From what I have seen Nirguna Brahman seems more like a concept that is attainable bliss. Compared to Sanguna Brahman a deified persona of Nirguna. However, Advaitans also accept Ishvara as a supreme authority correct. What is the connection between the supreme authority Ishvara to me Vishnu and Nirguna Brahman as per the Adviatan text? Are there any other major parts of Brahman I should be aware of apart from Ishvara? Scriptural sources with verse references are a must. Other than that thank you for taking the time to read my question!

  • Brahman is self and Ishvara are enforcer of Karma, same as in Nyaya.
    – user29449
    Commented Jan 20 at 4:26
  • 1
    "Are there any other major parts of Brahman I should be aware of apart from Ishvara?" Lesser known ideas from Mandukya upanishad and Karika. brahman has four "aspects". Waking state - Vishwa/Virat; Dream state - Taijasa/Hiranyagarbha; Deep sleep - Prajna/Ishwara; Turiya - Atman/Nirguna brahman.
    – estimator
    Commented Jan 20 at 7:59

3 Answers 3


However, Advaitans also accept Ishvara as a supreme authority correct? What is the connection between the supreme authority Ishvara to me Vishnu and Nirguna Brahman as per the Adviatan text?

Advaitins don't accept Isvara as the Supreme authority. In Advaita Vedanta there is no relationship between Nirguna Brahman and Ishvara since Nirguna Brahman is all.

Saguna Brahman is Brahman conceived of as the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe corresponding to Isvara. Advaita Vedanta, however, considers Nirguna Brahman as the only Reality. So what does Shankara think of Saguna Brahman? Shankara writes the following in his Brahma Sutra Bhasya:

'Hence in sentences of this kind, the formless Brahman alone, just as It is spoken of by the texts themselves, has to be accepted. But the other texts, speaking of Brahman with form, have injunctions about meditations as their main objectives. So long as they do not lead to some contradiction, their apparent meanings should be accepted. But when they involve a contradiction, the principle to be followed for deciding one or the other is that, those that have formless Brahman as their main purport are more authoritative than the others which have not that as their main purport. It is according to this that one is driven to the conclusion that Brahman is formless and not its opposite, though texts having both the purports are in evidence.'

Brahma Sutra Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya III.II.14

Thus as is clear from the above text, Saguna Brahman (Isvara), Brahman with form, does not exist from the point of view of the Absolute. Brahman is only formless from the Advaita point of view. Basically Saguna Brahman is the appearance of Brahman in the relative plane.

Both Isvara and jiva are associated with maya; both are products of maya. But the difference between them lies in the fact that maya is under the control of Isvara, whereas the Jiva, or individualized being, is under the control of maya. The limitations imposed by maya upon the jiva make it totally forget its real nature; but Isvara cannot be injured by His maya, as the cobra cannot be injured by its poison. Both Isvara and jiva are manifestations of Brahman on the relative plane; but Isvara is free, like a spider which moves freely on its web, whereas the jiva is entangled in the world, like a silkworm imprisoned in its cocoon. Isvara uses maya as His instrument for the purpose of the creation, preservation, and dissolution of the universe; through maya, again, He exercises His Lordship over it. But the jiva is a slave of maya. It must never be forgotten that, from the standpoint of Pure Brahman, maya is non-existent; therefore both Isvara and jiva are non-existent from the standpoint of the Absolute. Both are appearances. But on the relative plane the jiva is the worshipper, and Isvara, the worshipped. Isvara is the Creator, and the jiva, the created being. Isvara is the Father and Lord, and the jiva, His child or servant. Though Isvara is one step lower than Brahman, yet His importance in the relative world is beyond all measure. As a matter of fact, since Brahman is the unrelated Absolute, It cannot be an object of the jiva’s thought or adoration. Isvara, the Personal God, derives His power and reality from Brahman and is the highest conception of the Infinite that can be formed by the finite mind. When the highest flight of spiritual experience is reached, then both the individual soul and the Personal God merge in Brahman, and the three become one. Brahman alone exists.

Introduction to Self-Knowledge (Atmabodha) by Swami Nikhilananda

Are there any other major parts of Brahman I should be aware of apart from Ishvara?

Not as far as I know.

