Posted by: adbhutam | June 3, 2015


Knowing Brahman Completely

The purpose of the delineation of Brahman in the śāstra is to enable the aspirant to get the direct knowledge thereof.  It is not that the scripture wants the aspirant to get a partial knowledge of Brahman for it is an impossibility and also absurd for there are no parts in Brahman.  Qualitatively too it is impossible to know Brahman in some less or more measure for such concepts are all alien to Vedanta.

There are attributes to Brahman mentioned in the scripture and these are grouped under the name ‘vibhūti-s’, manifestations of Brahman available for experiencing in the world, here or hereafter.  But then there is also the statement that there are no limits to such manifestations and that makes the attributed/vibhūti endowed Brahman not a candidate of being the content of the liberating knowledge, which demands ‘complete’ knowledge of Brahman.  Thus, it makes the attributeless Brahman, that is, Brahman without any vibhuti-s, alone to be the crucial content of the liberating knowledge.  The following is a compilation of a sample of statements from the śāstra in support of the above.

  1. In the Puruśa sūktam we have: The first few statements mentioning the manifestation:


सहस्रशीर्षा पुरुषः सहस्राक्षः सहस्रपात् 
 भूमिं विश्वतो वृत्वात्यतिष्ठद्दशाङुलम् ॥१॥
Sahasra-Shiirssaa Purussah Sahasra-Akssah Sahasra-Paat |
Sa Bhuumim Vishvato Vrtva-Atya[i]-Tisstthad-Dasha-Angulam ||1||

1.1: The Purusha (The Universal Being) has Thousand Heads, Thousand Eyes and Thousand Feet (Thousand signifies innumerable which points to the omnipresence of the Universal Being),
1.2: He envelops the World from all sides (i.e. He pervades each part of the Creation), and extends beyond in the TenDirections ( represented by Ten Fingers ), पुरुष एवेदं सर्वं यद्भूतं यच्च भव्यम् 
उतामृतत्वस्येशानो यदन्नेनातिरोहति ॥२॥
Purussa Evedam Sarvam Yad-Bhuutam Yacca Bhavyam |
Uta-Amrtatvasye[a-I]shaano Yad-Annena-Ati-Rohati ||2||

2.1: The Purusha is indeed All this (Creation) in essence; That which existed in the Past, and that which will exist in theFuture,
2.2: Everything (i.e the whole Creation) is woven by the Immortal essence of the Great Lord (Purusha); by becoming Foodof which (i.e. by getting consumed in Whose Immortal essence through surrender) one transcends the gross world (and becomes Immortal). एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः 

एतावानस्य महिमातो ज्यायाँश्च पूरुषः । पादोऽस्य विश्वा भूतानि त्रिपादस्यामृतं दिवि ॥३॥
Etaavaanasya Mahima-Ato Jyaayaash-Ca Puurussah |
Paado-Asya Vishvaa Bhuutaani Tri-Paad-Asya-Amrtam Divi ||3||

3.1: The Purusha is Greater than all the Greatness (which can be expressed by words),
3.2: His One Foot has become all these (visible) Worlds, and His Three Feet rests in the Immortal World of theTranscendence. त्रिपादूर्ध्व उदैत्पूरुषः पादोऽस्येहाभवत्पुनः 
ततो विष्वङ् व्यक्रामत्साशनानशने अभि ॥४॥
Tri-Paad-Uurdhva Udait-Puurussah Paado-Asye[a-I]ha-Abhavat-Punah |
Tato Vissvang Vya[i-A]kraamat-Saashana-Anashane Abhi ||4||

4.1: The Three Feet of the Purusha is raised high Above (in Transcendental Realm), and His One Foot becomes the Creation again and again.
4.2: There, in the Creation, He pervades all the Living ( who eats ) and the Non-Living ( who does not eat ) beings.


