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Dictionary Definition



1 a member of a social and cultural elite (especially a descendant of an old New England family); "a Boston Brahman" [syn: brahmin]
2 a member of the highest of the four Hindu varnas; "originally all brahmans were priests" [syn: brahmin]
3 the highest of the four varnas: the priestly or sacerdotal category [syn: brahmin]
4 any of several breeds of Indian cattle; especially a large American heat and tick resistant grayish humped breed evolved in the Gulf States by interbreeding Indian cattle and now used chiefly for crossbreeding [syn: Brahma, Brahmin, Bos indicus]

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From etyl sa sc=Deva, from verbal root sc=unicode.

Proper noun

  1. A concept of Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe. The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools.
  2. a Brahmin


Extensive Definition

  • Note that "Brahman" are also known as Priests/Holy Men of the Aryan Caste System that still influences India today. The confusion between the terms can be dated back to the translation of the Upanishads into modern English.*
Brahman (nominative ) is a concept of Hinduism. Brahman is the unchanging, infinite, immanent, and transcendent reality which is the Divine Ground of all matter, energy, time, space, being, and everything beyond in this Universe. The nature of Brahman is described as transpersonal, personal and impersonal by different philosophical schools. In the Rig Veda, Brahman gives rise to the primordial being Hiranyagarbha that is equated with the creator God Brahmā. The trimurti can thus be considered a personification of hiranyagarbha as the active principle behind the phenomena of the universe. The seers who inspired the composition of the Upanisads asserted that the liberated soul (jivanmukta) has realized his identity with Brahman as his true self (see Atman (Hinduism)). The word "Brahman" is derived from the verb brh (Sanskrit:to grow), and connotes greatness. The Mundaka Upanishad says: Om- That supreme Brahman is infinite, and this conditioned Brahman is infinite. The infinite proceeds from infinite. Then through knowledge, realizing the infinitude of the infinite, it remains as infinite alone.


The Supreme Cosmic Spirit or Absolute Reality called Brahman (not to be confused with the Knowledge god Brahmā) is said to be eternal, genderless, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and ultimately indescribable in human language. The sage-seers of the Upanishads had fully realised Brahman as the reality behind their own being and of everything else in this universe. They were thus Brahmins in the true sense of the word. These rishis described Brahman as infinite Being, infinite Consciousness and infinite Bliss (satcitananda). Brahman is regarded as the source and essence of the material universe. In its purest reality it is unmanifest (Nirguna Brahman) and thus beyond being and non-being. The Rig Veda records that in its initial manifestation (Saguna Brahman) as pure primordial Being Brahman is Hiranyagarbha (lit. golden womb), a fertile substrate (which Radhakrishnan calls the 'world-soul') out of which all worlds, organisms and even Gods and other divine beings (devas) arise:"Great indeed are the devas who have sprung out of Brahman." — Atharva Veda Nirguna Brahman corresponds to the concept of 'Godhead' and Saguna Brahman to God as the Primordial Being.
It is said that Brahman cannot be known by material means, that we cannot be made conscious of it, because Brahman is our very consciousness. Brahman is also not restricted to the usual dimensional perspectives of being, and thus enlightenment, moksha, yoga, samadhi, nirvana, etc. do not merely mean to know Brahman, but to realise one's 'brahman-hood', to actually realise that one is and always was of Brahman nature (similar or identical with the Mahayana concept of Buddha Nature). Indeed, closely related to the Self concept of Brahman is the idea that it is synonymous with jiva-atma, or individual souls, our atman (or soul) being readily identifiable with the greater soul (paramatma) of Brahman.
Generally, Vedanta rejects the notion of an evolving Brahman since Brahman contains within it the potentiality and archetypes behind all possible manifest phenomenal forms. The Vedas, though they are in some respects historically conditioned are considered by Hindus to convey a knowledge eternal, timeless and always contemporaneous with Brahman. This knowledge is considered to have been handed down by realised yogins to students many generations before the vedas were committed to writing. Written texts of the Vedas are a relatively recent phenomenon.
Connected with the ritual of pre-Vedantic Hinduism, Brahman signified the power to grow, the expansive and self-altering process of ritual and sacrifice, often visually realised in the sputtering of flames as they received the all important ghee (clarified butter) and rose in concert with the mantras of the Vedas. Brahmin came to refer to the highest of the four castes, the Brahmins, who by virtue of their purity and priesthood are held to have such powers.
It is the first instance of monism in organized religion. Hinduism remains the only religion with this concept. To call this concept 'God' would be imprecise. The closest interpretation of the term can be found in the Taittariya Upanishad (II.1) where Brahman is described in the following manner: satyam jnanam anantam brahman - "Brahman is of the nature of truth, knowledge and infinity". Thus, Brahman is the origin and end of all things, material or otherwise. Brahman is the root source and Divine Ground of everything that exists, and does not exist in Hinduism. It is defined as unknowable and Satchitananda (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Since it is eternal and infinite, it comprises the only truth. The goal of Hinduism, through the various yogas, is to realize that the soul (Atman) is actually nothing but Brahman. The Hindu pantheon of gods is said, in the Vedas and Upanishads, to be only higher manifestations of Brahman. For this reason, "ekam sat" (all is one), and all is Brahman. This explains the Hindu view that "All paths lead to the one Brahman, though many sages [and religions] call him different things."
Several mahā-vākyas, or great sayings, indicate what the principle of Brahman is: Another way to describe Brahman, as mentioned in the Brihadaranyaka Upanisad, is to say, "Brahman is not this.. Brahman is not that.." Until everything in the infinite universe has been eliminated and only Brahman remains -- implying that indeed Brahman in infinite set universes is the empty set. This is often paraphrased as "everything is true of the elements of the empty set." Thus all and none in one that is not but still is everywhere and nowhere in particular.
In terms of astronomical or quantum universes it is referred to as Vacuum -- ever present surrounding all, always within you as it is without you.


