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''Brahman'' ( sa, ब्रह्मन् , hi, ब्रह्म) connotes the highest Universal Principle, the
Ultimate Reality Ultimate reality is "something that is the supreme, final, and fundamental power in all reality". This heavily overlaps with the concept of the Absolute in certain philosophies. Abrahamic religions In Abrahamic religions, a non-anthropomorphic Go ...
in the
universe The universe ( la, universus) is all of space and time and their contents, including planets, stars, galaxy, galaxies, and all other forms of matter and energy. The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological description of the development ...

universe
.P. T. Raju (2006), ''Idealistic Thought of India'', Routledge, , page 426 and Conclusion chapter part XII In major schools of
Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', or way of life. It is the Major religious groups, world's third-largest religion, with over 1.2 billi ...
, it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists.For dualism school of Hinduism, see: Francis X. Clooney (2010), ''Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions'',
Oxford University Press Oxford University Press (OUP) is the university press of the University of Oxford. It is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press. It is a department of the University of Oxford and is g ...

Oxford University Press
, , pages 51–58, 111–115;
For monist school of Hinduism, see: B. Martinez-Bedard (2006), ''Types of Causes in Aristotle and Sankara'', Thesis – Department of Religious Studies (Advisors: Kathryn McClymond and Sandra Dwyer), Georgia State University, pages 18–35
It is the pervasive, infinite, eternal truth and bliss which does not change, yet is the cause of all changes. ''Brahman'' as a
metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and ...

metaphysical
concept refers to the single binding unity behind diversity in all that exists in the universe. ''Brahman'' is a
Vedic Sanskrit Vedic Sanskrit was an ancient language of the Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasi ...
word, and it is conceptualized in Hinduism, states
Paul Deussen Paul Jakob Deussen (; 7 January 1845 – 6 July 1919) was a Germany, German indology, Indologist and professor of philosophy at University of Kiel. Strongly influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, Deussen was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Swam ...

Paul Deussen
, as the "creative principle which lies realized in the whole world". ''Brahman'' is a key concept found in the
Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ) are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the o ...

Vedas
, and it is extensively discussed in the early
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
.Stephen Philips (1998), ''Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Brahman to Derrida'' (Editor; Edward Craig), Routledge, , pages 1–4 The Vedas conceptualize ''Brahman'' as the Cosmic Principle. In the Upanishads, it has been variously described as '' Sat-cit-ānanda'' (truth-consciousness-bliss) as well as having a form (Sakar) and as the unchanging, permanent, highest reality. ''Brahman'' is discussed in Hindu texts with the concept of
Atman Atman may refer to: Religion * Ātman (Jainism), a philosophical term used within Jainism to identify the soul * Ātman (Hinduism) ''Ātman'' (; sa, आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominaliz ...
( sa, आत्मन्), (self), personal, impersonal or ''
Para Brahman ''Para Brahman'' ( sa, परब्रह्म, translit=parabrahma, translit-std=IAST) in Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ...
'', or in various combinations of these qualities depending on the philosophical school. In dualistic schools of Hinduism such as the theistic Dvaita Vedanta, Brahman is different from Atman (soul) in each being.Michael Myers (2000), Brahman: A Comparative Theology, Routledge, , pages 124–127 In
non-dual In spirituality, nondualism, also called nonduality and interconnectedness; and nondual awareness, is a fuzzy conceptA fuzzy concept is a concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speech ...
schools such as the
Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
, ''Brahman'' is identical to the Atman, is everywhere and inside each living being, and there is connected spiritual oneness in all existence.Arvind Sharma (2007), ''Advaita Vedānta: An Introduction'', Motilal Banarsidass, , pages 19–40, 53–58, 79–86


Etymology and related terms

Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose in South Asia after its predecessor langua ...

Sanskrit
(ब्रह्म) ''Brahman'' (an ''n''-stem, nominative ', from a
root In vascular plant Vascular plants (from Latin ''vasculum'': duct), also known as Tracheophyta (the tracheophytes , from Greek τραχεῖα ἀρτηρία ''trācheia artēria'' 'windpipe' + φυτά ''phutá'' 'plants'), form a large group ...
''-'' "to swell, expand, grow, enlarge") is a neuter noun to be distinguished from the masculine '—denoting a person associated with ''Brahman'', and from Brahmā, the creator God in the Hindu Trinity, the
Trimurti Trimūrti (; Sanskrit: त्रिमूर्ति ', "three forms" or "trinity") is the triple deity of Para Brahman, supreme divinity in Hinduism, in which the cosmic functions of creation ex nihilo, creation, Conservation (ethic), mainte ...
. ''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", while Sinar states ''Brahman'' is a concept that "cannot be exactly defined". In
Vedic Sanskrit Vedic Sanskrit was an ancient language of the Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasi ...
: * ''Brahma'' (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), ''brahman'' (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuterNot Masculine or Feminine (see
Grammatical gender In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langua ...
).
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is a ...

gender
) from root ''bṛh-'', means "to be or make firm, strong, solid, expand, promote".
Jan Gonda Jan Gonda, (14 April 1905 – 28 July 1991) was a Dutch Indologist Indology or Indian studies is the academic study of the history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the ...
(1962), Some Notes on the Study of Ancient-Indian Religious Terminology, ''History of Religions'', Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter, 1962), pages 268–269
* ''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". In later Sanskrit usage: * ''Brahma'' (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), ''brahman'' (stem) (neuter
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is a ...

