Definition - What does Brahman mean?
Brahman is a Sanskrit word that refers to the highest universal principle, also called the ultimate or absolute reality. It is a central concept in the Upanishads, ancient scriptures that make-up the doctrine of Vedanta philosophy. In Sanskrit, Brahman is defined as satyam jnanam anantam brahma, which can be translated as “that which never changes,” “knowledge,” and “infinity.”
The word Brahman is derived from the Sanskrit root brh, meaning "to grow or expand." Brahman is understood to be both that which grows and that which causes other things to grow. It is the omnipresent and eternal source of all that exists in the universe, and it is therefore present in everything; every person, every molecule and every atom.
Dualistic schools such as Dvaita Vedanta believe that Brahman is distinct from Atman (the individual soul), whereas non-dualistic schools such as Advaita Vedanta teach that Brahman and Atman are one and the same, contained within one another.
In the context of yoga, brahman is an understanding that the yogi hopes to reach through spiritual yoga practice, such as asanas, pranayama, mantras and meditation.
Yogapedia explains Brahman
According to Advaita Vedanta, Brahman is the only true reality, binding everything in the universe together as one. Although it is the essence of all that can be experienced, it remains unseen.
When thought of as an all-pervading, absolute existence, Brahman seems to reflect what many religious and spiritual traditions think of as God. However, the Upanishads declare that Brahman appears to us in a multitude of Godlike names and forms only because of our ignorance; like a coiled up rope in the dark appears as a snake, Brahman looks to us like a God because we superimpose human perceptions and ideas upon it.
Brahman is not only considered to be the essence of the individual soul, but it also comprises the cosmic soul from which every living being on earth is derived. As such, the concept of Brahman teaches that there is no spiritual distinction between people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or nationality.
The illusion that separates us from knowing Brahman is known as Maya. Identification with body, mind and ego is thought to be the root cause of suffering, in which Maya hides the true self that is one with Brahman.
Yoga practices such as asana, pranayama and meditation can help practitioners to move through Maya and connect with Brahman. When the mind and senses are withdrawn, the ego eventually dissolves, causing a paradigm shift in worldview and awareness commonly referred to as a spiritual awakening.
In helping to master the mind and senses, yoga encourages individuals to deepen their experiential understanding of Brahman, thereby cultivating a connection with the source of universal energy.
Brahman should not be confused with the Hindu god of creation, Brahma, or with Brahmin, a class within the Indian caste system.
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