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Para Brahman (Sanskrit:पारब्रह्म) (IAST: Para Brahman) is the "Highest Brahman" that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. It is described in Hindu texts as the formless (in the sense that it is devoid of Maya) spirit (soul) that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond.
Hindus conceptualize the Para Brahman in diverse ways. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, Nirguna Brahman (Brahman without attributes) is Para Brahman. In Dvaita and Vishistadvaita Vedanta traditions, Saguna Brahman (Brahman with qualities) is Para Brahman. In Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism, Vishnu, Shiva and Shakti respectively are Para Brahman. Mahaganapati is considered as Para Brahman by the Ganapatya sect.
Para is a Sanskrit word that means "higher" in some contexts, and "highest or supreme" in others.
Brahman connotes the Highest Universal Principle in Hinduism, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. Brahman is a key concept found in Vedas, and extensively discussed in the early Upanishads.
Para Brahman means the "Highest Brahman". It is found in early Advaita Vedanta literature.
Advaita Vedanta - Nirguna Brahman
Nirguna Brahman (Devanagari निर्गुण ब्रह्मन्, Nirguṇa Brahman), Brahman without form or qualities, is Para Brahman, the highest Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, Nirguna Brahman is Para Brahman, and is a state of complete knowledge of self as being identical with the transcendental Brahman, a state of mental-spiritual enlightenment (Jnana yoga). It contrasts with Saguna Brahman which is a state of loving awareness (Bhakti yoga). Advaita Vedanta non-dualistically holds that Brahman is divine, the Divine is Brahman, and this is identical to that which is Atman (one's soul, innermost self) and nirguna (attribute-less), infinite, love, truth, knowledge, "being-consciousness-bliss".
According to Eliot Deutsch, Nirguna Brahman is a "state of being" in which all dualistic distinctions between one's own soul and Brahman are obliterated and are overcome. In contrast, Saguna Brahman is where the distinctions are harmonized after duality between one's own soul and Brahman has been accepted.
Advaita describes the features of a nondualistic experience, in which a subjective experience also becomes an "object" of knowledge and a phenomenal reality. The Absolute Truth is both subject and object, so there is no qualitative difference:
- "Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān." (Bhagavata Purana 1.2.11)[note 1]
- "Whoever realizes the Supreme Brahma attains to supreme felicity. That Supreme Brahma is Eternal Truth (satyam), Omniscient (jnanam), Infinite (anantam)." (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.1.1)[note 2]
The Upanishads state that the Supreme Brahma is Eternal, Conscious, and Blissful sat-chit-ânanda. The realisation of this truth is the same as being this truth:
- "The One is Bliss. Whoever perceives the Blissful One, the reservoir of pleasure, becomes blissful forever." (Taittiriya Upanishad 2.7.1-2)[note 3]
- "Verily know the Supreme One to be Bliss." (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.9.28)
In Vaishnavism, Vishnu or Krishna (among other incarnations of Vishnu) is considered as Para Brahman. Vishnu in his universal form is considered to be the supreme. According to Bhagavat Purana, when Arjuna asked the true reality about Krishna, he revealed his Parabramhan form showing that he is the supreme form of souls, demons, deities and qualities, namely, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas.
In Shaivism, Shiva is Para Brahman. Parashiva, the supreme form of Lord Shiva, is considered as Para Brahman. According to mythology, Parashiva is the single incarnation of all souls and deities. He is also depicted as the only Adipurusha or Mahadeva.
In Kashmir Shaivism, Svachhanda Bhairava is considered as the supreme form of Lord Shiva. Kashmir Shaivism consider Svachhanda Bhairava as Para Brahman. Kashmir Shaivism holds turiya the fourth state of consciousness as Brahman. It is neither wakefulness, dreaming, nor deep sleep. In reality, it exists in the junction between any of these three states, i.e. between waking and dreaming, between dreaming and deep sleep, and between deep sleep and waking. In Kashmir Shaivism there exists a fifth state of consciousness called Turiyatita - the state beyond Turiya which represents Parabrahman. Turiyatita, also called the void or shunya is the state where one attains liberation otherwise known as jivanmukti or moksha.
In Shaktism, Mahakali Devi or Tripura Sundari the supreme form of Devi Adi parashakti, is considered to be the Para Brahman or energy of the Brahman, ultimate reality, inseparably. According to Devi Suktam and Sri Suktam in Rigveda she is the womb of all creation. Thus Mahakali is epithets is Brahmamayi, meaning "She Whose Essence is Brahman". Parvati as Lalita Tripura Sundari Her eternal abode is called Manidvipa.
Sikh scripture and the last sikh guru, Sri Guru Granth Sahib refers to Parbrahm with a variety of adjectives and nouns, such as Nirankar, Niranjan, Bhagat Vachhal, Kirpal, Dayal, Deen Dayal, Madho, Raam, Hari, Rahim, Karim, Rehman, Parvardigar, Sahib, Malik, etc.....
- vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam, yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti, bhagavan iti sabdyate
- brahma-vid apnoti param, tad eshabhyukta, satyam jnanam anantam brahma
- raso vai sa, rasam hy evayam labdhvanandi bhavati
- Pratapaditya Pal; Stephen P. Huyler; John E. Cort; et al. (2016). Puja and Piety: Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist Art from the Indian Subcontinent. University of California Press. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-0-520-28847-8.
- White 1970, p. 156.
- Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European languages, Oxford University Press, Article on Para
- James Lochtefeld, Brahman, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN 978-0823931798, page 122
- PT Raju (2006), Idealistic Thought of India, Routledge, ISBN 978-1406732627, page 426 and Conclusion chapter part XII
- Mariasusai Dhavamony (2002), Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Theological Soundings and Perspectives, Rodopi Press, ISBN 978-9042015104, pages 43-44
- For dualism school of Hinduism, see: Francis X. Clooney (2010), Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199738724, pages 51-58, 111-115;
For monist school of Hinduism, see: B Martinez-Bedard (2006), Types of Causes in Aristotle and Sankara, Thesis - Department of Religious Studies (Advisors: Kathryn McClymond and Sandra Dwyer), Georgia State University, pages 18-35
- Stephen Philips (1998), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Brahman to Derrida (Editor; Edward Craig), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415187077, pages 1-4
- Michael Comans (2002), The Method of Early Advaita Vedānta, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120817227, pages 129-130, 216-231
- Sullivan 2001, p. 148.
- Fisher 2012, p. 116.
- Malkovsky 1997, p. 541.
- Deutsch 1973, p. 13.
- Deutsch 1973, pp. 9-14.
- Deutsch 1973, p. 12.
- A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. "Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.11".
- Jivanmukta Geeta by Swami Shivananda
- Deutsch, Eliot (1973), Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction, University of Hawaii Press
- Fisher, Mary Pat (2012), Living Religions: A Brief Introduction
- Malkovsky, B. (1997), "The Personhood of Samkara's" Para Brahma"", The Journal of Religion, 77 (4): 541, doi:10.1086/490065, JSTOR 1206747
- Sullivan, B.M. (2001), The A to Z of Hinduism, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 8170945216
- White, C.S.J. (1970), "Krsna as Divine Child", History of Religions, 10 (2): 156, doi:10.1086/462625, JSTOR 1061907
- "VEDA - Vedas and Vedic Knowledge Online - Vedic Encyclopedia". www.veda.harekrsna.cz.