Colonial Discourse and the Suffering of Indian American Children Book Cover.webp

In this book, we analyze the psycho-social consequences faced by Indian American children after exposure to the school textbook discourse on Hinduism and ancient India. We demonstrate that there is an intimate connection—an almost exact correspondence—between James Mill’s colonial-racist discourse (Mill was the head of the British East India Company) and the current school textbook discourse. This racist discourse, camouflaged under the cover of political correctness, produces the same psychological impacts on Indian American children that racism typically causes: shame, inferiority, embarrassment, identity confusion, assimilation, and a phenomenon akin to racelessness, where children dissociate from the traditions and culture of their ancestors.

This book is the result of four years of rigorous research and academic peer-review, reflecting our ongoing commitment at Hindupedia to challenge the representation of Hindu Dharma within academia.


From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

Brahm or Brahman is "the unchanging reality amidst and beyond the world", which "cannot be exactly defined". It has been described in Sanskrit as Sat-cit-ānanda[1] and as the highest reality, the final element in a dialectical process which cannot be eliminated Merriam Webster Dictionary or annihilated (German: "aufheben").}}Template:Refn or Para Brahman,or in various combinations of these qualities depending on the philosophical school. According to Advaita, a liberated human being (jivanmukta) has realised Brahman as his or her own true self.

The Isha Upaniṣad says:

Auṃ – That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. If you subtract the infinite from the infinite, the infinite remains alone.


Sanskrit Brahman (an n-stem, nominative Template:IAST) from a root Template:IAST- "to swell, expand, grow, enlarge" is a neutral noun to be distinguished from the masculine Template:IAST—denoting a person associated with Brahman, and from Brahmā, the creator God of the Hindu Trinity, the Trimurti. Brahman is thus a gender-neutral concept that implies greater personality than masculine or feminine conceptions of the deity. Brahman is referred to as the supreme self.

Semantics and pronunciation[edit]

Template:Unreferenced section

Here the underlined vowels carry the Vedic Sanskrit udātta short pitch accent. It is usual to use an acute accent symbol for this purpose.[2]

In Vedic Sanskrit:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem) (neuter[3] 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. Brahmānda Purāṇa discusses cosmogenesis. Bhāgavata Purāṇa also discusses cosmogony and fundamental principles of material nature in detail.[4]

In later Sanskrit usage:-

  • Brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter[3] 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 Puruṣa 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 Template:IPA-sa),[5] 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.
  • Iśvara, (lit., Supreme Lord), in Advaita, is identified as a partial worldly manifestation, with limited attributes, of the ultimate reality, the attribute-less Brahman. In Viśiṣtadvaita and Dvaita, however, Iśvara[6] 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). The Sanskrit word for "ten million" also means group, and 330 million devas originally meant 33 types of divine manifestations.

Understanding Brahman[edit]


In the early Vedic religion Brahman was the name given to the power that made the sacrifice effective, namely the spiritual power of the sacred utterances pronounced by the vedic priests who were by virtue of this known as brahmins.Template:Sfn Connected with the 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.[7]

The Vedas say that by Brahman, the initial manifestation of the material universe and all therein arose:

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


The later Vedic religion produced the Upaniṣads, a series of profound philosophical reflections in which Brahman is now considered to be the one Absolute Reality behind changing appearances. It is the universal substrate from which material things originate and to which they return after their dissolution.

The sages of the Upaniṣads made their pronouncements on the basis of meditative experience and direct knowledge.Template:Citation needed The earlier Upaniṣads were written during a time of intensely fertile philosophical and religious revival in which the old dogmas were being questioned while experiential knowledge and logic were being emphasized. It is at this point that the polytheism that characterizes the vedic hymns gives way to a search for what is common in the seemingly pluralistic universe. The unitive concepts that arise from this tendency are those of dharma and brahman.

