Brahman

In Hinduism, Brahman connotes the highest Universal Principle, the Ultimate Reality in the universe.[1][2][3] In major schools of Hindu philosophy, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists.[2][4][5] It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes.[1][3] [6] Brahman as a metaphysical concept is the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe.[1][7]

Brahman is a Vedic Sanskrit word, and it is conceptualized in Hinduism, states Paul Deussen, as the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world".[8] Brahman is a key concept found in the Vedas, and it is extensively discussed in the early Upanishads.[9] The Vedas conceptualize Brahman as the Cosmic Principle.[10] In the Upanishads, it has been variously described as Sat-cit-ānanda (truth-consciousness-bliss)[11][12] and as the unchanging, permanent, highest reality.[13][14][note 1][note 2]

Brahman is discussed in Hindu texts with the concept of Atman (Self),[9][17] personal,[note 3] impersonal[note 4] or Para Brahman,[note 5] or in various combinations of these qualities depending on the philosophical school.[18] In dualistic schools of Hinduism such as the theistic Dvaita Vedanta, Brahman is different from Atman (soul) in each being.[5][19][20] In non-dual schools such as the Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is identical to the Atman, is everywhere and inside each living being, and there is connected spiritual oneness in all existence.[6][21][22]

Wassertropfen
A drop in the ocean: an analogy for Ātman merging in Brahman

Etymology and related terms

Sanskrit Brahman (an n-stem, nominative bráhmā) from a root bṛh- "to swell, expand, grow, enlarge" is a neuter noun to be distinguished from the masculine brahmán—denoting a person associated with Brahman, and from Brahmā, the creator God in the Hindu Trinity, the Trimurti. Brahman is thus a gender-neutral concept that implies greater impersonality than masculine or feminine conceptions of the deity. Brahman is referred to as the supreme self. Puligandla states it as "the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world",[23] while Sinar states Brahman is a concept that "cannot be exactly defined".[24]

In Vedic Sanskrit:

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuter[25] gender) from root bṛh-, means "to be or make firm, strong, solid, expand, promote".[26]
  • Brahmana (ब्रह्मन) (nominative singular, never plural), from stems brha (to make firm, strong, expand) + Sanskrit -man- from Indo-European root -men- which denotes some manifest form of "definite power, inherent firmness, supporting or fundamental principle".[26]

In later Sanskrit usage:

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter[25] gender) means the concept of the transcendent and immanent ultimate reality, Supreme Cosmic Spirit in Hinduism. The concept is central to Hindu philosophy, especially Vedanta; this is discussed below. Brahm is another variant of Brahman.
  • Brahmā (ब्रह्मा) (nominative singlular), Brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (masculine gender), means the deity or deva Prajāpati Brahmā. He is one of the members of the Hindu trinity and associated with creation, but does not have a cult in present-day India. This is because Brahmā, the creator-god, is long-lived but not eternal i.e. Brahmā gets absorbed back into Purusha at the end of an aeon, and is born again at the beginning of a new kalpa.

These are distinct from:

  • A brāhmaa (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, pronounced [ˈbɽaːɦmɐɳɐ]), (which literally means "pertaining to prayer") is a prose commentary on the Vedic mantras—an integral part of the Vedic literature.
  • A brāhmaa (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, same pronunciation as above), means priest; in this usage the word is usually rendered in English as "Brahmin". This usage is also found in the Atharva Veda. In neuter plural form, Brahmāṇi. See Vedic priest.
  • Ishvara, (lit., Supreme Lord), in Advaita, is identified as a partial worldly manifestation (with limited attributes) of the ultimate reality, the attributeless Brahman. In Visishtadvaita and Dvaita, however, Ishvara (the Supreme Controller) has infinite attributes and the source of the impersonal Brahman.
  • Devas, the expansions of Brahman/God into various forms, each with a certain quality. In the Vedic religion, there were 33 devas, which later became exaggerated to 330 million devas. In fact, devas are themselves regarded as more mundane manifestations of the One and the Supreme Brahman (See Para Brahman). The Sanskrit word for "ten million" also means group, and 330 million devas originally meant 33 types of divine manifestations.

History and literature

Vedic

Brahman is a concept present in Vedic Samhitas, the oldest layer of the Vedas dated to the 2nd millennium BCE. For example,[27]

The Ṛcs are limited (parimita),
The Samans are limited,
And the Yajuses are limited,
But of the Word Brahman, there is no end.

— Taittiriya Samhita VII.3.1.4, Translated by Barbara Holdrege[27]

The concept Brahman is referred to in hundreds of hymns in the Vedas.[28] For example, it is found in Rig veda hymns such as 2.2.10,[29] 6.21.8,[30] 10.72.2[31] and in Atharva veda hymns such as 6.122.5, 10.1.12, and 14.1.131.[28] The concept is found in various layers of the Vedic literature; for example:[28] Aitareya Brahmana 1.18.3, Kausitaki Brahmana 6.12, Satapatha Brahmana 13.5.2.5, Taittiriya Brahmana 2.8.8.10, Jaiminiya Brahmana 1.129, Taittiriya Aranyaka 4.4.1 through 5.4.1, Vajasaneyi Samhita 22.4 through 23.25, Maitrayani Samhita 3.12.1:16.2 through 4.9.2:122.15. The concept is extensively discussed in the Upanishads embedded in the Vedas (see next section), and also mentioned in the vedāṅga (the limbs of Vedas) such as the Srauta sutra 1.12.12 and Paraskara Gryhasutra 3.2.10 through 3.4.5.[28]

Jan Gonda states that the diverse reference of Brahman in the Vedic literature, starting with Rigveda Samhitas, convey "different senses or different shades of meaning".[32] There is no one single word in modern Western languages that can render the various shades of meaning of the word Brahman in the Vedic literature, according to Jan Gonda.[32] In verses considered as the most ancient, the Vedic idea of Brahman is the "power immanent in the sound, words, verses and formulas of Vedas". However, states Gonda, the verses suggest that this ancient meaning was never the only meaning, and the concept evolved and expanded in ancient India.[33]

Barbara Holdrege states that the concept Brahman is discussed in the Vedas along four major themes: as the Word or verses (Sabdabrahman),[34] as Knowledge embodied in Creator Principle, as Creation itself, and a Corpus of traditions.[35] Hananya Goodman states that the Vedas conceptualize Brahman as the Cosmic Principles underlying all that exists.[10] Gavin Flood states that the Vedic era witnessed a process of abstraction, where the concept of Brahman evolved and expanded from the power of sound, words and rituals to the "essence of the universe", the "deeper foundation of all phenomena", the "essence of the self (Atman, soul)", and the deeper "truth of a person beyond apparent difference".[36]

Upanishads

Mozzercork - Heart (by)
Swan (Hansa, हंस) is the symbol for Brahman-Atman in Hindu iconography.[37][38]

The primary focus on the early Upanishads is Brahmavidya and Atmavidya, that is the knowledge of Brahman and the knowledge of Atman (self, soul), what it is and how it is understood.[39] The texts do not present a single unified theory, rather they present a variety of themes with multiple possible interpretations, which flowered in post-Vedic era as premises for the diverse schools of Hinduism.[9]

