[Advaita-l] BSB Discussion - adhyaasa bhaashhya Part 1/11

Ravi ravi at ambaa.org
Fri Jun 27 18:13:46 CDT 2003

Please see the following website for the entire text:


Author: Sri Subhanu Saxena

|| hariH  AUM ||

0. <|| dhyaana - shlokaaH ||>

<sha~NkaraM sha~NkaraachaaryaM keshavaM baadaraayaNam.h |
  suutra-bhaashhya-kR^itau vande bhagavantau punaH punaH ||

  shruti-smR^iti-puraaNaanaamaalayaM karuNaalayam.h |
  namaami bhagavatpaadaM sha~NkaraM loka-sha~Nkaram.h ||

  suutra-bhaashhya-praNetaarau vedaantaabja prabhaakarau |
  vande parasparaatmaanau baadaraayaNa-sha~Nkarau ||>

1. Introduction

In the canon of Vedanta literature, the Brahma-Sutras occupy a unique
position as the oldest systematic commentary on the upanishads. Of
commentaries on the Brahma-Sutras, Shankara's commentary stands
pre-eminent in elaborating Advaita Vedanta according to his tradition,
or <sampradaaya>.  Whilst there is doubt regarding authorship of some
of the works attributed to Shankara, there is universal agreement in
the tradition that the Bhashya on Brahma-Sutra was compsed by Adi
Shankaracharya. This is evidenced by the fact that the genesis of
post-Shankara schools arises from sub-commentaries on primarily his
Brahma-Sutra Bhashya. In these sub-commentaries [of which the
so-called <bhaamati> and <vivaraNa> schools are most recognised], the
authors profess to be elaborating on Shankara's system of <advaita>,
and clearly identify Shankara as the author of the Bhashya.

His astonishing introduction to his <brahma suutra bhaashhyam> (BSB),
often called the <adhyaasa bhaashhyam>, is, in my view, one of the
greatest texts written on Vedanta, and holds the status for me of a
<shruti>. For in it, we find no quotation from other <shaastra>-s in
this introduction to support his statements. They are simply
outpourings from <anubhava>, or experience, of an enlightened sage,
and which appeal to that <saarvatrika - anubhava>, or universal
experience, that belongs to each and every one of us.

Shankara's <adhyaasa bhaashhyam> fully serves the purpose of an
introduction. He succintly manages to summarise all the key points
that will unfold in his <brahma suutra bhaashhyam>, and connects them
to the central underlying theme.  The theme of his work is: "My
commentary will explain how the Brahma-Sutras identify the fundamental
obstacle to knowledge, and how it explains the method used in the
<shruti> to remove this obstacle, so that ultimate knowledge (which
will be defined), is acquired". At one stroke he covers the aim of the
work, its purpose, and what the answer is to the basic question above.

In summary, Shankara clarifies for us that the obstacle to
enlightenment is a misconception on our part, which superimposes
(mixes up) non-real upon the real and , which derives an empirical
view of the world as an apparent duality of subjects, objects, and
means of knowing these objects. The misconception is innate to us, and
tradition gives the technical name <adhyaasa> to this
superimposition. Shankara further defines the <avidyaa> in the
<shruti> as this <adhyaasa>. Once this <avidyaa> is removed, what is
left is <vidyaa> or knowledge that is the experience of <brahman>,
the Ultimate Reality. Therefore, Shankara says, the purpose of the
<shaastra> is to reveal <brahman> by identifying and removing
<avidyaa> or misconceptions, so that <brahman> can shine of its own

In so doing, in his <adhyaasa bhaashhyam>, Shankara sows the seed for
all the important aspects of his tradition of <advaita>:

1) What knowledge gives us knowledge of Ultimate Reality?

2) What is the obstacle to knowledge?

3) What is the nature of this obstacle?

4) How is knowledge of <brahman> attained? What are the means of 
and why is <shruti> the ultimate means of knowledge?

5) What is the role and purpose of <shaastra> in revealing this 

6) What is the method used by the <shaastra> to reveal <brahman>?

If one had the time, one could take each statement in the <adhyaasa
bhaashhyam> and unravel it to reveal all of Shankara's tradition of
<advaita>. In this article I will simply give a guided tour of the
contents of the <adhyaasa bhaashhyam> line by line, and highlight the
key messages. My rendering of the <bhaashhyam> will be as literal and
transparent as possible, so the readers can judge for themselves the 

<adhyaasa bhaashhyam> is a short text, and one can read it in about 10
minutes or so. I have found it invaluable committing it to memory, so
it constantly flows through all my thoughts. I hope by the end of the
article the reader has the same feeling about this text as I.

I have referred* in brief to the portions of the <bhaashhyam> discussed 
at the start of each section. I have followed the <bhaashhyam> in the 
order it was written.

(* Ravi's Note: Later I added the complete text of the bhaashhyam to 
the original document.  It should be noted, however, that the author 
himself covers the text almost word by word very faithfully. I 
sincerely hope that one day he will find time to translate the entire 
bhaashhya with such a precision)

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