Difference between revisions of "Brahmatattva (ब्रह्मतत्वम्)"

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While it is well known that Brahman is Pure Consciousness, Shankaracharya uses the term Prajnana-ghana । प्रज्ञानघन for explaining It as seen in his bhashya.
 
While it is well known that Brahman is Pure Consciousness, Shankaracharya uses the term Prajnana-ghana । प्रज्ञानघन for explaining It as seen in his bhashya.
  
Brahma sutra : आह च तन्मात्रम् । ( ब्रसू-३,२.१६ । ) 3.2.16).
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Brahma sutra : आह च तन्मात्रम् । (( ब्रसू-३,२.१६ । ) 3.2.16).
  
 
Shankara Bhasyam:<blockquote>आह च श्रुतिः चैतन्यमात्रं विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं निर्विशेषं ब्रह्म स यथा सैन्धवघनोऽनन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नो रसघन एवैवं वा अरेऽयमात्मानन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नः प्रज्ञानघन एव इति।</blockquote>The Upanishad also declares that Brahman is pure consciousness  (चैतन्यमात्रं) devoid of other aspects contrary to this (विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं), and without any distinguishing feature (निर्विशेषं). This means that the Self has no internal or external aspect apart from Pure Consciousness. Its nature is mere impartible consciousness without intervening intervals.<ref>Swami Gambhirananda. (1956) ''Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya of Sri Sankaracarya.'' Almora : Advaita Ashrama (Pages 613-614)</ref> The Upanishad referred to here is the Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.13).
 
Shankara Bhasyam:<blockquote>आह च श्रुतिः चैतन्यमात्रं विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं निर्विशेषं ब्रह्म स यथा सैन्धवघनोऽनन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नो रसघन एवैवं वा अरेऽयमात्मानन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नः प्रज्ञानघन एव इति।</blockquote>The Upanishad also declares that Brahman is pure consciousness  (चैतन्यमात्रं) devoid of other aspects contrary to this (विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं), and without any distinguishing feature (निर्विशेषं). This means that the Self has no internal or external aspect apart from Pure Consciousness. Its nature is mere impartible consciousness without intervening intervals.<ref>Swami Gambhirananda. (1956) ''Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya of Sri Sankaracarya.'' Almora : Advaita Ashrama (Pages 613-614)</ref> The Upanishad referred to here is the Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.13).

Revision as of 20:11, 9 August 2019

Brahmatattva (Samskrit : ब्रह्मतत्वम्) deals with the nature of Brahman, understanding which forms the central idea of Upanishad teachings. Some of the brilliant gems of human thought processes are found crystallized in the Upanishads and such texts. They treat not of secular knowledge, which any science can teach, but of Brahmavidya, the knowledge of Brahman, the ultimate Reality of the Universe.

In this article, a few important directly relevant parts of the various Upanishads are presented along with the context. Since the subject matter of Vedanta is vast, exhaustive discussions are not attempted.  

परिचयः ॥ Introduction

Discussion of Brahman-Atman and Jnana develops in the Upanishads as the means to drawn the mind of a man inwards towards the mysteries of the Universe and ultimate goal of man -Moksha or Mukti (loosely translated but not equal to liberation, freedom in this life or after-life). Worship which was primarily of the nature and natural elements (like fire, clouds and rains, air) in the Vedas was followed by worship of deities having a form and qualities (Saguna Brahma). Brahman in Vedanta and Upanishads is, however, both personal (Saguna) with form and name and impersonal (Nirguna) addressed as "Tat (तत्)" (That) which is a nameless, formless Supreme Entity without attributes and qualities.

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)[1]

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)[2]

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.

Two Aspects of Brahman

In later Vedantic literature the Brahman is 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. Brahman of the Upanishads is both personal and impersonal (Saguna and Nirguna). Vedantasara defines Brahman as four types as given in Shabdakalpadruma.

