We know that most Vaishnava sects believe in Saguna Brahman. Are there pramanas from the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads or the srutis themselves which show that Brahman has anantkalyangunams? What will be the meaning of Nirguna in relation to Saguna Brahman?

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    Brahman is basically nirguna. In the modern era we are not equipped to meditate on the Nirguna Brahman. Eons ago our ancestors felt , even in those day that Upasana of Nirguna Brahman is fraught with pitfalls for normal humans and hence the concept Saguna Brahman started. and the worship of the various deities is due to the same fact. Brahan is the Cosmic Sound 'OM' and the Cosmic light both of which are without form. – Suresh Ramaswamy Jan 27 '18 at 6:26
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    @SureshRamaswamy I will say that the idea of nirguna brahman is newer than saguna brahman after all before the advent of Shankara there was no base for the qualityless formless God, even after shankara many people criticised the idea of formless God, calling it mayavad. – Anubhav Jha Jan 27 '18 at 6:28

As we know that vedvyasa compiled Brahma sutras, which are considered the essence of upanishidic philosophy- similarly vyasa's two students jaimini compiled purva mimansa (on karma kanda/brahmanas) and devata kanda sutras(on samhitas)

Although the purva mimansa sutras sutras and Brahma sutras have survived, the devata kanda sutras are lost but there are still some sutras which have survived as they were quotes by other vedantists here the identity of brahman is clearly mentioned.

Athato Daivi Jijnasa - Now therefore there is a desire to know the gods * Nana Va Devata Prithaktvat - They are different gods because they are cognized thus. * Ante Harau Taddarshanat - Ultimately Hari is to be meditated upon * Sa Vishnuraha Hi - He is called Vishnu * Tam Brahmetyachakshate, Tam Brahmetyachakshate - He is announced as Brahman, he is announced as Brahman

Now that the identity of brahman was established by ved vyasa's disciple, ved vyasa started writing Brahma sutras-

That's not it even Brahma sutras identify brahman with Krishna-Vishnu as vyasa refers back to bhagvat geeta in some of the sutras-

near the end of the Adhyaya 2 Pada 3 of the Brahma Sutras, Vyasa says this:

(The individual souls are) parts of God because of the mention that they are different, also because some read otherwise of (Brahman’s) identity with fishermen, slaves, gamblers and others.

This follows from the words of the mantras also.

And this is also stated in the Smriti (Gita).

Note that the parenthetical mention of "Gita" was added by the translator; the Sanskrit just says "api smaryate" or "thus it is stated in the Smriti". (The Bhagavad Gita is a part of the Mahabharata, which is a Smriti text.) In any case, that Sutra is clearly referring to this verse of the Bhagavad Gita:

The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.

This is confirmed by shankaracharya in his commentary of Brahma sutras.

Now there is one more sutra which can be used to establish that what's the identity of brahman is in Brahma sutras that is this sutra-

lokavat tu lila kaivalyam [Brahma Sutras - 2.1.33] The creation is merely a sport of Brahman.

As we know Lord Krishna is known as Lila purushottama https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purushottama

Even bhagvad geeta refers back to vedanta sutras at two places-

In another chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says this:

That knowledge of the field of activities and of the knower of activities is described by various sages in various Vedic writings. It is especially presented in Vedānta-sūtra with all reasoning as to cause and effect.

Chapter 15 text 15

I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas I am to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas

Ved vyasa was an incarnation of Lord vishnu- there is famous shloka

Vyasaya Vishnu Roopaya, Vyasa Roopaya Vishnave | Namove Bhrama Nithaye, Vasishtaya Namo Namaha:||

Vyasa is Vishnu and Vishnu is vyasa, so it makes it clear that it is Lord Vishnu who is speaking the bhagvad geeta.

