Friday, 28 October 2016

Nepal - 1

Pasupathinath, Boudhnath & Swayambunath

Let me start with a brief introduction to the country before recounting my experiences there.  The official name of Nepal is Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.  The Nepali government works in the framework of a representative democracy with seven federal provinces from 2015.  It is a landlocked country bordered by China and India. It has never been colonised and East India company which tried to extend its rule to Nepal was defeated in Anglo-Nepali war. But the kings of Nepal remained good friends of British and helped them against India in the first Indian Independence war of 1857.  The overwhelming majority of the population are Hindus and together with Buddhists they constitute more than 90% of the population.  Earlier it was a Hindu kingdom and only after the new constitution it has become a secular state.  The official language is Nepali, written in Devanagari script. Its flag is unique in that it is not rectangular. The official currency is Nepalese Rupee but Indian Rupee is freely accepted in many shops locally. 

On 25 April 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal, to be succeeded by another earthquake of 7.3 magnitude two weeks later and both these left more than 8,500 people dead besides causing extensive damage to buildings.  So initially we were reluctant to plan a trip to Nepal.  But when we learnt that Kathmandu, the capital city had not been affected much and our main interest, Lord Pasupathinath temple had not been damaged’ we planned to go to Nepal via Delhi.  This also gave us an opportunity to visit my niece, Swetha, who has shifted to a new flat in Gurgaon, now called Gurugram.  After spending two days in the new spacious flat in Gurgaon, enjoying the company of her children, Brinda and Vedant, we left for Kathmandu by Indigo flight on the morning of 16/10/16.

Kabit of Altruism travels met us at the airport and gave us a warm traditional welcome with garlands and then took us to our hotel of stay in Kathmandu, Hotel Arts in Thamel.  Thamel is the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu.  Thamel’s narrow alleys are crowded with various shops and vendors; and cars, cycles rickshaws, two-wheelers and taxis alongside hundreds of pedestrians compete for the narrow space in the alleys. It has a wide range of mountaineering gear shops, foreign money exchange booths, pubs, and clubs along with the numerous travel agents and guest houses. The hotel is in an inconspicuous corner in the centre of Thamel and offers good accommodation with free WIFI, which works better in the lobby than in the room.

That evening itself after freshening up we visited Pasupathinath temple.  We made a second visit to the temple in the morning of fifth day.  Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 B.C. and it is located on the western banks of the Bagmati River. There are many legends connected with the temple. One of them says that Lord Siva had a great liking for the forest on the banks of the river Bagmathi.  So he took the form of the deer and was enjoying unknown the serene solitude of the place.  Devas not finding Him in Kailash, searched for Him everywhere and finally caught up with Him here.  They forced Him to return to Kailash, grabbing Him by the horn and in that process one horn broke and fell down.  The broken horn was worshipped as a Linga but over time it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished farmer found one of his cows showering the earth with milk daily at a particular spot. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine Linga. Lord Shiva appeared and announced that as he had lived by the Bagmati river in a deer's form, he would be here known as Pashupatinath, Lord of all animals.  It is said that whoever came here and had the Darshan of the Lingam would never be reborn as an animal.  There is a deer sanctuary maintained by the temple on the eastern banks of the river.

The temple complex is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Main temple is of pagoda style with a golden spire.  The temple is located in the fortified courtyard within the complex guarded by an Army post and a police outpost post which has living quarters within. In front of the western door there is a huge statue of gold-plated Nandi. The metre-high Lingam has four faces; Sadyojatha, Vamapurusha, Tatpurusha and Aghora, facing the four directions and there are four main doors for having darshan of each face. Practicing Hindus and Buddhists of Indian and Tibetan descendent are only allowed into temple courtyard.  Practicing Hindus of western descent are also not allowed into the temple courtyard along with other non Hindu visitors.  The inner courtyard, houses the main temple and a few other temples like Vasukinath temple, Kirtimukh Bhairava temple, 184 shivlinga shrine etc.  It is said that if one goes round the 184 shiva lingas touching and chanting Siva’s name, one gets the Punyam of visiting Mount Kailash. It is believed that the twelve Jyotirlingas in India constitute the body and the Jyotirlinga at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu the head over this body. The main temple priests are Vedic scholars from South India selected on the basis of scholarship and not hereditary.  Maha Sivarathri is a major festival celebrated in the temple.

