Gaudiyas believe in an impersonal brahman aspect of Absolute Truth.

BG 14. 27

brahmaṇo hi pratiṣṭhāham

I am the basis of the impersonal Brahman

Hari Vamsa, Visnu Parva 114:

tat param paramam brahma sarvam vibhajate jagat mamaiva tad ghanam tejo jnatum arhasi bharata

That supreme brahman illuminates the whole universe. You should know that the condensed light belongs to me.

Taken from https://www.bhagavad-gita.us/bhagavad-gita-14-27/

How is it different from nirguna brahman of Advaitins or are they synonymous?

  • Excellent question!!!! I think they say Nirguna Brahman is nothing but Brahman of Vaishnavas is spiritual light Jan 29, 2019 at 2:40
  • @AkshayS do you mean that they believe that Advaita nirguna brahman is light of Krishna?
    – user16895
    Jan 29, 2019 at 2:46
  • The Gaudiya version of impersonal Brahman is simply the effulgence of Krishna. And they don't use the term "Nirguna" to describe it.
    – user9969
    Jan 29, 2019 at 6:19

2 Answers 2


Brahman has multiple meanings. As shown from the verse quoted in the question, it is effulgence of Krishna's body. But it also refers to unqualified absolute or what you termed as impersonal brahman. Then it is very close to Advaita Nirguna brahman with some difference.

SB 1.2.11:

vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvam yaj jñAnam advayam brahmeti paramAtmeti bhagavan iti sabdyate

Knowers of reality declare that reality to be nondual consciousness, called “Brahman,” “Paramatma,” and “Bhagavan.”

Jiva Goswami recognizes the fact that the three designations are often used interchangeably in texts; the BhAgavata mentions them here in order to indicate their primary significance. The selection of names is not arbitrary; the verse does not, for example, give “living entity” (jiva) as a name of the nondual reality. Nor is the order in which the names appear random. The BhAgavata PurAna is indicating a hierarchy of forms from Brahman to Bhagavan, based on the degree of revelation.


Bhagavan is the complete manifestation of the nondual reality and, indeed, identifiable with it. In him, all the inherent energies (saktis) of the Supreme are clearly visible—beauty, power, wisdom, majesty, abode, and associates.


Then, depending on the degree to which the fullness of the Lord’s glory is hidden, he is known as either Brahman or Paramatma.

When Bhagavan’s energies are manifest in a partial way, mainly in regard to directing material nature ( prakrti) and the living entities ( jivas), he is known as Paramatma—the inner controller, inspirer, and support of the cosmos.


"When his attributes are totally unmanifest, he is known as Brahman—the undifferentiated, unqualified, and impersonal Absolute."


“That which is not qualified, and which shines because it is pure consciousness,know it to be Brahman.”

It is important to observe that the hierarchy proceeds “top-down” rather than “bottom-up.”

That is, although Brahman in this scheme appears very similar to the qualityless (nirguna) Brahman of the Advaitins, in fact, Brahman here is not the essential, most fundamental form of Reality, upon which various attributes must be “added” in order to “get to” Bhagavan. Rather, Bhagavan in all his fullness is the starting point for the Gaudiya concept of the Supreme. Brahman is Bhagavan, but with the splendor and glory supressed.

However, in non-conventional usage Brahman refers to Krishna.

In his instructions to Sanatana Gosvami at Kasi, Caitanya explains the implications of the “vadanti” verse:

The word “Brahman” refers to Svayam Bhagavan, who is one consciousness without a second, and without whom there is nothing else. “Knowers of reality declare that reality to be nondual consciousness, called ‘Brahman,’ ‘Paramatma,’ and ‘Bhagavan.’” That nondual reality is Krsna, Bhagavan himself. He exists in all three phases of time (past, present, and future). This is evident from the scriptures. . . . The word “AtmA” refers to Krsna. His nature is greatness [brhattva]. He is all pervading, the witness of everything, and the supreme form . . . Although the words “Brahman” and “AtmA” refer to Krsna, by conventional usage they refer to the Undifferentiated [nirviSesa] and the Inner Controller [antaryAmI], respectively.

Ref: Chaitanya Vaishnava Vedanta by Ravi M Gupta.

  • 1
    I do not think you answer the question. You just explain what the impersonal brahman is according to the Gaudiya Vaishnavas.
    – Wikash_
    Apr 24, 2019 at 10:35
  • @Wikash_hindu it answers. it is same, diffence being the hierarchy. I have put statements in bold. Apr 24, 2019 at 10:43

Nope The "Nirguna Brahman" as Advaitins understand it and the "Impersonal Brahman" as the Gaudiyas understand it are not the same thing.

According to Gaudiya Vaishnavas, For Advaitins or 'Impersonalists' merging in the impersonal brahman which is The spiritual effulgence emanating out of the Body of Sri Krsna is Kaivalya moksha. However, There is No such 'merging' into Brahman as per Kaivalya as understood by Advaita, for the Infinitude of Nirguna Brahman is verily a Jiva's real nature, which only requires to be realized, and it is not by merging into something.That would be Sayujya and not Kaivalya.

Furthermore, Nirguna Brahman manifests as All Saguna Ishvara forms including that of Krishna as per Advaita, But As per Gaudiya Vaishnavism, It is The Saguna Form Sri Krishna who is the source of the 'Impersonal brahman'.

Another difference is that Meditation on all Ishvara Forms Including that of Krishna are understood to culminate into Nirguna Brahman realization as per Advaita. However, That's understod the other way around in Gaudiya Vaishnavism, where meditating upon the impersonal is supposed to lead you to the personal.

Also, Regarding the Harivamsa Verses cited, The Following is what they state.

प्रकृतिः सा मम परा व्यक्ताव्यक्ता सनातनी । यां प्रविश्य भवन्तीह मुक्ता योगविदुत्तमाः ।। 2.114.१० ।। सा सांख्यानां गतिः पार्थ योगिनां च तपस्विनाम्

That is supposed to be the Prakriti which of the nature of Vyakta and Avyakta. । “तत् पदं परमं ब्रह्म सर्वं विभजते जगत् ।। ११ ।।”

That Prakruti is called Brahma which differentiates this world.

“मामेव तद् घनं तेजो ज्ञातुमर्हसि भारत ।”

Know that thick light to be mine oh Bharata.

Sri Krishna, Clearly refers to This 'Impersonal effulgence' here as his parA prakriti. Advaitins do not see Brahman as Para Prakriti so this is not the Nirguna brahman as understood by Advaitins.

Furthermore, The verse says

तत् पदं परमं बह्म सर्वं विभजते जगत् ।

So that 'brahman' is said here to differentiate the world. However, This is clearly not how Advaitins Understand Nirguna Brahman as, For Nirguna Brahman being the Absolute and ultimate reality is not something that differentiates the world.

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