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Bharuchi and his Vedantic Views

Revision A: 10 October 2000


Ramanujacharya (1017-1137 C.E.), in his Vedarthasamgraha [ref. 1, pg. 250-251], states: “This path which is shown in all the srutis whose meaning is very lucidly explained by the ancient commentaries composed by Bodhayana, Tanka, Dramida, Guhadeva, Kapardi, Bharuchi etc., and accepted by all those who are competent to judge, is only arrived at by Bhakti that has developed along the above lines.” From this passage, it appears that Ramanujacharya acknowledges these 6 teachers as ancient authorities whose views are acceptable to him.

Srinivasadasa (17th Cent. C.E.), in the introduction of his Yatindramatadipika [ref. 2, pg. 2], gives a list of teachers who, in his opinion, were the predecessors of Ramanujacharya in propounding the Visishtadvaita Vedanta: Bhagavan Bodhayana, Guhadeva, Bharuchi, Brahmanandin (Tanka), Dramida, Sri Parankusa (Nammalvara Sathakopa), Nathamuni, Yamunamuni. Srivivasadasa was a teacher of the Visishtadvaita Vedanta, and the Yatindramatadipika is one of the most lucid compendiums of this school of Hindu philosophy.

In the epilogue of the same work, Srinivasadasa mentions a list of works (in chronological order), which he had referred to compose the Yatindramatadipika. ‘Dramidabhasya’, followed by works of Nathamuni and so on, heads the list. Again, no work of Guhadeva, Bharuchi or Tanka is mentioned in the list. Bhagavad Datta [ref. 3] suggests that the list is chronological, but gives no reason for the suggestion.

Since the Vedarthasamgraha and the Yatindramatadipika are both works on Vedanta, the above quotations would indicate that Bharuchi was an ancient teacher of Vedanta whose views were considered authoritative by the followers of Visishtadvaita Vedanta. Unfortunately however, neither Ramanujacharya nor any of his successors, ever quote Bharuchi’s views on Vedanta. This contrasts with the numerous citations from the compositions of Bodhayana, Vakyakara Tanka, Dramidacharya and Kapardi in the works of Ramanujacharya and his followers. This silence is true not only of the Sanskrit works of the Visishtadvaita Vedanta tradition, but also of the Tamil works [ref. 7]

None of his works on Vedanta or any quotation from any of these works has been traced till now, to my knowledge. Also, nothing is definitely known about his Vedantic views. His name also does not occur in numerous other lists of teachers of Vedanta found in medieval literature. Yamunacharya, a predecessor of Ramanujacharya in the Visishtadvaita Vedanta tradition, also gives a long list of names of commentators of Vedantic texts in his Atmasiddhi [ref. 8]. But this list too does not mention Bharuchi. Sesha, the commentator on the Madhva Vijaya of Narayana Bhatta, states that Madhvacharya, the founder of Dvaita Vedanta School of philosophy, refuted 21 commentaries on the Brahmasutras that were written by teachers before him [ref. 9]. Sesha then names the 21 commentators, omitting Bharuchi in the list.

Fortunately, several works of Bharuchi on dharma are referred to in the dharmashastra literature. One such quotation also occurs in the commentary composed on the Apastamba grhyasutra by Sudarshana Suri, another teacher of Visishtadvaita Vedanta. In this article, we will largely ignore the views of Bharuchi concerning dharmashastra, since these have been dealt with elsewhere [ref. 4] and do not form a part of our discussion.

The above considerations give rise to several questions:

What were the Vedantic views of Bharuchi?

Why did Ramanujacharya mention him as an authority in the Vedarthasamgraha?

Why did not any teacher of the Visishtadvaita Vedanta tradition quote Bharuchi’s works or views?

Why is Bharuchi’s name absent in the Atmasiddhi of Yamunacharya, and in almost all the writings or the successors of Ramanujacharya

In this article, we will consider only the first problem. The remaining three are inter-related, and will be treated in a separate article.