Now some modern advaitins claim that Krishna was in yoga with some formless god(even though shankara established that it is krisna who is speaking the geeta) this claim can be easily refuted by some verses of geeta-

Arjun uvācha, Param Brahm param dhām pavitram paramam bhavan purusham sāsvatam divyam ādi-devam ajam vibhum ahus tvam rishayah sarve devarshir nāradas tathā āsito devalo vyasah svayam chaiva bravishi me ||” (Bhagwad Gita: 10. 12,13) Meaning, “Arjun said, You are param brahm – the ultimate abode (dhām), the purest (pavitram), transcendental (paramam) divine resting place or lok (bhavan); eternal (sāsvatam) divine (divyam) purush; the original God (ādi-devam), the unborn (ajam) Lord or manifestation (vibhum); that is what all the rishis and the demigod of all rishis (devarshi) Narada, Asit, Deval, Vyas personally say about You. And now You are confirming me the same as it is.”

Narada is a devotee of Vishnu.

The coming verses show that arjuna called the universal form "Vishnu" which makes it clear that who's form he saw.

Chapter 11: The Universal Form


nabhah-sprsam diptam aneka-varnam vyattananam dipta-visala-netram drstva hi tvam pravyathitantar-atma dhrtim na vindami samam ca visno


O all-pervading Visnu, I can no longer maintain my equilibrium. Seeing Your radiant colors fill the skies and beholding Your eyes and mouths, I am afraid.


lelihyase grasamanah samantal lokan samagran vadanair jvaladbhih tejobhir apurya jagat samagram bhasas tavograh pratapanti visno


O Visnu, I see You devouring all people in Your flaming mouths and covering the universe with Your immeasurable rays. Scorching the worlds, You are manifest.

So it's fairly easy to see that the viratswaroop was of Lord Vishnu.

At some places ar juna makes many personal comments to Krishna which makes it clear that it was Krishna who was speaking the bhagvad geeta-

Chapter 11: The Universal Form

TEXTS 41-42

sakheti matva prasabham yad uktam he krsna he yadava he sakheti ajanata mahimanam tavedam maya pramadat pranayena vapi yac cavahasartham asat-krto 'si vihara-sayyasana-bhojanesu eko 'tha vapy acyuta tat-samaksam tat ksamaye tvam aham aprameyam


sakha—friend; iti—thus; matva—thinking; prasabham—temporary; yat—whatever; uktam—said; he krsna—O Krsna; he yadava—O Yadava; he sakha iti—O my dear friend, ajanata—without knowing; mahimanam—glories; tava—Your; idam—this; maya—by me; pramadat—out of foolishness; pranayena—out of love; va api—either; yat—whatever; ca—also; avahasartham—for joking; asatkrtah—dishonor; asi—have been done; vihara—in relaxation; sayya—in joking; asana—in a resting place; bhojanesu—or while eating together; ekah—alone; athava—or; api—others; acyuta—O infallible one; tat-samaksam—as Your competitor; tat—all those; ksamaye—excuse; tvam—You; aham—I; aprameyam—immeasurable.


I have in the past addressed You as "O Krsna," "O Yadava," "O my friend," without knowing Your glories. Please forgive whatever I may have done in madness or in love. I have dishonored You many times while relaxing or while lying on the same bed or eating together, sometimes alone and sometimes in front of many friends. Please excuse me for all my offenses.

Chapter 7, Verse 7

O conquerer of wealth [Arjuna], there is no Truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread.

Chapter 9: The Most Confidential Knowledge


avajananti mam mudha manusim tanum asritam param bhavam ajananto mama bhuta-mahesvaram


avajananti—deride; mam—Me; mudhah—foolish men; manusim—in a human form; tanum—body; asritam—assuming; param—transcendental; bhavam—nature; ajanantah—not knowing; mama—Mine; bhuta—everything that be; mahesvaram—supremeproprietor.


Fools deride Me when I descend in the human form. They do not know My transcendental nature and My supreme dominion over all that be.

Chapter 7: Knowledge of the Absolute


naham prakasah sarvasya yoga-maya-samavrtah mudho 'yam nabhijanati loko mam ajam avyayam


na—nor; aham—I; prakasah—manifest; sarvasya—to everyone; yoga-maya—internal potency; samavrtah—covered; mudhah—foolish; ayam—this; na—not; abhijanati—can understand; lokah—such less intelligent persons; mam—Me; ajam—unborn; avyayam—inexhaustible.