On the eastern side of the river is a cremation ground.  Many elderly people come and stay here so that they can die on the banks of Bagmathi river and get cremated here and there is the belief that a person who dies in the temple premises will be reborn as human only, irrespective of their papas.  Further Bagmathi river merges in the sacred river of Ganges and the ashes immersed in Bagmathi river will get carried to Ganges.  The main temple complex of Pashupatinath and the sanctum sanctorum was left untouched but some of the outer buildings in the World Heritage Site were damaged by the April 2015 earthquake.

While Pasupathinath temple had escaped damage, Boudhnath stupa did not.  The ancient Stupa is one of the largest in the world, dominating the skyline before the earthquake and was a great tourist attraction.  This is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Now the stupa had been damaged by the earthquake and is undergoing reconstruction. Not only the stupa but also the big Mandala had been damaged by the earthquake.  There are many monasteries around the stupa occupied by the influx of Buddhist monks from Tibet who took refuge in Nepal after Chinese annexation. We can see a number of Tibetan Buddhist pilgrims doing parikrama, chanting the mantra and spinning the prayer wheels. 

Luckily the other ancient stupa, Swayambunath stupa, has escaped major damage in the earthquake. Swayambhunath is a Buddhist stupa atop a hillock at the northwestern part of the city. This is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. Although the site is considered Buddhist, it is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus.  The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, a monastery, museum and library.  The stupa consists of a dome at the base; above the dome, there is a cubic structure with the eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions.  The site has two access points: a long stairway with 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple and a road around the hill to the top.  Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys wandering all over the temple. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Bhagavad Gita

Prasthana Thraya – 3


One of the Dhyana slokas for Bhagavad Gita written by Madhusudhana Saraswathi praises Bhagavad Gita thus:
sarvopaniṣado gavo dogdha gopala-nandanaḥ|
partho vatsaḥ sudhirbhokta dugdhaṃ gitamṛtaṃ mahatII
All the Upaniṣhads are the cows. Krishna is the milker. Arjuna is the calf. The pure-minded are the enjoyers (of the milk).  The supreme nectar of Gita is the milk.

Bhagavad Gita which is thus praised as containing the essence of Upanishads constitutes one of the trio of Prasthana Thraya along with Upanishads and Brahma Sutras. Consisting of 700 slokas spread over 18 chapters, Gita ,as we shall refer to it hereafter, comes in Bhisma Parva of Mahabharatha and is set in the framework of a dialogue between, Arjuna, the armed warrior and disciple, and Sri Krishna, his unarmed charioteer and Guru, in the battle field of Kurukshetra.  Arjuna who arrogantly asked Sri Krishna to take the chariot to the front, turned sad and depressed seeing his Guru, elders and relatives assembled on the other side and surrendered to Sri Krishna seeking his advice and guidance on his eleventh hour dilemma “fight or pullback.”  Sri Krishna’s elaborate advice encompassing all the four yogas of Karma, Bhakthi, Raja and Jnana that dissolves Arjuna’s delusion and drives him to action is the subject matter of Gita. So Gita presents a synthesis of the four paths of Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana yoga. 

Each chapter in Gita is titled one Yoga or the other.  Yoga means a topic and also as  that which unites the seeker with the destination. As per Swami Paramartananda the destination here is “Security, Peace and Happiness” and seekers are ourselves. We seek these outside ourselves from external objects and relations, not knowing that we ourselves are the source for our ‘Peace, Security and Happiness’; as our minds are  covered with Malam(impurities); Vikshepa(extrovertedness) and Ajjanam(ignorance).  Malam is the six fold impurities; the six fold obstacles to discover our inner joy.  And those impurities are kamaḥ, (desire), krodhaḥ, (anger); lobhaḥ (greed); mohaḥ (delusion); madaḥ (arrogance or vanity); matsaryaḥ (jealousy or competitiveness).  Vikṣēpaḥ, mental extrovertedness, is the mental restlessness and wandering. Ajjanam is ignorance of the fact that I am the one and only source for the “Happiness, Peace and Security” that I am seeking from external objects and relations. Karma Yoga rids the mind of impurities and makes it pure, giving Chitta Suddhi.  Bhakthi and Raja Yogas discipline the wandering mind making it focussed and one-pointed, giving one Chitta Ekagratha.  Jnana Yoga imparts to such a pure focussed mind the true knowledge of the Self as Brahman of total peace and happiness and security.  Swami Sivananda considers the eighteen chapters of Gita as having a progressive order, by which Krishna leads "Arjuna up the ladder of Yoga from one rung to another".  It is not only Arjuna but all of us as well through Arjuna.