The Upaniṣads recount the teachings of gurus to pupils (Brahmacaryas) who are seeking knowledge of Brahman. This knowledge of brahman is not mere epistemic knowledge (knowing about something) but a direct, unambiguous knowing that is liberating in its experience. This culture of acquiring personal knowledge and its concomitant liberation, separate from direct Vedic influence, is now referred to as śramanic culture and has constituted an important influence on the development of mainstream Hinduism.

Descriptions of Brahman[edit]

The description of Brahman from Māndukya Upaniṣad:

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोयमात्मा चतुष्पात्
sarvam hyetad brahmāyamātmā brahma soyamātmā chatushpātMandukya 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 quarters.

The Great Sayings[edit]

Several mahā-vākyas or "Great Sayings" from the Upaniṣads indicate what the principle of Brahman is:[8]

text source literal translation Vaiṣnava InterpretationTemplate:According to whom
brahma satyam jagan mithya Asangoham[9] "Brahman is real, the world is unreal"
ekam evadvitiyam brahma Chāndogya Upaniṣad[10] "Brahman is one, without a second"
prajnānam brahma Aitareya Upaniṣad[11] "Brahman is knowledge" Brahman knows everything
ayam ātmā brahma Bṛhadaranyaka Upaniṣad[12] "The Self is Brahman" The soul is of the same eternal, spiritual and transcendental nature as Brahman
aham brahmāsmi Bṛhadaranyaka Upaniṣad[13] "I am Brahman" I am as eternal as Brahman
tat tvam asi Chāndogya Upaniṣad[14] "Thou art that" ("You are Brahman") "You are the servant of the Supreme"[15]
sarvam khalvidam brahma Chāndogya Upaniṣad[16] "All is truly Brahman" Brahman is everything, and all we see are His different energies — material or spiritual
sachchidānanda brahma [17][18] "Brahman or Brahma is existence, consciousness, and bliss". Brahman, has sat-cit-ananda-vigraha — eternal spiritual body which is full of bliss, and He is Supreme Person (conscious Absolute Person/Truth)

Brahman and Atma[edit]

Some Upaniṣadic statements identify the Ātmā, the Self, 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, attribute-less and indescribable. Advaita explains all personal forms of God including Viṣṇu and Śiva with a metaphor: The personal God is impersonal reality reflected upon the mirror of ignorance and illusion. 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 Māyā.


While Brahman lies behind the sum total of the objective universe, the human mind boggles at any attempt to explain it with only the tools provided by reason. Gitā explains the concept of (Bhagavad Gitā[19]"beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond intelligence, beyond imagination."

YajurVeda Māndakopaniṣad[20] reads: This Self is not attained by one devoid of strength, nor through delusion, nor through knowledge non-+associated with monasticism. But the Self of that knower, who strives through these means, enters into the abode that is Brahman.

YajurVeda[21] reads: Those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained and who endeavor assiduously with the help of the Yoga of monasticism, become pure in mind. At the supreme moment of final departure all of them become identified with the supreme Immortality in the worlds that are Brahman and they become freed from the cycle of Birth and Death.


The later Vedantic philosophers teach that the liberated being, upon realizing his or her true nature, reaches the state of existence, awareness and bliss; as such, when asked to describe Brahman anthropomorphically, philosophers use the term saccidānanda even though Brahman is beyond the grasps of words. The term saccidānanda is regarded as the only possible, yet inadequate and inaccurate, term which can be used to explain Brahman.

It is said that Brahman cannot be known by empirical means  that is to say, as an object within our consciousness  because Brahman is our very consciousness. Therefore it may be said that mokṣa, yoga, samādhi, nirvāṇa, etc. do not merely mean to know Brahman, but rather to realize one's "brahman-hood", to actually realize 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-ātmā, or individual selves, our ātman (or Self) being readily identifiable with the greater reality (paramātma) of Brahman.

Generally, Vedānta 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 knowledgeTemplate:Refn eternal, timeless and always contemporaneous with Brahman. This knowledge is considered to have been handed down by realized yogins to students many generations before the Vedas were committed to writing. Written texts of the Vedas are a relatively recent phenomenon. Different schools try to establish the primacy or supremacy of the personal or impersonal nature of Brahman. Advaita argues the latter and dvaita the former.