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 singular), ''Brahman'' (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (
masculine Masculinity (also called manhood or manliness) is a set of attributes, behavior Behavior (American English) or behaviour (British English; American and British English spelling differences#-our, -or, see spelling differences) is the Action ...
gender Gender is the range of characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between femininity Femininity (also called womanliness or girlishness) is a set of attributes, behaviors, and roles generally associated with women A woman is a ...

gender
), means the deity or
deva Deva may refer to: Entertainment * ''Deva'' (1989 film), a 1989 Kannada film * ''Deva'' (1995 film), a 1995 Tamil film * ''Deva'' (2002 film), a 2002 Bengali film * Deva (2007 Telugu film) * ''Deva'' (2017 film), a 2017 Marathi film * 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 ''Purusha'' (' or ) is a complex concept whose meaning evolved in Vedic FIle:Atharva-Veda samhita page 471 illustration.png, upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the ''Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ...
at the end of an aeon, and is born again at the beginning of a new
kalpa The Kalevan Pallo (KalPa) is a professional ice hockey team which competes in the Finnish Liiga. They play in Kuopio, Finland at the Niiralan monttu, Olvi Areena. Team history Established in 1929 as ''Sortavalan Palloseura'' in Sortavala, the clu ...
. These are distinct from: * A ''brāhmaa'' (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, pronounced ), (which literally means "pertaining to prayer") is a prose commentary on the —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 Brahmin (; sa, ब्राह्मण, brāhmaṇa) are a varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gulf of Varna **Lake Varna *Vahrn, or Varna, a munic ...

Brahmin
". This usage is also found in the
Atharva Veda The Atharva The Atharva Veda (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of th ...
. In neuter plural form, ''Brahmāṇi''. See Vedic priest. * ''
Ishvara ''Ishvara'' (Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of , the langua ...
'', (lit., Supreme Lord), in Advaita, is identified as a partial worldly manifestation (with limited attributes) of the ultimate reality, the attributeless ''Brahman''. In
Visishtadvaita Vishishtadvaita (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and related Indic languages. I ...
and
Dvaita Dvaita Vedanta (originally known as ) (), is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. Alternatively known as ''Bhedavāda'', ''Bimbapratibimbavāda'', ''Pūrnabrahmavāda'' and ''Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda'', the Dvaita V ...
, 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 ''Para Brahman'' ( sa, परब्रह्म, translit=parabrahma, translit-std=IAST) in Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ...
''). 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
Samhita Samhita literally means "put together, joined, union", a "collection", and "a methodically, rule-based combination of text or verses".Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ) are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the o ...

Vedas
dated to the 2nd millennium BCE. For example, The concept ''Brahman'' is referred to in hundreds of hymns in the Vedas.
Maurice Bloomfield Maurice Bloomfield Maurice Bloomfield, Ph.D., LL.D. (February 23, 1855 – June 12, 1928) was an Austrian-born American philologist Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection of textua ...

Maurice Bloomfield

A Vedic Concordance
Harvard University Press, pages 656-662
The word ''Brahma'' is found in
Rig veda The ''Rigveda'' or ''Rig Veda'' ( ', from ' "praise" and ' "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection Collection or Collections may refer to: * Cash collection, the function of an accounts receivable department * Collection agency, ag ...
hymns such as 2.2.10, 6.21.8, 10.72.2 and in
Atharva veda The Atharva The Atharva Veda (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of th ...
hymns such as 6.122.5, 10.1.12, and 14.1.131. The concept is found in various layers of the Vedic literature; for example: Aitareya
Brahmana The Brahmanas (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of , the la ...
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 The Aranyakas (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European langua ...
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.
Jan Gonda Jan Gonda, (14 April 1905 – 28 July 1991) was a Dutch Indologist Indology or Indian studies is the academic study of the history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the ...
states that the diverse reference of ''Brahman'' in the Vedic literature, starting with Rigveda Samhitas, convey "different senses or different shades of meaning".
Jan Gonda Jan Gonda, (14 April 1905 – 28 July 1991) was a Dutch Indologist Indology or Indian studies is the academic study of the history History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the study of the ...
(1962), Some Notes on the Study of Ancient-Indian Religious Terminology, ''History of Religions'', Vol. 1, No. 2 (Winter, 1962), pages 269–271. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1062054
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. 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. Barbara Holdrege states that the concept ''Brahman'' is discussed in the Vedas along four major themes: as the Word or verses (''Sabdabrahman''), as Knowledge embodied in Creator Principle, as Creation itself, and a Corpus of traditions. Hananya Goodman states that the Vedas conceptualize ''Brahman'' as the Cosmic Principles underlying all that exists.
Gavin Flood__NOTOC__ Gavin Dennis Flood (born 1954) is a British scholar of comparative religion Comparative religion is the branch of the study of religions concerned with the systematic comparison of the doctrines and practices, themes and impacts (i ...
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 Atman may refer to: Religion * Ātman (Jainism), a philosophical term used within Jainism to identify the soul * Ātman (Hinduism) ''Ātman'' (; sa, आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominaliz ...
, soul)", and the deeper "truth of a person beyond apparent difference".Gavin Flood (1996), ''An Introduction to Hinduism'', Cambridge University Press, , pages 84–85