Paul Deussen states that the concept of Brahman in the Upanishads expands to metaphysical, ontological and soteriological themes, such as it being the "primordial reality that creates, maintains and withdraws within it the universe",[40] the "principle of the world",[40] the "absolute",[41] the "general, universal",[42] the "cosmic principle",[43] the "ultimate that is the cause of everything including all gods",[44] the "divine being, Lord, distinct God, or God within oneself",[45] the "knowledge",[46] the "soul, sense of self of each human being that is fearless, luminuous, exalted and blissful",[47] the "essence of liberation, of spiritual freedom",[48] the "universe within each living being and the universe outside",[47] the "essence and everything innate in all that exists inside, outside and everywhere".[49]

Gavin Flood summarizes the concept of Brahman in the Upanishads to be the "essence, the smallest particle of the cosmos and the infinite universe", the "essence of all things which cannot be seen, though it can be experienced", the "self, soul within each person, each being", the "truth", the "reality", the "absolute", the "bliss" (ananda).[36]

According to Radhakrishnan, the sages of the Upanishads teach Brahman as the ultimate essence of material phenomena that cannot be seen or heard, but whose nature can be known through the development of self-knowledge (atma jnana).[50]

The Upanishads contain several mahā-vākyas or "Great Sayings" on the concept of Brahman:[51]

Text Upanishad Translation Reference
अहं ब्रह्म अस्मि
aham brahmāsmi
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 "I am Brahman" [52]
अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म
ayam ātmā brahma
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5 "The Self is Brahman" [53]
सर्वं खल्विदं ब्रह्म
sarvam khalvidam brahma
Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1 "All this is Brahman" [54]
एकमेवाद्वितीयम्
ekam evadvitiyam
Chandogya Upanishad 6.2.1 "That [Brahman] is one, without a second" [55]
तत्त्वमसि
tat tvam asi
Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7 et seq. "Thou art that" ("You are Brahman") [56][57]
प्रज्ञानं ब्रह्म
prajnānam brahma
Aitareya Upanishad 3.3.7 "Wisdom is Brahman" [58]

The Upanishad discuss the metaphysical concept of Brahman in many ways, such as the Śāṇḍilya doctrine in Chapter 3 of the Chandogya Upanishad, among of the oldest Upanishadic texts.[59] The Śāṇḍilya doctrine on Brahman is not unique to Chandogya Upanishad, but found in other ancient texts such as the Satapatha Brahmana in section 10.6.3. It asserts that Atman (Soul, Self inside man) exists, the Brahman is identical with Atman, that the Brahman is inside man—thematic quotations that are frequently cited by later schools of Hinduism and modern studies on Indian philosophies.[59][60][61]

This whole universe is Brahman. In tranquility, let one worship It, as Tajjalan (that from which he came forth, as that into which he will be dissolved, as that in which he breathes).

— Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1[59][62]

Man is a creature of his Kratumaya (क्रतुमयः, will, purpose). Let him therefore have for himself this will, this purpose: The intelligent, whose body is imbued with life-principle, whose form is light, whose thoughts are driven by truth, whose self is like space (invisible but ever present), from whom all works, all desires, all sensory feelings encompassing this whole world, the silent, the unconcerned, this is me, my Self, my Soul within my heart.

— Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.1 – 3.14.3[59][63]

This is my Soul in the innermost heart, greater than the earth, greater than the aerial space, greater than these worlds. This Soul, this Self of mine is that Brahman.

— Chandogya Upanishad 3.14.3 – 3.14.4[62][63]

Paul Deussen notes that teachings similar to above on Brahman, re-appeared centuries later in the words of the 3rd century CE Neoplatonic Roman philosopher Plotinus in Enneades 5.1.2.[62]

Discussion

The concept Brahman has a lot of undertones of meaning and is difficult to understand. It has relevance in :

Brahman as a metaphysical concept

Brahman is the key metaphysical concept in various schools of Hindu philosophy. It is the theme in its diverse discussions to the two central questions of metaphysics: what is ultimately real, and are there principles applying to everything that is real?[64] Brahman is the ultimate "eternally, constant" reality, while the observed universe is a different kind of reality but one which is "temporary, changing" Maya in various orthodox Hindu schools. Maya pre-exists and co-exists with Brahman—the Ultimate Reality, The Highest Universal, the Cosmic Principles.[65]

In addition to the concept of Brahman, Hindu metaphysics includes the concept of Atman—or soul, self—which is also considered ultimately real.[65] The various schools of Hinduism, particularly the dual and non-dual schools, differ on the nature of Atman, whether it is distinct from Brahman, or same as Brahman. Those that consider Brahman and Atman as distinct are theistic, and Dvaita Vedanta and later Nyaya schools illustrate this premise.[66] Those that consider Brahman and Atman as same are monist or pantheistic, and Advaita Vedanta, later Samkhya[67] and Yoga schools illustrate this metaphysical premise.[68][69][70] In schools that equate Brahman with Atman, Brahman is the sole, ultimate reality.[71] The predominant teaching in the Upanishads is the spiritual identity of soul within each human being, with the soul of every other human being and living being, as well as with the supreme, ultimate reality Brahman.[72][73]

In the metaphysics of the major schools of Hinduism, Maya is perceived reality, one that does not reveal the hidden principles, the true reality—the Brahman. Maya is unconscious, Brahman-Atman is conscious. Maya is the literal and the effect, Brahman is the figurative Upādāna—the principle and the cause.[65] Maya is born, changes, evolves, dies with time, from circumstances, due to invisible principles of nature. Atman-Brahman is eternal, unchanging, invisible principle, unaffected absolute and resplendent consciousness. Maya concept, states Archibald Gough, is "the indifferent aggregate of all the possibilities of emanatory or derived existences, pre-existing with Brahman", just like the possibility of a future tree pre-exists in the seed of the tree.[65]

While Hinduism sub-schools such as Advaita Vedanta emphasize the complete equivalence of Brahman and Atman, they also expound on Brahman as saguna Brahman—the Brahman with attributes, and nirguna Brahman—the Brahman without attributes.[74] The nirguna Brahman is the Brahman as it really is, however, the saguna Brahman is posited as a means to realizing nirguna Brahman, but the Hinduism schools declare saguna Brahman to be a part of the ultimate nirguna Brahman[75] The concept of the saguna Brahman, such as in the form of avatars, is considered in these schools of Hinduism to be a useful symbolism, path and tool for those who are still on their spiritual journey, but the concept is finally cast aside by the fully enlightened.[75]

Brahman as an ontological concept

Brahman, along with Soul/Self (Atman) are part of the ontological[76] premises of Indian philosophy.[77][78] Different schools of Indian philosophy have held widely dissimilar ontologies. Buddhism and Carvaka school of Hinduism deny that there exists anything called "a soul, a self" (individual Atman or Brahman in the cosmic sense), while the orthodox schools of Hinduism, Jainism and Ajivikas hold that there exists "a soul, a self".[79][80]

Brahman as well the Atman in every human being (and living being) is considered equivalent and the sole reality, the eternal, self-born, unlimited, innately free, blissful Absolute in schools of Hinduism such as the Advaita Vedanta and Yoga.[81][82][83] Knowing one's own self is knowing the God inside oneself, and this is held as the path to knowing the ontological nature of Brahman (universal Self) as it is identical to the Atman (individual Self). The nature of Atman-Brahman is held in these schools, states Barbara Holdrege, to be as a pure being (sat), consciousness (cit) and full of bliss (ananda), and it is formless, distinctionless, nonchanging and unbounded.[81]

In theistic schools, in contrast, such as Dvaita Vedanta, the nature of Brahman is held as eternal, unlimited, innately free, blissful Absolute, while each individual's soul is held as distinct and limited which can at best come close in eternal blissful love of the Brahman (therein viewed as the Godhead).[84]