Swami Vivekananda remarks “This Kurukshetra War is only an allegory. When we sum up its esoteric significance, it means the war which is constantly going on within man between the tendencies of good and evil.”  Man can overcome the tendency for evil only through the disciplines of Karma Yoga and Bhakthi/Upasana Yoga. As Gita speaks of them equally as Jnana Yoga, Swami Chinmayananda writes, “Here in the Bhagavad Gita, we find a practical handbook of instruction on how best we can re-organise our inner ways of thinking, feeling, and acting in our everyday life and draw from ourselves a larger gush of productivity to enrich the life around us, and to emblazon the subjective life within us”.  He viewed the Gita as a universal scripture to turn a person from a state of agitation and confusion to a state of complete vision, inner contentment, and dynamic action. Mahatma Gandhi also emphasises Gita being a practical guide with his own example with these words “When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagavadgītā. I find a verse here and a verse there and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies – and my life has been full of external tragedies – and if they have left no visible, no indelible scar on me, I owe it all to the teaching of Bhagavadgita”.  Not only Mahathma Gandhi but other leaders of freedom struggle like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Vinobha Bhave etc., have found Gita a source of inspiration in their personal and public lives. 

Let us see one instance of the all-embracing practical approach i.e. in the case of obtaining Mukthi, given to us all through Arjuna.  In ch. 7 Sri Krishna classifies bhakthas in four groups Artha, Artharthi, Jijnasu and Jnani through verse 16, and we will be mostly falling in one or the other of the first three groups:
chaturvidha bhajante maṃ janaḥ sukṛtinorjuna
artho jijnasurartharthi jnani ca bharatarṣabha
Four kinds of virtuous men worship Me, O Arjuna! They are the Artha (distressed), Artharthi (the seeker of security and pleasure), Jijnasu ( the seeker of knowledge of Me), and the Jnani (one who knows Me) 

Artha bhaktha thinks of the Lord only periodically; as and when he is faced with a crisis or a problem and then he prays to Him with all fervour but slowly forgets Him after the crisis fades or blows over under the pretext he does not want to disturb Him.  He is a sakama bhaktha as his sporadic devotion is for selfish needs and desires.  For such a sakama bhaktha also Sri Krishna offers a way for Mukthi in the closing verses of the last chapter ie. Ch 18 in verse no. 56:
Sarvakarmaanyapi sadaa kurvaano madvyapaashrayah;
Matprasaadaadavaapnoti shaashwatam padamavyayam.
Doing all actions, always taking refuge in Me, by My Grace he obtains the eternal, indestructible state or abode.
The prescription is to do all nitya, naimithika karmas as well along with other laukika karmas but without forgetting the Lord all the time and also His words that fruits of all actions, good, bad or mixed, come through His Grace only. In short perform all your actions, material and spiritual, karma yoga way completely surrendering to Lord and He will guide you to Mukthi

Artharthi bhaktha remembers Him always no doubt but he has also one material demand or other always. He is also a sakama bhaktha but unlike Artha bhaktha he regularly thinks of the Lord. To him Sri Krishna offers a way for Mukthi in verse no. 65 of ch.18:
Manmanaa bhava madbhakto madyaajee maam namaskuru;
Maamevaishyasi satyam te pratijaane priyo’si me.
Fix your mind on Me, be devoted to Me, sacrifice to Me, bow down to Me. You will come to Me; truly do I promise unto you, (for) you are dear to Me.
The prescription here is to surrender to one’s Ishta Devata, Bhakthi Yoga way totally, converting his sakama bhakthi into nishkama bhakthi. ‘Me’ stands for Ishta Devatha only and not for Vasudeva putra.Krishna.  