Upanishads

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. 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.
Paul Deussen Paul Jakob Deussen (; 7 January 1845 – 6 July 1919) was a Germany, German indology, Indologist and professor of philosophy at University of Kiel. Strongly influenced by Arthur Schopenhauer, Deussen was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Swam ...

Paul Deussen
states that the concept of ''Brahman'' in the Upanishads expands to
metaphysical Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and ...

metaphysical
,
ontological Ontology is the branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about reason, Metaphysics, existence, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of mind, mind, and Ph ...

ontological
and
soteriological Soteriology (; el, σωτηρία ' " salvation" from σωτήρ ' "savior, preserver" and λόγος ' "study" or "word") is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. Salvation theory occupies a place of special significance in many rel ...
themes, such as it being the "primordial reality that creates, maintains and withdraws within it the universe",Paul Deussen, ''Sixty Upanishads of the Veda'', Motilal Banarsidass, , pages 243, 325–344, 363, 581 the "principle of the world", the "
absoluteAbsolute may refer to: Companies * Absolute Entertainment, a video game publisher * Absolute Radio, (formerly Virgin Radio), independent national radio station in the UK * Absolute Software Corporation, specializes in security and data risk managem ...
", the "general, universal", the "cosmic principle", the "ultimate that is the cause of everything including all gods", the "divine being, Lord, distinct God, or God within oneself", the "knowledge", the "soul, sense of self of each human being that is fearless, luminuous, exalted and blissful",Paul Deussen, ''Sixty Upanishads of the Veda'', Motilal Banarsidass, , pages 52, 110, 425, 454, 585–586, 838–851 the "essence of liberation, of spiritual freedom", the "universe within each living being and the universe outside", the "essence and everything innate in all that exists inside, outside and everywhere". 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''). According to , the sages of the
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
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''). The Upanishads contain several ''mahā-vākyas'' or "Great Sayings" on the concept of ''Brahman'': 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 (the inner essence, 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.Chandogya Upanishad with Shankara Bhashya
Ganganath Jha (Translator), pages 150–157
Paul Deussen notes that teachings similar to above on ''Brahman'', re-appeared centuries later in the words of the 3rd century CE
Neoplatonic Neoplatonism is a strand of Platonism, Platonic philosophy that emerged in the second century AD against the background of Hellenistic philosophy and Hellenistic religion, religion. The term does not encapsulate a set of ideas as much as it encap ...
Roman philosopher
Plotinus Plotinus (; grc-gre, Πλωτῖνος, ''Plōtînos'';  – 270 CE) was a major Hellenistic The Hellenistic period spans the period of Mediterranean history The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surround ...

Plotinus
in Enneades 5.1.2.


Criticism to this concept of Mahā-vākya

Following are the words of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, from a selected part of the purport of Ādi 7.128
The Māyāvādī philosophers consider many Vedic ''mantras'' to be the ''mahā-vākya,'' or principal Vedic ''mantra,'' such as ''tat tvam asi'' (''Chāndogya Upaniṣad'' 6.8.7), ''idaṁ sarvaṁ yad ayam ātmā'' and ''brahmedaṁ sarvam'' (''Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad'' 2.5.1), ''ātmaivedaṁ sarvam'' (''Chāndogya Upaniṣad'' 7.25.2) and ''neha nānāsti kiñcana'' (''Kaṭha Upaniṣad'' 2.1.11). That is a great mistake. Only ''oṁkāra'' is the ''mahā-vākya.'' All these other ''mantras'' that the Māyāvādīs accept as the ''mahā-vākya'' are only incidental. They cannot be taken as the ''mahā-vākya,'' or ''mahā-mantra.'' The ''mantra tat tvam asi'' indicates only a partial understanding of the ''Vedas,'' unlike ''oṁkāra,'' which represents the full understanding of the ''Vedas.'' Therefore the transcendental sound that includes all Vedic knowledge is ''oṁkāra'' (''praṇava''). Aside from ''oṁkāra,'' none of the words uttered by the followers of Śaṅkarācārya can be considered the ''mahā-vākya.'' They are merely passing remarks.


