“The Absolute Truth is realized in three phases of understanding by the knower of the Absolute Truth, and all of them are identical. Such phases of the Absolute Truth are expressed as Brahman, Paramatma, and Bhagavan.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.2.11)
वदन्ति तत् तत्त्व-विदस्
तत्त्वं यज् ज्ञानम् अद्वयम्
भगवान् इति शब्द्यते
vadanti tat tattva-vidas
tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
bhagavān iti śabdyate
More than just faith extended to someone a popular person claims to be a savior, in Vedic culture the individual is encouraged to use the intelligence gifted to them from high above. There is the aphorism, athato-brahma-jijnasa. This applies to the human birth, which brings an urgent need to inquire into higher topics.
Not on how to find food. Not on how to spend the time on a Sunday afternoon, when not at the office. Not for how to enjoy as many female companions as possible, while avoiding infighting and jealousy. Not focused on how to accumulate the biggest bank balance, to the envy of your neighbors.
Go towards the highest truth. Know it, but also realize it. Be constantly aware of that truth. In this regard there are three specific levels of realization.
This is the energy referenced in the aphorism. That which is not Brahman is maya, though such a claim is not entirely accurate. Brahman is everything, including that which is on the other side. Something like the shadow caused by the sunlight, there is a rear portion of the Absolute Truth which has a sort of illusory effect.
The Brahman realization is understanding the spiritual equality of everything. My telephone is made of certain elements. My model has a specific visual, but it consists of elements coming together. The exact combination or proportion may not be the same as with others, but the method of construction is the same.
All living beings, regardless of the body type they inhabit, are Brahman. This is very difficult to perceive. After all, the tiger behaves completely differently than the cow. The tiger won’t listen to anything I say, and it wants to eat me. The cow has so much love for its children that it produces milk on sight, some of which it kindly donates for the benefit of the human community.
The Brahman vision sees the spark of spirit inside of both. That spark is what animates the body; it gives life to the individual. This is one way to realize the Absolute Truth. That same energy is everywhere, across the entire universe of space, known and unknown. Brahman stays intact through all three time periods: past, present and future.
This is a more advanced realization. Not only is there the singular Brahman energy, of which we are fragments, there is a localized representation of the Absolute Truth. This is separate from the Brahman energy, though only in terms of realization.
The word Paramatma is used to distinguish from the other atma. I am spirit soul, but I am not alone. Inside of me also is the Supersoul. Paramatma and atma together, though I tend to be unaware of the presence of the other occupant.
This means that the Absolute Truth is always with me. Paramatma has an additional role. Without Paramatma no result would manifest. Supersoul is ultimately responsible for how nature operates and how karma always delivers the proper result.
The highest realization, Bhagavan is an individual person. He is a distinct identity, supposedly separate from Brahman and Paramatma. Bhagavan is closest to the concept of God known to the world, though there is so much more. “The Supreme Personality of Godhead” is the translation for this word chosen by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada.
Brahman and Paramatma emanate from Bhagavan. If you know the Supreme Lord, you know everything. You are not required to know Brahman. You automatically see the Supersoul inside of everyone, which has the visual of the four-handed Narayana.
Any of the three realizations counts as spiritual life. The fortunate person will be liberated at the time of death, though the destination will not be identical. The Brahman realized soul merges into the Absolute Truth. They essentially lose identity. The person who knows the Supersoul gets to stay with Him at all times.
Realizing Bhagavan means the opportunity to interact with Him in endless ways. This superior realization carries the superior kind of liberation, one in which the individual can live in any place. Heaven or hell, hot or cold, forest or city – the setting makes no difference, since they always see God the person standing by.
At the ready standing by,
On Him for everything to rely.
For ideal conditions no need,
Since in Divine vision to proceed.
Bhagavan realization the best,
Where the eyes supremely blessed.
Brahman and Paramatma there as well,
Liberated anyone who can tell.
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