he said, is the removal of obstacles; but, it has its own limitations.

As regards the limitations of textual knowledge, he explained: Moksha is not the fruit or the effect of knowledge (jnana). Liberation being identical with Brahman is ever present, eternal and is beyond the subject-object relations. So long as such distinctions  of subject –object, the knower and the known  are maintained there can be no experience of non-distinction or oneness of Reality. The texts can only contribute to causing the discovery of truth; leaving the truth to assert itself (svapramanya).

Sri Sankara declares the supremacy of direct experience, the final proof (antya-pramanam) which he calls – anubhava, avagati or Brahmavagati. Regarded in its true essence and as it is, Atmaikatva, Brahmatvatva, or Sarvatmata is a self-conscious, self-radiant experience which cannot be taken as object (vishaya). He also says that Vedic authority is not binding after one attains the goal

(d)  He pointed out; even those who were outside the Upanishad fold were as eligible to Moksha as those within the fold were. He declared that all beings are Brahman, and therefore the question of discrimination did not arise. All that one was required to do was to get rid of Avidya (duality).

8.2. Mimamsa

(a) As regards the Mimamsa, Sri Sankara’s basic position was that the Mimamsa Sutra which commences with the statement Atato Dhrama jijnasa is quite separate from the Brahma Sutra commencing with Atato Brahmajijnasa.  Sri Sankara’s Shatra-aramba refers to the beginning of the Brahma sutra; and not to Mimamsa that covered both Purva and Uttara. He does not use the terms Purva Mimamsa or Uttara -Mimamsa.  He preferred to present his commentary as Vedanta-mimamsa.

 Sri Sankara did not seem to regard Brahma Sutra as a latter part of the same text. He regards Brahma Sutra as a separate shastra (prathak-shastra), distinct  from Purva Mimamsa.  He maintained that the two systems are addressed to different class of persons.

Purva Mimamsa which deals with Karma-kanda consists injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, he argues, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved.

And, Jnana-kanda, in contrast, is about Brahman that already exists; it pertains to the ultimate purpose which is true knowledge of Self, and it is addressed to one who is intent on liberation.  

 Each section of Veda is valid in its own sphere; but, the two sections cannot logically be bound together.

(c) He said The two texts are distinguishable in four ways: Vishaya (subject); Adhikara (qualifications for the aspirant); Phala (end result or the objective) ; and, Sambhanda ( related-ness) .

: – Vishaya: the subject matter of  Karma-kanda is Dharma which is understood by it as ritual-action. Mimasakas hold the view that the real purport of the scriptures was to provide injunctions (vidhi) and prohibitions (nishedha) . The scriptural injunctions regarding rituals  are treated as mandatory;  while  the texts that relate to wisdom as  spill – over (sesha).

Sri Sankara said, the subject of Jnana-kanda is Brahman. And, knowing Brahman, he asserted , is the real purpose of all  scriptures.  Sri Sankara averred the true intent of the scriptures was to describe the Reality as it is. Sri Sankara rejected the Mimamsa view and argued that scripture were not mandatory in character, at least where it concerned pursuit of wisdom. Upanishads, he remarked, dealt with Brahman and that Brahman could not be a subject matter (Vishaya) of injunction and prohibitions.

 : – Adhikara: Aspirant in the Karma-kanda has limited ambitions; and, is yet to understand the limitations of the results achieved by Karman.  The aspirant of the Jnana-kanda, however, is well aware of the limits of the results achieved by Karman; and, there about fore , seeks the limitless Brahman.

Sri Sankara mentions fourfold Adhikara or qualifications of  an ardent student of Vedanta : Nitya-anitya-vastu- viveka (capacity to discriminate the real from the transitory); Vairagya (Dispassion); Samadi Shatka Sampatti (Six virtues of the mind : Sama-equanimity; Dama-control over senses including mind; Uparama -observing one’s Svadharma; Titiksha – patience, forbearance; Samadhanam– profound absorption or contemplation;  and , Shraddha – absolute  faith or devotion).

: – Phala: Karma-kanda aspires for worldly prosperity and heavenly pleasures. The aim of Jnana-kanda, he said, is liberation (Moksha). Further, he pointed out that Brahma Sutra says (3.5.36-37) even those who do not perform rituals are qualified to gain knowledge.

In Sri Sankara’s view the passages in the Karma –kanda informs us of the approved means for attaining desirable and yet unaccomplished ends. The Upanishads (jnana-kanda), on the other hand, reveal to us knowledge of the ever present entity – Brahman.

He pointed out that rituals could in no way bring about wisdom, much less Moksha.. He asserted, while the rewards (phala) of the rituals were not matter of direct experience, wisdom which is the fruit of Vedanta is based on immediate and personal experience; one need not have to wait for the reward nor one be in doubt whether the reward would or would not come.

This was in sharp contrast to the position taken by Mimamsakas who believed that rituals alone would lead one to higher levels of attainment. Further, the deities would reward only those entitled to perform the rituals alone. The entitlement involved the caste, creed and other parameters.

: – Sambandha: Karma-kanda informs of the ends not yet in existence; but is yet to be achieved. The realization of such ends depends upon following the appropriate action as prescribed. 

The subject of Jnana-kanda is that which is eternal without a beginning or end. The knowledge of Brahman is end itself, where there is an identity of the revealed object (Sadhya) and the means of revelation (Sadhana) . Jnana-kanda is fulfillment; Karma –kanda is impetus to act more and more.

8.3. the Brahma Sutras,

Sri Sankara held the Brahma Sutra in very high regard; and yet, he does not take them as the original or independent texts equal in authority to the Upanishads. He takes the Brahma Sutras as expository or highly abridged indicators to the crucial passages from Upanishads. He claims that Badarayana’s text is in fact a summary of the philosophy of Upanishads. The philosophy of Brahma Sutra is indeed the philosophy of the Upanishads.

Sri Sankara undertakes to interpret Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra not as in end by itself, but in order to expound through it what he understood as the philosophy of Upanishads. He asserts they are not his own; but, are the true and proper import of the Vedic texts as   held and nurtured by the tradition to which he belongs. It is only that he is re-stating them and putting forth a little more clearly.

The Sutras of Badarayana according to Sri Sankara have one purpose; that is to string together the flowers (cardinal themes) of Vedanta Akyas (sentences) – Vedanta –akya-kusumagratanat vat sutranam (BB .1.1.2)

It was the words and the ideas of the Upanishad texts that, primarily, guided Sri Sankara and not the Sutras per se. This did not mean an encroachment upon the authority of Badarayana whom he revered as Bhagavan; but, it was only to bring out his intentions more clearly. 

For Sri Sankara, the Brahma Sutras derive their authority from the original Upanishads; and, therefore the meaning of the Sutras will have to be understood and interpreted in the light of the Upanishad texts. And at places , Sankara’s interpretations seem to be far-fetched This is in contrast to Sri Ramanuja’s approach that followed the Vrttis of Bodhayana and other Acharyas, the Masters of his tradition. Sri Ramanuja was much closer to Brahma Sutras in its literal interpretation.

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9.1. The overview seems to be that the Brahma Sutras are open to multiple interpretations; and, each interpretation is valid in its own context.

