Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Thu Feb 5 01:02:41 CST 1998

On Mon, 02 Feb 1998,  Chelluri at AOL.COM wrote:

> Could somebody help me with the meaning of the letters in "Brahman"
> What is "Brah" and what is "man" means.

In his commentary on Brahma Suutra 1.1.1, "Sankara says:

      ... Brahman does exist as a well-known entity -- eternal, pure,
      intelligent, free by nature, and all-knowing and all-powerful.
      For from the very derivation of the word Brahman, the ideas of
      eternality, purity, etc. become obvious, this being in accord
      with the root

                     [ p.11-12 of Swami Gambhirananda's translation ]

A footnote to this passage adds:

      The root means growth, and the suffix man, added to it,
      signifies an absence of limitation (in expanse).  So Brahman
      derivatively means that which is absolutely the greatest.
      And eternality etc. follow as a matter of course from this

The U.naadi Suutra-s give the formation of the word Brahman as:

      b.r.mherno'cca | 4 | 145 |

      The suffix man[in] (anuv.rtti from previous suutra) comes after
      the root, the nasal being replaced by an a.

The Dhaatupaa.tha (1.772) gives:

      b.rhi v.rddhau |

And for the artha, Monier-Williams' dictionary (1011a) gives:

      v.rddhi -- growth, increase, augmentation, rise, advancement,
      extension, welfare, prosperity, success, fortune, happiness ...

A practical definition -- if that is the right word :-) -- of Brahman
is given in Mu.n.daka Upani.sad 2.2.11:

 brahmaivedamam.rta.m purastaadbrahma pa"scaadbrahma dak.sinata" |
 adha"scordhva.m ca pras.rta.m brahmaiveda.m vi"svamida.m vari.s.tham ||

      All this that is in front is but Brahman, the immortal.
      Brahman is on the right, as well as on the left;
      Above and below too, is extended Brahman alone.
      This world is nothing but Brahman, the highest.

                              [ Swami Gambhirananda's translation ]

A similar description (?) is given in Chaandogya Upani.sad 2.25.1.


More information about the Advaita-l mailing list