ब्रह्म चतुर्व्विधं यथा । विराट् १ हिरण्यगर्भः २ ईश्वरः ३ तुरीयः ४ । इति वेदान्तसारः ॥

Isvara is like a supreme devata (Godhead) in relation to the universe and viewed through human perspective, whereas Brahman is Supreme or Absolute, as He is in Himself, viewed independently.[3]

Saguna Brahma having form and other attributes is termed as

  • हिरण्यगर्भः ॥ Hiranyagarbha as in Rig Veda (10.82)
  • विराट् पुरुषः ॥ Virat Purusha as in Aitareya Upanishad 1.1.4
  • ईश्वरः ॥ Ishvara as in Isavasyopanishad
  • सर्वेश्वरः ॥ Sarveshvara in Mandukya Upanishad 6
  • तुरीयः ॥ Turiya as in Mandukya Upanishad 7
  • नारायणः ॥ Narayana as in Bhagavata Purana

Nirguna Brahma devoid of all attributes is termed as

  • त्तत् ॥ Tat as in Chandogya Upanishad (6.8.7) Katha (2.1.3)
  • चैतन्यमात्रम् ॥ Chaitanyamatra and Prajnanaghana (प्रज्ञानघन) as in Shankara Bhashya for Brahma Sutras (3.2.16)
  • पुरुषः ॥ Purusha as in Mundaka Upanishad (2.1.2)
  • ब्रह्मन् ॥ Brahman (Atman) as in Brhdaranyaka (1.4.10) and Chandogya (3.14.1)
  • अक्षरं ॥ Aksharam as in Brhdaranyaka (3.8.8) and Mundakopanishad (1.1.5)

सगुणब्रह्मा ॥ Saguna Brahma

Mandukya Upanishad is typically studied in the context of explaining the concept of a supreme personal aspect of Brahman. According to this concept, Brahman is the ruler of the universe. He projects it, maintains it and dissolves it at the end. He guides the destinies of the multitudinous beings that dwell in it. He monitors the award the good according to their merits (पुण्यम्), leading them to prosperity and ultimately in the path of ascent to higher lokas. He keeps a watch over the misdeeds (पापम्) of the beings and oversees their reformation; thus the "being" is lead into the karmic cycle of punarjanma. He is termed Ishvara, whose body is the sum-total of all bodies in the Universe (Virat), and whose mind is the aggregate of all minds (Hiranyagarbha). Through all hands He works, through all feet He walks, through all eyes He sees, through all ears He hears.[3] Here it may be noted that Ishvara is addressed as He (with a capital H) and has the attributes of a being.

एष सर्वेश्वर एष सर्वज्ञ एषोऽन्तर्याम्येष योनिः सर्वस्य प्रभवाप्ययौ हि भूतानाम् ॥ ६ ॥ (Mand. Upan. 6)[4]

Summary : This one is the Ishvara (Shasaka, Paripalaka, Ruler) of all (सर्वेश्वरः); is all-knowing (सर्वज्ञः । omniscient); is inner director all (अन्तर्यामि । inner controller or director); is the Source of all beings (योनिः सर्वस्य); and is verily the place of Origin and Dissolution of all beings (प्रभवाप्ययौ हि भूतानाम्). In this Upanishad a start was made with the premise that the Self (Ishvara) is possessed of four quarters. After the description of the three quarters (or states namely Visva, Taijasa and Prajna), the following lines point to that fourth quarter (Turiya) which is significantly different from the other three states

नान्तःप्रज्ञं न बहिष्प्रज्ञं नोभयतःप्रज्ञं न प्रज्ञानघनं न प्रज्ञं नाप्रज्ञम् । अदृष्टमव्यवहार्यमग्राह्यमलक्षणं अचिन्त्यमव्यपदेश्यमेकात्मप्रत्ययासारं प्रपञ्चोपशमं शान्तं शिवमद्वैतं चतुर्थं मन्यन्ते स आत्मा स विज्ञेयः ॥ ७ ॥ (Mand. Upan. 7)[4]

