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  1. 1. Plato and Aristotle: Ideas; Substance; Form and Matter; Causation; Actuality and Potentiality

    1.1 Plato's Philosophy of Ideas
  2. 1.2 Plato's Understanding of Substance
  3. 1.3 Aristotle's Philosophy of Form and Matter
  4. 1.4 Aristotle's Theory of Substance
  5. 1.5 Plato's View on Causation
  6. 1.6 Aristotle's Four Causes
  7. 1.7 Actuality and Potentiality in Aristotle's Philosophy
  8. 1.8 Comparative Analysis of Plato and Aristotle's Philosophies
  9. 2. The Foundations of Rationalism: Method, Substance, God, and Mind-Body Dualism
    2.1 Rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  10. 2.2 Cartesian Method and Certain Knowledge
  11. 2.3 Substance (Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  12. 2.4 Philosophy of God (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz)
  13. 2.5 Mind-Body Dualism
  14. 2.6 Determinism and Freedom (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz)
  15. 3. Empiricism (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
    3.1 Introduction to Empiricism
  16. 3.2 Theory of Knowledge (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
    3 Submodules
  17. 3.3 Substance and Qualities (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
  18. 3.4 Self and God (Locke, Berkeley, Hume)
  19. 3.5 Scepticism (Locke, Berkeley, and Hume)
  20. 4. Kant
    4.1 Introduction to Kant's Philosophy
  21. 4.2 Kant: The Possibility of Synthetic a priori Judgments
  22. 4.3 Kant's Space and Time
  23. 4.4 Kant's Categories
  24. 4.5 Kant's Ideas of Reason
  25. 4.6 Kant's Antinomies
  26. 4.7 Kant's Critique of Proofs for the Existence of God
  27. 5. Hegel
    5.1 Hegel: Dialectical Method; Absolute Idealism
  28. 6. Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein
    6.1 Defence of Commonsense (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  29. 6.2 Refutation of Idealism (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  30. 6.3 Logical Atomism (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  31. 6.4 Logical Constructions (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  32. 6.5 Incomplete Symbols (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  33. 6.6 Picture Theory of Meaning (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  34. 6.7 Saying and Showing (Moore, Russell, and Early Wittgenstein)
  35. 7. Logical Positivism
    7.1 Verification Theory of Meaning
  36. 7.2 Rejection of Metaphysics
  37. 7.3 Linguistic Theory of Necessary Propositions
  38. 8. Later Wittgenstein
    8.1 Meaning and Use (Later Wittgenstein)
  39. 8.2 Language-games (Later Wittgenstein)
  40. 8.3 Critique of Private Language (Later Wittgenstein)
  41. 9. Phenomenology (Husserl)
    9.1 Method - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  42. 9.2 Theory of Essences - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  43. 9.3 Avoidance of Psychologism - Phenomenology (Husserl)
  44. 10. Existentialism (Kierkegaard, Sartre, Heidegger)
    10.1 Existence and Essence
  45. 10.2 Choice, Responsibility and Authentic Existence
  46. 10.3 Being–in–the–world and Temporality
  47. 11. Quine and Strawson
    11.1 Critique of Empiricism (Quine and Strawson)
  48. 11.2 Theory of Basic Particulars and Persons (Quine and Strawson)
  49. 12. Cârvâka
    12.1 Cârvâka: Theory of Knowledge
  50. 12.2 Cârvâka: Rejection of Transcendent Entities
  51. 13. Jainism
    13.1 Jainism: Theory of Reality
  52. 13.2 Jainism: Saptabhaòginaya
  53. 14. Schools of Buddhism
    14.1 Pratîtyasamutpâda (Schools of Buddhism)