Discussion

The concept ''Brahman'' has a lot of undertones of meaning and is difficult to understand. It has relevance in
metaphysics Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consciousness and the relationship between ...

metaphysics
,
ontology Ontology is the branch of philosophy that studies concepts such as existence, being, Becoming (philosophy), becoming, and reality. It includes the questions of how entities are grouped into Category of being, basic categories and which of these ...

ontology
,
axiology Axiology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximatel ...
(
ethics Ethics or moral philosophy is a branch of philosophy that "involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong action (philosophy), behavior".''Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy'"Ethics"/ref> The field of ethics, al ...

ethics
&
aesthetics Aesthetics, or esthetics (), is a branch of philosophy Philosophy (from , ) is the study of general and fundamental questions, such as those about Metaphysics, existence, reason, Epistemology, knowledge, Ethics, values, Philosophy of m ...

aesthetics
),
teleology Teleology (from and )Partridge, Eric. 1977''Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English'' London: Routledge, p. 4187. or finalityDubray, Charles. 2020 912 Year 912 ( CMXII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will dis ...
and
soteriology Soteriology (; el, σωτηρία ' " salvation" from σωτήρ ' "savior, preserver" and λόγος ' "study" or "word") is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. Salvation theory occupies a place of special significance in many rel ...
.


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 Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that studies the first principles of being, identity and change, space and time, causality, necessity and possibility. It includes questions about the nature of consciousness and the relationship between ...

metaphysics
: what is ultimately real, and are there principles applying to everything that is real? ''Brahman'' is the ultimate "eternally, constant" reality, while the observed universe is a different kind of reality but one which is "temporary, changing" ''
Maya Maya may refer to: Civilizations * Maya peoples The Maya peoples () are an ethnolinguistic group of indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as First people, Aboriginal people, Native people, or autochthonous people, are cu ...
'' in various orthodox Hindu schools. Maya pre-exists and co-exists with ''Brahman''—the Ultimate Reality, The Highest Universal, the Cosmic Principles.Archibald Edward Gough (2001), ''The Philosophy of the Upanishads and Ancient Indian Metaphysics'', Routledge, , pages 47–48 In addition to the concept of ''Brahman'', Hindu metaphysics includes the concept of
Atman Atman may refer to: Religion * Ātman (Jainism), a philosophical term used within Jainism to identify the soul * Ātman (Hinduism) ''Ātman'' (; sa, आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominaliz ...
—or soul, self—which is also considered ultimately real. The various schools of Hinduism, particularly the
dual Dual or Duals may refer to: Paired/two things * Dual (mathematics), a notion of paired concepts that mirror one another ** Dual (category theory), a formalization of mathematical duality ** . . . see more cases in :Duality theories * 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 Dvaita Vedanta (; sa, द्वैत वेदान्त) is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indi ...
and later
Nyaya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It arose ...
schools illustrate this premise. Those that consider ''Brahman'' and ''Atman'' as same are monist or pantheistic, and
Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
, later
Samkhya ''Samkhya'' ( sa, साङ्ख्य, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and re ...
and
Yoga Yoga (; sa, योग, lit=yoke' or 'union ) is a group of Asana, physical, mind, mental, and Spirituality#Asian traditions, spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in History of India, ancient India, aimed at controlling ('y ...
schools illustrate this metaphysical premise. In schools that equate ''Brahman'' with ''Atman'', ''Brahman'' is the sole, ultimate reality. 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''. 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. 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. 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 ''Para Brahman'' ( sa, परब्रह्म, translit=parabrahma, translit-std=IAST) in Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ...
''—the ''Brahman'' without attributes. 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'' The concept of the ''saguna Brahman'', such as in the form of
avatar An avatar (Sanskrit: अवतार, IAST: ; ), a concept in Hinduism that means "descent", is the material appearance or incarnation of a deity on earth. The relative verb to "alight, to make one's appearance" is sometimes used to refer to an ...

avatar
s, 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.William Wainwright (2012)
Concepts of God
''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'', Stanford University, (Accessed on: 13 June 2015)


Brahman as an ontological concept

''Brahman'', along with Soul/Self (Atman) are part of the ontological premises of Indian philosophy. Different schools of Indian philosophy have held widely dissimilar ontologies.
Buddhism Buddhism (, ) is the world's fourth-largest religion Religion is a social Social organisms, including humans, live collectively in interacting populations. This interaction is considered social whether they are aware of it or not, and ...

