Brahman: The Ultimate Reality
“Various schools have contributed to Hindu thought, each school with
a different emphasis. The school known as Vedânta has been the
standard form of intellectual Hinduism. According to Vedânta, the
highest aim of existence is the realization of the identity or union
of the individual’s innermost self (âtman) with the ultimate reality.
Although Vedanta states that this ultimate reality is beyond name,
the word Brahman is used to refer to it.
Whether this ultimate reality is itself ultimately without
distinguishing attributes (nirguna) or with personal attributes
(saguna) has been a subject of extensive debate among Hindu scholars.
To be ultimate Brahman must transcend (exist above and beyond) all
limiting attributes, such as name, gender, form, and features. But
how can the human mind, with its limitations, conceive of this
transcendent reality? Human comprehension requires a more personal
reality, with attributes.
Saguna Bhraman is also called Ishvara, a name best translated
as “Lord.” A quotation attributed to 8th-century Hindu scholar
Shankara illustrates the subtlety of these ideas: “Ishvara, forgive
these three sins of mine: that although you are everywhere I have
gone on a pilgrimage, although you are beyond the mind I have tried
to think of you; and although you are ineffable [indescribable] I
offer this hymn in praise of you.”