Up to the ‘Etāvānasya mahimā’ is the description of the vibhūti.  Immediately after that the veda says: ‘ato jyāyānścha pūruṣaḥ’ (highlighted in blue) [The Puruṣa, Brahman, is greater than the vibhūti, transcends the vibhūti. ]  And goes to explain how the Puruṣa is pervading the creation and yet transcends it.  Sāyanācārya comments:

The world of the past, present and the future is entirely the glory, mahimā, of the Puruśa, His own splendor and not His true nature.  The true Puruṣa is ‘greater’ than this mahimā.  The entire creation is His one quarter and the three quarters are what He transcendentally is.

This very sūkta says later: It is that transcendental Puruṣa that is stated to be the subject matter, content, of the realization: वेदाहमेतं पुरुषं महान्तम्, आदित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्….

Verse XVI:

I know that great Purusha, lustrous as the Sun beyond darkness. The Wise One, having made all the forms appear, gave them names, and uttered these as they were.

Verse XVII:

One who knows Him whom Dhata (Creator) first revealed, and so did Sakra (Indra) who fully knew the four quarters, becomes immortal here. There is no other way.

The ‘darkness’ mentioned above is the entire causal ignorance and the world that is its effect.  In the Bh.Gitā 9.33 the Lord has said:

अनित्यम्-असुखं लोकमिमं प्राप्य भजस्व माम्
anityam-asukhaM lokamimaM praapya bhajasva maam.h
## Having come to this ephemeral and miserable world, you do worship Me.##

Surely this is not the svarūpa of the Puruṣa and hence the correct way of understanding the true nature of the Puruṣa is as what is stated in the foregoing with the Puruṣa sūktam teaching.

  1. The Bṛhadāraṇyaka upaniṣat says:

1.4.7  अकृत्स्नो हि स प्राणन्नेव प्राणो नाम भवति । वदन्वाक्पश्यंश्चक्षुः शृण्वञ्श्रोत्रं मन्वानो मनस्तान्यस्यैतानि कर्मनामान्येव । स योऽत एकैकमुपास्ते न स वेदाकृत्स्नो ह्येषोऽत एकैकेन भवत्यात्मेत्येवोपासीतात्र ह्येते सर्व एकं भवन्ति । तदेतत्पदनीयमस्य सर्वस्य यदयमात्मानेन ह्येतत्सर्वं वेद ।  [ People do not see the Self,  for when viewed in parts It is incomplete: It is  called the vital breath (prana); when speaking, the organ of  speech; when seeing, the eye; when hearing, the ear; when  thinking, the mind. These are merely Its names according to Its  functions. He who meditates on one or another of Its aspects does not know, for It is then incomplete: the Self is separated from Its totality by being associated with a single characteristic.  The Self alone is to be meditated upon, for in It all these  become unified.]

So, here too is the teaching that the attributed Brahman is not the one to be known, realized, for liberation.  Also, there is no pramāṇa in the śāstra that Brahman is realized in parts, portions or percentages, for liberation.  This is because, Brahman is partless.  To impose parts in It, the partless Whole, is to limit It.


  1. The Praśnopaniṣat concludes with the revered Ācārya Pippalāda declaring to his pupils at the end of his instruction: तान्होवाचैतावदेवाहमेतत्परं ब्रह्म वेद नातः परमस्तीति ॥ ६. ७ ॥ [7     Pippalāda said to them: Thus far, indeed, I know the Supreme Brahman; there is nothing more than this.] Shankara comments here: तान् एवमनुशिष्य शिष्यान् तान् होवाच पिप्पलादः किल एतावदेव वेद्यं परं ब्रह्म वेद विजानाम्यहमेतत् । न अतः अस्मात् परम् अस्ति प्रकृष्टतरं वेदितव्यम् इत्येवमुक्तवान् शिष्याणामविदितशेषास्तित्वाशङ्कानिवृत्तये कृतार्थबुद्धिजननार्थं च ॥ [‘I know thus far alone, this Supreme Brahman that is worthy to be known. Beyond this there is not anything higher to be known.   Thus did he say this in order to remove from the disciples any doubt that there might still remain something unknown; and also in order to generate in them the conviction that they had attained the final goal. ]
  2. Further there is the teaching of the Bhagavadgītā on the knowledge of the ‘complete’ Brahman:

मय्यासक्तमनाः पार्थ योगं युञ्जन्मदाश्रयः ।
असंशयं समग्रं मां यथा ज्ञास्यसि तच्छृणु ॥ १ ॥
The Blessed Lord said O Partha, hear how you, having the mind fixed on Me, practicing the Yoga of Meditation and taking refuge in Me, will know Me with certainty and in fulness. 