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Sources and References

  1. A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy, Part 2 by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  2. Sri Sankara and Adhyasa-Bhashya by Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao (2002)
  3. Brahma Sutras According to Sri Sankara by Swami Vireswarananda

 http://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/brahma-sutras/d/doc62756.html

  1. Spiritual Freedom in the Brahma Sutras by Carol Pitts, Les Morgan
  2. The Vedanta Philosophy of Sankaracharya: Crest-Jewel of Wisdom, Atma BodhaBy Charles Johnston
  3. The Vedanta-sutras with the Sri-bhashya of Ramanujacharya;translated into English by M. Rangacharya, andM. B. Varadaraja Aiyangar; Volume I; published by the Brahmavidin Press.; 1899

http://www.yousigma.com/biographies/vedasutraswithsribhashya.pdf

 
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Bodhayana the Vrttikara – Part Two

Continued from Part One

 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.

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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.

Purva-charyas

4.1. In his Vedartha-samgraha,(93) 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

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

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

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.

And

(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:

http://vishalagarwal.bharatvani.org/articles/acharyas/Bharuchi/index.htm ]

Guhadeva

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

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 (Kapardakapardi) – 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 KapardikaDvipa or KavadiDvipa.  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.

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Ramanuja

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, prakaraāt, 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).

Uddalako harunih svetaketum putram uvaca,
svapnantam me, saumya, vijanihiti, yatraitat
purushah svapiti nama, sata, saumya, tada
sampanno bhavati svam apito bhavati, tasmadenam
svapitity-acakshate svam he apito bhavati.

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)”

Sa yatha sakunih sutrena prabaddho disam disam
patit-vanyatrayatanam-alabdhva bandhanam
evopasrayate, evam eva khalu, saumya tan mano
disam disam patit-vanyatrayatanam-alabdhva
pranam evopasrayate prana bandhanam hi, saumya, mana iti.

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.

Yatra nanyat pasyati nanyac-chrnoti nanyadvijanati sa bhuma, atha yatranyat pasyati anyacchrnoti anyadvijanati tad-alpam; yo vai bhuma tadamrtam,
atha yadalpam tan-martyam, sa, bhagavah, kasmin pratisthita iti, sve mahimni, yadi  va na mahimniti.

 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)

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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.

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Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

  1. 1. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Volume 2; by Hajime Nakamura
  2. 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
  3. http://www.yousigma.com/biographies/vedasutraswithsribhashya.pdf
 
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Bodhayana the Vrttikara – Part One

Baudhayana- Bodhayana

1.1. Baudhayana is a very celebrated name in the long line of scholars of very ancient India. There have been many eminent persons in various fields of study going by the name of Baudhayana. It is also said that Bodhayana is the Southern form of Baudhayana. Further, the name Baudhayana itself stands for ‘descendent of Budha or Bodha’.

1.2. To start with, there is a single reference to one Jara-Bodha in the Rig Veda: Jara-bodha tad vividdhi vise-vise yagniyaya stoman rudraya   drisikam (RV 1.27.10). He is praised as a hero of high knowledge and wide fame; and, one who awakens others.  The term Bodha is also used in the sense of illumination, awakening. Thus, it is deduced that the name Jara Bodha (Bodha the elder)   might refer to a sage who was alert in his ripe old age. And as an adjective, Jara Bodha gives the meaning ‘attending to the invocation’.

1.3. Bodha is also the name of a Risi in the Mantra Patha (2. 16, 14). And, Baudhi-putra is the name of  ‘son of a female descendant of Bodha’. He is mentioned in the last Vamsa (list of teachers) of Madhyamdina recession of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (6. 4, 31) as the pupil of the Rishi Salankayaniputra.

1.4. There is also mention of Prati-Bodha along with Bodha in two passages of the Atharvaveda (ṛṣī bodha-pratībodhāv asvapno yaś ca jāgṛviḥAV: 5.30.10; and bodhaś ca tvā prati-bodhaś ca rakṣatām asvapnaś ca tvānavadrāṇaś ca rakṣatām |- AV.8.1.3). Prati-Bodha, it is said, refers to a Rishi possessing  ‘mystic intelligence’.

Kena Upanishad (Section 2.4 ) states that one attains the realization (matam) the Oneness  of all that permeates and pervades the whole of existence by the inner awakening , a kind of intuition or  reflective perception (pratibodha-viditam matam ).

Pratibodha-viditam matam amrtatvam hi vindate I Atmana vindate viryam vidyaya vindate amrtam /4/

The names Bodha and Prati- Bodha obviously refer to persons having alert, watchful mind and a sort of intuition.

1.5. And, there is also a Prati-Bodha-Putra who is said to be the son of a female descendent of Prati Bodha. She is mentioned as a teacher in the Aitareya Aranyaka (3 1, 5) and Sankyayana Aranyaka (7.14) – atha ha smāsya putra āha madhyamaḥ prātiyodhīputro magadhavāsī pūrvam evākṣaraṃ pūrvarūpam uttaram uttararūpam  .

1.6. Further, Mahabharata mentions a certain Bodha Piṅgala , who appears as Adhvaryu-priest of King Janamejaya-(brahmābhavac chārṅgaravo adhvaryur  bodhapiṅgalaḥ – M.Bh. 01,048.006). Some believe that this Bodha Piṅgala might refer to Baudhayana , the originator of  the Baudheya shakha of the Shukla yajurveda. 

Baudhayana-s as Sutrakara-s

2.1. In the later Vedic literature, there are references to Baudhayana as the earliest of the Sutrakaras; his successors being Bharadwaja, Apastamba and Hiranyakeshin.

2.2. In the development of Vedic lore, the Vedanga-s (the limbs of the Vedas) play a very important role. There are six Angas or explanatory limbs, to the Vedas: the Siksha and Vyakarana of Panini; the Chhandas of Pingalacharya; the Nirukta of Yaska Charya; the Jyotisha of Garga; and, the Kalpas authored by various Rishis.

Regarding the Kalpa, each of the four divisions of the Vedas has its own special Kalpa Sutra.  They are meant to guide the daily life and conduct of those affiliated to its division.

2.3. There are several Schools and traditions of Kalpa Sutras; and are ascribed to various Rishis. Among the Kalpa Sutras, the Asvalayana, Sankhyana and the Sambhavya belong to the Rig-Veda. The Mashaka, Latyayana, Drahyayana, Gobhila and Khadirai belong to the Sama-Veda. The Katyayana and Paraskara belong to the Sukla Yajur-Veda. The Apastamba, Hiranyakeshi, Bodhayana, Bharadvaja, Manava, Vaikhanasa and the Kathaka belong to the Krishna Yajur-Veda. The Vaitana and the Kaushika belong to the Atharva-Veda.

3.1. These Kalpa Sutras are generally divided into three or four divisions: Srauta, Grihya and Dharma; and when it is divided into four divisions, the Sulbha Sutra is included.

Generally, the set of Kalpa Sutra texts include: Grihya-sutra (relating to domestic rituals); Srauta-sutra (relating to formal Yajnas); and, Dharma-sutra (relating to code of conduct, ethics, customs and laws).