I am never manifest to the foolish and unintelligent. For them I am covered by My eternal creative potency [yoga-maya]; and so the deluded world knows Me not, who am unborn and infallible.

From above verses it is clear that the form of Vishnu is eternal and gives rise to other gods. And he is formful brahman

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Ramanujacharya provides many quotes from the Vedas in this section of the Jijnasa Adhikarana of the Sri Bhashya to demonstrate that the supreme Brahman is Saguna, not Nirguna:

We now turn to the assertion that certain scriptural texts, as e.g. 'Being only was this in the beginning,' are meant to teach that there truly exists only one homogeneous substance, viz. Intelligence free from all difference.--This we cannot allow. For the section in which the quoted text occurs, in order to make good the initial declaration that by the knowledge of one thing all things are known, shows that the highest Brahman which is denoted by the term 'Being' is the substantial and also the operative cause of the world; that it is all-knowing, endowed with all powers; that its purposes come true; that it is the inward principle, the support and the ruler of everything; and that distinguished by these and other good qualities it constitutes the Self of the entire world; and then finally proceeds to instruct Svetaketu that this Brahman constitutes his Self also ('Thou art that')....

In the same way the passage 'the higher knowledge is that by which the Indestructible is apprehended, &c.' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 5) first denies of Brahman all the evil qualities connected with Prakriti, and then teaches that to it there belong eternity, all-pervadingness. subtilty, omnipresence, omniscience, imperishableness, creativeness with regard to all beings, and other auspicious qualities....

You have further maintained the following view:--In the text 'one only without a second', the phrase 'without a second' negatives all duality on Brahman's part even in so far as qualities are concerned.... But this also cannot be admitted. What the phrase 'without a second' really aims at intimating is that Brahman possesses manifold powers, and this it does by denying the existence of another ruling principle different from Brahman.... That Brahman actually possesses manifold powers the text shows further on, 'It thought, may I be many, may I grow forth,' and 'it sent forth fire,' and so on.

That Brahman is a knowing subject all scriptural texts declare; cp. 'He who is all knowing' (Mu. Up. I, 1, 9); 'It thought' (Kh. Up.VI, 2, 3); 'This divine being thought' (Kh. Up. VI, 3, 2); 'He thought, let me send forth the worlds' (Ait. Âr. II,4, 1, 2); 'He who arranges the wishes--as eternal of those who are not eternal, as thinker of (other) thinkers, as one of many' (Ka. Up. II, 5, 13); 'There are two unborn ones--one who knows, one who does not know--one strong, the other weak' (Svet. Up. I, 9); 'Let us know Him, the highest of Lords, the great Lord, the highest deity of deities, the master of masters, the highest above the god, the lord of the world, the adorable one' (Svet. Up. VI, 7); 'Of him there is known no effect (body) or instrument; no one is seen like unto him or better; his high power is revealed as manifold, forming his essential nature, as knowledge, strength, and action' (Svet. Up. VI, 8); 'That is the Self, free from sin, ageless, deathless, griefless, free from hunger and thirst, whose wishes are true, whose purposes are true' (Kh. Up. VIII, 1, 5). These and other texts declare that to Brahman, whose essential nature is knowledge, there belong many excellent qualities--among which that of being a knowing subject stands first, and that Brahman is free from all evil qualities....

With regard to the concluding passage of the Taittiriya-text, 'from whence all speech, together with the mind, turns away, unable to reach it 1,' we point out that with the passage 'From terror of it the wind blows,' there begins a declaration of the qualities of Brahman, and that the next section 'one hundred times that human bliss,' &c., makes statements as to the relative bliss enjoyed by the different classes of embodied souls; the concluding passage 'He who knows the bliss of that Brahman from whence all speech, together with the mind, turns away unable to reach it,' hence must be taken as proclaiming with emphasis the infinite nature of Brahman's auspicious qualities. Moreover, a clause in the chapter under discussion--viz. 'he obtains all desires, together with Brahman the all-wise' (II, 1)--which gives information as to the fruit of the knowledge of Brahman clearly declares the infinite nature of the qualities of the highest all-wise Brahman.

