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Introduction to Bhagavad Gita — its origin, background story, its significance and greatness – FAQ on Bhagavad Gita

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1.  Is Bhagavad Gita part of Vedas, the Hindu scripture?

No. Bhagavad Gita is not part of Vedas. Vedas are the original and ancient source books of Hinduism and they are called Shruti (as heard). They are believed to be originated from God and no specific authors are attributed to Vedas.

Bhagavad Gita is one very important and widely read and acclaimed book of Hindu spiritual wisdom coming under the group of scriptures known as Smritis (as remembered). Smritis came much later to Vedas and they have their allegiance to Vedas, written by specific authors. Smritis are meant to explain, elaborate and interpret Vedic knowledge.

2.  Where exactly is Bhagavad Gita written?

Ramayana and Mahabharata are two great Sanskrit poetic works known as Itihasas which means ‘thus happened’.  They contain the historic stories of ancient Kings who lived and ruled in India thousands of years ago. The stories are interwoven with teachings of dharma.

Bhagavad Gita is part of the great Hindu epic Mahabharata, authored by Maharishi Vyasa.

Bhagavad Gita appears in the middle of the story of Mahabharata. According to some historians, the period of Mahabharata was around 2500 BCE. It is in the form of a discourse given by Sri Krishna, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, to Arjuna, who one of the prime characters in the story of Mahabharata as part of their discussions in the middle of a war field, just before the epic war at Kurukshetra was to begin.

3.  In which language was Bhagavad Gita Written? At what period of time?

All ancient scriptures of Hinduism (Shruti and Smiritis) inclusive of Mahabharatam were written in Sanskrit language.

Some Historians assign the period of Kurukshetra war to the year 3067 BCE. (i.e. about 5085 years ago). Of course such time period estimates are debated by other Historians; there have been many theories assigning the time period from 1000 BC to 4500 BC.

4.  Who was the author of Bhagavad Gita? Was it God, Krishna?

As said earlier, Bhagavad Gita essentially is a discourse of spiritual wisdom given by Lord Krishna to his friend Arjuna at the war front to clear Arjuna’s confusion in taking part in the war. Since the Mahabharata was authored by Maharshi Vyasa, he was indeed the author/recorder of Bhagavad Gita portions too.

5.  What was the cause of the grand war at Kurukshetra? Who was fighting against whom?

The Kurukshetra war was actually considered a war of dharma (righteousness) against adharma (anarchy). Five Pandavas (sons of Pandu, headed by Yudhisthira) who were on the side of dharma were fighting against 100 Kauravas (sons of Dhritarashtra, a blind king of the Kuru clan ruling Kuru Jangala kingdom) headed by Duryodhana.

Pandu and Dhritarashtra were brothers and hence  Pandavas and Kauravas were cousins. Thus, virtually, it was a war within a family and Pandavas fought for getting back their rightful share of their land and kingdom, confiscated by Kauravas by a treachery, in a game of dice. Kauravas tried to humiliate pandavas by disrobing Pandava’s wife Panchali (Draupadi) after their defeat in the game. Kauravas sent Pandavas to forest and put some stringent conditions on them, if they ever wanted to get back their land. Pandavas fulfilled them successfully, but still Kauravas did not want to return the land and rule back to Pandavas. A war between them became inevitable.

Pandavas lost their kingdom, wealth and their wife Draupati too by betting in the game of dice to Kauravas. Draupati was brought to the court and Duschasan tried to disrobe her. Lord Krishna came to her rescue. It was then Pandavas took vow to avenge Kauravas for the insult.

Practically all the kings who ruled so many countries across the length and breadth of Bharata Varsha (Indian Subcontinent) took part in this war siding with one of these two warring groups. Arjuna was the brother of Yudhisthira and was the most valiant warrior and a great archer. He was virtually the hero of the Pandavas.

Krishna (an Avatar of Lord Vishnu) was a great warrior and a kingmaker at the kingdom of Yadavas and was a distant cousin of Pandavas. Krishna and Arjuna were bosom friends. Before the war, both Arjuna and Duryodhana wanted Krishna’s support for their respective group. Krishna offered his entire army to one side and his physical and moral support without taking up arms to another side;  he asked them to choose what they preferred. Arjuna chose Krishna’s support only and Duryodhana was happy to receive the huge Army of Krishna for his side. Krishna offered himself to be the charioteer for Arjuna.

Actually, well before the war began, Krishna did his best to avert the war; he used all his diplomatic skills to mediate between Pandavas and Kauravas. He offered several compromises and concessions to Kauravas from the Pandava’s side so that a war between brothers could be avoided. But he failed in all his attempts as Duryodhana was extremely adamant and arrogant; he totally rejected any compromise and was bent upon going ahead with the war and was confident of finishing off Pandavas in the war.

Thus such a massive war became totally unavoidable. The pandavas too were very determined to fight and annihilate the adharmic Kauravas and re-establish a kingdom based on dharma, with Krishna’s divine and moral support at their side.

6.  Why did Arjuna get confused about participating in the war?

When they were boys, Pandavas and Kauravas played together and studied together.  Though, as boys, Kauravas did not like Pandavas and created lots of troubles for them, they were also getting beatings from Bhima (one among the Pandavas) who was an extremely strong and powerful bully. Both the groups received the love and care of their mighty Pitamaha (Grandfather) Bhishma; Bhishma was the elder brother of their grandfathers; he was indeed the real heir of Kuru Jangala kingdom, but he had relinquished it based on an oath.

Guru Dronacharya was very fond of young Arjuna who excelled in Archery, under his teaching.

Both the groups studied together and learned archery and other war skills from Gurus Kripacharya and Dronacharya.  Dronacharya’s son Ashwathama too studied with them and was a good friend to Pandavas. The Acharyas were particularly fond of Arjuna who was extremely skilled in archery.

Despite the undercurrent of enmity, the Pandavas had maintained some sort of cordiality and entertained their brothers well when they became owners of their own kingdom with Indraprastha as capital. Everything turned sour afterwards.

But Arjuna did possess a soft heart for his erstwhile relatives deep down his heart and also lots of respect and love for his acharyas. Unfortunately, the mighty grandfather Bhishma and his teachers Kripacharya and Dronacharya (and his son Ashwathama) sided with Kauravas in the war on account of their loyalty to the Kuru Jangala Kingdom. Some other kings who were their relatives too were at the side of Kauravas.

Just before the war began, Arjuna wanted to see at close quarters who were the people ganged up against them in the war. Krishna took the chariot to the front, facing the opponents.

