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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Was Bhagavad Gita directly written by God / Sri Krishna?

No. Bhagavad Gita was a verbal discourse given by God (Sri Krishna) to Arjuna just before the beginning of Kurukshetra war.

Since no other person was around except the two, how was it recorded? Maharshi Vyasa (who was one of the incarnations of Lord Vishnu as per Bhagavata Purana) had given special powers of visualization (‘dhoordarshan‘) 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.

Maharshi Vyasa was one of the most prime characters in Mahabharata. He was a rishi having many mystic powers. He was the one who fathered Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Thus he was the grandfather of both Kauravas (Sons of Dritarashtra) 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.

Much later after the period of Pandavas and Kauravas, he formed in his mind the entire story of Mahabharata as a grand Itihasa which was too monumental a work 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.

Bhagavad Gita is part and parcel of Mahabharata, and it comes in the middle of Mahabharata as part of the Bhishma Parva/

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!

He narrated it as heard by him from Maharishi Vysampayana (a disciple of Vyaasa) to King Janamejaya (Grandson of Abhimanyu and great-grandson of Arjuna ) during a Sarpa Yagna in the august presence of Sage Vyaasa himself.

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

What is the difference between Shrimad Bhagavatam and Bhagavad Gita?

Srimad Bhagavatam

It is a grand collection of puranas and spiritual stories with lots of philosophical teachings too. It contains the stories of Bhagvan Vishnu’s 24 avatars and stories of several great devotees. Srimad Bhagavatam is considered the greatest of all the puranas because it contains all the three shades  of Hindu philosophy (Advaita, Vishitadvaita and Dvaita) in its stories, discourses, dialogs, prayers and parables. The life story of Lord Krishna occupies a prominent position in this purana. It is one Purana that can be said to bridge both Bhakti (devotion) and Jnana (Knowledge) in a wonderful way. Vyasa Maharshi was the author.

Bhagavad Gita 

Bhagavad Gita is essentially philosophical teachings of Lord Krishna, delivered as sermon to Arjuna just before Kurukshetra war and it is part of Mahabharata . Mahabharata too was a book authored by Vyasa Maharshi. But the Bhagavad Gita section is out and out a book of spiritual teachings and not a story book. It predominantly teaches Karma Yoga and also covers Bhakti and Jnana yogas. Bhagavad Gita contains the essence of the teachings of Upanishads in a simplified way.