Advaita Vedānta[edit]

Advaita Vedānta espouses non-dualism. Thus, Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material or otherwise. Brahman is the root source of everything that exists, and is the only thing that exists according to Shankara. He states that Brahman is unknowable (as an object of knowledge), indescribable and, all inclusively, non-dual. The goal of Vedanta is to realize that one's Self (Atman) is a product of our ego and false-identification; in reality, Brahman is all that exists. This leads to the statement that we are ultimately Brahman. Depending upon the interpretation, the Hindu pantheon of gods is said, in the Vedas and Upaniṣads, to be only higher manifestations or metaphors, of Brahman. For this reason, "ekam sat" ("Truth is one"), and all is Brahman. This explains the Hindu view that "Truth is one, though the sages give it different names."[22]

The universe does not simply come from Brahman, it is Brahman. According to Ādi Śankara, a proponent of Advaita Vedanta, knowledge of brahman springs from inquiry into the real word as well as the world of the Upanishads. Ādi Śankarācharya is also of the view that the knowledge of brahman that Śruti provides cannot be obtained in any other means besides inquiry.[23]

In Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is without attributes and strictly impersonal. According to Advaita Vedanta, consciousness is not a property of Brahman but its very nature. In this respect Advaita Vedanta differs from other Vedanta schools.[24]

Since the Advaitins regard Brahman to be the ultimate reality, in comparison to it, the distinctness and dualism/pluralism of the material universe are products of illusion and ignorance. Nonetheless, individual Advaitins have slightly differing views regarding the existence of God in relation to Brahman. Some believe that there is one God however this God is transcended by the impersonal Brahman; this form of Advaita Vedanta is a transtheistic form of non-dualism. Others, still, consider gods to be metaphors of the different aspects of the universe, which is ultimately Brahman; in this sense, Advaita Vedanta is a nondualistic form of atheistic pantheism.

Following are relevant verses from Bhagavad-Gitā which establish the Advaita position:

Similar to a person who is not attached to external pleasures but enjoys happiness in the Atman (soul), the person who perceives Brahman in everything feels everlasting joy.[25]

The act of offering is Brahman; that which is offered is Brahman; the sacred fire is Brahman; the one who makes the offering is Brahman; Brahman is thus attained by those who, in their actions, are absorbed in contemplation of Brahman.(Bhagavad Gitā 4.24)

Viṣiṣtadvaita Vedānta[edit]

Template:Unreferenced section Brahman of Viṣiṣtadvaita is synonymous with Nārāyaṇa, who is the transcendent and immanent reality. Brahman or Nārāyaṇa is Saguna Brahman with infinite auspicious qualities and not the Advaita concept of attribute-less 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 Viṣiṣtadvaita is explained as an inseparable triad of Ishwara-Chit-Achit. Ishvara, the Supreme Self (Paramātman) is the indwelling spirit (Antaryāmi) in all. Both the Chit[26] and Achit[27] entities are pervaded and permeated by Ishvara. Brahman is the material and efficient cause of the universe. The concept of Brahman in Viṣiṣtadvaita can be seen as a hybrid of Advaita and Dvaita positions. Like all other Vaiṣnava schools of thought, Viṣiṣtadvaita 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 Śarira[28] 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 Śarira-Śariri Concept The key concept of Viṣiṣtadvaita is the Śarira-Śariri Bhaava, the body-soul relationship between the universe and Iśvara. There are three realities, namely, Iśvara,[29] Jiva,[30] and Jagat.[31] 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, Iśvara has the Chit and Achit entities for His body and being the Supreme Self, exercises complete control over it.

2. Substance-Attribute Concept

In Viṣiṣtadvaita, Iśvara 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 Iśvara and the two modes.

