When I say “Variations in Brahman” I don’t mean variations in Brahman itself but rather in how it is known. How a person shifting into Brahman knows it.
At the high end of Unity consciousness, God Realization unfolds with a distinct variation.
On the one side, you have those who unite with God. This causes the transcending of Atman into Brahman and a distinct “loss” of the intimacy of the Unity stage for a time. Brahman becomes a distinctly different stage. Like the ego in Self Realization, Atman as if falls away.
On the other side are those taking a more devotional stance. They retain a slight separation from God to allow love to continue to flow. This separation or “remains of ignorance” retains some quality of the process of experience and the dynamics of consciousness. Thus there isn’t the same loss of Atman but rather a shift in perspective from Atman to Brahman. Atman is seen as Brahman.
There would of course be variations in degree also. As I’ve noted, it takes some ignorance for a person to remain to know Brahman. And there is degrees of devotion too.
I’d noticed in the past that some of the Upanishads seem to use the terms Atman and Brahman almost interchangeably. At first I thought this was sloppy translations but in looking at the Sanskrit, I realized that wasn’t necessarily true. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (a devotee) also spoke of Brahman Consciousness as the completion of Unity Consciousness rather than as a completely distinct stage. Recent reading and correspondence has highlighted this distinction.
Even in the Mahavakyas we see examples like this:
Ayam Atma Brahma – “Atman is Brahman” – Mahavakya from Mandukya Upanishad 1.2 of the Atharva Veda
Yet in other contexts, these 2 are described quite distinctly. There can be a very distinct shift out of consciousness (Atman) in the Brahman shift. Then only Brahman is relevant. For example, in Shankara’s famous phrase:
“The world is unreal
Only Brahman is real
The World is Brahman”
But if we think back to Self Realization, we know that it becomes clear post-awakening that the ego is not gone. It is only that it is no longer the centre. It was the identification with it that fell away.
It is much the same here – consciousness does not cease. It just ceases being the centre, the everything. Our relationship with it changes. Brahman is conscious rather than being consciousness (and its dynamics).
Brahman is the merging of opposites into a totality greater even than consciousness. That merging* comes to include everything as it progresses. A mature form of Brahman is inclusive of all prior stages, unlike those prior stages.
Thus, there are variations in the entry process but there is also the maturation itself that comes to be inclusive of what had fallen away prior. But now from the new perspective. As I get more data, we’ll see how much the two styles continue as distinct flavours.
* described variously as devouring, eating, absorbing, and so forth