A Jijnasu bhaktha is a nishkama bhaktha. His devotion is not out of material desires or wants but out of deep thirst for knowing Him. So his devotion to Lord is for Lord’s sake. Only he also has not got the Jnanam and  to Him Sri Krishna’s advice is contained in sloka 66. This is also called Charama sloka as this is the last sloka of Upadesa.
Sarvadharmaan parityajya maamekam sharanam vraja;
Aham twaa sarvapaapebhyo mokshayishyaami maa shuchah.
Giving up all dharmas (dharmas and adharmas ie. all actions), take refuge in Me alone; I will liberate you from all sins; grieve not.
Giving up actions implies not giving up actions as such but giving up the Kartrutva buddhi ie, doership and also Bhokthrutva buddhi ie. enjoyership. With Karthruthva bukthi and Bhokthrutva buddhi goes Ahamkaram, Mamakaram i,e. ‘me, my’ thought and with that Dehabhimana also. So shedding ego and Dehabhimana, surrender to the Ishta Devata meditating on It and being always aware of It as the One without a second is the prescription.  ‘Mamekam’ stands for looking upon Ishta Devata as the one Saguna Brahman whose manifestations only are all other Devatas.  As there is no sense of doership, no fruits of action will attach to him. Though he may not be equipped with Nirguna Brahma Jnanam he surrenders the Jnana Yoga way to his Ishta Devata for Mukthi.

For the Jnani Bhaktha Sri Krishna does not offer any advice as with attainment of Jnanam, he has already attained Jivanmukthi and for all purposes he is one with Him though he may continue in the body to exhaust Prarabhdha karma.  This Sri Krishna  has hinted earlier in ch, 7 sloka 18:
Udaaraah sarva evaite jnani twaatmaiva me matam;
Aasthitah sa hi yuktaatmaa maamevaanuttamaam gatim.
Noble indeed are all these (all the bhakthas); but I consider Jnani bhaktha as My very Self; for, steadfast in mind, he is established in Me alone as the supreme goal.

It is no wonder that with its practical approach, Gita has been highly praised not only by eminent Indians like Mahathma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Abdul Kalam, etc. but also by eminent foreigners like Aldous Huxley, Henry David Thoreau, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Carl Jung, and Herman Hesse.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

The Upanishads

Prasthana Thraya – 2

Vedas  contain the rituals portion and the knowledge portion. The rituals portion containing upasanas as well is spoken of as Veda purva Bhaga or Karma Kanda. The knowledge portion which comes in the end is called Jnana Kanda or Veda anta Bhaga. Upanishads which occur in Veda anta Bhaga are referred to as Vedanta as well. The word 'Upanishad' is given many meanings. One of them is by splitting Upanishad as upa+ni+shad where ‘Upa’ stands for ‘to approach’; ‘ni’ stands for ‘steadfast’; ‘shad’ for ‘to destroy”. Together  the word  ‘Upanishad’ is interpreted to mean that knowledge, which destroys the ignorance of Brahman of those who approach it with shraddah and mumukshutvam and steadfastly abide by its teaching, in short BrahmaVidya, knowledge of Brahman, the Cosmic Supreme.

A major portion of Vedas are lost  along with the connected Upanishads and are not available.  So we have now only 108 Upanishads available to us. Of the 108, ten for which Sri Adhi Sankara has written commentaies are considered mukhya Upanishads. They are Isa, Kena, Katha, Prasna,  Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittriya, Aitareya, Chandoya and Brihadaranyaka Upanishads.  There is a sloka connecting the ten which runs as:
Isa kena kaṭa prasna munḍa mandukya Tiithri I
Aitareyanca chandokyam Brihadharaṇyakam tatha. II
Some add Kaivalya and Swethasvathara Upanishads to the list of ten to make it twelve.  These twelve cover all the four Vedas as follows:
Rig Veda Aitareya Upanishad
Yajur VedaIsa, Katha, Taittriya, Brihadaranyaka, Kaivalya, Swethasvatara  Upanishads               
Sama VedaKena, Chandogya Upanishads
Atharva VedaMundaka, Mandukya, Prasna Upanishads