It was then Arjuna suddenly became very weak-hearted. He saw his own cousins, his most respected Grand father Bhishma, his masters Kripa and Drona standing up in the war against his side. With Lord Krishna on his side, he was sure that the war would be won by Pandavas, but all the people who were his relatives and beloved teachers now standing in front of him would get killed in the war. He was caught by the emotions of attachment and he felt very bad about such an outcome of the war.

Arjuna becoming weak and disheartened to see his dear ones in the other camp in the war. He dropped his bow.

Suddenly the whole war looked meaningless to him. He was gripped by a sudden inexplicable feeling of renouncing all his cherished desires to win back and rule their kingdom.

7.  How did Krishna, Arjuna’s charioteer became his counsellor?

Though Arjuna was very friendly with Krishna and was so close to call him ‘Yadava’ (Krishna’s caste as a cowherd) and was free to talk with him without using respectful words, he was fully aware of the fact that Krishna was a divine personality (avatar) and a personification of universal wisdom. He knew that at the time of his confusion and dejection, it was Krishna who could counsel him and guide him towards dharma and rightful course he had to follow in order to come out of his predicament.

Thus Arjuna had no qualms to openly express his thoughts and worries to Krishna and seek His guidance. He was humble enough to surrender to Krishna as a disciple and seek Krishna’s guidance from His stature as a Sadguru.

Krishna not only taught dharma to Arjuna, but also showed him his Vishvarupa (cosmic) form.

It was then Lord Krishna too shed his pretences of behaving like a friend or an obedient charioteer and took up Guru Bhava (the mood of a Guru).  When Krishna spoke, he did not speak as a human being, but as the Supreme Being, the lord of the entire universe — the creator, protector and destroyer of the whole creation and at the same time, in-dweller in all the souls; in order to wipe out any trace of doubt that may appear in the faith of Arjuna, Krishna even showed him His Vishvarupa (Universal cosmic form) which awed Arjuna.

8.  If the Bhagavad Gita discourse took place right at the middle of a massive war field between Krishna and Arjuna as a dialog, how exactly was it brought to other’s knowledge?

Actually, it is highly interesting how this ‘recording’ of the conversations happened at the centre of a battle field.

Maharshi Vyasa was one of the most prime characters in Mahabharata. He was a rishi having many mystic powers. According to Bhagavata Purana, he was also an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was the one who fathered Dhritarashtra and Pandu, which he did conceding to very compelling reasons for the sake of continuation of progeny in Kuru Kingdom, upon his mother’s request. Thus he was the grandfather of both Kauravas (Sons of Dhritarashtra) and Pandavas (sons of Pandu). He was one central personality who was a knower of trikala (past, present and future) and he would present himself physically at most critical places and times amidst his kin in order to give them solace when in trouble and guide them on dharma. Thus he was an eye-witness and also a historian of the entire Mahabharata story.

Since the King Dhritarashtra was blind, he could not participate in the War; in order to keep him informed of the day to day developments and happenings in the war, Vyasa gave special powers of visualization (‘doordarshan‘) to Sanjaya, a personal assistant/ minister of blind Kaurava King Dhritarashtra to remotely witness all that happened in the Kurukshetra war in order to narrate them to the blind king. The power also included reading the thoughts of the people who were engaged in the war.

During the first ten days of war, Dhritarashtra was not too keen to know the details of what happened in the war except for the information on which side was having the upper hand at the end of each day. When on the 10th day, the grand old Bhishma, the commander of the Kaurava Army was defeated and grievously wounded by Arjuna, Dhritarashtra became extremely concerned. He wanted Sanjya to narrate every detail of the war right from the beginning.

Thus, Sanjaya using the divine powers given to him, narrated every minute details of the happenings at the war front (as a flashback) to the blind king.

The Bhagavad Gita portion of the Mahabharata in fact starts with Dhritarashtra asking Sanjaya to tell him what his own sons and the Pandavas assembled at the battle field were doing. Sanjaya begins his narration of the scenario where both sides were ready to begin the attack. It was then that Arjuna asks Krishna to take his chariot to the middle where he could see his opponents standing fully geared up to fight against them. Subsequent happenings and the dialog between Krishna and Arjuna (which formed Bhagavad Gita) was narrated to Dhritarashtra by Sanjaya. Sanjaya continued with the narration of every detail and happenings in the war subsequently.

Vyasa dictating Mahabharata for Lord Ganesha to write it.

Much later after life the period of Pandavas and Kauravas, Sage Vyasa formed in his mind the entire story of Mahabharata as a grand Itihasa which was too monumental a work for him to put into writing. Conceding to his prayers, Lord Brahma engaged Lord Ganesha to do the writing of this grand epic on palm leaves based on the dictations of Vyasa.

While the present version of Mahabharata as available to us contains some 24000 verses, Bhagavad Gita comes in the middle of Mahabharata as part of the Book 6 – Bhishma Parva, spreading across 18 chapters (Chapters 25 to 42). The Gita contains 700 slokas (verses) each of two line length.

Interestingly, Vyasa’s Mahabharata text as we have today is not a direct narration of Vyasa but appears as narrated by the Pouranika (Purana exponent) by name Ugrasrava, son of Romaharshana Rishi, surnamed Souti to the rishis of Naimisharanya! How did Ugrasrava come to know of the entire story of Vyasa for narration to others?

Souti (Ugrasrava) narrating Mahabharata to the sages at Naimisaranyam.

The Vyasa Bharata story was heard by him from Maharishi Vaisampayana (a disciple of Vyasa) as he narrated it to King Janamejaya (Grandson of Abhimanyu and great-grandson of Arjuna ) during a Sarpa Yagna in the august presence of Sage Vyasa himself.

We cannot help but get wonderstruck by the power of memory and transmission our rishis of the past had possessed on account of their severe austerities (Tapas).

Thus, the Bhagavad Gita (and Mahabharata) as the authentic Sanskrit script available in the present form is indeed from Souti (Ugrasrava) as heard by him from Rishi Vaisampayana. Thus this specific text’s period of origin is at least about 60 to 100 years after Kurukshetra war.

9.  How did Krishna manage to convince Arjuna?

Krishna primarily emphasized the role of Arjuna as a Kshatriya (warrior/ruling class) whose prime dharma was to fight and annihilate evil people. Having exhausted all avenues of reconciliation already and having made all preparations for the war, backing out at that juncture would amount to cowardice for ruling class.

Regarding killing of the near and dear ones, Krishna went about explaining the relationship between human body, jivatma (soul) and further higher truths about Atman (Self) and God. He explained the idea of selfless action surrendering fruits to God, which would make him free from any guilt of wrong perception of killing people in a war.

