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Thread: Is Brahman a Person?

  1. #71
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    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by Omkara View Post
    It is ridiculous to say that descriptions of Brahman's attributes are tathastha lakshanas. A tathastha lakshana always references an object OTHER than the object which is the actual subject of the lakshana. If you say that descriptions of Brahman's attributes are tathastha lakshanas, you are in effect saying that those attributes exist separately outside Brahman, and thus you will have to discard your monistic position.
    No, this is misunderstanding the Advaitin position. Any mark is mithya. But mithya is neither sat nor asat. Any purported attack on Advaita has to come to terms with the Advaitin position on this. Otherwise, it is a strawman.

    Are YOU knowledgeable about the tatparyalingas, which are rules of scriptural exegesis accepted by all darshanas?
    Utsargapavada nyaya, one of the tatparyalingas, states that if a negative statement in scripture contradicts a positive statement in scripture, the negative statement has to be reinterpreted in accordance with the positive statement. Thus statements tat brahman is attributeless have to be reinterpreted in accordance with the positive statements that He has attributes.
    I would appreciate references on this. The Advaitin DOES reconcile the positive and negative descriptions of Brahman.

    Nirvikalpa pratyaksha cannot be used as proof of attributelessness or nonduality. People from all sects of hinduism and several sects of Buddhism have all claimed to have experienced nirvikalpa samadhi, and eaxh sect has a different explanatikn of what actually occurs in that state.
    I am not talking about nirvikalpa samadhi. Nirvikalpa pratyaksha is different. There are very specific reasons and an important causal role that nirvikalpa pratyaksha plays in both realistic and idealistic accounts of perception. It is a bare object devoid of attributes that is both temporally and ontologically prior to any subsequent conceptualization of a thing as something else.

    Nirvikalpa pratyaksha was accepted by non-Advaitic realist astikas as well.

  2. #72

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by shiv.somashekhar View Post
    I have made this argument in the past. Why does the omnipotent God require eyes to see (does he have eye lids, can he not see when they are closed, etc.). By giving this God a human figure, we are also imposing human limitations on this God. It is a logical contradiction to say he looks human, but he is not (he has eyes, but he has no use for them!).

    However, Philosoraptor, who has been the main force behind the anthropomorphic position on this forum is not basing his case on logic, but on his specific interpretation of the Shruti - which is the same as that of Vaishnava systems such as Ramanuja's and Madhva's.
    As I previously indicated, I quoted exclusively the translations of Advaitist, non-Vaishnava scholars. I have not quoted anything that was not straightforward. There are very straightforward statements that clearly attribute form, cognition, and other attributes to Brahman, and it requires sectarian interpretation to say these mean something other than what they say.

    As far as the "need" for eyes, ears, etc when He can clearly perform any function without them, the question does not arise. The point is, shruti says He has these senses and that He has perceptive abilities that go beyond our limited understanding of these functiions. Therefore He has them. Shruti is the authority and there is no need to claim it means something other than what it says, merely to satisfy our limited conceptions of what a "perfect" Brahman must be. "Perfection" itself is an attribute, or rather, is a concept suggesting fullness of attributes.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  3. #73
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    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by Omkara View Post
    Whether Brahman has a form or not is irrelevant to the question of whether He is a person. It is possible to conceive of a formless being who can think/act. The form/formlessness issue can be discussed in another thread if necessary.

    Pietro, the advaitic Brahman can neither think, feel nor act. It cannot even experience bliss, as admitted by Shankaracharya in his Brihadaranyaka Upanishad Bhashya. And you think the non- Advaitins are limiting Brahman?

    Brahman being a person means that He can think/act/feel/experience. Whether He is formless or not is a related but tangential issue.
    I would not say that the question of whether Brahman has a form or not is irrelevant to the question of whether He is a person. This question is no less important than any other which help us to determine if Brahman is a person or not.
    If we can prove that Brahman has a form that is also Brahman, the shape or form which is not made up of a material nature but is made up of the same nature of which Brahman consists, then we managed to prove that Brahman has his own personal form, hence we managed to prove that Brahman is a person because we managed to prove that personal form of Brahman is identical to Brahman. This is a strategy of Gaudiya vaishnavas as regards this issue.

    This is similar attempt like to try to prove that Brahman can think or feel something, to be self-conscious and sensitive, that He can walk or do something like create a world, that He can see or perceive etc., and hence that He is a person.