Followers of Viṣiṣtadvaita 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 Iśvara 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 Viṣiṣtadvaita. Through Bhakti (devotion), a Jiva ascends to the realm of the Lord to serve 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-Gitā, Kṛṣṇa is Iśvara and denotes Saguna Brahman, and the term Brahman means Nirguṇa Brahman: {{quote|I (Iśvara) am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.[32]

{{quote|I (Iśvara) am transcendental, beyond both kshara[33] and akshara.[34][35]

Dvaita Vedanta[edit]

Brahman of Dvaita (substantial monism) is synonymous with Hari or Viṣṇu,Template:Citation needed who is the most exalted Para Brahman,[36] 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: {{quote|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).Template:Citation needed[37][38]

{{quote|Within His divine realm, devotees see other divine manifestations which appear even as physical objects in a city (antara bhuta gramavat svatmanah).[39]

Dvaita propounds Tattvavada which means understanding differences between Tattvas[40] of entities within the universal substrate as follows:

  1. Jîva-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the soul and Viṣṇu
  2. Jada-Îshvara-bheda — difference between the insentient and Viṣṇu
  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


Viṣṇu is traditionally derived from the root "Viṣ" which means to enter or pervade, and He is called Viṣṇu because He pervades the whole universe. Brahmanda Purana (1.4.25) says that He is called as Viṣṇu 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 Viṣṇu which is referred to several times in the Vedas.[41] In His three steps rests the whole universe.[42][43] All indeed is Brahman, which can thus be identified with Viṣṇu, based on the Vedas.

Achintya Bheda Abheda[edit]

The Acintya Bheda Abheda philosophy is similar to Dvaitadvaita (differential monism). All Vaiṣnava 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. Gaudiya Vaiṣnavism, a form of Achintya Bheda Abheda philosophy, also concludes that Brahman is the Supreme Personality of Godhead. According to them, Brahman is Lord Viṣṇu/Krishna; the universe and all other manifestations of the Supreme are extensions of Him.

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 jnāna of Absolute Truth, He is realized usually by advaita-vedantists, followers of Śankaracarya) as impersonal Brahman, then (by Vaiṣnavas) as personal Brahman having eternal Vaikunṭha, abode also known as Brahmalokah sanatana, then as Paramatma (by process of yoga-meditation on Supersoul, Viṣṇu-God in heart) – Viṣṇu(Nārāyaṇa, also in everyone's heart) who has many abodes known as Viṣṇulokas,[44] and finally Absolute Truth is realized by bhakti as Bhagavān, Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is source of both Paramātma and Brahman.[45]

In Gaudiya-vaiṣnavism, philosophers who try to establish that everything is Brahman or [[Māyā[46]|Māyā]] are called Brahmavādis or Māyavādis. Thought they are still considered to be transcendentalists, but of other group.[47]

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[48] 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[49] from the Lord is established from:

Never was there a time when I[50] did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.[51]

In Dvaita, liberation (Mokṣa) is achieved by flawless devotion and correct understanding. Devotion to a personal form of God, Saguna Brahman, indicated here is the transcendental form of Kṛṣṇa or Viṣṇu (see Vaiṣnavism). This conclusion is corroborated by the Bhagavata Purāṇa, written by Vyāsa 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. It's original sanskrit verse goes like:

om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmady asya yatah 'nvayad itaratas cartheshv abhijnah svarat).[52]

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 Purāṇa to establish that Kṛṣṇa is the Absolute Truth. This is clear testimony of the author's own conclusion that the ultimate goal of all Vedic knowledge is Kṛṣṇa.

Modern Hinduism[edit]

Template:See also

During the 19th century Hindu reform movements arose, creating "neo-Hinduism",Template:Sfn a modern synthetic understanding of classical Hinduism and modern philosophy and spirituality.Template:Sfn People representing this Hindu modernism are Rāmakriṣna,Template:Sfn Sri AurobindoTemplate:Sfn and Radakrishnan.Template:Sfn An important influence is the Theosophy from Annie Besant.Template:Sfn

According to Rādhākrishnan, The sages of the Upaniṣads teach that Brahman is the ultimate essence of material phenomena[53] that cannot be seen or heard, but whose nature can be known through the development of self-knowledge (ātma jnāna).[54]

