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Impact of a drop of water in water, a common analogy for Brahman and the Ātman

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In the Hindu religion, Brahman (Devanāgarī: ब्रह्मन् bráhman) is the eternal, unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe.[1] The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools. In the Rig Veda, Brahman gives rise to the primordial being Hiranyagarbha that is equated with the creator God Brahmā. The trimurti can thus be considered a personification of Hiranyagarbha as the active principle behind the phenomena of the universe.

The word "Brahman" is traditionally derived from the verb ((brh)) (Sanskrit: to grow), and connotes greatness and infinity. The Mundaka Upanishad says:

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



Sanskrit bráhman (an n-stem, nominative bráhmā) is from a root bṛh " to swell, grow, enlarge". brahmán is a masculine derivation of bráhman, denoting a person associated with bráhman. The further origin of bṛh is unclear. According to the Indogermanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (IEW, "Indo-European Etymological Dictionary") written by the Austrian-German comparative linguist and Celtic languages expert Julius Pokorny IE root bhreu-, bhreu-d- denotes to swell, sprout (cf Slovenian brsteti - to sprout.) 'It could be from PIE *bherg'h- "to rise, high, eminent", cognate to Old Norse Bragi. Some, including Georges Dumézil, have said that the Latin word flāmen "priest" may also be cognate. However, the standard Indo-Aryan etymological dictionary by M. Mayrhofer (1986-2000, vol. II, p. 236-8) derives brahman 'formulation (of truth) [in poetry], from Indo-Iranian *bhrajh-man < Indo-European *bhreg'h-men; cf. Old Persian brazman, Middle Persian brahm 'form', Nuristani (Ashkun) blamade 'a god' ( from *brahma-deva?), Old Norse bragr 'poetical art', etc., and argues against connection with Latin flamen.


Beginning with the late Vedic Upanishads, Brahman is the Absolute Reality or universal substrate (not to be confused with the Creator god Lord Brahmā) in Hinduism. It is said to be eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and ultimately indescribable in human language. The sages of the Upanishads proclaim Brahman to be the reality behind everything in this universe. Later, Brahman was described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness, and infinite Bliss (saccidananda). Brahman is regarded as the source and essence of the material universe. The Rig Veda says that by desire (RV 10.12.94), the initial manifestation of the material universe came into being from Hiranyagarbha (literally "golden womb"), out of which the world, organisms and divine beings (devas) arose:

"Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman." — Atharva Veda

Para Brahman corresponds to the concept of Godhead and Saguna Brahman to God as the Primordial Being.

It is said that Brahman cannot be known by material means, that we cannot be made conscious of it, because Brahman is our very consciousness. Brahman is also not restricted to the usual dimensional perspectives of being, and thus enlightenment, moksha, yoga, samādhi, nirvana, etc. do not merely mean to know Brahman, but to realise one's "brahman-hood", to actually realise that one is and always was Brahman. Indeed, closely related to the Self concept of Brahman is the idea that it is synonymous with jiva-atma, or individual souls, our atman (or soul) being readily identifiable with the greater soul (paramatma) of Brahman.

Generally, Vedanta rejects the notion of an evolving Brahman since Brahman contains within it the potentiality and archetypes behind all possible manifest phenomenal forms. The Vedas, though they are in some respects historically conditioned are considered by Hindus to convey a knowledge[2] eternal, timeless and always contemporaneous with Brahman. This knowledge is considered to have been handed down by realised yogins to students many generations before the vedas were committed to writing. Written texts of the Vedas are a relatively recent phenomenon.

Connected with the ritual of pre-Vedantic Hinduism, Brahman signified the power to grow, the expansive and self-altering process of ritual and sacrifice, often visually realized in the sputtering of flames as they received the all important ghee (clarified butter) and rose in concert with the mantras of the Vedas. The term Brahmin in the Vedic period actually meant one who has realized Brahman. However, later on Brahmin came to be identified with the highest of the four castes, the Brahmins, who by virtue of their purity and priesthood held themselves as proprietors of rituals, though mostly without actual realization of Brahman, and void of Vedantic knowledge.

Among Hindu sects, Advaita Vedanta espouses monism. The closest interpretation of the term can be found in the Taittiriya Upanishad (II.1) where Brahman is described as satyam jnanam anantam brahman ("Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity"). Thus, Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material or otherwise. Brahman is the root source and Divine Ground of everything that exists, and is the only thing that exists according to Shankara. It is defined as unknowable and Satchitananda ("Truth-Consciousness-Bliss"). Since it is eternal and infinite, it comprises the only truth. The goal of Vedanta is to realize that the soul (Atman) is actually nothing but Brahman. The Hindu pantheon of gods is said, in the Vedas and Upanishads, to be only higher manifestations of Brahman. For this reason, "ekam sat" ("Truth is one"), and all is Brahman. This explains the Hindu view that "All paths lead to the one Truth, though many sages [and religions] call upon it by different names."

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

prajnānam brahma[3] "Brahman is knowledge"
ayam ātmā brahma[4] "The Self (or the Soul) is Brahman "
aham brahmāsmi[5] "I am Brahman"
tat tvam asi[6] "Thou art that"
sarvam khalv idam brahma[7] "All this that we see in the world is Brahman",
sachchidānanda brahma[8][9] "Brahman or Brahma is existence, consciousness, and bliss".

Semantics and pronunciation

Here the underlined vowels carry the Vedic Sanskrit udātta short pitch accent. It is usual to use an acute accent symbol for this purpose. (on the first syllable).

In Vedic Sanskrit:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuter[10] gender) means the Great Cosmic Spirit, from root brha
  • Brahmānda (ब्रह्माण्ड) (nominative singular), from stems brha (to expand) + anda (egg), means universe as an expansion of a cosmic egg (Hiranyagarbha), or the macrocosm. Brahmanda Purana discusses cosmogenesis. Bhagavata Purana also discusses cosmogony and fundamental principles of material nature in detail.[11]

In later Sanskrit usage:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter[10] gender) means the concept of the transcendent and immanent ultimate reality of the One Godhead or Supreme Cosmic Spirit in Hinduism; the concept is central to Hindu philosophy, especially Vedanta; this is discussed below. Also note that the word Brahman in this sense is exceptionally treated as masculine (see the Merrill-Webster Sanskrit Dictionary). It is called "the Brahman" in English. 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.