ज्ञानं तेऽहं सविज्ञानमिदं वक्ष्याम्यशेषतः।
यज्ज्ञात्वा नेह भूयोऽन्यज्ज्ञातव्यमवशिष्यते।।7.2।।

[7.2 I shall tell you completely of this Knowledge which is combined with realization, [From the statement, ‘jnāsyasi, you will know’, in the earlier verse, one may conclude that the Lord is speaking of indirect or theoretical knowledge. The word ‘idam, this’ rules out such a conclusion; and it has also been said that this Knowledge is ‘savijnānam, combined with direct experienece, realization’; it is Consciousness.] after experience which there remains nothing else here to be known again.] ।7.2।। Shankara’s commentary: ज्ञानं ते तुभ्यम् अहं सविज्ञानं विज्ञानसहितं स्वानुभवयुक्तम् इदं वक्ष्यामिकथयिष्यामि अशेषतः कार्त्स्न्र्येन। तत् ज्ञानं विवक्षितं स्तौति श्रोतुः अभिमुखीकरणाय यत् ज्ञात्वा यत् ज्ञानं ज्ञात्वा न इह भूयः पुनः अन्यत् ज्ञातव्यंपुरुषार्थसाधनम् अवशिष्यते नावशिष्टं भवति। इति मत्तत्त्वज्ञो यः सः सर्वज्ञो भवतीत्यर्थः। अतो विशिष्टफलत्वात् दुर्लभं ज्ञानम्।।

The word ‘kārtsnyena’ in the bhāṣyam is very significant for it refers to the verse-word ‘aśeṣataḥ’ (without any remainder, completely).  It can also be appreciated that the chapter concludes 7.29 with the word ‘kṛtsnam’ for Brahman. Now, if the Lord had intended that ‘Brahman cannot be known completely but in parts/percentages’ He would not be saying that He is now delineating Brahman in all Its fullness. And that He intends that this complete knowledge alone is the liberating one is also clear from the verse that there will be nothing remaining for you to be known.  This goes against the erroneous thinking that ‘None can know Brahman completely and that one can only end up knowing It partially, in percentages according to one’s capacity.’  Such a thinking is dispelled by the Lord in yet another verse in this chapter itself:

मनुष्याणां सहस्रेषु कश्चिद्द्यतति सिद्धये।
यततामपि सिद्धानां कश्चिन्मां वेत्ति तत्त्वतः।।7.3।।

7.3 Among thousands of men a rare one endeavors for perfection. Even of the perfected ones who are diligent, one perchance knows Me in truth.

Thus, going by the 7.2, the ‘tattvataḥ’ in 7.3 cannot  be anything but the complete knowledge and anything other than that will not be a ‘complete’ knowledge.

There is this reference in the BG 18th ch. using this word ‘tattvataḥ’ (‘in truth’) to show that such a knowledge alone is the liberating one:

भक्त्या मामभिजानाति
यावान्यश्चास्मि तत्त्वतः ।
ततो मां तत्त्वतो ज्ञात्वा
विशते तदनन्तरम् ॥ ५५ ॥

18.55 Through devotion he knows Me in reality, as to what and who I am. Then, having known Me in truth, he enters (into Me) immediately after that (Knowledge).

