Srimathe Ramanujaya Nama:
In a previous post, we enjoyed an introduction into the historical context of Sri Bhashyam. In this post, we will probe into the meaning of the first brahmasutra.
aTHAtO Brahma Jij~nAsA : (1-1-1)
The term ‘atha’ implies sequence, signifying that the inquiry into Brahman has to be taken up only after a study of Purva Mimamsa. The word ‘Therefore’ in the translation implies this causality. After one has made a detailed study of the Veda and Vedangas and having realised the truth that the fruits of karmas are trivial and impermanent, a person desires to make an enquiry into Brahman. This enquirer, in the process, desires a fruit which would be infinite and permanent.
Brahma jij~nasa, thus, is an enquiry into Brahman. This enquiry has to be made by a student about Brahman. This student is called the adhikari or upasaka.
Then comes the question – what is implied by the term ‘Brahman’?
Brahman denotes the highest person, i.e., Purushottama. By His very nature, Purushottama is against all that is imperfect. He is the host to infinite auspicious qualities called kalyana gunas.
The word ‘Brahman’ signifies Brhatva (greatness). That greatness here relates to two aspects of Brahman: (1) His Nature and (2) His Quality.
Jij~nasa translates to jnAtum ichhA – i.e. desire to know.
As we know, the Vedas are broadly classified into two parts. The former part is known as Purva Mimamsa or Karma Mimamsa and the latter is called Uttara Mimamsa or ‘Brahma Mimamsa.
One who has underwent a detailed study of Karma Mimamsa and subsequently practised it to realise that the fruits stemming from the performance of these karmas are finite and impermanent, resorts to making an enquiry into Brahman, fully aware of the fact that the fruits of engaging in such an action would bring him permanent, heavenly bliss.
According to Ramanuja, both the purva and uttara parts of the Mimamsa sastra constitute ONE unit. Bhagavad Bodhayana, the author of the Bodhayana Vritti grantha on the Brahmasutras too declares that the earlier Mimamsa and the latter Mimamsa constitutes ONE body of doctrines. This is a point of difference from Advaita Vedanta where Sankara treats them differently and emphatically denounces this requirement to learn Karma Mimamsa before proceeding into an inquiry into Brahman.
According to Ramanuja, Purva Mimamsa explains the various modes of worship of the Supreme Brahman (aradhana rupa) while the latter part explains the nature of Brahman who is worshipped in the karmas of the Purva Bhaga. There is no inherent contradiction between these two parts of the Mimamsa Sastra.
So, it is Ramanuja’s conclusion that after the enquiry into karma, one moves on to the enquiry into Brahman.