  54. 14.2 Ksanikavada (Schools of Buddhism)
  55. 14.3 Nairâtmyavâda (Schools of Buddhism)
  56. 15. Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika
    15.1 Theory of Categories (Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika)
  57. 15.2 Theory of Appearance (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  58. 15.3 Theory of Pramâna (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  59. 15.4 Self, Liberation, God, Proofs for the Existence of God (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  60. 15.5 Theory of Causation & Atomistic Theory of Creation (Nyâya-Vaiśeṣika)
  61. 16. Sâmkhya
    16.1 Prakrti (Sâmkhya)
  62. 16.2 Purusa (Sâmkhya)
  63. 16.3 Causation (Sâmkhya)
  64. 16.4 Liberation (Sâmkhya)
  65. 17. Yoga
    17.1 Introduction to Yoga Philosophy
  66. 17.2 Citta (Yoga)
  67. 17.3 Cittavrtti (Yoga)
  68. 17.4 Klesas (Yoga)
  69. 17.5 Samadhi (Yoga)
  70. 17.6 Kaivalya (Yoga)
  71. 18. Mimâmsâ
    18.1 Mimâmsâ: Theory of Knowledge
  72. 19. Schools of Vedânta
    19.1 Brahman (Schools of Vedânta)
  73. 19.2 Îúvara (Schools of Vedânta)
  74. 19.3 Âtman (Schools of Vedânta)
  75. 19.4 Jiva (Schools of Vedânta)
  76. 19.5 Jagat (Schools of Vedânta)
  77. 19.6 Mâyâ (Schools of Vedânta)
  78. 19.7 Avidyâ (Schools of Vedanta)
  79. 19.8 Adhyâsa (Schools of Vedanta)
  80. 19.9 Moksa (Schools of Vedanta)
  81. 19.10 Aprthaksiddhi (Schools of Vedanta)
  82. 19.11 Pancavidhabheda (Schools of Vedanta)
  83. 20.1 Aurobindo: Evolution
  84. 20.2 Aurobindo: Involution
  85. 20.3 Aurobindo: Integral Yoga
  86. 21. Socio-Political Ideals
    21.1 Equality (Social and Political Ideals)
  87. 21.2 Justice (Social and Political Ideals)
  88. 21.3 Liberty (Social and Political Ideals)
  89. 22. Sovereignty
    22. Sovereignty: Austin, Bodin, Laski, Kautilya
  90. 23. Individual and State
    23.1 Rights (Individual and State)
  91. 23.2 Duties (Individual and State)
  92. 23.3 Accountability (Individual and State)
  93. 24. Forms of Government
    24.1 Monarchy (Forms of Government)
  94. 24.2 Theocracy (Forms of Government)
  95. 24.3 Democracy (Forms of Government)
  96. 25. Political Ideologies
    25.1 Anarchism (Political Ideologies)
  97. 25.2 Marxism (Political Ideologies)
  98. 25.3 Socialism (Political Ideologies)
  99. 26. Humanism; Secularism; Multiculturalism
    26.1 Humanism
  100. 26.2 Secularism
  101. 26.3 Multiculturalism
  102. 27. Crime and Punishment
    27.1 Corruption
  103. 27.2 Mass Violence
  104. 27.3 Genocide
  105. 27.4 Capital Punishment
  106. 28. Development and Social Progress
    28. Development and Social Progress
  107. 29. Gender Discrimination
    29.1 Female Foeticide
  108. 29.2 Land, and Property Rights
  109. 29.3 Empowerment
  110. 30. Caste Discrimination
    30.1 Gandhi (Caste Discrimination)
  111. 30.2 Ambedkar (Caste Discrimination)
  112. Philosophy of Religion
    31. Notions of God: Attributes; Relation to Man and the World (Indian and Western)
  113. 32. Proofs for the Existence of God and their Critique (Indian and Western)
  114. 33. The problem of Evil
  115. 34. Soul: Immortality; Rebirth and Liberation
  116. 35. Reason, Revelation, and Faith
  117. 36. Religious Experience: Nature and Object (Indian and Western)
  118. 37. Religion without God
  119. 38. Religion and Morality
  120. 39. Religious Pluralism and the Problem of Absolute Truth
  121. 40. Nature of Religious Language: Analogical and Symbolic
  122. 41. Nature of Religious Language: Cognitivist and Noncognitive
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19.1 Brahman (Schools of Vedânta)

