If Brahman and Prakriti are not separate, but two sides of the same coin ... i.e. if Brahman 'IS' Prakriti, then that makes Brahman full of qualities. How can it possibly be devoid of attributes when in reality it's full of attributes.

After cosmic dissolution, all nama & rupa disappear, but do the gunas dissapear. No. The 3 gunas continues to exist, (even though they remain in a state of equilibrium or in a state of dormancy) they do exist.

Who possesses these 3 gunas? It is Prakriti and Prakriti is Brahman. This makes Brahman full of gunas.

I would like to know whether any disciples of Shankara raised this point and if it was addressed by Shankara.

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2 Answers 2


It is not possible to answer this question since it is not possible to describe Nirguna Brahman.

  1. Moreover, the Vedas reveal this; likewise this is mentioned in the Smritis also.

Moreover, the Vedas reveal through a negation of other aspects that Brahman has no distinguishing feature, as for instance in, “Now therefore the description (of Brahman): ‘Not this, not this’” (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad II.iii.6), “That (Brahman) is surely different from the known; and, again, It is above the unknown” (Kena Upanishad I.4), “That Bliss of Brahman, failing to reach which, words turn back along with the mind” (Taittiriya Upanishad II.ix.1), and so on. And it is also known from the Vedic texts that Badhva being asked by Baskali, replied merely by not uttering a word, as stated in, “He (Baskali) said, ‘Teach me Brahman, sir.’ He (Badhva) became silent. When the question was repeated a second and a third time he said, ‘I have already spoken, but you cannot comprehend. That Self is Quiescence’ “. Similarly in the Smritis, the instruction is given through a negation of other things, as in, “I shall tell you of that which is to be known and by knowing which one attains immortality. The supreme Brahman is without any beginning. It can neither be called gross (visible) nor fine (invisible)” (Gita XIII.12), and so on. Similarly the Smriti mentions how Narayana in His cosmic form said to Narada, “O Narada, that you see me as possessed of all the (five divine) qualities of all elements, is only because of My Maya, called up by Myself. For else you should not understand Me thus.”

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya III.ii.17

  • In your above post Narayana says, if it weren't for his maya shakti, no one could understand or perceive him ... This means, maya & it's gunas are part of nirguna (dwells within nirguna) ... I mean, if maya were never a part of nirguna, then how could nirguna manifest as this world? ........ The truth was right infront of the scholars (the verse of Narayana you provided). How on earth they failed to decipher the meaning out of it? Sep 30, 2018 at 15:26
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    Yes, Nirguna Brahman contains maya, guna and all of us. How it manages to do this and yet be devoid of all qualities is beyond the capacity of a jiva to understand. Sep 30, 2018 at 15:28
  • Nirguna Brahman is too strange, too far from any human experience and hence can not be explained by any human model. Sep 30, 2018 at 15:32
  • That i agree. It is beyond human comprehension. But since we have already unlocked the mysteries of maya from sage Kapila and a bit from Gita ... and at the same time when the scriptures/rishis say that nirguna and maya are same, then it becomes hard to digest such a claim ... I mean, if we think logically, then it sounds totally absurd. The one who is a beggar cannot be at the same time a rich millionaire. lol Sep 30, 2018 at 15:43
  • OR ... it could be ... that the ancients simply meant nirakar/formless, and not quality less, when they used the term nirguna .... It's probably the modern scholars who have sticked to the actual translation which may not have been used by the rishis in the first place. Who knows. I'm simply speculating. Would love to know the opinions of others. Sep 30, 2018 at 15:57

There are two answers to this:

First - Using the clay and pot example. Clay alone exists among all pots. Pot cannot exist without the clay but clay can. Don’t matter big, small, ugly, well carved etc etc. same way Brahman alone is the world/universe appearing through Maya. All names forms gunas karma etc etc is part of the world/Maya.

Second - look at your question itself. You are asking “how”. Time -space-causation is Maya. Your question “how” is asking for a cause. You asking this question itself implies that you have assumed Maya to be real. So all these questions about why Maya/Gunas/etc etc exists cannot be answered within the realms of Maya.

Most of the above has been paraphrased from Swami Ki’s lecture. See below: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=QOheqKTZxt4&t=0s&index=7&list=PLBh-iYJ1Q_hRn-1WgwiBj7CfasK6TOqG5

Please also refer to this: https://www.advaita-vision.org/q-346-brahman-ishvara-and-maya/

  • Pls. mention some sources in your answer as this is the rule.BTW there are some excellent advaita articles present over the internet addressing this issue is which you can use as your sources. Sep 29, 2018 at 3:56
  • Pls. find couple of articles attached - advaita.org.uk/discourses/definitions/nirguna.htm AND books.google.co.in/… Sep 29, 2018 at 4:41
  • @PJai, When Shankara said Brahman satyam jagat mithya, he didn't literally mean the world to be unreal or false. It IS real. Otherwise this conversation has no value. By mithya Shankara meant the world to be a modification(names,shapes,forms), of the original(formless Brahman). By mithya, he meant it to be temporal, since all the names&forms will dissapear during the great cosmic annihilation and then alone Brahman/clay will remain ... I'm not assuming maya to be real. It IS real. If it weren't real, then how could Brahman express himself as this world in the first place. Sep 29, 2018 at 6:13
  • @PJai, Shankara in his aparokshanubhuti text, gives two types of teachings. First Shankara teaches Brahman satyam, jagat mithya , i.e. he tells us to negate all names & forms. And then later in his text he says, All is Brahman. Even the names and forms are Brahman, just like in the pot example, where the pot is also clay. This means, maya & brahman are One & the same. It means maya is actually real. Even when there exists no names or forms (during pralaya) even then, the shaki called maya (the 3 gunas) remains dormant WITHIN Brahman, just like the disintegrated pot particles remain in clay. Sep 29, 2018 at 6:32
  • So, if maya (the 3 gunas, NOT rupas) could remain dormant within Brahman before creation, then doesn't that make Brahman also full of gunas? ....... You said above that why gunas exist cannot be answered in the realm of Prakriti ... I never asked that question (i.e. why they exist). They ought to exist as causative agents ... Also i believe that if one has to realise (How brahman lacks qualities) it can only be realised in this very realm of prakriti, by meditation, by using the instruments of prakriti (the prana airs, the mind etc.) ... Without staying in this realm Brahman cannot be known. Sep 29, 2018 at 6:57

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