    However the problem is something else. Even advaitins admit that Brahman can create the world, that He can see, etc., but they do not admit that this is a real Brahman. They say that this is saguna Brahman who appears in the personal form of Lord Vishnu and who is not real Brahman but is just a manifestation of maya or illusion. For advaitins a real Brahman is impersonal only.

    So to prove that the personal appearance of Brahman is not illusory, but is real, requires a bit more effort.
    That's what I will discuss in my next post.


    regards

  4. #74
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    Re: Is Brahman a Person?


    Is Brahman a Person?

    Srutis and smritis describe Brahman as having a form or shape. That is undeniable. However controversy starts when question is raised whether this form is Brahman itself, is of the nature of Brahman, or is this form something separate from Brahman, something superimposed on Brahman.

    That controversy is because there are different schools of Hindu philosophy who try to understand the Vedic texts.
    There are Vaishnava schools which are personalistic and there are impersonalist schools such as Advaita.

    Thus Vaishnava schools hold that Brahman has its own form, which is Brahman itself, is of the nature of Brahman. This form of Brahman, obviously, represents Brahman as a person. Thus Brahman appears in many different personal forms called Vishnu tattva forms such as Vishnu, Narayana, Sadasiva, Rama, Krishna, Balarama, Sankarshana, Nrisimha, Varaha, Kurma, Matsya, etc. It is said that all these forms are eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, just as it is Brahman.

    On the other hand, there is an impersonal advaita school too. Advaita teaches that there are two essential terms used when describing Brahman and its appearance. One of these terms is nirguna and the other is saguna. Nirguna literally means "without qualities", and saguna literally means "with qualities".
    This school holds that Brahman in reality is not a person but is impersonal and therefore has no qualities nor personal form. However, when Brahman appears in this material world or so to say when impersonal formless and qualityless (nirguna) Brahman descends into this material world as avatara in some of Vishnu tattva forms such as Vishnu, Narayana, Sadasiva, Rama, Krishna, Sankarshana, etc, he as impersonal formless and qualityless (nirguna) Brahman just takes all these forms as something that is superimposed on this nirguna impersonal formless and qualityless Brahman. Advaita holds that these Vishnu tattva forms Brahman creates out of material nature consisting of the modes or qualities of material nature viz gunas of material nature. Advaita holds that these Vishnu tattva forms are a manifestation of maya or illusion because only impersonal formless and qualityless nirguna Brahman is reality. So all these Vishnu tattva forms represent the appearance of saguna Brahman because all these forms are composed of gunas of material nature.


    So again, the problem is as follows:

    Now, if this form is only superimposed on Brahman because in reality Brahman is formless, then it may be that Brahman is not a person actually. In this case Brahman is impersonal in reality and his shape or form does not represent his true essential nature. In this case a form of Brahman is not Brahman itself. Thus we could even say that form of Brahman is untruth because only formless and impersonal Brahman itself is truth, is reality. Hence personal appearance of Brahman in a form of Lord Vishnu would have been untruth, unreal, even a manifestation of maya or illusion. This is the opinion of the advaita school.

    On the other hand, if a form of Brahman such as a form of Lord Vishnu is Brahman itself, is of the nature of Brahman, then obviously the form of Brahman is really Brahman, is truth, is reality, is not something superimposed on Brahman, is not a manifestation of maya or illusion. Thus Brahman when appears in the form of Lord Vishnu would have been Absolute Truth, Supreme Reality, Supreme Person or Supreme God (Lord), Brahman as real personality. Truth or reality is quite the opposite to illusion. This is the opinion of all vaishnava schools.

    It would be useful to mention that understanding of terms saguna and nirguna in relation to Brahman is quite different in Advaita than in Vaishnava schools.
    According to Advaita when Brahman is called nirguna this means "without any qualities", and when Brahman is called saguna this means "with material qualities" or "with qualities or gunas of material nature".
    Understanding of the Vaishnava school is quite different. Thus Vaishnavas do not distinguish between saguna Brahman and nirguna Brahman. Vaishnavas hold that saguna Brahman is also called nirguna Brahman, ie Brahman is both saguna and nirguna at the same time. According to Vaishnavas when Brahman is called nirguna this does not mean that Brahman is "without any qualities" but means that Brahman is "without any material qualities or gunas of material nature sattva, rajas and tamas". This nirguna Brahman is also called saguna Brahman which does not mean "with material qualities" or "with qualities or gunas of material nature" but means that Brahman is "full of spiritual qualities" or "full of qualities which are made of the same nature as Brahman is".
    The existence and nature of Brahman is described with the term "cit". This term can be seen in the saying that describes Brahman as "Brahman is sat cit ananda". Term cit is usually translated as "knowledge" or "consciousness".

