Thursday, November 23, 2017

Brahma-sutra-karika-bhasya Release

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The Brahma-sutra-karika-bhasya is a unique composition in many respects. Besides being one of the most concise commentaries on the whole Brahma-sutra, it may be the only extant versified (karika) commentary on every single aphorism. Versified commentaries are rare, given that versification substantially increases the level of difficulty, and only a few authors ventured to write one. Gaudapada’s karika commentary on the Mandukya Upanisad is perhaps the best known text in the genre. Madhvacarya’s two versified commentaries on the Brahma-sutra are also very well-known. In the Anubhasya, he summarized each of the four chapters in seven verses. In the Anuvyakhyana, he commented on most of the text in 1,920 verses, yet he skipped many sutras. This was probably the major source of inspiration for Vidyabhusana to compose his own karika commentary, in which he explains all the 552 sutras in merely 750 verses, most of them in anustup (32 syllables). Some aphorisms are glossed with a quarter of a verse (pada), while others are more elaborately commented in several verses. Madhvacarya’s influence is also evident from the very first section, where Vidyabhusana brings the concept of ‘visesa.’ The author also gives original interpretations to several aphorisms all over the text, which also differ considerably from those in his Govinda-bhasya.

King Sawai Jai Singh II wanted to commission a Gaudiya commentary on the Brahma-sutra, and it may have taken many years until he found someone capable and ready for the task. Therefore, Vidyabhusana begins and ends his Karika-bhasya by stating that he is working under the direct order of His Majesty. The only extant complete copy of the Karika-bhasya is indeed part of the personal collection of manuscripts that belonged to Sawai Jai Singh II, the Khasmohor Collection, preserved at the Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II Museum in the City Palace in Jaipur.

There is a strong tradition according to which Vidyabhusana wrote a commentary on the Brahma-sutra in a very short time, although there is divergence regarding how long it took. Some claim it was as quick as three days; some say one week; some say one month; some say three months, and so on. Whatever the case, it is clear from many evidences that the said commentary was indeed the Karika-bhasya, and not the Govinda-bhasya, which was a much longer and later composition. Since the copy Vidyabhusana sent to Gopiballabhpur is dated 1758 AD, this is most probably the year in which the Govinda-bhasya was concluded. In corroboration to this, there is no copy of the Govinda-bhasya in the Khasmohor Collection, for Sawai Jai Singh II passed away in 1743 AD, and none of his successors seemed to share the same interest in philosophy. Since the Karika-bhasya was specifically meant to attend the King’s request and had to be delivered shortly to appease the alleged opposition, Vidyabhusana was as concise and fast as possible, but he knew that to make justice to the Gaudiya philosophy he would have to write a much more elaborate commentary later. This justifies the scarcity of copies of this text, as opposed to the Govinda-bhasya, whose copies were vastly distributed.

This edition includes the original in Sanskrit followed by the English translation and extensive notes.