Summary : They consider the Fourth to be that which is not conscious of the internal world (न अन्तःप्रज्ञं), nor conscious of the external world (न बहिष्प्रज्ञं) nor conscious of both the worlds (न उभयतःप्रज्ञं), nor a mass of consciousness (प्रज्ञानघनं), nor simple consciousness (न प्रज्ञं), nor unconsciousness (न अप्रज्ञम्); it is unseen or unperceived (अदृष्टम् । not an object of any sense of knowledge) therefore Avyavaharyam (अव्यवहार्यम्) beyond empirical dealings; Agrahyam (अग्राह्यम्) beyond the grasp, of organs of action; Alakshanam (अलक्षणं) without any logical ground of inference, thus uninferable. Therefore, It is Achintyam (अचिन्त्यम्) unthinkable hence It is Avyapadesyam (अव्यपदेश्यम्) indescribable by words. Its (Turiya state's) Sara (सारं) or valid proof is ekatmapratyaya (एकात्मप्रत्यया), the unchanging sole belief in the Self. Prapanchopasamam (प्रपञ्चोपशमं) the one in whom all phenomena have ceased, hence Shantam (शान्तं), unchanging (free from emotions) and Shivam (शिवम्) auspicious. Chaturtham (the fourth state called Turiya) is thus considered (to be distinct from the other three states) as that Atma (स आत्मा), that is to be known (स विज्ञेयः).[5] That Atman (Self) (referring to the Absolute Brahman) is denoted by the syllable Om

सोऽयमात्माध्यक्षरमोङ्करोऽधिमात्रं... (Mand. Upan. 8)[4]

निर्गुणब्रह्मा ॥ Nirguna Brahma

As explained above, beyond the name and form Brahman, there exists the concept of impersonal Brahman, devoid of all attributes but is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. The eternal witness, 'the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind, eye of the eye etc' as explained by the Kenopanishad.

The Unmanifest nature of Brahman is expressed in two ways

  • Brahman is Sat-Chit-Ananda which means the Existence Absolute, Knowledge Absolute and Bliss Absolute.
  • Brahman is Satyam - Jnanam - Anantam

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 manifested. Brahmasutras assert the unmanifest nature of Brahman.

तदव्यक्तमाह हि । (Brah. Sutra. 3.2.23)

That Brahman is unmanifest, for the Upanishad says so.[6]

Attributeless, formless and nameless be the description of Nirguna Brahma, however, his nature is Infiniteness, Absoluteness, Eternity, and Changelessness finally it constitutes All That Is (अस्तीति). That which is beyond number and name is denoted by one sound called Pranava (प्रणवः).[7]

Brhdaranyaka Upanishad

Brhdaranyaka Upanishad, a treasure trove for the sadhakas engaged in understanding Brahman, is a voluminous text. A few selected parts of it are presented here for summarizing the Brahmatattva.

तदेतद्ब्रह्मापूर्वमनपरमनन्तरमबाह्यम् । अयमात्मा ब्रह्म सर्वानुभूः । इत्यनुशासनम् ॥ बृह. २,५.१९ ॥ (Brha. Upan. 2.5.19)[8]

That Brahman is without prior or posterior, without interior or exterior. This Self, the perceiver of everything is the Brahman. This is the teaching.[9] 'This Self is Brahman' is one of the most important characteristic in the above mantra. In the Yajnavalkya Gargi Samvada, one finds a very comprehensive synopsis about Brahmatattva being attributeless

स होवाच एतद्वै तदक्षरं गार्गि ब्राह्मणा अभिवदन्ति, अस्थूलमनण्व-ह्रस्वमदीर्घ-मलोहितमस्नेह-मच्छायमतमोऽवाय्वनाकाश-मसङ्गमरस-मगन्ध-मचक्षुष्क-मश्रोत्र-मवागमनोऽतेजस्क-मप्राण-ममुख-मगात्रमनन्तरमबाह्यम् न तदश्नाति किंचन । न तदश्नाति कश्चन ॥ बृह. ३,८.८ ॥ (Brha. Upan. 3.8.8)[10]

Meaning : O Gargi!, the knowers of Brahman say, this Immutable Aksharam (Brahman) is that - it is neither gross (अस्थूलम्) nor minute (अनण्वः), neither short (अह्रस्वः) nor long (अदीर्घः), neither red in color (अलोहितः) nor viscous/oily (अस्नेहः), neither shadow (अच्छायः) nor darkness (अतमः), neither air (अवायुः) nor ether (अनाकाशः), unattached (असङ्गम्), neither of any taste (अरसम्) or odour (अगन्धः), without eyes (अचक्षुष्कः) or ears (अश्रोत्रः), without the speech organ (अवाक्) or the mind (अमनः), non effulgent (अतेजस्कः), without the vital force (अप्राणः) or the mouth (अमुखम् or face), without a carnal body (अगात्रम्), and without interior (अनन्तरम्) or exterior (अबाह्यम्). It does not eat anything, nor is IT eaten by anybody.[11]

By the fourfold negation of size (gross, minute, short, and long) all the characteristics of a substance are denied of IT, thus Brahman is not a substance (द्रव्यम्). Owing to lack of qualities such as red color, viscosity, oiliness etc Brahman does not have any qualities (गुणाः). Without any sense organs or the mind, it lacks any lustre, is immeasurable, devoid of Prana or the vital force.

