Atha: now, then, afterwards; Atah: therefore; Brahmajijnasa: a desire for the knowledge of Brahman (the enquiry into the real nature of Brahman).
1). What is the meaning of Brahma Sutra ?
Sutra means string. Like a string is used to make a garland of flowers, Brahma Sutra makes strings together flowers from Vedanta . Brahmasutra provides a concise way of summarizing the findings of the Rishis documented in Upanishads.
2).What is the meaning of “Brahman”.
Brahman means the eternal, unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything within and beyond the Universe.
Immanent aspect of Brahman is the Universe. This aspect of Brahman is Saguna Brahman. Transcendent aspect is called Nirguna Brahman. The Saguna aspect of Brahman is worshipped in various forms. For example the manifest Cosmic form of the Universe is worshipped as Shri Maha Vishnu while transcendent form is worshipped as Shri Narayana.
2a). What is Reality ?
Reality is the Truth behind the apparent. While the apparent changes, Truth does not change. To give an example water can exist in different forms – liquid, solid (ice) or vapor. In reality molecules of oxygen and hydrogen constituting water do not change the form. The apparent reality changes form while fundamental reality does not change.
Brahma Sutra is enquiry into the nature of Reality of existence.
2b).What is existence?
That which exists is existence! Existence has objective aspect and subjective aspect. Objective aspect is available for perception while subjective aspect is available for experience. For example I see the world. This is objective. I experience beauty in the world. This is subjective aspect. In addition there is experiencer who is beyond experience. In general we can say existence has manifest aspect which is available for perception, unmanifest aspect which is yet to appear and transcendental aspect which is beyond perception.
For example, seed has tree in unmanifest form. Tree is the manifest form of seed. So we are speaking of three areas.
3). Why should someone enquire into the nature of Reality?
Someone who has fallen into dark well should find out where he is and search for escape route. He/she should seek alternate possibilities. As per Vedic literature we are in a cycle of birth and death and consequent suffering in the phenomenal universe. We keep looking for happiness and fulfillment from the world. Enquiring into the nature of Reality and realizing its essential nature leads us to eternal bliss and freedom from cycle of birth and death.
4). Why should we take authority of Vedas on this ?
Human mind can logically or scientifically deduce things in the domain of objective world. The transcendental part of the Reality is beyond human mind. It is here that the authority of Vedas comes into picture. Vedic literature gives us pointer to the Reality which is beyond the scope of human mind. The spiritual scientists Rishis received the highest wisdom from the Transcendental Reality during their intense penance. The spiritual practices of the Rishis involved silencing the body mind complex to receive the higher wisdom without the corruption of human mind. This forms the authentic source for the wisdom of Reality.
5). Is the enquiry into Reality similar to Scientists search for Truth ?
Yes and no. Spiritual Seeker and Scientist seek the Truth. Scientists search for Truth or reality is in the domain of objectivity while ignoring the subject. This has been the direction for past few centuries. This is typically called Newtonian Science where the mechanical model of the objective world is used. However discoveries of Quantum physics have brought tremendous change in the approach of scientists. Quantum physics brings into the picture role of observer. The observed phenomenon gets altered when the observer comes into picture. It is here our Spiritual Scientists played a key role. They investigated the nature of the subject – the observer and realized that the fundamental nature of universe is consciousness.
While scientist seeks the truth in the objective world, spiritual seekers seek the Truth in the subjective world.
6). Who is qualified for the enquiry into nature of reality ?
One who has lead dharmic life and attained the four means of liberation is eligible for Self enquiry. Four means of liberation are given below.
i. Viveka – Discrimination between what is eternal and non eternal ( Nithya, Anithya vastu viveka)
ii. Vairagya – Indifference to enjoyments of fruits of action in this world or in heaven.
iii. Sadhana Sampatti – Sixfold spiritual wealth.
iv. Mumukshatva – Intense desire for liberation.
7). What is Sadhana Sampatti ?
Sampatti stands for wealth. The virtues one needs to develop for liberation are called sadhana sampatti.
- Sixfold virtues
o Shama – Control of mind.
o Dama – Control of external senses
o Titiksha – Ability to withstand pain and pleasure.
o Uparati – Cessation from worldly enjoyments
o Shraddha – Faith in Vedanta and Sadguru.
o Samadhana – Patience.
8). Why Brahmasutras are called Shariraka Mimamsa ?
Sharira means body. Mimamsa means enquiry. This phenomenal Universe is considered as the body of Paramatman – Supreme Self. Enquiry into the essential nature of the Phenomenal Universe is called Shariraka Mimamsa.
On the other hand, the embodied individual self – jivatman out of ignorance identified the self with the body and says - I am male, I am female, I am old etc. The same jivatman when identifies the self with the mind says I am happy, I am sad etc. While the universe is macro cosm, individual is of the nature of microcosm. Enquiry into the nature of microcosm – individual self to understand the identity of individual self Atman with Brahman – Paramatman is also purpose of Shariraka Mimamsa.
9). There are different commentaries on Brahma Sutra by various Acharyas. What is the purpose of these many commentaries ?
In general the commentaries can be classified under two categories.
o Devotion (Bhakti) oriented commentaries – eg. Shri Madhwa, Shri Ramanuja and others.
o Wisdom (Jnana) oriented commentaries – eg. Shri Shankara.
The commentaries focusing on devotion focus on the realization of Transcendental aspect of Divine through the immanent aspect. For example worship of Lord Vishnu in the form of Universe and thereby focusing mind on His transcendent aspect of Shri Narayana is followed in this approach.
The other approach followed by Shri Adi Shankara takes the path of Jnana and focuses on the Transcendent aspect of the Brahman.
These two approaches are required since Vedanta has Rishis who have attained wisdom through either of the two paths.
Human beings have hands, heart and head which means action, emotion and intellect. People with heart orientation find devotional approach more suitable and people with head orientation, approach through Jnana more appropriate.
10). What way the enquiry into Brahman leads to liberation ?
We have two types of knowledge. Direct and indirect. These are called paroksha and aparoksha Jnana. The vedantic literature provides the inputs regarding realization of Rishis. They realized it as aparoksha Jnana – direct knowledge. But for us it is still indirect knowledge. Understanding the importance of the meaning of the vedantic literature, contemplating on the same leads to Direct knowledge or aparoksha Jnana. This is deep intuitive understanding of the Truth. Only aparoksha Jnana can lead to liberation.
11). Do the followers of Jnana and Bhakti realize the same kind of liberation ?
Jnana is direct. It leads to immediate release from the ignorance. This is called Sadyomukti. There is a gradual process of liberation for the people who are Bhakti oriented. This is called Salokya, Sameepya, Sarupya and Sayujya mukti.