Suresvara's Vartika on Saptanna brahmana

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Item Code: NAB441
Author: Shoun Hino, K.P. Jog
Language: English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 8120812837.
Pages: 243
Cover: HardCover
Other Details 8.75" X 5.8"
Weight 430 gm
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Book Description

About the book:

The fifth and sixth Brahmanas of the first Adhyaya of the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad form the finale of the discussion of Avidya, which is the basis of man's Sastriya Vyavahara. It consists in the performance of the rituals and meditations prescribed in the Srutis (and Smrtis). Thus, they presuppose a basic duality revealed through their mutual relation as the enjoyers and the objects of their enjoyment. These two Brahmanas explain this relation in great detail, thereby clarifying the entire complex of the rituals and/or meditations as but the worship (Upasana) of the vital force (Prana).

About the Author:

Dr. Shoun Hino is Associate Professor of Gifu Pharm. University (Japan). He did his M.A. at Nagoya University (Japan) and Ph.D. studies at Poona University (India).

Dr. K.P. Jog is a retired Professor of Vedic Sanskrit and General Editor of Sanskrit Dictionary Project of Deccan College Research Institute, Pune.



The Brhadaranyaka is the biggest and most important one among principal Upanisads and contains numerous discussions of teachers, pupils, questioners and others. It is marked by philosophical speculations not opposed to but in conformity with a vigorous performance of rituals. The Brhadéranyaka reveals to us the towering personality of the great Upanisadic thinker Yajnavalkya who affirmed neti neti, i.e. indescribability of the Brahman, the ultimate Truth. It is on this basis that Sankara built up his theory of Non-dualistic Vedanta.

Consequently, the Bhasya of Sankara on this Upanisad has assumed a very great significance in Vedantic literature. Next to his Bhasya on the Brahmasutra nay almost on a par with it- his Bhasya on this Upanisad is a vivid picture of the (almost aggressively) vigorous philosophical acumen of the great philosopher. And this is more pronouncingly felt in his references to and the refutations of the arguments of the followers of other systems of Indian philosophy, for they were unavoidable for him while he clarified (in his way? on the non-dualistic way) the thought of the Upanisad from which he was distant at least by a period of about 1000 years and since there had intervened between him and the Upanisad a number of thinkers of various systems. Yet, since he had set himself to the task of commenting on the Upanisad, he inevitably became somewhat brief, leaving quite a lot of disputations un-understood (for his contemporaries).This gave his pupil Suresvara a scope for clarifying his Guru’s thought in its fullness and he wrote the Brhadaranyakopanisad bhasyavartika. The last member of the compound-name, vartika, refers to Suresvara’s discussion of ukta, anukta and durukta portions in Sankara’s writing. Suresvara has underlined every small detail in the varied arguments in the Bhasya on the Upanisad and clarified the same with characteristic skill. It is noticed that Suresvara is familiar with minute details of different philosophical systems Nyaya and Mimamsa in particular and therefore he has in a way shaped the Tika of Anandagiri the most read commentator of Sankara’s works thus throwing abundant light on the vigorous philosophical activity of the times which preceded his teacher sankara and himself?

A special mention has to be made here of suresvara’s detailed discussions of the views of Bhartrprapanca a predecessor or a senior contemporary of Sankara. It may become possible for us not to set up a somewhat understandable scheme of bhartrprapanca’s philosophy on the basis of these. Another significant contribution of Sureshvara deserves special notice. His discussions about the interpretation of Vedantic Passage (implying Mimamsa) and various means of understanding knowledge (implying pramanavyavahara or Nyaya) in relation to the Vedantic logic indeed deserve in-depth studies for purposes or clarifying the method of non dualistic Vedanta.

The Vartika of Suresvara on the Brhadaranyakopanisad is truly his magnum opus and needed to be translated in full. I feel happy that Prof. K.P Jog and his worthy pupil Dr. Shoun Hino have undertaken this important task. I have gone through the earlier parts of this work and find that they have well attempted to secure a satisfactory translation. This translation, I cannot forget to add is accompanied by some brief annotation on the same. For this work Dr. Hino was awarded the 1991 Eastern Study Prize by the Eastern Institute Inc. at the Indian Embassy in Tokyo.