Besides Brahman, the Upanishads also deal with Jeeva, the individual and Jagat, the Universe and their mutual relations and these discussions form the core of Vedanta system as Upanishads are one of the Prasthana Thraya on which the system is based. Let us see them from Advaitic view-point. Brahman, Paramathma, is one without second and is Nirguna, without Gunas, Nirakara, formless, and Nirvisesha, without attributes, and impersonal and Brahman is Sat, Chit, Ananda i.e. Existence, Knowledge, Bliss in their absolute pure nature. Sat, Chit, Anandha constitute the intrinsic nature of Brahman and should not be treated as attributes, Nirguna Brahman has an unmanifest power, MayaBrahman with this inscrutable, undefinable power of Maya manifest is called Saguna Brahman or Iswara.  Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman are not two Brahmans, one the antithesis of other. It is the same truth from two different points of view, one Paramarthika point and the other Vyavaharika point i.e. transactional point.  Jagat, the Universe, a product of Maya, is mithya, vyavaharika satyam, transactional Reality.  It is available for experience, transactions and is useful but it is not absolutely Real, and it is only the unchanging Brahman that appears as the changing universe through Maya. Jeevathma, is the real Self of the individual, Jeeva, who is a combination of Self, Jeevathma, and non-Self, anathma. The entire body-mind-intellect complex is anathama and material and Jeevathma is the life force that lends sentiency to anathama through its manifestation in anathmaJeevathma is Pure Consciousness, Chaitanyam, and is not different from Brahman, Paramathma.  So Jeeva in his essential nature is same as Brahman and this identity is termed Jeeva-Brahma-aikyam, and this knowledge, Brahma Jnanam. The statements in the Upanishads that spell out this Ikyam are called Mahavakhyas.

Though there are a number of statements in various Upanishads giving Jiva Brahma Ikyam, one Mahavakhya only from each Veda is chosen, because of its brevity and directness, to represent all Mahavakhyas.  These four Mahavakhyas are:
1)    Prajnanam Brahma –“Consciousness is Brahman”. This occurs in Aitareya Upanishad of Rig Veda
2)    Aham Brahma Asmi – “I am Brahman”.  This occurs in Brihadharanyaka Upanishad of Yajur Veda
3)    Tat Tvam Asi – “That thou Are”.  This occurs in Chandogya Upanishad of Sama Veda.

4)    Ayam Athma Brahma – “This Self is Brahman”.  This occurs in Mandukya Upanishad of Atharva Veda.

Every Upanishad opens with a prayer termed shanti mantra, peace invocation.  Each shanti mantra ends with “Om Shantih Shantih Shantih”.  Here Om is the sound representation of BrahmanShantih stands for the peace that comes from the removal of obstacles to the successful pursuit of study of Upanishad.  The obstacles are classified into three types.  These are:
1.     Adhyathmikam – Obstacles arising from within oneself like one’s personal ill-health, negative mood etc. 
2.     Aadhi bauthikam – Obstacles arising from other known sources or external situations like ill-health of a family member, noisy neighbourhood etc.
3.     Aadhi daivikam – obstacles arising from unseen sources like floods, storm etc.

The Upanishads belonging to each Veda have a unique shanti mantra.

The Shanti mantra for Rig Veda Upanishads  is:

Om vaang me manasi pratishthitaa

Mano me vaachi pratishthitam

Aaveeraaveerma edhi vedasya ma aanisthah

Shrutam me maa prahaaseer anenaadheetena

Ahoraatraan samdadhaami ritam vadishyaami

Satyam vadishyaami tanmaamavatu tadvaktaaramavatu
Avatu maam avatu vaktaaram avatu vaktaaram
Om shantih, shantih, shantih!

Let my speech be rooted in my mind. Let my mind be rooted in my speech. Let Brahman reveal Himself to me. Let my mind and speech enable me to grasp the truths of the Vedas. Let not what I have heard forsake me. Let me spend both day and night continuously in study. I think truth, I speak the truth. May that Truth protect me! May that Truth protect the teacher! Om peace, peace, peace!

The Shanti mantra for Krishna Yajur Veda Upanishads :
Om saha naavavatu sahanau bhunaktu
Saha veeryam karavaavahai
Tejasvi naavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai
Om shantih shantih shantih

May He protect us both (teacher and the taught)! May He cause us both to enjoy the bliss of Mukti ! May we both exert to discover the true meaning of the sacred scriptures! May our studies be fruitful! May we never quarrel with each other! 
Om peace, peace, peace!

The Shanti mantra for Sukla Yajur Veda Upanishads :
Om poornamadah poornamidam
Poornaat poornamudachyate
Poornasya poornamaadaya
 Om shantih shantih shantih

That (pure consciousness) is full (perfect); this (the manifest universe of matter) is full. This fullness has been projected from that fullness. When this fullness merges in that fullness, all that remains is fullness.  Om peace, peace, peace!