One must not confuse these with:

  • A brāhmaņa (ब्राह्मण) (masculine, pronounced as /brα:h mə Ņə/ - the N being retroflex), (which literally means "pertaining to prayer") is a prose commentary on the Vedic mantras—an integral part of the Vedic literature.
  • A brāhmaņa (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, Brahmāņi. 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 Vedic Hinduism, 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.

Brahman and Atman

Some Upanishadic statements identify the Atman, the inner essence of the human being, with Brahman. While Advaita philosophy considers Brahman to be without form, qualities, or attributes, Visishtadvaita and Dvaita philosophies understand Brahman as one with infinite auspicious qualities. In Advaita, the ultimate reality is expressed as Nirguna Brahman. Nirguna means formless, attributeless, mega-soul, or spirit-only. Advaita considers all personal forms of God including Vishnu and Shiva as different aspects of God in personal form, Saguna Brahman i.e. God with attributes. In Visishtadvaita and Dvaita, God is Saguna Brahman with infinite attributes and is the source of the impersonal Nirguna Brahman, and God's energy is regarded as Devi, the Divine Mother.

The phrase that is seen to be the only possible (and still thoroughly inadequate) description of Brahman that humans, with limited minds and being, can entertain is the Sanskrit word Sacchidānanda, which is combined from sat-chit-ānanda, meaning "Being - Consciousness - Bliss".

The description of Brahman from Mandukya Upanishad:

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोयमात्मा चतुष्पात्
sarvam hyetad brahmāyamātmā brahma soyamātmā chatushpāt - Mandukya Upanishad, verse-2

  • Translation:-

sarvam (सर्वम्)- whole/all/everything; hi (हि)- really/surely/indeed; etad (एतद्)- this here/this; brahma (ब्रह्म)- Brahma/Brahman; ayam (अयम्)- this/here; ātmā(आत्मा)- atma/atman; sah(सः)- he; ayam (अयम्)- this/here; chatus(चतुस्)- four/quadruple; pāt(पात्)- step/foot/quarter

सर्वम् हि एतद् ब्रह्म अयम् आत्मा ब्रह्म सः अयम् आत्मा चतुस पात्
sarvam hi etad brahma ayam ātmā brahm sah ayam ātmā chatus paat

  • Simple meaning:-

All indeed is this Brahman; He is Atman; He has four steps/quarters.

Vishnu is traditionally derived from the root "Vish" which means to enter or pervade, and He is called Vishnu because He pervades the whole universe. Brahmanda Purana (1.4.25) says that He is called as Vishnu because He has entered into everything in the universe. The most important aspect is that the whole universe is covered by only three steps of Vishnu which is referred to several times in the Vedas (Rig Veda 1.22.17, 1.154. 3, 1.155.4, Atharva Veda 7.26.5, Yajur Veda 2.25). In His three steps rests the whole universe (Rig Veda 1.154.2, Yajur Veda 23.49). All indeed is Brahman, which can thus be identified with Vishnu, based on the Vedas.

Enlightenment and Brahman

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

Advaita Vedanta

The universe does not simply possess consciousness, it is consciousness, and this consciousness is Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, knowledge of brahman springs from inquiry into the words of the Upanishads, and the knowledge of brahman that shruti provides cannot be obtained in any other way.[12]

In Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is without attributes and strictly impersonal. It can be best described as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness, and infinite Bliss. It is pure knowledge itself, similar to a source of infinite radiance. Since the Advaitins regard Brahman to be the Ultimate Truth, so in comparison to Brahman, every other thing, including the material world, its distinctness, the individuality of the living creatures are all untrue. Brahman is the effulgent cause of everything that exists and can possibly exist. Since it is beyond human comprehension, it is without any attributes, for assigning attributes to it would be distorting the true nature of Brahman. Advaitins believe in the existence of both Saguna Brahman and Nirguna Brahman, however they consider Nirguna Brahman to be the Absolute Truth.

When man tries to know the attributeless Brahman with his mind, under the influence of an illusionary power of Brahman called Maya, Brahman becomes God (Ishvara). God is the reflection of the Brahman in the environment of illusion (Maya). Just like reflection of moon, in a pool of water. The material world also appears as such due to Maya. God is Saguna Brahman, or Brahman with attributes. He is omniscient, omnipresent, incorporeal, independent, Creator of the world, its ruler and also destroyer. He is eternal and unchangeable. He is both immanent and transcedent, as well as full of love and justice. He may be even regarded to have a personality. He is the subject of worship. He is the basis of morality and giver of the fruits of one's Karma. He rules the world with his Maya. However, while God is the Lord of Maya and she (i.e. Maya) is always under his control, living beings (jīva, in the sense of humans) are the servants of Maya (in the form of ignorance). This ignorance is the cause of all material experiences in the mortal world. While God is Infinite Bliss, humans, under the influence of Maya consider themselves limited by the body and the material, observable world. This misperception of Brahman as the observed Universe results in human emotions such as happiness, sadness, anger and fear. The ultimate reality remains Brahman and nothing else. The Advaita equation is simple. It is due to Maya that the one single Atman (the individual soul) appears to the people as many Atmans, each in a single body. Once the curtain of maya is lifted, the Atman is exactly equal to Brahman. Thus, due to true knowledge, an individual loses the sense of ego (Ahamkara) and achieves liberation, or Moksha.

Relevant verses from Bhagavad-Gita which establish the Advaita position:

The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and its eternal nature is called adhyatma, the self. (Bhagavad Gita 8.3)

Similar to a person who is not attached to external pleasures but enjoys happiness in the Atman (soul), the person who perceives Brahman (all-pervading consciousness) in everybody feels everlasting joy. (Bhagavad Gita 5.21)

Visishtadvaita Vedanta

Brahman of Visishtadvaita is synonymous with Narayana, who is the transcendent and immanent reality. Brahman or Narayana is Saguna Brahman with infinite auspicious qualities, and not the Advaita concept of attributeless Nirguna Brahman. "Sarvam khalvidam brahma, tajjalaniti santa upasita": According to Ramanuja, considering the appearance of the word "tajjalan iti" (Roots: tat + ja = born + la = dissolved), this statement from the Chandogya Upanishad does not simply mean that the universe is Brahman, but that it is pervaded by, born from and dissolves into Brahman. An analogy: fish is born in water, lives in water, and is ultimately dissolved into water; yet the fish is not water.

