The globe around us exists since we believe in its existence. We accept the past era and its history since we have faith in our ancestors who have left the archives of the bygone period. We understand and carry on with the guidelines left to us by our elders, teachers, spiritual gurus since we are of the opinion that if we follow them, it will help us evolve. A concept becomes an actuality only when people have faith in that idea. Let’s talk about Brahman and how it connects to the concept of belief:
What is Brahman?
In Hinduism, Brahman talks about the highest cosmic power, ontological ground of being and the root, objectives and reason of all spiritual wisdom. Non-Hindus typically view Brahman as ‘God’ but that is not correct. As per Hindu religion, Brahman is believed to be indescribable and more complex than any portrayal of God in human form.
Several knowledgeable scholars are of the opinion that the idea of Brahman cannot be described in the context of unenlightened human experience. However, Brahman is generally discussed as the absolute truth, consciousness and bliss including eternal, invincible, well-informed and universal. Brahman is deemed to be a metaphysical concept that stands for the singular binding unity behind the diversity in all that occurs in the universe.
Brahman is commonly observed as the root of all that exists in the universe as well as the fabric of all beings. It is also discussed as an idea that is present in non-beings as well. Even the human soul in Hindu Dharma or Atman is extensively believed to be related to or acknowledged with, Brahman, by numerous supporters of Vedanta. While this idea is initially discussed in the Vedas, it was later elaborated within the Upanishads.
In Sanskrit, the term Brahman, derived from the root ‘brah’ suggests to expand, develop, grow and enlarge. It is a neuter noun and is not the same as the masculine brahmán – representing a person connected to Brahman and from Brahmā – the creator god in the Hindu trinity. Brahman is discussed as the highest self. It is believed to be the static actuality amidst and beyond the world.
Difference between Brahma and Brahman
Lord Brahma and Brahman are two separate entities in Hindu Dharma and philosophy. While Brahma is described as a four-faced deity in the ancient Hindu scriptures, Brahman is regarded as a concept, defined as the Supreme Entity. It is the Brahman that is believed to manifest itself into this world. It is said that Brahman launches this universe and retracts it back into it during the time of the deluge.
Origins of Brahman in Hindu Scriptures
Initially, the word ‘Brahman’ was considered to be a neuter noun in the Rigveda, denoting an activity of prayer, with tonal enunciation on the first syllable. The word hints at the sheer magnitude of the power of prayer experienced by the individual who worships while chanting holy words. Brahman was observed as the linchpin of sacrifice, resulting in the togetherness of humanity, divinity and the physical universe.
Material offerings and the prayers complementing them were considered as associating humans to the religious ideal, with the spoken words echoing the equivalence formed between the divinity and sacrificer during rituals. Therefore, Brahaman’s capability was the human acknowledgement via speech of the power of the gods themselves, a power which let them be indistinguishable from the higher cosmic order. The speech was even described in the form of the Goddess Vac, who was consistently recognized as the supreme queen of the universe in the Vedic process of henotheism worship.
Another use of Brahman in the Vedas is a masculine noun including a tonal accent on the second syllable – denoting an individual who is aware of and voices the aforementioned utterances. This human came to the observer who modified challenges in the execution of a sacrifice, one of the four principal priests supervising a ceremony in structured Vedic texts. The bridge built by those performing the rituals experienced between the deities and Brahman (human being conducting the prayer) through Brahman (prayer itself) has more chances of being a precursor to connecting Brahman with Atman which became popular in the Upanishads and Advaita Vedanta.
Often it is reasoned by some that the word stems from the Sanskrit root – brah – which denotes speaking in riddles. Experts are of the opinion that the root encapsulates the inexplicable or contradictory make-up of the notion. Brahman is believed to be a cosmic riddle that cannot be explained with a direct response but rather with a reply that needs to remain unspoken. Nevertheless, this theory and others pertaining to this root ‘brah’ are confronted with complications formed by various implications in which the term appears to be used in Vedic texts.
Even if you keep the original meanings of Brahman in mind, the Vedic texts showcase concepts that predicted later formulations of the word ‘Brahman’ as the monistic ground of the universe. While the initial Vedic texts are by and large focused around henotheism and ritualism, there is an implication that Vedic sages were conscious of a deeper unified truth underlying the array of physical forms and godly manifestations.
Overall, the Vedas offer several ideas as to what this monistic spirit really is, with notions like ‘hiranya-garbha’ (the golden germ), and Gods such as Prajapati (Lord of Creatures), Vishvakarman (architect of all things), and Purusha (a cosmic man who conceives the universe with his disjointed parts), among others, anticipating the cosmological musings of the universe. Eventually, the concept of various deities was for subsequent Vedic clairvoyants succeeded by the idea of a widespread unifying code and conjecture as to what precisely is involved.
The term ‘Brahman’ was significantly developed in the Upanishads. It became the main referent for collective oneness in Hinduism. In the Upanishads, several of the external ceremonies of the initial Vedas were turned inward, substituting physical sacrifices with representational imagery and the ‘internal heat’ of meditation. It came as no surprise to anyone that the description of Brahman turned more abstract.
