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Introduction to the Vedantasara of Ramanuja by M. B. Narasimha Ayyangar (1953)


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    • #117770

      THE Vedantasara is an easy and concise comnmentary on the BrahmaSutras of Badarayana who is believed to be identical with Vyasa, the famous author of the Mahabharata. The Vedantasara was written by Bhagavad Ramanuja(1017 to 1137 A.D.) in accordance with the views of the Visistadvaita school of Vedanta. Sri Ramanuja was born at Sriperumbudur near Kancipuram as the son of Kesavasomayajin and Bhudevi. He was the pupil of Mahapurna and younger contemporary of Sri Yamunacarya of Srirangam. His other works are: Sribhashya, Bhagavadgitabhashya, Vedarthasamgraha, Vedantadipa, Gadyatraya and Nityagrantha. Regarding the complete biography of Sri Ramanuja, the attention of the readers is drawn to the Ramanujacampu of Ramanujacarya, published in the Madras Govt. Oriental MS. Series No.6. His doctrine and teaching have been fully dealt with by Prof. P. N. Srinivasacarya in his book entitled ‘The Philosophy of Visistadvaita’ published in the Adyar Library Series No. 39. This system was first expounded by Sri Nathamuni, was developed to a great extent by Sri Yamunacarya through his works and was well preserved by Sri Ramanuja through his works like the Sribhashya, and Vedarthasamgraha, after refuting the contrary views of the opponents.
      Perhaps this edition of the Vedantasara with English translation is unique in its kind and I believe it will render great and valuable service to the research scholars in their comparative and critical study of the Vedanta philosophy.

      [See the full post at: Introduction to the Vedantasara of Ramanuja by M. B. Narasimha Ayyangar (1953)]

    • #117772

      अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा

      I BOW unto Visnu, who has as his body all the sentient and non-sentient beings, who is the self of all objects, who is associated with Sri and who is the ocean of bliss untainted with impurity.


      परमपुरुषप्रसादात् वेदान्तसार  उद्ध्रियते-

      अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा ॥ १ ॥

      अत्रायमथशब्द आनन्तर्ये वर्तते, अतःशव्द्रशिरस्कत्वात् । अतः- शब्दश्च पूर्ववृत्तस्य हेतुभावे । पूर्ववृत्तं च कर्मज्ञानमिति विज्ञायते, आरिप्सितस्य ब्रह्मज्ञानस्य वेदार्थविचारैकदेशत्वात्। अधीतवेदस्य हि पुरुषस्य, कर्मप्रतिपादनोपक्रमत्वाद्वेदामां, कर्मविचारः प्रथमं कार्य इति “अथातो घर्मजिज्ञासा” इत्युक्तम् । कर्मणां च प्रकृतिविकृतिरूपाणां धर्मार्थकामरूपपुरुषार्थसाधनतानिश्चयः “प्रभुत्वादार्त्विज्यम्” इत्यन्तेन सूत्रकलापेन संकर्मेण  कृतः ।

      एवं वेदस्यार्थपरत्वे कर्मणां च तदर्थत्वे तेषां च केवलानां त्रेिवर्गफलत्वे निश्चिते सतेि, वेदैकदेशभूतवेदान्तभागे केवलकर्मणामल्पा- स्थिरफलत्वं ब्रह्मज्ञानस्य चानन्तस्थिरफलत्वमापाततो दृष्ट्वा, अनन्तरं मुमुक्षोरवधारितपरिनिष्पन्नवस्तुबोधजननशब्द्रशत्तेः पुरुषस्य ब्रह्मबुभुत्सा जायत इति ‘अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा’ इति कर्मविचारानन्तरं तत एव हेतोर्ब्रह्मविचारः कर्तव्य इत्युक्तं भवतेि ।

      Vedantasara or the quintessence of Vedanta is extracted and offered to the public by the grace of the Highest Person.

      1. Athto Brahma-jijnasa

      Then therefore the inquiry into the Brahman.

      Here the word, then is used in the sense of coming thereafter; because it is followed by the word therefore. The word, therefore, is used in the sense of causation of that which has been concluded previously. What has been concluded previously, is understood to be the knowledge of ritualistic works; because the inquiry into the Brahman, which is desired to be commenced here, happens to be a portion of the inquiry into the meaning of the Vedas. Indeed, for the person, who has completed his study of the Vedas, the first duty is to make an inquiry into the ritualistic works, as the Vedas commence to deal with them in the beginning. Hence it is stated ” Then therefore the inquiry into the Dharma ” (Mim. 1. 1. 1). Taking the topic of Dharma separately, it is determined in the series of Sutras ending with “The priestly function must be common for all the castes as all are able to do it” (Mim. 12-4-40) that the rituals of Prakrti and Vikrti kinds2 are only the means to attain the three-fold object of human pursuit viz. Dharma (i.e. ritualistic works), Artha (i.e. wealth) and Kama (i.e.gratification of desire)

      The Vedas naturally imply their meaning. The ritualistic works are their meaning. It is also determined that these mere works can grant only the three-fold object of human pursuit stated above. It is roughly realised in Vedanta, which is a portion of the Vedas, that the ritualistic works give only small and transitory results and the Brahman-realization only can produce infinite and eternal results. Then, in the person, who wants to attain Moksa (i.e. final release), and who has determined.