Date of Bharuchi

According to Derret [ref. 5], Medhatithi (950 C.E.) quotes Bharuchi and so Bharuchi was definitely anterior to 10th Cent. C.E. The Yatindramatadipika places him before Dramidacharya and Nathamuni. Noteworthy also is the fact that Bharuchi seemingly refers to Samkhya and Yoga as complementary systems, a pair mentioned commonly in pre-Shankaracharya texts like numerous Puranas and Mahabharata. Kane also suggests [ref. 4] that since Bharuchi seems to advocate a combination of knowledge and action, he must be pre-Shankaracharya because the latter had strongly preached a complete incompatibility between the two. From the way Bharuchi is cited in the medieval works of dharmashastra, he appears to have been a very old and venerable author on the dharmashastra. Beyond this information, nothing is positively known about Bharuchi’s date, and we can only speculate that there is a strong possibility that Bharuchi lived before Shankaracharya. For else, why would Ramanujacharya, a rival of Shankaracharya, appeal to the authority of Bharuchi in his Vedarthasamgraha?

Works of Bharuchi

1. Commentary on the Manusmrti: The portion of this work, called ‘Rijuvimala’ in the colophons, on the first 4 chapters and a part of the 5th chapter and several verses of the later chapters of Manusmrti is not extant. Derret [ref. 5] has ably published the extant portion, along with an English translation. This portion is also included in the collection of commentaries on Manusmrti published by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan [ref. 6]. The commentary is extremely concise, to the point, and takes great pains to clarify the context in which the various verses occur in the text of Manusmrti.

2. Commentary on Vishnudharmasutra: Several medieval dharmashastra digests quote from a commentary on the Vishnu Dharmasutra composed by Bharuchi [ref. 4]. From these citations, the text of the Vishnudharmasutra pre-supposed by Bharuchi appears somewhat different from the currently available one. It is well known that the text, as available currently, is multi-layered and composite. Numerous Indologists, like Jolly [ref. 10, intro.] have suggested that the Vishnudharmasutra was a recast of the dharmasutra belonging to the Kathaka Yajurveda Shakha. This Shakha of the Yajurveda was prevalent very widely in Punjab and in Kashmir. Even if this suggestion is correct, it would be too bold a conjecture to propose that Bharuchi might have hailed from Kashmir or an adjacent region.

Since Bharuchi probably commented on the Vishnu Dharma sutra in addition to the Manusmrti, and since Sudarshana Suri- a Visishtadvaitin quotes him reverentially on the commentary on Apastamba grhya Sutra 8.21.2, we may speculate that the three Bharuchis are one and the same person. This suggestion cannot be proved however.

The Vedanta of Bharuchi- a Reconstruction

In this section, an attempt has been made to reconstruct Bharuchi’s views on Vedantic topics from his commentary on the Manusmrti. Since there are numerous verses of Manusmrti that are related to the Purva Mimamsa-Vedanta-Samkhya doctrines, Bharuchi’s commentary on these could give us some ideas on his views on Vedanta. All pg. references are to Derret’s edition [ref. 5].

1. Combination of karma and jnana: Bharuchi appears to believe that a combination of works and knowledge is essential for salvation. For instance, on verse 6.74 of Manusmrti, he says – “As the sense requires, he (Manu) is about to teach in a later verse that there is a combination of knowledge and works. That is why he goes on- ‘But one who is deficient in vision’, i.e., one who confines himself to action (or ritual), re-enters samsara, through the medium of the abode of manes. There is therefore commendation either of the combination of knowledge and action or of discrimination alone.” (pg. 23) In the next verse, Bharuchi continues- “Consequently, in all the stages of life, combination of knowledge and action is to be known as the cause of attaining Brahmaloka...”. Again, on verse 6.82 he states: “Therefore the sense itself requires us to understand that just as a renunciate must meditate on the Self for his elevation, so Vedic study also is required of him.” On verse 6.86, commenting on the term ‘Veda-samnyasa’, Bharuchi says: “This is not a renunciation of obligatory duties such as the agnihotra since these are perpetual and it would be repugnant to the Shastra and, as I have said, it is not the renunciation of the Veda.”