The Shanti mantra for Sama Veda Upanishads :
Om aapyaayantu mamaangaani vaak
Praanashchakshuh shrotramatho
Balamindriyaani cha sarvaani sarvam brahmopanishadam
Maaham brahma niraakuryaam maa maa brahma niraakarod
Aniraakaranamastu aniraakaranam me astu
Tadaatmani nirate ya upanishatsu dharmaaste
Mayi santu te mayi santu.
Om shantih, shantih, shantih!

May my limbs, speech, Prana, eye, ear and power of all my senses grow vigorous! All is the pure Brahman of the Upanishads. May I never deny that Brahman! May that Brahman never desert me! Let that relationship endure. Let the virtues recited in the Upanishads be rooted in me. May they repose in me! Om peace. peace. peace!

The Shanti mantra for Atharva Veda Upanishads :
Om bhadram karnebhih shrunuyaama devaah
Bhadram pashyemaakshabhiryajatraah
Vyashema devahitam yadaayuh
Swasti na indro vridhashravaah
Swasti nah pooshaa vishwavedaah
Swasti nastaarkshyo arishtanemih
Swasti no brihaspatir dadhaatu.
Om shantih, shantih, shantih! 

Om, O Devas, may our ears hear what is good and auspicious! May we see what is auspicious! May we sing your praise, live our allotted span of life in perfect health and strength! May Indra (who is) extolled in the scriptures, Surya, the all-knowing, Garuda, who saves from all harm, and Brihaspati who protects our spiritual lustre, vouchsafe prosperity in our study of the scriptures and the practice of the truths contained therein! Om peace, peace, peace!

The Upanishads have been translated into various European languages like Italian, French, Latin, German, Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Russian, besides Asian languages like Japanese.   Mughal prince, Mohammed Dara Shukoh, took keen interest in the study of Upanishads and produced a collection of upanishads translated from Sanskrit into Persian. German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, impressed by the upanishads, called the texts "the production of the highest human wisdom."  Swami Vivekananda who had said “ I have never quoted anything but the Upanishads” has also declared “ The Upanishads are the great mine of strength.  Therein lies strength enough to invigorate the whole world ---“  

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Brahma Sutras

Prasthana Thraya – 1

Prasthana Thraya, is the name collectively given to the three authoritative basic texts of the Vedanta Darshana.  They are Brahma Sutras, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita. We shall see each one of them briefly in this and succeeding blogs, starting with Brahma Sutras, the most important and also the most difficult to grasp of the three.

Brahma Sutras is authored by Sage Veda Vyasa and is also variously known as Vedanta Sutrani and Sariraka Sutrani. This work is in sutra form. Sutra is a brief statement packed with ideas. A sutra should be concise, clear, unambiguous dealing with essentials only with no verbal frills. Brahma Sutras has 555 sutras divided into four chapters, adhyayas, with each chapter being subdivided into four sections each, known as padas. Each of these sections are further subdivided into adhikaranas or topics and there is in total 191 adhikaranas. The adhikaranas are not uniform and consist of five factors each: visaya (subject matter), samsayah (doubt), purva paksha (objections of other systems), Siddantha (conclusion of Vedantins) and sangathih (the link between previous and present topic).  With this brief introduction we shall take a bird’s eye-view of Brahma Sutras.

First Chapter
The First chapter comprises 134 sutras in 39 adhikaraṇas.  It is called Samanvayā-dhyāya, Samanvaya meaning consistency. It attempts to establish consistency in various statements concerning Brahman in various Upanishads. The chapter itself starts with the sutra “Athatho Brahmajijnasa” which translates into “Now, therefore the desire to know Brahman”. A correct, doubt-free understanding of Brahman is important as that alone leads to freedom from samsara, leading to moksha, liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Brahman alone is the ultimate cause of this universe. He alone is the upadhana karanam (material cause) and nimitha karanam (intelligent cause) for this universe,.  He is transcendant as well as immanent in this world. He is Anandamaya, full of eternal bliss. The only source of knowledge of this Brahman is the Upanishads. Brahma jnanam is not one of the means of liberation; it is the only means of liberation. Vedantic study is not the one of the means of Brahma jnanam; Vedanta is the only means of Brahma jnanam. Vedanta is an independent and unique pramanam. Vedanta deals with Brahman alone and nothing else. Brahma jnanam is jivatma, Paramatma aikyajnanam i.e. the knowledge of the basic identity of Jiva with Brahman. In this chapter the contradictory views of Sankhya philosophy and Purva Miimamsa regarding Brahman’s role in creation are also analysed and refuted.