I. Introduction to Brahman and Vedânta

Overview of Brahman: Concept of the Ultimate Reality

  • Brahman is the foundational concept in Indian philosophy, particularly in the Vedantic tradition.
  • Derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Brh’, which means to grow or expand, Brahman is the all-encompassing, supreme universal Spirit or Consciousness.
  • Often referred to as the Ultimate Reality, Brahman is beyond human comprehension, beyond words, and beyond materiality.
  • The Upanishads frequently use the term “Neti Neti” (meaning “Not this, Not this”) to describe Brahman, suggesting that the Ultimate Reality is beyond any form of empirical understanding or sensory perception.
  • Brahman transcends all dualities, such as good and evil, and is often considered as neither male nor female.
  • It’s omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipresent (present everywhere).
  • As a cosmic principle, Brahman is the essence from which all life emanates and to which all life returns.
  • Despite being formless and without attributes, Brahman can manifest in various forms, leading to the concepts of Saguna Brahman (God with attributes) and Nirguna Brahman (God without attributes).

Brief about Vedânta: A systematized form of Upanishadic teachings

  • Vedânta, a compound word from Veda (knowledge) and Anta (end), refers to the culmination of Vedic thought and traditionally encompasses the teachings of the Upanishads.
  • It is the philosophical essence of the Upanishads, a collection of ancient texts that form the final part of the Vedic scriptures.
  • Vedânta is not just a philosophical system but also a spiritual discipline and way of life.
  • There are several sub-schools under Vedânta, including Advaita Vedanta, Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, and Dvaita Vedanta. Each offers a unique interpretation of concepts like Brahman, the individual soul, and the nature of reality.
  • The primary goal of Vedântic practice is the realization of one’s true nature and union with the divine, achieved through various paths including Jnana (knowledge), Bhakti (devotion), and Karma (action).
  • Prominent figures in Vedanta include Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanuja, and Madhva, each laying down a distinct commentary and perspective on the Upanishads.

The centrality of Brahman in Vedânta: The unchanging, immanent, and transcendent principle

  • In Vedânta, Brahman is the unchanging, eternal truth amidst an ever-changing world.
  • As the substratum of all existence, it’s both immanent (present within creation) and transcendent (beyond creation).
  • The idea is that while the world undergoes birth, sustenance, and dissolution, Brahman remains unchanged, unmodulated, and unaffected.
  • This unchanging nature of Brahman is often referred to as its Satchitananda nature, denoting its ever-existing, conscious, and blissful state.
  • Brahman is both the efficient cause (the creator) and the material cause (the substance) of the universe.
  • Taittiriya Upanishad phrases it beautifully, “From Brahman’s bliss, all beings originate, live by that bliss, and return to that bliss.”
  • Realizing this Brahman principle is the ultimate aim of human life, according to Vedânta. It’s believed that understanding Brahman leads to Moksha or liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
  • The journey to understanding and realizing Brahman encompasses a combination of intellectual inquiry, meditation, moral rectitude, and devotion.

II. Historical Evolution and Philosophical Foundations

Historical background of Brahman: Vedic references

  • Brahman traces its origins back to the ancient Vedic literature, a significant body of knowledge in the Indian spiritual and philosophical landscape.
  • In the early Vedic period, Brahman was associated with rituals, spells, and chants. It referred to the power that resonated in rituals and the mantras (sacred chants) used to invoke deities.
  • The term has been found in the Samhitas and Brahmanas, sections of the Vedas which are the oldest stratum of these texts.
  • The Atharvaveda, one of the primary Vedas, contains hymns that indicate a transition in understanding Brahman from just the power in rituals to the ultimate principle governing the cosmos.
  • Over time, the focus shifted from the ritualistic significance of Brahman to its philosophical dimensions, laying the groundwork for its elaborate treatment in the Upanishads.