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"Where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else, understands nothing else, that is the greatest (Infinite, nirguna). Where one sees something else, hears something else, understands something else, that is the little (finite, saguna). The greatest is immortal; the little is mortal." (Chandogya Upanishad 7-24-1)

"It is neither coarse nor fine, neither short nor long; defective in one place, perfect in the other." (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 3-1-8)

There are many more verses like these. All these verses point out that Brahman has dual nature. Upanishad names these two natures as saguna and nirguna.

In reality, Brahman is nirguna, without any attributes, without any limitations. The very word Brahman comes from Brih dhatu. The literal meaning is "which grows (to infinity)". Brahman is consciousness - the eternal subject. Only objects can have attributes. As Brahman is not an object, so it does not have any qualities. It is the object (figure of speech) of knowledge (inferential knowledge). Vedantins follow this path - the path of knowledge.

However, initially, it is hard for our mind to grasp of anything that does not have any attribute! So for directing our mind to that supreme being, we need to think of him in terms of some characteristics. That is why the concept of Saguna Brahman came into place. It is the object of worship. It acts as a stepping stone. The worship of saguna Brahman leads us gradually towards liberation. But liberation can only be achieved by realising nirguna Brahman at the end.

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    Umm, I asked proofs for saguna brahman, you didn't understand my question I think. Brahman can be sagunam yet still be infinite, form limits human not God. – Anubhav Jha Jan 27 '18 at 5:17
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    @Anubhav Jha You should go after isha upnishad you will see that brahman or atman is inside and outside far and near it is too said that god is secret to every being but sages have unlocked it vedas say that in starting when he created human and other things he gone inside everything and find nobody else. – Fierce lord Jan 27 '18 at 7:29

Are there pramanas from the Brahma Sutras, Upanishads or the srutis themselves which show that Brahman has anantkalyangunams? What will be the meaning of Nirguna in relation to Saguna Brahman?

Yes, there are .The word Brahman comes from

bringati brinhayati cha iti Brahaman

meaning which is Large and can make large is Brahman. So Brahman has the Shakti or Power to make large.

Vishnupuran (1/12/57) gives the same definition of Brahma:

vrihattvaat vrihanattvaat tad brahma paramam viduh

So by definition Brahman has Shakti and Guna is a result of the functioning of Shakti.So Brahman is Saguna by very definition.

Svetaasvatara-Upanishad says

Paara asya shaktir vividhaa eva shruyate svavabiki jnana-bala-kriya cha

meaning Brahman has three Supreme (Paraa) Shaktis: Jnana or Knowledge, Bala or Power and Kriya or Activity.

So the Brahman has Paraa-Shakti.

The same Upanishad says

mayaam to prakrtim vidyaas mayinam to Maheswaram

meaning Maya is Prakriti and The owner of Maya is Brahman.

So the Brahman has Maya-Shakti.

Gita (7/5) says

jivabhutaam mahavaho yayaa idam dharyate jagat

Means Brahman has Jiva-Shakti.

So the functioning of these Shaktis makes Brahman Saguna. The Mundaka-Upanishad (2/2/7) says

yah sarvajna sarvavid yasya eshaa mahima bhubi divye brahmapure hi esha vyomni Aatma pratisthitah

meaning Brahman or Aatma is All-knowing.

Kathopanishad (1/2/26) says

Yam eva esha vrinute tena labhya

Meaning Brahman can be known only by the one whom Brahman selects by grace.

This means Brahman has grace.

Sri Adi Shankaracharya in His commentary of Brahma-Sutra (1/1/10) writes

nitya-suddha-mukta-svabhabam sarvajnam sarva-sakti-samanvitam brahman ..

meaning that Brahman is ever Pure, ever Free, All-knowing.

In commentary of Brahma-Sutra 2/1/24 He writes

Purna-Shaktistu Brahman

Meaning that Brahman is Omnipotent.

Svetasvatara-Upanishad (3/17) says

sarvasya prabhum ..sarvasya sharanam

Meaning that Brahman is Master and Resort of All.

So all the above portrays Brahman with Gunas.