We are happy while we place this volume- The Saptanna Brahmana (together with BUBV 1.6) - in the hands of our readers, though with some delay caused by unforeseen circum-stances beyond our control. This volume marks the completion of the topic of Avidya which is markedly_ associated with ritual actions and their results; this is also the end of the first chapte rof the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad (BU) which comes under the shadow of the purely ritualistic Satapatha Brahmana. Naturally, while taking a leap away from the ritualistic sphere to the philosophical, the thinker of the Upanisad had at the back of his mind the thought that the ritualistic world was, as it were, the basis of human Endeavour to rise above this worldly atmosphere- to say the least, to attain to endless world, to god head and to happiness untinted by misery. That was his aim in following various modes of worship (Upasana). In such an atmosphere, the Upanisadic thinker began to look into the nature of these worships, their results and consequently the final achievement of man, i.e. oneness with the Atman.

This should explain why the first four chapters of the BU discussed the Asvamedha sacrifice, the Udgitha song and the worship of the Atman in the form of a human being which brought him to the topic of the nature of the results accruing from rituals and worships (Upasanas)- the topic of BU 1.5and 1.6 which is, according to him, Avidya (this notion was formulated in BU 1.4). The discussion of this topic marks the end of the discussion on Avidya and has thus prepared a suitable background for the purely philosophical discussions on the Brahman or on Vidya from chapter two onwards.

While offering this translation of BUBV 1.5 and 1.6, we have encountered a number of difficulties in understanding and presenting the cryptically expressed verses of Suresvara. We felt the difficulties much more now than ever before and therefore we are somewhat unsure of the exactness or correctness of our translations in a number of places. Therefore we earnestly request the readers to sent to us their observation and suggestions. We shall feel obliged and shall certainly exert to effect them in our subsequent editions and also in preparing the translations of the later chapters.

Our Kalyanamitra Dr. Smt. Lalita Deodhar of the Deccan College (Pune) has as before helped us in tracing the sources of quite a few of the quotations in the commentaries. We gratefully acknowledge her help. Pandit Shrinivas Shastri and Prof. M.P. Marathe (Poona University) have helped us in deciding some knotty problems of interpretation and we express out indebtedness to them.

We express our special thanks to Prof. K. Macida (ILCAA) Prof. J. Takashima (ILCAA) and Mr. N. Okaguchi. Prof. Macida offered us his own Devanagari printing software called CATUR. Prof. Takashima provided us with various programmes which made it possible to shape a book from the manuscript. And Mr. Okaguchi designed Devanagari font.



In our Introduction to Suresvara’s Vartika on Purusavidha Brahmana (i.e. BU 1.4) we had observed that it ‘can be said to mark the beginning of the philosophical thought’, for it stressed “the importance of vijnana in addition to ritual performance towards acquiring the knowledge of the Atman, which is the same as becoming one with it or acquiring fullness’. Further, we pointed out that it ‘discusses the ritual activity as based on bhedadrsti and recommends getting over the same’. That Brahmana could therefore be described as one which, like its preceding Brahmanas, emphasized, in some measure, that the combination of vijnana and karman is necessary for achieving the goal of human Endeavour and thus to a certain extent lead the readers to ignorance and incompleteness. The most important of that Brahmana is its advice atmety evopasita ‘One should worship (Hiranyagarbha, understand it as) the Atman. This is thus a kind of Upasana that leads one to a limited fruit.

The Udgitha Brahmana (i.e. BU 1.3) spoke of pranopasana ‘worship of Prana’ whereas the Purusavidha Brahmana of the worship of Prana, i.e. Hiranyagarbha and thus both of them dwelt on what can be considered as some worldly dealing. This can therefore be called an inquiry into the nature of some aspect of Avidya for clarifying the nature of human activity. The result of this activity, however, remained undiscussed. There was a need to discuss the same for clarifying the nature of human dealings in their fullness. This clarification would facilitate (or rather, originate) a discussion on what is opposed to Avidya and therefore desirable. It is this need which the Saptanna Brahmana (i.e. BU 1.5) and its complement BU 1.6 fulfill. The two Brahmanas (which are now translated in this volume) thus concern themselves with what is presented to a human worshipper (upasaka) as this external world-complex (bhogya) for his enjoyment (bhoga). They seek to expose the real nature of the same. This will become clear from a brief synopsis of the contents of BUBV 1.5 and 1.6 which we present just below.

