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Nature of Brahman

by Swami Sivananda

Ananta, Nirakara, Nirguna, Nirvisesha, Adrishta are His negative attributes. Satchidananda, Satyam, Santam, Jnanam are His direct, positive attributes.

This is a description of the nature of Atman in Isavasya Upanishad "Atman pervades all, is resplendent, bodiless, scatheless, having no muscles, pure, untouched by sin; far-seeing, omniscient, transcendent, self-sprung; he duly allotted to the various eternal creatures their respective functions"-Mantra 8.

Objects with forms only have origin and destruction (Utpatti and Nasa). It is absurd to say that Chaitanya or Brahman without form has origin and destruction. He is Nirakara (formless). It is pure consciousness.

You may ask any boy the following questions. He will give answers that explain the true nature of the Imperishable Self. "Oh boy, what is your name?" "My name is Ram." "Does this name belong to your body or your self?" Ram replies, "This name belongs to my body." "Whose is this cap?" Ram says, "It is mine." "If this cap is destroyed will you also perish?" Ram replies, "No." If your body is destroyed will you also perish? Ram says: "No. Self or Atman is immortal."

"satyam, jnanam, anantam brahma-Truth, knowledge, Infinite is Brahman" (Tait. Upanishad II-1). This is very often quoted by Vedantins during discussion.

Himalayas, ocean, expansive sky and the sun are the four representatives on earth of the infinite, unmanifested, hidden Brahman.

Srutis emphatically declare about the nature of Brahman. "akasavat sarvagata nitya-like the ether, He is omnipresent, eternal." Akasa and the ocean are the two objects in this world which can be compared to Brahman in a way with reference to His infinite nature, Akasa is subtle, all-pervading and without any support. Brahman, also is subtle, all-pervading and without any support (Niralamba). Hence the comparison between the Akasa and Brahman.

Smile, laughter, singing, dancing, are expressions of one's joyful condition. They give the clue that you are in essence an embodiment of bliss. They indicate that bliss is an attribute of the soul. They denote that Brahman is an embodiment of Ananda (Anandaghana).

Brahman is a mass of intelligence-(Chidghana, Vijnanaghana, Prajnanaghana). He is destitute of any other characteristics. He is entirely without any sort of difference. In Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Ch. IV. 13, you will find "As a mass of salt has neither inside nor outside, but is entirely a mass of taste, thus indeed has that Self neither inside nor outside, but is altogether a mass of knowledge." Just as a lump of salt has inside as well as outside one and the same saltish taste, not any other taste, so also that Brahman has inside as well as outside one and the same intelligence. Inside and outside are mental creation only. When the mind melts in the silence, ideas of inside and outside vanish. The sage cognises one illimitable, homogeneous mass of consciousness only.

The reflected image of the Sun expands when the surface of the water expands; it contracts when the water shrinks; it shakes when the water is agitated; it gets divided when the water is divided. It participates in all the qualities and conditions of the water, while the real sun is unchanging throughout. Even so, Brahman although never changing participates, as it were, in the attributes and conditions of the body and the other Upadhis or limiting adjuncts or vehicles within which He dwells, He grows with them, as it were, and so on, but not in reality.

Brahman is destitute of all duality. He is without exterior or interior. He is one homogeneous, indivisible, immortal essence. He is free from the three states viz., Jagrat, Svapna and Sushupti. He is neither round nor pointed. He is neither short nor tall, neither thick nor thin.

Brahman is subtler than the subtlest. He is beyond good and evil. He is tranquil, eternal and immutable. He is free from motion and inertia. He is free as the space. He is immaculate and absolute. He is beyond existence and non-existence.

Brahman is replete with Peace inherent in Himself. He is devoid of death. Death means departure of the vital breath from the body. This is possible only in the case of the Jiva who is associated with the vital air, not in the case of the Paramatman, who is not associated with the vital air. The Sruti says, "Brahman is without Prana, without mind, pure."

Atman has no connection with Karma. He is not an Anga or Karana. Atman is not an effect or product or modification. He is neither a thing to be attained nor a thing to be refined. He is neither a doer nor an enjoyer. He is always the silent witness or Sakshi.

The eye cannot perceive Him. The mind cannot reach Him. The gross worldly intellect cannot grasp Him. The speech cannot describe Him. The speech returns back along with the mind, as it is not able to describe Him in adequate terms. Sages declare, "We are baffled in our efforts to describe Him. His glory is indescribable. To describe Him is to deny Him." How can a finite mind grasp the infinite? But He can be directly realised by that aspirant who is equipped with the four means of salvation, who does constant meditation, who has sharp, subtle and pure intellect.


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