The concept of Brahman in Visishtadvaita is explained as an inseparable triad of Ishwara-Chit-Achit. Ishvara, the Supreme Self (Paramatman) is the indwelling spirit (Antaryami) in all. Both the Chit (sentient) and Achit (insentient) entities are pervaded and permeated by Ishvara. Brahman is the material and efficient cause of the universe. The concept of Brahman in Visishtadvaita can be seen as a hybrid of Advaita and Dvaita positions. Like all other Vaishnava schools of thought, Visishtadvaita is also panentheistic unlike the pantheism of Advaita. It also proposes a qualified attributive monism approach as opposed to the absolute monism of Advaita.

Brahman is, Antaryami, the real self of all beings. Everything other than Brahman form the Sarira (body) of Brahman. The inseparable relation between the body and the soul is similar to that of substance and attribute which are inseparable. So Brahman is the prakari and the universe is the prakara, mode of Brahman. Hence anything that describes a sentient or insentient being has its connotation only with Brahman, the real and ultimate self. The relationship between Ishvara-Chit-Achit can be further understood as follows:

1. The Sarira-Sariri Concept

The key concept of Visishtadvaita is the Sarira-Sariri Bhaava, the body-soul relationship between the universe and Ishvara. There are three realities, namely, Ishvara (the Lord), Jiva (individual souls), and Jagat (insentient matter). They are not separate entities but together they form an organic whole. This is similar to the concept of body-soul relationship, but on a cosmic scale. Thus, Ishvara has the Chit (sentient) and Achit (insentient) entities for His body and being the Supreme Self, exercises complete control over it.

2. Substance-Attribute Concept

In Visishtadvaita, Ishvara is the original substance, of which Jiva and Prakriti are attributes. An attribute cannot have an existence independent of an underlying substance. The substance-attribute concept establishes an uninterrupted, non-reciprocal relationship between Ishvara and the two modes.

Followers of Visishtadvaita refute Advaita thought that if it is indeed true that the one undivided Brahman, whose very nature is pure spirit, is the foundation of Maya and also embodies the liberating force of knowledge, then it is illogical to say that the very same Brahman falls under the influence of the illusory power of Maya and gets covered by ignorance. Thus establishing that Jiva and Ishvara are indeed separate entities. Since both their identities and capabilities are different, the Jiva and the Lord are essentially distinct. In other words, if Brahman is indivisible, changeless, and supreme, then a force of Maya cannot appear within Brahman, modify it, and put it into ignorance.

Bhakti Yoga is the sole means of liberation in Visishtadvaita. Through Bhakti (devotion), a Jiva ascends to the realm of the Lord to become one with Him. Karma Yoga and Jnana Yoga are natural outcomes of Bhakti, total surrender, as the devotee acquires the knowledge that the Lord is the inner self. A devotee realizes his own state as dependent on, and supported by, and being led by the Lord, who is the Master. One is to lead a life as an instrument of the Lord, offering all his thought, word, and deed to the feet of the Lord. One is to see the Lord in everything and everything in Him. This is the unity in diversity achieved through devotion.

In Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna is Ishvara and denotes Saguna Brahman, and the term Brahman means Nirguna Brahman:

I (Ishvara) am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness. (Bhagavad Gita 14.27)

I (Ishvara) am transcendental, beyond both kshara (the fallible, perishable world) and akshara (the infallible). (Bhagavad Gita 15.18)

Dvaita Vedanta

Brahman of Dvaita (substantial monism) is synonymous with Hari or Vishnu, who is the most exalted Para Brahman (Supreme Brahman), superior to liberated souls and even the impersonal Brahman. Dvaita holds that the individual soul is dependent (paratantra) on God, since it is unable to exist without the energizing support of the universal spirit, just as a tree cannot survive without its sap.

Dvaita schools argue against the Advaita concept that upon liberation one realizes Brahman as a formless God is erroneous, quoting from Vedanta Sutra:

The form of Brahman is unmanifest, but even the form of Brahman becomes directly visible to one who worships devoutly (tat avyaktam aha, api samradhane pratyaksa anumanabhyam)[citation needed].[13] (Vedanta Sutra 3.2.23)

Within His divine realm, devotees see other divine manifestations which appear even as physical objects in a city (antara bhuta gramavat svatmanah). (Vedanta Sutra 3.3.36)

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

1. Jîva-Îshvara-bheda - difference between the soul and Vishnu

2. Jada-Îshvara-bheda - difference between the insentient and Vishnu

3. Mitha-jîva-bheda - difference between any two souls

4. Jada-jîva-bheda - difference between insentient and the soul

5. Mitha-jada-bheda - difference between any two insentients

The Acintya Bheda Abheda philosophy is similar to Dvaitadvaita (differential monism). 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.

The Advaita concept of a Jivanmukta is mocked as an absurd oxymoron because a person who has surmounted the realm of perception and realized the Absolute (as Advaita holds) should not continue to exist within and interact with the realm of perception that one has realized as being not real. The suggestion that such bondage to the world of perception continues for a while after the occurrence of God-realization, because of past attachments, is not tenable. Such attachments themselves are artifacts of the perceived world that has supposedly been sublated, and should not continue to besiege the consciousness of the self-realized. A Jivanmukta, or liberated person, should not even be physically present in the material universe. A person who is living in the world cannot be said to be free of sorrow born of material contact, and also cannot be said to experience the joy of liberation. The very act of being in a gross material body is not accepted in as a Jivanmukta i.e. a person liberated from the cycle of birth and death. The soul upon liberation does not lose its identity, which remains different from God, nor does one become equal to God in any respect. A mukta indeed becomes free from all suffering, but one's enjoyment is not of the same caliber as His, nor does a mukta become independent of Him. The permanent differential aspect of Atman (soul) from the Lord is established from:

Never was there a time when I (Ishvara) did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. (Bhagavad Gita 2.12)

In Dvaita, liberation (Moksha) is achieved by flawless devotion and correct understanding. Devotion to a personal form of God, Saguna Brahman, indicated here is the transcendental form of Krishna or Vishnu (see Vaishnavism). This conclusion is corroborated by the Bhagavata Purana, written by Vyasa as his commentary on Vedanta Sutra.

