Thursday, September 21, 2006

Quiz - 1 - Answers


Prostrations to all.

The number of responses for the quiz was quite good (more than what was expected). More than the individual scores, participation is important. Participation shows that there is interest in spiritual matters or sufficient time is being spent in spiritual studies. This is more important than getting the answers right or knowing more etc.

A seeker will be able to realize Brahman only through knowing Brahman. Knowing Brahman is possible only through the study of scriptures. Study of scriptures cannot be undertaken as a part-time activity as it is study of something which is beyond body, mind and intellect. Study of scriptures is possible only when there is real thirst and desire to know Brahman. This thirst to get liberated from the ocean of samsaara is what Vedanta calls as Mumukshutva or desire for liberation. As long as there is desire for liberation, liberation is sure in this birth or the next birth or after few births. But for the person who doesn’t have the strong desire to get liberated, there is no scope for liberation at all. He will be totally immersed in the world – getting churned in the ocean of samsaara. Vidyaranya calls such a person as keedaas or small animals in Panchadashi – they think they are happy & hence continue the way they are – instead of knowing that I am in bondage & thereby seeking liberation.

Enough of lectures and discourses……

We are in total 20 members (including myself). This is a good number as we started with a very little number. Out of 19 (excluding myself as I can’t answer the quiz that I myself have set), there were 7 responses which is quite a good number.

Please find attached the scores for the same.

As mentioned earlier, the scores are not important but what is important is involvement out of the desire to realize Brahman. This quiz was a very generic one not having any concept or theory, instead concentrating on very basic of works-authors. It is good to remember the authors-works etc. because this helps to sharpen the mind as well as create the attitude of respect for those acharyas who have spent their entire life authoring works and propounding theories so that ignorant people like us can follow the path that they have traversed thereby realizing Brahman.

Of course, the pass mark for the test is 10 (as these are basic things which we ought to know as students of Vedanta – no joke meant here!!!).

Let us now for some time analyze the question and its answer (only for those who have participated -- just joking, everyone can go through the answers for a clearer view on the questions).

The below are the questions (answers in bold):

1. What constitutes “Vedanta”:
a. Mandukya Upanishad, karika of Gaudapada and bhashya of Sankara
b. Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita
c. Sutras
d. Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Brahma Sutras

Vedanta is based on the prasthaana trayas. Traya means three, prasthaana means “prakarshanena stheeyathe” (that in which is clearly established the concepts). As Sankara points out in his Katha Upanishad Bhashya, Upanishad is that knowledge knowing which everything is known. But this knowledge is attained through the scriptural books so Upanishad is considered as the books. Vedanta is the essence of the Upanishads – it is that philosophy which is propounded in the Upanishads & is the knowledge of the ultimate reality of Brahman.

Upanishads are considered sruthi and hence it has the highest authority for anything. Thus Vedanta bases itself on the sruthi. Of the prasthaana trayas, the sruthi prasthaana is the Upanishads. The other two works are dependent on the sruthi for proper interpretation during conflicts or doubts. Upanishads are in fact 1180 in number as the skanda purana puts it (hope I got the purana name rightly). But most of them are extinct. What we have currently is a little more than 108 Upanishads which have been commented by Upanishad BrahmaYogin of Kanchi. But since most of these Upanishads contain clear statements of Advaita, therefore rival schools don’t accept these are sruthi but as writings of some advaitic author. Thus what is accepted as valid sruthi by all the schools of Vedanta are the dasha Upanishads which have been commented by Sankara (Isha, Kena, Katha, Prashna, Mundaka, Mandukya, Taittiriya, Aitareya, Chandogya and Brihadaranyaka).

Upanishads are direct and hence it is tough to understand and get the import of the Upanishads. In order for normal people to understand the truth in the Upanishads in a easy way, the Lord propounded the essence of Upanishads to Arjuna which is now popular as Bhagavad Gita. As Madhusudana Saraswathi says in his introduction to the Gita bhashya that Gita is the milk essence of the Upanishad-cow which has been churned by the milker of Krishna through the calf of Arjuna.

Since Bhagavad Gita has come from the intellect of the Lord and through remembrance of the truth in the Upanishads (remembrance because in those times there was only oral teaching and no written content – thus people used to remember sruthi in their mind), this is called the smrithi prasthaana (smrithi meaning human-intellect as well as remembrance from memory).

Even after Upanishads and Gita propounded the reality very clearly, still there were doubts prevailing among scholars. Hence Veda Vyaasa wrote the Brahma Sutras so that all doubts/confusions are removed & so that it is easier to remember than the 701 slokas of Gita or the huge 10 upanishad slokas. Thus Brahma Sutras form the sutra prasthaana or nyaaya prasthaana (nyaaya because it logically deals and proves doubtful topics through sruthi statements).

Thus Vedanta comprises:
a) Sruthi Prasthana – dasha Upanishads
b) Smrithi Prasthana – Bhagavad Gita
c) Sutra or Nyaaya Prasthana – Brahma Sutras

2. Who authored the Upanishads:
a. The various Rishis
b. Lord Brahma
c. No authorship
d. Veda Vyaasa

Various acharyas like Madhva and his followers have devoted a lot of words on this topic. But rather than going into lot of analysis, the answer is simple because sruthi is considered as the breath of Lord Brahma. They have no authors as they are not written down or are not a product of the human intellect. If they were, then there could be faults in them. But sruthi is faultless & hence they are not authored by any person.

