Brahman (ब्रह्मन्)

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Brahman (Samskrit : ब्रह्मन्) signifies the Absolute, Eternal, Changeless, Infinite element without attributes, qualities beyond name and form, yet all encompassing the universe called variously as Parabrahma, Paramatma, Purusha, Paratpara, Satya. Represented by प्रणवम् ॥ OM and designated as तत् ॥ That, IT stands for Unity, which never appears in front of the eyes, but which IS (exists सत्) and is implied in the very existence of universes, systems, worlds, and in effect all entities (animate or inanimate). It is the goal of a sadhaka engaged in the practice of Aparavidya, (the Brahmavidya) which is the Supreme Wisdom (Jnana) achieved through the paths laid down in the various texts, discussed through ages in the Upanishads and Brahmasutras.[1]

Etymology and related terms

Brahman is derived from the dhatu "to swell, expand, grow, enlarge" is a neutral noun to be distinguished from the masculine brahmán—denoting a person associated with Brahman, and from Brahmā, the creator God of 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",Template:Sfn while Sinar states Brahman is a concept that "cannot be exactly defined".Template:Sfn

In Vedic Sanskrit:

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuter[2] gender) from root bṛh-, means "to be or make firm, strong, solid, expand, promote".[3]
  • Brahmāna (ब्रह्मन) (nominative singular, never plural), from stems brha (to make firm, strong, expand) + Sanskrit -man- from Indo-European root -men- which denotes some manifested form of "definite power, inherent firmness, supporting or fundamental principle".[3]

In later Sanskrit usage:

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter[2] 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 [ˈbraːhməɳə]), (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.

Evolution of Concept of Brahman

एकं सत् ॥ The One Existence

Worship of the nature and devatas such as the Agni, Aditya, Indra, Rudra, Visnu, Brahma and others becomes internalized in the Upanishads to the meditation on the supreme, immortal and formless Brahman-Atman. The many names of devatas with forms and weapons gradually merged into defining a One Existence, a supreme being called now as Paramatma, Brahman etc.

एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति (Rig. Veda. 1.164.46)[4]

Devatas who held positions in the outer worlds are now declared to be everywhere, even as the innermost being of each human being and within every other living creature.

एकमेवाद्वितीयम्। (Chand. Upan. 6.2.1)[5]

What was One reality or ekam sat of the Vedas now transformed to the ekam eva advitiyam brahma or "the one and only one, sans a second" in the Upanishads. Discussion of Brahman-Atman and Self-realization develops in the Upanishads as the means to moksha (liberation, freedom in this life or after-life). Worship which was primarily of the nature and natural elements (like fire, clouds and rains, air) was followed by deities having a form and qualities called Saguna Brahman which gradually led to worship of "Tat" (That) a nameless, formless Supreme Entity without attributes and qualities called as Nirguna Brahman.  

Nirguna Brahma Swarupa

Brahman is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. It is the pervasive, genderless, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. Brahman is "the infinite source, fabric, core and destiny of all existence, both manifested and unmanifested, the formless infinite substratum and from which the universe has grown". Kathopanishad states 1.2.15 and 16 that

सर्वे वेदा यत्पदमामनन्ति तपाँसि सर्वाणि च यद्वदन्ति । यदिच्छन्तो ब्रह्मचर्यं चरन्ति तत्ते पदँ संग्रहेण ब्रवीम्योमित्येतत् ॥ १५ ॥

एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ब्रह्म एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं परम् । एतद्ध्येवाक्षरं ज्ञात्वा यो यदिच्छति तस्य तत् ॥ १६ ॥ (Kath. Upan. 1.2.15)[6]

That which all the Vedas declare, that which all austerities utter, That desiring which they lead the life of Brahmacharya, That Word I tell thee briefly : it is Aum. That word is even Brahman; that Word is even the Supreme. [7]

प्रणवम् ॥ Pranava

Formless and nameless be the description of Nirguna Brahma, however, his nature is Infiniteness, Absoluteness, Eternity, Changelessness finally it constitutes All That is (अस्तीति). (Shev. Upan. 4.18) That which is beyond number and name is denoted by one sound called Pranava. Tattriyopanishad, Shikshavalli contains the stuti of Pranava in the eighth anuvaka as follows