As Arjuna asked several doubts and sought clarifications, Krishna explained the various deep spiritual wisdom from Upanishads and other scriptures in a simple way that Arjuna could grasp; he revealed to Arjuna about His divinity and how he was the mastermind behind all happenings including the war and the impending deaths. He revealed his Vishvarupa (cosmic divine form) to Arjuna that cleared him of all doubts. It convinced Him of Krishna’s all-encompassing power, made him surrender to Krishna unequivocally and act as per his instructions.

He got back his lost confidence and stood up valiantly to fight the war to its logical finish.

10.  Why is this discourse called Bhagavad Gita?

Bhagavad Gita means God’s song. It means Gods’ teachings here. Though the conversation took place as prose, Vyasa Mahabharata and the Gita are in poetry form only.

11.  What is the source and authenticity of Bhagavad Gita/ Mahabharata  text as it is available today, if it is indeed several thousand years old?

It is hardly possible to preserve the original manuscript of the Bhagavad-Gita written by Vyasa himself or by Souti (Ugrasrava), for the last 5000 years. However many ‘Pothis’ (religious poetic works) of the Bhagavad-Gita as well as Mahabharata were there in palm leaves all over India as preserved in manuscript tradition with some ‘path bhedas’, ( variant readings).

It was Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Pune that took a monumental project of compiling a Critical Edition of Mahabharata. This edition was prepared with painstaking efforts of scholars by the likes of V. S. Sukhtankar, S. K. Belvalkar, S. K. De, Prof. Dr. R. N. Dandekar for about five decades consulting 1,259 manuscripts and the task spread across 50 years starting from 1917.

Taking into consideration these available manuscripts, and particularly Prof. Shripad Krishna Belvalkar has published ‘Authentic Version‘ (critical edition) of the Bhagavad-Gita in November, 1941.

12.  How and why did Bhagavad Gita acquire such a prominence as a Hindu spiritual scripture, if it was only a private conversation between Arjuna and Krishna?

Whatever Sri Krishna taught to Arjuna was not something meant specifically for Arjuna’s understanding. Actually, Bhagavan Sri Krishna utilized the opportunity to teach mankind about the highest truths of spirituality with Arjuna  as a ruse.

It is so because Bhagavad Gita contains the quintessence of the Vedic knowledge of doing Karma with dharma (righteousness) and attaining Moksha (liberation), the role and purpose of them in life, how to face the ups and downs of life by proper understanding of these and how to lead a balanced life, keeping moksha as the ultimate goal.

While in the Vedas, the Karma Kanda (earlier part of Vedas) emphasizes pravritti (external actions to fulfil worldly desires through ritualistic worship of Gods), the Jnana Kanda (Upanishads) gives thrust to Nivritti (relinquishing Karma) and seeking true Jnana.  It is Bhagavad Gita that brings in a synthesis between the two, by advocating selfless engagement in action, by relinquishing the fruits at the feet of God.

While Upanishads are somewhat more difficult to comprehend, Sri Krishna taught the essence of Upanishads through Bhagavad Gita in a much simplified way for the consumption of all classes of people. It must be remembered that in the olden days, Vedas were learned, memorized and propagated only by Brahmins; Kshatriyas and Vaishyas had access to Vedic knowledge, but Shudras were prohibited from knowing Vedas.

But Bhagavad Gita, as a Smriti was open to all for knowing and learning the greatest spiritual wisdom of Sanatana Dharma.

Bhagavad Gita also qualifies to be one of the best sources of spiritual wisdom of Hinduism for the following additional reasons:

  • The idea of Karma Yoga (doing selfless action, without aspiring for the fruits of action) gets expounded for the first time.
  • By emphasizing the indestructibility of the Atman which is One without second, but existing as jivatmans (individual souls) in living beings, Sri Krishna reiterated the basics of Advaita expounded in Upanishads. It is with this very first thought flow, Krishna started convincing Arjuna to engage in war and kill the opponents’ bodies because only bodies perish and not Atman.
  • The idea of Bhakti Yoga (path of devotion to God) too gets stressed as a very valid path and gets elaborated for the first time. This paved the way for evolution of Dvaita School of Philosophy in future.
  • The idea of God being the in-dweller in the hearts of all souls is also expounded in Bhagavad Gita. This paved the way for the evolution of Vishishtadvaita school of philosophy of the Vaishnavism sect in the future. Bhagavad Gita shows Saranagati (total surrender to God) as the simplest course which became the best ideal of attaining liberation for Vaishnavas of the Vishishtadvaita school.
  • In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna unequivocally expounds His all-encompassing nature as the Ishwara (the creator, protector and destroyer of the universe) and his stature as the Parabrahman – God beyond names and forms, past present and future. This lead to the concept of Krishna as the ultimate God (not just an avatar of Vishnu) and paved the way for the Gaudiya Vaishnava sect. According to this sect including its followers under ISKCON), Krishna is the only God/ Paramatman and Bhagavad Gita is the most authentic scripture for reference.
  • In Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna criticized the practices of conducting Yajnas (fire sacrifices) with fulfilment of desires as goal. Thus, Krishna underplayed the significance of Purva Mimamsa school of thought and advocated Vedanta (Upanishads) thoughts better. This paved the way for future generations to wean away from worshiping devatas (celestial beings) and getting entangled to Vedic Karmas, without aiming for spiritual progress. In other words, Krishna emphasized the need for progressing from Karma (actions) to Jnanam (wisdom).
  • Krishna emphasized the importance of becoming “a man of steady wisdom” as an ideal. Such a person would be totally aligned with God and do all his worldly activities without getting affected by ups and downs, failures and successes in life, be keeping himself totally detached from the fruits of all actions.
  • Krishna quoted concepts and ideas from Samkya School of Philosophy of Hinduism in Bhagavad Gita (like Purusha and Prakriti and the ideas of Trigunas). Thus he gave his stamp of approval to those sections of philosophy too as valid.
  • The Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and Bhagavad Gita are the three ancient scriptures that form the core of essential Hindu philosophy. Hence the three together are called Prasthana Traya.

Thus Bhagavad Gita, as a spiritual scripture of Hinduism, is a re-emphasis on the existence and approval of the various facets and tenets of Hinduism. All these facets are valid for establishing a relationship with God/ Ultimate Truth to progress towards Moksha.

Going one step further, Bhagavad Gita has also become a book of wisdom for universal reference, cutting across religious barriers.

Swami Sivananda says:

This holy scripture is not just an “old scripture”, nor is it just a book of “religious teachings”, nor even a Hindu holy book. It transcends the bounds of any particular religion or race, and is actually divine wisdom addressed to mankind for all times, in order to help human beings face and solve the ever present problems of birth and death, of pain, suffering, fear, bondage, love and hate.