Other schools of Hinduism have their own ontological premises relating to Brahman, reality and nature of existence. Vaisheshika school of Hinduism, for example, holds a substantial, realist ontology.[85] The Carvaka school denied Brahman and Atman, and held a materialist ontology.[86]

Brahman as an axiological concept

Brahman and Atman are key concepts to Hindu theories of axiology: ethics and aesthetics.[87][88] Ananda (bliss), state Michael Myers and other scholars, has axiological importance to the concept of Brahman, as the universal inner harmony.[89][90] Some scholars equate Brahman with the highest value, in an axiological sense.[91]

The axiological concepts of Brahman and Atman is central to Hindu theory of values.[92] A statement such as 'I am Brahman', states Shaw, means 'I am related to everything', and this is the underlying premise for compassion for others in Hinduism, for each individual's welfare, peace, or happiness depends on others, including other beings and nature at large, and vice versa.[93] Tietge states that even in non-dual schools of Hinduism where Brahman and Atman are treated ontologically equivalent, the theory of values emphasizes individual agent and ethics. In these schools of Hinduism, states Tietge, the theory of action are derived from and centered in compassion for the other, and not egotistical concern for the self.[94]

The axiological theory of values emerges implicitly from the concepts of Brahman and Atman, states Bauer.[95] The aesthetics of human experience and ethics are one consequence of self-knowledge in Hinduism, one resulting from the perfect, timeless unification of one's soul with the Brahman, the soul of everyone, everything and all eternity, wherein the pinnacle of human experience is not dependent on an afterlife, but pure consciousness in the present life itself.[95] It does not assume that an individual is weak nor does it presume that he is inherently evil, but the opposite: human soul and its nature is held as fundamentally unqualified, faultless, beautiful, blissful, ethical, compassionate and good.[95][96] Ignorance is to assume it evil, liberation is to know its eternal, expansive, pristine, happy and good nature.[95] The axiological premises in the Hindu thought and Indian philosophies in general, states Nikam, is to elevate the individual, exalting the innate potential of man, where the reality of his being is the objective reality of the universe.[97] The Upanishads of Hinduism, summarizes Nikam, hold that the individual has the same essence and reality as the objective universe, and this essence is the finest essence; the individual soul is the universal soul, and Atman is the same reality and the same aesthetics as the Brahman.[97]

Brahman as a teleological concept

Brahman and Atman are very important teleological concepts. Teleology deals with the apparent purpose, principle or goal of something. In the first chapter of the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, these questions are dealt with. It says :

"People who make inquiries about brahman say:

What is the cause of Brahman? Why were we born? By what do we live? On what are we established? Governed by whom, O you who know Brahman, do we live in pleasure and in pain, each in our respective situation?

— Svetashvatara Upanishad, Hymns 1.1[98][99]

The main purpose of the Brahman and why it exists is a subjective question according to the Upanishads. One can only find out its true purpose when one becomes the Brahman as the 'Brahman' is all the knowledge one can know itself. Hence, complete answers for anything in life can only be determined or obtained when the Brahman is realized as the Brahman is all the complete knowledge itself. This is said in the Aitareya Upanishad 3.3 and Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.17 and many other Upanishads.

Knowledge is the eye of all that, and on knowledge it is founded. Knowledge is the eye of the world, and knowledge, the foundation. Brahman is knowing.

— Aitereya Upanishad, Hymns 3.3[100][101]

One of the reasons to why the Brahman should be realized according to the Upanishads is because it removes suffering from a person's life. This is because the person has the ability and knowledge to discriminate between the unchanging (Atman and Brahman) and the ever-changing (Prakrit) and so the person is not attached to the transient. Hence, the person is only content with the self and not his body or anything other than the self.

In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3.9.26 it mentions that the atman 'neither trembles in fear nor suffers injury' and in the Isha Upanishad 6-7 it too talks about suffering as non existent when one becomes the Brahman as they see the self in all beings and all beings in the self. Therefore, the apparent purpose of Brahman is in discussion in the Upanishads but the Brahman itself is the only self-contained purpose and true goal according to the Upanishads, so posing the question is redundant. The Upanishads consider the Brahman the only actual worthwhile goal in life and ultimately one should aim to become it as it is the means and an end in and of itself to ultimate knowledge, immortality, etc. So the question of what is the ultimate purpose of everything including the Brahman is answered by realizing or attaining the Brahman as the Brahman itself is ultimate knowledge. Hence, the Brahman is a teleological concept as it is the ultimate purpose and goal of everything possible and permeates everything and is in everything.

Brahman as a soteriological concept: Moksha

The orthodox schools of Hinduism, particularly Vedanta, Samkhya and Yoga schools, focus on the concept of Brahman and Atman in their discussion of moksha. The Advaita Vedanta holds there is no being/non-being distinction between Atman and Brahman. The knowledge of Atman (Self-knowledge) is synonymous to the knowledge of Brahman inside the person and outside the person. Furthermore, the knowledge of Brahman leads to a sense of oneness with all existence, self-realization, indescribable joy, and moksha (freedom, bliss),[102] because Brahman-Atman is the origin and end of all things, the universal principle behind and at source of everything that exists, consciousness that pervades everything and everyone.[103]

The theistic sub-school such as Dvaita Vedanta of Hinduism, starts with the same premises, but adds the premise that individual souls and Brahman are distinct, and thereby reaches entirely different conclusions where Brahman is conceptualized in a manner similar to God in other major world religions.[19] The theistic schools assert that moksha is the loving, eternal union or nearness of one's soul with the distinct and separate Brahman (Vishnu, Shiva or equivalent henotheism). Brahman, in these sub-schools of Hinduism is considered the highest perfection of existence, which every soul journeys towards in its own way for moksha.[104]

Schools of thought

Vedanta

The concept of Brahman, its nature and its relationship with Atman and the observed universe, is a major point of difference between the various sub-schools of the Vedanta school of Hinduism.

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta espouses nondualism. Brahman is the sole unchanging reality,[71] there is no duality, no limited individual souls nor a separate unlimited cosmic soul, rather all souls, all of existence, across all space and time, is one and the same.[6][81][105] The universe and the soul inside each being is Brahman, and the universe and the soul outside each being is Brahman, according to Advaita Vedanta. Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material and spiritual. Brahman is the root source of everything that exists. He states that Brahman can neither be taught nor perceived (as an object of intellectual knowledge), but it can be learned and realized by all human beings.[21] The goal of Advaita Vedanta is to realize that one's Self (Atman) gets obscured by ignorance and false-identification ("Avidya"). When Avidya is removed, the Atman (Soul, Self inside a person) is realized as identical with Brahman.[74] The Brahman is not an outside, separate, dual entity, the Brahman is within each person, states Advaita Vedanta school of Hinduism. Brahman is all that is eternal, unchanging and that which truly exists.[71] This view is stated in this school in many different forms, such as "Ekam sat" ("Truth is one"), and all is Brahman.

