The Various Manifestations of Brahman•
Posted on October 04 2021
According to Hinduism, Brahman represents the supreme power or god. He is all inclusive with infinite power and dimensions and has several manifestations. The term Brahman is derived from the Sanskrit term brahm that means to expand. The Upanishads attribute several traits such as highest, indestructible, pure, infinite, all pervading and omnipresent to Brahman. Hindus represent Brahman as a formless real entity encompassing all that is in the universe.
Brahman is an abstract concept with a wide meaning. One of its meaning is a hypothetical principle of the universe. A Brahmin is a member of the first of the four classes. - mvorganizing.org
Read on to know some key manifestations of Brahman as mentioned in the Vedas.
Asat or Unknown
Brahman has no boundaries and is without a beginning or an end. The Bhagavad Gita highlights that only a very small part of the Brahman is known. Hence, a large part of it is unknown or hidden and remains mysterious. Hindu scriptures relate to the unknown or asat Brahman as hidden, indistinct or undifferentiated.
The Vedas associate Brahman as both existence and non-existence. Those who believe in god acknowledge the existence of Brahman while atheists are of the belief that it does not exist. The third category of people, agnostics, are unable to come to a conclusion if Brahman exists or does not exist.
Sat or Known
This manifestation of Brahman represents his connection with nature. Scriptures define him as the Being in the sat or existence state. The Being is complete in all aspects and is associated with traits like eternity, bliss, knowledge and truth.
Like the asat state, the Brahman in this state also features duality. He is with and without form and qualities as well as movable and immovable. Brahman is the creator and controller of the universe in active state. In inactive state, he is a passive witness or observer of his surroundings.
Ishvara or Universal Lord
In this manifestation, Brahman is referred to as Ishvara or the universal lord. He is considered to be the ruler of the entire universe. This is the highest manifestation of the Brahman. There would be no world without this manifestation.
All life and death in the universe are under the control of Ishvara. Apart from the creator, he has four other forms comprising the destroyer, the concealer, the revealer and the protector.
Hiranyagarbha or Cosmic Self
This manifestation is believed to be the first born of Ishvara and represents his soul consciousness and creative strength. The Vedas refer to Hiranyagarbha as Brahma or the god of creation. All beings in the world are considered to be his children.
He is represented as the supreme teacher who imbibes knowledge and values in his children through scriptures. He also ensures stability and prevents chaos in the universe.
Viraj or Cosmic Body
Viraj is represented as the leader of all materialistic objects in the world. He is depicted as the body-sense of Ishvara. According to the Upanishads, Viraj is projected as a mixing of the five elements of water, air, fire, earth and space by Hiranyagarbha.
The elements are said to be mixed in different proportions to generate diversity. It is believed that the five elements are initially subtle in nature and take on a gross form later.
Purusha or Cosmic Being
The term Purusha means person. This manifestation represents Brahman in the awakened state with all good qualities. He has a physical form whose body is Viraj and soul is Hiranyagarbha.
This form of Brahman is engaged in creation through self-sacrifice. In other words, he offers parts of his own body to create all the worlds and beings.
Kala or Time
This manifestation depicts Brahman in the form of time. The soul is said to be timeless while the body is timebound. Time is also associated with death as it can be the end of anything. The Vedas describe death as the lord of the mortal world.
Time is represented as a vicious circle with no loss or gain and devours anything in its path. Death has multiple manifestations such as desire, suffering, aging, destruction and sickness. Lord Krishna shows his universal form to Arjuna in the form of Death in the Bhagavad Gita.
Trimurthis or The Trinity
The Trinity refers to Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. They are associated with the functions of Isvara, Hiranyagarbha and Viraj respectively. Hindus associate Brahma as the creator, Vishnu as the preserver and Shiva as the destroyer of the universe.
Although the triple gods appear to have different roles, they are actually the same. All three of them are believed to be manifestations of Brahman.
Akasha or Space
The Brahman in this manifestation is linked with maintaining the stability between humans and the gods. In other words, he acts as a mediator between them. He also ensures regularity and orderliness in all the worlds.
This manifestation also carries the sounds of the Vedas and the sacred chants from the humans to the gods. He requests the gods to accept the sacrifices rendered to them by human beings. In this form, the Brahman transmits the prayers and speech of humans from one place and direction to another on earth, from earth to Indra’s heaven through a mid-region and from his heaven to beyond.
Pranava or Aum
The Vedas signify Brahman in sound form. The religious books also feature all the five aspects of Isvara. In other words, they have the powers of creation, preservation, destruction, revelation and concealment. The Vedas have these powers because they represent the Brahman themselves.
A person can use the several Vedic mantras and chants to unleash the five aspects for either good or bad. Hindus believe that the Aum sound is the most important of all chants and rituals. It has the power to liberate followers who say the mantra with utmost faith and purify their body and soul.
Annam or Food
This manifestation highlights Brahman as a source of nourishment. In fact, the Upanishads describe him as food itself. He creates plants and animals from parts of his own self to serve as food for the sustenance of both gods and humans.
As human beings, we must eat our food only after making our offerings to him or God. The Bhagavad Gita mentions that it is a sin to not do so because he purifies the food that we eat with his own parts. If we eat without offering him, it is believed that we are committing a sin and eating impure food.
Atman or Individual Self
In this form, Brahman resides inside every human being as his/her soul. The soul can neither be created nor destroyed. The atman is bound to the human body during a person’s lifetime and attains freedom only with the death of the person. It manifests itself in another body after the person’s death.
When it is bound to the human body, the atman tends to be linked with negative traits like delusion, attachments, egoism and ignorance. In the liberated state, the soul is indestructible, eternal, infinite, pure, inviolable and all knowing. A person can overcome his/her negative traits and achieve liberation by adopting spiritual practices.
Hindus consider Brahman as the ultimate reality with many forms and binds everything and anything in the universe. There are various references to the Brahman in the Upanishads part of the Vedas. These scriptures do not associate any gender to the Brahman but connect him with different organs of the human body.
Written by Deepthi K