But then, how did we get the Upanishads????
The Upanishads were revealed to the rishis or seers during their time of intense absorption or Samadhi. Thus the rishis are called Mantra Drestaas (Mantra seers) and not Mantra Karthaas (Mantra creators). Svetashwatara Upanishad speaks about the ultimate reality of Brahman creating Lord Brahma and imparting the Upanishads to him. It is as well said in many Upanishads (like Narayana Upanishad) that the Vedas came out from the mouth of Brahma. It is because of this that we also have the matsya avatar where the Vedas escaped from Brahma and the asura grasped them.

Thus there is a rishi associated with each part or sukta of the Vedas but they are just revealers of that part of the Vedas and not the authors of the Vedas.

As Vedas don’t have any authorship, they are eternal or anaadi and faultless as well.

Vedas were revealed to the various rishis. They imparted through oral teaching which was then “collected” or “accumulated” and “grouped” into four by Veda Vyaasa. Thus Veda Vyaasa only collected the existing slokas and classified them as the four Vedas.

3. Which are the Vedas:
a. Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva
b. Rig, Yajur and Saama (as atharva was not accepted by Vasistha)
c. Rig and Yajur
d. Rig alone (as all other Vedas have copied verses from Rig)

Vasistha, the grand grandfather of Veda Vyaasa didn’t accept Atharva Veda as authoritative. But Veda Vyaasa learnt it from Atharvana Jaabala and even used it to save emperor Shantanu who was on the verge of dying. But Vyaasa accepted Atharva Veda as one of the Vedas. Hence the four Vedas are Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva.

4. Sankara commented on the Vedas (true or false): TRUE – Sankara did comment on the Upanishads which are part of the Vedas. If the question was “Sankara commented on the entire Vedas”, then the answer would have been FALSE as there are only two entire commentary on the Vedas which are by Sayanacharya and Bhatta Bhaskara.

5. Bhagavad Gita was written by:
a. No authorship
b. Lord Krishna
c. Ganapathi
d. Veda Vyaasa

Pardon the tricky questions. The Bhagavad Gita was written by Ganapathi. Gita was imparted by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. It was recorded or authored by Veda Vyaasa whereas literally written by Ganapathi. Since the question was not that of authorship but that of “writing”, therefore the right answer is GANAPATHI.

6. Which is not a work of Sankara:
a. Bhaja Govindam
b. Panchadashi
c. Atma Bodha
d. Soundarya Lahari

Simply question as all other works are that of Sankara whereas Panchadashi is the most famous work of Vidyaranya.

7. Who is the author of Panchadashi:
a. Sankara
b. Bharathi Teertha
c. Maadhavacharya
d. Sureshwaracharya

This question is a bit tough one to answerJ. Bharathi Teertha was the brother of Vidyaranya and hence he cannot be the author of Panchadashi (even though Ramakrishna in his commentary on Panchadashi salutes both Vidyaranya and Bharathi Teertha but still the work is considered as Vidyaranya’s). That Bharathi Teertha and Vidyaranya were brothers and different persons is accepted by everyone. Bharathi Teertha was the 11th pontiff of Sringeri whereas Vidyaranya was the 12th (

Vidyaranya’s purva ashrama name was Maadhavacharya. There is a work attributed to Maadhava-Vidyaranya which is the famous Sankara-dig vijaya. There are many other works attributed to Maadhavacharya. Also in the colophon of the commentaries on the Vedas, it is mentioned the names of Saayanacharya and Maadhavacharya. Thus it is beyond doubt and accepted by all that Maadhavacharya was the purva ashrama name of Vidyaranya.

Since there was no option of Vidyaranya here, therefore the answer for this question is Maadhavacharya.

8. Panchadashi consists of how many chapters:
a. 5
b. 10
c. 10 + 1 (summary)
d. 15

Pancha means 5 and dashi means 10 – thus panchadashi consists of 15 chapters.

9. Who is the author of Mayavada Khandana Tika:
a. Anandagiri
b. Ananda Teertha
c. Madhvacharya
d. Jaya Teertha

Mayavada Khandana (the original work) was written by Madhvacharya whereas the tika on the same (called Mayavada Khandana Tika) was written by Jaya Teertha. Jaya Teertha has written tikas or annotations on almost all of the works of Madhvacharya and hence is also called the tikaakara of Dvaita.

10. Who is known as the tikakara (annotator) of Advaita:
a. Sureshwaracharya
b. Anandagiri
c. Vidyaranya
d. Sankara

Like Jaya Teertha, Anandagiri has written tikas on the bhashyas of Sankara (dasha Upanishad, gita and brahma sutra bhashya tikaas). Hence he is known as the tikaakara in Advaita. Sureshwaracharya has written vartikas on the bhashyas of Sankara as well as some minor works of Sankara and hence is known as Vartikakaara in Advaita.

Pardon the long explanations for the answers of the questions.

Since there was good response to this quiz, we will continue this and will have a quiz each week (around Thursday or Friday so that people get more time to find out the answers for the same). We will continue with objective questions for few quizzes and then will shift to subjective (hoping that people have enough time for the same).

Also welcoming others in the forum also to take responsibility to conduct quiz. Maybe we can have something like this week’s quiz by me, next week by Neelakantan, the next to next by Koushik etc. so that everybody can do a bit of research on preparations of the questions as well as the answers.

So, voluntarily who wants to conduct the quiz for this week???? (requesting at least some response or else will have to chose a person myself for the same).

PS: Hoping a much better participation for the next quiz.

Prostrations to all.



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