ओमिति ब्रह्म । ओमितीदँसर्वम् । (Tait. Upan. 1.8)[8]

ओमित्येकाक्षरं ब्रह्म (Maha. Nara. Upan. 33)

Kathopanishad says [9]

यदेवेह तदमुत्र यदमुत्र तदन्विह । मृत्योः स मृत्युमाप्नोति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ १० ॥

मनसैवेदमाप्तव्यं नेह नानाऽस्ति किंचन । मृत्योः स मृत्युं गच्छति य इह नानेव पश्यति ॥ ११ ॥ (Kath. Upan. 2.1.11)[10]

Summary : The entity that exists in all beings from Brahma down to immovable and appears as non- Brahman owing to limiting factors (Jiva) is different from Supreme Brahman is subject to birth and death. What indeed is here, is there and what is there is here. He who sees as though there is difference between the two, goes from death to death. This is to be attained through the Manas only. There is no diversity between the Self and Supreme Brahman.[11]

Brhdaranyaka Upanishad also lays emphasis of the Unity of Jiva and Brahman (2.4.6-9). In Yajnavalkya and Maitreyi Samvada, the very nature of Atman is defined. All the brahmanas, kshatriyas, the whole world, the countless devatas and all beings are the form of Atman only.[9]

That Brahman is the basis of the whole universe (Adhishtata) is emphasized in the Taittriya Upanishad. In the Mandukya Upanishad is mentioned, the first time in the history of thought, the distinction between the Brahman and Isvara. Isvara is like a supreme devata in relation to the universe and viewed through human perspective, whereas Brahman is Supreme or Absolute, as He is in Himself, viewed independently. In later Vedantic literature the two are often spoken of as Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman. That is, the same Brahman is viewed from two different standpoints--the relative standpoint and the independent standpoint.

Mundakopanishad, says Brahman is "That which cannot be seen or grasped, which has neither origin nor properties, which has neither eyes nor ears, neither hands nor feet, which is eternal, all-pervading, omnipresent 'and extremely subtle, Imperishable which the rshis regard as the origin of all beings."

Nirguna Brahma (Advaita)

Advaita Vedantins completely dismiss the concept that Brahman and Jagat (world) are completely distinct from each other and their tattva is explained in Shri Adishankara Bhashyas. Brahman is Nirguna, without attributes, and is Real; all else is unreal; Jivatma and Paramatma are the same without any difference. According to them the idea of difference arises from Avidya (nescience, ignorance, lack of yadartha jnana) and when Atma transcends Avidya, it brings about the realization of the All-ness and wholeness of the Atman as indicated by the vidya-sutra

आत्मेत्येवोपासीतात्र ह्येते सर्व एकं भवन्ति । (Brhd. Upan.1.4.7)[12]

The Universe springs from Brahman, just like hairs on a man's head; it is the work of Maya. Cause and effect are one and the same (कार्यकारण-अभेदः) just like an aggregation of threads is seen in the form of a cloth. As long as the Atma identifies itself with the Upadhis (vehicle of atma), it remains bound in Samsara, when it Knows Itself as Self, it becomes free from Samsara. For those who are not yet ready for this effort of Self Knowledge, ritual is not only desirable but also necessary. Those who reached the point where Atma only attracts them, Jnanam is enough and by Sadhana they achieve Brahman, the goal. However, a Jnani does not abstain from Karma or actions (similar as in Samkhya siddhanta), he best understands them and actively engages in them, being unattached to the results and not by the dictate of desire. Such a person is called Jivanmukta.