Buddhism
and
Carvaka Charvaka ( sa, चार्वाक; IAST: ''Cārvāka''), also known as ''Lokāyata'', is an ancient school of Indian materialism. Charvaka holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference Inferences are steps in reasoni ...
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 Jainism (), traditionally known as ''Jain Dharma'', is an ancient Indian religion. It is one of the oldest Indian religions. The three main pillars of Jainism are ''Ahimsa in Jainism, ahiṃsā'' (non-violence), ''anekāntavāda'' (non-absolut ...

Jainism
and Ajivikas hold that there exists "a soul, a self". ''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 ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
and
Yoga Yoga (; sa, योग, lit=yoke' or 'union ) is a group of Asana, physical, mind, mental, and Spirituality#Asian traditions, spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in History of India, ancient India, aimed at controlling ('y ...
.Barbara Holdrege (2004), ''The Hindu World'' (Editors: S. Mittal and G. Thursby), Routledge, , pages 241–242 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. In theistic schools, in contrast, such as
Dvaita Vedanta Dvaita Vedanta (; sa, द्वैत वेदान्त) is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indi ...
, 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). Other schools of Hinduism have their own ontological premises relating to ''Brahman'', reality and nature of existence.
Vaisheshika Vaisheshika or Vaiśeṣika ( sa, वैशेषिक) is one of the six schools of Indian philosophy Indian philosophy refers to philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. A traditional Hindu classification divides āstika and ...
school of Hinduism, for example, holds a substantial, realist ontology. The
Carvaka Charvaka ( sa, चार्वाक; IAST: ''Cārvāka''), also known as ''Lokāyata'', is an ancient school of Indian materialism. Charvaka holds direct perception, empiricism, and conditional inference Inferences are steps in reasoni ...
school denied ''Brahman'' and ''Atman'', and held a materialist ontology.


Brahman as an axiological concept

''Brahman'' and ''Atman'' are key concepts to Hindu theories of
axiology Axiology (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximatel ...
: ethics and aesthetics. ''Ananda'' (bliss), state Michael Myers and other scholars, has axiological importance to the concept of ''Brahman'', as the universal inner harmony. Some scholars equate ''Brahman'' with the highest value, in an axiological sense. The axiological concepts of ''Brahman'' and ''Atman'' is central to Hindu theory of values. 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. 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. The axiological theory of values emerges implicitly from the concepts of ''Brahman'' and Atman'', states Bauer. 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. 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. Ignorance is to assume it evil, liberation is to know its eternal, expansive, pristine, happy and good nature.Nancy Bauer (1987)
Advaita Vedānta and Contemporary Western Ethics
''Philosophy East and West'', Vol. 37, No. 1, pages 36–50
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. 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''.N. A. Nikam (1952), A Note on the Individual and His Status in Indian Thought, ''Philosophy East and West'', Vol. 2, No. 3, pages 254–258


Brahman as a teleological concept

''Brahman'' and ''Atman'' are very important teleological concepts.
Teleology Teleology (from and )Partridge, Eric. 1977''Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English'' London: Routledge, p. 4187. or finalityDubray, Charles. 2020 912 Year 912 ( CMXII) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will dis ...
deals with the apparent purpose, principle or goal of something. In the first chapter of the
Shvetashvatara Upanishad The ''Shvetashvatara Upanishad'' (Sanskrit: श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषद् or श्वेताश्वतरोपनिषत् or श्वेताश्वतर उपनिषद् उपनिषद्, IAST: ' ...
, these questions are dealt with. It says : The main purpose of the ''Brahman'' and why it exists is a subjective question according to the
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
. 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 The Aitareya Upanishad (Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of , ...
3.3 and
Brihadaranyaka Upanishad The ''Brihadaranyaka Upanishad'' ( sa, बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद्, ) is one of the Principal Upanishads and one of the first Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', ...
4.4.17 and many other
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
. 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 The Prakrits (; Early Brahmi 𑀧𑁆𑀭𑀸𑀓𑀾𑀢, ''prākṛta''; Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publi ...
) 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 The ''Brihadaranyaka Upanishad'' ( sa, बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद्, ) is one of the Principal Upanishads and one of the first Upanishadic scriptures of Hinduism Hinduism () is an Indian religion and ''dharma'', ...
3.9.26 it mentions that the atman 'neither trembles in fear nor suffers injury' and in the
Isha Upanishad The ''Isha Upanishad'' (Devanagari Devanagari ( ; , , Sanskrit pronunciation: ), also called Nagari (''Nāgarī'', ),Kathleen Kuiper (2010), The Culture of India, New York: The Rosen Publishing Group, , page 83 is a left-to-right abugida ...
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 The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
but the Brahman itself is the only self-contained purpose and true goal according to the
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
, so posing the question is redundant. The
Upanishads The Upanishads (; sa, उपनिषद् ) are Vedic period, late Vedic Sanskrit texts of Hindu philosophy which supplied the basis of later Hindu philosophy.Wendy Doniger (1990), ''Textual Sources for the Study of Hinduism'', 1st Edition ...
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 ''Moksha'' (; sa, मोक्ष, '; Tamil Tamil may refer to: * Tamils, an ethnic group native to India, Sri Lanka and some other parts of Asia **Sri Lankan Tamils, Tamil people native to Sri Lanka **Tamil Malaysians, Tamil people native ...