Philosophical foundations: Upanishadic explorations

  • The Upanishads, often referred to as Vedanta (meaning “end of the Vedas”), represent the final and philosophical teachings of the Vedas. Here, the concept of Brahman experiences a profound deepening and broadening.
  • These texts introduced Brahman as the ultimate reality or cosmic principle underlying all phenomena.
  • Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Chandogya Upanishad are two of the principal Upanishads that have devoted extensive discussions about the nature of Brahman. In them, Brahman is described as the essence of the universe, the unchanging amidst the transient.
  • Mundaka Upanishad introduces the dichotomy of Para Brahman (Supreme Brahman) and Apara Brahman (Inferior Brahman), helping seekers differentiate between the transient physical world and the eternal metaphysical reality.
  • Brahman, in Upanishadic teaching, is also the same as the inner soul, Atman. The realization “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman) in the Upanishads underscores this profound union between the individual soul and the universal soul.
  • This period saw the flowering of Advaita Vedanta philosophy, where Adi Shankaracharya, an Indian sage, postulated the non-dual nature of Atman and Brahman, asserting that they are identical.

Evolution of the Brahman concept: From the Rigveda to classical Upanishads

  • The Rigveda, the oldest of the Vedas, contains the earliest references to Brahman. Initially, the term was predominantly associated with power, magic, and the efficacy of the rituals.
  • As the Brahmanas texts came into being, there was a further elucidation of the ritualistic aspect of Brahman. The cosmic power associated with the rituals became more pronounced.
  • The transition from the Rigveda to the Upanishads marks a move from the external ritualistic Brahman to the internal, spiritual Brahman.
  • Aranyakas, texts that form a bridge between Brahmanas and Upanishads, begin this transition, focusing on meditation and introspection over rituals.
  • By the time of the classical Upanishads, the interpretation of Brahman was thoroughly philosophical. The concept had evolved from the power in Vedic chants to the singular, unifying force of the universe. The ultimate reality that is both immanent in the created world and transcendent was universally recognized and explored in these texts.
  • This evolution, from ritual to philosophy, marks the deepening of Indian spiritual thought, culminating in the rich tapestry of Vedantic philosophy, which continues to influence spiritual thought not just in India but worldwide.

III. The Ontological Nature of Brahman

The Absolute Reality: Sat (Existence), Chit (Consciousness), Ananda (Bliss)

  • Sat (Existence)
    • Represents the essence of being, the foundational reality.
    • Differentiates the real from the unreal or illusionary.
    • Brahman, as Sat, denotes an existence that neither begins nor ends.
  • Chit (Consciousness)
    • Speaks to awareness or knowledge.
    • Unlike human consciousness, it isn’t interrupted by sleep, distractions, or disruptions.
    • Illuminates the inner self and the external world.
  • Ananda (Bliss)
    • Not just a fleeting emotion or state of happiness.
    • Signifies profound, boundless joy and eternal peace.
    • Brahman as Ananda is the source of all joy in the world, but remains unaffected by worldly sufferings.

Saguna and Nirguna Brahman: Attributes and the Attributeless

  • Saguna Brahman
    • Brahman with attributes.
    • More relatable and can be worshiped in a form.
    • Examples include deities like Vishnu, Shiva, and Devi.
    • Forms basis for devotional practices in various traditions.
  • Nirguna Brahman
    • The formless, attributeless Brahman.
    • Abstract and difficult to grasp.
    • Is the reality behind the universe and all the forms it takes.
    • Considered superior by certain philosophical traditions like Advaita Vedanta.

Brahman as the Efficient and Material Cause: Upādāna and Nimitta Karana

  • Upādāna Karana (Material Cause)
    • Refers to the raw material or substance from which something is made.
    • In relation to Brahman, it signifies that everything in the universe is essentially Brahman.
    • Just as pots made of clay are essentially clay, all manifestations are essentially Brahman.
  • Nimitta Karana (Efficient Cause)
    • The instrumental cause or the agency behind an action.
    • Brahman, as Nimitta Karana, is not just the substance but also the force behind creation.
    • Reflects the idea that Brahman is both the creator and the creation, both the potter and the clay.