The universe does not simply come from Brahman, it is Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, a proponent of Advaita Vedanta, the knowledge of Brahman that shruti provides cannot be obtained by any other means besides self inquiry.[106]

In Advaita Vedanta, nirguna Brahman, that is the Brahman without attributes, is held to be the ultimate and sole reality.[71][75] Consciousness is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. In this respect, Advaita Vedanta differs from other Vedanta schools.[107]

Example verses from Bhagavad-Gita include:

The offering is Brahman; the oblation is Brahman;
offered by Brahman into the fire of Brahman.
Brahman will be attained by him,
who always sees Brahman in action. – Hymn 4.24[108][109]

He who finds his happiness within,
His delight within,
And his light within,
This yogin attains the bliss of Brahman, becoming Brahman. – Hymn 5.24[110]

— Bhagavad Gita

Dvaita Vedanta

Brahman of Dvaita is a concept similar to God in major world religions.[19] Dvaita holds that the individual soul is dependent on God, but distinct.[19]

Dvaita propounds Tattvavada which means understanding differences between Tattvas (significant properties) of entities within the universal substrate as follows:

  1. Jîva-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the soul and Vishnu
  2. Jada-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the insentient and Vishnu
  3. Mitha-jîva-bheda — difference between any two souls
  4. Jada-jîva-bheda — difference between insentient and the soul
  5. Mitha-jada-bheda — difference between any two insentients

Achintya Bheda Abheda

The Acintya Bheda Abheda philosophy is similar to Dvaitadvaita (differential monism). In this philosophy, Brahman is not just impersonal, but also personal. That Brahman is Supreme Personality of Godhead, though on first stage of realization (by process called jnana) of Absolute Truth, He is realized as impersonal Brahman, then as personal Brahman having eternal Vaikuntha abode (also known as Brahmalokah sanatana), then as Paramatma (by process of yogameditation on Supersoul, Vishnu-God in heart)—Vishnu (Narayana, also in everyone's heart) who has many abodes known as Vishnulokas (Vaikunthalokas), and finally (Absolute Truth is realized by bhakti) as Bhagavan, Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is source of both Paramatma and Brahman (personal, impersonal, or both).

Vaishnavism

All Vaishnava schools are panentheistic and perceive the Advaita concept of identification of Atman with the impersonal Brahman as an intermediate step of self-realization, but not Mukti, or final liberation of complete God-realization through Bhakti Yoga. Gaudiya Vaishnavism, a form of Achintya Bheda Abheda philosophy, also concludes that Brahman is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to them, Brahman is Lord Vishnu/Krishna; the universe and all other manifestations of the Supreme are extensions of Him.

Bhakti movement

The Bhakti movement of Hinduism built its theosophy around two concepts of Brahman—Nirguna and Saguna.[111] Nirguna Brahman was the concept of the Ultimate Reality as formless, without attributes or quality.[112] Saguna Brahman, in contrast, was envisioned and developed as with form, attributes and quality.[112] The two had parallels in the ancient pantheistic unmanifest and theistic manifest traditions, respectively, and traceable to Arjuna-Krishna dialogue in the Bhagavad Gita.[111][113] It is the same Brahman, but viewed from two perspectives, one from Nirguni knowledge-focus and other from Saguni love-focus, united as Krishna in the Gita.[113] Nirguna bhakta's poetry were Jnana-shrayi, or had roots in knowledge.[111] Saguna bhakta's poetry were Prema-shrayi, or with roots in love.[111] In Bhakti, the emphasis is reciprocal love and devotion, where the devotee loves God, and God loves the devotee.[113]

Jeaneane Fowler states that the concepts of Nirguna and Saguna Brahman, at the root of Bhakti movement theosophy, underwent more profound development with the ideas of Vedanta school of Hinduism, particularly those of Adi Shankara's Advaita Vedanta, Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, and Madhvacharya's Dvaita Vedanta.[112] Two 12th-century influential treatises on bhakti were Sandilya Bhakti Sutra—a treatise resonating with Nirguna-bhakti, and Narada Bhakti Sutra—a treatise that leans towards Saguna-bhakti.[114]

Nirguna and Saguna Brahman concepts of the Bhakti movement has been a baffling one to scholars, particularly the Nirguni tradition because it offers, states David Lorenzen, "heart-felt devotion to a God without attributes, without even any definable personality".[115] Yet given the "mountains of Nirguni bhakti literature", adds Lorenzen, bhakti for Nirguna Brahman has been a part of the reality of the Hindu tradition along with the bhakti for Saguna Brahman.[115] These were two alternate ways of imagining God during the bhakti movement.[111]

Buddhist understanding of Brahman

Buddhism rejects the Upanishadic doctrine of Brahman and Atman (soul, permanent self, essence).[note 6] According to Damien Keown, "the Buddha said he could find no evidence for the existence of either the personal soul (atman) or its cosmic counterpart (brahman)".[116] The metaphysics of Buddhism rejects Brahman (ultimate being), Brahman-like essence, soul and anything metaphysically equivalent through its Anatta doctrine.[117][118][119]

According to Merv Fowler, some forms of Buddhism have incorporated concepts that resemble that of Brahman.[note 7] As an example, Fowler cites the early Sarvastivada school of Buddhism, which "had come to accept a very pantheistic religious philosophy, and are important because of the impetus they gave to the development of Mahayana Buddhism".[120] According to William Theodore De Bary, in the doctrines of the Yogacara school of Mahayana Buddhism, "the Body of Essence, the Ultimate Buddha, who pervaded and underlay the whole universe [...] was in fact the World Soul, the Brahman of the Upanishads, in a new form".[121] According to Fowler, some scholars have identified the Buddhist nirvana, conceived of as the Ultimate Reality, with the Hindu Brahman/atman; Fowler claims that this view "has gained little support in Buddhist circles."[122] Fowler asserts that the authors of a number of Mahayana texts took pains to differentiate their ideas from the Upanishadic doctrine of Brahman.[note 8]

Brahma as a surrogate for Brahman in Buddhist texts

The spiritual concept of Brahman is far older in the Vedic literature, and some scholars suggest deity Brahma may have emerged as a personal conception and icon with form and attributes (saguna version) of the impersonal, nirguna (without attributes), formless universal principle called Brahman.[123] In the Hindu texts, one of the earliest mention of deity Brahma along with Vishnu and Shiva is in the fifth Prapathaka (lesson) of the Maitrayaniya Upanishad, probably composed in late 1st millennium BCE, after the rise of Buddhism.[124][125][126]

The early Buddhists attacked the concept of Brahma, states Gananath Obeyesekere, and thereby polemically attacked the Vedic and Upanishadic concept of gender neutral, abstract metaphysical Brahman.[127] This critique of Brahma in early Buddhist texts aim at ridiculing the Vedas, but the same texts simultaneously call metta (loving-kindness, compassion) as the state of union with Brahma. The early Buddhist approach to Brahma was to reject any creator aspect, while retaining the value system in the Vedic Brahmavihara concepts, in the Buddhist value system.[127] According to Martin Wiltshire, the term "Brahma loka" in the Buddhist canon, instead of "Svarga loka", is likely a Buddhist attempt to choose and emphasize the "truth power" and knowledge focus of the Brahman concept in the Upanishads.[128] Simultaneously, by reformulating Brahman as Brahma and relegating it within its Devas and Samsara theories, early Buddhism rejected the Atman-Brahman premise of the Vedas to present of its own Dhamma doctrines (anicca, dukkha and anatta).[129]

Brahman in Sikhism

Ik Onkar (left) is part of the Mul Mantar in Sikhism, where it means "Onkar [God, Reality] is one".[130] The Onkar of Sikhism is related to Om—also called Omkāra[131]—in Hinduism.[130][132] The ancient texts of Hinduism state Om to be a symbolism for the Highest Reality, Brahman.[133][134]

Ek onkar
Om devanagari

The metaphysical concept of Brahman, particularly as nirguni Brahman—attributeless, formless, eternal Highest Reality—is at the foundation of Sikhism.[135] This belief is observed through nirguni Bhakti by the Sikhs.[136][137]