    • #117773

      Then therefore the enquiry into Brahman

      1. Then therefore the enquiry into Brahman [अथातो ब्रह्मजिज्ञासा]

      Ramanuja Commentary

      In this Sûtra the word ‘then’ expresses immediate sequence; the word ‘therefore’ intimates that what has taken place (viz. the study of the karmakânda of the Veda) constitutes the reason (of the enquiry into Brahman). For the fact is that the enquiry into (lit.’the desire to know’) Brahman–the fruit of which enquiry is infinite in nature and permanent–follows immediately in the case of him who, having read the Veda together with its auxiliary disciplines, has reached the knowledge that the fruit of mere works is limited and non-permanent, and hence has conceived the desire of final release.

      The compound ‘brahmagigñâsâ’ is to be explained as ‘the enquiry of Brahman,’ the genitive case ‘of Brahman’ being understood to denote the object; in agreement with the special rule as to the meaning of the genitive case, Pânini II, 3, 65. It might be said that even if we accepted the general meaning of the genitive case–which is that of connexion in general–Brahman’s position (in the above compound) as an object would be established by the circumstance that the ‘enquiry’ demands an object; but in agreement with the principle that the direct denotation of a word is to be preferred to a meaning inferred we take the genitive case ‘of Brahman’ as denoting the object.

      The word ‘Brahman’ denotes the hightest Person (purushottama), who is essentially free from all imperfections and possesses numberless classes of auspicious qualities of unsurpassable excellence. The term ‘Brahman’ is applied to any things which possess the quality of greatness (brihattva, from the root ‘brih’); but primarily denotes that which possesses greatness, of essential nature as well as of qualities, in unlimited fulness; and such is only the Lord of all. Hence the word ‘Brahman’ primarily denotes him alone, and in a secondary derivative sense only those things which possess some small part of the Lord’s qualities; for it would be improper to assume several meanings for the word (so that it would denote primarily or directly more than one thing). The case is analogous to that of the term ‘bhagavat 1.’ The Lord only is enquired into, for the sake of immortality, by all those who are afflicted with the triad of pain. Hence the Lord of all is that Brahman which, according to the Sûtra, constitutes the object of enquiry. The word ‘gigñâsâ’ is a desiderative formation meaning ‘desire to know.’

      And as in the case of any desire the desired object is the chief thing, the Sutra means to enjoin knowledge–which is the object of the desire of knowledge. The purport of the entire Sûtra then is as follows: ‘Since the fruit of works known through the earlier part of the Mîmâmsâ is limited and non-permanent, and since the fruit of the knowledge of Brahman–which knowledge is to be reached through the latter part of the Mîmâmsâ–is unlimited and permanent; for this reason Brahman is to be known, after the knowledge of works has previously taken place.’–The same meaning is expressed by the Vrittikâra when saying ‘after the comprehension of works has taken place there follows the enquiry into Brahman.’ And that the enquiry into works and that into Brahman constitute one body of doctrine, he (the Vrittikâra) will declare later on ‘this Sârîraka-doctrine is connected with Gaimini’s doctrine as contained in sixteen adhyâyas; this proves the two to constitute one body of doctrine.’ Hence the earlier and the later Mîmâmsâ are separate only in so far as there is a difference of matter to be taught by each; in the same way as the two halves of the Pûrva Mîmâmsâ-sûtras, consisting of six adhyâyas each, are separate 1; and as each adhyâya is separate. The entire Mîmâmsâ-sâtra–which begins with the Sûtra ‘Now therefore the enquiry into religious duty’ and concludes with the Sûtra ‘(From there is) no return on account of scriptural statement’–has, owing to the special character of the contents, a definite order of internal succession. This is as follows. At first the precept ‘one is to learn one’s own text (svâdhyâya)’ enjoins the apprehension of that aggregate of syllables which is called ‘Veda,’ and is here referred to as ‘svâdhyâya.’ Next there arises the desire to know of what nature the ‘Learning’ enjoined is to be, and how it is to be done. Here there come in certain injunctions such as ‘Let a Brahnmana be initiated in his eighth year’ and ‘The teacher is to make him recite the Veda’; and certain rules about special observances and restrictions–such as ‘having performed the upâkarman on the full moon of Sravana or Praushthapada according to prescription, he is to study the sacred verses for four months and a half–which enjoin all the required details.

