Brahman In The Upanishads

by Jayaram V

This is the concluding part of the essay on Brahman


Brahman is the highest and most supreme divinity of the Hindus. Brahman is all and encompasses all. Many are the ways in which Brahman is extolled in the Upanishads. Some of the commonly found descriptions of Brahman are reproduced below. By contemplating upon these verses it is possible to develop an intuitive understanding of the true nature of Brahman.

Take the following verse for example:

Brahman is above all Gods. None could ever approach Him closely except Indra.

What does this mean? We have of course the story of Indra, Agni and Varuna in the Kena Upanishad who were helped by Uma Haimavathi to know Brahman.

"Agni, Vayu and Indra are verily above all other gods, for they alone went nearest to Him and were the first to know Him as Brahman. And Indra of the three went nearest to Brahman and was the first to know Him as Brahman (from goddess Uma). (Kena Upanishad Chapter IV)

That is one interpretation. Those who are interested in the mythological aspect of the story would understand it as such. But if we think deeply we can see a hidden symbolism in the verse. Indra is the lord of the senses and symbolizes the consciousness or the mind itself. And we all know how consciousness plays an important role in taking us closer to the higher self with in us. Similarly Agni symbolizes the intense desire or aspiration and Varuna knowledge or the plasticity of mind. Thus the hidden meaning of the verse suggests that control of the mind and the senses, intense yearning and right knowledge can take us closer to the realm of higher consciousness.

The ancient gurukulas encouraged students to develop this contemplative approach to the understanding of the scriptures and see the truth hidden behind the words in the verses. The verse would serve as the object of focus and Truth itself (Akshara Brahman) disguised in the form of words. Not every one would arrive at the same truth or develop the same understanding. But whatever realization or experience that comes out of such attempts would definitely bring us closer to the realization of the hidden truth within ourselves.

The following are a few important truths about Brahman found in the Upanishads. You can use them to contemplate upon Brahman and develop an understanding of his true significance.

1. Brahman is the Reality. He is the Absolute Truth. All else is unreal and mere illusion, a mere shadow that disappears when the Sun shines.

2. Brahman is constant and fixed. He is unchangeable, immutable, permanent , incorruptible and inexhaustible. All else is transient, fleeting and changing. Since He is the only fixed factor in an every changing impermanent world, the seers advise us to make Him the center of our lives and activities

3. Brahman is eternal and timeless. Since He is the Absolute, Time does not exist in Him. The Past present and future flow in Him simultaneously. The Master of Time and Knower of all events, past., present and future, He creates Time as a part of His play and subjects us all to the motions of Time.

4. Brahman is the Creator of all. The world is his projection. He descends into the material universe and subjects Himself to the laws of nature.

5. Brahman is the sacred OM.

6. Brahman is beyond the senses, but is the mover and enjoyer of senses.

7. Brahman is the first principle. He is the Ancient. No one truly knows Him for He is without a beginning and without an end.

8. Brahman is pure love. He is described as Lord of Love.

9. Brahman is immortal. He in fact is the creator of death and the wheel of life.

10. Brahman is the law giver and law maker. He maintain Dharma and Rita (harmony). But He Himself is not subject to any laws.

11. Brahman exists in all and all exists in Him. Yet He is beyond all and different from all.

12. Brahman is Supreme Bliss. Pure Delight, which is the delight of pure love.

13. Brahman is the eternal soul, the Atman, the indweller of mortal bodies, the silent witness, the enjoyer of life and the power behind all the movements of life breath.

14. Brahman is above all Gods. None could ever approach Him closely except Indra.

15. Brahman is duality personified from the rationale point of view. But strangely in Him all conflicts and contradictions resolve themselves into perfect harmony.

16. Brahman is unified awareness, the eternal indivisible One where there is no enjoyer and the enjoyed, the knower and the known.

17. Brahman is radiance, effulgence and brilliance of thousands of suns. He is the wielder of pure energy and possessor of pure consciousness.

18. Brahman is desireless, without attachment, without vibration, complete, fulfilled, self-satisfied and self- absorbed.

19. Brahman is without sleep, dispeller of darkness, the very intelligence in man, One who is awake when we are asleep.

20. Brahman is knowledge. He is the knower of all that is, that was and that is yet to come.

21. Brahman is man Himself, the ultimate truth which every human being realizes at the end of his spiritual journey. (Isa Upanishad)

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