2. Partial acceptance of Samkhya: He is not totally antagonistic to the Samkhya School of philosophy. According to him, the verse Manusmrti 6.78 agrees with the Samkhya and Yoga philosophy. For instance, on this verse, Bharuchi says: “Any inhabitant of this fabricated dwelling may, if he is an offender, abandon the body when the residue of karma is exhausted, like the unconscious fall of a tree. On the other hand one who has controlled his breath and mind by virtue of study is to be understood as consciously abandoning the body, like a bird, when he has escaped from deception, taken a correct view of Prakrti, furnished his self with special dharma, and has a mind absorbed in deep meditation. By both examples is illustrated the deposit of merit ( karmasaya) according to both the Samkhya and Yoga systems, and this is what is conveyed by the teaching of the two kinds of death.” However, verse 11.48 refutes the Samkhya doctrine according to Bharuchi, for he states: “So what the Samkhya says is refuted, namely that only through previous Karma comes prosperity or the reverse.” (The verse in question reads- “Evil minded men suffer disfigurement, some from misdeeds in this lie and some from those done previously). It might be noted that Shankaracharya adopts a very non-compromising attitude against the Samkhya School.

3. Distinction between Brahman and Jivas: Bharuchi himself seems to believe in a distinction between Jivas and Brahman. For instance, on verse 12.14 he states: “ The phrase ‘Him who is located’ means the Supreme Self Who is apart from the conscious and the unconscious and is to be described further on.” He then quotes Gita 15.16-17. On Manusmrti 12.15, Bharuchi comments: “What is said is this- those ‘innumerable forms’ fall from the Supreme Self, ‘from the body’, i.e. the Pradhana. ‘Forms’, results of causes, means of enjoyment for the ksetrajna. But those who profess the Upanishads, all the Supreme Self itself by the word ‘Sharira’” . In other words, Bharuchi seems to hold that Manu believes in the Samkhya doctrine of duality of Purusha and Pradhana while the followers of Upanishads state that Pradhana (Sharira) is nothing but Brahman- who is the material as well as the efficient cause of the Universe. Thus, Bharuchi was a pantheist. (On this statement of Bharuchi, Derret states that he is not able to understand the import of Bharuchi- but we have clarified the same above). This estimation of Manu’s views by Bharuchi is in contrast to Shankaracharya’s comment on Brahmasutra 2.2.1 that Manusmrti is totally opposed to the Samkhya theory on the evolution of the Universe. We might recall here that pre-Shankaracharya works like the Yuktidipika and Shlokavarttika of Kumarila also state that the ‘Aupanishadas’ (i.e., followers of Upanishads) believed that the entire Universe was a material effect of ‘Purusha.’

4. Atman is Nirguna: Again, on verse 12.16, Bharuchi appears to believe in the Vedantic dogma that the soul is ‘nirguna’ in the sense that it does not have sattva, rajas and tamas. However, Bharuchi believes in the duality of souls and matter in the effected world, for he states, on verse 12.85-”Knowledge of the self is the knowledge that the ksetrajna is elsewhere and apart from the body, senses, mind and intelligence and so on.”

5. Meditation as an Injunction: Bharuchi seems to subscribe to the Mimansa view that Meditation etc. are of the nature of action resulting from the injections of Upanishads. All Vedantins with the exception of Advaitins accept this view also. For instance, on verse 6.82, he states: “According to the context, this is either the action called ‘renunciation’ or the actions of all the stages of life, because the object is the same. What is indicated by ‘meditation’ (dhyana) is all whatever is stated by the word ‘vision’ of the highest good here or in the Shastra’s chapter on renunciation (Chapter 6). Whatever action occurs in the course of that meditation, during the vision of the highest good, is related to meditation. Therefore this is a commendation of the vision of the highest good or of the combination of knowledge and action....”

6. Devatas are parts of Brahman: While commenting on verse 12.85, he states- “Knowledge of the self is the knowledge of the Supreme Self, whether as a whole or in parts, revealed in the Upanishads which are at the end of the Veda, or it is the knowledge of the deities who are subsidiary to the ritual.”

7. Distinction between Advaitins and Dvaitins: Bharuchi refers to the distinction between dualists and non-dualists. On Manusmrti 12.118 (“He should see everything in the Self, with concentrated mind, both the true and the untrue. He who sees everything in the self does not turn his mind to adharma”), Bharuchi says - “Some say that the secret of dharma is the meditation on the self, having the ksetrajna as its object, contemplation of that. No, because this is contradictory. For Manu will say in verse 5.122 ‘ruler of all’. So the expression ‘self’ here must refer to the ‘Supreme Self.’ And so we will explain it. We now expound this verse. ‘Everything’ is what he will explain, i.e., the ‘true and the untrue’, the manifest and the un-manifest along with their modifications, what is called the ‘Pradhana.’ ‘In the Self’, i.e., in the Supreme Self which is the essence of all the Upanishads of the Vedic schools- superimposed, i.e. established, existing dependent on it, if one accepts the dualist position, or being the same self with it in the view of non-dualists....” Interestingly, Shankaracharya too mentions a distinction between dualists and non-dualists amongst Vedantins in his commentary on Brahmasutra 1.3.19 where he states: “Others again, and among them some of ours are of the opinion that the individual self as such is real.”