Brahman in Buddhism[edit]

See also: Buddhism

Brahma as perfection[edit]

It has been hard to determine whether the Buddha's philosophy is atheistic, non-theistic or that it indeed does emphasize on the unity with Brahman like mainstream Hinduism does. Examining Buddhist scriptures and deciphering between the words Brahma (e.g., Brahman) and Brahmā[55] has been hard. Referring to differentiation them, Buddhist scholar B. R. Barua says, "The cases where the Absolute is clearly meant ought to be carefully distinguished from others where Brahma is referred".[56]

While "Brahmā" in Buddhist scripture, like Vedic scriptures, also refers to the non-eternal demigod, "Brāhma"[57] is believed by scholars to refer to the eternal perfect being, and the highest stage any person can achieve is labelled as Brahma. For example in addition to Buddha's Dharma being called "Astanga Marga"[58] and Dharmayāna, it is also addressed "Brahmayāna" because the aim is to lead one to perfection of Nirvāna. As the Samyutta Nikāya says,[59] "This Aryan eight-fold Way may be spoken of as Brahmayāna or as Dhammayāna.[60] Again the Buddha Dharma is equated with Brahma when" ...he has become dharma, he has become brahman." It is said that the cultivation of compassion in its purest form is "called the divine life in this world.[61]."[62] In this context Brahma is interpreted to mean divine. In the Suttanipāta, 656, the Buddha says that he who has won the three-fold lore[63] and who will never be reborn is Brahma.[64] Buddhism is compared to Brahma in other scriptures like the Majjhima Nikāya[65] where the Dharmachakra of wheel of law is also called the Brahmachakra.[66][67] The word Brahmachakra was nothing new and it was first mentioned in the Upanishads and it is believed the Buddha having received Vedic knowledge, used the term.[68] The Majjhima-Nikāya also says that the Buddha is 'Brahmapātta' or "one who has attained Brahman".[69], thus outlining that when Buddha became perfected by achieving Nirvāṇa he also became Brahma.

Of Nirvāṇa, the ultimate happiness it is written "one who has attained Nirvāṇa" it is said, "may justifiably employ theological terminology.[70][71]

As one attains Nirvāṇa they have the knowledge of enlightenment. So further, in Buddhist scriptures "Brahmajala" refers to the best knowledge achieved.[72]

Later Buddhist scholars connect the state of Nirvāṇa with Brahman. Buddhaghoṣa in his Digha[73] says that the "Tathagāta[74] is dhammakaya brahmakaya dhammabhuta brahmabhuta."[75] This statement translates as, "For the Tathāgata is synonymous with dhamma and brahma and he who sees the dhamma sees the Buddha..."[76] Bhāvāviveka uses the term Brahma-Abhyāsa, meaning "practicing Brahma" which refers to the Buddhist trying to become one with Brahma.[77]

Brahmacharya itself is a term used often to denote chastity and the way of the monk, both Śramaṇa and Vedic. Buddha himself declared that the perfected religion he was preaching has always existed as a Brahma-faring path: "Even so have I, monks, seen an ancient way, an ancient road followed by the wholly awakened ones of olden time....Along that have I done, and the matters that I have come to know fully as I was going along it, I have told to the monks, nuns, men and women lay-followers, even monks, this Brahma-faring brahmacharya that is prosperous and flourishing, widespread and widely known become popular in short, well made manifest for gods and men."[78]

Like its sister-religion Jainism, Buddhism emphasizes that while one is in the state of Nirvana, he is said to dwell in Brahman. A perfected human is said to "dwell in Brāhman".[79]

Rejection of Brahman[edit]

Buddhism rejects the Upaniṣadic doctrine of Brahman/ātman. According to Damien Keown, "the Buddha said he could find no evidence for the existence of either the personal soul[80] or its cosmic counterpart (brāhman)".[81] According to David Webster, the metaphysics of Buddhism entails that desire for Brahman leads to dukkha.[82]

According to Merv Fowler, some forms of Buddhism have incorporated concepts that resemble that of Brahman. As an example, Fowler cites the early Sarvastivāda 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".[83] According to William Theodore De Bary, in the doctrines of the Yogācāra school of Mahāyāna 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".[84] According to Fowler, some scholars have identified the Buddhist nirvāṇa, conceived of as the Ultimate Reality, with the Hindu Brahman/atman; Fowler claims that this view "has gained little support in Buddhist circles."[85] Fowler asserts that the authors of a number of Mahayana texts took pains to differentiate their ideas from the Upaniṣadic doctrine of Brahman.

