On Brahmasutras and VisishtAdvaita

Wed Oct 1 14:37:58 CDT 1997

  >2. The book which I have on the subject, which is based on Shankara's
  >commentary, states that most scholars consider Shankara's commentary
  >as 'far fetched' and not faithful to Bhadarayana's original thought. So
  >is it the proper book to read?

  I have heard this criticism about Shankara's Brahmasuutra bhaashhya before.
  I feel tempted to trace the origin of this criticism to one Western
  translator, Thibaut (sp?). He has translated both Shankara's and Ramanuja's
  commentaries on the Brahmasuutras. But he passes judgement on the commentaries
  saying that Ramanuja's commentary is more faithful to BaadaraayaNa's
  thought than Shankara's is. One possibility which we must bear in mind here
  is that most of the early Western translators had more than a slight
  attachment to Christianity and its brand of theism. Naturally, anyone
  who is of such affiliation and who happens to read both Shankara and
  Ramanuja will vote for the latter. It is true that Raamaanuja is a
  theist to the core and advocates a total and unconditional surrender
  to God or Shriman naaraayaNa. But this does not make Shankara an
  atheist.  Shankara does not deny God but rather he equates the
  essence of Godhood with that of the individual soul.

  Unfortunately, many Indians, including scholars, agree with what Thibaut
  and his like said about Shankara's commentaries.

  I must also add that recent Western authors like John Grimes are
  refreshingly impartial and do much more justice to advaita than their
  predecessors did.

  Since the Brahmasuutras are aphorisms on the Vedaanta/upanishads, any
  comparison of commentaries on the suutras should never ignore what the
  upanishads themselves say. Any commentary on the brahmasuutras has to
  be in agreement with the upanishads. Viewed in the light of the upanishads,
  Shankara's commentary on the Brahma suutra is right on target.

  Further, we should not forget that the Brahmasuutras have a human author,
  BaadaraayaNa (Vyaasa), unlike the upanishads which belong to Shruti and
  hence have no author. Hypothetically speaking, if Shankara disagrees with
  Vyaasa, it is not the same as disagreeing with the upanishads. Perhaps to
  drive home this point, the Shankara digvijaya describes an encounter between
  Shankara and Vyaasa in disguise, where they debate with each other for a long
  time. In the end, Vyaasa accepts that he cannot defeat Shankara and also
  reveals himself. While this story may or may not be true, it does illustrate
  a point, namely that it is alright to disagree with and question any
  authority however high he may be.


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