The greatness of Shankara-bhaasya – Shankara Jayanti 2014 Anugraha Bhaashanam by Jagadguru Bharati Tirtha (Part 1)

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

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This is the first part of a translation of a Anugraha Bhaashanam in Kannada  (the YouTube video has been removed due to copyright claims) by Sringeri Jagadguru Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji given on the occasion of Shankara Jayanti 2014. This bhaashanam deals mostly with the Shankara Bhaashya (Shankaracharya’s commentary) on the Brahmasutras of Bhagavan Veda Vyaasa. I myself was blessed to listen to this in person at Sringeri, and was enamoured by the brilliant exposition given by the Jagadguru which I was able to relate to on account of my prior exposure to the Brahmasutra bhaashya by my Acharya some years back.

Started composing this on the Jagadguru’s Vardhanti in 2017. Some words in brackets are added by me for context and understanding. Part 2 is available here –



वक्तारमासाद्य यमेव नित्या सरस्वती स्वार्थसमन्विताऽऽसीत्|
निरस्तदुस्तर्ककलङ्कपङ्का नमामि तं शङ्करमर्चितान्घ्रिम् ||

श्रुतिस्मृतिपुराणानां आलयं करुणालयं |
नमामि भगवत्पादशङ्करं लोकशङ्करम्

A day of great auspiciousness for us is this Vaishaaka Shukla Panchami day when the Lord incarnated as Adi Shankara Bhagavatpaada. Just like the auspicious days such as Chaitra Shukla Navami (Rama Navami), Vaishaaka Shukla Chaturdashi (Narasimha Jayanti), Shraavana Krishna Ashtami (Gokulaashtami), Maagha Bahula Chaturdashi (Maha Shivaraatri), this day is also most auspicious and sacred day for us. On this day, the Lord of Kailaasa, Parameshwara incarnated in the form of Adi Shankaracharya for the upliftment of humanity. It is thus our bounden duty to remember Shankaracharya and the work he has done for our welfare on this special day.

One of the main contributions of Acharya is the Prasthaanatraya Bhaashyaas (commentaries on Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahmasutras). By this, He made Advaita the pinnacle of all darshanas (philosophies). Brahmananda Saraswati, a great teacher, says about Advaita in his Siddhaanta Bindu Tika (subcommentary on a work called “Siddhaanta Bindu”) –

सर्वेष्वपि दर्शनेषु दर्शनीयतमं दर्शनं
Sarveshvapi darshaneshu darshaneeyatamam darshanam

“Among all the Darshanas, Advaita is the most supreme”

Well, the Vaiyaakaranaas (the Sanskrit grammarians) in the audience  know about the Panini sutra – अतिशायने तमबिष्ठनौ“When speaking of the “best” among a group, use the suffix “tama (तम)”. In that spirit Sri Brahmananda had used the word – दर्शनीयतमं (darshaneeyatamam) – to indicate that Advaita is the greatest among all darshanas (philosophies from India).

Why has Advaita got this greatness? It is because the only goal of this darshana is to establish the nature and the method of gaining the highest purushaartha (possible human attainment) which is Moksha. In other darshanas (like Nyaaya etc), the central focus is neither Moksha nor how to gain it. Instead they delve in other directions. The one and only focus in Advaita however is precisely in answering these two questions – “What is Moksha?”and “What is the saadhana (method of gaining) for Moksha?”. Because of this singular focus, Advaita was called as “दर्शनीयतमं darshaneeyatamam” by Sri Brahmananda.

