Para Brahman

Para Brahman (Sanskrit:परब्रह्मन्) (IAST: Para Brahman) is the "Highest Brahman" that which is beyond all descriptions and conceptualisations. In Advaita Vedanta Nirguna Brahman (Brahman without qualities) is Para Brahman. In Vaishnavism and Shaivism Vishnu and Shiva, respectively, are Para Brahman.[1]


Para is a Sanskrit word that means "higher" in some contexts, and "highest or supreme" in others.[2]

Brahman connotes the Highest Universal Principle in Hinduism, the Ultimate Reality in the universe.[3][4] In major schools of Hindu philosophy it is the material, efficient, formal and final cause of all that exists.[4][5][6] Brahman is a key concept found in Vedas, and extensively discussed in the early Upanishads.[7]

Para Brahman means the "Highest Brahman". It is found in early Advaita Vedanta literature.[8]

Advaita Vedanta - Nirguna Brahman

Nirguna Brahman (Devanagari निर्गुण ब्रह्मन्, Nirguṇa Brahman), Brahman without form or qualities,[9] is Para Brahman, the highest Brahman. According to Adi Shankara, Nirguna Brahman is Para Brahman,[10][11] and is a state of complete knowledge of self as being identical with the transcendental Brahman, a state of mental-spiritual enlightenment (Jnana yoga).[12] It contrasts with Saguna Brahman which is a state of loving awareness (Bhakti yoga).[12] Advaita Vedanta non-dualistically holds that Brahman is divine, the Divine is Brahman, and this is identical to that which is Atman (one's soul, innermost self) and nirguna (attribute-less), infinite, love, truth, knowledge, "being-consciousness-bliss".[13]

According to Eliot Deutsch, Nirguna Brahman is a "state of being"[14] in which all dualistic distinctions between one's own soul and Brahman are obliterated and are overcome.[12] In contrast, Saguna Brahman is where the distinctions are harmonized after duality between one's own soul and Brahman has been accepted.[12]

Advaita describes the features of a nondualistic experience,[12] in which a subjective experience also becomes an "object" of knowledge and a phenomenal reality. The Absolute Truth is both subject and object, so there is no qualitative difference:

The Upanishads state that the Supreme Brahma is Eternal, Conscious, and Blissful sat-chit-ânanda. The realisation of this truth is the same as being this truth:

Vaishnavism - Narayana Vishnu, Krishna

In Vaishnavism it is Narayana, Vishnu or Krishna who is para-Brahman or the Supreme personality of Godhead. A wide range of Vedic scriptures is quoted by Vaishnavas as pointing to Narayana as the Supreme Being:

Shiva and Shakti philosophy

In Shaivism, Shiva is para-Brahman, Parameshvara (Param + Isha + Vara, the Transcendent Lord), and Satchitananda. Shiva itself is changeless, but his female consort Shakti is that Power of the formless and static Param Brahma that is necessary for creation.[22] Shakti is the first desire (Kama) of Shiva, the Primordial Will to be that pervades all manifestation. The cosmos enables the Supreme Self to know, see, and live the Supreme Consciousness through its own self-willed limitation. The penultimate purpose of the cosmos is mergence of the created drop with the ocean that is its Mother.

See also


  1. vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam, yaj jnanam advayam brahmeti paramatmeti, bhagavan iti sabdyate
  2. brahma-vid apnoti param, tad eshabhyukta, satyam jnanam anantam brahma
  3. raso vai sa, rasam hy evayam labdhvanandi bhavati
  4. nityo nityanam chetanas chetananam eko bahunam yo vidadhati kaman
  5. ete camsa-kalah pumsah krishnas tu bhagavan svayam indras vyakulam lokam mrdayanti yuge yuge
  6. isvara paramah krishna sac-cid-ananda vigrahah anadir adir govindah sarva karana karanam
  7. mattah parataram nanyat kincid asti dhananjaya mayi sarvam idam protam sutre mani-gana iva
  8. arjuna uvaca, param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan / purusham sasvatam divyam adi-devam ajam vibhum
  9. naaraayana paro jyotir-aatmaa naarayana para, naarayanam param brahma tatvam naarayanam para, naarayana paro dhyaata dhyaanam naaraayana para


  1. White 1970, p. 156.
  2. Monier Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymologically and Philologically Arranged with Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European languages, Oxford University Press, Article on Para
  3. James Lochtefeld, Brahman, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Vol. 1: A–M, Rosen Publishing. ISBN 978-0823931798, page 122
  4. 1 2 PT Raju (2006), Idealistic Thought of India, Routledge, ISBN 978-1406732627, page 426 and Conclusion chapter part XII
  5. Mariasusai Dhavamony (2002), Hindu-Christian Dialogue: Theological Soundings and Perspectives, Rodopi Press, ISBN 978-9042015104, pages 43-44
  6. For dualism school of Hinduism, see: Francis X. Clooney (2010), Hindu God, Christian God: How Reason Helps Break Down the Boundaries between Religions, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0199738724, pages 51-58, 111-115;
    For monist school of Hinduism, see: B Martinez-Bedard (2006), Types of Causes in Aristotle and Sankara, Thesis - Department of Religious Studies (Advisors: Kathryn McClymond and Sandra Dwyer), Georgia State University, pages 18-35
  7. Stephen Philips (1998), Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Brahman to Derrida (Editor; Edward Craig), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415187077, pages 1-4
  8. Michael Comans (2002), The Method of Early Advaita Vedānta, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120817227, pages 129-130, 216-231
  9. Sullivan 2001, p. 148.
  10. Fisher 2012, p. 116.
  11. Malkovsky 1997, p. 541.
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Deutsch 1973, p. 13.
  13. Deutsch 1973, pp. 9-14.
  14. Deutsch 1973, p. 12.
  15. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. "Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.2.11".
  16. Bhagavad-gītā as it is By A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda, pg. 334-335
  17. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. "Śrīmad Bhāgavatam 1.3.28".
  21. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda. "Bhagavad-gītā 14.27".
  22. Adi Shakti global website


  • Deutsch, Eliot (1973), Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction, University of Hawaii Press 
  • Fisher, Mary Pat (2012), Living Religions: A Brief Introduction 
  • Malkovsky, B. (1997), "The Personhood of Samkara's" Para Brahma"", The Journal of Religion, 77 (4): 541, doi:10.1086/490065, JSTOR 1206747 
  • Sullivan, B.M. (2001), The A to Z of Hinduism, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 8170945216 
  • White, C.S.J. (1970), "Krsna as Divine Child", History of Religions, 10 (2): 156, doi:10.1086/462625, JSTOR 1061907 
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