Bhagavad Gita Level 4
One who says that I know Brahman does not know; one who knows the Truth says that I do not know. Brahman is the unknown to a person of true knowledge, it is known only to the ignorant --- Ken Upanishad 2.01-03
An attempt by: Dr Ramananda Prasad
In Sanskrit the meaning of a word is based on the verbal root from which the word is derived. The word “Brahman” (also spelled as “Brahma”) is a noun derived from the verbal root “Briha” which means to become big. Thus the noun Brahman derived from the verbal root “Briha” means “bigness”.
In English, however, the word Brahman is not translated as bigness, but as Absolute Reality. Let us first examine the meaning of Absolute Reality. Absolute means ultimate, independent, existing all by itself or complete by itself, and reality means nature, quality, or substance of objects.
Thus Absolute Reality means ultimate nature of objects, called Brahman in Sanskrit. This word also means the substance that exists independent of all other substances and from which all other substances are derived.
That from which the origin, sustenance, and dissolution of this universe are derived is called the Absolute (BS 1.01.02, TaU 3.01.01). Thus the Absolute Reality, the substance from which everything is derived, must be “Big” or limitless, because everything else is either derived from it or is included in it. Because it is absolute, there is nothing else other than the Absolute Reality, the substratum of everything. Thus Brahman is all encompassing substance --- the root cause of everything, known or unknown, seen or perceived, feelings or emotions, thoughts or things. Everything is included in the “Bigness” of Brahman. Nothing is left out --- including God.
Brahman is indestructible, dimensionless, beginningless, and limitless. It cannot be measured, seen, or described by a human being that is limited in everyway. Brahman is ever present and beyond time and space.
Actually time and space are included in Brahman. It is the ever present reality of all objects and is also called “Sat” or permanent in Sanskrit. It is also present in the form of consciousness (Chit) or awareness in all living beings that cannot be seen or felt.
Brahman in the form of awareness is not present in non-living objects, but Sat is present in both living and non-living objects. Brahman is also limitless (Ananta). Thus Brahman is referred as Sat-Chit-Ananta, or Sacchidananta from point of view of all objects, living or non-living.
Everything, perceivable or non-perceivable, in the cosmos is nothing but an apparent transformation of Brahman. It is the cause of all causes. Thus there is Brahman and Brahman only and nothing else. Brahman has apparently assumed different forms like water assumes different forms such as ice, vapor, ocean, waves, ripples, etc. The entire creation is born in time and space, and the time and space abides in Brahman.
Thus Brahman is the absolute reality of everything including me, you, the animals, plants, minerals, our thoughts, knowledge, ignorance, happiness, suffering, etc. Thus there is nothing other than Brahman.
Brahman is often described as formless, because its transcendental or subtle form cannot be perceived by our senses. It can take any form. All forms are nothing but an apparent change of Brahman from one form to another. Thus it cannot be formless in a real sense. Everything has a form --- visible or invisible to human eyes.
The process or the forces (Shakti) that cause this apparent change or creation is called Lord, the creator. The product of the change is called creation that includes both living and non-living beings.
Brahman itself is actionless awareness, and without Maya, the power of nature, it cannot create the world of objects, emotions and thoughts.
This Maya, the efficient cause of creation is not separate from Brahman. Similarly, both the material of creation or the material cause of the creation is also in Brahman. Thus the Brahman is not only the entire creation, but also both the material and efficient cause of the creation. It is the creator as well as the creation, all in one.
One who understands Brahman in this way can say: I am the limitless Brahman, called Atma, that dwells in the body-mind complex; and not this body-mind complex which is limited. With the dawn of the knowledge of Brahman, one gets rid of want, unhappiness and limitations and attains full maturity and bliss called Nirvana.
The purity of mind that comes from selfless service, KarmaYoga, is required to gain the knowledge of Brahman or the Self-knowledge. "Truly, there is no purifier in this world like the true knowledge of the Supreme Being.
One discovers this knowledge within, naturally, in course of time when one's mind is cleansed of selfishness by KarmaYoga. (See also Gita 4.31, 5.06, and 18.78). (Gita 4.38)"