Second Chapter
The Second chapter contains 157 sutras spread over 47 adhikaranams and is called Avirodha-dhyaya, avirodha meaning non-contradiction or non-conflict. Contradiction is a defect in the teaching and here it is shown that teaching of Brahman in Brahma Sutra is defect free. Here three types of seeming contradictions i.e. with Sruthi, Smrithi and Yukthi (logic) are analysed and negated. The second chapter is heavily logic-oriented as it tries to establish that there are there are no logical contradictions in the Vedanta system. Here it examines and dismisses not only the refutations of other darshanas like Sankhya and Vaiseshika but also of other schools of philosophy, Buddism and Jainism, as well.  In the second chapter, the teaching of the first chapter is reconfirmed and defended.  This was done by negating all the possible objections and establishing that there is no virodhah for the view established in the first chapter. In the second pada of this chapter the fallacies of other non-Vedantic systems are exposed.  This critical review enhances our reverence for Vedanta system and enthrones in our mind the Vedantic teaching.

Third Chapter
The third chapter is called Sadhana-dhyaya and is the longest, with 186 sutras spread over 67 adhikaraṇas. This chapter deals with the spiritual sadhanas required to gain Brahma Vidya. In the first two padas the two fundamental requirements, Vairagyam(dispassion) and Mumukshutvam(intense desire for moksha) are emphasised. The first pada talks about the doctrine of reincarnation, the departure of the soul from the physical body, and its going back to the earth and of Panchagnividya. This is done in order to create Vairagya or indifference to sensual enjoyments herein and hereafter. Second pada highlights Jnana Yoga sadhana by analysing Tat pada, Tvam pada and Aikyam in the MahavakhyaTat Tvam Asi”. In this connection it describes all the glorious attributes of the Supreme Brahman, His Omniscience, Omnipotence, etc., in order to create mumukshutvam making Brahman the sole object of quest. This pada discusses all the three states of Jiva;  waking, dream and deep sleep, to show they are only illusory and to establish the identity of Jiva and Brahman as the fourth state, Turiya. In third pada various upasanas are discussed as a means of attaining Brahma Jnanam by making intellect subtle and developing Chitta Ekagratha, one-pointed focussed mind.  
Upasanas are methods of meditation of Saguna Brahman on various symbols or Pratikas such as Vaisvanara or Virat, Sun, Akasa, Food, Prana and Mind. These symbols are props for the mind to lean upon in the beginning. The gross mind is rendered subtle, sharp and one-pointed by such upasanas which are called Vidyas. Fourth pada has Karma Yoga as its central theme. Ashrama karmas are discussed as the prime component of Karma Yoga. As a part of sannyasa ashrama duty, sravanam, mananam and nididyasanam are also highlighted. Duties of various ashramas; sannyasa, brahmacharya etc. are discussed in detail.  Rituals as part of Karma Yoga help to purify the mind. Such a purified mind when made subtle through upasana becomes fit to absorb Brahma Jnanam, through the process of sravana, manana, nididyasana.

Fourth Chapter
The fourth chapter has 78 sutras spread over 38 adhikaranas and is the smallest chapter. This chapter is called Phala-dhyaya as it discusses the benefit or fruit of Brahma Jnanam which is mukthi or liberation. This chapter discusses all the three types of mukthi; Jivan mukthi, Krama mukthi and Videha mukthi. The first pada discusses how one attaining Brahma Jnanam has his Sanchitha karma liquidated and attains Jivan mukthi. The Jivanmuktha attains Videha mukthi when Prarabhdha karma is liquidated through exhaustion. The second pada describes Devayana, also called arciradimarga, the path by which Saguna Brahma upasaka Jiva who has practised severe spiritual disciplines like tapas, sraddhā and brahmacarya, and also the Saguna Brahma upasana, travels to Brahmaloka after death.  Third and fourth padas describe how the upasaka Jiva getting Brahma Jnanam in Brahma loka, attains mukthi there and this type of mukthi is called krama mukthi. The work ends with the sutra, “anavṛttiḥ sabdat, repeated twice for emphasis, meaning `There is no return, since the scriptures declare so'. This means that the Jiva reaching the Brahmaloka thus will not return to this mundane existence.