When they say Brahman is Nirguna, do they mean Guna as in Tri-guna (Satva, Raja, Tamas) or Guna as properties or attributes?

Brahman not having tri-guna is understood, because guna manifest in Brahman. Hence Brahman is a super class far above and beyond tri-guna (trigunateeta).

But Brahman not having attributes or properties - is that even possible? Because, even if we just say Brahman exists, then isn't "existence (sat)" already one attribute? Then can it be Nirguna in this sense?

2 Answers 2


A substratum(sat) is just one essence, which does not require a second entity, unlike an attribute that loses its relevance without its superimposition on the substratum .

Here, sat , the existence( which cannot be negated) is not to be viewed upon as an attribute/quality, but only as a substratum.

Trigunas are the fundamental categorisation of all properties/attributes that can occur in nature

Just as a seed seems to be devoid of the attributes of its tree, (with regard to sensual perception) doesn't defy what's potential (sukshma) in it, Nirguna Brahman(whose attributes are undistinguished),doesnt disregard the fact, the whole manifestation is held by, in potential (sukshma) and never means shunyatha(void)

Dakshinamurthy stotram verse 2

Biijasya-Antar-Iva-Angkuro Jagad[t]-Idam Praangga-Nirvikalpam Punah Maayaa-Kalpita-Desha-Kaala-Kalanaa Vaicitrya-Citrii-Krtam | Maayaavi-Iva Vijrmbhayaty-Api Mahaa-Yogi-Iva Yah Sve[a-I]cchayaa Tasmai Shrii-Guru-Muurtaye Nama Idam Shrii-Dakssinnaamuurtaye ||2||

This World is Like a Sprout of a Seed Within which transforms what is Changeless state Before, appear Again as Space and Time, and endless Varieties of Pictures over it; all due to the Creation of Maya(unscrutable power of Brahman), This Samadhi out of his own free will and witness the unfolding of the world (when He comes out of Samadhi), Salutations to Him, the Personification of Our Inner Guru Who Awakens This Knowledge through His Profound Silence; Salutation to Sri Dakshinamurthy

On the other hand , Brahman in the context of Maya-( Maya avachinna Chaithanyam) is the reservoir of innumerable contradictory attributes ,yet transcending the same, incomprehensible by human faculities,is detailed in

Vishnu sahasranama 90

Anur Brihat Krishas Sthulo Gunabhrin Nirguno Mahaan

He is Atomic, Gigantic, Thin, lightweight, Oversized and heavy, having all contrasting attributes making Him Incomprehensible with human faculties.

Bhagavad Gita 13.15

sarvendriya-guṇābhāsaṁ sarvendriya-vivarjitam asaktaṁ sarva-bhṛich chaiva nirguṇaṁ guṇa-bhoktṛi cha

Shining through the functions of all the organs, (yet) devoid of all the organs; unattached, and verily the supporter of all; without ality, and the perceiver of alities; (Translation by Swami Gambirananda).

Bhagavad Gita 7.26

vedāhaṁ samatītāni vartamānāni chārjuna bhaviṣhyāṇi cha bhūtāni māṁ tu veda na kaśhchana

O Arjun, I know of past, present, and future, and I also know all living beings; but Me no one knows.(English Translation by Swami Mukundananda)


Oceans of words have been written about nirguna brahman - but its reality is wordless. It can be verified by obtaining realization oneself, or through the proximate company of a realized soul.


yato vāco nivartante | aprāpya manasā saha | ānandaṃ brahmaṇo vidvān | na bibheti kutaścaneti || 1 ||

                   ॥ अथ नवकोऽनुवाकः ॥

यतो वाचो निवर्तन्ते । अप्राप्य मनसा सह । आनन्दं ब्रह्मणो विद्वान् । न बिभेति कुतश्चनेति ॥ १ ॥

[Anuvaka IX]

  1. He who knows the bliss of Brahman, whence (all) words recede, as well as mind, without reaching, he is not afraid of any one whatsoever.

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