That Brahman is indeed unconditioned and described as Pure Intelligence is seen in the Yajnavalkya Maitreyi Samvada of this text in the following lines

स यथा सैन्धवघनोऽनन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नो रसघन एव । एवं वा अरेऽयमात्मानन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नः प्रज्ञानघन एव । एतेभ्यो भूतेभ्यः समुत्थाय तान्येवानुविनयति । न प्रेत्य संज्ञास्तीत्यरे ब्रवीमि । इति होवाच याज्ञवल्क्यः ॥ बृह. ४,५.१३ ॥ (Brha. Upan. 4.5.13)[12]

Summary : As a lump of salt is without interior or exterior, entire and purely saline in taste, so also the Self is without interior or exterior, entire and pure Intelligence alone. Formerly it possessed particular consciousness owing to the particular combinations with the elements. When that particular consciousness and its cause, have been dissolved (just like the lump of salt in water) it attains oneness destroying all the separateness. This is what Yajnavalkya says.[13]

Mundakopanishad

Mundaka Upanishad describes the Brahman as Purusha, the Immutable that is higher that the (other Saguna Brahma) immutable which is the seed of name and form. This absolute Immutable that is devoid of all limiting adjuncts, which is the very essence of the (other) immutable, is comparable to space, free of all forms and is describable by expressions such as "Neti Neti (नेति नेति । Not this, Not this).[14]

दिव्यो ह्यमूर्तः पुरुषः स बाह्याभ्यन्तरो ह्यजः । अप्राणो ह्यमनाः शुभ्रो ह्यक्षरात् परतः परः ॥ २ ॥ (Mund. Upan. 2.1.2)[15]

Summary : Purusha is transcendental because of effulgence due to Self (दिव्यः), since He is devoid of any form (अमूर्तः). That Purusha is all-pervasive or coextensive in all that is both external and internal (sa bahyabhyantara । स बाह्याभ्यन्तरः); birthless (अजः), therefore without vital force (अप्राणः) and without mind (अमनाः). (with these two limiting adjuncts absent) It is pure (शुभ्रः), and higher than the other immutable called the Akshara (here it pertains to Maya). This means that the unconditioned, all-pervasive entity is Parah (परः), higher; अक्षरात् परतः - than that immutable (Maya) that is superior (in relation to all other modifications).[14]

Kathopanishad

Yama Nachiketa Samvada reveals the secrets of death and to avoid the jaws of death Yama describes Brahmatattva as follows

अशब्दमस्पर्शमरूपमव्ययं तथाऽरसं नित्यमगन्धवच्च यत् ।

अनाद्यनन्तं महतः परं ध्रुवं निचाय्य तन्मृत्युमुखात् प्रमुच्यते ॥ १५ ॥(Kath. Upan. 1.3.15)[16]

One becomes freed from the jaws of death by knowing That which is soundless (अशब्दम्), touchless (अस्पर्शम्), formless (अरूपम्), undiminishing (अव्ययम्), and also tasteless (अरसम्), eternal (नित्यम्), odourless (अगन्धवत्), without beginning or end (अनाद्यनन्तं), distinct from Mahat (महतः परं), and ever constant (ध्रुवं).[17] Here again the characteristics of a substance are denied and the eternity of Brahman is proved (Avyayam, Anadi, Anantam etc). It is distinct in nature from the principle Mahat, called buddhi or intelligence for it is the witness of all, being eternal Consciousness and It is Brahman, being the Self of all beings. It has been mentioned that

एष सर्वेषु भूतेषु गूढोऽऽत्मा न प्रकाशते ।(Kath. Upan. 1.3.12)[16]

He is hidden in all beings, and hence does not appear as the Atman (of all).