It enables man to liberate himself from all limiting factors and reach a state of perfect balance, inner stability and mental peace, complete freedom from grief, fear and anxiety. Within its eighteen chapters is revealed a human drama. This is the experience of everyone in this world, the drama of the ascent of man from a state of utter dejection, sorrow and total breakdown and hopelessness to a state of perfect understanding, clarity, renewed strength and triumph.

The study of the Gita alone is sufficient for daily Swadhyaya (scriptural study). You will find here a solution for all your doubts. The more you study it with devotion and faith, the more you will acquire deeper knowledge, penetrative insight and clear, right thinking.

How come there are so many puranas containing same stories in different and distorted versions? Why some Puranas eulogize some Gods while others undermine the same Gods?

Such things happen naturally in a grand religion with scriptures written at various centuries across a time period of some 3000 – 4000 years.

As our Rishis have pointed out, the quality and caliber of people deteriorate from one yuga to another — people were at their best of dharma and spirituality in Satya Yuga and gradually deteriorate to their lowest level at Kali Yuga.

Accordingly, the capacity for the people to grasp religion and spirituality deteriorated in contrast to knowledge of science and technology advancing century by century! The more the head grows, the weaker the heart becomes.

Puranas too must have undergone deterioration accordingly. Sanskrit Pundits and scholars with highly religious bend of mind, who had access to ancient scriptures of Puranas too were subject to different ideas about God and they too might have got compartmentalized to sects like Shaivism, Vaishnavism etc. Accordingly, eulogizing one God over other and undermining one God over other might have started by them by writing new Purnas/ editing/rewriting/ inserting fresh supplements to established puranas with their own concoctions, intentional distortions and manipulations.

Vyasa and 18 Puranas – a critical view

Vyasa Maharshi (Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa) is considered an Avatar of Lord Vishnu and he is credited with compiling all the 18 major puranas. He is also considered a Chiranjivin (immortal) – ever living. He is also credited with compiling Vedas into four (Rik, Yajur, Sama and Atharva Vedas). He was the author of the epic Mahabharata too. He is also said to be the author of Brahma Sutras.

Vyasa Maharshi dictating Mahabharata to Lord Ganesha…

If we take Vyasa’s Mahabharata and his Bhagavata Mahapurana, there are several variations in the happenings of events post Mahabharata war that appear in both the scriptures. While in Mahabharata the five Pandavas were described to be people who were in the clutches of their attachments and aversions till the end of their lives and they were mentioned to end up in Heaven. Same case with king Parikshit too. It means they were all like ordinary mortals who were destined to go through further birth and death cycles. On the other hand, Srimad Bhagavatam mentions them to become earnest seekers at their fag ends of life and attain moksha by Self-realization.

Puranas (as well as the Itihas Mahabharata) contain several stories of Gods, Devatas, Asuras, great devotees, great emperors, historical events and lineages of kings, description of geographies, theories about creation and so on. Many of them get repeated in various puranas, in different versions and variations. Naturally, the question arises how there are so much variations and distortions, if the author or all the puranas is one and the same Vyasa.

Some historians say that the time periods of writing Mahabharata, Brahma sutra, Bhagavata Purana etc are different, spreading across several centuries. Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa (of Mahabharata) and Badarayana Vyasa (of Brahma sutra) could be two different personalities, according to some of them.

Or, it is also possible that Vyasa being a title, there could have been so many descendents of Vyasa (off Krishna Dwaipayana Vysasa) who, in subsequent centuries edited/ re-wrote original versions, wrote newer ones as per their own interpretations and and still maintained the authorship to be Vyasa (in general).

There is also a possibility that so many other scholars wrote / compiled Puranas in various centuries, but for the sake of gaining authenticity, they projected as if every Purana originated from Vyasa/written by the same Vyasa!

Different tastes and affiliations, different Puranas

According to Hinduism, God appears in the form in which an ardent Devotee does tapas (extreme austerities) to get the vision of God.  Naturally, if a Shaiva (devotee of Lord Shiva)  longs to have the vision of His God, God appears to him as Shiva. Such a devotee, by the strength of his personal realization becomes convinced that the Ultimate God is Lord Shiva and his mindset may get so firm that God could not be in the form of Vishnu or Brahma.

Thus, saints and gurus chose such of those Puranas that matched with their own experience, liking, taste, temperament and mental leaning as “the most authentic” and discounted other puranas. Thus Shiva Purana, Linga Purana etc were projected as authentic ones by Shaivas,while Vaishnavas stood by Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana. Shaktas eulogized Markandeya Purana, Devi Mahatmiya etc.

It is perhaps in the same way that the pinnacle of Advaita experience (philosophy) of Upanishads got diluted to suit the capacity of intake of spiritual seekers who could not attain that level of oneness with Brahman. That’s how Vishishtadvaita and later Dvaita came up as alternative interpretations of scriptural truths, evolved based on the respective Acharya’s spiritual experiences with reference to God.  It helped people by and large to get connected to their personal God and religion in a way accessible and practicable by them and also gave them the assurance that they are in tune with the scriptures.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana is considered the greatest of all the puranas because it contains all the three shades (Advaita, Vishitadvaita and Dvaita) in its stories, discourses, prayers and parables. It is one Purana that can be said to bridge both Bhakti (devotion) and Jnayna (Knowledge) in a wonderful way.

Only after the advent of Itihasas and Puranas, the practice of worshiping Avatars (like Rama, Krishna, Narasimha etc) came up in Hinduism, particularly suited for Kali Youga. That’s how Agamas/ Pancharatras too came up later in Kali Yuga establishing and formalizing worshiping of Gods through idols in formally consecrated temples for worship, which was not there at all at Vedic times.

It can also be noted that in Vedas’ Karma Kanda, worshiping of Devatas (Indra, Varuna, Agni, Savita, Vayu and so on) and satisfying them through yagas (fire sacrifices) was widely prevalent. Over passage of centuries and and after evolution of Buddhism and Jainism from Hinduism, fire sacrifices and offering cows and horses as sacrifice in Yagnyas stopped. Worship of Eswaras (Prime Gods like Shiva, Vishnu and Shakti) became more prominent leaving Devatas behind.

The Puranas, as part of Smritis have contributed in a big way to pave the way for this shift.

The Brahma Sutras (Vedanta Sutras)

What are Brahma Sutras?

Brahma Sutras or Vedanta Sutras are very cryptic and extremely short notes written in Sanskrit to serve as points or hints to understand without conflicts the elaborate teachings available in Upanishads (Vedanta) . The word Sutra in sanskrit means an extremely short sentence containing some information in a nutshell. Another meaning of Sutra is thread/ string. The knowledge of Brahman (God) or the teachings of Vedanta are brought together like beads in a string in this scripture.