Shankara’s comments: भक्त्या माम् अभिजानाति यावान् अहम् उपाधिकृतविस्तरभेदः यश्च अहम् अस्मि विध्वस्तसर्वोपाधिभेदः उत्तमः पुरुषः आकाशकल्पः तं माम् अद्वैतं चैतन्यमात्रैकरसम् अजरम् अभयम् अनिधनं तत्त्वतः अभिजानाति। ततः माम् एवं तत्त्वतः ज्ञात्वा विशते तदनन्तरं मामेव ज्ञानानन्तरम्। नात्र ज्ञानप्रवेशक्रिये भिन्ने विवक्षिते ज्ञात्वा विशते तदनन्तरम् इति। किं तर्हि फलान्तराभावात् ज्ञानमात्रमेव? क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धि (गीता 13।2) इति उक्तत्वात्।।

One can see the resemblance of the above verse to the Puruṣa sūkta: ‘yāvān’ of the verse and ‘etāvān’ (setting a limit to the manifestation) of the sūkta.  That is exactly what is in the Lord’s mind as brought out beautifully by Shankara’s, a translation of which is given here below. The word ‘Uttama Puruṣa’ is also significant, which is taught in the 15th chapter as ‘He who is beyond the kṣara and akṣara, the manifest world. And the ‘ato jyāyāmścha pūruṣaḥ’ of the sūktam is also annotated subtly in the verse and clearly in the bhāṣya: the Puruṣa transcends the manifest world (which is the vibhūti) and He is the absolute One, the one to be known for liberation: vedāhametam puruṣam mahāntam…tamasaḥ parastāt, beyond ignorance signified by the kṣara and akṣara puruṣas.


// he knows; mām, Me; tattvatah, in reality; as to yāvān, what I am, with the extensive differences created by limiting adjuncts; and yah asmi, who I am when all distinctions created by the limiting adjuncts are destroyed– Me who am the supreme Person comparable to space [In points of all-pervasiveness and non-attachment.] and one-without-a-second, absolute, homogeneous Consciousness, birthless, ageless, immortal, fearless and deathless. Tatah, then; jnātvā, having known; mām, Me, thus; tattvatah, in truth; viśate, he enters into Me, Myself; tadanantaram, immediately after that (Knowledge).//


The 7th chapter has this crucial verse too at the end:

जरामरणमोक्षाय मामाश्रित्य यतन्ति ये।
ते ब्रह्म तद्विदुः कृत्स्नमध्यात्मं कर्म चाखिलम्।।7.29।।

7.29 Those who strive by resorting to Me for becoming free from old age and death, they know that Brahman, completely…

Shankara: ते यत् ब्रह्म परं तत् विदुः कृत्स्नं समस्तम्  [One can see the consistency here:  For the 7.1 Shankara had commented for the word ‘samagram’ as ‘samastam’ (completely), and here at the end of the chapter too Shankara says for the word ‘kṛtsnam’ (which is only another word for samagram) = ‘samastam’.

  1. That the knowledge of the attributed / vibhūti endowed Brahman does not constitute the complete knowledge is brought out from the fact that the 18.55 teaches that the aspirant gets the knowledge of ‘yāvān’ (the attributed) and ‘yaḥ’ (the absolute). In other words, as taught by the sāyaṇa commentary for the Puruṣa sūktam, the attributed manifestation of the Puruṣa is not absolute and only relative and therefore not true and the transcendental, attributeless, absolute nature alone is true.
  2. There are statements in almost all the Upaniṣads that the aspirant ended up securing the liberating knowledge. Nowhere is it stated that such knowledge is about an incomplete Brahman.

Thus, to conclude, the Puruṣa sūktam method of delineating the mahimā (attributed/vibhūti endowed) of Brahman as the one in the relative plane and the transcendental (Puruṣa) as the absolute one is amply translated in the Bhagavadgītā verses that have been taken up for this study in the foregoing.  That all this has the solid correspondence in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka mantra cited above is also to be remembered.  To sum up, the attributed Brahman is not the complete One and the knowledge of the latter alone leads to liberation.  There is also no basis for the thinking that Brahman is known in parts/percentage as per one’s capacity for liberation. This is because, the BG 7th ch. also teaches that the knowledge has to be something that has no remainder.  If Brahman is admitted to be known according to one’s capacity, there will always be something, more or less, remaining that is not known, for the thinking is: Brahman cannot be known completely.   Such knowledge is useful for upāsana to enable the aspirant to subsequently attain the complete knowledge, when his mental capacity gains further strength to grasp the subtle attributeless Brahman.

Om Tat Sat





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: