Prasthanatraiya means the three sources of authority. It is the collective name given to the Upanishads, Bramha Sutra and Srimad Bhagavat Gita, which are accepted as three sources from which the different schools of Vedanta derived their authority.
Bramha Sutra are a compendium of 555 aphorisms by Sage Bhagavan Veda Vyasa. They present in concentrated form the entire philosophy of the Upanishads. It is the text book for post graduate study for a student of Vedanta. Bright students are led into the enquiry about the nature of the Supreme reality, the relation between man and this Supreme reality, the summam bonum of human birth, existence and the means and method of reaching it. These Sutras are clues intended as memory aids to intensive contemplation on the Supreme reality. Marked by economy of words to felicitate memorizing, they are capable of being understood from all points of view and gateway to experience the supreme bliss when assimilated properly.
The Bhagavat Gita
Bhagavat Gita – is the most popular religio philosophic poem of Sanskrit literature. It is the most beautiful perhaps the only true philosophical song of its kind existing in any known tongue. Conveys sublime teaching on religion, philosophy, ethics and the art and science of correct and efficient living and attitude towards life and its problems.
The Upanishads generally form the end of the aranyakas of the Vedas and therefore the philosophy obtaining therein is called as Vedanta meaning `end of the Vedas’. They contain the essence of Vedic teachings. They are the foundations on which most of the later philosophies and religions of India rest.
There is no important form of the Hindu thought which is not rooted in Upanishads. If the hold which a work has on the mind of man is any clue to its importance, then evidently the `Bhashya of Sri Adi Shankaracharya’ on Prasthanatriya is the most influential work in Indian thought.
The Upanishads say that the formless Bramhan has been assigned forms only for the convenience of the aspirant and it is not possible for ordinary man with finite equipment to concentrate on a `formless’ being. Sri Adi Shankara has maintained this “all through” in His Bhasyas, encouraging the Seekers step by step, as an aid to concentration, adoring the God for His ideals behind His Idols.
The father gives birth to one, but the Supreme Guru as Adi Shankaracharya alone can save the person from the necessity of being born again. One can repay the debt to his father by procreating offspring in his turn and by offering obsequious oblations for the pacification of his soul after death. But because the Supreme Guru saves His disciple from avidya, the debt to Him can never be repaid. Perhaps we can repay an Portion of the debt by passing on the knowledge in turn to other deserving disciples.
The Upanishads contain two sets of teaching regarding reality or Bramhan, addressed to two different levels of the mind. To the highest grade of the aspirants, belongs the disciple who has attained the mental equipment necessary entering upon the course of study, either in this birth or possesses an introvert mind as a result of discipline undergone in his last lives, qualifying him to grasp the teaching imparted in the Sruti.
This class of seekers comprises 2 grades. The first needs only reminding of the true nature of oneself by the Shruti through an experienced Adept (Guru) Who has Himself experienced the Truths of Vedanta, while the second requires guidance for the contemplation of the spiritual steps through which one has ultimately to reach the same self.
The other set of Upanishads teachings according to Sri Shankara, consists of injunctions for the meditation on apara (lower) Bramhan. This meditation is a mystical discipline assures benefits in the highest heavens called Bramha Loka. Then the question comes are there 2 Bramhans superior and inferior?
The supreme Bramhan is spoken of where It is indicated by such terms as `not gross’ through a negation of all distinctions of names and forms, etc., called up by ignorance. That very Bramhan becomes the inferior Bramhan where it is taught as possessed of some, distinct name, form, etc., for the sake of meditation, as in such words as “Identified with the mind, having prana as his body and effulgence as his form” etc.,. In short, it is not all that can realize the formless Absolute.
To them, Sri Shankara says that the Supreme is both formless and with form, formless when viewed in itself, not in relation to the universe, ever beyond the senses, beyond speech and mind, and with form when thought of in relation to the world as its creator, Sustainer and indweller.
The study of these prasthanatraya-bhashyas requires profound knowledge of Sanskrit and competency in Vyakarana, Nyaya and Mimamsa and in Veda-adhyayana. The study of these works kept alive to this day in all parts of India in guru-sishya relation which is characteristic of Indian tradition.