Brahma Sutras are clues or aids to memory on the study of Vedanta. They can not be understood without a lucid commentary (Bhashya). The commentary also is in need of further elaborate explanation from a competent Guru/ Acharya for earnest students of scriptures to comprehend the subject matter.

Brahma Sutras are also known as Uttara Mimamsa. Uttara means the latter. Upanishads are the latter part of Vedas. Mimamsa means the investigation or enquiry into the connected meaning of the sacred texts.

What is its importance as a Hindu scripture?

Considering the importance of its contents, Brahma Sutra is one of the three prime source books of Hindu Philosophy having allegiance to Vedas. The Upanishads (Vedanta), The Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras are the three reference books and together they are called Prasthanathraya. Upanishads are known as Shruti Prasthanam (essense of Vedic knowledge), the Bhagavad Gita is known as Smriti Prasthanam. Smritis are essence of derived, secondary  knowledge from Vedas serving as guidance for practical life covering dharma shastras (teachings on righteousness), Puranas, Itihasas (mythological stories) and essential spiritual teachings. Brahma Sutras are known as Nyaya Prasthanam or Tharka Prasthanam (Logical essence of Vedantas).

When was Brahma Sutras composed? Who was its author?

Historians say that the practice of writing scriptures in the form of Sutras existed between 400 BCE to 400 CE and hence the origin of Brahma Sutras could be sometime in this period. But based on the contents of Brahma Sutra, where Buddhist and Jain philosophies too are discussed,many scholars are of the opinion that it is a work done after the period of Buddha and Mahavir (Jainism). Accordingly, some historians assess that Brahma Sutras were written some time in 2nd century CE and some say 4th Century CE.

The Rishi Badarayana Vyasa was the author of Brahma Sutra.

Vyasa is credited with compiling all 4 vedas and also authoring the epic Mahabharata and many Puranas. But the historical period of those scriptures were far earlier than the period of Brahma Sutras.

Since ‘Vyasa’ is considered a title rather than a name, it is also argued that the Vyasa of Mahabharata (known as Krishna Dvaipayana) is different from the Vyasa of Brahma Sutras (known as Badarayana).

What are the essential contents of Brahma Sutras?

Brahma Sutras essentially discuss Ontology – Nature of Man, God, Universe, life, creation and their interrelationships. It also deals a little with Eschatology — death and post-death scenario. The Sutras highlight not only on how the creation came from God (Brahman) but also how God himself is part and parcel of the created. The sutras establish that human being is essentially Atman and hint on the nature on atman and how the Atman is related to Paramatman (God, Brahman).  It gives hints on spiritual practices particularly on meditation. it also throws hints on what happens at the time of death and the post death scenario of normal mortals and how it differs from the death of realized saints.

All the notes in Brahma Sutras on the above are essentially based on the teachings available in Upanishads (Vedanta), particularly on Chandogya Upanishad and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Sutras also touch upon other Hindus Sashtras  Mimamsa and Samkya and also on the philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism  to throw hints on how Vedanta differs from their view point.

Brahma Sutras indicate renunciation as the ultimate way to attain realization. Hence it is also known as Bikshu Sutra (Bikshu means a renunciate who eats by begging food).

The Brahma Sutras have been contained in 4  Adhyayas (chapters) and each chapter contains 4 Padas (sections) . In each Pada, there are several adhikaranas (Topics or propositions) containing the Sutras. Totally, there are about 555 Sutras , based on Sri Shankaracharya’s commentaries on Brahma Sutras.  They are grouped in 191  adhikaranas. Each adhikarana consist of five parts:—(1) Thesis or Vishaya, (2) Doubt or Samsaya, (3) Anti-thesis or Purvapaksha, (4) Synthesis or right conclusion or Siddhanta and (5) Sangati or agreement of the proposition with the other parts of the Sastra.

(The four chapters and their contents in Each Pada’s  adhikaranas in brief are given at the end of this article).

Can a person with a rudimentary knowledge on Hindu philosophies and good knowledge in Sanskrit understand Brahma Sutras? Will reading a direct translation of Brahma Sutras in other languages be helpful in understanding Hindu philosophy on God better?

No. Not at all.

The Sutras as such will be totally incomprehensible for plain sanskrit scholars.  Same is the case with direct translation too. Even with a reasonable knowledge in Hindu philosophies, one cannot make head or tail of reading Brahma Sutras directly. Brahma Sutras have to be comprehended only through commentaries (Bhashyams).

Here is a sample of  a few Sutras directly translated:

From Chapter 1, Padam (Section 2):

Sutram 1: “As this teaching is popular
Sutram 2: “As the qualities proposed match
Sutram 3: “As not matching, it is not life force with body
Sutram 4: “As Karma and doer are mentioned”
Sutram 5: “Due to difference in wording
Sutram 6: “As per Smriti too
Sutram 7: “The place is mentioned small, likewise that too is mentioned small, if cannot be God, it is not so, as it is told for meditation and as vast as sky”
Sutram 8: “If experience of pain / pleasure is present, it does not match; because of difference
Sutram 9: “God is the eater as the entire cosmos is absorbed
Sutram 10: “As it happens

Doesn’t it look extremely obvious that nothing meaningful could be obtained from these even by a scholar who knows Hindu philosophies  well?

On the other hand, if you take Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, a person with rudimentary knowledge on Hindu philosophies may  reasonably understand their direct translations even without explanations. It is quite likely that many doubts and confusions may linger, but still one can definitely grasp considerably on the subjects by reading the direct scripture (if knowledgeable in Sanskrit) or through direct translations.

It is  obviously not so with Brahma Sutras. As already mentioned and seen, the Sutras are extremely cryptic notes, serving as systematically organized and sequentialized hints to aid and rekindle the memory of the earnest students of philosophy in relating to the larger elaborations and references taught by the gurus through the Bhashyas (commentaries).

The bhashyas relate which particular verse of which Upanishad is referred to in a Sutra; or which Sankhya philosophical text is being negated in which Sutra; or which  statement from a Smriti is associated with which Sutra; what is the wholesome meaning of each Sutra or each adhikarana and so on.

If read with Bhashyams (commentaries) will the Brahma Sutras serve as an adequate source of knowledge of Hindu philosophies?

No. Brahma Sutras are NOT independent source of spiritual knowledge like Bhagavad Gita or Upanishads.