In Gauri, which is part of the Guru Granth Sahib, Brahman is declared as "One without a second", in Sri Rag "everything is born of Him, and is finally absorbed in Him", in Var Asa "whatever we see or hear is the manifestation of Brahman".[138] Nesbitt states that the first two words, Ik Onkar, in the twelve-word Mul Mantar at the opening of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib, has been translated in three different ways by scholars: "There is one god", "This being is one", and as "One reality is".[130]

Similar emphasis on "One without a second" for metaphysical concept of Brahman, is found in ancient texts of Hinduism, such as the Chandogya Upanishad's chapter 6.2.[139][140] The ideas about God and Highest Reality in Sikhism share themes found in the Saguna and Nirguna concepts of Brahman in Hinduism.[135][141]

The concept of Ultimate Reality (Brahman) is also referred in Sikhism as Nam, Sat-naam or Naam, and Ik Oankar like Hindu Om symbolizes this Reality.[142][143]

Brahman in Jainism

Scholars contest whether the concept of Brahman is rejected or accepted in Jainism. The concept of a theistic God is rejected by Jainism, but Jiva or "Atman (soul) exists" is held to be a metaphysical truth and central to its theory of rebirths and Kevala Jnana.[144]

Bissett states that Jainism accepts the "material world" and "Atman", but rejects Brahman—the metaphysical concept of Ultimate Reality and Cosmic Principles found in the ancient texts of Hinduism.[145] Goswami, in contrast, states that the literature of Jainism has an undercurrent of monist theme, where the self who gains the knowledge of Brahman (Highest Reality, Supreme Knowledge) is identical to Brahman itself.[146] Jaini states that Jainism neither accepts nor rejects the premise of Ultimate Reality (Brahman), instead Jain ontology adopts a many sided doctrine called Anekantavada. This doctrine holds that "reality is irreducibly complex" and no human view or description can represent the Absolute Truth.[147][148] Those who have understood and realized the Absolute Truth are the liberated ones and the Supreme Souls, with Kevala Jnana.[147]

Comparison of Brahma, Brahman, Brahmin and Brahmanas

Brahma is distinct from Brahman.[149] Brahma is a male deity, in the post-Vedic Puranic literature,[150] who creates but neither preserves nor destroys anything. He is envisioned in some Hindu texts to have emerged from the metaphysical Brahman along with Vishnu (preserver), Shiva (destroyer), all other gods, goddesses, matter and other beings.[151] In theistic schools of Hinduism where deity Brahma is described as part of its cosmology, he is a mortal like all gods and goddesses, and dissolves into the abstract immortal Brahman when the universe ends, thereafter a new cosmic cycle (kalpa) restarts again.[150][152]

Brahman is a metaphysical concept of Hinduism referring to the ultimate unchanging reality,[149][153][154] that, states Doniger, is uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, the cause, the foundation, the source and the goal of all existence.[151] It is envisioned as either the cause or that which transforms itself into everything that exists in the universe as well as all beings, that which existed before the present universe and time, which exists as current universe and time, and that which will absorb and exist after the present universe and time ends.[151] It is a gender neutral abstract concept.[151][155][156] The abstract Brahman concept is predominant in the Vedic texts, particularly the Upanishads;[157] while the deity Brahma finds minor mention in the Vedas and the Upanishads.[158] In the Puranic and the Epics literature, deity Brahma appears more often, but inconsistently. Some texts suggest that god Vishnu created Brahma (Vaishnavism),[159] others suggest god Shiva created Brahma (Shaivism),[160] yet others suggest goddess Devi created Brahma (Shaktism),[161] and these texts then go on to state that Brahma is a secondary creator of the world working respectively on their behalf.[161][162] Further, the medieval era texts of these major theistic traditions of Hinduism assert that the saguna[note 9] Brahman is Vishnu,[164] is Shiva,[165] or is Devi[166] respectively, they are different names or aspects of the Brahman, and that the Atman (soul, self) within every living being is same or part of this ultimate, eternal Brahman.[167]

Brahmin is a varna in Hinduism specialising in theory as priests, preservers and transmitters of sacred literature across generations.[168][169]

The Brahmanas are one of the four ancient layers of texts within the Vedas. They are primarily a digest incorporating myths, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases philosophy.[170][171] They are embedded within each of the four Vedas, and form a part of the Hindu śruti literature.[172]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ "not sublatable",[14] the final element in a dialectical process which cannot be eliminated or annihilated (German: "aufheben").
  2. ^ It is also defined as:
  3. ^ Saguna Brahman, with qualities
  4. ^ Nirguna Brahman, without qualities
  5. ^ Supreme
  6. ^ Merv Fowler, Zen Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 2005), p. 30: "Upanisadic thought is anything but consistent; nevertheless, there is a common focus on the acceptance of a totally transcendent Absolute, a trend which arose in the Vedic period. This indescribable Absolute is called Brahman [...] The true Self and Brahman are one and the same. Known as the Brahman-Atman synthesis, this theory, which is central to Upanisadic thought, is the cornerstone of Indian philosophy. The Brahman-Atman synthesis, which posits the theory of a permanent, unchanging self, was anathema to Buddhists, and it was as a reaction to the synthesis that Buddhism first drew breath. Merv Fowler p. 47: "For the Upanisadic sages, the real is the Self, is Atman, is Brahman. [...] To the Buddhist, however, any talk of an Atman or permanent, unchanging Self, the very kernel of Upanisadic thought, is anathema, a false notion of manifest proportion."
  7. ^ Merv Fowler, Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 1999), p. 34: "It was inevitable that the non-theistic philosophy of orthodox Buddhism should court the older Hindu practices and, in particular, infuse into its philosophy the belief in a totally transcendent Absolute of the nature of Brahman."
  8. ^ Merv Fowler, Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 1999), p. 82: "The original writers of these Mahayana texts were not at all pleased that their writings were seen to contain the Brahman of the Upanisads in a new form. The authors of the Lankavatara strenuously denied that the womb of Tathagatahood, [...] was in any way equatable with the 'eternal self', the Brahmanical atman of Upanisadic thought. Similarly, the claim in the Nirvana Sutra that the Buddha regarded Buddhahood as a 'great atman' caused the Yogacarins considerable distress."
  9. ^ representation with face and attributes)[163]

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External links

Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta (; Sanskrit: अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST: Advaita Vedānta, literally, "not-two"), originally known as Puruṣavādha, is a school of Hindu philosophy, and believed to be one of the classic paths to spiritual realization as per Hindu tradition. The term Advaita refers to its idea that the true self, Atman, is the same as the highest metaphysical Reality (Brahmam). The followers of this school are known as Advaita Vedantins, or just Advaitins or Mayavaadis, and they seek spiritual liberation through acquiring vidyā, meaning knowledge, of one's true identity as Atman, and the identity of Atman and Brahman.Advaita Vedanta traces its roots in the oldest Upanishads. It relies on three textual sources called the Prasthanatrayi. It gives "a unifying interpretation of the whole body of Upanishads", the Brahma Sutras, and the Bhagavad Gita. Advaita Vedanta is the oldest extant sub-school of Vedanta, which is one of the six orthodox (āstika) Hindu philosophies (darśana). Although its roots trace back to the 1st millennium BCE, the most prominent exponent of the Advaita Vedanta is considered by the tradition to be 8th century scholar Adi Shankara.Advaita Vedanta emphasizes Jivanmukti, the idea that moksha (freedom, liberation) is achievable in this life in contrast to Indian philosophies that emphasize videhamukti, or moksha after death. The school uses concepts such as Brahmam, Atman, Maya, Avidya, meditation and others that are found in major Indian religious traditions, but interprets them in its own way for its theories of moksha. Advaita Vedanta is one of the most studied and most influential schools of classical Indian thought. Many scholars describe it as a form of monism, others describe the Advaita philosophy as non-dualistic. Advaita is considered to be philosophy or spiritual pathway rather than a religion, it does not require those who follow it to be of a particular faith or sect.Advaita influenced and was influenced by various traditions and texts of Hindu philosophies such as Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, other sub-schools of Vedanta, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, the Puranas, the Agamas, as well as social movements such as the Bhakti movement. Beyond Hinduism, Advaita Vedanta interacted and developed with the other traditions of India such as Jainism and Buddhism. Advaita Vedanta texts espouse a spectrum of views from idealism, including illusionism, to realist or nearly realist positions expressed in the early works of Shankara. In modern times, its views appear in various Neo-Vedanta movements. It has been termed as the paradigmatic example of Hindu spirituality.

