What Is Brahman?
Brahman is the Indestructible and Supreme Spirit. It is present in every atom of creation, but remains there as the Viewer, not affected by creation. The individual soul is a part of Brahman. (1)
Brahman is the universal principle in existence which pervades everything in existence. This supreme omniscient intelligence is in creation (manifested, as well as unmanifested: Para prakriti and Apara prakriti) and beyond creation.
Is Brahman the Same as God?
“God” is a broad concept. It depends upon your thoughts about the term “God”. We can call Brahman the “Supreme God.” Sometimes supernatural powers are also called God.
The concept of Brahman is similar in some ways to the God of Judaism, in that Brahman is believed to be the single supreme formless spirit from which everything comes. It is believed to be the only reality in existence, meaning that everything that exists is made of different forms of Brahman. The separate seeming gods of Hinduism are manifestations of Brahman, not separate beings. (2)
Brahman is the universal principle which is active in the whole of creation. And by spreading out all Its power to different parts of the creation, Brahman guides and regulates it. In Indian philosophy resultant powers are also known as God (such as: Deities of Heat, Light, Rain, Wind, Intelligence, Art, Wealth, etc.). Paramhansa Yogananda saw that, through repeated prayers and invocations made to these powers, they have become imprinted in the astral heaven and help people whenever called through prayers
Schools of Thought in Hinduism
From ancient times, in the Indian subcontinent “Sanatana Dharma” has been followed. It consists of sets of “eternal” truths and rules. When most Indian dwellers followed these principles their practice became known as “Hinduism.”
Hindu religion is not formed by any one founder or guide. In ancient India many sages and ascetics (rishis and Tapasvis) spent their lives in the forests, contemplating and meditating to know the eternal truths. After gaining that wisdom, they shared it with others. To benefit the society as a large, such wisdom was written in the form of many scriptures. These scriptures elaborately explain to the seekers “How to get back to Brahman,” from whom they first came into existence.
Among many schools of thought, the main six orthodox thought systems of Hinduism from ancient times are: Sankhya, Yoga, Vedanta, Mimamsa, Nyaya, and Vaisesika. The Soul’s journey to realization (Brahman) is discussed therein.
Yoga philosophy describes the nature of Brahman. Within Vedanta, there are two distinct schools of thought, advaita and dvaita. The advaita, or nondualist, school of thought teaches that the individual soul is Brahman, and that our goal is to realize our oneness with It and merge back into It. It teaches that Brahman is the only reality and that there is no separation between the soul and Brahman. Any apparent separation is illusion.
The dvaita (dualist) school, on the other hand, teaches that the soul and Brahman are separate, distinct beings, and that Brahman has a form and personality, vs. the advaita belief that Brahman is formless Spirit. This way of thinking is similar to religions such as conventional Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. (3)