 [To put it simply: Kalpa is the method of ritual. The Srauta Sutras which explain the ritual of Yajnas belong to Kalpa. The Srauta is a manual for the benefit of a class of priests designated  as Hotri or Hotar who invoke gods and perform Yajnas. The Sulba Sutras describe the measurements which are necessary for laying out the sacrificial areas. The Grihya Sutras concern with domestic life (the ceremonies from Garbhadhana to Upanayana,, the duties of the three stages (Traivarnika) as Brahmachari and Grihastha, the duties of a teacher, of a pupil, the marriage customs, the Pancha-Maha-Yagna, funeral ceremonies and so many other things that are to be performed by a Grihastha etc ). And, the Dharma Sutras which deal with ethics, customs and laws, also belong to Kalpa.]

3.2. The Sulba-sutra (derived out of the root ‘ Sulb’ meaning ‘ to measure or to mete out’) relates to mathematical calculations involved in construction of Yajna altars (vedi, chiti) , Kamya Agnis (fire places and platforms) ; and , specification of the implements used in Yajna (yajna-ayudha).

For instance , it is said; of the three Agnis maintained by a householder : the Garhapatya is circular; Ahavaniya is square; and Dakshinagni , the sacred fire, is semi circular. However, all the three measure the  same area .

[ For more on the measures involved in the construction of the Vedis, chitis and Agnis etc .,  as also of the bricks used therefor , please check the paper produced by Dr. Sreelatha.]

3.3. Thus, Kalpa sutras by their nature are supplementary texts affiliated to the main division of a Veda.

4.1. The Sulba Sutra needs special mention. The Sulbha sutras are the oldest geometrical treaties which represent in coded form. It represents the much older and traditional Indian mathematics. The Sulba Sutras are considered to date from 800 to 200 BCE. There are four, named after their authors: Baudhayana (800 BCE), Manava (750 BCE), Apastamba (600 BCE), and Katyayana (200 BCE).

[Please check:

http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/HistTopics/Indian_sulbasutras.html ]

4.2. The oldest among them is said to be Baudhayana Sulbha sutra.  It is believed to have been compiled by or composed by Baudhayana.  Or, more precisely, it belonged to the School of Bodhayana or was compiled by the descendents or followers of Bodhayana. It belongs to Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda; and is the 19th Prashna or Chapter of the Baudhayana Srauta Sutra, the oldest sutra of Taittiriya recession.

Sutras ascribed to Baudhayana

5.1. Apart from Sulba Sutra, the list of sages associated with Srauta, Grihya and Dharma Sutras, includes Baudhayana . He is regarded the earliest of the Sutrakaras; the first to compose the Kalpa Sutras of the Taittiriya Samhita He was followed by Bharadwaja, Apastamba and Hiranyakeshin.

5.2. Thus, the name Bodhayana or Baudhayana (who originally was said to belong to Kanva Shakha of Shukla Yajurveda)  is associated with each of the Kalpa Sutras classified under the Taittiriya Shakha of Krishna Yajurveda. The Sutras ascribed to Baudhayana are six in number: the Srauta Sutra; the Karmanta Sutra; the Dvividha Sutra; the Grihya Sutra; the Dharma Sutra; and the Sulbha Sutra.

Age of the Sutras associated with Baudhayana

6.1. As regards the age of the Sutras associated with Baudhayana:

(a) Among the Srauta Sutras , the Baudhayana Srauta Sutra, the one composed by Baudhayana or his followers,   is considered the oldest. Some say, in all probability, it is older than some of the Brahmanas, such as the Gopatha Brahmana. And, it is regarded as one of the most important texts of the late Vedic period in general. They are among the earliest texts of the sutra genre, perhaps compiled in the 8th to 7th centuries BCE

(b) And, the Baudhayana Grihya Sutra is oldest Sutra of the Taittiriya ;  and,  it mentions  Kanva  Baudhayana  as the maker of the Pravachana  , while it names  Apastamba , Vaikhanasa,  and Satyasadhi  Hiranyakeshin  as   Sutra-karas,  the compilers of Sutras  . Among them, Bodhayana the Pravachana-kara is respected as a teacher par excellence, and as the originator of the whole system of instructions among its followers. Bodhayana the Pravachana-kara is placed above the Sutra-karas, the compilers of the Sutras.

(c) Dharma sutras of Gautama, Apastamba, Baudhayana and Vashita are assigned to 600 to 300 BCE.

(d) The Sulbha Sutras of Baudhayana are placed around 800 BCE. It deals with Vedic Geometry and is said to contain the first use of what has come to be known as Pythagorean theorem , quadratic equations ; finding a circle whose area is the same as that of a square (the reverse of squaring the circle); as also the calculation of the square-root of 2 correct to five decimal places; and so on.

[dīrghasyākaayā rajjuh pārśvamānī, tiryadam mānī, cha yatpthagbhute kurutastadubhayā karoti

A rope stretched along the length of the diagonal produces an area which the vertical and horizontal sides make together.]

[Please also check:

http://glimpse2u.weebly.com/baudhayana.html]

https://mysteriesexplored.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/baudhayana-pythagoras-theorem-world-guru-of-mathematics-part-8/ ]

6.2. Thus, the Sutras ascribed to Bodhayana or Baudhayana are spread over long centuries generally accepted as ranging from 800 BCE to 300 BCE. These texts cannot obviously be the works of a single person, but could be the descendents and followers of Baudhayana School or tradition.

[The noted scholar R L Kashyap in his Date of the Rigveda  argues: The Shulba Sūtrā texts of Baudhāyana, Ashvalāyana etc., can be dated 3100-2000 BCE; 1900 BCE is the drying up of Sarasvati and the end of Vedic age. The Vedic civilisation ended, as indicated by the Harappa ruins, due to ecological causes, draughts and desertification. There was no invasion by anyone.]

The other Baudhayana –s

7.1. Away from Baudhayana the Sutrakara, down the line, there were numerous others who went by the name of Baudhayana or Bodhayana. For instance:

(a) A certain Bodhayana makes his appearance in the Mahabharata.  In an interesting episode , Bodhayana a Rishi happens to  meet Krishna in the dead of the night  on the battle field ; and requests Krishna to name after him (Bodhayana)  the Amavasya (no moon night) that occurs one day prior to the normal Amavasya .  On the Bodhayana Amavasya, generally, those who follow Bodhayana Sutras offer oblation (tarpana)  to their  departed ancestors (Pitris) .

(b) Further away from all these, there is a Bodhayana in the 6th -7th century AD. He is said to be the author of a farce or a satirical comedy titled Bhagavadajjukam (The saint-courtesan) which hilariously pictures the confusions and absurd situations that follow when the souls of a hermit and a courtesan get interchanged. The monk and his transformation as a courtesan by the exchange of souls give enough scope for amusement as also to ridicule the hypocrisy  and to  puncture the vanity that shrouds the ‘high society’. The work also exposes the practices of sham mendicants and lampoons the degeneration of the contemporary society.

Bhagavadajjukam of this Bodhayana is one of the earliest farces and it is often clubbed with the Mattavilasa-prahasana of the Pallava King Mahendravarman since both the works are mentioned in the Mamndur inscription of the Pallava ruler.

