What is Saguna and Nirguna Brahman? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Harsh K. Luthar in Madison, WI

Questioner: What is meant in Hinduism by “Saguna Brahman” and how is that different from “Nirguna Brahman”

Answer: The term Saguna means “with attributes”. The term “Saguna Brahman” implies that God has a name and form and other attributes. Many Savikalpa Samadhis give rise to the (living) form of the Ishta Devata. Ishta Devta is one’s favored way of visualizing the divine. It might be Krishna, Jesus, Rama, the Goddess or some other Deity of choice.

Nirguna means “without attributes”. The term “Nirguna Brahman” implies that God as the Absolute Spirit and Pure Consciousness has no name and form or attributes. Nirvikalpa Samadhi reveals the Nirguna nature of the Self.

There are a number of books on Hinduism that discuss Saguna and Nirguna Brahman. Classic yoga texts like Patanjali’s yoga sutras explain various types of Samadhi states. All of such concepts and topics of discussion can also be found in the conversations Sri Ramana had with various visitors, scholars, and yogis for over 50 years.

The book I recommend for the devotees of Sri Ramana is “Talks with Ramana Maharshi” as it gives the context of the conversations and the flavor of the essential teaching of Sri Ramana. “Day by Day with Bhagavan” capturing the Ashram atmosphere in the 1940s is very good as well. In addition, the recollections of various devotees given in many books are quite good.

One sees that Sri Ramana was very flexible and open to people who came with a sincere desire for self-knowledge. A person’s religion, philosophy, background, race, all of that, made no difference to him. In his acceptance of all, even the monkeys and squirrels and animals who were always around him, Sri Ramana emanated a perpetual aura of kindness.

Those interested in Advaita Vedanta and Self-Realization will find the teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi to be very helpful.

Namaste and Love to all

7 thoughts on “What is Saguna and Nirguna Brahman? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

  1. dear Harsha, thanks for the piece on Nirguna & Saguna. I think it’s interesting that we often see saints who are representing the nirguna state by wearing few or no clothes; they are showing (ideally) that they are beyond the gunas. literally, naked from the cycles of satvo-rajo-tamo.

    I’m also thinking about the greatness of Dattatreya, the Adi Guru, all three forces in one, the Generator-Operator-Destroyer of Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva… he is simultaneously nirguna and saguna. I think this is akin to what Jesus meant when he told his students to be ‘in this world but not of it.’

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  2. The Absolute or Infinite (Nirguna Brahman) ,using Its own Shakti, becomes the finite in the form of the Ishta, for the sake of those of devotional temperament. These devotees follow the path of bhakti. But Rama (e.g.) is identical with the Absolute. As Jesus said, I and my Father are one.”

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  3. Is it just another philosophy, or it does has roots at least in the Puranic scriptures? If yes which classical scholar extrapolates so and was it a matter of consensus between the classical scholars? Please provide the chain of narrators from some divine authorities which have extrapolated the ^^philosophy of this ‘Nirguna Brahaman’ and ‘Saguna Brahman’ from puranas or Rigveda????

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