Brahma Sūtra is authored by Bādarāyaṇa, who is identified with Veda Vyāsa. Brahma Sūtra is the essence of Vedānta, which means the logical end of Vedas. Conveyance of Vedas is both gross and subtle. Gross conveyance leads to rituals, dharma śāstra-s (dos and don’ts), etc and subtle conveyance leads realization of Brahman, also known as the Self. Along with Brahma Sūtra, Upaniṣad-s and Bhagavad Gītā also dwell only on realization of the Self. These three together are known as prasthāna traya. Prasthāna means setting out, which can be interpreted to mean setting out knowledge to attain liberation in order to mitigate the sufferings of transmigration. Why transmigration is painful? Ones pattern of life is determined by our thoughts and actions. The basic principle of life is “what one sows, so he reaps”. There are two aspects in human life. One is mind and another is action. Out of these two, mind is superior, as mind exercises complete control on all our actions. Without the involvement of mind, no voluntary action can take place. Human mind is extraordinarily powerful. Hence, human birth is considered as Divine Gift. It is Divine Gift because, human mind is the tool through which Brahman can be realized. There is no other way to realize Brahman. Rituals do not give liberation. At the most, they form foundation for perfect spiritual pursuit. In order to realize Brahman, twin requirements are there. One is knowledge about Brahman and another is practice. Unless one attains perfection in these two, desired result will never be there.
There are two aspects of realization. One is through Guru’s teachings. Guru’s teachings are extremely important in Self-realization, which is vastly different from rituals. Rituals are gross in nature. Brahman is subtle in nature and He is to be known only through negations and affirmations. This is the mode of teaching of all Upaniṣad-s. At the end of their teachings, the teacher says to his disciple, “tat tvaṁ asi”, which means “you are That”, where you refers to the disciple and That refers to Brahman. This is what a Guru does. Guru imparts supreme knowledge to his disciple and at the end of his teachings and depending upon the grasping capacity of the student, a Guru chooses to impart the essence of his teachings by saying, “you are Brahman”. This is known as upadeśa. When the disciple understands the teaching of his Guru and moves forward from upadeśa to his personal experience and at the end of his experience, he affirms “I am Brahman” or “ahaṁ brahmaṁ asmi”. This experience is due to the effect of his Guru’s teachings. Without Guru saying to the disciple “you are That”, the disciple cannot truthfully make affirmation “I am Brahman”. This affirmation is made without personal experience, it tantamount to falsified or illusionary realization. Teaching of Guru leads to experience and at the end of his own experience, the student affirms “I am Brahman”. This alone is real upadeśa and is totally different from mantra upadeśa-s done by gurus. Getting initiated into mantras, practicing mantras, attaining perfection in mantras and finally seeking the concerned deity is a circuitous route to liberation. The basic problem with this route is that one has to contemplate a deity with a shape and form and then move on to realize Brahman without form. Identifying oneself with the form of a deity is dualism. One can argue that it is not dualism because he identifies himself with the deity. Brahman is without form and hence He is called nirguṇa Brahman. Only nirguṇa Brahman can be realized, as He alone is formless. In fact, it is not right to address Him as He, She or It, because He is beyond all these classifications. Nirguṇa Brahman means Brahman without any attributes, whatsoever.
Brahma Sūtra has four Chapters. The first chapter deals with Samanvaya known as harmony. This Chapter has four subsections and all the four subsections put together have 134 aphorisms. Second chapter, which too has four subsections, deals with avirodha, known as non-contradiction. This chapter has 157 aphorisms. Third Chapter deals with sādhana, known as spiritual practice. This chapter also has four subsections and has 186 aphorisms. The fourth and final chapter deals with the results arising out of knowledge (first two chapters) and practice (third chapter). This chapter also has four sub sections and has 78 aphorisms. Thus, Brahma Sūtra has in all 555 aphorisms.
Elaborate and voluminous commentaries are available on Brahma Sūtra. Commentaries are elaborate because, each sūtra needs such elaborate commentaries. But, the aim of this series is restricted only to the extent of elucidating knowledge about Brahman (chapter I and II), right kind of spiritual practice (chapter III) and the result of knowledge and practice leading to realization (chapter IV). This series will be highly concise in nature, without losing the object and purpose of wonderful revelations of Brahma Sūtra.