Sanskrit (an n-stem, nominative ) is from a root " to swell, grow, enlarge". is a masculine derivation of , denoting a person associated with . The further origin of is unclear. According to Pokorny's IE Etymological Lexicon IE root bhreu-, bhreu-d- denotes to swell, sprout (cf Slovenian brsteti - to sprout.)Bragi. Some, including Georges Dumézil, have said that the Latin word flāmen "priest" may also be cognate.

Semantics and pronunciation

Here the underlined vowels carry the Vedic Sanskrit udātta pitch accent. It is usual to use an acute accent symbol for this purpose.
In Vedic Sanskrit:-
  • brahma (ब्रह्म) (nominative singular), brahman (ब्रह्मन्) (stem)(neuter gender) means "growth", "development", "swelling"; and then "pious utterance", "worship", perhaps via the idea of saying during prayers and ceremonies that God or the deities are great. Later it came to mean the Supreme Cosmic Spirit.
  • brahmā (, brahman (stem) (masculine gender) means "priest" (compare Latin flamen = "priest"). But in this sense, the neuter form's plural Brahmāņi was also used. See Vedic priest.
In later Sanskrit usage:-
  • brahma (nominative singular), brahman (stem) (neuter
Dvaita schools argue against the Advaita idea that upon attaining liberation one realizes that God is formless since this idea is contradicted by Vedanta Sutra 3.2.16: "The scriptures declare that the form of the Supreme consists of the very essence of His Self" (aha ca tanmatram). And furthermore Vedanta Sutra 3.3.36 asserts that within the realm of Brahman the devotees see other divine manifestations which appear even as physical objects in a city (antara bhuta gramavat svatmanah).
They identify the personal form of God indicated here as the transcendental form of Vishnu or Krishna (see Vaishnavism). The brahma-pura (city within Brahman) is identified as the divine realm of Vishnu known as Vaikuntha. This conclusion is corroborated by the Bhagavata Purana, written by Vyasa as his own "natural commentary" on Vedanta-sutra. The first verse of Bhagavata Purana begins with the phrase "I offer my respectful obeisances to Bhagavan Vasudeva, the source of everything" (om namo bhagavate vasudevaya janmadyasya yatah). Vyasa employs the words "janmadyasya yatah", which comprise the second sutra of the Vedanta Sutra, in the first verse of the Bhagavata Purana to establish that Krishna is Brahman, the Absolute Truth. This is clear testimony of the author's own conclusion about the ultimate goal of all Vedic knowledge.

Modern Evolutionary View

According to modern spiritual teachers like Sri Aurobindo, Brahman is both the unmanifest and the manifest; the One and the Many; the Being and the Becoming. It is actually more than their sum, but their combination and their integration. All (and more) is then Brahman. And yet Brahman cannot be known by Mind. One most move to the highest point of spiritualized mind, even above Intuition to have the vision of the integral oneness of the Unmanifest and Manifest that is Brahman. When we move to the soul, our minds move to the supra-mental heights where we perceive the integral view of Brahman, which is the ultimate perception of the Reality, the Absolute. Thus, in life everything is an expression of Brahman, even that which is unevolved and is in the process of evolving.

See also

Notes and references

Brahman in Arabic: برهمن
Brahman in Czech: Brahman
Brahman in Danish: Brahman
Brahman in German: Brahman (Philosophie)
Brahman in Spanish: Brahman (hinduismo)
Brahman in Esperanto: Brahmano
Brahman in Persian: برهمن
Brahman in French: Brahman
Brahman in Hindi: ब्रह्म
Brahman in Ido: Brahman
Brahman in Indonesian: Brahman
Brahman in Icelandic: Bramíni
Brahman in Italian: Brahman
Brahman in Hebrew: ברהמן
Brahman in Georgian: ბრაჰმანი
Brahman in Lithuanian: Brahmanas
Brahman in Dutch: Brahman (filosofisch concept)
Brahman in Japanese: ブラフマン
Brahman in Norwegian: Brahman
Brahman in Norwegian Nynorsk: Brahman
Brahman in Polish: Brahman
Brahman in Portuguese: Brahman
Brahman in Russian: Брахман (индуизм)
Brahman in Serbian: Браман
Brahman in Simple English: Brahman
Brahman in Finnish: Brahman
Brahman in Swedish: Brahman
Brahman in Tamil: பிரம்மம்
Brahman in Chinese: 婆罗门

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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