Definition – What does Brahman mean?
Brahman is a Sanskrit word that refers to the highest universal principle, also called the ultimate or absolute reality. It is derived from the Sanskrit root brh, which means “to grow or expand.” In Hindu texts, brahman is referred to as the atman, meaning soul or self.
A central concept in most of the Upanishads, brahman is defined as the omnipresent, eternal and spiritual source of the universe. Brahman is that which grows and causes other things to grow. It is the source of all that exists and is present in all that exists in the world.
In the context of yoga, brahman is an understanding that the yogi hopes to reach through spiritual yoga practice, such as asanas, pranayama, mantras and meditation.
On explains Brahman
The Upanishads, Sanskrit texts from the Vedic era, define brahman as satyam jnanam anantam brahma. Satyam means “that which never changes,” jnanam means “knowledge,” and anantam means “infinity.”
Brahman is the essence of all that can be experienced but not seen, including the soul and the truth. It is also the cosmic soul. Every living being on earth comes from this cosmic soul and, as such, there is no spiritual distinction between people around the world. Brahman is the source of all reality and the grounding sustenance of all reality.
Paul Jakob Deussen, a Sanskrit scholar from Germany who was a friend of Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda, describes brahman as being the “creative principle” that is manifested in the whole world.
Yoga, as a spiritual discipline, helps the practitioner to understand and experience brahman. Yoga helps one master the senses and ultimately the mind, thereby bringing the Self closer to brahman, the spiritual source.
Brahman does not refer to the Hindu god Brahma, the Hindu god of creation. Nor does it refer to Brahmin, a class that is a part of the caste system as described in the Upanishads.