8. Manu as a Dualist: Bharuchi states, under verse 12.119, that Manu was a dualist. He states: “From this ‘location in the self’ we come to know of (Manu’s adherence) to the doctrine of non-duality, and not of the doctrine of duality. Therefore this text, which argued non-duality, is turned into a declamation by this contradiction with the doctrine adopted in scripture. Therefore the Supreme Self only appearing both as acceptance and the object of the offering, being located in each deity, who is auxiliary to the ritual, begets the karma yoga (i.e., the connection of action with its fruit) appropriate to the rituals consisting of meditation and so forth. Of whom? Of these ‘embodied beings’, which are entitled to perform the dharmas of the shastra and other things characterized by materiality.” This probably indicates that Bharuchi himself was a dualist. He declares his avowed preference to duality on verse 12.122 and cites verses from Gita and Brhadaranyaka Upanishad and states that the word ‘Supreme’ in the phrase ‘Supreme Self’ is to indicate Brahman’s supremacy with regard to other purushas (jivas). All this is also opposed to Shankaracharya’s comment on Brahmasutra 2.1.1 that Manusmrti teaches non-duality.

In summary, it appears that Bharuchi’s Vedantic views resembled those of Ramanujacharya, Bhaskara Bhatta and other non-Advaitins, more than they resembled the views of Advaita Vedanta. Therefore, when these Vedantins accused Shankaracharya for innovating the Vedantic tradition too much, they could have well quoted Bharuchi in support of their contentions. The evidence presented above is scanty and only suggestive, but Bharuchi’s views do have an archaic ring about them, and it is highly probable that he was long anterior to Shankaracharya.


1. J. A. B van Buitenen (Trans. and Ed.); Ramanuja’s Vedarthasamgraha; Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute; Poona; 1956

2. Swami Adidevananda (Ed. and trans.); Yatindramatadipika by Srinivasadasa; Sri Ramakrishna Math; Mylapore, Madras; 1978

3. Pandit Bhagvad Datta; Vaidika Vanmaya ka Itihasa, Part II (Brahmana aur Aranyaka Grantha) ; Pranava Prakashan, Delhi; 1974

4. Pandurang Vaman Kane; History of Dharamashastra- vol. I part I and II; Government Oriental Series Class B, No. 6; Baroda Oriental Research Institute, Poona; 1975

5. J. Duncan M. Derret (Ed. and Trans.); Bharuci’s commentary on the Manusmriti; Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH; Wiesbaden; 1975

6. Jayantakrishna Harikrishna Dave; Manu-Smrti with nine commentaries by Medhatithi, Sarvajnanarayana, Kulluka, Raghavananda, Nandana, Ramacandra, Manirama, Govindaraja and Bharuci; Bharatiya Vidya Series (vol. 29 etc.); Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan; Bombay; 1972-

7. Discussions with numerous scholars of the Sri Vaishnava (Visishtadvaita Vedanta) tradition

8. Neevel, Walter G. Jr.; Yamuna’s Vedanta and Pancaratra: Integrating the Classical and the Popular; Harvard Dissertations in Religion 10; Scholar’s Press; Missoula, Montana; 1977

9. Surendranath Dasgupta; A History of Indian Philosophy vol. IV; The University Press, Cambridge;1949

10. Julius Jolly; The Institutes of Vishnu; The Sacred Books of the East series, vol. VII; Motilal Banarsidass; Delhi; 1965

Acknowledgements: The author wishes to thank Dr. Vasudha Narayanan (Professor, Dept. of Religion, University of Florida) for reviewing the initial draft of the article.

Revision Level: Rev. AA (October 10, 2000): Article posted on the web

(c) Vishal Agarwal, 2000

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