For example, Chandogya Upanishad describes the unity of Jiva and Brahman, in the form of conversation between Uddalaka and Shvetaketu. Kathopanishad also proclaims that he who sees as though there is difference between the two (Jiva and Brahman) will be engaged in cycle of birth and death. Jnana that they are one and the same is to be attained through the Manas only. There is no diversity between the Jivatma and Supreme Brahman. (Kath. Upan. 2.1.11)[13]

Saguna Brahma (Dvaita and Visishtadvaita)

The Dvaita Vedantins uphold the distinctness of Paramatma from Jivatma both in material world and in Moksha. It teaches that Vishnu is the Supreme Deity and formed the Universe out of Prkriti which is already existing. Here the concept of Supreme (Brahman) is seen in Vishnu, who is the efficient cause of the Universe. It follows the Samkhya darshana way of describing the evolution and that Jiva travels on a spiritual journey to attain the Paramatma. Jiva attains Moksha in which it remains in Bhoga (भोगः । enjoyment of eternal bliss) with the Paramatma. The Jiva reaches one or other of the four conditions

  1. Sarupya (सारूप्यम् । Same form as the Divine Form)
  2. Salokya (सालोक्यम् । Residence in the same loka as the Divine Form eg : Goloka)
  3. Sannidhya (सान्निध्यम् । Being in proximity to the Divine Form)
  4. Sayujyam (सायुज्यम् । Union with the Divine Form).

However, this union is not to be considered as one of identity of nature. (Page 33 of Reference[1]).

The Vishistadvaita Vedantins uphold separateness of Jivatma and Paramatma but that Jivatma is a separate entity which are Vyakta (व्यक्तः । manifested) during the period of activity and when Pralaya (प्रलयः । ) approaches they are drawn in and become Avyakta (अव्यक्तः । Unmanifested) Paramatma or Brahman. Vishistadvaita is a path for those who conscious of the separation, and long for union with the Supreme, and they find solace in worship and devotion of Ishvara (Saguna Brahman). Brahman is the highest Reality, the One, but has attributes inseparable from Himself. From Brahman, comes the Sankarshana (संकर्षणः) or Jivatma, the separated Atma (soul), which produces Pradyumna (प्रद्युम्नः) the Mind, which in turn produces Aniruddha (अनिरुद्धः) the I (Ahamkara principle). Thus Brahman is the object of worship on whom Jivatma depends on, Jivatma being not Brahman but a part of it. The separation is insisted on but union is sought.[1]


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.[14] 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.[15]

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",[16] the "principle of the world",[16] the "absolute",[17] the "general, universal",[18] the "cosmic principle",[19] the "ultimate that is the cause of everything including all gods",[20] the "divine being, Lord, distinct God, or God within oneself",[21] the "knowledge",[22] the "soul, sense of self of each human being that is fearless, luminuous, exalted and blissful",[23] the "essence of liberation, of spiritual freedom",[24] the "universe within each living being and the universe outside",[23] the "essence and everything innate in all that exists inside, outside and everywhere".[25]

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. 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 Bharat's philosophies.[26][27]

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[28][29]

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[28][30]

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[29][30]

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.


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?[31] Brahman is the ultimate "eternally, constant" reality, while the observed universe is different kind of reality but one which is "temporary, changing" Māyā in various orthodox Hindu schools. Māyā pre-exists and co-exists with Brahman – the Ultimate Reality, The Highest Universal, the Cosmic Principles.[32]

In addition to the concept of Brahman, Hindu metaphysics includes the concept of Atman – or soul, self – which is also considered ultimately real.[32] 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.[33] Those that consider Brahman and Atman as same are monist or pantheistic, and Advaita Vedanta, later Samkhya[34] and Yoga schools illustrate this metaphysical premise.[35][36][37] In schools that equate Brahman with Atman, Brahman is the sole, ultimate reality.[38] 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.[39][40]

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.[32] 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.[32]

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.[41] 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 ultimately illusory.[42] 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.[42]

Brahman as an ontological concept

Brahman, along with Soul/Self (Atman) are part of the ontological[43] premises of Bharat's philosophy.[44][45] Different schools of Bharat's 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".[46][47]

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.[48][49][50] 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.[48]

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).[51]

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.[52] The Carvaka school denied Brahman and Atman, and held a materialist ontology.[53]

Brahman as an axiological concept

Brahman and Atman are key concepts to Hindu theories of axiology: ethics and aesthetics.[54][55] Ananda (bliss), state Michael Myers and other scholars, has axiological importance to the concept of Brahman, as the universal inner harmony.[56][57] Some scholars equate Brahman with the highest value, in an axiological sense.[58]

The axiological concepts of Brahman and Atman is central to Hindu theory of values.[59] 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.[60] Tietge states that even in non-dual schools of Hinduism where Brahman and Atman are treated ontologically equivalent, the theory of values emphasize 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.[61]