On the otherhand, Vrihadaaranyaka-Upanishad (3/8/8) says

Tad Aksharam ..Ananum Ahraswam Adirgham Alohitam Asneham Acchayam Atamah Avayu Anaakasam Asangam Arasam Agandham Achaksuskam Asotram Avaak Amanaa Atejaskam Apraanam Amukham Amaatram Anantaram Avahyam Na tad ashnati kinchana na tad asnati kaschan

saying that Brahman is NOT big, small, short, long.Brahman has no colour, no compassion, no shade, no darkness, no wind, no sky.Brahman has no rasa, no gandha, no praana, no eyes, no ears.no speech, no mind, no aura, no life,no face and no part. Brahman has neither in nor out and eats nothing.

Kathopanishad 1/3/15 also lists many such nirguna aspects of Brahman.

What will be the meaning of Nirguna in relation to Saguna Brahman?

Yes, how to reconcile? Let us see:

Vrihadaranyaka in the very next sloka says

Etasya vaa aksharasya prashaasane Gargi suryaachandramasau vidhritau tisthata..dyavaprithivyau vidhrite tishatah

meaning that Brahman controls the sun, the moon, the earth, the heavens --everything.

As parallel lines meets in infinity, all contradictions meet in Brahman. So Brahman is both Saguna and Nirguna. His most positive qualities are Sat (Eternal existence), Chit (Eternal consciousness), Ananda (Eternal Bliss) and Karuna (Endless Grace).By grace Brahman reveals the Self to the chosen ones.

By the way, all the Vedas and Upanishads that mention Brahman as Rudra/Vishnu/Uma/Indra/Ganesha etc that is with Form are representing Saguna Brahman.We get many such names in different Upanishads.

Sripada Srijiva Goswami, the famous Vaishnava saints comments regarding this in (Bhagavatsandarva page 228)

Brahman has no praakrita or worldly Gunas.So He is Nirguna.But He has ALL Apraakrita Gunas like Jnana,Shakti, Vala, Aiswarya,Virya,Tejas.So Brahman is Saguna.

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Upanishads refer to brahman with auspicious qualities in many places, indicative of personhood- knowledge will and moral goodness this can only happen when the saguna brahman is supreme than nirguna brahman.

Some passages in mundaka upanishad subordinate impersonal brahman to a "purusha" person, this idea resonates in bhagvad geeta-

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham amṛtasyāvyayasya ca śāśvatasya ca dharmasya sukhasyaikāntikasya ca

Translation of Bhagavad Gita 14.27

And I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman, which is immortal, imperishable and eternal and is the constitutional position of ultimate happiness.

At another place Lord Krishna says that he purushottama is beyond the perishable world and even imperishable brahman thus the supreme formful purusha. Beyond the two.

Chapter 15, Verse 16

There are two classes of beings, the fallible and the infallible. In the material world every entity is fallible, and in the spiritual world every entity is called infallible.

Chapter 15, Verse 17

Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Lord Himself, who has entered into these worlds and is maintaining them.

Chapter 15, Verse 18

Because I am transcendental, beyond both the fallible and the infallible, and because I am the greatest, I am celebrated both in the world and in the Vedas as that Supreme Person.

So yes the supreme purusha is with form from which the impersonal brahman comes- Most of the passages describe brahman with will.

So the actual philosophy of Brahma sutras is thestic panentheism like bhagvad geeta and isa upanishad- where there is a formful ishvara.

Because nowhere has the upanishads declare that one becomes like all knowing- all auspicious- will, power etc this is only talked for the supreme God

And advaitins can't even use the reasoning of vyavaharaika here because the supreme Lord is being described here, the the main objective was to attain the formless- upanishads won't go writing the auspicious and one without a second nature of supreme Lord, advaita is not the original philosophy of vedas

This is further talked about in bhagvatam as bhagvan-parmatma-brahman, while the impersonalists only take parmatma and brahman, but forget the supreme person.

The fundamental oneness with the impersonal brahman- formless aspect of the lord is secondary but one can never become the all knowing supreme Lord who is the prmary purusha with form One may become one with formless aspect, this formless aspect being supreme doesn't make sense how can forms come from formless being?

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