Brahman - Nirguna or Saguna...or Neither...or Both???

Posted By JAI_HIND (
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 19:27:24 +0000 (GMT)

Namaste _/I\_

In response to Priti ji's request for something to relieve her boredom
(must be the time of yearor something...seems like the boredom thing is
doing the rounds these days!!), I am forwarding an article I wrote a few
months ago, about the nature of it what you will - God, Aum,
Brahman, Parameshwar, Ishwar, Bhagwaan...whatever!! If anyone has any
thoughts, views or opinions on this, or any other, topic, please let me

An oft-debated point in Hinduism is the question "Is Brahman saguna or
nirguna?" Of course, this is a question that has been asked down the ages
from time immemorial, and in no way would I claim to have found the answer
to a question that even the Maharishis of Vedic times struggled to
explain. However, I do have a few thoughts on this, which I'd like to
share with you all.

Now, the general argument tends to be that Brahman is nirguna, but has the
capability to take on any guna - hence the argument (put forward by, for
example,the Arya Samaj, as well asmany others) that God is without Form,
but is able to manifest Himself through the medium of the physical world.
Thus, His true self is nirguna, but He presents to us an apparition of
saguna, since it is said that in Kali Yuga, the confused human mind,
devoid of guidance from the atma, which it has blocked out, will be unable
to comprehend anything so intangible as an entity without Form. Thus
Brahman provides us with a tangible Form which we can then use in order to
try to comprehend Him.

However, the opposing side to this says that how can Brahman be nirguna?
A Brahman which is nirguna is like a kingdom without a King. Brahman must
have some Form, since for Him not to have a Form is tantamount to His
nonexistence, as something which has no Form surely does not exist. If
the entity exists, then surely it must have a Form - perhaps an
imperceptible, or possibly even inconceivable Form, but SOME Form

At this point, I would like to put it to you that in fact, the argument is
ridiculous on both sides. If we are to say that Brahman is saguna, then
we rule out the possibility of Brahman being nirguna, and vice versa - by
the very definitions of the terms nirguna and saguna. Thus, we are trying
to put precise definition on Brahman, and to define is to limit, since if
something has a definition, then they are confined to exist only within
the parameters of that definition. By the very nature of Brahman, He is
without any limit, so this can not be possible.

So, what then is the solution? The idea I would like to suggest is that
perhaps another terminology has to be introduced. A term that, in my
view, better describes the actuality of the situation is "Sarvaguna", by
which I mean not just "With Form" - "Saguna" - but "With ALL Forms". What
do I mean by this, and how is it different from either of the other two

If it is to be said that Brahman has Form (ie, is saguna), then surely, we
cannot restrict Him to just one Form, or just a few Forms. If Brahman is
said to have Form, He must surely have ALL forms, since the very idea of
Brahman is an all-encompassing idea, without restrictions or limitations.

However, if it is argued that Brahman is nirguna, then it can be argued
that the state of having no Form is in itself also a Form - and the Form
is "No Form". To explain this, one can refer to the Unified Field Theory,
a modern day theory in physics (which many of you will probably know far
more about than me!!)

The physicist who recently won the Nobel Prize in Physics (whose name
escapes me at present - anyone know??) has described, as part of his
theory (which itself, according to a friend of mine who allegedly knows
him, is taken, in great part, from knowledge in the Vedas), a so-called
"Field of All Possibilities". Now a Field of "ALL" possibilities must
surely contain as one of the possibilities the possibility that there is
NO possibility,since this also is A possibility.

If then there is a possibility that there is no possibility, then at face
value, this would appear to contradict every other possibility in that
Field of All Possibilities. However, surely, if *all* possibilities are
to exist, then this one also must exist. Otherwise, the Field of All
Possibilities would not consist of ALL the possibilities.

In the same way, an entity which is Sarvaguna, must have, as one of the
gunas, the guna which is nirguna. So, a state of being Sarvaguna
encompasses then every possible guna. It therefore qualifies as a
description of Brahman in that it places no limitation on Him. However,
what about the fact that there is this glaring contradiction present in
the idea?

Well, this again stems from the very fact that, whilst we are now not
LIMITING Brahman, we are still trying to define Him, and place Him into
some kind of compartment whereby we can say "That is what Brahman is" -
like they say "Aum Tat Sat". So of course, it is impossible to define
Brahman, since any definition is in itself a contradiction of Brahman's
nature, which by definition is indefinable. Hence, any attempt to define
Brahman is from the very start a contradiction in itself, and is thus
doomed to end in a result whereby the inherent contradictory nature of the
argument manifests itself.

So, does this mean then that there IS no absolute truth? We can't say
that "Aum Tat Sat", because there is no way of defining anything that is
REALLY "Sat"? Well, there is, of course, an absolute truth. That truth
is Brahman itself - indeed, "Sat" is often translated as "God" anyway.
This provides a clue for what is wrong here. The problem is that we are
confined to using language and terminology to describe Brahman. Surely,
language is limited. There ARE things that language can't explain, merely
because words can only relate to other words, which in turn relate to
other words, and so on.

Thus, language is in itself actually entirely self-defeating, since words
can only define other words. They can't actually define the concept which
gives RISE to that word. If someone says "flower", then we know what it
is, and therefore, we are able to define "rose" as "a type of flower".
So, in this case, we know something, and we can use that knowledge to
define something. However, in the case of Brahman, we are not attempting
to define through knowledge, but we are trying to know through definition.
Knowledge must come first, and only then can we proceed to a definition.
Otherwise, as I said, all definitions we are able to make, are doomed to
ultimate failure in the midst of inconsistency and self-contradiction.



____ __ ____ _ _ ____ _ _ ____
(_ _)/__\ (_ _) ( )_( )_ _) \( ) _ \ Manish Tayal (JAI_HIND)
.-_)( /(__)\ _)(_ ____ ) _ ( _)(_ ) ( )(_) )
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