4PAN1T

Bodhayana the Vrttikara

8.1. But, the present article is not about any of the Baudhayana-s or Bodhayana-s mentioned above. The Bodhayana about whom we are about to discuss is the Bodhayana the Vrttikara. He is the celebrated author of the Vrtti (a short gloss explaining the Sutras  in a little more, extended manner, but not as extensively as a Bhashya, a full blown commentary) on the Brahma-sutras, the guidebook to understanding Vedanta. His Vrtti is of cardinal importance to the history of Sri Vaishnava philosophy.

8.2. Not much is known for certain about Bodhayana, other than his authorship of the Vritti.  However, a tradition holds that Bodhayana was a direct disciple of Vyasa. We do not know that for certain. But, whatever be the case, Bodhayana the Vrttikara was certainly a great teacher of Vedanta; and is always referred to with great respect.

8.3. And, in any case, he was not one among the many Bodhayana-s who were associated with Srauta, Grihya, Dharma and Sulba Sutras which are surmised to range between 800 BCE and 600 BCE. Bodhayana’s Vrtti is a commentary on Badarayana’s Brahma Sutra; and the Brahma Sutra, in turn, is dated around 200 BCE. Some scholars opine that Bodhayana the Vrttikara may have lived in or around the fifth century AD.

Bodhayana- Upavarsha

9.1. There is much debate concerning the relation between Bodhayana and Upavarsha another Vrttikara.   There are even suggestions which make out that Bodhayana and Upavarsha were the names of one and the same person.

[ For more on Upavarsha the Vrttikara , please check:

https://sreenivasaraos.com/2015/09/17/about-upavarsha-part-two/]

(a). A  Vedanta text of a much later period Prapancha-hrdaya mentions that Bodhayana wrote a very detailed commentary titled Krtakoti on  all the twenty parts of Mimamsa, covering both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa (Mimamsa sutra 12 parts and Samkarshana-kanda 4 parts , all ascribed to Jaimini; together with  the Brahma sutra 4 parts ascribed to Badarayana). It was also said that the commentary on Brahma sutra (Brahma–sutra Vrtti), in particular, was quite detailed. Since the commentary covers both karma and jnana kanda-s, Bodhayana was respected as an adept in both aspects of Mimamsa.

It was said that these three works were unified under a title called Krtakoti. Fearing that the great length of the commentary would cause it be cast into oblivion, Upavarsha somewhat abridged it.

Tad grantha bahulya –bhayad upekshya kimchid samsksiptam Upavarshena krtam (Prapanchahrdaya .45)

And later, it is said, Devasvamin further abridged Upavarsha’s abridged version.

All these works of Bodhayana are dispersed and lost; and none is available now. Since Sri Ramanuja quoted from Bodhayana’s commentary on Brahma sutra it could be taken that the rare fragments of those texts were extant until his time (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).

According to this version Upavarsha was a successor to Bodhayana.

[That doesn’t look quite plausible since Upavarsha is generally dated around 400 BCE and Bodhayana the Vrttikara is placed around 5th century A D]

(b) . There are versions that identify Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

There are also traditions which recognize Krtakoti as the name of an author. According to Avanti-sundari-katha of Dandin, Krtakoti was the name of Upavarsha who was also known as Bodhayana.   And, also according to Manimekhalai, Krtakoti was a scholar of Mimamsa and was reckoned along with Vyasa and Jaimini. And, in the Sanskrit lexicon Vaijayanti, Krtakoti-kavi is said to be another name of Upavarsha]

(c) Apart from that, some scholars believed that Bodhayana and Upavarsha were the two names of one and the same person; and Bodhayana might have been the Gotra name of Upavarsha.

The great scholar Sri Vedanta Desika (14th century) in his Tattvatika, a commentary on Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya, identified Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

Vrttikarasya Bodhayanasyiva hi Upavarsha iti syan nama

It is surmised that Sri Vedanta Desika might have come to that conclusion because ‘Bodhayana’ might have been the Gotra of Upavarsha. The other reason could be that the Vedanta scholars frequently referred to a Vrttikara, without, however, mentioning his name. In the process, both Upavarsha and Bodhayana were each addressed as Vrttikara. There might have been a mix-up.

In any case, Sri Vedanta Desika does not cite any authority or a tradition in support of statement.

(d) Sri Ramanuja, who reckons Bodhayana as being the foremost among his Purava-acharya-s (Past Masters of his tradition Viz. Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Baruchi) does not, anywhere, equate Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

(e) Another reason for not identifying Bodhayana with Upavarsha is the stand taken by their followers on the question of the unity or otherwise of the Mimamsa as a whole.

It is said; Bodhayana laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kandas; as   the two together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).   He held the view that directly after completing the rituals one should take up the investigation into Brahman, which is the study of Vedanta. His position was coined by the later Vedanta Schools as jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada, the doctrine that synthesizes jnana and karma.  This was also the position taken by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhashya.

Sri Sankara, on the other hand, did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana.

Bodhayana’s position also meant that Purva and Uttara Mimamsa are two sections of the same text.

But, Sri Sankara’s basic position was that the Mimamsa Sutra which commences with the statement  Atato Dhrama jijnasa is quite separate from the Brahma Sutra commencing with Atato Brahmajijnasa.  Sri Sankara’s Shatra-aramba refers to the beginning of the Brahma sutra; and not to Mimamsa that covered both Purva and UttaraSri Sankara presents his commentary as a sort of Mimamsa by calling it as Vedanta-mimamsa. He does not use the terms Purva Mimamsa or Uttara -Mimamsa. He did not seem to regard Brahma Sutra as a latter part of the same text.

Sri Sankara maintained that the two systems are addressed to different class of persons. Karma-kanda consist injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved. Jnana-kanda is about Brahman that already exists; it pertains to the ultimate purpose which is true knowledge of Self, and it is addressed to one who is intent on liberation.   Each section of Veda is valid in its own sphere; but, the two sections cannot logically be bound together.

Sri Sankara generally followed the explanations provided by Upavarsha. And, these were not the same as the views attributed to Bodhayana.  Naturally, these led to doctrinal differences between Sri Ramanuja and Sri Sankara.

(e) .Thus, the Advaita School believes that Bodhayana is different from Upavarsha.  That is also quite possible because of the vast time difference between the two. While Upavarsha may belong to about the fourth century BCE, Bodhayana the Vrttikara may have lived in the fifth or the sixth century AD.

It, therefore, seems safe to assume that Upavarsha, Krtakoti and Bodhayana as being three different persons.

In the next part, let’s talk about the thoughts of Bodhayana as reflected in the fragments quoted in Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya.

Lotus

Continued

 In the

 Next Part

Sources and References

  1. 1. Vedic index of names and subjects II (i912) by Arthur Anthony MacDonnell
  2. 2. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Part 2by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  3. The Encyclopaedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 3: Advaita Vedanta Up to … edited by Karl H. Potter
 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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About Upavarsha … Part Three

Continued from Part Two

 

 Upavarsha – Bodhayana

1.1. Sri Sankara, in his commentary on Brahma sutras, adopts a particular way of presentation. On each subject (vishaya), he first gives one interpretation and then follows it up by the other interpretation. It is explained; the first one represents the opposing views (purva-paksha) of ‘others’ (apare); and, it is meant to be rejected.  But, Sri Sankara does not quote the opposing views nor does he mention the name of the opponent. He merely sums up, raises them as the views of ‘others’, and finally dismisses them. Sri Sankara’s own views are presented in the later set of interpretation.

