Krishna and Brahman by Dr. Subhash C. Sharma

Krishna and Brahman

Proposition: If Brahman is undivided, One without a second, the moment you say Brahman is both Saguna and Nirguna you are in fact imparting duality on Brahman which is unacceptable in all schools. Therefore, it is wise to consider Krishna as Purushottama and Bhagawan (rather than Brahman) because Purushottama and Bhagawan are above the duality encountered in the case of Brahman.


There is no duality in Nirguna and Saguna Brahman (Ch. 12 of the Gita) and He is undivided. These basically are two different functional and phenomenal aspects of the same reality, which incidentally are misinterpreted as duality or opposites. As far as various schools being confused regarding this (so-called duality), it is because of their own doing.

They assign all very specific Saguna characteristics to their personal deity (who even supposedly existed -- like in the case of Krishna) and that is well and good. But then they also want the same (historical) deity to validate the terms of Nirguna aspect, but that is not all that easy to do philosophically for a personal deity, who can be worshipped and even is considered a historical figure. The whole concept of Nirguna-Saguna basically breaks down if assumed strictly in the narrow opposing sense of unattributed-attributed.

To get around this confusion, they use the word Purushottama or Bhagawan for their deity assuming that the deity is Purushottama or Bhagawan. They mistakenly assume that Purushottama or Bhagawan combine both Nirguna and Saguna aspects of Brahman into a single entity, and thus there would be no problem of the so-called duality encountered in the case of Brahman. It is just a self-deception and self-serving proposition on their part. Note that Purushottama (meaning, supreme person in the saguna sense and supreme soul in the nirguna) and Bhagawan (bestower of good luck or bhaga, and simply meaning God) are as Brahmanical (Nirguna and Saguna) as the other names (Gita: Ch. 10). As indicated above, Nirguna and Saguna are simply functional and phenomenal aspects and not a duality representing the opposites. It is more on the lines of body-soul matrix for a jiva.

Krishna (whether or not the historical figure) similarly can be considered speaking in the Gita in first person as (or in the capacity of) Brahman (both Nirguna and Saguna -- like in Ch. 12). There basically is no point in calling him other than Brahman, such as Purushottama or Bhagawan, and hoping that the problem of ill-conceived duality would go away that way.

Note that Nirguna and Saguna are dual (two) aspects of Brahman and nothing else (like simultaneous mutually opposites). In comprehending and describing Brahman in every essence, these categories or classes basically complement each other (i.e. like having the incomprehensible or Nirguna along with the comprehensible or Saguna) rather than contradict, confuse or negate each other.

By: Dr. Subhash C. Sharma
Date: Aug. 22, 2005

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