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Para Brahman or Param Brahman (Sanskrit: परब्रह्म, romanized: parabrahma) in Hindu philosophy is the "Supreme Brahman" that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. It is described as the formlessness (in the sense that it is devoid of Maya) that eternally pervades everything, everywhere in the universe and whatever is beyond.
Para Brahman is conceptualised in diverse ways. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, the Para Brahman is a synonym of nirguna brahman, i.e., the attribute-less Absolute. Conversely, in Dvaita Vedanta and Vishistadvaita Vedanta traditions, the Para Brahman is defined as saguna brahman, i.e., the Absolute with attributes. In Vaishnavism, Shaivism, and Shaktism, Vishnu, Shiva, and Adi Shakti respectively are Para Brahman. Mahaganapati is considered as Para Brahman by the Ganapatya sect. Kartikeya is considered as Para Brahman by the Kaumaram sect.
Para is a Sanskrit word that means "higher" in some contexts, and "highest or supreme" in others.
Brahman in Hinduism connotes the Absolute, the Ultimate Reality in the universe. In major schools of Hindu philosophy it is the immaterial, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists. Brahman is a key concept found in the Vedas and is extensively discussed in the early Upanishads and in Advaita Vedanta literature.
In Advaita Vedanta, the Para Brahman is defined as nirguna brahman, or Brahman without form or qualities. It 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:
- The knowers of Truth declare knowledge alone as the Reality——that knowledge which does not admit of duality (the distinction of subject & object), in other words, which is indivisible & one without a second, & which is called by different names such as Brahma (the Absolute), Paramatma (the Supreme Spirit or Oversoul) & Bhagavan (the Deity). (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) is considered to be Para Brahman (Mahavishnu). Vishnu in his Vishvarupa is considered to be the supreme. His abode is called Vaikuntha and the name there is Para Vasudeva. He is depicted as the only Adipurusha according to the Narayana sukta in the Yajurveda. Narayana, in Hinduism, is considered to be the Supreme Truth (Brahman), the thousand-headed, thousand-eyed, and thousand-limbed creator, and this hymn is sung to worship Narayana, the universal Self (Paramatman).
In Shaivism, Shiva is Para Brahman. Parashiva, the supreme form of Lord Shiva, is considered as Para Brahman. According to Shiva Purana, 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 Shiva. Kashmir Shaivism consider Svachhanda Bhairava as Para Brahman. Kashmir Shaivism holds turiya, or the fourth state of consciousness, as the state of Brahman. It is neither wakefulness, dreaming, nor deep sleep. 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, Adi Parashakti is considered to be the Para Brahman both with and without qualities, and also Brahman in its energetic state, the ultimate reality. 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". Tridevi is the supreme form of Adi Parashakti. Her eternal abode is called Manidvipa.
- 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
- 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".
- Klostermaier, Klaus K. (10 March 2010). Survey of Hinduism, A: Third Edition. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-8011-3.
- 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, S2CID 170842690
- 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, S2CID 162216194
- "VEDA - Vedas and Vedic Knowledge Online - Vedic Encyclopedia". www.veda.harekrsna.cz.