Brahma Sutras with Bhashyams, when heard through the explanations of one’s Guru, at the best serve as a guide to remove any confusions, misunderstandings and doubts on Upanishads, for those who have already studied Vedanta in depth. They can also help in clearing any added confusions on account of reading other scriptures like Mimamsa, Samkya philosophy or philosophies of Buddhism and Jainism.

Is Brahma Sutras meant more for scholars and Pundits?

Yes, more or less.

Even to understand Brahma Sutras with appropriate Bhashyams, one must have studied and reasonably grasped at least the 12 major Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita; a reasonable exposure to Purva Mimamsa, Nyaya and Samkya philosophies too are essential. In the olden days, only highly qualified and brilliant Pundits (Brahmins) with a good grasp of Sanskrit language and  keen, earnest seekers of spirituality with a thirst for grasping the highest knowledge on Brahman (also possessing the knowledge of Sanskrit) were fit for learning Brahma Sutras.

It must be noted that the Bhashyams too were only in Sanskrit and a mere understanding of Sanskrit would not just help in deciphering the bhashyams too. A qualified Guru’s teaching and explanation using the bhashyams and appropriate references to the source texts in Upanishads and other scriptures are essential.

For present day scholars and earnest seekers of core philosophy of Hinduism too, the same conditions are applicable, except for the fact that they can make good with translations of the originals from Sanskrit to their own languages. In any case, the teaching from a qualified Guru can never be dispensed with.

Are there many Bhashyams (commentaries) on Brahma Sutras?

Yes; indeed.

Badarayana’s disciples must have learned and memorized Brahma Sutras and also received and absorbed the Bhashyam, to be transmitted to next generations by word of mouth. Over a period of time, Sutras  (and probably bhashyams) might have started appearing in written form in palm leaves. Across centuries, the original bhashyams too could have been lost.

The earliest available and reportedly the most authentic commentary on Brahma Sutras is from Sri Shankaracharya (788-820 CE) and his bhashyam is based on his Advaita philosophy. In the subsequent centuries, several other commentaries appeared from different Acharyas by offering their explanations of the particular school of philosophy they professed. Thus there are bhasyams written by Sri Bhaskara and Sri Yadava Prakasha (10th & 11th Century) based on Bheda-Abheda school of thought, Sri Ramanujacharya (11th/12th Century) based on his Vishitadvaita school of thought, Sri Madhvacharya (13th/14th Century) based on his Dvaita School of philosophy, Srikanta (13th Century) based on Saiva Siddhanta and so on.

Down the line of disciples of the masters (who wrote the original commentaries), across time, even comprehending the bhashyas got difficult, needing further enlightenment on the original bhashyams. Thus several additional explanations to the original teachings too came, written by latter disciples.

Why are there different schools of interpretations?  What is the impact?

The technique of Sutras served as  effective mode of teaching  in a period when propagation of Vedic knowledge was primarily through word of mouth and not through writing.

But the negative outcome of this technique could be that there was tremendous scope for losing (fully or partially) the associated teachings with the Sutras,  or distorting and twisting the original teachings associated with the Sutras, while the Sutras themselves, being brief, were memorized and transmitted reasonably accurately and in latter periods got written in palm leaves.

The original teachings contained in Upanishads are essentially non-dualistic (Advaita) in their core, which have been expressed by the rishis in poetic form directly based on their experience. They also contain metaphors, allegories and parables which give scope for different interpretations. We have seen already how the direct meaning of Sutras are so cryptic and vague; naturally, the sutras coupled with allegories in the Upanishads do provide enough scope for different interpretations.

The spiritual experiences attained by different acharyas at different periods of histories and their own convictions of their experiences to be truer than Advaitic experience of the rishis gave them the impetus to give different meanings to the sutras and also to the Upanishad statements; some upanishad statements also have the scope of differing from purely advaita point of view . Added to these is the scope available in Sanskrit language per se to spit or combine words to get different meanings.

Swami Shivananda says, “Sanskrit is very elastic. It is like Kamadhenu or Kalpataru. You can milk out of it various kinds of Rasas according to your intellectual calibre and spiritual experiences. There fore different Acharyas have
built different systems of thought or cults by interpreting the Sutras in their own ways and became founders of sects.”

Swami Vivekananda says, “...the problem gets compounded by the acharyas who wrote the commentaries. A commentator interpreting the Sutras from Advaita point of view retains phrases emphasizing the advaita angle, but distorts the meaning of certain words that seem to convey Dvaita concept. A sanskrit word meaning ‘birthless’ (ajah) gets conveniently distorted to read ajaa to mean a female goat! If not worse, at least in a similar fashion, the acharyas of Dvaita conveniently distort Vedic words and phrases conveying Advaita concept, while retaining those giving a dvaita angle of meaning!”

Added to this is another reality that the number of Sutras referred and quoted by these Acharyas too vary. While Sri Sankara’s commentary is based on 192 adhikaranas and 555 sutras, Sri Ramanujar’s is based 155 adhikaranas and 545 sutras and Shi Madhvar’s is based on 223 adhikaranas and 564 sutras.

Naturally, we get an impression that the writers of commentaries could have played with and distorted, to some extent, the original purport and conception of Sutras by Badanarayana!

For an English reader, which could be a good commentary on Brahma Sutras to read?

It is felt that Brahma Sutra commentaries done by Swami Shivananda (Divine Life Society, Rishikesh) which is based predominantly on Sri Shankara’s Bhashyam is a good one, very neatly arranged and written in an easily comprehensible style.

 

 

To give a birds eye view of what Brahma Sutras broadly contain, the chapter wise contents are given below (based on the above book):

(Note: Each bullet below corresponds to each adhikarana)

Chapter 1: Samanvaya Adhikaram

In the first chapter the author shows that all the Vedic texts uniformly refer to Brahman and find their Samanvaya (reconciliation) in Him.

(Ch. 1)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. The enquiry into Brahman and its prerequisites.
  2. Definition of Brahman
  3. Brahman is realisable only through the scriptures
  4. Brahman is the main purport of all Vedantic texts
  5. Brahman (the intelligent principle) is the First Cause
  6. Anandamaya is Para Brahman.
  7. The being or person in the Sun and the eye is Brahman.
  8. The word Akasa must be understood as Brahman
  9. The word ‘Prana’ must be understood as Brahman
  10. The light is Brahman.
  11. Prana is Brahman

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 2

  1. The Manomaya is Brahman
  2. The eater is Brahman.
  3. The dwellers in the cave of the heart are the individual soul and Brahman.
  4. The person within the eye is Brahman.
  5. The internal ruler is Brahman.
  6. That which cannot be seen is Brahman.
  7. Vaisvanara is Brahman.