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), 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. 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. The theistic schools assert that moksha is the loving, eternal union or nearness of one's soul with the distinct and separate Brahman (
Vishnu Vishnu (; ; , ), also known as Narayana and Hari, is one of the Hindu deities, principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme being within Vaishnavism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. Vishnu is known as "The Prese ...

Vishnu
,
Shiva Shiva (; sa, शिव, lit=The Auspicious One, Śiva ), also known as Mahadeva (; ɐɦaːd̪eːʋɐ, is one of the Hindu deities, principal deities of Hinduism. He is the God, Supreme Being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions wit ...

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.


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 ''Vedanta'' (; sa, वेदान्त, ), also ''Uttara Mīmāṃsā'', is one of the six (''āstika'') schools of Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hindui ...
school of Hinduism.


Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
espouses
nondualism In spirituality, nondualism, also called nonduality and interconnectedness; and nondual awareness, is a fuzzy conceptA fuzzy concept is a concept Concepts are defined as abstract ideas or general notions that occur in the mind, in speec ...
. ''Brahman'' is the sole unchanging reality,AC Das (1952)
Brahman and Māyā in Advaita Metaphysics
''Philosophy East and West'', Vol. 2, No. 2, pages 144–154
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.Rosen Dalal (2014), Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, Penguin, , see article on Brahman 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. The goal of Advaita Vedanta is to realize that one's Self (''
Atman Atman may refer to: Religion * Ātman (Jainism), a philosophical term used within Jainism to identify the soul * Ātman (Hinduism) ''Ātman'' (; sa, आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominaliz ...
'') 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. 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. 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 Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of ...

Adi Shankara
, a proponent of
Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
, the knowledge of Brahman that provides cannot be obtained by any other means besides self inquiry. In
Advaita Vedanta ''Advaita Vedānta'' (; sa, अद्वैत वेदान्त, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation Romanization or romanisation, ...
, nirguna Brahman, that is the Brahman without attributes, is held to be the ultimate and sole reality. Consciousness is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. In this respect, Advaita Vedanta differs from other Vedanta schools. Example verses from Bhagavad-Gita include:


Dvaita Vedanta

Brahman of
Dvaita Dvaita Vedanta (originally known as ) (), is a sub-school in the Vedanta tradition of Hindu philosophy. Alternatively known as ''Bhedavāda'', ''Bimbapratibimbavāda'', ''Pūrnabrahmavāda'' and ''Svatantra-Advitiya-Brahmavāda'', the Dvaita V ...
is a concept similar to God in major world religions. Dvaita holds that the individual soul is dependent on God, but distinct. Dvaita propounds Tattvavada which means understanding differences between
Tattva According to various India India, officially the Republic of India (: ), is a country in . It is the by area, the country, and the most populous in the world. Bounded by the on the south, the on the southwest, and the on the south ...

Tattva
s (significant properties) of entities within the universal substrate as follows: # Jîva-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the soul and Vishnu # Jada-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the insentient and Vishnu # Mitha-jîva-bheda — difference between any two souls # Jada-jîva-bheda — difference between insentient and the soul # Mitha-jada-bheda — difference between any two insentients


Achintya Bheda Abheda

The
Acintya Bheda Abheda Achintya-Bheda-Abheda (अचिन्त्यभेदाभेद, ' in IAST) is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of ''inconceivable one-ness and difference''. In Sanskrit ''achintya'' means 'inconceivable', ''bheda'' translat ...
philosophy is similar to
Dvaitadvaita The Nimbarka Sampradaya (IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by Sanskrit and related Indic lan ...
(differential
monism Monism attributes oneness or singleness (Greek: μόνος) to a concept e.g., existence. Various kinds of monism can be distinguished: * Priority monism states that all existing things go back to a source that is distinct from them; e.g., i ...
). 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 In Indian philosophy Indian philosophy refers to philosophical traditions of the Indian subcontinent. A traditional Hindu classification divides āstika and nāstika schools of philosophy, depending on one of three alternate criteria: whet ...
) of Absolute Truth, He is realized as impersonal Brahman, then as personal Brahman having eternal
Vaikuntha Vaikuntha ( sa, वैकुण्ठ, ), also called Vishnuloka (), is the abode of Vishnu Vishnu (; ; , ), also known as Narayana and Hari, is one of the principal deities Principal may refer to: Title or rank * Principal (academia) ...
abode (also known as Brahmalokah sanatana), then as
Paramatma ''Paramatman'' (Sanskrit: परमात्मन्, IAST The International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration (IAST) is a transliteration scheme that allows the lossless romanisation of Brahmic family, Indic scripts as employed by San ...
(by process of
yoga Yoga (; sa, योग, lit=yoke' or 'union ) is a group of Asana, physical, mind, mental, and Spirituality#Asian traditions, spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in History of India, ancient India, aimed at controlling ('y ...

yoga
meditation Meditation is a practice where an individual uses a technique – such as mindfulness Mindfulness is the practice of purposely bringing one's attention in the present moment without evaluation,Mindfulness Training as a Clinical Interventio ...

meditation
on Supersoul, Vishnu-God in heart)—Vishnu (
Narayana Narayana (Sanskrit Sanskrit (, attributively , ''saṃskṛta-'', nominalization, nominally , ''saṃskṛtam'') is a classical language of South Asia belonging to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language ...

Narayana
, also in everyone's heart) who has many abodes known as Vishnulokas (Vaikunthalokas), and finally (Absolute Truth is realized by
bhakti ''Bhakti'' ( sa, ) literally means "attachment, state of mind where the devotees surrender himself or herself unquestioningly to God. The union of the human soul with a supreme God, man's love and devotion for God are some of the concepts wh ...

bhakti
) as
Bhagavan Bhagavān (Sanskrit: , ) or Bhagwan (translated as " Lord") is an epithet for a deity A deity or god is a supernatural being considered divinity, divine or sacred. The ''Oxford Dictionary of English'' defines deity as "a God (male deity), ...
, Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is source of both Paramatma and Brahman (personal, impersonal, or both).


Vaishnavism

All
Vaishnava Vaishnavism is one of the major Hindu denominations along with Shaivism Shaivism () is one of the major Hindu traditions that worships Shiva, also called Rudra, as the Supreme Being. It is considered to be the oldest living religion in ...

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 Moksha, 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''.Karen Pechilis Prentiss (2014), ''The Embodiment of Bhakti'', Oxford University Press, , page 21 ''Nirguna'' Brahman was the concept of the Ultimate Reality as formless, without attributes or quality.Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012), ''The Bhagavad Gita'', Sussex Academic Press, , pages xxvii–xxxiv ''Saguna'' Brahman, in contrast, was envisioned and developed as with form, attributes and quality. The two had parallels in the ancient pantheistic unmanifest and theistic manifest traditions, respectively, and traceable to Arjuna-Krishna dialogue in the Bhagavad Gita.Jeaneane D. Fowler (2012), ''The Bhagavad Gita'', Sussex Academic Press, , pages 207–211 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. ''Nirguna'' bhakta's poetry were ''Jnana-shrayi'', or had roots in knowledge. ''Saguna'' bhakta's poetry were ''Prema-shrayi'', or with roots in love. In Bhakti, the emphasis is reciprocal love and devotion, where the devotee loves God, and God loves the devotee. Jeaneane Fowler states that the concepts of Nirguna and Saguna Brahman, at the root of Bhakti movement Theosophy (Blavatskian), theosophy, underwent more profound development with the ideas of
Vedanta ''Vedanta'' (; sa, वेदान्त, ), also ''Uttara Mīmāṃsā'', is one of the six (''āstika'') schools of Hindu philosophy Hindu philosophy encompasses the philosophies, world views and teachings of Hinduism Hindui ...
school of Hinduism, particularly those of
Adi Shankara Adi Shankaracharya (Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of ...

Adi Shankara
's Advaita Vedanta, Ramanuja's Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, and Madhvacharya's Dvaita Vedanta. 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. ''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". 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''.David Lorenzen (1996), ''Praises to a Formless God: Nirguni Texts from North India'', State University of New York Press, , page 2 These were two alternate ways of imagining God during the bhakti movement.


Buddhist understanding of Brahman

Buddhism rejects the Upanishadic doctrine of Brahman and Atman (soul, permanent self, essence). 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'')". The metaphysics of Buddhism rejects Brahman (ultimate being), Brahman-like essence, soul and anything metaphysically equivalent through its Anatta doctrine. According to Merv Fowler, some forms of Buddhism have incorporated concepts that resemble that of Brahman. 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". 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". 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." Fowler asserts that the authors of a number of Mahayana texts took pains to differentiate their ideas from the Upanishadic doctrine of Brahman.


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.Bruce Sullivan (1999), Seer of the Fifth Veda, Motilal Banarsidass, , pages 82–83 In the Hindu texts, one of the earliest mentions of deity Brahma along with
Vishnu Vishnu (; ; , ), also known as Narayana and Hari, is one of the Hindu deities, principal deities of Hinduism. He is the supreme being within Vaishnavism, one of the major traditions within contemporary Hinduism. Vishnu is known as "The Prese ...

Vishnu
and
Shiva Shiva (; sa, शिव, lit=The Auspicious One, Śiva ), also known as Mahadeva (; ɐɦaːd̪eːʋɐ, is one of the Hindu deities, principal deities of Hinduism. He is the God, Supreme Being in Shaivism, one of the major traditions wit ...

Shiva
is in the fifth ''Prapathaka'' (lesson) of the Maitrayaniya Upanishad, probably composed in late 1st millennium BCE, after the rise of Buddhism. 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. This critique of Brahma in early Buddhist texts aim at ridiculing the
Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ) are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the o ...

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. 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. Simultaneously, by reformulating Brahman as Brahma and relegating it within its Devas and Saṃsāra (Buddhism), Samsara theories, early Buddhism rejected the Atman-Brahman premise of the Vedas to present of its own ''Dhamma'' doctrines (anicca, dukkha and anatta).


Brahman in Sikhism

The metaphysical concept of Brahman, particularly as ''nirguni Brahman''—attributeless, formless, eternal Highest Reality—is at the foundation of Sikhism.S. S. Kohli (1993), ''The Sikh and Sikhism'', Atlantic, , page 39 This belief is observed through ''nirguni Bhakti'' by the Sikhs. 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". 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". 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. The ideas about God and Highest Reality in Sikhism share themes found in the ''Saguna'' and ''Nirguna'' concepts of Brahman in Hinduism. 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.


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. 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. 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. 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.P. Jaini (1998), ''The Jaina Path of Purification'', Motilal Banarsidass, , pages 90–93 Those who have understood and realized the Absolute Truth are the liberated ones and the Supreme Souls, with Kevala Jnana.


Comparison of Brahma, Brahman, Brahmin and Brahmanas

Brahma is distinct from Brahman. Brahma is a male deity, in the post-Vedic Puranic literature, 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. In theistic schools of Hinduism where deity Brahma is described as part of its cosmology, he is a mortal like all gods and goddesses, dissolving into the abstract immortal Brahman when the universe ends and a new cosmic cycle (kalpa) restarts again. Brahman is a metaphysical concept of Hinduism referring to the ultimate unchanging reality, that is uncreated, eternal, infinite, transcendent, the cause, the foundation, the source and the goal of all existence. 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. It is a gender neutral abstract concept. The abstract Brahman concept is predominant in the Vedic texts, particularly the Upanishads; while the deity Brahma finds minor mention in the Vedas and the Upanishads. In the Puranic and the Epics literature, deity Brahma appears more often, but inconsistently. Some texts suggest that god Vishnu created Brahma (Vaishnavism), others suggest god Shiva created Brahma (Shaivism), yet others suggest goddess Devi created Brahma (Shaktism), and these texts then go on to state that Brahma is a secondary creator of the world working respectively on their behalf. Further, the medieval era texts of these major theistic traditions of Hinduism assert that the ''saguna'' Brahman is Vishnu, is Shiva, or is Devi 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.
Brahmin Brahmin (; sa, ब्राह्मण, brāhmaṇa) are a varna Varna may refer to: Places Europe * Varna, Bulgaria, a large city in Bulgaria. ** Varna Province **Varna Municipality **Gulf of Varna **Lake Varna *Vahrn, or Varna, a munic ...

Brahmin
is a Varna (Hinduism), varna in Hinduism specialising in theory as priests, preservers and transmitters of sacred literature across generations. The
Brahmana The Brahmanas (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; , , ) is a of that belongs to the branch of the . It arose in South Asia after its predecessor languages had there from the northwest in the late . Sanskrit is the of , the la ...
s are one of the four ancient layers of texts within the
Vedas upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ) are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the o ...

Vedas
. They are primarily a digest incorporating myths, legends, the explanation of Vedic rituals and in some cases philosophy. They are embedded within each of the four Vedas, and form a part of the Hindu texts, Hindu ''śruti'' literature."Brahmana"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''


See also

* Acintya * Om, Aum * Bardo * Jiva * Mysticism * Names of God * Pure land * Spirit * Universal mind * Yoga


Notes


References


Bibliography

* * * * * * *


External links


The Concept of Brahman in Hindu Philosophy
Haridas Chaudhuri (1954), ''Philosophy East and West'', Vol. 4, No. 1, pages 47–66
The Idea of God in Hinduism
A. S. Woodburne (1925), ''The Journal of Religion'', Vol. 5, No. 1, pages 52–66
The Western View of Hinduism: An Age-old Mistake
(Brahman), J. M. De Mora (1997), ''Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute'', Vol. 78, No. 1/4, pages 1–12
Concepts of God
''Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy'', Stanford University, (Compares Brahman with concepts of God found in other religions)
Detailed essays on Brahman
at Hinduwebsite.com {{Names of God Hindu philosophical concepts Conceptions of God Names of God in Hinduism