1.2. In contrast, Sri Sankara whenever he refers to the views of Upavarsha not only he mentions the Vrttikara by name but also treats him with great respect, as Bhagavan. Sri Sankara in his Brahma-sutra-bhashya (3.3.53) quotes the views of Upavarsha as being authoritative – ata eva ca bhagavato upavarṣeṇa.  Following his lead, the latter Sub-commentators of Advaita School, Anandajnana and Govindananda, recognize Upavarsha as the most eminent Vrttikara.

1.3. Similarly, in the Mimamsa School also, Sabarasvamin a noted Mimamsaka, in his Bhashya (Sabara bhashya) on the fifth sutra of Mimamsa sutra of Jaimini  –  autpattikas tu śabdasyārthena saṃbandhas tasya jñānam – refers to a Vrttikara prior to his (Sabara’s) time, without, of course, mentioning his name (vṛttikāras tv anyathemaṃ granthaṃ varṇayāṃcakāra tasya nimitta parīṣṭir ity evamādim). At the same time, in his Bhashya on the same sutra (1.1.5), Sabarasvamin , while explaining the term ‘Gaur’ (atha “gaur” ity atra kaḥ śabdaḥ) refers to Upavarsha by name addressing him with the epithet ‘Bhagavan’ (gakāraukāravisarjanīyā iti bhagavān upavarṭaḥ). It, therefore, seems reasonable to conclude that the Vrttikara referred to by Sabara was not Upavarsha.  And yet; it is not clear who that Vrttikara was.

[An unfortunate feature of the traditional texts is that they do not mention the names of the old teachers-commentators whose opinions are being quoted. Such practice might have been an idiom of a well-understood literary etiquette. But, it has led to needless debates and speculations.  Very often, it is left to a commentator who comes perhaps a century or more later to tell us that (let’s say) Sri Sankara actually meant such-and–such commentator when he said ‘someone ‘or ‘others’. Similar is the position with regard to those commentators that are referred to as ‘Vrttikara ‘or ‘Vakyakara’ without mentioning their names or the titles of their texts.  There is therefore always an element of skepticism associated with such sub-commentaries. ]

1.4. The Advaita scholar, Govindananda in his Ratna-prabha explains that the ‘others’ (apare) referred by Sri Sankara in his Bhashya does actually, stands for the Vrttikara Bodhayana – draṣṭāro baudhāyanādibhiḥ smṛtā ityāha-pratīti.  Another Advaita scholar Anandagiri agrees with this identification.

1.5. The Advaita School, thus, believes that Upavarsha and Bodhayana are two different persons.  And, the other dimension of the debate is that many wonder whether the terms ‘others ‘or ‘some’ truly refer to Bodhayana. That debate is still not concluded.

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Bodhayana

2.1. The mention of Bodhayana in this and similar other contexts give rise to number of questions such as: Who was this Bodhayana? What were his views? Why Bodhayana and Upavarsha are often mentioned in the same breath? Do the names Bodhayana and Upavarsha refer to one and the same person; or they two different persons? And so on.

2.2. Bodhayana is a very celebrated name in the long line of scholars of very ancient India. There have been many eminent persons in various fields of study going by the name of Bodhayana. It is also said that Bodhayana is the southern form of Baudhayana. Further, the name Baudhayana itself stands for ‘descendent of Budha or Bodha’. The linage of Bodhayana stretches at least from about 800 BCE to 200 BCE.

But for the limited purpose of our discussion here, let us confine to Bodhayana the Vrttikara.  His commentary on the Brahma sutra was recognized as an authority by many teachers of the later period, particularly by Sri Ramanuja.

2.3. And again, not much is known for certain about Bodhayana, other than his authorship of the Vritti (commentary) on the Brahma-sutras, the guidebook to understanding Vedanta. This Vritti is of cardinal importance to the history of Sri Vaishnava philosophy, because Sri Ramanuja mentioned that he followed the interpretations of Bodhayana while commenting on the Brahma Sutras of Badarayana.

In the opening verse of Sri Bhashya, Sri Ramanuja mentions: ‘The previous masters have abridged the detailed commentary on Brahma sutra which had been composed by Bhagavad Bodhayana. The words of the sutra will be explained in accordance with their views.

(Bhagavad Bhodayana kritam vistirnam Brahma-sutra – vrttim purvacharyah samskipuh I tan-mata-anusarena sutraksarani vyakhyasyante II)

2.4. In the Sri Bhashya of Sri Ramanuja, Bodhayana is generally addressed as Vrttikara, the commentator. He quotes the views of the Vrttikara Bodhayana seven times.

The interpretations of Bodhayana are traditionally respected by the followers of Sri Ramanuja. And, their tradition regards Bodhayana second only to the author of Brahma sutra (Badarayana). Yet; the commentary of Bodhayana is not extant today, apart from its fragments quoted by Sri Ramanuja. Sri Ramanuja quoted the above seven comments of the Vrttikara Bodhayana. And, these are his only words that have survived.

Even though they are few in number, each of them expresses a special point of Bodhayana’s thought.

2.5. As regards time of Bodhayana, the scholars surmise that the Vrttikara may have lived in the fifth century (?) A D.

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Bodhayana-Upavarsha

3.1.   As mentioned earlier, the Advaita School believes that Bodhayana is different from Upavarsha.  That is also quite possible because of the vast time difference between the two. While Upavarsha may belong to about the fourth century BCE, Bodhayana the Vrttikara may have lived in the fifth or the sixth century AD.

3.2. However, there are very interesting references and comments linking Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

(a) A  Vedanta text of a much later period Prapancha-hrdaya, under the chapter  Upanga Prakaranam, mentions that Bodhayana wrote a very detailed commentary titled Krtakoti on  all the twenty parts of Mimamsa, covering both the Purva and Uttara Mimamsa (Mimamsa sutra 12 parts and Samkarshana-kanda 4 parts – ascribed to Jaimini; together with  the Brahma sutra 4 parts ascribed to Badarayana). It was also said that the commentary on Brahma sutra (Brahma–sutra Vrtti), in particular, was quite detailed.

It was said that these three works were unified under a title called Krtakoti. Fearing that the great length of the commentary would cause it be cast into oblivion, Upavarsha somewhat abridged it.

Tasya vimsaty-adhyaya nibaddhasya Mimamsa Sastrasya Krtakoti nama-
dheyam bhashyam Bddhayanena krtam. Tad grantha bahulya bhayadii-
pekshya kinchid samkshiptam Upavarshena krtam  (Prapanchahrdaya .45)

And later, it is said, Devasvamin further abridged Upavarsha’s abridged version.

But, all those works ascribed Bodhayana are dispersed and lost; and none is available now. Since Sri Ramanuja quoted from the condensed version of Bodhayana’s commentary on Brahma sutra, it could be said the rare fragments of those texts were extant until his time (11th century). But, Bodhayana commentaries on Mimamsa sutra, if any, were lost much earlier; and had passed out of existence by the time of Kaumarila Bhatta (8th century).