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 3

  1. The abode of heaven, earth etc. is Brahman
  2. Bhuma is Brahman
  3. Akshara is Brahman
  4. The Highest person to be meditated upon is the Highest Brahman
  5. The Dahara or the ‘Small Akasa’ is Brahman
  6. Everything shines after Brahman
  7. The person of the size of a thumb is Brahman
  8. The Devas also are entitled to the study of Vedas and to meditate on Brahman
  9. The right of the Sudras to the study of Vedas discussed
  10. The Prana in which everything trembles is Brahman
  11. The ‘light’ is Brahman
  12. The Akasa is Brahman
  13. The Self consisting of knowledge is Brahman

(Ch. 1) Section (Pada) 4

  1. The Mahat and Avyakta of the Kathopanishad do not refer to the Sankhya Tattvas.
  2. The Aja of Svetasvatara Upanishad does not mean Pradhana.
  3. The five-fold-five (Pancha-panchajanah) does not refer to the twenty-five Sankhyan categories.
  4. Brahman is the First cause.
  5. He who is the maker of the Sun, Moon, etc. is Brahman and not Prana or the individual soul.
  6. The Atman to be seen through hearing etc., of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (II-4-5)  is Brahman and not Jivatma
  7. Brahman is both the efficient and the material cause
  8. The arguments which refute the Sankhyas refute the others also.

Chapter 2: Avirodha Adhikaram

In the second  chapter, alternative concepts in other Shastras are confronted and  proved that there are no conflicts in Upanishad interpretations.

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. Refutation of Smritis not based on Srutis
  2. Refutation of Samkhya Yoga
  3. Brahman can be the cause of the universe, although It is of a contrary nature from the universe.
  4. Kanada and Gautama Refuted
  5. The distinctions of enjoyer and enjoyed do not oppose unity
  6. The world (ef fect) is non-dif fer ent from Brah man (the cause)
  7. Brahman does not create evil
  8. Brahman is the cause of the world
  9. Brahman is the material cause of the universe, though He is without parts
  10. Fully-equipped Brahman
  11. Final end of Creation
  12. Brahman is neither partial nor cruel
  13. Saguna Brahman necessary for creation

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. Refutation of the Sankhyan theory of the Pradhana as the cause of the world.
  2. Refutation of the Vaiseshika view
  3. Refutation of the atomic theory of the Vaiseshikas
  4. Refutation of the Bauddha Realists
  5. Refutation of the Bauddha Idealist
  6. Refutation of the Jaina Doctrine
  7. Refutation of the Pasupata System
  8. Refutation of the Bhagavata or the Pancharatra school

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. Ether (Akasa) is not eternal but created
  2. Air originates from ether
  3. Brahman (Sat) has no origin
  4. Fire originates from air
  5. Water is produced from fire
  6. Earth is created from water
  7. Brahman abiding within the element is the creative principle
  8. The process of dissolution of the elements is in the reverse order from that of creation
  9. The mention of the mind and intellect does not interfere with the order of creation and reabsorption as they are the products of the elements
  10. Births and deaths are not of the soul
  11. The individual soul is eternal. ‘It is not produced’
  12. The nature of the individual soul is intelligence
  13. The size of the individual soul
  14. The individual soul is an agent
  15. The soul is an agent as long as it is limited by the adjuncts
  16. The soul is dependent on the Lord, when he works
  17. Relation of the individual soul to Brahman

(Ch. 2)  Section (Pada) 4

  1. The Pranas have their origin from Brahman
  2. The number of the organs (organs of knowledge and action)
  3. The organs are minute in size
  4. The chief Prana has also an origin from Brahman
  5. The chief Prana is different from air and sense functions
  6. The minuteness of the chief Prana
  7. The presiding deities of the organs
  8. The organs are independent principles and not functions of the chief Prana
  9. The creation of names and forms is by the Lord and not by the individual soul

Chapter 3: Sadhana Adhikaram

In the third  chapter, the means of attaining Brahman are described.

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. The soul at the time of transmigration does take with it subtle parts of the elements
  2. The souls descending from heaven have a remnant of Karma which determines their birth
  3. The fate after death of those souls whose deeds do not entitle them to pass up to Chandraloka
  4. The soul on its descent from the Chandraloka does not become identified with ether, etc., but attains a similarity of nature
  5. It takes only a short time for the descent of the soul
  6. When the souls enter into plants, etc., they only cling to them and do not themselves become those species

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. The soul in the dream state
  2. The soul in dreamless sleep
  3. The same soul returns from deep sleep
  4. The nature of swoon
  5. The nature of Brahman
  6. The Neti-neti text explained
  7. Brahman is one without a second
  8. The Lord is the giver of the fruits of actions

(Ch. 3)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. The Vidyas having identical or the same form found in scriptures constitute one Vidya
  2. Particulars of identical Vidyas mentioned in different Sakhas or places are to be combined into one meditation
  3. Those Vidyas with different subject-matter are separate, even if there may be some similarities
  4. It is appropriate to specialise OM by the term ‘Udgitha’
  5. Unity of the Prana-Vidya
  6. Attributes like Bliss, etc., of Brahman have to be combined into one meditation
  7. Katha Upanishad (I.3.10-11) teaches merely that the Self is higher than everything else
  8. The Self mentioned in Aithreya  Upanishad  I.1. is the Supreme Self and the attributes of the Self given elsewhere should be combined with this meditation.
  9. Only thinking water to be the dress of Prana is enjoined in the Prana-Vidya
  10. Vidyas of the same Sakha which are identical should be combined, in meditation
  11. The names ‘Ahar’ and ‘Aham’ of Brahman occurring in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V.5.1-2) cannot be combined
  12. Attributes of Brahman occurring in the Ranayaniya Khila constitute an independent Vidya
  13. The Purusha Vidya in the Chhandogya and the Taittiriya are not to be combined
  14. Unconnected Mantras and sacrifices mentioned in certain Upanishads do not belong to Brahma-Vidya
  15. The statement that the good and evil deeds of a person go respectively to his friends and enemies is true for texts that mention discarding of such actions by him
  16. The shaking off of good and evil by the man of Knowledge occurs only at the time of his death
  17. The knower of Saguna Brahman alone goes along Devayana, and not the knower of Nirguna Brahman
  18. The passage of the soul by Devayana applies equally to all Vidyas of Saguna Brahman
  19. Perfected souls may take a corporeal existence for divine mission
  20. The negative attributes of Brahman mentioned in various texts are to be combined in all meditations on Brahman
  21. Mundaka Upanishad III.1.1 and Katha Upanishad I.3.1 constitute one Vidya
  22. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad III.4.1 and III.5.1 constitute one Vidya
  23. The Sruti prescribes reciprocal meditation in Aithreya Upanishad (II.2.4.6)
  24. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (V.4.1 and V.5.3) treat of one Vidya about Satya Brahman
  25. Attributes mentioned in Chandhyogya Upanishad  (VIII.1.1) and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad  (IV.4.22) are to be combined on account of several common features in both texts
  26. Pranagnihotra need not be observed on days of fast
  27. Upasanas mentioned in connection with sacrifices are not their parts, but separate
  28. Meditations on Vayu and Prana are to be kept separate notwithstanding the essential oneness of these two
  29. The fires in Agnirahasya of the Brihadaranyaka are not part of the sacrificial act, but form an independent Vidya
  30. Atman is an entity distinct from the body
  31. Upasanas connected with sacrificial acts, i.e., Udgitha Upasana are valid for all schools
  32. Vaisvanara Upasana is one entire Upasana
  33. Various Vidyas like the Sandilya Vidya, Dahara Vidya and so on are to be kept separate and not combined into one entire Upasana
  34. Any one of the Vidyas should be selected according to one’s own option or choice
  35. Vidyas yielding particular desires may or may not be combined according to one’s liking
  36. Meditations connected with members of sacrificial acts may or may not be combined according to one’s liking