O my Lord, Krishna, son of Vasudeva, O all-pervading Lord, I offer my respectful obeisances unto You, the Absolute Truth and the primeval cause of all causes of the creation, sustenance and destruction of the manifested universes (om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmady asya yatah 'nvayad itaratas cartheshv abhijnah svarat). (Bhagavata Purana 1.1.1)

Vyasa employs the words "janma-adi -- creation, sustenance and destruction; asya -- of the manifested universes; yatah -- from whom;", in the first verse of the Bhagavata Purana to establish that Krishna is the Absolute Truth. This is clear testimony of the author's own conclusion that the ultimate goal of all Vedic knowledge is Krishna.

Sri Aurobindo's Evolutionary View

A central tenet of Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is that the Truth of existence is an omnipresent Reality that both transcends the manifested universe and is inherent in it. This Reality, referred to as Brahman, is an Absolute: it is not limited by any mental conception or duality, whether personal or impersonal, existent or nonexistent, formless or manifested in form, timeless or extended in time, spaceless or extended in space. It is simultaneously all of these but is bound by none of them. It is at once the universe, each individual being and thing in the universe, and the Transcendent beyond the universe. In its highest manifested poise, its nature may be described as Sachchidananda—infinite existence, infinite consciousness, and infinite delight or bliss—a triune principle in which the three are united in a single Reality. In other words, it is a fully conscious and blissful infinite existence. The importance of this concept for humanity lies in its implication that Brahman is our deepest and secret Reality, it is our true Self, and it is possible to recover this Reality of our being by removing the veil of ignorance that hides it from us and imprisons us in a false identification with an apparently divided and limited egoistic movement on the surface of our being. This is the metaphysical basis for Sri Aurobindo's yoga, the discipline given to consciously unite our phenomenal existence and life with our essential Reality.

How has the absolute Brahman, Sachchidananda, become what we see here around us—this world of inconscient matter, struggling life, ignorance, limitation, conflict, suffering, death, and evil? In answering this question, Sri Aurobindo explains that the Absolute is not bound—not bound to its infinite existence, not bound to its infinite consciousness and the force inherent in that consciousness, not bound to its infinite bliss. Second, he explains that by definition Brahman is capable of manifesting within its absolute existence innumerable, limited, even distorted and contrary forms of its being. We may further deduce that an infinitely extended, infinitely diverse manifestation, replete with objects and beings ranging from the most unconscious, the most vile, to the most conscious, the most beautiful, the most divine, would be perfectly consistent with an existence that was Absolute.

But how does the Brahman do this? Through what Sri Aurobindo describes as the principle of exclusive concentration. This principle is best explained through the example of our own ability to narrow our conscious awareness on a particular idea or perception, putting behind in the background of our focused awareness the rest of our conscious existence. When an author concentrates in writing her story—developing the characters, the scene, the action—her own personal identity becomes for the moment lost to her conscious awareness. Her consciousness enters into the story and identifies with it. She does not cease to be what she is or lose her knowledge of her identity, but practically her awareness is narrowed and identified at a point. This ability to focus awareness and put into the background all else is inherent in consciousness. It is through a similar process that the One and Infinite Being becomes the many, apparently separate, individual beings and things we see manifested in the universe. The separation is in appearance only, for in truth all individuals are constituted by the One, are That in their Reality, for there is nothing outside the Absolute. They are forms and appearances of its Being, expressions of its Consciousness, movements of its Delight.

According to Sri Aurobindo, for our world in particular—there are other worlds that follow a different process—there is taking place a gradual awakening of consciousness over time, an evolution of consciousness. Through its principle of exclusive concentration, the One became matter, losing all conscious awareness in the form of inanimate matter. From this base it is progressively awakening through the life of the plant, the beginnings of mind in the animal, the full emergence of mind in humanity, and is now stirring to awaken fully through the emergence of a greater consciousness than mind, the Supermind, in which the fullness of the undivided consciousness and infinite delight of the One will be manifest in individualities embodied here on earth. This evolution of consciousness, from the worm to the god, is the central process, aim, and significance of our existence.

There is the further question of why the Absolute would manifest in this way, and in particular, why pain, suffering, evil would be allowed to exist. For there is no shifting of responsibility possible here, there is nothing or no one outside the Absolute. It is a complex problem and there are various sides to the answer that Sri Aurobindo provides; here it is possible only to suggest the outlines of the solution. One point that Sri Aurobindo emphasizes is that it is the Brahman who thus suffers, it is not imposed on someone or something outside the Brahman. A second point he makes is that limitation and ignorance are inherent consequences of the plunge of the Absolute consciousness into the inconscience and its slow evolutionary awakening—pain, suffering, and evil developed as consequences or corollaries of limitation and ignorance. A third point is that while pain, suffering, and evil are abhorrent to our limited ethical sensibilities, they also may serve a purpose in the larger scheme of the evolutionary process. That is, they may be the spurs needed to drive a dense and ignorant emerging consciousness towards its own fullness and ultimate release into the infinite and eternal, into the truth and delight of the divine existence. Furthermore, the end of the process, hidden from our narrow view, of a divine existence on earth, may carry within it the justification for the hard conditions of its gradual manifestation in time.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's view

In his writings on the Bhagavad Gita, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi defines Brahman as follows:[14]