(b) There is also a tradition which recognizes Krtakoti as the name of an author. According to Avanti-sundari-katha of Dandin, Krtakoti was the name of Upavarsha who was also known as Bodhayana.   And, also according to Manimekhalai, Krtakoti was a scholar of Mimamsa and was reckoned along with Vyasa and Jaimini. And, in the Sanskrit lexicon Vaijayanti, Krtakoti-kavi is said to be another name of Upavarsha – Halabhutistu’ pavarshah Krtakoti Kavischa sah; and, Upavarsho Halabhutih Krtakotir Ayachitah ]

(c) There is another complication. Some scholars believe that Bodhayana and Upavarsha were the two names of one and the same person; and Bodhayana might have been the Gotra name of Upavarsha. The great scholar Sri Vedanta Desika (14th century) in his Tattvatika, a commentary on Sri Ramanuja’s Sri Bhashya, identified Bodhayana with Upavarsha – Vrttikarasya Bodhayanasyiva hi Upavarsha iti syan nama.

It is surmised that Sri Vedanta Desika might have come to conclusion because ‘Bodhayana’ might have been the Gotra of Upavarsha. The other reason could be that the Vedanta scholars frequently referred to a Vrttikara, without, however, mentioning his name. In the process, both Upavarsha and Bodhayana were each addressed as Vrttikara. There might have been a mix-up. In any case, Sri Vedanta Desika does not cite any authority or a tradition in support of statement.

(d) Sri Ramanuja reckons Bodhayana as being the foremost among his Purava-acharya-s (Past Masters of his tradition) Viz. Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi and Baruchi. But, he does not, anywhere, equate Bodhayana with Upavarsha.

(e) Another reason for not identifying Bodhayana with Upavarsha is the stand taken by their followers on the question of the unity or otherwise of the Mimamsa as a whole.

It is said; Bodhayana laid equal importance of Jnana and Karma Kandas; as   the two together constituted the doctrinal system (Shastraikatva).   He held the view that directly after completing the rituals one should take up the investigation into Brahman, which is the study of Vedanta. His position was coined by the later Vedanta Schools as jnana-karma-samucchaya-vada, the doctrine that synthesizes jnana and karma.  This was also the position taken by Sri Ramanuja in his Sri Bhashya.

Sri Sankara, on the other hand, did not accord much significance to rituals, naturally, tended to differ from Bodhayana.

(f) Bodhayana’s position also meant that Purva and Uttara Mimamsa are two sections of the same text.

But, Sri Sankara’s basic position was that the Mimamsa Sutra which commences with the statement Atato Dhrama jijnasa is quite separate from the Brahma Sutra commencing with Atato Brahmajijnasa.  Sri Sankara’s Shatra-aramba refers to the beginning of the Brahma sutra; and not to Mimamsa that covered both Purva and Uttara. Sri Sankara presents his commentary as a sort of Mimamsa by calling it as Vedanta-mimamsa. He does not use the terms Purva Mimamsa or Uttara -Mimamsa. He did not seem to regard Brahma Sutra as a latter part of the same text.

Sri Sankara maintained that the two systems are addressed to different class of persons. Karma-kanda consist injunctions to act in order to achieve certain results. But, liberation is not a product or a thing to be achieved. Jnana-kanda is about Brahman that already exists; it pertains to the ultimate purpose which is true knowledge of Self, and it is addressed to one who is intent on liberation.   Each section of Veda is valid in its own sphere; but, the two sections cannot logically be bound together.

Sri Sankara generally followed the explanations provided by Upavarsha. And, these were not the same as the views attributed to Bodhayana.  Naturally, these led to doctrinal differences between Sri Ramanuja and Sri Sankara.

(g) It, therefore, seems safe to assume that Upavarsha, Krtakoti and Bodhayana as being three different persons.

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Sphota – Varna

4.1. Sri Sankara, in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya, mentions Upavarsha on two occasions. First, in the commentary on the Sutra at 3.3.53eka ātmanaḥ śarīre bhāvāt – which discusses the existence of Atman (We have talked about this aspect in the earlier part of this article) – ata eva ca bhagavato upavarṣeṇa prathame tantra ātmā astitvābhidhānaprasaktau śārīrake vakṣyamāḥ ityuddhāraḥ kṛtaḥ /.

And, the second, in a passage   comments on the Sutra which deals with the doctrine of words (Varna Vada). At the end of the discussion, he states: Bhagavan Upavarsha says the words (Pada) are none other than the various letter-sounds (Varna). He agrees with Upavarsha. Before that, he goes through the opposing view (Purva-paksha) put forward by a Sphotavadin a votary of the Sphota theory.

4.2. Sri Sankara, of course, does not usually name the Purvapakshin the one who hold the opposing view point. Accordingly, in the commentary on the Sutra in question also he does not name or specify the Sphotavadin who in the present case is the Purvapakshin. But his commentators identify the Sphotavadin with the Grammarian (Vyakarana-kara) Bhartrhari who generally is referred by the epithet

5.1. Bhartrhari (c. 450-510 CE?) was a Grammarian and also a philosopher. He was well versed in the study of Mimamsa and Vedanta. In the citation to the  later editions of the text Bhartrhari  is celebrated as a great Grammarian (Maha-vaiyyakarana) , Great poet (Maha-kavi) , Yogi (Maha Yogi) , a great warrior  (Maharaja) and the ruler of Avanti (Avantisvara)  who composed Vakyapadiya   (iti Sri Bhartrhari virachitam Vakyapadiyam ).

5.2. In his celebrated work the Vakyapadiya (a treatise on sentences and words) Bhartrhari expounded the Sphota-vada (doctrine of Sphota) which had its origins in the germ-ideas mentioned in ancient texts.

6.1. The term ‘Sphota’ does not easily translate into English, as it usually happens.  The Sphota is derived from the root ‘sphut‘ which means ‘to burst’, but it also describes what ’is revealed’ or ’is made explicit’. Sphota can also refer to the abstract or conceptual form of an audible word. Sphota is somewhat similar to the Ancient Greek concept of logos or Word.

[ The Sphota theory is one of the significant contributions of India to the philosophy of Grammar. The Sphota concept was developed over long periods; but, it was fully put forward by Bharthrhari .

The earliest historical figure who dealt with linguistic study seems to be Sakalya, the author of the Pada-paatha of Rig-Veda, and who is mentioned by Panini. Sakalya is credited with breaking down the Samhita (the original text of the verses) into words, identifying the separate elements of compound words. Later, Brihad-devata attributed to Saunaka said that a sentence is made up of words; and the words, in turn, are made of phonemes (Varna).

Nagesha Bhatta (author of Manjusha and Shpota-vada) identifies Sage Sphotayana, mentioned by Panini in one of his rule, as the originator of the Sphota concept.  Bhartrihari quotes Yaska as mentioning that another ancient authority, the sage Audumbarayana together with Varttaksa held views similar to the Sphota theory. Yaska had mentioned (Nirukta: 1-2) about a theory suggested by Audumbarayana that a sentence or an utterance is primary and is a whole,  an indivisible unit of language. Audumbarayana, it appears, had also mentioned that the four-fold classification of words into : noun, verb, upasarga and nipata does not hold good(2). And therefore, Bhartrhari claimed that the views of these ancients support his own theory –Sphota-vada.

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 [But, Yaska himself had not agreed with Audumbarayana; and, had went  to talk about Bhava – the being and becoming of  verbs from their roots’ and about their transformations (Vikara) .]