      From all these it is understood that the study enjoined has for its result the apprehension of the aggregate of syllables called Veda, on the part of a pupil who has been initiated by a teacher sprung from a good family, leading a virtuous life, and possessing purity of soul; who practises certain special observances and restrictions; and who learns by repeating what is recited by the teacher.

      And this study of the Veda is of the nature of a samskara of the text, since the form of the injunction ‘the Veda is to be studied’ shows that the Veda is the object (of the action of studying). By a samskâra is understood an action whereby something is fitted to produce some other effect; and that the Veda should be the object of such a samskaâra is quite appropriate, since it gives rise to the knowledge of the four chief ends of human action–viz. religious duty, wealth, pleasure, and final release–and of the means to effect them; and since it helps to effect those ends by itself also, viz. by mere mechanical repetition (apart from any knowledge to which it may give rise).

      The injunction as to the study of the Veda thus aims only at the apprehension of the aggregate of syllables (constituting the Veda) according to certain rules; it is in this way analogous to the recital of mantras.

      It is further observed that the Veda thus apprehended through reading spontaneously gives rise to the ideas of certain things subserving certain purposes. A person, therefore, who has formed notions of those things immediately, i.e. on the mere apprehension of the text of the Veda through reading, thereupon naturally applies himself to the study of the Mimamsa, which consists in a methodical discussion of the sentences constituting the text of the Veda, and has for its result the accurate determination of the nature of those things and their different modes. Through this study the student ascertains the character of the injunctions of work which form part of the Veda, and observes that all work leads only to non-permanent results; and as, on the other hand, he immediately becomes aware that the Upanishad sections–which form part of the Veda which he has apprehended through reading–refer to an infinite and permanent result, viz. immortality, he applies himself to the study of the Sârîraka-Mîmâmsâ, which consists in a systematic discussion of the Vedanta-texts, and has for its result the accurate determination of their sense. That the fruit of mere works is transitory, while the result of the knowledge of Brahman is something permanent, the Vedanta-texts declare in many places–‘And as here the world acquired by work perishes, so there the world acquired by merit perishes’ (Kh. Up. VIII, 1,6); ‘That work of his has an end’ (Bri. Up. III, 8, 10); ‘By non-permanent works the Permanent is not obtained’ (Ka. Up. I, 2, 10); ‘Frail indeed are those boats, the sacrifices’ (Mu. Up. I, 2, 7); ‘Let a Brahmana, after he has examined all these worlds that are gained by works, acquire freedom from all desires. What is not made cannot be gained by what is made. To understand this, let the pupil, with fuel in his hand, go to a teacher who is learned and dwells entirely in Brahman. To that pupil who has approached him respectfully, whose mind is altogether calm, the wise teacher truly told that knowledge of Brahman through which he knows the imperishable true Person’ (Mu. Up. I, 2, 12, l3). ‘Told’ here means ‘he is to tell.’–On the other hand, ‘He who knows Brahman attains the Highest’ (Taitt. Up. II, 1, 1); ‘He who sees this does not see death’ (Kh. Up. VII, 26, 2); ‘He becomes a self-ruler’ (Kh. Up. VII, 25, 2); ‘Knowing him he becomes immortal here’ (Taitt. Âr. III, 12, 7); ‘Having known him he passes over death; there is no other path to go’ (Svet. Up. VI, 15); ‘Having known as separate his Self and the Mover, pleased thereby he goes to immortality’ (Svet. Up. I, 6).

      But–an objection here is raised–the mere learning of the Veda with its auxiliary disciplines gives rise to the knowledge that the heavenly world and the like are the results of works, and that all such results are transitory, while immortality is the fruit of meditation on Brahman. Possessing such knowledge, a person desirous of final release may at once proceed to the enquiry into Brahman; and what need is there of a systematic consideration of religious duty (i.e. of the study of the Purva Mimamsâ)?–If this reasoning were valid, we reply, tin–person desirous of release need not even apply himself to the study of the Sârîraka Mîmâmsâ, since Brahman is known from the mere reading of the Veda with its auxiliary disciplines.–True. Such knowledge arises indeed immediately (without deeper enquiry). But a matter apprehended in this immediate way is not raised above doubt and mistake. Hence a systematic discussion of the Vedanta-texts must he undertaken in order that their sense may be fully ascertained–We agree. But you will have to admit that for the very same reason we must undertake a systematic enquiry into religious duty!

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