(Ch. 3  Section (Pada) 4

  1. Knowledge of Brahman is independent of sacrificial acts
  2. Sannyasa is prescribed by the scriptures
  3. Scriptural texts as in Chhandhyogya Upanishad (I.1.3.) which refer to Vidyas are not mere praises but themselves enjoin the meditations
  4. The stories mentioned in the Upanishads do not serve the purpose of Pariplavas and so do not form part of the ritualistic acts. They are meant to euloigise the Vidya taught in them
  5. Sannyasins need not observe ritualistic acts, as Brahma Vidya or knowledge serves their purpose
  6. Works prescribed by the scriptures are means to the attainment of knowledge
  7. Food-restrictions may be given up only when life is in danger
  8. The duties of Asrama are to be performed by even one who is not desirous of salvation
  9. Those who stand midway qualified for knowledge; between two Asramas also are
  10. He who has taken Sannyasa cannot revert back to his former stages of life
  11. Expiation for one who has broken the vow of Sannyasa
  12. The life-long celibate who fails to keep up his vow must be excluded by society
  13. The meditations connected with the subordinate members of sacrificial acts (Yajnangas) should be observed by the priest and not by the sacrificer
  14. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad ( III.5.1) meditation is enjoined besides the child-like state and scholarship
  15. Child-like state means the state of innocence, being free from egoism, lust, anger, etc.
  16. The time of the origination of knowledge when Brahma Vidya is practised
  17. Liberation is a state without difference. It is only one.

Chapter 4: Phala Adhikaram

In the fourth chapter the result of attaining Brahman is described.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 1

  1. Meditation on Brahman should be continued till knowledge is attained
  2. He who meditates on the Supreme Brahman must comprehend It as identical with himself
  3. The symbols of Brahman should not be meditated upon as identical with the meditator
  4. When meditating on a symbol, the symbol should be considered as Brahman and not Brahman as the symbol
  5. In meditation on the members of sacrificial acts the idea of divinity is to be superimposed on the members and not in the reverse way.
  6. One is to meditate sitting.
  7. There is no restriction of place with regard to meditation
  8. Meditations should be continued till death
  9. Knowledge of Brahman frees one from all past and future sins.
  10. Similarly good work do not affect the knower of Brahman.
  11. Works which have not begun to yield results are alone destroyed by knowledge and not those which have already begun to bear fruits.
  12. Permanent obligatory works enjoined by the Vedas for different Asramas are not to be given up.
  13. Sacrificial works not combined with knowledge or meditation also help in the origination of knowledge
  14. After enjoying the fruits of Prarabdha Karma the knower becomes one with Brahman

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 2

  1. At the time of death the functions of the organs are merged in the mind.
  2. The function of mind is merged in Prana.
  3. The function of Prana is merged in the Jiva.
  4. The mode of departure from the body up to the way is common to both the knower of the Saguna Brahman and an ordinary man.
  5. The dissolution of fire etc., at the time of death in the Supreme Deity is only relative.
  6. The Pranas of the knower of Brahman do not depart at the time of death.
  7. The Pranas (organs) and elements of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman get merged in It at death.
  8. The Kalas of the knower of the Nirguna Brahman attain absolute non-distinction with Brahman at death
  9. The soul of the knower of the Saguna Brahman comes to the heart at the time of death and then goes out through the Sushumna Nadi.
  10. The soul of one who knows Saguna Brahman follows the rays of the sun after death and goes to Brahmaloka.
  11. Even if the knower of the Saguna Brahman dies in Dakshinayana, he still goes to Brahmaloka.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 3

  1. The path connected with the deities beginning with that of light is the only path that leads to Brahmaloka.
  2. The departing soul reaches the deity of the year and then the deity of the air.
  3. After reaching the deity identified with lightning, the soul reaches the world of Varuna.
  4. Light, etc., referred to in the text describing the path of the gods mean deities identified with light, etc., who conduct the soul stage after stage till Brahmaloka is reached.
  5. The departed souls go by the path of gods to Saguna Brahman.
  6. Only those who have taken recourse to the worship of Brahman without a symbol attain Brahmaloka.

(Ch. 4)  Section (Pada) 4

  1. The liberated soul does not acquire anything new but only manifests its essential or true nature.
  2. The released soul remains inseparable from the Supreme Soul.
  3. Characteristics of the soul that has attained the Nirguna Brahman.
  4. The soul which has attained the Saguna Brahman effects its desire by mere will.
  5. A liberated soul who has attained Brahmaloka can exist with or without a body according to his liking.
  6. The liberated soul which has attained the Saguna Brahman can animate several bodies at the same time.
  7. The liberated soul which has attained Brahmaloka has all the lordly powers except the power of creation.

To read the complete elaboration of the above subjects, here is the link to the site: Brahma Sutras (Swami Sivananda)

The pdf format of the book is also available for free download:  Click here

References:

  • Brahma Sutram (Tamil) By Swami Asuthoshananda (By Ramakrishna Math Chennai, Year 2013)
  • Deivatthin Kural (Tamil) – Part 2 (compilation of talks of Sri Kanchi Paramacharya) – Vanathi Publications, Chennai.
  • Upanishad Saram (Chandogyam, Brihadaranyakam and Brahma Sutra saram) By Sri Anna Subramaniam – Tamil – Ramakrishna Math Chennai (10th Edition 2016)
  • Brahma Sutras – Swami Sivananda – Divine Life Society