Brahman, which is an all-pervading mass of bliss, does not exhibit any quality of bliss. It may be likened to a mass of energy- matter - which does not exhibit any quality of energy... Brahman is that which cannot be expressed into words, even thought the Upanishads use words to educate about Its nature. In the field of speech, Brahman lies between two contrary statements. It is absolute and relative at the same time. It is the eternal imperishable even while It is ever changing. It is said to be both This and That. It is spoken of as Sat-Chita-Ananda but includes what is not Sat, what is not Chit, and what is not Ananda. It is beyond speech and thought, yet the whole range of thought and speech lies within It. ‘Within It’ and ‘without It’ are just expressions, and like any other expressions about Brahman they do justice neither to Brahman nor to the speaker nor to the listener. Brahman is lived by man with ease but cannot be spoken of, in the sense that words are inadequate to encompass That which is the unlimited fullness of transcendental Being and the fullness of active life at the same time. Verse 29 of Chapter II (of the Bhagavad-Gita) speak of It as a “wonder”, for it is not anything that can be conceived of intellectually; it is not anything that can be appreciated by emotion…Brahman is the value of our life and the truth of it is that it is lived ‘with ease'.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ Brodd, Jefferey (2003). World Religions. Winona, MN: Saint Mary's Press. ISBN 978-0-88489-725-5. 
  2. ^ Veda means 'knowledge' and not merely epistemic knowledge but knowledge of the eternal truth that one's ultimate nature is pure consciousness and independent of material form (cf. Gnosis
  3. ^ Aitareya Upanishad 3.3
  4. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5,
  5. ^ Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10,
  6. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 6.8.7 et seq.
  7. ^ Chhāndogya Upanishad 3.14.1
  8. ^ Nrisimhauttaratāpini, cited in Swami Nikhilananda, The Upanishads: A new Translation Vol. I.
  9. ^ In the Bhagavad Gītā, Krishna also describes the nature of Brahman. For example, he says "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness" (brahmano hi pratishthaham...) B-Gita (As-it-Is) 14.27 Translation by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
  10. ^ a b Not Masculine or Feminine (see Grammatical gender).
  11. ^ Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam
  12. ^ Anantanand Rambachan, The limits of scripture: Vivekananda's reinterpretation of the Vedas. University of Hawaii Press, 1994, pages 125, 124: [1].
  13. ^ api - but, samradhane - intense worship, pratyaksa - as directly visible, anumanabhyam - as inferred from scripture
  14. ^ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad-Gita, a New Translation and Commentary, Chapter 1-6. Penguin Books, 1969, pp 440-441 (v 28)

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BRAHMAN, a Sanskrit noun-stem which, differently accented, yields in the two nominatives Brahma (neut.) and Brahma (masc.), the names of two deities which occupy prominent places in the orthodox system of Hindu belief. Brahma (n.) is the designation generally applied to the Supreme Soul (paramatman), or impersonal, all-embracing divine essence, the original source and ultimate goal of all that exists; Brahma (m.), on the other hand, is only one of the three hypostases of that divinity whose creative activity he represents, as distinguished from its preservative and destructive aspects, ever apparent in life and nature, and represented by the gods Vishnu and Siva respectively. The history of the two cognate names reflects in some measure the development of Indian religious speculation generally.

The neuter term brahma is used in the Rigveda both in the abstract sense of "devotion, worship," and in the concrete sense of "devotional rite, prayer, hymn." The spirit of Vedic worship is pervaded by a devout belief in the efficacy of invocation and sacrificial offering. The earnest and well-expressed prayer or hymn of praise cannot fail to draw the divine power to the worshipper and make it yield to his supplication; whilst offerings, so far from being mere acts of devotion calculated to give pleasure to the god, constitute the very food and drink which render him vigorous and capable of battling with the enemies of his mortal friend. It is this intrinsic power of fervent invocation and worship which found an early expression in the term brahma; and its independent existence as an active moral principle in shaping the destinies of man became recognized in the Vedic pantheon in the conception of a god Brihaspati or Brahmanaspati, " lord of prayer or devotion," the divine priest and the guardian of the pious worshipper. By a natural extension of the original meaning, the term brahma, in the sense of sacred utterance, was subsequently likewise applied to the whole body of sacred writ, the tri-vidya or "triple lo re" of the Veda; whilst it also came to be commonly used as the abstract designation of the priestly function and the Brahmanical order generally, in the same way as the term kshatra, " sway, rule," came to denote the aggregate of functions and individuals of the Kshatriyas or Rajanyas, the nobility or military class.

The universal belief in the efficacy of invocation as an indispensable adjunct to sacrifices and religious rites generally, could not fail to engender and maintain in the minds of the people feelings of profound esteem and reverence towards those who possessed the divine gift of inspired utterance, as well as for those who had acquired an intimate knowledge of the approved forms of ritual worship. A common designation of the priest is brahman (nom. brahma), originally denoting, it would seem, "one who prays, a worshipper," perhaps also "the composer of a hymn" (brahman, n.); and the same term came subsequently to be used not only for one of the sacerdotal order generally, but also, and more commonly, as the designation of a special class of priests who officiated as superintendents during sacrificial performances, the complicated nature of which required the co-operation of a whole staff of priests, and who accordingly were expected to possess a competent knowledge of the entire course of ritual procedure, including the correct form and mystic import of the sacred texts to be repeated or chanted by the several priests. The Brahman priest (brahma) being thus the recognized head of the sacerdotal order (brahma), which itself is the visible embodiment of sacred writ and the devotional spirit pervading it (brahma), the complete realization of theocratic aspirations required but a single step, which was indeed taken in the theosophic speculations of the later Vedic poets and the authors of the Brahmanas (q.v.), viz. the recognition of this abstract notion of the Brahma as the highest cosmic principle and its identification with the pantheistic conception of an all-pervading, self-existent spiritual substance, the primary source of the universe; and subsequently coupled therewith the personification of its creative energy in the form of Brahma, the divine representative of the earthly priest, who was made to take the place of the earlier conception of Prajapati, " the lord of creatures" (see B Rahmanism). By this means the very name of this god expressed the essential oneness of his nature with that of the divine spirit as whose manifestation he was to be considered. In the later Vedic writings, especially the Brahmanas, however, Prajapati still maintains throughout his position as the paramount personal deity; and Brahma, in his divine capacity, is rather identified with Brihaspati, the priest of the gods. Moreover, the exact relationship between Prajapati and the Brahma (n.) is hardly as yet defined with sufficient precision; it is rather one of simple identification: in the beginning the Brahma was the All, and Prajapati is the Brahma. It is only in the institutes of Manu, where we find the system of castes propounded in its complete development, that Brahma has his definite place assigned to him in the cosmogony. According to this work, the universe, before undiscerned, was made discernible in the beginning by the sole, self-existent lord Brahma (n.). He, desirous of producing different beings from his own self, created the waters by his own thought, and placed in them a seed which developed into a golden egg; therein was born Brahma (m.), the parent of all the worlds; and thus "that which is the undiscrete Cause, eternal, which is and is not, from it issued that male who is called in the world Brahma." Having dwelt in that egg for a year, that lord spontaneously by his own thought split that egg in two; and from the two halves he fashioned the heaven and the earth, and in the middle,the sky,and the eight regions (the points of the compass), and the perpetual place of the waters. This theory of Brahma being born from a golden egg is, however, a mere adaptation of the Vedic conception of Hiranya-garbha (" golden embryo"), who is represented as the supreme god in a hymn of the tenth (and last) book of the Rigveda. Another still later myth, which occurs in the epic poems, makes Brahma be born from a lotus which grew out of the navel of the god Vishnu whilst floating on the primordial waters. In artistic representations, Brahma usually appears as a bearded man of red colour with four heads crowned with a pointed, tiara-like head-dress, and four hands holding his sceptre, or a sacrificial spoon, a bundle of leaves representing the Veda, a bottle of water of the Ganges, and a string of beads or his bow Parivita. His vehicle (vahana) is a goose or swan (hamsa), whence he is also called Harnsavahana; and his consort is Sarasvati, the goddess of learning.

