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What are Brahma Sutras?

Brahma Sutras are aphorisms or sayings which systematize the teaching of the Upanishads. Badrayana is believed to be the author of the Brahma Sutras and it is also known as Shariraka Sutra and Vedanta Sutras. Brahma Sutras 544 (according to Sri Ramanuja) in number occupies the foremost position of authority in the system of Vedanta.

It is believed that there were several commentaries on the Brahma Sutras even before Adi Shankaracharya. The earliest commentary available now is that of Adi Shankara but Shankaracharya himself mentions about several other ancient sages and learned men talking about the Brahma Sutras.

Lord Krishna mentions Brahma Sutra in the Bhagavad Gita:

The sages have described Him in many ways, in various Vedic hymns, and also in the conclusive and convincing verses of the Brahmasutra. (13.04)

Brahma Sutras attempt to formulate, elaborate and defend the philosophy of the Upanishads. There is also a widespread belief that the author of Brahma Sutras Badarayana is but Veda Vyasa.

The first chapter of the Brahma Sutras discusses the core teachings of the Upanishads. The second chapter defends the Vedantic concept by comparing with other schools of thought. The third chapter outlines the spiritual pathway to the supreme Goal of life. The fourth chapter discusses the nature of that goal itself. Each chapter contains several sutras on the particular subject matters.

The first two Brahma Sutras:

1) Then, therefore, enquiry into Brahman.

2) From which springs the origination.

Each sutra is pregnant with meaning. Chapters have been written on a single sutra by learned men.

Some of the ancient commentaries of Brahma Sutras include that of Adi Shankaracharya, Sri Ramanujcharya, Vallabha, Nimbarka and Madhva.

(Notes taken from the Foreward by S S Raghavachar in 1977 written to the Brahma Sutra published by Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta.)