Brahman

Brahman (Sanskrit: ब्रह्म, "the Supreme Being; the Absolute Reality; Godhead"), from the verb brh, "to grow", and connotes "immensity" — is the impersonal and immanent, infinite cause and support of the universe that has no form or attributes. The uncaused cause of the Universe; satchidānanda (Existence-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute), The Eternal Changeless Reality, not conditioned by time, space and causation. Brahman is the basis, source and support of everything — the transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this universe. Its nature consists of the three incommunicable attributes of (1) sat (Absolute Being), (2) chit (Consciousness), (3) ananda (Bliss). This Supreme Being assumes a dual nature — Male and Female. The male aspect is known as Purusha which means “that-which-fills” — and the Female aspect is known as Shakti which translates as “Energy” or “Dynamic Force” or Prakriti — material nature. Also called as Paramātman (Universal Self), Parasiva, Ultimate Reality, Supreme Being or the Absolute.

Description

The Vedas depict Brahman as the Ultimate Reality, the Absolute or Paramātman (Universal Self). Brahman is the indescribable, inexhaustible, incorporeal, omniscient, omnipresent, original, first, eternal, both transcendent and immanent, absolute infinite existence, and the ultimate principle who is without a beginning, without an end , who is hidden in all and who is the cause, source, material and effect of all creation known, unknown and yet to happen in the entire universe.

Brahman (not to be confused with the deity Brahmā) is seen as a Cosmic Spirit. The personality behind Brahman is known as Parabrahman (The superior Brahman). Brahman may be viewed as Nirguna Brahman (without personal attributes) or Saguna Brahman (with attributes).

The Mundaka Upanishad says:

AUM
That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite.
The infinite proceeds from infinite.
Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone.

— Mundaka Upanishad

Conceptualization

Brahman is not an object, as It is Adrisya, beyond the reach of the eyes. Hence the Upanishads declare: “Neti Neti—not this, not this….” This does not mean that Brahman is a negative concept, or a metaphysical abstraction, or a nonentity, or a void. It is not another. It is all-full, infinite, changeless, self-existent, self-delight, self-knowledge and self-bliss. It is Svarupa, essence. It is the essence of the knower. It is the Drashta (Seer), Turiya (Transcendent) and Sakshi (Silent Witness).

Brahman is said to be eternal, genderless, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and ultimately indescribable in the human language. It can be at best described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss. Brahman is regarded as the source and essence of the material universe. It is pure being. Brahman manifests as Hiranyagarbha, the "world soul", which also can take many forms or manifestations of the thousands of gods. It was deemed a singular substrate from which all that is arises, and debuts with this verse:

Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman.

— Atharva Veda

Essentially, it is also beyond being and non-being alike, and thus does not quite fit with the usual connotations of the word God and even the concept of monism. For this reason, some authors use the word 'Godhead' for Brahman, to distinguish it from the usual usage of the word 'God'. To call this concept 'God' would be imprecise. The closest interpretation of the term can be found in the Taittariya Upanishad where Brahman is described in the following manner:

satyam jnanam anantam brahman
"Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity"

Thus, Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material or otherwise. Brahman is the root source and Divine Ground of everything that exists, and does not exist.

The Hindu scriptures declare that Brahman (the impersonal God) is beyond description, and can be understood only through direct spiritual experience. Nevertheless, for the benefit of others, the ancient Hindu sages who experienced Brahman attempted to describe their experiences, as recorded in the ancient Vedic texts known as the Upanishads.

Several mahā-vākyas, or great sayings, indicate what the principle of Brahman is:

rajnānam brahma
"Brahman is knowledge"

ayam ātmā brahma
"The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman"

aham brahmāsmi
"I am Brahman"

tat tvam asi
"You are that"

sarvam khalv idam brahma
"All this that we see in the world is Brahman"

sachchidānanda brahma
"Brahman is existence, consciousness, and happiness"

Thus, Brahman is conceived of as the very essence of existence and knowledge, which pervades the entire universe, including every living being. The goal of Hinduism is to somehow "wake up," and realize one's own connection to the divine reality that may be called Brahman or God. Because God is everywhere, God is also present within each living being.

Nirguna and Saguna Brahman

Brahman possesses infinite potential, power and intelligence, and therefore cannot be limited by a single name or form. Thus, Hindus view the Brahman as having two aspects: impersonal and personal. The impersonal aspect is called Nirguna Brahman in Hindu scriptures. Nirguna Brahman has no attributes and, as such, is not an object of prayer, but of meditation and knowledge. This aspect of Brahman is beyond conception, beyond reasoning and beyond thought. The personal aspect of Brahman is known as Saguna Brahman, that is Brahman with attributes.

Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman are not two different Brahmans. Nirguna Brahman is not the contrast, antithesis or opposite of Saguna Brahman. The same Nirguna Brahman appears as Saguna Brahman for the pious worship of devotees. It is the same Truth from two different points of view. Nirguna Brahman is the higher Brahman, the Brahman from the transcendental viewpoint (Paramarthika); Saguna Brahman is the lower Brahman, the Brahman from the relative viewpoint (Vyavaharika).

Nirguna Brahman

The Absolute without qualities, is impersonal, without guna or attributes, Nirakara (formless), Nirvisesha (without special characteristics), immutable, eternal and Akarta (non-agent). It is above all needs and desires. It is always the Witnessing Subject. It can never become an object as It is beyond the reach of the senses. Brahman is non-dual, one without a second. It has no other beside It. It is destitute of difference, either external or internal. Brahman cannot be described, because description implies distinction. Brahman cannot be distinguished from any other than It. In Brahman, there is not the distinction of substance and attribute. Sat-Chit-Ananda (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss) constitute the very essence or Svarupa of Brahman, and not just Its attributes.

Saguna Brahman

Qualified absolute, came from the Sanskrit saguṇa (सगुण) "with qualities" and brahman (ब्रह्मन्) "the Absolute." The personal aspect of the Ultimate Reality. Saguna Brahman is the creator, sustainer and controller of the universe. As the male aspect, Saguna Brahman is called by various Sanskrit names, such as Ishvara, Parameshvara, paramatma, Maheshvara, and Purusha. As the female aspect, Saguna Brahman is refered by various names, such as Divine Mother, Durgã and Kãlî.

Despite the abstract principle of Brahman, most Hindus worship Brahman on a day-to-day basis in one of Brahman's less abstract personal forms, such as Vishnu, Shiva, or Shakti. Some Hindus worship these personal forms for a practical reason: it is easier to cultivate devotion to a personal being than to an abstract principle. Other Hindus, such as those following the dvaita-advaita traditions, consider the personal forms in themselves to be the highest form of truth and worship Brahman as an infinite and yet personal being.

Enlightenment and Brahman

While Brahman lies behind the sum total of the objective universe, some human minds boggle at any attempt to explain it with only the tools provided by reason. Brahman is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond intelligence, beyond imagination. Indeed, the highest idea is that Brahman is beyond both existence and non-existence, transcending and including time, causation and space, and thus can never be known in the same material sense as one traditionally 'understands' a given concept or object.

Imagine a person who is blind from birth and has not seen anything. Is it possible for us to explain to him the meaning of the colour red? Is any amount of thinking or reasoning on his part ever going to make him understand the sensation of the colour red? In a similar fashion the idea of Brahman cannot be explained or understood through material reasoning or any form of human communication. Brahman is like the colour red; those who can sense it cannot explain or argue with those who have never sensed it.

Brahman is considered the all pervading consciousness which is the basis of all the animate and inanimate entities and material. (brahmano hi pratisthaham, Bhagavad Gita 14.27)

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