The Ultimate Being or State is sometimes called by different names. Whereas It's been referred to as Brahma, it has also been referred to Tat-Puruṣa which means “The ultimate in terms of object is in the sense of being the object of the highest wisdom.“[86] The Sanskrit word means, "original or supreme spirit".[87]

Brahman in Jainism[edit]

Although Jain scriptures normally focus achieving the statehood of the Jina, rather than explain a Supreme Jina to which all Jinas belong, there latter does find mention. The notion of a Supreme above all is clear in some Jain scriptures. There has been association between Tirthankaras and Brahman within the texts. The twenty-second, Tirthankar, Ajita in the Svayambhu Stora (sloka 10) is described as "Brahma-nisṭha"[88] and is requested to bestow "Jinasri" on the devotee.[89] Later in the same scripture,[90] Brahma is described of as being the highest principle, "ahiṅsā bhutanam jagati viditam brahma paramam."[91] There is also Jinesvara Suri's Gaharayanakoṣa scripture which begins first with a prayer to Jina, and then Brahman.[92]

The name Brahma (not to be confused with Brahmā) has been used in Jainism also in titles conferred on both Jain scholars and temples. Hasmukhlal Dhirajlal Sankalia suggests that names like Brahmasaranu suggest the person has realized or is after Brahman [93] There were some great scholars who took this title and examples are Brahmachintamani, Brahmagunadasa, Brahmajinadasa, Brahmajinasagara, Brahmananka, Brahmapunyasagara, and Brahmasantidas. Furthermore, the Parsvadeva Basadi, a temple of Parshvanatha of Tailangere is known as Brahma Jinalaya.

Some scholars make it clear that Brahman is an entity and Supreme Brahman, and even compare it to personifications of God Almighty. The Jain Scholar Yogindu called Paramatma by many names including Brahman and Jinadeva.[94] He writes, "Jinadeva is present in all temples of the body, and man would be fool to seek him in temples." He compares the perfection of Jina to other names that the perfect entity is called. The body, etc., are not the highest self that is here known stainless (nirmala), timeless (niskala), pure, Jina, Siva, Visnu and peaceful (shanta.) He also says, "If the highest Brahman is not realized through great meditation one has to wander infinitely suffering the miseries of transmigration."

A few scholars have made it a required belief to believe in the Supreme Jina. Acarya Vijay Bhuvanbhanusuri writes, "If philosophers do not believe in the omniscient Jinendradeva as the reverend Supreme Lord, then there is no Jainatva (Jainhood) in them."

A Jain scripture says one "should centre one's mind, heart and soul in mastering intellectual recognition-perception of the Supreme Self through philosophic erudition and thus ultimately become himself the Lord of Lords namely the dispassionate Jinendradeva."[95]

In the Mahāpurāṇa of Jinasena-Gunabhadra, the Jina is called the creator and destroyer of the universe.