Brahma

Brahma (Sanskrit: ब्रह्मा, IAST: Brahmā) is the creator god in Hinduism. He is also known as Svayambhu (self-born) or the creative aspect of Vishnu, Vāgīśa (Lord of Speech), and the creator of the four Vedas, one from each of his mouths. Brahma is consort of Saraswati and he is the father of Four Kumaras, Narada, Daksha, Marichi and many more.Brahma is sometimes identified with the Vedic god Prajapati, he is also known as Vedanatha (god of Vedas), Gyaneshwar (god of Knowledge), Chaturmukha (having Four Faces) Svayambhu (self born), Brahmanarayana (half Brahma and half Vishnu), etc, as well as linked to Kama and Hiranyagarbha (the cosmic egg). He is more prominently mentioned in the post-Vedic Hindu epics and the mythologies in the Puranas. In the epics, he is conflated with Purusha. Although, Brahma is part of the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva Trimurti, ancient Hindu scriptures mention multiple other trinities of gods or goddesses which do not include Brahma.Several Puranas describe him as emerging from a lotus, connected to the navel of Lord Vishnu. Other Puranas suggest that he is born from Shiva or his aspects, or he is a supreme god in diverse versions of Hindu mythology. Brahma, along with other deities, is sometimes viewed as a form (saguna) of the otherwise formless (nirguna) Brahman, the ultimate metaphysical reality in Vedantic Hinduism. In an alternate version, some Puranas state him to be the father of Prajapatis.According to some, Brahma does not enjoy popular worship in present-age Hinduism and has lesser importance than the other members of the Trimurti, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is revered in ancient texts, yet rarely worshiped as a primary deity in India. Very few temples dedicated to him exist in India; the most famous being the Brahma Temple, Pushkar in Rajasthan. Brahma temples are found outside India, such as at the Erawan Shrine in Bangkok.

Brahman cattle

The Brahman is an American breed of zebuine beef cattle. It was bred in the United States from 1885 from cattle originating in India, imported at various times from the United Kingdom, from India and from Brazil; these included Gir, Guzerá, Indu-Brasil and Ongole stock. The Brahman has a high tolerance of heat, sunlight and humidity, and good resistance to parasites. It has been exported to many countries, particularly in the Tropics; in Australia it is the most numerous breed of cattle. It has been used in the creation of numerous taurine-indicine hybrids, some of which – such as the Brahmousin – are established as separate breeds.:137

Chandogya Upanishad

The Chandogya Upanishad (Sanskrit: छांदोग्योपनिषद्, IAST: Chāndogyopaniṣad) is a Sanskrit text embedded in the Chandogya Brahmana of the Sama Veda of Hinduism. It is one of the oldest Upanishads. It lists as number 9 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads.The Upanishad belongs to the Tandya school of the Samaveda. Like Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, the Chandogya Upanishad is an anthology of texts that must have pre-existed as separate texts, and were edited into a larger text by one or more ancient Indian scholars. The precise chronology of Chandogya Upanishad is uncertain, and it is variously dated to have been composed by the 8th to 6th century BCE in India.It is one of the largest Upanishadic compilations, and has eight Prapathakas (literally lectures, chapters), each with many volumes, and each volume contains many verses. The volumes are a motley collection of stories and themes. As part of the poetic and chants-focussed Samaveda, the broad unifying theme of the Upanishad is the importance of speech, language, song and chants to man's quest for knowledge and salvation, to metaphysical premises and questions, as well as to rituals.The Chandogya Upanishad is notable for its lilting metric structure, its mention of ancient cultural elements such as musical instruments, and embedded philosophical premises that later served as foundation for Vedanta school of Hinduism. It is one of the most cited texts in later Bhasyas (reviews and commentaries) by scholars from the diverse schools of Hinduism. Adi Shankara, for example, cited Chandogya Upanishad 810 times in his Vedanta Sutra Bhasya, more than any other ancient text.

Garha Brahman

Garha Brahman is a village in the Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in the Berasia tehsil.

God in Hinduism

The concept of God in Hinduism varies in its diverse traditions. Hinduism spans a wide range of beliefs such as henotheism, monotheism, polytheism, panentheism, pantheism, pandeism, monism, atheism and nontheism.Forms of theism find mention in the Bhagavad Gita. Emotional or loving devotion (bhakti) to a primary god such as avatars of Vishnu (Krishna for example), Shiva and Devi emerged in the early medieval period, and is now known as Bhakti movement. Other Hindus consider atman within every living being to be same as Vishnu or Shiva or Devi, or alternatively identical to the eternal metaphysical Absolute called (Brahman) in Hinduism. Such a philosophical system of Advaita or non-dualism as it developed in the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy, especially as set out in the Upanishads and popularised by Adi Shankara in the 9th century has been influential on Hinduism.The Dvaita tradition founded by 13th/14th-century Madhvacharya is based on a concept similar to God in other major world religions. His writings led some early colonial-era Indologists such as George Abraham Grierson to suggest Madhvacharya was influenced by Christianity, but later scholarship has rejected this theory. Madhva's historical influence in Hinduism, state Kulandran and Kraemer, has been salutary, but not extensive.

Kadaia Brahman

Kadaia Brahman is a village in the Bhopal district of Madhya Pradesh, India. It is located in the Berasia tehsil.

Kena Upanishad

The Kena Upanishad (Kenopaniṣat) is a Vedic Sanskrit text classified as one of the primary or Mukhya Upanishads that is embedded inside the last section of the Talavakara Brahmanam of the Samaveda. It is listed as number 2 in the Muktikā, the canon of the 108 Upanishads of Hinduism.

The Kena Upanishad was probably composed sometime around the middle of the 1st millennium BCE. It has an unusual structure where the first 13 are verses composed as a metric poem, followed by 15 prose paragraphs of main text plus 6 prose paragraphs of epilogue. Paul Deussen suggests that the latter prose section of the main text is far more ancient than the poetic first section, and Kena Upanishad bridged the more ancient prose Upanishad era with the metric poetic era of Upanishads that followed.Kena Upanishad is notable in its discussion of Brahman with attributes and without attributes, and for being a treatise on "purely conceptual knowledge". It asserts that the efficient cause of all the gods, symbolically envisioned as forces of nature, is Brahman. This has made it a foundational scripture to Vedanta school of Hinduism, both the theistic and monistic sub-schools after varying interpretations. The Kena Upanishad is also significant in asserting the idea of "Spiritual Man", "Soul is a wonderful being that even gods worship", "Atman (Soul) exists", and "knowledge and spirituality are the goals and intense longing of all creatures".