In delving into the nature of Brahman, we witness a profound philosophical synthesis that tries to encapsulate the boundless and eternal within human comprehension. Through attributes like Sat, Chit, and Ananda, as well as distinctions like Saguna and Nirguna, the diverse schools of Indian philosophy seek to understand and relate to the absolute reality.

IV. Relation of Brahman with the Universe

Emanation of the Universe: Brahman as the Cosmic Womb

  • Brahman represents the ultimate reality from which the universe emanates.
  • In Vedic traditions, it is perceived as the cosmic womb or the source of all creation.
  • Everything arises from Brahman, dwells in Brahman, and ultimately merges back into Brahman.
  • This cosmic emanation is not a one-time event, but a continuous flow of creation, preservation, and dissolution.
  • It encompasses the cycles of birth, existence, and death, which are recurring themes in many religious texts and spiritual teachings.
  • This birth and rebirth process is similar to how a spider weaves a web from its own substance and later absorbs it.

Līlā – The Divine Play

  • Līlā is a Sanskrit term denoting the divine play of the universe.
  • It signifies the spontaneous and joyful play of Brahman, where creation is an act of joy and not born out of necessity.
  • The universe, in its entirety, is Brahman’s dance or Līlā.
  • This perspective places importance on the transient and ever-changing nature of life, emphasizing the impermanence of the material world.
  • It serves as a reminder that while life’s events may seem serious, they are merely parts of a larger divine play, and one should not get overly attached.

The Concept of Prakriti: Nature as an Expression of Brahman

  • Prakriti is the primal nature or raw material from which the universe is formed.
  • It is often equated with matter, energy, and the laws governing them.
  • Prakriti operates under three fundamental forces or gunas: Sattva (purity), Rajas (activity), and Tamas (inertia).
  • While Brahman is changeless and beyond attributes, Prakriti is dynamic and undergoes transformation.
  • The interplay between Brahman (consciousness) and Prakriti (matter) results in the manifestation of the universe.
  • Through this interaction, the inanimate becomes animate, creating the diversity of life we see around us.

Reflection on the Chandogya Upanishad: ‘Tat Tvam Asi’

  • The Chandogya Upanishad is one of the major Upanishads that delves deep into the philosophy of Brahman.
  • One of its most profound teachings is the declaration: Tat Tvam Asi, translated as “Thou art That.”
  • This statement underlines the non-dual nature of reality, asserting the oneness of the individual soul (Atman) with the universal soul (Brahman).
  • It emphasizes the inherent divinity of every individual and encourages self-realization.
  • By understanding and internalizing “Tat Tvam Asi,” one can transcend the illusion (Maya) of separateness and realize the interconnectedness of all existence.
  • This realization paves the way for liberation (Moksha) from the cycle of birth and death.

V. Brahman in the Bhagavad Gītā

The Gītā’s Perspective: Krishna as the Embodiment of Brahman

  • The Bhagavad Gītā, a 700-verse Hindu scripture, is a conversation between Prince Arjuna and the god Krishna, his charioteer.
  • In the Gītā, Krishna is portrayed not just as a deity, but the supreme Brahman incarnate.
  • Krishna explains that he descends to the mortal realm whenever dharma (righteousness) declines, and adharma (unrighteousness) rises.
  • He emphasizes that all paths, be they knowledge, devotion, or disciplined action, ultimately lead to him, symbolizing Brahman.
  • The cyclic nature of creation, preservation, and destruction is highlighted with Krishna indicating he is the force behind all these processes.

The Cosmic Form: Vishvarupa Darshana

  • In the Gītā, there’s a pivotal moment where Krishna reveals his Vishvarupa (universal form) to Arjuna.
  • This vision showcases the vastness, power, and infinite nature of the universe, all encompassed within Krishna.
  • Arjuna witnesses various divine manifestations, celestial beings, and the confluence of time within this form.
  • It emphasizes the interconnectedness of all beings and their existence within Brahman.
  • The Vishvarupa serves to remind that while the divine can take multiple forms, there is a singular, unchanging reality behind them: Brahman.
  • Witnessing this form, Arjuna realizes the impermanence of life, the inevitability of death, and the eternal nature of the soul.