The following is an excerpt from a Jain scripture:

That which is formless is given a form.[96] He is the form of the universe, the lord of the world. It is the embodiment (murti) of enlightenment (kevala-jnana), the one who has conquered all passions, the Jina lord. The embodiment of the Jina shows the teacher of the world as absorbed in the ultimate.[97][98]

Suresvara was the chief disciple of Adi Śankar Acharya, and he used the word ātmā to connote the Brahman at times and other times the jivātma.[99] Digambara Jain scholar Vijayananda in his Astasahasri quotes Suresvara's Bṛhadaraṇyakopaniṣad-bhāsya-varttika.[100]

Many Jains, especially renowned scholars have denied that Jainism is atheist. Renowned Jain philosopher, Vijayasena Suri in the court of Akbar when accused of preaching atheism declared that Jainism's belief is not atheistic and is similar to the Saṅkhya of Kapila.[101] Saṅkhya advocates a Nirguṇa ātman[102] or a plurality of selves.[103] Similar to this view, some advocated monism. The Ekavāda or monism is discussed by some Jains. One commentator even refers to the Upaniṣadic idea of Brahman.[104] It corresponds to the Buddhist idea of Ekaccasassatavada mentioned in Brahmajala Sutta.

Brahman in Bonism[edit]

See also: Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche

Being Self-realized in Brahm is known as 'Rang rig' and this philosophy was propounded by Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, and is mentioned in the rDzogs Chen.

"The reason for this is as follows. One's own awarwness is Brahm, creator of all worlds."

See also[edit]


