The structure and meaning of Badarayana's "Brahma Sutras": An analysis and translation of "Adhyaya" I

George Clifton Adams, Fordham University


The Brahma Sutras of Badarayana were examined with reference to determining their original meaning and the theology that they express. The goal was to establish the theology of Badarayana, free of the sectarian biases that have colored the expositors' interpretations of the Brahma Sutras. The scope was limited to the first of the four sections of the Brahma Sutras. Problems associated with determining the original meaning of the Brahma Sutras were identified, particularly the difficulties posed by the sutra style of writing, the influence of the sectarian expositors, and the scarcity of objective, non-sectarian works on the Brahma Sutras. The interpretations of the major expositors were reviewed, but only for the purpose of gaining familiarity with the various ways of interpreting the Brahma Sutras. Each sutra was translated and analyzed with reference to its theological import. Where the meaning of an individual sutra was unclear, consideration was given to its position in the overall structure of Badarayana's work in the hope that its structural status would yield clues as to its meaning. Thus Badarayana's theology was deduced from both the content and structure of the Brahma Sutras. The primary theological problem that was focused on was the God-world relationship, with reference to the categories of Difference, Identity, and Difference-In-Identity. It was determined that Badarayana advocates a theology of Difference-In-Identity, in which both God and the world are real and distinct entities which are intimately related to each other through divine immanence and creator/created, independent/dependent, and pure/impure relationships. Badarayana's theology was therefore categorized as "Immanent Realism." Comparisons of Badarayana's theology to the theologies of the major expositors revealed that Badarayana's theology least resembles that of Sankara and is closer to that of Ramanuja, Nimbarka, and even the dualist Madhva. However, due to the rather general and vague nature of Badarayana's theological positions, it was not possible to determine which of the latter three's theology his most closely resembles.

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Recommended Citation

Adams, George Clifton, "The structure and meaning of Badarayana's "Brahma Sutras": An analysis and translation of "Adhyaya" I" (1988). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8818451.