Bhakti and Surrender: The Path to Realizing Brahman

  • Bhakti translates to “devotion” and in the context of the Gītā, it refers to the unwavering devotion to the divine.
  • Krishna emphasizes the importance of bhakti yoga (the path of devotion) as a means to achieve self-realization and union with Brahman.
  • Through bhakti, individuals can transcend the limitations of the physical realm, breaking free from the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.
  • Surrender, in this context, doesn’t signify defeat. Instead, it’s about relinquishing ego, desires, and acknowledging the supremacy of the divine.
  • By surrendering to Krishna (representing Brahman), one surrenders to the universal order, aligning oneself with the cosmic rhythm.
  • The act of surrender removes barriers, allowing the devotee to experience the bliss of Brahman.
  • Historical figures like Meera Bai and Sant Eknath exemplified the path of bhakti and surrender, showcasing the profound impact of such devotion in their lives and their closeness to the divine.

VI. Brahman and the Individual Soul

Jivatman and Paramatman: The individual and supreme soul

  • Jivatman refers to the individual soul or self.
    • Every living being possesses a Jivatman.
    • Responsible for individual experiences and actions.
    • Bounded by Karma (actions) and their effects.
  • Paramatman denotes the supreme or universal soul.
    • Represents the ultimate reality or Brahman.
    • It is omnipresent and eternal.
    • Encompasses all Jivatmans within its vastness.
  • Distinction between the two:
    • Jivatman is finite and conditioned.
    • Paramatman is infinite and beyond all conditions.
    • While they appear different, at the core, Jivatman is a fragment of Paramatman.
    • The separation is due to ignorance (Avidya) and materiality.
    • Knowledge (Vidya) aids in recognizing their unity.

Layers of existence: From the gross body to the causal

  • Existence of beings, particularly humans, spans multiple layers or Koshas.
    • These layers range from the tangible to the intangible.
  • Annamaya Kosha: The physical or gross body.
    • Comprises the physical elements.
    • Directly related to sustenance and food.
  • Pranamaya Kosha: The vital breath or life force.
    • Pertains to the energies that drive life.
    • Encompasses the breath and other vital systems.
  • Manomaya Kosha: The mental sheath.
    • Related to thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
    • Governed by the mind.
  • Vijnanamaya Kosha: The intellectual or wisdom sheath.
    • Deals with understanding, wisdom, and discernment.
    • Governed by intellect or Buddhi.
  • Anandamaya Kosha: The blissful sheath.
    • Represents the innermost layer.
    • Signifies pure joy and bliss, untouched by worldly sorrows.
  • Karana Sharira: The causal body.
    • Beyond the five Koshas.
    • Holds the impressions (Samskaras) from countless lifetimes.
    • Reason for rebirth, based on these impressions.

Liberation and union: Realizing the non-difference

  • The ultimate goal of life in Hindu philosophy is Moksha or liberation.
    • Signifies freedom from the cycle of birth and death.
    • Attained when the Jivatman recognizes its true nature and its union with Paramatman.
  • Ignorance of true nature binds the soul.
    • Due to material desires, ego, and accumulated karma.
  • Knowledge, meditation, and righteous action help dispel this ignorance.
  • When realization occurs:
    • The distinction between Jivatman and Paramatman dissolves.
    • The individual recognizes the non-difference.
    • Achieves union with the ultimate reality, Brahman.
    • Attains eternal bliss and peace.
  • Advaita Vedanta philosophy stresses this non-dual nature.
    • Proclaims the truth of “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman).
    • No difference between the self (Atman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman).
  • Prominent figures like Adi Shankaracharya have expounded on these concepts.
    • Emphasized the essence of self-realization and liberation.

