The Black Sun That Destroys Inner Darkness Or, How Bādarāyaṇa Became Vyāsa

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Aleksandar Uskokov



There is a widespread belief in Hinduism that Vyāsa, the alleged editor of the Vedas and author of the Mahābhārata, is identical with Bādarāyaṇa, the author of the Brahma-sūtra. The identification of these two mythic characters, however, originated between 800–980 CE, after the likes of Śaṅkara, Padmapāda, and Bhāskara, but before Vācaspati Miśra, Prakāśātman, Sarvajñātman, and Yāmuna. The purpose of this paper is to understand how and why such identification took place. The argument developed here is that the Bādarāyaṇa-Vyāsa identity was invented by the author of or community behind the Bhāgavata Purāṇa as part of a complex of self-representation strategies. The Bhāgavata intentionally makes itself a work of Vedānta, indeed the Brahma-sūtra itself, over which it builds a new soteriology that is centered on the idea of bhakti. Two factors in particular stand out in light of the Bhāgavata’s Vedāntic background: Vyāsa’s paradigmatic character as the preserver of old dharma and the innovator, visionary, of new soteriologies; and the image of Vyāsa’s son Śuka as the model ascetic and ideal candidate for the new soteriological vision, through whom the Bhāgavata community chose to represent itself.

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