Chandogya Upanishad

Chandogya mentions that the nature Brahman is that of a bearer, a container (adhistata). Akasha is the manifestor of name and form and That inside which these two lie is Brahman ; which is Immortal.[18]

आकाशो वै नाम नामरूपयोर्निर्वहिता ते यदन्तरा तद्ब्रह्म तदमृतँ (Chan. Upan. 8.14.1)[19]

That the Brahman is the basis of the whole universe (Adhishtata) is emphasized in the Taittriya Upanishad also.

Brahma Sutras

While it is well known that Brahman is Pure Consciousness, Shankaracharya uses the term Prajnana-ghana । प्रज्ञानघन for explaining It as seen in his bhashya.

Brahma sutra : आह च तन्मात्रम् । (( ब्रसू-३,२.१६ । ) 3.2.16).

Shankara Bhasyam:

आह च श्रुतिः चैतन्यमात्रं विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं निर्विशेषं ब्रह्म स यथा सैन्धवघनोऽनन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नो रसघन एवैवं वा अरेऽयमात्मानन्तरोऽबाह्यः कृत्स्नः प्रज्ञानघन एव इति।

The Upanishad also declares that Brahman is pure consciousness (चैतन्यमात्रं) devoid of other aspects contrary to this (विलक्षणरूपान्तररहितं), and without any distinguishing feature (निर्विशेषं). This means that the Self has no internal or external aspect apart from Pure Consciousness. Its nature is mere impartible consciousness without intervening intervals.[20] The Upanishad referred to here is the Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (4.5.13).

References

  1. Rig Veda (Mandala 1 Sukta 164)
  2. Chandogya Upanishad (Adhyaya 6)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Swami Madhavananda author of A Bird's-Eye View of the Upanishads (1958) The Cultural Heritage of India, Volume 1 : The Early Phases (Prehistoric, Vedic and Upanishadic, Jaina and Buddhist). Calcutta : The Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. (Pages 345-365)
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Mandukya Upanishad (Complete)
  5. Swami Gambhirananda (1937) Eight Upanishads, Volume 2 (Aitareya, Mundaka, Mandukya and Karika, and Prasna) With the Commentary of Sankaracarya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. (Pages 205-211)
  6. Swami Gambhirananda. (1956) Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya of Sri Sankaracarya. Almora : Advaita Ashrama (Pages 628)
  7. Sanatana Dharma : An Advanced Textbook of Hindu Religion and Ethics. (1903) Benares : The Board of Trustees, Central Hindu College
  8. Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 2 Brahmana 5)
  9. Swami Madhavananda (1950 Third Edition) The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad with the commentary of Sankaracharya. Almora: Advaita Ashram. (Pages 402 and 403)
  10. Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 3 Brahmana 8)
  11. Swami Madhavananda (1950 Third Edition) The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad with the commentary of Sankaracharya. Almora: Advaita Ashram. (Page 517)
  12. Brhdaranyaka Upanishad (Adhyaya 4 Brahmana 5)
  13. Swami Madhavananda (1950 Third Edition) The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad with the commentary of Sankaracharya. Almora: Advaita Ashram. (Pages 780-781)
  14. 14.0 14.1 Swami Gambhirananda (1937) Eight Upanishads, Volume 2 (Aitareya, Mundaka, Mandukya and Karika, and Prasna) With the Commentary of Sankaracarya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. (Pages 115-117)
  15. Mundaka Upanishad (See Mundaka 2 Khanda 1)
  16. 16.0 16.1 Kathopanishad (Adhyaya 1 Valli 3)
  17. Swami Gambhirananda (1989 Second Edition) Eight Upanishads, Volume 1 (Isa, Kena, Katha,and Taittriya) With the Commentary of Sankaracarya. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama
  18. Mm. Ganganatha Jha, (1942) The Chandogyopanishad with the commentary of Sankara. Poona : Oriental Book Agency (Page No 486)
  19. Chandogya Upanishad (Adhyaya 8 See Khanda 14)
  20. Swami Gambhirananda. (1956) Brahma-Sutra-Bhashya of Sri Sankaracarya. Almora : Advaita Ashrama (Pages 613-614)