In the Upanishads, Brahman started to accept cosmological meaning that it did not have in the Vedas, as it came to label the impersonal causal code which permeated the universe. Brahman is also originally believed to be the sum total of all that ever is, was, or ever will be, incorporating the human soul, or Atman.
Even the individual personal deities who had a vital role in early Vedic Hinduism were thought to be various forms of Brahman. Even with such detailed definitions, Brahman is finally branded as indescribable in the Upanishads. Owing to the enigmatic personality of Brahman, it is best defined by what it is not.
Numerous Upanishadic scriptures offer several instances to review the nature of this monistic essence and to label more accurately what it is. The Taittiriya Upanishad has alleged that the fundamental element is food. It is defined as the continual basis of the universe, which continues in a boundless cycle of consumption. Nevertheless, similar to Brahman, breath is reliant on it. In the Kaushitika Upanishad, Brahman is believed to be breath itself, no doubt reiterating the earlier comprehension of the term from the Rigveda. It implies that breath is aided by all of their sensory abilities, a microcosmic analogy for the procedure by which the supreme universal principle is preserved in the physical realm by its many essential parts.
The Upanishads go further demonstrating the monistic essence of Brahman by alleging that it is similar to the human soul or Atman. It is obvious in a couple of the initial Upanishads that this recognition of soul with cosmic principle evolves out of supernatural detections of particular aspects of the Vedic sacrifice with numerous objects in the physical universe.
The notion of this neuter that is considered to discuss the oneness in the universe that includes all objects and people and has been understood to suggest that the human soul or consciousness is completely correspondent to the Ultimate Reality. Even though this divinity is always a part of human experience, only some people genuinely grasp the concept in their moral and contemplative activities. This is why the simple yet intensely poignant equation is easier mentioned than experienced. Nevertheless, the realization of this ideal results in perfect liberation frequently referred to as blending with the divine.
Schools of Vedanta
The idea of Brahman was further explained by the schools of Vedanta – each of which offered different understandings of the universal belief and its association with Atman. Vedantic also typically related the terms sat (being), cit (consciousness) and ananda (bliss) with the spirit of Brahman.
Advaita or non-dualistic Vedanta was believed to be the first of the incredible Vedanta schools. Atman is regarded as indistinguishable from the supreme reality of Brahman. Advaita states that the whole universe except for the supreme, indescribable manifestation of Brahman, is basically an illusion. Therefore, Brahman is the only thing that is present, making up the complete reality. The oblivious perceiver observes all specifics as independent truths as opposed to the manifestation of Brahman. Even the conventional, personalized conception of deity or Ishvara is secondary to Brahman.
Ishvara is believed to be the form of ‘Saguna Brahman’ (the feature of Brahman which can be observed), which is there as opposed to the ultimate ‘Nirguna Brahman (the part which cannot be noticed). Nirguna Brahman is believed to be superlative since it surpasses all illusory spatial and temporal segments. Even Saguna Brahman is diminished to Nirguna Brahman in the end and is not detached from Brahman.
Supposed disparities between divinity and the human soul are produced by the error of superimposition and only once dualism is refuted, do the concepts of Ishvara and the soul disappear, leaving the absolute Nirguna Brahman. Once this awareness takes place, the deity and the person blend into oneness with Brahman.
Visistadavaita (Qualified Non-Dualistic) Vedanta was referred to as such for the restricted aspects or correspondence that the school’s adherents identify between Atman and Brahman while making the declaration the personalized manifestation of Brahman is eventually transcendent. While the self is still linked to Brahman, it is believed to be an unfinished portion and not the same as the whole. It is in fact described by its autonomous reality and continues to be secondary to the higher cosmic principle.
In this school of thought, both the soul (cit) and unconscious substance (acit) are tangible, even though they are reliant on Brahman for their existence. God is believed to be the soul of all individual Atmans including for the world at large. Atman cannot be regarded as completely equal to God or Brahman, since it is there among a variety of other souls and is reliant on God while preserving a drive of its own.
Unlike the other Vedanta schools, Dvaita (dualism) Vedanta does not observe any connection between Brahman and Atman. Instead, the heart of the universe is completely independent of the universe and the souls in it. While Advaita Vedanta recognizes that all individuals are divine, Dvaita does not support this concept, instead, it interprets Brahman as something that needs to be divulged to humanity via a series of incarnations as opposed to a course of spiritual introspection.
This school considered Brahman to be independent of humanity and the physical universe. Due to this, Dvaita backs the cosmological debate for the existence of Brahman. The world and the things within it, both animate and inanimate, are not imagined but it is independently real.
It is claimed that the Brahman in the Vedas and the Upanishads is actually Lord Vishnu. He goes beyond all physical things, and yet is present within them, as well. Furthermore, Vishnu has ideal attributes, unlike Nirguna Brahman that cannot be properly described.
Even though there have been many references in formative Hindu scriptures which talk about Brahman without characterization, it is claimed that such a definition is simply an echo of the human inability to completely understand the splendour of Lord Vishnu. For Dvaitas, Brahman does not have any dearth of attributes. Instead, it has a dynamic personality. These anthropomorphic features are not understood by Dvaitas in a way so as to reduce Brahman’s ultimate identity as the highest cosmic principle in any way.
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