One could hardly expect that a colourless deity of this description, so completely the product of priestly speculation, could ever have found a place in the hearts of the people generally. And indeed, whilst in theoretic theology Brahma has retained his traditional place and function down to our own days, his practical cult has at all times remained extremely limited, the only temple dedicated to the worship of this god being found at Pushkar (Pokhar) near Ajmir in Rajputana. On the other hand, his divine substratum, the impersonal Brahma, the world-spirit, the one and only reality, remains to this day the ultimate element of the religious belief of intelligent India of whatever sect. Being devoid of all attributes, it can be the object only of meditation, not of practical devotional rites; and philosophy can only attempt to characterize it in general and vague terms, as in the favourite formula which makes it to be sachchidananda, i.e. being (sat), thinking (chit), and bliss (ananda). (J. E.) Brahmana, the Sanskrit term applied to a body of prose writings appended to the collections (samhita) of Vedic texts, the meaning and ritual application of which they are intended to elucidate, and like them regarded as divinely revealed. From a linguistic point of view, these treatises with their appendages, the more mystic and recondite Aranyakas and the speculative Upanishads, have to be considered as forming the connecting link between the Vedic and the classical Sanskrit. The exact derivation and meaning of the name is somewhat uncertain. Whilst the masculine term brahmana (nom. brahmanas), the ordinary Sanskrit designation of a man of the Brahmanical caste, is clearly a derivative of brahman (nom. brahma), a common Vedic term for a priest (see Brahman), thus meaning the son or descendant of a Brahman, the neuter word brahmana (nom. brahmanam) on the other hand, with which we are here concerned, admits of two derivations: either it is derived from the same word brahman, and would then seem to mean a dictum or observation ascribed to, or intended for the use of, a Brahman, or superintendent priest; or it has rather to be referred to the neuter noun brahman (nom. brahma), in the sense of "sacred utterance or rite," in which case it might mean a comment on a sacred text, or explanation of a devotional rite, calculated to bring out its spiritual or mystic significance and its bearing on the Brahma, the world-spirit embodied in the sacred writ and ritual. This latter definition seems on the whole the more probable one, and it certainly would fit exactly the character of the writings to which the term relates. It will thus be seen that the term brahmanam applies not only to complete treatises of an exegetic nature, but also to single comments on particular texts or rites of which such a work would be made up.

The gradual elaboration of the sacrificial ceremonial, as the all-sufficient expression of religious devotion, and a constantly growing tendency towards theosophic and mystic speculation on the significance of every detail of the ritual, could not fail to create a demand for explanatory treatises of this kind, which, to enhance their practical utility, would naturally deal with the special texts and rites assigned in the ceremonial to the several classes of officiating priests. At a subsequent period the demand for instruction in the sacrificial science called into existence a still more practical set of manuals, the so-called Kalpa-sutras, or ceremonial rules, detailing, in succinct aphorisms, the approved course of sacrificial procedure, without reference to the supposed origin or import of the several rites. These manuals are also called Srauta-sutras, treating as they do, like the Brahmanas, of the Srauta rites - i.e. the rites based on the sruti or revelation - requiring at least three sacrificial fires and a number of priests, as distinguished from the grihya (domestic) or smarta (traditional) rites, supposed to be based on the smriti or tradition, which are performed on the house-fire and dealt with in the Grihya-sutras. The ritual recognizes four principal priests (ritvij), each of whom is assisted by three subordinates: viz. the Brahman or superintending priest; the Hotri or reciter of hymns and verses; the Udgatri or chanter; and the Adhvaryu or offerer, who looks after the details of the ceremonial, including the preparation of the offering-ground, the construction of fireplaces and altars, the making of oblations and muttering of the prescribed formulae. Whilst the two last priests have assigned to them special liturgical collections of the texts to be used by them, the Samaveda-samhita and Yajurveda-samhita respectively, the Hotri has to deal entirely with hymns and verses taken from the Rigveda-samhita, of which they would, however, form only a comparatively small portion. As regards the Brahman, he would doubtless be chosen from one of those other three classes, but would be expected to have made himself thoroughly conversant with the texts and ritual details appertaining to all the officiating priests. It is, then, to one or other of those three collections of sacred texts and the respective class of priests, that the existing Brahmanas attach themselves. At a later period, when the Atharvan gained admission to the Vedic canon, a special connexion with the Brahman priest was sometimes claimed, though with scant success, for this fourth collection of hymns and spells, and the comparatively late and unimportant Gopatha-brahmana attached to it.

The Udgatri's duties being mainly confined to the chanting of hymns made up of detached groups of verses of the Rigveda, as collected in the Samaveda-samhita, the more important Brahmanas of this sacerdotal class deal chiefly with the various modes of chanting, and the modifications which the verses have to undergo in their musical setting. Moreover, the performance of chants being almost entirely confined to the Soma-sacrifice, it is only a portion, though no doubt the most important portion, of the sacrificial ceremonial that enters into the subject matter of the Samaveda Brahmanas.

