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Para Brahma(n)(Sanskrit:परब्रह्म) (IAST: para-brahma) is the "highest Brahman," beyond all conceptualisations. In Advaita Vedanta nirguna Brahman, Brahman without qualities, is Para Brahman. In Vaishnavism and Shaivism Vishnu and Shiva are para Brahman.
Para Brahma (Sanskrit), that which is beyond Brahma:
- para, "beyond"
- Brahma (neuter), universal self or spirit)
Synonymous terms are Paramatma, Purushottama, Parameshvara, Bhagavan, Brahma are held to be synonymous with ParaBrahma. The syllable OM is also a name for Param Brahma (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 1:7).
Advaita Vedanta - Nirguna Brahman
Nirguna Brahman (Devanagari निर्गुण ब्रह्म, nirguṇa brahman), Brahman without form or qualities, is Para Brahman, the highest Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, nirguna Brahman is Para-Brahma, while all deities are forms and expansions of this Para-Brahma.
According to Eliot Deutsch, nirguna Brahman is a "state of being" in which "all distinctions are obliterated and are overcome." It describes the features of a nondualistic experience, in which a subjective experience also becomes an objective "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 Brahma, Paramatma or Bhagavan." (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 it is Narayana, Vishnu or Krishna who is para-Brahman or the Supreme personality of Godhead. A wide range of Vedic scriptures is quoted by Vaishnavas as pointing to Narayana as the Supreme Being:
- "He is the prime eternal among all eternals. He is the supreme living entity of all living entities, and He alone is maintaining all life." (Katha Upanishad 2.2.13)[note 4]
- "All incarnations are either plenary portions or expansions of plenary portions appearing in various universes to protect the theists; but Lord Krishna is the original supreme lord and the source of all." (Bhagavata Purana 1.3.27-28)[note 5]
- "Lord Krishna is the supreme absolute controller, whose form comprises immortality, omniscience, and bliss. He is without beginning, the origin of all, the cause of all causes and the source of the Vedas." (Brahma Samhita 5.1)[note 6]
- "There is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread." (Bhagavad Gita 7.7)[note 7]
- "Arjuna said: You are the Supreme Brahma, the ultimate abode, the purest, the Absolute Truth. You are the eternal, transcendental, original Person, the unborn, the greatest." (Bhagavad Gita 10.12)[note 8]
- Krishna says in Bhagavad-Gita: "And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness." (Bg 14.27)
- "Narayana is, Para Jyoti, the greatest light, Para Atma, the super soul (Paramatman), Para Tatvam, the best of essences, Para Dhyata, the greatest meditator, Para Dhyanam, the best of meditations." (Narayana verse 4)[note 9]
Shiva and Shakti philosophy
In Shaivism, Shiva is para-Brahman, Parameshvara (para-Ishvara, the Transcendent Lord), and Satchitananda. Shiva itself is changeless, but his female consort Shakti is that Power of the formless and static Param Brahma that is necessary for creation. Shakti is the first desire (Kama) of Shiva, the Primordial Will to bethat pervades all manifestation. The cosmos enables the Supreme Self to know, see, and live the Supreme Consciousness through its own self-willed limitation. The penultimate purpose of the cosmos is mergence of the created drop with the ocean that is its Mother.
- 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
- nityo nityanam chetanas chetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman
- ete camsa-kalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam indras vyakulam lokam mrdayanti yuge yuge
- isvara paramah krishna sac-cid-ananda vigrahah anadir adir govindah sarva karana karanam
- mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya mayi sarvam idam protam sutre mani-gana iva
- arjuna uvaca, param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan / purusham sasvatam divyam adi-devam ajam vibhum
- naaraayana paro jyotir-aatmaa naarayana para, naarayanam param brahma tatvam naarayanam para, naarayana paro dhyaata dhyaanam naaraayana para
- White 1970, p. 156.
- Om in the Upanishads
- Sullivan 2001, p. 148.
- Fisher 2012, p. 116.
- Malkovsky 1997, p. 541.
- Deutsch 1973, p. 12.
- Deutsch 173, p. 13.
- Bhagavad-gītā as it is By A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, pg. 334-335
- Adi Shakti global website
- 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.