  1. It means being-consciousness-bliss.
  2. It denotes on the first syllable.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Not Masculine or Feminine (see Grammatical gender).
  4. Bhaktivedanta VedaBase: Śrīmad Bhāgavatam
  5. It literally means "pertaining to prayer".
  6. He is the Supreme Controller.
  7. Template:Cite book
  8. Template:Cite book
  9. Asangoham
  10. Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.2.1
  11. Aitareya Upaniṣad 3.3
  12. Bṛhadaranyaka Upaniṣad 4.4.5
  13. Bṛhadaranyaka Upaniṣad 1.4.10
  14. Chāndogya Upaniṣad 6.8.7 et seq.
  15. Madhavacarya, Mayavada sata dushani, text 6
  16. Chāndogya Upaniṣad14.1
  17. Nrisimhauttaratāpini, cited in Swami Nikhilananda, The Upaniṣads: A new Translation Vol. I.
  18. In the Bhagavad Gītā, Kṛṣṇa 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
  19. Bhagavad Gitā 5.21
  20. Māndakopaniṣad 3.2.4
  21. Māndakopaniṣad 3.2.6
  22. Ṛgveda 1.164.46
  23. Anantanand Rambachan, The limits of scripture: Vivekananda's reinterpretation of the Vedas. University of Hawaii Press, 1994, pages 125, 124: [1].
  24. [Sangeetha Menon (2007), Advaita Vedānta. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy]
  25. (Bhagavad Gitā 5.21)
  26. It means sentient.
  27. It means insentient.
  28. It means body.
  29. It refers to the Lord.
  30. It means individual souls.
  31. It means insentient matter.
  32. Bhagavad Gitā 14.27
  33. It means the fallible, perishable world.
  34. It means the infallible.
  35. (Bhagavad Gitā 15.18)}}
  36. It means Supreme Brahman.
  37. api — but, samradhane — intense worship, pratyaksa — as directly visible, anumanabhyam — as inferred from scripture
  38. (Vedanta Sutra 3.2.23)}}
  39. (Vedanta Sutra 3.3.36)}}
  40. It refers to the significant properties.
  41. (Ṛgveda 1.22.17, 1.154. 3, 1.155.4, Atharvaveda 7.26.5, Yajur Veda 2.25)
  42. (Ṛgveda 1.154.2
  43. Yajurveda 23.49
  44. It also means Vaikunṭhalokas.
  45. It means personal, impersonal, or both.
  46. It means illusion.
  47. These are the so-called followers of Śankaracarya, because he himself, as avatāra of Śiva accepted Brahman to be Vishnu, not impersonal brahmajyoti as God.
  48. It is referred this way in Advaita holds.
  49. It means soul.
  50. Here I refers to Iśvara.
  51. (Bhagavad Gitā 2.12
  52. (Bhagavata Purāṇa 1.1.1
  53. It is including the original identity of the human self.
  54. pp.77, Radhakrishnan, S, The Principal Upanisads, HarperCollins India, 1994
  55. It means the demigod.
  56. P. 72 Dr. B.R. Barua Birth Centenary Commemoration Volume, 1989 by Hemendu Bikash Chowdhury, Beni Madhab Barua
  57. It means Brāhman.
  58. It means eight-fold path.
  59. Samyutta Nikāya V, 5-6
  60. P. 77 Elements of Buddhist iconography by Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, Harvard-Yenching Institute
  61. It means Brahman item viharam idhmahu.
  62. P. 419 Encyclopedic Dictionary of Buddhism by Samir Nath
  63. It means self-denial, holy life, and control.
  64. P. 121-122 The Buddha Image: Its Origin and Development By Yuvraj Krishan
  65. Majjhima Nikāya I.60
  66. Brahma chakra means wheel of Brahma.
  67. P. 64 Indian horizons, Volume 1 by Indian Council for Cultural Relations
  68. P. 47 'Buddha and Buddhist Synods in India and Abroad' By Amarnath Thakur
  69. P. 5 Sri Venkateswara University Oriental Journal, Volume 18
  70. It means dhammena so Brahma-vadam vadeyya."
  71. P. 20 The philosophy of religion: a Buddhist perspective by Arvind Sharma
  72. P. 52 The Pacific world: journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, Volume 5
  73. iii.8
  74. It means Buddha.
  75. P. 262 Philosophy, grammar, and indology: essays in honor of Professor Gustav Roth
  76. P. 18 'Tradition and Modernity in Bhakti Movements' by Jayant Lele)
  77. P. 230 To See the Buddha: A Philosopher's Quest for the Meaning of Emptiness By Malcolm David Eckel
  78. P. 57 Buddhist Art & Antiquities of Himachal Pradesh, Upto 8th Century A.D. By Omacanda Hāṇḍā
  79. "brahmund saddhim samvasati."
  80. It means ātman.
  81. Damien Keown, Buddhism (NY: Sterling, 2009), p. 70
  82. Dukkha means suffering.
  83. Merv Fowler, Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 1999), p. 34
  84. William Theodore De Bary, cited in Merv Fowler, Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 1999), p. 98
  85. Merv Fowler, Buddhism: Beliefs and Practices (Brighton: Sussex Academic, 1999), p. 81
  86. Contents, A direct path to the Buddha within : Gö Lotsāwa's mahāmudrā interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāga By Klaus-Dieter Mathes
  87. Tatpurusa
  88. It means engrossed in Brahm (Self.)
  89. P. 93 Jain Journal, Volume 37, By Jain Bhawan
  90. sloka 119
  91. Acharya Samantabhadra was a 3rd century CE Jain saint who wrote "ahimsa bhutanam jagati viditam brahma paramam"
  92. P. 386 Journal of the Oriental Institute, Volume 41 By Oriental Institute, 1991
  93. Studies in the historical & cultural geography and ethnography of Gujarat: (places and peoples in inscriptions of Gujarat: 300 B.C.-1300 A.D.) By Hasmukhlal Dhirajlal Sankalia
  94. P. 4639 Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: sasay to zorgot edited by Mohan Lal
  95. P. 64 Samadhi shatak: a century of verses on concentration or self-absorption By Devanandi
  96. It means rupa.
  97. Ultimate means Brahma.
  98. P. 21 Framing the Jina: Narratives of Icons and Idols in Jain History By John Cort
  99. P. 73 Suresvara's Vartika On Yajnavalkya'S-Maitreyi Dialogue edited by Shoun Hino
  100. P. 72-73 A History of Early Vedānta Philosophy By Hajime Nakamura
  101. P. 237 A History of Gujarat: Mughal period, from 1573 to 1758 By Mānekshāh Sorābshāh Commissariat
  102. P. xvii Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali: Containing his yoga aphorisms with Vyasa's commentary in Sanskrit and a translation with annotations including many suggestions for the practice of yoga By Patañjali, Swami Hariharānanda Āraṇya
  103. P. 379 The Principal Upanishads by Swami Nikhilananda
  104. P. 64 Jain Agamas: an introduction to canonical literature By K. L. Chanchreek



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