Advaita (or Vedanta) attained its summit due to the efforts of Bhagavatpaada. Prior to Bhagavatpaada, the only extant works in Vedanta were the Upanishads from the Veda, the Bhagavad Gita given by Bhagavan Sri Krishna, and Brahma sutras given by Vyaasacharya. Studying these alone, it was not possible for the common man to gain the Vedantic understanding. For example, if we see the Brahmasutras (which are a collection of short aphorisms) without the help of Shankaracharya’s Bhaashya (commentary), the style of composition by Vyaasacharya is such that we get nothing much from it at all. For example, in one sutra which is explaining Ishwara, the Sutrakaara (Vyaasacharya) says –

संज्ञामूर्तिक्लृप्तिस्तु त्रिवृत्कुर्वत उपदेशात् (BSB 2.4.20)
Samjnaamurti-klruptistu trivrutkurvata upadeshaat

Who is this “Trivrutkurvata” (“He who makes three-fold” is the literal meaning) mentioned in the sutra ? It is completely unclear by just reading the sutra. If Bhagavatpaada had not mentioned that “Trivrutkurvata” means “Ishwara”, we would have been in confusion about that term even now. Similarly in the fourth adhyaaya of the Brahmasutra, we have a sutra which (ends) says –

… हार्दानुगृहीत शताधिकया

(haardaanugruheeta shataadikayaa) – BSB 4.2.17

If not for Bhagavatpaada’s explanation for the word “हार्द” (literal meaning – “from the “heart””) as “हृदयालयेन ब्रह्मणा” – hrudayaalayena brahmanaa (meaning, “From the Lord”), we would not have realised what it means. In the same way, in several places in the Brahmasutra, Vyaasachaarya has used such terms, and Shankarachaarya, knowing the innate nature of Vyaasachaarya, has clearly brought out their meaning in his commentary. Veda Vyaasa Himself lauds Shankaracharya for this (this incident appears in the Shankara Digvijaya) – “Having understood my thinking yourself, you have composed the Bhaashya. Thus, it will stand till the end of srishti”.

Bhagavatpaada has elevated Advaita to such a position. When doing so, He has also shown the fallacies in other darshanas (schools of philosophies). Now the question may come – “Being a seeker of Moksha, a mumukshu, what is the necessity for falsifying other darshanas like this? Is it not sufficient to simply understand what the Upanishads are saying? Why indulge in rejecting other schools?”. Bhagavatpaada Himself has raised these question in the Brahmasutra Bhaashya

किं अनेन परमतनिराकरणेन परद्वेषकरेण ?
Kim anena para-mata-niraakaranena para-dveshakarena? 

“Is the falsification of other schools done with the motive of denouncing them?”  – (BSB 2.2 preface)

Bhagavatpaada responds, saying, – “It is not our intention to criticise or put down other darshanas. But the reason for falsifying what they say is because they teach Vedanta in a wrong manner. In order to convey the correct meaning of Vedanta, we have to show that their interpretations are incorrect. Otherwise, a mumukshu may feel that what the other schools say is correct, and may go along their specified route. But this will never lead the mumukshu towards moksha. In order to avert that possibility of confusion in the mumukshu and show him the correct route, we are showing the fallacies in the other schools”

तदसारतोपपादनाय प्रयत्यते
Tad-asaaratopapaadanaaya prayatyate

“Only to show their incorrect nature and lack of effectiveness (for Moksha), we falsify the other schools”.

Even when doing so (showing the incorrectness of the other schools), Shankaracharya has not used any strong language, like some other daarshanikas (philosophers). For example, Sri Parthasarathy, in his work called Shaastra Deepika, has criticised the Praabhakaara philosophy in a really harsh way –

तदेतत्  अनुपासित गुरोः मातुः प्रियस्य यत्किञ्चित् फलफितम्
tad-etat anupaasita guroh maatuh priyasya yatkinchit phalaphitam
(doubtful what this means)
Shankaracharya has however not said anything of that order in his criticism of other schools. The harshest words from him in terms of criticising opposing schools is probably on the the lines of –
बाढमेवं ब्रवीषि निरङ्कुशत्वात्ते तुण्डस्य, न तु युक्त्युपेतं ब्रवीषि   – BSB 2.2.28
baaDamevam bravIshi, nirankushatvaat te tundasya, na tu yukta
“Having no control upon your tongue, you speak thus boastfully. But your arguments go against logic”
He says this when he is criticising the Buddhist school of thought (Vijnaanavaadin). His harshness only goes this much, nothing more, and that too only criticising the opponent for presenting his arguments without logical standing. We however can see the logical and argumentative precision of Shankaracharya’s bhaashya in several places in the bhaashya.

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