Mundaka Upanishad

The Mundaka Upanishad (Sanskrit: मुण्डक-उपनिषद्, Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad) is an ancient Sanskrit Vedic text, embedded inside Atharva Veda. It is a Mukhya (primary) Upanishad, and is listed as number 5 in the Muktika canon of 108 Upanishads of Hinduism. It is among the most widely translated Upanishads.It is a poetic verse style Upanishad, with 64 verses, written in the form of mantras. However, these mantras are not used in rituals, rather they are used for teaching and meditation on spiritual knowledge.The Mundaka Upanishad contains three Mundakams (parts), each with two sections. The first Mundakam, states Roer, defines the science of "Higher Knowledge" and "Lower Knowledge", and then asserts that acts of oblations and pious gifts are foolish, and do nothing to reduce unhappiness in current life or next, rather it is knowledge that frees. The second Mundakam describes the nature of the Brahman, the Self, the relation between the empirical world and the Brahman, and the path to know Brahman. The third Mundakam expands the ideas in the second Mundakam and then asserts that the state of knowing Brahman is one of freedom, fearlessness, complete liberation, self-sufficiency and bliss.Some scholars suggest that passages in the Mundaka Upanishad present the pantheism theory.

In some historic Indian literature and commentaries, the Mundaka Upanishad is included in the canon of several verse-structured Upanishads that are together called as Mantra Upanishad and Mantropanishad.

Non-difference (Abheda)

Non-difference, this word not to be found in the English Dictionary is the nearest English translation of the Sanskrit word, Abheda. The word, Abheda, means non-existence of difference. In Vedanta philosophy this word plays a vital role in explaining the indicatory mark in respect of the unity of the individual self with the Infinite or Brahman.

Om

Om (listen , IAST: Om, Devanagari: ॐ Om or Aum is the Sanskrit representation of Almighty Brahman (God), In the English language, the word generally refers to Supreme Self the Almighty God in Hinduism, Brahman (God) is Absolute, Formless, Supreme self, Highest Consciousness, Ultimate Reality, Creator of all existence, Om differs in other languages Tamil: ௐ, Telugu: ఓం, Kannada: ಓಂ), also written as Aum, is the most sacred Vedic syllable, and mantra in Hinduism. The syllable is often chanted either independently or before a mantra; it signifies the essence of the ultimate reality, consciousness or Atman. The Om sound is the primordial sound and is called the Shabda-Brahman, (Brahman as sound) is the Vedic Sound of pure Consciousness Brahman (God).Om is part of the iconography found in ancient and medieval era manuscripts, temples, monasteries and spiritual retreats in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. The symbol has a spiritual meaning in all Indian dharmas, but the meaning and connotations of Om vary between the diverse schools within and across the various traditions.

In Hinduism, Om is one of the most important spiritual sounds. It refers to Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge). The syllable is often found at the beginning and the end of chapters in the Vedas, the Upanishads, and other Hindu texts. It is a sacred spiritual incantation made before and during the recitation of spiritual texts, during puja and private prayers, in ceremonies of rites of passages (sanskara) such as weddings, and sometimes during meditative and spiritual activities such as Yoga. It is also used in other Dharmic religions, such as Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

The syllable Om is also referred to as onkara (ओङ्कार, oṅkāra), omkara (ओंकार, oṃkāra) and pranava (प्रणव, praṇava).

Para Brahman

Para Brahman (Sanskrit:परब्रह्मन्) (IAST: Para Brahman) is the "Highest Brahman" that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. It is described in Hindu texts as the formless (in the sense that it is devoid of Maya) spirit (soul) that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond.Hindus conceptualize the Para Brahman in diverse ways. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, Nirguna Brahman (Brahman without attributes) is Para Brahman. In Dvaita and Vishistadvaita Vedanta traditions, Saguna Brahman (Brahman with qualities) is Para Brahman. In Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism, Adi Narayana, Parama Shiva and Adi Shakti respectively are Para Brahman.

Paramatman

Paramatman (Sanskrit: परमात्मन्, IAST: Paramātmāṇ) or Paramātmā is the Absolute Atman, or supreme Self, in various philosophies such as the Vedanta and Yoga schools in Hindu theology, as well as other Indian religions like Sikhism. The Paramatman is the "Primordial Self" or the "Self Beyond" who is spiritually practically identical with the Absolute, identical with the Brahman. Selflessness is the attribute of Paramatman, where all personality/individuality vanishes.

Shabda Brahman

Shabda Brahman or Sabda-brahman or Nada brahman means transcendental sound (Shatapatha Brahmana III.12.48) or sound vibration (Shatpatha Brahmana Vi.16.51) or the transcendental sound of the Vedas (Shatpatha Brahmana Xi.21.36) or of Vedic scriptures (Shatpatha Brahmana X.20.43).

Shabda or sabda stands for word manifested by sound ('verbal') and such a word has innate power to convey a particular sense or meaning (Artha). According to the Nyaya and the Vaisheshika schools, Shabda means verbal testimony; to the Sanskrit grammarians, Yaska, Panini and Katyayana it meant a unit of language or speech or vac. In the philosophical terms this word appears for the first time in the Maitri Upanishad (Sloka VI.22) that speaks of two kinds of Brahman - Shabda Brahman ('Brahman with sound') and Ashabda Brahman ('soundless Brahman'). Bhartrhari speaks about the creative power of shabda, the manifold universe is a creation of Shabda Brahman (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV.i.2). Speech is equated with Brahman (Shatpatha Brahmana 2.1.4.10).The Rig Veda states that Brahman extends as far as Vāc (R.V.X.114.8), and has hymns in praise of Speech as the Creator (R.V.X.71.7) and as the final abode of Brahman (R.V.I.164.37). Time is the creative power of Shabda Brahman.Purva Mimamsa deals with Shabda Brahman ('cosmic sound or word') which is endowed with names and forms and is projected in vedic revelations (the mantras, hymns, prayers etc.). Vedanta deals with Parama Brahman ('the Ultimate Reality') which is transcendent and devoid of names and forms. One has to become well established in Shabda Brahman before realizing Parama Brahman. Vedas are not the product of conventional language but the emanation of reality in form of Shabda (sound, word) which is the sole cause of creation and is eternal. Purva Mimamsa, an esoteric discipline, from the point of view of spiritual growth aims at attaining the heavenly happiness by realizing Shabda Brahman (cosmic sound) by conducting yajnas that help control the senses and the mind; when the mind and the senses are subdued the inner subtle sound is realized as Shabda Brahman. The fundamental theory of Indian classical music, art and poetry is grounded in the theory of Nada Brahman or Shabda Brahman, and is linked with the Vedic religion. The Apara Brahman mentioned by Mandukya Upanishad is Nada Brahman or Shabda Brahman. Shiva Samhita states that whenever and wherever there is causal stress or Divine action, there is vibration (spandan or kampan), and wherever there is vibration or movement there sound (Shabda) is inevitable. "M" of Aum, the primordial vac represents shabda which is the root and essence of everything; it is Pranava and Pranava is Vedas, Vedas are Shabda Brahman. Consciousness in all beings is Shabda Brahman.When the necessity of directing the Mantra (identical to Ishta) internally and to objects externally is transcended then one gains Mantra chaitanya which then awakens Atman chaitanya, the Divine Consciousness, and unites with it. The Mantra is Shabda Brahman and Ishta is the light of Consciousness. The prana, body and mind along with the entire universe, are all expressions of Mantra chaitanya. At the ultimate level of Shabda Brahman words become wordless, forms become formless and all multiplicity unified in Consciousness residing in that transcendent glory extends beyond mind and speech.In the Bhagavad Gita (Sloka VI.44) the term Shabda Brahman has been used to mean Vedic injunctions. Adi Shankara explains that the Yogic impressions do not perish even when held up for a long period, even he who seeks to comprehend the essence of Yoga and begins to tread the path of Yoga goes beyond the spheres of the fruits of Vedic works, he sets them aside. In this context Srimad Bhagavatam (Sloka III.33.7) has also been relied upon to high-light the disregard of Vedic rituals by the advanced transcendentalists. Gaudapada clarifies that the letter "a" of Aum leads to Visva, the letter "u"" leads to Taijasa and the letter "m" leads to Prajna. With regard to one freed from letters, there remains no attainment (Mandkya Karika I.23). Aum is Shabda Brahman, Aum is the Root Sound of which creation is a series of permutations.According to the Tantric concept, Sound is the first manifestation of Parama Shiva; in its primary stage it is a pschic wave. Its very existence entails the presence of spandan or movement ('vibration') without which there cannot be sound; spandan is the quality of Saguna brahman and the world is the thought-projection of Saguna Shiva. The very first sutra of Sarada Tilaka explains the significance and hidden meaning of Shabda Brahman.

