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A Brief overview of

Brahma Sutra
Complete Vedanta philosophy in short aphorisms

In the good old days of Vedic times, when there were no paper or pens around study
of various subject was conducted in an all together different format. The wisdom of men of
knowledge of any field was passed on to the posterity in the form of short sutras. The
student had to first learn these sutras ‘by heart’, for there was no way out. Books were
made out of various barks and leaves, and were indeed a great luxury. Later students who
showed sincerity and hard work were accepted for subsequent teaching and elaborations by
the teacher. Sutra means aphorism. Short, crisp & pregnant sentences. They are like
capsule or seeds in which the whole tree resides. They had to be slowly ‘opened & unfolded’
by the teacher. Thus today we have sutras of all the basic texts of grammer, dharma,
bhakti, yoga, sankhya, nyaya, or vedanta. The sutras which reveal the fundamentals of
Vedanta philosophy or Brahma Vidya are called ‘Brahma Sutras’ or the ‘Vedanta Sutras’.

Brahma Sutra was written by none other than Bhagwan Sri Ved Vyasa, the
celebrated author of Mahabharata and thus the Bhagwad Gita. Brahma Sutras along with
Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita constitutes the ‘Prasthan trayi’ or the ‘three pillars’ of
Vedantic scriptures, which till date all students of Vedanta study. Brahma Sutra is called the
Yukti Prasthan, because it logically reconciles and explains the various questions & doubts
which may possibly come while going through the Upanishads, the basic pramana granths.
Whatever possible inconsistencies which may come to our mind while studying Upanishads
are sorted out here, and a clear cut vision or philosophy of Vedanta is thus propounded.

All good teachers always take into consideration the level of student while
communicating with them, and thus at first glance their may appear some inconsistency
amongst the teachings of various Upanishads, which are but different dialogues between
different students and teacher. Thus in spite of the fact that texts like Upanishads were
around, necessity of text like Brahma Sutra was felt by Bhagwan Sri Ved Vyasa. The
commentary of Sri Adi Sankara on Brahma Sutras further provides greater insights and
depths into each Sutra. His commentary or Bhasya is like a crest jewel out of his various
immortal works. It is indeed a masterpiece, and today study of Brahma Sutras is never said
to be complete without the study of the Bhasya of Sri Adi Sankara on Brahma Sutras.
Brahma Sutras should best be studied after completing the study of all Upanishads and that
also through a proper teacher.

Brahma Sutra has in all 555 sutras. They are divided into Four Chapters (Adhyaya),
which subsequently have four sections (Padas) each. Each section has various sub-sections
(called adhikarans), which deal with one topic each. In all there are 191 adhikarans in the
text. One adhikaran may have number of sutras, and the number of sutras per adhikaran
varies. The names of the four chapters of Brahma Sutras are Samanvaya, Avirodha,
Sadhana and finally the Phala adhyaya. Today, with all the modern means of
communication at our disposal, the necessity of a student to learn these sutras by heart
may not be there, yet the text is a masterpiece and should be studied by all students of
Vedanta philosophy.