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Nature of Brahman (God)
Nithin Sridhar | 06 Oct 2013

In the scriptures, we often encounter the description of the Nature of Brahman as "Nirakara/formless", "ekam/one", "Nirguna" "Anejat/unmoving" etc. People have debated over centuries about these descriptions. Some claiming Nirguna to be higher than Saguna and some claiming Saguna as being higher to Nirguna.But all such debates are meaningless as they are based on a faulty understanding of the scriptures.The whole confusion arises due to ignorance of the difference between the Paramarthika Dasha and the Vyavaharika dasha.

Nithin Sridhar

In the scriptures, we often encounter the description of the Nature of Brahman as "Nirakara/formless", "ekam/one", "Nirguna" "Anejat/unmoving" etc. People have debated over centuries about these descriptions. Some claiming Nirguna to be higher than Saguna and some claiming Saguna as being higher to Nirguna.But all such debates are meaningless as they are based on a faulty understanding of the scriptures.The whole confusion arises due to ignorance of the difference between the Paramarthika Dasha and the Vyavaharika dasha.

Vyavaharika Dasha refers to the state of duality, state of manifestation. Paramarthika dasha refers to the absolute state, a state of no duality. The Paramarthika satya is beyond describable or logical comprehension. Hence, all the descriptions we find in the scriptures are mere pointers about the Paramarthika satya explained in relation to the vyavaharika dasha. All descriptions in the shastras aim at teaching one thing- in Paramartika Dasha, in absolute reality, Brahman "just is". Brahman alone is. Brahman "Exists". It is called as "Sat"-existance.No descriptions can be given about Brahman because he is beyond all words, all thoughts, all descriptions, all duality.

The manifested world contains both the forms and the formless.It is all that could be known. The Unmanifested prakriti, the Source/Mula which is unknown contains the whole manifestation in it in the unmanifested state.

The word "Nirakara-formlessness" does not refer to the formless entity present in the manifestation distinct from the forms, nor does it refer to the formfullness of Mula prakriti which contains the whole of manifestation inside it. Even the formless entities in a sense has a form, even though that form ever keeps changing. Th term "nirakara/Without form" instead refers to Brahman as being distinct from both the forms and the formless, both the manifested forms and the unmanifested formfullness.

Then why the world "Niraakara/without-form" has been used? "aakara" or "form" denotes an entity, something which is subjected to space-time principles. This whole jagat is in universal movement-from potential state (Mula) to birth, growth, decay and death. And hence all the entities are subjected to "space time principle". But Brahman is beyond the Space-time principle". He is the source of the space-time principle, but himself not subjected to it.

Hence, Brahman being defined as "Nirakara" refers to the absence of the duality of form and formlessness, absence of limitation of space principle. Similarly, the term "anejat/unmoving" refers to the absence ofc"Universal Movement" that is subjected space-time principle. The whole universe is in a "Movement" as explained before.This universal Movement, includes both the temporary state of motion and that of rest. The term "Unmoving" does not refer to the temporary state of rest, instead it refers to Brahman being distinct from both state of motion and that of rest. Brahman in Paramarthika dasha has no "Movement".

Now, the term "Nirguna". Nirguna refers to Brahman in Paramarthika Dasha, one without the 3 Gunas. Saguna Brahman refers to the Brahman in Vyvaharika dasha. But are the two Brahman different? Nope. The Same Brahman who is Nirguna, manifests the cosmos by his Maya Shakti. In this state of manifestation, he is called as "Saguna Brahman".

As long as a person stays inside the Vyavaharika dasha, he is subjected to time and space and can experience only few aspects of Brahman. He may experience the various forms of Brahman or may experience Brahman as light or fire or such formlessness, he may get absorbed into the formfullness void of Prakriti. But, only when a person moves beyond the Vyavaharika state, beyond duality, he will be able to realize the Paramarthika Satya. This is called "Atma Jnana/Atma Sakshatkara".

Such a Jnani, who as realized the Paramarthika satya, realizes Brahman both as Nirguna and as Saguna. He see Brahman alone, everywhere. A Jnani then may renounce his body(Videha Mukta) or keep his body, keep his individuality (Jivanmukta) for some cosmic purpose or to practice Vijnana.