  • So can a human become ishvara?
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jan 20 at 13:27
  • No it is not possible for a Jiva to become Isvara. Commented Jan 21 at 5:16
  • So I cannot control my own maya?
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:47
  • Maya shakti is power of Brahman. How can a Jiva control it? Commented Jan 21 at 12:55
  • I guess I meant see through it
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jan 21 at 12:55

Apart from the answer already given (Ishvara as one who is the enforcer of the laws of the Karma), Advaita admits Brahman (external shaguna Ishvara) as self. Once the self becomes one with the dualistic Ishvara via devotion, the highest form of Jnana is achieved.

An excerpt from Vishnu Purana (Prayer by Prahlad):

I glorify the supreme deity Vishńu, the universal witness, who seated internally, beholds the good and ill of all. Glory to that Vishńu from whom this world is not distinct. May he, ever to be meditated upon as the beginning of the universe, have compassion upon me: may he, the supporter of all, in whom every thing is warped and woven, undecaying, imperishable, have compassion upon me. Glory, again and again, to that being to whom all returns, from whom all proceeds; who is all, and in whom all things are: to him whom I also am; for he is every where; and through whom all things are from me. I am all things: all things are in me, who am everlasting. I am undecayable, ever enduring, the receptacle of the spirit of the supreme. Brahma is my name; the supreme soul, that is before all things, that is after the end of all.

Source: https://sacred-texts.com/hin/vp/vp054.htm

Unity with Shaguna Brahman is the main goal of the dualistic, Bhakti-based approach in Advaita Vedanta.

In traditional smarta tradition, there are usually five forms of Brahman - Shiva, Vishnu, Shakti, Surya, and Ganesha, equivalent to each other.


In simple words,

  • Brahman + Suddha mAyA = Ishvara

  • Brahman + avidyA mAyA = jIva

Brahman when associates with his power mAyA becomes Ishvara, who is the creator of Universe, but himself is not deluded by his own mAyA and his creation.

Brahman after creating this world, entered into panch mahAbhUta-s, associated with them and forgot his true nature. Thus he became jIva.

Both Suddha mAyA and avidyA mAyA are called as upAdhi-s. If we remove Suddha mAyA from Ishvara, what remains is Brahman. In the same way, if we remove avidyA mAyA, what remains is Brahman.

The Tripuṭī (pramātṛ, pramāṇa, prameya) and māyā-avidyā, īśvara-jīva, vyāvahārikā ideas of Advaita are explained succinctly in the Kathārudra Shruti thus -

41-42. The pure (Brahman), God(Ishvara), the individual self(Jiva), the knower, the means of knowledge, the object of knowledge and the result - thus, for empirical (vyāvaharika) purposes, is the sevenfold distinction made.

43-44. (The Consciousness) devoid of the condition of Maya [cosmic nescience] is termed 'pure' (Brahman). When related to the cosmic nescience, it is God(Ishvara). Under the influence of the individual nescience (Avidya) it is the individual self(Jiva). When related to the internal organ it is called the knower. In relationship with the modifications of the internal organ, it is called the means of knowledge.

~ Kathārudra Upanishad

  • Good, but is this more expounded upon by adviatan scholars?
    – Haridasa
    Commented Jan 20 at 13:25
  • 45-46. The Consciousness which is not known is termed 'object'; and the consciousness which is known is called 'result'. The intelligent man should meditate upon his own Self as devoid of all conditioning. 46. He who knows this in reality becomes Brahman itself.
    – user29449
    Commented Jan 20 at 14:57
  • Katharudra Upanishad clearly talks about the self who isn't deluded by unreal maya is Brahman itself. Why are you citing these Advaitic verses under ishvara (dualistic school)? Advaita neither has a theory of Ishvara, nor a theory of creation (world creation). I believe you have mistakenly confused both of them?
    – user29449
    Commented Jan 20 at 14:59
  • @User29449 How does that contradict anything? Advaita believes in a two-fold model of reality, Vyāvahārika and pāramarthika satta. The satta of Ishvara is accepted under Vyāvaharika. Read panchadashi of Vidyaranya mahasvamin for details Commented Jan 20 at 15:53
  • @Anirban4329 Please note panchadasi is a manual text for Advaita Vedanta. In general, Advaita insists on the theory of non-creationism - atman was never created, and neither jagat. ONLY the self is the one capable of liberation and removal of karmas (this is in contrast with the dualistic school). If possible - cite panchadasi too instead of Upanishad, that'd be more helpful for the answer.
    – user29449
    Commented Jan 20 at 15:59

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