According to Shankaracharya, Ishvara, the world, and Saguna Brahman, are ultimately unreal. Only Nirguna Brahman is real.

But what does it mean to be Nirguna or "without qualities"? Something that has no attributes or qualities is something that doesn't even exist, because it cannot be proven.

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    Million dollar question! Aug 23, 2017 at 10:04
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    So you are suggesting that provability is a pre-requisite for existence ? Isn't this position absurd ? Provability naturally involves the subject - as in Who proves. If you and I or anybody for that matter cannot prove something, it doesn't mean the conjecture itself is invalid. Even in Mathematics which is strictly logical we see theorems and conjectures getting proved hundreds of years after they have been proposed. What then to speak of the Unmanifest which by definition is "beyond mind intellect and speech" ?
    – Lotus
    Aug 23, 2017 at 10:43
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    Does "sat chit ananda" not point to a qualified Brahman? Existence, knowledge, bliss are its characteristics.
    – Ikshvaku
    Aug 23, 2017 at 11:15
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    Ramanuja and Madhva take Nirguna to mean absence of bad qualities such as: freedom from fear, death, disease, beyond suffering, etc
    – Ikshvaku
    Aug 23, 2017 at 17:43
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    ... On the contrary, in all other systems of Vedanta which admit some diversity and qualities in Brahman, such as all the Vaishnava systems of Vedanta, acaryas explained that scriptures do not fail to describe Brahman with words and when scripture says he has qualities such as sat-cit-ananda, those are real qualities of Brahman. Aug 24, 2017 at 0:11

1 Answer 1


Answer to: What does it mean to be Nirguna?

Vedanta uses 'Nirguna' (without qualities) and 'Gunatheetha' (beyond qualities) as synonyms. In a practical sense nirguna means imperciptible. But, if we don't perceive something, how can we be sure that it exists, right?

Well, vedanta has a different opinion. Wisemen say anything that exists can not be perceived, and anything that is perceived does not exist. For example, you know that you exist. How do you perceive that? Obviously you know that you exist, that is, you experience that you exist rather than perceiving. However existence of many other things is perception for you. You don't experience that. It is for this very reason that vedanta teaches to trust on what you experience rather than what you perceive. The experience of self tops them all. This is why you have to find Brahman in the feeling of self first.

Source: "Who Am I" by Ramana Maharshi (I agree that it is not the kind of source you expect. But this is the source I used.)

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An answer to the question in the title.

Answer to: How can Advaita Vedanta's Nirguna Brahman even exist?

You are saying that only objects having quality exists. This is arguable. But we are all clear about one thing: the reverse direction. And that feels more natural.

Only what exists has (or does not have) quality.

How about that? And another related question. Are you sure 'qualtity' exists? If so, what is the quality that makes it exist?


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