In any case, the original idea of Sphota seems to go back to the Vedic age when Vak or speech was considered to be a manifestation of the all – pervading Brahman , and Pranava (Aum) was regarded as the primordial speech sound from which all forms of Vak were supposed to have evolved.  Perhaps, this claim provided the model upon which the Vyakarana philosophers based their concept of Sphota. Indeed Sphota is often identified with Pranava.

 Bharthrhari maintained that the primary function of the words was to combine into a sentence, in its complete utterance, to give forth a meaning.  The sentence with its words is to be taken as an integral unit; and, not as a clutter of fragments. Bharthrhari argued that for the purpose of linguistic analysis it might be fine to split the sentence into words, then into the roots and suffixes of the words, syntaxes etc. Such analytical splitting might be useful for study of language and its grammar.

But, such fragmented approach is surely not suitable in the real world where men and women live, communicate and transact. In a speech-situation where the speaker communicates ones ideas and the listener grasps his/her speech, it is necessary that the utterance has to be complete. The speaker communicates and the listener understands his/her utterance as a single unit. The listener grasps it as a whole; and the understanding is like an instantaneous flash of insight (prathibha). Just as the meaning derived from the sentence is unitary, the symbol (the sentence) which signifies it is also an integral unit.  Its meaning is experienced, known through perception. This, rather roughly put, is the concept called Sphota – the sentence being taken as an integral symbol.

Let’s say, when a painter conceives a picture in his mind and gives it a substance on the canvass he does use variety of strokes, different colors, varying shades etc. But, that does not mean one has to look for individual strokes shades etc. or as a permutation of those that went in to make the picture. The viewer, rightly, takes in, absorbs the picture and its spirit as a whole, as an integral unit.

 Bharthrhari says those who know the language well, listen to the sentence. And those who do not know the language may hear words only as sound bits.  Sphota in essence is the real experience of listening to a sentence as a whole and grasping its meaning through perception.]

6.2. In his Sarva-darshana-samgraha, Sri Madhava (generally accepted as the pre-ascetic name of Sri Vidyaranya who was the Jagadguru of Sri Sringeri Mutt from 1380 to 1386) describes Sphota in two ways. The first as: that from which the meaning bursts forth or shines forth. And, the second as: an entity that is manifested by the spoken letters and sounds. Sphota may, thus, be conceived as a two sided coin. On the one side it is manifested by the word-sound; and, on the other it simultaneously reveals word meaning.

6.3. In philosophical terms, Sphota may be described as the transcendent ground on which the spoken syllables (Varna) and conveyed meanings (Artha) find their unity as word or Sabda. To put it in another way, that which expresses a meaning; or the process of expressing a meaning through a word could be called Sphota.

7.1. Bhartrhari deals with Sphota at two levels: one on the metaphysical plane and the other on the empirical plane. . Sphota refers to the ‘non-differentiated language principle’. This gave rise to the theory of “word monism – Sabda-advaita. The theory is that Brahman first manifested itself as Sound and then as form. The Sphota, Sabda-Brahman, manifested as Logos or Word, is the power through which the Lord manifests in the universe. Liberation is achieved when one attains unity with that ‘supreme word principle’. Within this theory, consciousness and thought are intertwined; and Grammar becomes a path to liberation. Sphota-vada is a monistic (Advaita) philosophy based on Sanskrit grammar (as per Swami Vivekananda’s   explanation).

7.2. At the empirical level, Bhartrhari is concerned with the process of communicating meaning. He deals with the word and the sound distinctions; the word meaning; the unitary nature of the whole sentence; the word object connection; and the levels of speech, etc. His focus is on cognition and language.

8.1. Bhartrhari explains : If the letters  float away and disappear the instant we utter them and if each sound is replaced by another in quick succession, then one can hardly perceive the word  or a sentence as a whole. And the question that comes up is- then, how does one grasp the meaning of a word or of a sentence?

Bhartrhari goes on to say that a sentence is not a mere collection of words or an ordered series of words. A sentence-Sphota is the primary unit of meaning. A sentence is a sequence-less, part-less whole that gets expressed or manifested in a sequential and temporal utterance. A word or sentence is grasped as a unity by intuition (pratibha). According to Bhartrhari, Sphota is an auditory image of word. It is indivisible and without inner-sequence.

8.2. Bhartrhari explains that initially the word exists in the mind of the speaker as a unity, but is manifested as a sequence of different sounds, giving raise to the appearance of differentiation. Bhartrhari states: “All difference presupposes a unity”; and where there is a duality there is an identity pervading it. Otherwise one cannot be related to the other or each would constitute a world by itself.

8.3. For Bhartrhari, Sphota is the real substratum, proper linguistic unit, which is identical with its meaning. Language is  the vehicle of meaning or of thought. Thought anchors language and the language anchors thought. In this way, there are no essential differences between a linguistic unit and its meaning or the thought it conveys.

[Bhartrhari argues that the words do not designate the objects in the external world directly (sakshat), but indirectly through the intervention (upadana) of universals which are mental, and which reside in words. Universals which are thus intimately connected with the language and mind, on the one hand, and with the whole of existence, on the other, constitute the basis of our knowledge of the external world.]

9.1. However, Upavarsha rejected the Sphota-vada; and, argued all this talk of unity of meaning etc. is largely an illusion, for it is the words, its articulated elements (Varna) that make the unity.  By rejecting the Sphota -theory ,  Upavarsha , in effect , dismissed its notion that  every act of creation and every sound that issues forth in the universe is the duplication of the initial Big Bang. When we utter a sound or word the Big Bang is duplicating itself in our mind.

(For that reason, some Western scholars call Upavarsha the Fred Hoyle of ancient India.)

9.2. Upavarsha, in turn, came up with his theory of   Varna-vada; according to which the smallest phonetic units that can carry the meaning (phonemes =Varna-s) alone are real constituents of a word.  He said: what is called as a ‘word’ (Sabda) is its individual letters – (for instance the word ‘gauh’ – cow is made of ‘g’, ’au’ and ‘h’). He decaled sounds are only Varna -s; and, there is no need for a Sphota.

9.3. The position so taken by  Upavarsha opposes the Sphota doctrine (Sphota Vada) which is based in the philosophical principle which  in effect says that ‘gauh’ is the essence of the word; and, its individual letter-sounds are artificially distinct from that word.

[10 .1. The Sphota theory developed by Bhartrhari had its supporters as also its opponents.

The main opposition seems to have come from Mimamsa School. Sabarasvamin presents Upavarsha’s views in his Mimamsa-sutrabhasya. But, pointed attack came in the later periods, particularly in the works of Kaumarila Bhatta, a noted Mimamsa Scholar (7th -8th century). He attacked the manner in which the Sphota phenomenon was supposed to reveal the meaning of word-sounds (Sabda). Kaumarila argued that the word (Sabda), whether be it individual or be a part of sentence, is nothing more than a collection of word-sounds or spoken words . And, it is with this collection of sounds alone that the meaning is associated. The listener grasps the sound of the words and their meaning. There is nothing else here, he said, one need not assume a mystical process of Sphota etc. Kaumarila the Mimamsaka was, thus, in agreement with Upavarsha on the issue of Sphota.