    Obvious difference in understanding of what is saguna Brahman and what is nirguna Brahman can be seen from the following example.
    Scriptures describe that all objects and the living entities of this material world have being created with material forms and names. This is because every living being is born with the material body and has a material name.
    So advaitins think that even Lord Vishnu is born in this world with the material body and has a material name. They think that all forms of Lord Vishnu, or Vishnu tattva forms, have a material body or form and also the material name.
    However opinion of Vaishnavas is different. They think that all forms of Lord Vishnu have a spiritual body or form and also the spiritual name. Term "spiritual" refers to Brahman and His nature called "cit".
    Lord Vishnu has no material bodily form or shape and His name is not material name.

    Now I would like to give an example from the scriptures.
    Mandukya Upanisad, verse 5:

    yatra supto na ka˝cana kāmaṃ kāmayate na
    ka˝cana svapnaṃ paśyati tatsuṣuptam |
    suṣuptasthāna ekībhūtaḥ praj˝ānaghana evānandamayo
    hyānandabhukcetomukhaḥ prāj˝astṛtīyaḥ pādah ||

    Here the Lord is described as cetomukha, which according to Madhvacarya means that "The Lord has a face made of consciousness or knowledge".
    Now, according to vaishnavas this is an example that shows Brahman in reality has a face or a personal form, hence Brahman is really a person.

    On the other hand, advaitins interpret cetomukha as "The Lord's face is thought". They would say that a thought and even the consciousness is just a superimposition on real Brahman and thus that Lord's face or form is not real. Hence Brahman is not a person really.

    Now, my question addressed to all of you here present is which interpretation is better and why.
    I will express my opinion later, first I'd like to hear your opinion about it.

    regards

  5. #75

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    The best interpretation is the one most likely to be the intent of the seers who spoke the Upanishads.

    All interpretations are not created equal.

    I favor the principle of Ockham's Razor in this case. The theory that best explains all of the available data while making the fewest assumptions is likely the correct one.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  6. #76

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    As I previously indicated, I quoted exclusively the translations of Advaitist, non-Vaishnava scholars. I have not quoted anything that was not straightforward. There are very straightforward statements that clearly attribute form, cognition, and other attributes to Brahman, and it requires sectarian interpretation to say these mean something other than what they say.
    This is interesting. Just so I am clear, are you saying that Advaita attributes a permanent form to Brahman? If yes, what is your understanding of Saguna/Nirguna Brahman per the Advaita doctrine?

    Thanks
    http://lokayata.info
    http://shivsomashekhar.wordpress.com/category/history/

  7. #77

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    The best interpretation is the one most likely to be the intent of the seers who spoke the Upanishads.

    All interpretations are not created equal.

    I favor the principle of Ockham's Razor in this case. The theory that best explains all of the available data while making the fewest assumptions is likely the correct one.

    Doesn't everyone ? Every interpreter firmly claims/believes his interpretation is the only correct or the best among the lot and a similar line of thinking is adopted by their followers.

    ante siddhastu siddhaanto madhvasyaagama eva hi - Vadiraja Tirtha
    http://lokayata.info
    http://shivsomashekhar.wordpress.com/category/history/

  8. #78

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by shiv.somashekhar View Post
    Doesn't everyone ? Every interpreter firmly claims/believes his interpretation is the only correct or the best among the lot and a similar line of thinking is adopted by their followers.

    ante siddhastu siddhaanto madhvasyaagama eva hi - Vadiraja Tirtha
    Which is why discussing different interpretations is very useful, don't you think? It gives everyone a chance to see the strengths and weaknesses of each individual position.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

  9. #79

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by philosoraptor View Post
    Which is why discussing different interpretations is very useful, don't you think? It gives everyone a chance to see the strengths and weaknesses of each individual position.
    I have no problem with that. However, I do not see people on this forum who can discuss Advaita or Dvaita to that depth.
    http://lokayata.info
    http://shivsomashekhar.wordpress.com/category/history/

  10. #80

    Re: Is Brahman a Person?

    Quote Originally Posted by shiv.somashekhar View Post
    This is interesting. Just so I am clear, are you saying that Advaita attributes a permanent form to Brahman? If yes, what is your understanding of Saguna/Nirguna Brahman per the Advaita doctrine?

    Thanks
    No.

    I'm merely saying that, even per Advaitist translations of shruti, the shruti states that Brahman has form, and says nothing about that form being only temporary.
    Philosoraptor

    "Wise men speak because they have something to say. Fools speak because they have to say something." - Plato

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