As regards the Brahmanas of the Rigveda, two of such works have been handed down, the Aitareya and the Kaushitaki (or Sankhayana)-Brahmanas, which have a large amount of their material in common. But while the former work (transl. into English by M. Haug) is mainly taken up with the Soma-sacrifice, the latter has in addition thereto chapters on the other forms of sacrifice. Being intended for the Hotri's use, both these works treat exclusively of the hymns and verses recited by that priest and his assistants, either in the form of connected litanies or in detached verses invoking the deities to whom oblations are made, or uttered in response to the. solemn hymns chanted by the Udgatris.

It is, however, to the Brahmanas and Sutras of the Yajurveda, dealing with the ritual of the real offering-priest, the Adhvaryu, that we have to turn for a connected view of the sacrificial procedure in all its material details. Now, in considering the body of writings connected with this Veda, we are at once confronted by the fact that there are two different schools, an older and a younger one, in which the traditional body of ritualistic matter has been treated in a very different way. For while the younger school, the Vajasaneyins, have made a clear severance between the sacred texts or mantras and the exegetic discussions thereon - as collected in the Vajasaneyi-samhita and the Satapatha-Brahmana (trans. by J. Eggeling, in Sacred Books of the East) respectively - arranged systematically in accordance with the ritual divisions, the older school on the other hand present their materials in a hopelessly jumbled form; for not only is each type of sacrifice not dealt with continuously and in orderly fashion, but short textual sections of mantras are constantly followed immediately by their dogmatic exegesis; the term brahmana thus applying in their case only to these detached comments and not to the connected series of them. Thus the most prominent subdivision of the older school, the Taittiriyas, in their Samhita, have treated the main portion of the ceremonial in this promiscuous fashion, and to add to the confusion they have, by way of supplement, put forth a so-called Taittiriya-brahmana, which, so far from being a real Brahmana, merely deals with some additional rites in the same confused mixture of sacrificial formulae and dogmatic explanations. It is not without reason, therefore, that those two schools, the older and the younger, are commonly called the Black (krishna) and the White (sukla) Yajus respectively.

Although the ritualistic discussions of the Brahmanas are for the most part of a dry and uninteresting nature to an even greater degree than is often the case with exegetic theological treatises, these works are nevertheless of considerable importance both as regards the history of Indian institutions and as "the oldest body of Indo-European prose, of a generally free, vigorous, simple form, affording valuable glimpses backwards at the primitive condition of unfettered Indo-European talk" (Whitney). Of especial interest in this respect are the numerous myths and legends scattered through these works. From the archaic style in which these mythological tales are usually composed, as well as from the fact that not a few of them are found in Brahmanas of different schools and Vedas, though often with considerable variations, it seems pretty evident that the groundwork of them must go back to times preceding the composition or final redaction of the existing Brahmanas. In the case of some of these legends - as those of Sunah-Sepha, and the fetching of Soma from heaven - we can even see how they have grown out of germs contained in some of the Vedic hymns. If the literary style in which the exegetic discussion of the texts and rites is carried on in the Brahmanas is, as a rule, of a very bald and uninviting nature, it must be borne in mind that these treatises are of a strictly professional and esoteric character, and in no way lay claim to being considered as literary compositions in any sense of the word. And yet, notwithstanding the general emptiness of their ritualistic discussions and mystic speculations, "there are passages in the Brahmanas full of genuine thought and feeling, and most valuable as pictures of life, and as records of early struggles, which have left no trace in the literature of other nations" (M. Muller).

The chief interest, however, attaching to the Brahmanas is doubtless their detailed description of the sacrificial system as practised in the later Vedic ages; and the information afforded by them in this respect should be all the more welcome to us, as the history of religious institutions knows of no other sacrificial ceremonial with the details of which we are acquainted to anything like the same extent. An even more complete and minutely detailed view of the sacrificial system is no doubt obtained from the ceremonial manuals, the Kalpa-sutras; but it is just by the speculative discussions of the Brahmanasthe mystic significance and symbolical colouring with which they invest single rites - that we gain a real insight into the nature and gradual development of this truly stupendous system of ritual worship.

The sacrificial ritual recognizes two kinds of srauta sacrifices, viz. haviryajnas (meat-offerings), consisting of oblations (ishti) of milk, butter, cereals or flesh, and somayagas or oblations of the juice of the soma plant. The setting up, by a householder, of a set of three sacrificial fires of his own constitutes the first ceremony of the former class, the Agny-adhana (or (?) Agny-adheya). The first of the three fires laid down is the garhapatya, or householder's fire, so called because, though not taken from his ordinary house-fire, but as a rule specially produced by friction, it serves for cooking the sacrificial food, and thus, as it were, represents the domestic fire. From it the other two fires, the anavaniya, or offering fire, and the dakshinagni, or southern fire, used for certain special purposes, are taken. The principal other ceremonies of this class are the new and full moon offerings, the oblations made at the commencement of the three seasons, the offering of first-fruits, the animal sacrifice, and the Agnihotra, or daily morning and evening oblation of milk, which, however, is also included amongst the grihya, or domestic rites, as having to be performed daily on the domestic fire by the householder who keeps no regular set of sacrificial fires.

Of a far more complicated nature than these offerings are the Soma-sacrifices, which, besides the simpler ceremonies of this class, such as the Agnishtoma or "Praise of Agni," also include great state functions, such as the Rajasuya or consecration of a king, and the Asvamedha or horse-sacrifice, which, in addition to the sacrificial rites, have a considerable amount of extraneous, often highly interesting, ceremonial connected with them, which makes them seem to partake largely of the nature of public festivals. Whilst the oblations of Soma-juice, made thrice on each offering-day, amidst chants and recitations, constitute the central rites of those services, their ritual also requires numerous single oblations of the ishti kind, including at least three animal offerings, and in some cases the immolation of many hecatombs of victims. Moreover, a necessary preliminary to every Somasacrifice is the construction, in five layers, of a special fire-altar of large dimensions, consisting of thousands of bricks, formed and baked on the spot, to each, or each group, of which a: special symbolic meaning is attached. The building of this altar is spread over a whole year, during which period the sacrificer has to carry about the sacrificial fire in an earthen pan for at least some time each day, until it is finally deposited on the completed altar to serve as the offering-fire for the Soma oblations. The altar itself is constructed in the form of a bird, because Soma was supposed to have been brought down from heaven by the metre Gayatri which had assumed the form of an eagle. Whilst the Soma-sacrifice has been thus developed by the Brahmanas in an extraordinary degree, its essential identity with the Avestan Haoma-cult shows that its origin goes back at all events to the Indo-Iranian period.

Among the symbolic conceits in which the authors of the Brahmanas so freely indulge, there is one overshadowing all others - if indeed they do not all more or less enter into it - which may be considered as the sum and substance of these speculations, and the esoteric doctrine of the sacrifice, involved by the Brahmanical ritualists. This is what may conveniently be called the Prajapati theory, by which the "Lord of Creatures," the efficient cause of the universe, is identified with both the sacrifice;(yajna) and the sacrificer (yajamana). The origin of this theory goes back to the later Vedic hymns. In the so-called Purusha-sukta (Rigv. x. 9 0) in which the supreme spirit is conceived of as the person or man (purusha), born in the beginning, and consisting of "whatever hath been and whatever shall be," the creation of the visible and invisible universe is represented as originating from an "all-offered" (holocaust) sacrifice in which the Purusha himself forms the offering-material (havis), or, as we might say, the victim. In this primeval, or rather timeless because ever-proceeding, sacrifice, time itself, in the shape of its unit the year, is made to take its part, inasmuch as the three seasons - spring, summer and autumn - of which it consists, constitute the ghee (clarified butter), the offering-fuel and the oblation respectively. These speculations may be said to have formed the foundation on which the theory of the sacrifice, as propounded in the Brahmanas, has been reared. Prajapatiwho (probably for practical considerations, as better representing the sacrificer, the earthly ruler, or "lord of the creatures") here takes the place of the Purusha, the world-man or allembracing personality - is offered up anew in every sacrifice; and inasmuch as the' very dismemberment of the lord of creatures, which took place at that archtypal sacrifice, was in itself the creation of the universe, so every sacrifice is also a repetition of that first creative act. Thus the periodical sacrifice is nothing else than a microcosmic representation of the everproceeding destruction and renewal of all cosmic life and matter. The ritualistic theologians, however, go an important step further by identifying Prajapati with the performer, or patron, of the sacrifice, the sacrificer; every sacrifice thus becoming invested - in addition to its cosmic significance - with the mystic power of regenerating the sacrificer by cleansing him of all guilt and securing for him a seat in the eternal abodes.

Whilst forming the central feature of the ritualistic symbolism, this triad - Prajapati, sacrifice (oblation, victim), sacrificer - is extended in various ways. An important collateral identification is that of Prajapati (and the sacrificer) with Agni, the god of fire, embodied not only in the offering-fire, but also in the sacred Soma-altar, the technical name of which is agni. For this reason the altar, as representative of the universe, is built in five layers, representing earth, air and heaven, and the intermediate regions; and in the centre of the altar-site, below the first layer, on a circular gold plate (the sun), a small golden man (purusha) is laid down with his face looking upwards. This is Prajapati, and the sacrificer, who when regenerated will pass upwards through the three worlds to the realms of light, naturally perforated bricks being for this purpose placed in the middle of the three principal altar-layers. One of the fourteen sections of the Satapathabrahmana, the tenth, called Agni-rahasya or "the mystery of Agni (the god and altar)," is entirely devoted to this feature of the sacrificial symbolism. Similarly the sacrificer, as the human representative of the Lord of Creatures, is identified with Soma (as the supreme oblation), with Time, and finally with Death: by the sacrificer thus becoming Death himself, the fell god ceases to have power over him and he is assured of everlasting life. And now we get the Supreme Lord in his last aspect; nay, his one true and real aspect, in which the sacrificer, on shuffling off this mortal coil, will himself come to share - that of pure intellectuality, pure spirituality - he is Mind: such is the ultimate source of being, the one Self, the Purusha, the Brahman. As the sum total of the wisdom propounded in the mystery of Agni, the searcher after truth is exhorted to meditate on that Self, made up of intelligence, endowed with a body of spirit, a form of light, and of an ethereal nature; holding sway over all the regions and pervading this All, being itself speechless and devoid of mental states; and by so doing he shall gain the assurance that "even as a grain of rice, or the smallest granule of millet, so is the golden Purusha in my heart; even as a smokeless light, it is greater than the sky, greater than the ether, greater than the earth, greater than all existing things; - that Self of the Spirit is my Self; on passing away from hence, I shall obtain that Self. And, verily, whosoever has this trust, for him there is no uncertainty." (J. E.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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From Sanskrit ब्रह्मन् (bráhman), from verbal root √bṛh (to swell, grow, enlarge).

Proper noun




  1. (Hinduism) A concept of Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe. The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools.
  2. (dated) a Brahmin


Derived terms


  • Assamese: please add this translation if you can
  • Bengali: please add this translation if you can
  • Georgian: ბრაჰმანი ka(ka) (brahmani)
  • Gujarati: please add this translation if you can
  • Hebrew: ברהמן he(he)
  • Hindi: ब्रह्म hi(hi)
  • Icelandic: Bramíni is(is)
  • Japanese: ブラフマン ja(ja)
  • Kannada: please add this translation if you can
  • Lithuanian: Brahmanas lt(lt)
  • Malayalam: ബ്രഹ്മം ml(ml) (kriya)
  • Marathi: please add this translation if you can
  • Oriya: please add this translation if you can
  • Portuguese: brâman pt(pt) m.
  • Punjabi: please add this translation if you can
  • Russian: брахман ru(ru) (braxmán) m.
  • Sanskrit: ब्रह्मन् (bráhman)
  • Tamil: பிரம்மம் ta(ta) (pirammam), பிரமம் ta(ta) (piramam)
  • Telugu: please add this translation if you can

Simple English

This page deals with the Hindu concept of The Supreme Reality. For other uses of this word and similar words, see Brahman (disambiguation).

Brahman is the concept of God in Hinduism. It is a word of the Sanskrit language. Brahman (or God) is said to be infinite, with no beginning or end. Brahman is changeless and is the source of the universe in Hindu beliefs.

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