VII. Brahman in Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita

Advaita Vedanta: Non-dualism and its stance on Brahman

  • Advaita Vedanta, spearheaded by Adi Shankaracharya, is rooted in the concept of non-dualism.
  • It asserts the non-difference between the individual soul (Jivatman) and the ultimate reality (Brahman).
  • Brahman is seen as the only reality, and everything else, including the universe and living beings, is its manifestation.
  • Maya (illusion) makes the world seem diverse. Overcoming Maya leads to the realization of one’s true self.
  • Brahman is Nirguna (without attributes) and Nirakara (formless). It’s the absolute, indescribable reality.
  • The phrase “Aham Brahmasmi” (I am Brahman) captures the essence of Advaita, emphasizing self-realization.

Vishishtadvaita: Qualified non-dualism and its interpretation

  • Propounded by Ramanuja, Vishishtadvaita stands for qualified non-dualism.
  • It acknowledges Brahman’s existence as the foundational reality but adds a nuanced difference.
  • Brahman possesses attributes and is described as Saguna Brahman.
  • All living beings and the universe are real but are also parts of Brahman, like body parts to a body.
  • Jivatman and Brahman are not entirely identical but share a deep intimate relationship, like the soul and the body.
  • Moksha (liberation) in Vishishtadvaita is achieved when the soul realizes its eternal service to Brahman.

Dvaita: Dualism’s view on the separation of the individual soul and Brahman

  • Dvaita, introduced by Madhvacharya, is rooted in the idea of dualism.
  • It presents a clear separation between the individual soul (Jivatman) and the supreme reality (Brahman).
  • Unlike Advaita, the world and Jivatmans are not manifestations of Brahman but are distinct.
  • Brahman is the supreme, independent entity, while Jivatman remains forever subservient.
  • Liberation is seen as the soul’s realization of its distinct identity and eternal service to Brahman.
  • Dvaita maintains the everlasting distinction between the worshipper and the worshipped.

Comparing the three schools on Brahman

AspectAdvaita VedantaVishishtadvaitaDvaita
Core PhilosophyNon-dualismQualified Non-dualismDualism
Stance on BrahmanAbsolute, formless realityBrahman with attributesSupreme, independent entity
Relation with JivatmanNon-differenceIntimate relationship like body and soulDistinct and separate
World’s RealityIllusion (Maya)Real and part of BrahmanReal and distinct from Brahman
Liberation (Moksha)Realization of “Aham Brahmasmi”Realization of eternal service to BrahmanRealization of distinct identity & service to Brahman
Key ProponentAdi ShankaracharyaRamanujaMadhvacharya

VIII. Critical Philosophical Inquiries about Brahman

Challenges and criticisms: Historical debates and discussions

  • Origins of Criticism: As early as the classical period, various interpretations of Brahman gave rise to intellectual challenges.
  • Charvakas’ Perspective: This ancient Indian materialist school rejected the idea of an unseen Brahman, emphasizing perceptible phenomena.
  • Buddhist Views: Buddhist traditions, while not adhering to the concept of Brahman, presented arguments on the nature of reality which contrasted with Brahman-centric views. Nagarjuna, a central figure in Mahayana Buddhism, discussed the concept of “Shunyata” or emptiness, challenging fixed notions of reality.
  • Nyaya School: Utilized logical reasoning and demanded empirical evidence for the claims regarding Brahman’s existence.
  • Jainism’s Standpoint: Jains emphasize multiplicity and plurality (anekantavada), leading to debates on the singular concept of Brahman.
  • Medieval Debates: Philosophers such as Abhinavagupta and Ramanuja brought forth critiques and refinements to the Advaita view of Brahman.

Brahman in modern philosophical discourse: Western and Eastern perspectives

  • Western Reception: Brahman concept intrigued Western scholars, drawing parallels with Western metaphysical ideas.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson and Transcendentalism: Found resonances between the idea of Brahman and the Oversoul.
    • Aldous Huxley: In his ‘Perennial Philosophy’, pointed towards a universal truth akin to Brahman.
    • Process Philosophers: Such as Alfred North Whitehead, discussed concepts resembling Brahman when addressing ultimate reality.
  • Modern Eastern Interpretations:
    • Sri Aurobindo: Proposed an evolutionary process in consciousness, bringing together individual and universal aspects of Brahman.
    • Swami Vivekananda: Presented Brahman’s idea on international platforms, emphasizing its universal relevance.
    • Radhakrishnan’s Response to Western Critiques: As a scholar, he interpreted Brahman in a way that addressed Western philosophical queries.

