Brahman (Sanskrit, brahman) designates in Hindu philosophy the infinite, immutable, immanent and spiritual transcendent reality, which is looked at as the eternal ground of all.
The oldest meaning of the word in the Vedas is "holy word" or "holy formula"(Shabda), and here it gained the general meaning of a "sacred force" in itself : "In the begining was Prajapati. With HIM was VAK (the WORD), and VAK was verily the highest Brahman."(Rig Veda)
Brahman is an impersonal concept of the divine that does not contain a creator or a ruler, a primordial ground of being, without beginning or end.
Brahman became the divine principle of Vedanta('When Avidya is removed, the Atman (Soul, Self inside a person) is realized as identical with Brahman.')
== Upanishads ==
Brahman is the central theme of most Upanishads, and the realization of Brahman as unity of all being is the goal of the teachings of Advaita Vedanta, and the selfrealisation of Brahman is ultimately the goal of all liberation.
The Mundaka Upanishad states in 2.2.3 : " Having taken the how furnished by the Upanishads, the great weapon—and fixed in it the arrow rendered pointed by constant meditation and having drawn it with the mind fixed on the Brahman, hit, good looking youth! at that mark—the immortal Brahman. "
"Through the knowledge of the great word : aham brahma asmi" ( I am Brahman ), Brahman became the universe: and so everyone who knows the same." Brihadaranyaka Upanishade 1.4.9.
The Aitareya Upanishad states in 3.3.7 : prajnānam brahma ("Wisdom is Brahman").
The Chandogya Upanishade states in verse 3.14.1: "sarvam khalvidam brahma"(All this is truly Brahman), and in 3.14 : "This is my Atma in the inner heart, smaller than rice grain or barley grain or millet grain or a millet seed kernel. This is my Atma in the inner heart bigger than the earth, bigger than the sky, bigger than the worlds. [...] The all-operative, all-wishing, all-smelling, all-tasting, all-in-itself, wordless, careless, this is my soul in the inner heart, this is the Brahman, to which I will enter, departing from here. For whom such was, truly, there is no doubt for it.
"Brahman, the universal essence, is the inherent self. It is truly the reality of life and enlightenment. When man recognizes Brahman, he becomes enlightened. There is no wiser than the one who has recognized the inner divinity. He does all the daily work as an expression of his divine self and his joy is permeated by universal love. He is a real Kriyavan, the wisest of wise people. "Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.4.
== Nirguna Brahman and Saguna Brahman ==
But the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad states in 2.3.1. "Indeed, there are two forms of Brahman, namely, the created and the unformed, the mortal and the immortal, the standing and the walking, the being and the otherworldly."
"Man must know two Brahman's, the word - Brahman and the highest; who wields in the word - Brahman, also attains the highest Brahman", Mahabharata, chapter 12
"Two are contained in the eternal, endless, highest Brahman, latent, knowledge and ignorance. Imperishable is ignorance, eternal knowledge, but the Lord, as Lord, is the other. "Svetashvatara Upanishade 4:15
But Adi Shankaracharya states in "Viveka Chudamani, verses 236-238 : "Whatever an ignorant erroneously perceives is nothing but Absolute Reality (brahman). What you see as silver gloss is nothing more than a mother-of-pearl. Brahman reveals himself as this universe. What is inadvertently attributed to the Absolute Reality is just a name. Therefore, whatever reveals, it is the Supreme Reality, Brahman Himself. Existing in itself, nondual, pure, the essence of absolute knowledge, immaculate, supreme peace, without beginning and end, beyond all activity, essentially the essence of uninterrupted bliss. The highest Brahman is eternal, overcomes all distinctions made by Maya It is the essence of eternal joy, indivisible, formless, immeasurable, nonmanifest, nameless, imperishable, and radiant in itself. "
== Literature ==
- The Concept of Brahman in Hindu Philosophy, Haridas Chaudhuri (1954), Philosophy East and West, Vol. 4, No. 1, pages 47–66