The axiological theory of values emerges implicitly from the concepts of Brahman and Atman, states Bauer.[62] 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.[62] 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.[62][63] Ignorance is to assume it evil, liberation is to know its eternal, expansive, pristine, happy and good nature.[62] The axiological premises in the Hindu thought and Bharat's 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.[64] 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.[64]

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 sense of oneness with all existence, self-realization, indescribable joy, and moksha (freedom, bliss),[65] 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.[66]

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.[67] 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.[68]

Schools of thought


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,[38] 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.[69][48][70] 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 knowledge), but it can be learned and realized by all human beings.[71] 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.[41] The Brahman is not 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 is truly exists.[38] 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 in any other means besides self inquiry.[72]

In Advaita Vedanta, nirguna Brahman, that is the Brahman without attributes, is held to be the ultimate and sole reality.[38][42] Consciousness is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. In this respect, Advaita Vedanta differs from other Vedanta schools.[73]

Example verses from Bhagavad-Gita include:

<poem> 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[74][75]

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[76] </poem>

— Bhagavad Gita

Visishtadvaita Vedanta

The Brahman of Visishtadvaita is not exactly same as individual Atman, rather it is synonymous with Narayana, the transcendent and immanent reality.[citation needed] Brahman or Narayana is Saguna Brahman, one with attributes, one with infinite auspicious qualities, and not the Advaita concept of attributeless Nirguna Brahman.[citation needed]

Dvaita Vedanta

Template:Vaishnavism Brahman of Dvaita is a concept similar to God in major world religions.[67] Dvaita holds that the individual soul is dependent on God, but distinct.[67]

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

  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.[citation needed] 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 yoga-meditation 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).[citation needed]


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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

Bhakti movement

The Bhakti movement of Hinduism built its theosophy around two concepts of Brahman – Nirguna and Saguna.[77] Nirguna Brahman was the concept of the Ultimate Reality as formless, without attributes or quality.[78] Saguna Brahman, in contrast, was envisioned and developed as with form, attributes and quality.[78] The two had parallels in the ancient panthestic unmanifest and theistic manifest traditions, respectively, and traceable to Arjuna-Krishna dialogue in the Bhagavad Gita.[77][79] 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.[79] Nirguna bhakta's poetry were Jnana-shrayi, or had roots in knowledge.[77] Saguna bhakta's poetry were Prema-shrayi, or with roots in love.[77] In Bhakti, the emphasis is reciprocal love and devotion, where the devotee loves God, and God loves the devotee.[79]

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.[78] 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.[80]

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".[81] 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.[81] These were two alternate ways of imagining God during the bhakti movement.[77]

Comparison of Brahma, Brahman, Brahmin and Brahmanas

Brahma is distinct from Brahman.[82] Brahma is a male deity, in the post-Vedic Puranic literature,[83] 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.[84] 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.[83][85]

Brahman is a metaphysical concept of Hinduism referring to the ultimate unchanging reality,[82][86][87] that, states Doniger, is uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, the cause, the foundation, the source and the goal of all existence.[84] 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.[84] It is a gender neutral abstract concept.[84][88][89] The abstract Brahman concept is predominant in the Vedic texts, particularly the Upanishads;[90] while the deity Brahma finds minor mention in the Vedas and the Upanishads.[91] In the Puranic and the Epics literature, deity Brahma appears more often, but inconsistently. Some texts suggest that god Vishnu created Brahma (Vaishnavism),[92] others suggest god Shiva created Brahma (Shaivism),[93] yet others suggest goddess Devi created Brahma (Shaktism),[94] and these texts then go on to state that Brahma is a secondary creator of the world working respectively on their behalf.[94][95] Further, the medieval era texts of these major theistic traditions of Hinduism assert that the saguna[note 1] Brahman is Vishnu,[97] is Shiva,[98] or is Devi[99] 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.[100]

Brahmin is a varna in Hinduism specialising in theory as priests, preservers and transmitters of sacred literature across generations.[101][102]

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.[103][104] They are embedded within each of the four Vedas, and form a part of the Hindu śruti literature.[105]


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