Beyond the Vedânta: Brahman in other schools of Indian thought

  • Samkhya Philosophy: While it doesn’t strictly discuss Brahman, its concept of “Purusha” carries similarities as a primordial entity.
  • Yoga Philosophy: The ultimate aim is union or “Yoga” with a higher reality, which can be likened to realizing one’s Brahman-nature.
  • Mimamsa School: More ritualistic, focused on the Vedas’ proper interpretation and performance rather than metaphysical discussions about Brahman.
  • Tantra: Shakti or cosmic energy is a central concept, which can be seen as an aspect or counterpart of Brahman.
  • Modern Indian Thought: Philosophers like J. Krishnamurti, though not strictly within a school, have engaged with the concept, exploring its relevance in today’s world.

IX. Conclusion and the Significance of Brahman

Brahman in contemporary spiritual practices: Relevance in the 21st century

  • The quest for spirituality has seen an upward trend in the current century, with more individuals leaning towards introspection and self-awareness.
  • Many are looking for ways to find inner peace amidst the chaos of modern life.
  • Brahman’s universal consciousness idea finds resonance in various spiritual practices, offering a deeper understanding of the self and the cosmos.
  • Meditation practices have gained widespread popularity, and many of them emphasize the realization or experience of Brahman, the supreme reality.
  • Yoga, with its roots in Indian spirituality, often points towards the realization of Brahman. Its popularity in the West showcases the relevance of Brahman even outside its cultural origin.
  • The concept of Atman, the innermost self or soul, which is identical to Brahman, is frequently discussed in modern self-help books and spiritual workshops.
  • Mindfulness, a practice drawing inspiration from Buddhist teachings, aligns closely with the Vedantic focus on conscious living and awareness of Brahman.

The global impact of Brahman concept: Beyond the boundaries of India

  • Vedanta philosophy and the idea of Brahman have left a profound impact on thinkers, poets, and philosophers worldwide.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, American transcendentalists, were deeply influenced by the concept. Their writings, which stress the interconnectedness of all life, echo the teachings of Brahman.
  • The spread of Hindu diaspora has facilitated the global introduction to ideas of Brahman and Atman.
  • Interactions between Eastern and Western thinkers in the 20th century, including dialogues between Jiddu Krishnamurti and leading Western scientists and philosophers, expanded the influence of the Brahman concept.
  • In global interfaith dialogues, the idea of Brahman often finds parallels in other religious and spiritual traditions, fostering mutual respect and understanding.
  • Educational institutions worldwide offer courses in comparative religion and Indian philosophy, where Brahman is a central topic of discussion.

Future prospects: Evolving understandings and interpretations

  • As the global village becomes more interconnected, the universal ideas embedded in the Brahman concept will likely continue to inspire and guide humanity.
  • With the fusion of traditional beliefs and modern science, new interpretations of Brahman might emerge, bridging the gap between spirituality and empirical understanding.
  • The intermingling of various spiritual traditions may lead to a more inclusive understanding of Brahman, accommodating multiple viewpoints.
  • The challenges posed by the modern world, like climate change and societal unrest, may find solutions in the holistic worldview promoted by the Brahman concept.
  • Neuroscience and consciousness studies may delve deeper into the understanding of Brahman, drawing parallels with modern scientific discoveries.
  • As individual and collective spiritual quests evolve, Brahman’s teachings can serve as a timeless compass, directing humanity towards unity, peace, and self-realization.
  1. Discuss the evolution and transformation of the Brahman concept from the Rigveda to classical Upanishads. (250 words)
  2. Elucidate on the relationship between Jivatman and Paramatman in the context of realizing non-difference. (250 words)
  3. Critically analyze the distinctions between Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, and Dvaita Vedanta in their interpretations of Brahman. (250 words)


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