10.2. Interestingly, the support to Bhartrhari also came from another Mimamsa Scholar Mandana Misra, a contemporary of Kaumarila Bhatta. Mandana wrote a brilliant book (Sphota-siddhi) based Bhartrhari’s Vakyapadiya. He supported Bhartrhari’s presumption of the whole being prior to the parts as also the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. He agreed with Bhartrhari, it is not the individual words but the complete thought of the sentence that ultimately matters.

Mandana offers the example of a picture. He points out that in our perception of a picture; it is conceived as a whole, over and above its various parts. Similarly when we perceive a piece of cloth our cognition is of the cloth as whole; and it is quite distinct from the particular threads and colors involved.

He says: This aspect is brought out clearly by Bhartrhari who describes the painter as going through three stages when he paints a picture:  “when a painter wishes to paint a figure having parts like that of a man, he first sees it gradually in a sequence , then as the object of a single cognition ; and then he paints it on the surface of a cloth or whatever”.

10.3. The Jain philosopher Prabhachandra in his Prameya-kamala-marthanda attempts to reconcile the two opposing views; and, comes up with his own doctrine of ‘Interminacy’ (syavada, anekantavada),which, essentially, is a principle that encourages acceptance of multiple or plural views on a given subject]

[ Devadatta Kali (David Nelson) in the introduction to his very well written work Svetasvataropanisad: The Knowledge That Liberates, writes:

Although the Indian thinkers are not immune to disputation , by and large , their culture has valued the principle of accommodation and acceptance and acceptance…Throughout the centuries of Indian philosophical traditions , the differing views have often been seen as just that – as differing views of a single reality that lies beyond human power of articulation. The tendency has often been to harmonize opposing views as distinct parts of a larger whole whose fullness lies well beyond the reach of mere perception or reason. It needs to be stressed that the primary purpose of sacred literature is to impart spiritual knowledge, not to fuel intellectual or sectarian debate – or to create confusion.]

11.1. Sri Sankara refers to Upavarsha as the originator of Varna-vada, which contrasted with Sphota-vada of Bhartrhari. Sri Sankara agrees with Upavarsha and supports Varna- vada as against Sphota-vada (Sankara Bhashya on Brahma Sutra: 1.3.28). He does not approve the concept of Sphota-vada; and, says the meaning of a word can be known from its constituent letters, sounds and the context.  Here, he remarks: Bhagavad Upavarsha says ‘but, the words are none other than various letter-sounds (Varna)- varna eva tu na sabddh iti bhagavan upavarsah (BS: 1.3.28).

11.2. He then follows up with a debate on whether the words are letter-sounds of this kind or whether they are Sphota. And then built up his own arguments to oppose the Sphota vada, based on what he calls ‘the tradition of the Masters’- (Acharya –sampradayokti-purvakam siddantam aaha varna iti).

11.3. While he agrees that the word is nothing other than letter-sounds (Varna) Sri Sankara does not seem to be emphatic. On the question why a letter-sound (say, ’a’) should be heard differently according to its utterances, Sri Sankara explains that such differences are duo the conditions (Upadi) imposed externally or from elsewhere. Otherwise (Athava – meaning or) the differences could be due to intonation; and not necessarily due to the letter-sounds. And, therefore, he says, there is no weakness in our contention.  And, there is no need, he says, to bring in the concept of Sphota to decide upon the meaning of the word when it can be derived directly from the Varna-s that form the word.

The scholars believe, here, Sri Sankara, was not putting forth an original argument, but was merely condensing the previous refutations of the Sphota theory.

11.4. In his argument in favor of Varna Vada, Sri Sankara says: only the individual letters are perceived; and, they are combined through inference of the mind into word aggregate. Because the psychological process is one of inference and not of perception, there can be no degree of cognition. According to Sri Sankara, the inference Pramana is all –or-nothing process*. The error, if it is to be overcome, must be completely replaced all at once by a new inferential construction of mind or by a super-conscious intuition of Brahman.

[* According to almost all the Schools of Indian philosophy, the valid means of knowledge (Pramana) other than perception either reveal the object completely or do not reveal at all. However, Bhartrhari argues that perception need not always be an ‘all–or-nothing processes’. There could be vagueness initially; but, the perception could improve as one tries to gain clarity of an object (say as a distant tree or committing a stanza after repeated attempts).

According to Bhartrhari , each sound helps in understanding meaning bit by bit, at first vaguely, the next one little more clearly, and so on, until the last sound, aided by the preceding impressions, finally revea1.s the meaning with clarity and distinctness. The Sphota is revealed in stages by each succeeding sound, but by itself it is indivisible. It is comprehended in a process which begins with complete ignorance, passes through partial understanding, and ends in complete knowledge (dyana)

Bhartrhari asserts that it is the cognition of the Sphota in its entirety that is important in understanding meaning. That is not to say that we do not cognize the individual letters or sounds, but that they are secondary in relation to the Sphota, which is the real object of cognition.

This point is very important to Sphota theory in its contention that error due to vagueness of perception of initial letters can gradually and positively be overcome. It is also crucial for the Sphota theory in its contention that the existence of Sphota is not guesswork, as Mimamsaka-s maintain, but is a proved by direct and clear perception.]

11.5. The other Acharyas and commentators also toed the line of Bhagavan Upavarsha and Sri Sankara; and, supported Varna- vada as against Sphota-vada. Vacaspati Misra, who commented on Sri Sankara’s Vedanta Sutra Bhashya, also rejected the Sphota theory. He came up with his own theory of Abhihitanvaya-vada; and, said the understanding of the meaning of a whole sentence is reached by inferring to it, in a separate act of lakshana or implication, from the individual meanings of the constituent words.

12.1. Thus, the Vedic Vak as Sabda-Brahman became the object of philosophical debate during the later periods. The early Mimamsa School which championed Varna-vada argued that the individual word or the letter (Varna) as the prime substance of Vak. The School of the Grammarians, on the other hand, put forth Sphota-vada which developed the notion of Sphota to explain the mysterious manner by which meaning is conveyed in sentence. They explained Sphota as a process of cognition which culminates in the intuitive perception of the Absolute as Sabda –Brahman. These two are the main platforms for the discussion of the Indian philosophy of language.

12.2. Two principle Schools, Mimamsa and the School of Grammarians (Vaiyyakarani) have made huge contributions to the study of language and the philosophy of Grammar and of language. And, both were particularly interested in Sabda. Both believed that Sabda is eternal and manifests itself; and, is not created. They, however, differ on the view in regard to Sabda and the meaning (artha).

13.1. Bhagavan Upavarsha, whoever he might have been, was indeed an intellectual giant of his times. He was a worthy successor to the remarkable sage-scholars such as Badarayana and Jaimini. His contribution to the development of Indian thought is enormous.

13.2. Many however feel that Upavarsha   could have given little more thought to the Sphota theory instead of dismissing it off-hand. That perhaps could have leant a greater impetus to the growth of rational thinking within the Indian philosophical traditions.

[For more on Bhartrhari and the Sphota theory, please visit

http://www.iep.utm.edu/b/bhartrihari.htm ]

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Sources and References

  1. A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy, Part 2 by Prof. Hajime Nakamura
  2. The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 3: Advaita Vedanta Up to … edited by Karl H. Potter
 
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Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Bodhayana-Upavarsha

 

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