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Saguna brahman refers to the parabrahman with gunas.

Sakara brahman refers to the brahman taking an akara(shape).

Are they the same? The doubt then can be rephrased as the following two questions:

Do every parabrahman with guna(s) necessarily have a shape? and do every parabrahman with a shape has any one of the three Gunas?

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  • "Do every parabrahman with guna(s) necessarily have a shape?" No "and do every parabrahman with a shape has any one of the three gunas?" Yes
    – user16581
    Dec 31, 2019 at 3:05
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion an example for NO?
    – hanugm
    Dec 31, 2019 at 3:07
  • Vishnu himself is an example. Vishnu can take any form to bless his devotees. He is not confined to a particular form.
    – user16581
    Dec 31, 2019 at 3:09
  • @Iwillcloseyourquestion Vishnu in vaikunta?
    – hanugm
    Dec 31, 2019 at 3:10
  • 2
    No conditions can be bound on Shivji. Therefore he can have guna but still be formless, and he can have a form yet without guna.
    – user17858
    Dec 31, 2019 at 14:07

2 Answers 2

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The concept of the guna is linked with Prakriti or nature.

guṇa (‘quality’)

One of the most widely used words, ‘guṇa’ has several senses such as quality, rope, bow-string, nature and certain letters of the Sanskrit alphabet used in grammar. However, in the Indian philosophical systems such as Sāṅkhya, Yoga and Vedānta it refers to the three fundamental components of prakṛti or pradhāna or māyā, the basic matrix out of which the physical universe is created.

These guṇas are three in number: sattva, rajas and tamas.

They are not qualities or attributes in any sense, but fundamental subtle substances or elements which constitute the prakṛti like three cords making a rope.

The existence of these guṇas is inferred from the qualities presented in the created world. Sattva is responsible for knowledge and pleasure. Rajas is responsible for activity and passions. Tamas produces indolence, sleep and evil.

Before creation, these three are in a perfectly balanced state. At the beginning of creation, this balance is upset and evolution of the world starts.

A Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism by Swami Harshananda

Saguna Brahman is Brahman with guna and the implication is that it is Brahman relative to the universe. If Saguna Brahman does not have form or akara then how can it have gunas which are constituents of form? Gunas are actual subtle substances. How will gunas operate without a form?

Nothing positive can be said about Nirguna Brahman precisely because it has no guna.

Nirguna Brahman according to Yajnavalkya

Yajnavalkya said: O Gargi, it is the supreme being that the non-yogins call gross but, in fact, that is eternal and wonderful lord; one that is not long, not red, that has no head, that has no setting, hence that has a lasting taste, that has no contact, no smell, no juice, no eyes, no ears, neither speech nor mind, no brilliance, no proof [or magnitude], no (worldly) happiness, no name, no race, no death, no age, no ailment; that is nectarine, that is expressed by the word Om, that is immortal, that has neither a predecessor nor a successor, that is endless and non-external. It eats something. It does not eat anything. ..

Linga Purana II.9.53–54

Thus we conclude that Saguna Brahman is also sakara.

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First of all, you write,

"Do every Parabrahman..."

There's only one Parabrahman in any Sect or School of Thought or Philosophy, and not several of them.

Water, can exist as both Sākāra (ice) and Nirākāra (as liquid and vapours), yet the constituent are same. Similarly Brahman can have many aspects Saguṇ-Sākāra, Nirguṇa-Nirākāra.

Now,

  • Saguṇa-Brahma (सगुण-ब्रह्म) literally means" with qualities/attributes" possessing the guṇas, that is when Purusha comes into contact with the Unmanifest Prakriti.

  • Sākāra-Brahma (साकार-ब्रह्म) means, 'with a form'.

  • There's another word, I find to be used sometimes, in the classification of the two Brahman, as Saviśeṣabrahma (सविशेषब्रह्म ) & Nirviśeṣabrahma (निर्विशेषब्रह्म)

So, there are three attributes each, attached to the two forms of Brahman.

  1. Saguṇa (possessing the tri-gunas) & Sākāra (possessing a form) & Saviśeṣa (possessing uniqueness in attributes)
    • This is called are Apara-Brahma (अपर-ब्रह्म)



  1. Nirguṇa (devoid of any gunas), & Nirākāra (formless), & Nirviśeṣa (lacking any specificity in attributes, approached via Neti-Neti (नेति-नेति))
    • This is called as Para-Brahman (पर-ब्रह्म)

As an example,

For instance, god Brahmâ of the trimurti maybe called as the Saguṇa-Sākāra-Saviśeṣa Brahma, who is said to possess:-

  • Saguṇa: the Rajasika quality (guṇa),

  • Sākāra: A particular form with four faces, etc.

  • Saviśeṣa: Has peculiar attributes like undertaking the task of creation aspect as experienced in the 'Vyavaharika (व्यावहारिक) Reality'.



In Short: Saguṇa & Sākāra Brahma are mutually inclusive of each other, which basically in laymen terms doesn't have much difference between them in terms of usage and context.



This answer is based on the inferences drawn directly from the article, Self Knowledge by Swami Sivananda of the Divine Life Society, and the following commentary on the Srimada Bhāgavata-Gitā.

Note that: this answer maybe basically construed to be from the Adi Shankara's Advaitic perspective exclusively.

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