Revision Notes on Brahman and The Devas

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Brahman and the Gods [Revision Notes]
Brahman
Isvara ­ B is "The Lord"/ "Controller"
Nirguna ­ is the abstract, impersonal view of God
Nirguna = without attributes ( no gender etc)
Brahman cannot be identified within Human understanding ­ difficult to describe ­ Katha Upanishad -
expressions in the Upanishads are that of abstract form as not to personalise B
"This self cannot be apprehended
By voice or mind or eye
How, then, can It be understood
Unless we say- It is?"
Ideas of Brahman have been developed through the Vedic texts ­ particularly that of the Upanishads
Nasadiya Sukta ­ the Rig Veda- one of the earliest hymns in which the idea of Brahman being was developed
though his name isn't? - "Even the gods came after its emergence" ­ the abstract idea came before the
personal (sauna) thought
Katha Upanishad ­ expresses the transcendence of B ­ that he is beyond any human limit of understanding
Rig Veda + Upanishads ­ formed the evidence of Sankara's Advita Vedanta
o Advita Vedanta ­ propose that there is only one thing that is absolutely real ­ Brahman ­ therefore B is the
only thing in existence (not affected by Maya?) + B = A
o Brahman exceeds the universe and is indefinable. Brahman is the efficient cause and material basis of the
Universe. Brahman is the only reality. Brahman is beyond description except in a negative sense - `neti-neti' =
`not this, not that.' ­ beyond any human understanding + experience (limitations)
o Difficult to use any language- Sat, cit, ananda (being, consciousness and bliss) - Invisible yet fills the
universe like salt dissolved in water
[Salt and Water analogy] ­The idea that B is there but cannot be seen in the senses ­ pervades the
water + merges with it to create something new? ­ Atman (the self ­ immanent) + B (Transcendent)
o Sankara was first to distinguish between Saguna and Nirguna
o Nirguna way of thinking is higher/better/wiser ­ Jnana Yoga (path of meditation) was the only desirable path
"No one beholds it with the eye / By the heart and mind and soul is That conceived of / Whossa\ Knows
this becomes immortal" ­ Self realisation through mediation = Moksha (liberation) ­ the Soul is released from
the "chains" of Samara + becomes pure consciousness with B
Dislike the use of Murtis ­ but will use anionic images/ sounds to focus the mind ­ Use of Yantras [abstract
images designed to draw the mind to B + "Aum" ­ mantra/word that is used to express the impersonal form
of B acts as focus
Saguna
Saguna ­ with attributes + can be defined (through the use of Devas) ­ `Nama-Rupa' (Having form / name)
Saguna ­ Personal God ­ Theistic Tradition
Saguna Tradition ­ belief that God is many BUT one various forms of the Devas ­ Hinduism ­ Over 6 million
Gods (Manifestations of B?)
Deva ­ "the shining ones" ­ Vedic belief in a whole pantheon of God which they imagined in a personal way ­
animal/superhuman form - Purusha Sukta ­ "from his mouth came Agni and Indra" - suggest that man is greater
than they are as they came from his form BUT at the same time B = SOURCE ­ they are the same of B
The Purusha Sukta - example of the Saguna tradition of imaging the divine through an anthropomorphic
and personal terms
o "A thousand heads, a thousand eyes, and thousand feet" ­ B is Universal and that he is everything
(Humans ­ Atman) ­ B= Cosmic Force
o "1/4 of him is all beings [Immanent within the world ­ within our understanding] / ¾ of man ascends high
[cannot see/understand ­ Nirguna]
o "Extends himself all over earth before and behind" ­ B is Vast, Eternal, Timeless, Transcendent and
Immanent

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Bhakti Tradition ­ C6th - religious devotion in the form of active involvement of a devotee in worship of the
divine. Within monotheistic Hinduism, it is the love felt by the worshipper towards the personal God /
Ishtadeva (owns own chosen form of god)
Modern Hinduism ­ Forms of B = Vishnu, Siva etc.
Ramaunja ­ A more theist interpretation of the Upanishads - Leans towards B Saguna (B = Isvara)
Are personal deities more important than the abstract form of God?
Yes...…read more

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Thousand Names - Sahasra Nama ­ chanting it is seen as purifying and awaking one's spiritual consciousness
Vishnu love and compassion - manifested in his avatars - Rama and Krishna
Murti's ­ Diana Eck "Visual Theology" ­ relates the attributes of God ­ Believers use it as a source of Knowledge to
further their own understanding of B/Ishta Devas etc.…read more

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Rama and Sita seen as Perfect example of partners in marriage ­ embodies all the desirable qualities in man and
womanhood
Some associate Diwali with the return of R+S to Ayodhya
Ramayana Epic ­ allegory for the Atma-Yatra (Soul Journey)
Sita Attracted to Golden Deer = Selfish Desires/Pleasures which the soul wishes to enjoy
Sita sending Rama to get the deer = atman deliberately turning their back on the love of God for
material pleasure
Rama accepts Sita's request to find the deer = God…read more

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Argues that the Radha ­ "suffered from the pain of being parted for [god]" ­ the division of the soul and B ­ ultimate
goal is to experience the supreme bliss of the union of the soul with B
Unlimited devotion is required to reach this union (BHAKTI) ­ Radha is a prime example of passionate love / lover
relationship that many Hindu's seek to have
Portrayal as the Teacher
Not only came to save humanity from the evil forces and restore order ­BUT also…read more

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Meditation ­ Hair is tied back in top knot ­retains his energy during meditation but in Nataraja form ­ Loose and
releases the energy for the benefit of the universe
Cosmic Dancer ­ image of Nataraja
Symbolises the cosmic energy the flows and sustains the universe ­ dance within the circle
Circle ­ Samsara ­ the eternal and continuous cycles of time
In this form ­ Siva takes on all three roles ­ Creator, Preserver, and Destroyer (when he stops dancing ­ time stops)
Loose…read more

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Often depicted in a graceful dancing pose ­ signifies that he is also considered a Master of Arts
Known as Nrttaganapati (NRTTA-GANAPATTI)
Various Names ­ Reveals depiction of Ganesh
IE.…read more

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Consort of Brahma ­ some say that she was created after Brahma as other half / some say that she flowed out of him
as the first river (Sarasvati river now dried up BUT importance in IVC ­ foundation of Hinduism)
Goddess of learning, wisdom, and Knowledge (Culture)
Believed to contain the energy of creation within her as well ­ since knowledge is required for creation
Is associated with Sattva Guna - attribute of purity and goodness ­ benevolent and serene
Particularly worshipped amoung students,…read more

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