The Saptanna Brahmana (BUBV 1.5) begins with a clarification of its relation to the earlier Brahmana(s) and thus brings out the relevance of its contents (in verses 1-14). Since first two sections (kandikas) of BU 1.5 do not differ in their contents, BU 1.5 proceeds to discuss (verses 15-97) the contents of the second section. Herein are explained the Mantras of BU relating to the seven ‘foods’— the products- of ritual activity consisting in sacrifice and Upasana. These products result from a human being’s ritual activity which in no way differs from the ritual activity of the first sacrificer. Out of the seven foods, some are commonly shared foods while only three are for his real benefit. In this discussion there is offered clarification of some ritualistic details, of the words in the BU—Mantras and of some conflicting views of ritualists- among these last, the most important is the view of Bhartrprapanca, a predecessor or senior contemporary of Sankara (verses 27-38).

Also there is pointed out the non-decreasing character of the foods (so long as ritual activity continues). This leads to the discussion of the three foods which are more important (than others), for they are- as mentioned earlier- beneficial to the sacrificer. In fact, it is this discussion which forms the contents of the remaining sections of BU (and also BUBV). The three foods are manas, Vak and Prana because these three yield to the sacrificer all his pleasurable and/or painful experiences. The nature of each of the three is discussed in great detail. This is done with respect to the sphere of adhyatma ‘what is related to human body’. While explaining the meaning of BU 1.3 (verses98-154) Suresvara notices and refutes the exposition of BU passage esa hi na ..., which is related to Vak, by Bhartrprapanca (verses 137-142). The discussion of sections 4-10 pertains to the nature of manas etc. in relation to the sphere of elements (adhibhautika)- it is very brief (verses 155-167). The 11th section discusses the nature of manas etc. in relation to the sphere of gods (adhidaivika). Here (in verses 168-177) also the thought of Bhartrprapanca finds a significant place (verses 173-177).Section 12 discusses how manas etc. produce some effects(verses 178-192), section 13 is explained in verses 193-202; it explains how manas and others stand in relation to one another. Section 14 discusses the adhikara (=vypara) and prakriya (= Phala) of the ritual activity (verses 203-216). The discussion of section 15 is very brief (verses 217-220), it relates to the BU passage yo vai samvatsarah and discusses the meaning of one’s becoming Prajapati. Section 16 which begins with the words atha trayo vava lokah and seeks to explain the significance of lokatraya jayal/atikrama (verses 221-262). In this Suresvara presents the view of Bhartrprapanca on the BU sentence trayo viva lokah (verses 225-239) wherein is included (in verses 227cd-232abc also the objection to his view. The refutation of this view follows in verses 240-251. Suresvara gives Sankara’s interpretation of BU passage karmana pitrloko vidyaya devalokali in verses 252-255, points out the unacceptability of the same, and offers his own interpretation of the same in verses 256, 257-261.

Section 17 pertains to anukramasanmyasa, sampratti ritual and allied topics (verses 262-327). Particularly to be noted among these are Suresvara’s representation of the view of Sankara (regarding athatah samprattih) in verses 274-278, his variance with him (verses 279-281), followed by his own interpretation of the ritual (verses 282-301) and his examination of and criticism against Bhartrprapaf1ca’s opinion regarding samprattim krtvapiyavajjivam agnihotram kartavyam (verses 302-312). Section 18discusses the meaning of BU sentence prthivyai cainam agnes ca (verses 328-346). He omits discussion of section 19, for it hardly differed in contents with section 18. In verses 347-361, Suresvara considers the meaning of the BU passage beginning with sa evamvid (of section 20). He discusses 21st and 22ndsections together in verses 362-375 where he examines the thought in the BU passage athato vratamimsa which pertains to the vows of Vak etc. Section 23 considers the worship of Aditya which is discussed by Suresvara (in verses 376-390).




Srimukham by Sri Jagadguru Shankaracharya vii
Foreword by Prof. Hajime Nakamura ix
Preface xi
Abbreviations xv
Introduction xvii
Translation and Annotation 1
BUBV 1.5  
BUBV 1.6  
Select Glossary 185
Bibliography 189
Half verse Index 191

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