Smarta tradition

Smarta tradition (स्मार्त) is a movement in Hinduism that developed during its classical period around the beginning of the Common Era. It reflects a Hindu synthesis of four philosophical strands: Mimamsa, Advaita, Yoga, and theism. The Smarta tradition rejects theistic sectarianism, and it is notable for the domestic worship of five shrines with five deities, all treated as equal – Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Ganesha and Devi (Shakti). The Smarta tradition contrasted with the older Shrauta tradition, which was based on elaborate rituals and rites. There has been considerable overlap in the ideas and practices of the Smarta tradition with other significant historic movements within Hinduism, namely Shaivism, Brahmanism, Vaishnavism, and Shaktism.The Smarta tradition is aligned with Advaita Vedanta, and regards Adi Shankara as its founder or reformer. Shankara championed the ultimate reality is impersonal and Nirguna (attributeless) and any symbolic god serves the same equivalent purpose. Inspired by this belief, the Smarta tradition followers, along with the five Hindu gods include a sixth impersonal god in their practice. The tradition has been called by William Jackson as "advaitin, monistic in its outlook".The term Smarta also refers to Brahmins who specialize in the Smriti corpus of texts named the Grihya Sutras, in contrast to Shrauta Sutras. Smarta Brahmins with their focus on the Smriti corpus, contrast from Srauta Brahmins who specialize in the Sruti corpus, that is rituals and ceremonies that follow the Vedas.

Upanishads

The Upanishads (; Sanskrit: उपनिषद् Upaniṣad [ʊpɐnɪʂɐd]), a part of the Vedas, are ancient Sanskrit texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts and ideas of Hinduism, some of which are shared with religious traditions like Buddhism and Jainism. Among the most important literature in the history of Indian religions and culture, the Upanishads played an important role in the development of spiritual ideas in ancient India, marking a transition from Vedic ritualism to new ideas and institutions. Of all Vedic literature, the Upanishads alone are widely known, and their central ideas are at the spiritual core of Hindus.The Upanishads are commonly referred to as Vedānta. Vedanta has been interpreted as the "last chapters, parts of the Veda" and alternatively as "object, the highest purpose of the Veda". The concepts of Brahman (ultimate reality) and Ātman (soul, self) are central ideas in all of the Upanishads, and "know that you are the Ātman" is their thematic focus. Along with the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutra, the mukhya Upanishads (known collectively as the Prasthanatrayi) provide a foundation for the several later schools of Vedanta, among them, two influential monistic schools of Hinduism.More than 200 Upanishads are known, of which the first dozen or so are the oldest and most important and are referred to as the principal or main (mukhya) Upanishads. The mukhya Upanishads are found mostly in the concluding part of the Brahmanas and Aranyakas and were, for centuries, memorized by each generation and passed down orally. The early Upanishads all predate the Common Era, five of them in all likelihood pre-Buddhist (6th century BCE), down to the Maurya period. Of the remainder, 95 Upanishads are part of the Muktika canon, composed from about the last centuries of 1st-millennium BCE through about 15th-century CE. New Upanishads, beyond the 108 in the Muktika canon, continued to be composed through the early modern and modern era, though often dealing with subjects which are unconnected to the Vedas.With the translation of the Upanishads in the early 19th century they also started to attract attention from a western audience. Arthur Schopenhauer was deeply impressed by the Upanishads and called it "the production of the highest human wisdom". Modern era Indologists have discussed the similarities between the fundamental concepts in the Upanishads and major western philosophers.

Vedanta

Vedanta (; Sanskrit: वेदान्त, IAST: Vedānta) or Uttara Mīmāṃsā is one of the six (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta literally means "end of the Vedas", reflecting ideas that emerged from the speculations and philosophies contained in the Upanishads. It does not stand for one comprehensive or unifying doctrine. Rather it is an umbrella term for many sub-traditions, ranging from dualism to non-dualism, all of which developed on the basis of a common textual connection called the Prasthanatrayi. The Prasthanatrayi is a collective term for the Principal Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita.

All Vedanta schools, in their deliberations, concern themselves with the following three categories but differ in their views regarding the concept and the relations between them: Brahman – the ultimate metaphysical reality, Ātman / Jivātman – the individual soul or self, and Prakriti – the empirical world, ever-changing physical universe, body and matter.

Some of the better known sub-traditions of Vedanta include Advaita (non-dualism), Vishishtadvaita (qualified non-dualism), and Dvaita (dualism). Most other Vedantic sub-traditions are subsumed under the term Bhedabheda (difference and non-difference). Over time, Vedanta adopted ideas from other orthodox (āstika) schools like Yoga and Nyaya, and, through this syncretism, became the most prominent school of Hinduism. Many extant forms of Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism have been significantly shaped and influenced by the doctrines of different schools of Vedanta. The Vedanta school has had a historic and central influence on Hinduism.

Vishishtadvaita

Vishishtadvaita (IAST Viśiṣṭādvaita; Sanskrit: विशिष्टाद्वैत) is one of the most popular schools of the Vedanta school of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta literally means the end of the Vedas. VishishtAdvaita (literally "Advaita with uniqueness; qualifications") is a non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy. It is non-dualism of the qualified whole, in which Brahman alone exists, but is characterized by multiplicity. It can be described as qualified monism or qualified non-dualism or attributive monism. It is a school of Vedanta philosophy which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity.

Ramanuja, the main proponent of Vishishtadvaita philosophy contends that the Prasthanatrayi ("The three courses"), namely the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Brahma Sutras are to be interpreted in a way that shows this unity in diversity, for any other way would violate their consistency. Vedanta Desika defines Vishishtadvaita using the statement, Asesha Chit-Achit Prakaaram Brahmaikameva Tatvam : Brahman, as qualified by the sentient and insentient modes (or attributes), is the only reality.

Ātman (Hinduism)

Ātman () is a Sanskrit word that means inner self or soul. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle, the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the essence of an individual. In order to attain liberation (moksha), a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana), which is to realize that one's true self (Ātman) is identical with the transcendent self Brahman.The six orthodox schools of Hinduism believe that there is Ātman (soul, self) in every being. This is a major point of difference with the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta which holds that there is no unchanging soul or self.

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