Brahman Plus

Brahman Plus

Brahman, photo by Drew Coffman
photo by Drew Coffman

This article spins out of a discussion in comments on Is Brahman God, an article from November 2014.

All experiences and the world arise from consciousness interacting with itself. For a materialist that sees consciousness as a byproduct of the physical brain, this may seem delusional and ridiculous. And yet if we undertake an experiential study of consciousness itself, we soon experience consciousness by itself. This is known as samadhi or turiya. It gradually becomes clear that consciousness is not a byproduct but is the source of experience. The mind and brain are vehicles for that process, supporting and functioning on different levels of becoming.

From this perspective, we can say consciousness is the source. In the early stages of enlightenment, we experience consciousness as boundless and eternal. It has no prior origin.

As we go deeper into consciousness, we also discover consciousness underlies the world around us as well. The world is as if a screen on which experiences unfold. As Refined Unity unfolds, the process of experience itself becomes recognized. The full dynamics of consciousness are clear. There is an observer, the process of observation, and object of observation. The wholeness or samhita is the entirety of our shared world of experience.Awareness becomes self-awareBrahman
When consciousness, through this vehicle, goes on to know itself globally and at every point, it knows itself fully. Then it can stop looking in on itself and look beyond itself. Turning beyond self-referral consciousness, pure Brahman is discovered.

For Brahman, nothing is named and no sense of self manifests as a being. It is prior to consciousness, existence, and all experiences. And yet Brahman knowns Brahman as it is alert to itself.

Beyond consciousness is prior to time. There is no temporal “beginning” to consciousness. It remains infinite and eternal and yet uncreated.

From Brahman, we can step back and see the totality of the self-interacting dynamics of consciousness. And then we come to see the three subtle “qualities” that give rise to consciousness in the first place.

The first quality is alertness. Alertness by itself is simply alert. It is not alert to anything because it is prior to consciousness and prior to any thing or object. But it is awake.

Then there is a quality of liveliness. This stirs alertness to become conscious. And then it stirs it further into flow. Flowing within itself, it is consciousness. Consciousness curves back on itself and becomes self-aware. This begins the dynamics of self-aware consciousness noted above – all of us experiencers and the objects of our world.

There is also a still more subtle quality of intelligence that gives that flow of consciousness a direction. Liveliness doesn’t just agitate alertness, it stirs it awake with intent. It becomes self-aware. It recognizes itself and expresses qualities from its inherent intelligence.

Once self-awareness arises, consciousness becomes aware that it is. The cosmic I-sense or Self or Atman arises. The sense of existence or being arises with self recognition. As Maharishi Mahesh Yogi said in the infamous SCI lesson 8 “Existence becomes conscious, then intelligence becomes intelligent.” In self-awareness is self-knowing.

In the dynamics of consciousness, we can say the quality of alertness expresses as the observer or Shiva quality of consciousness.

The quality of liveliness is dominant in the observed or expressed side of consciousness, in the forms and phenomena of the world. This has been called Brahma, the creator. But that liveliness, in itself, is Shakti, the feminine.

Intelligence is dominant in the devata value or process of experience, in our experiences themselves. They bring us our characteristics and talents and experiences. Intelligence also has a quality of memory.

In Brahman, there is no expression. Then consciousness arises and there is expression and all of time and space arise and complete in a timeless moment.

Yet in a moment, there isn’t time to unfold all the detail, all the nuances and variations of experience. Cosmic memory (smriti) of that expression is stirred by consciousness which can then unfold it over increments of time. This is where Dharma arises, that which sustains. By acting in harmony with this process (dharma), you and I can have experiences and unfold the full expression in all its detail.

Put another way, memory alive in consciousness sustains the appearance of the created world so we can experience and evolve though it. This sustaining is dharma, the Vishnu quality, driven by intelligence.

At first I thought the fundamental “qualities” of consciousness were qualities of Brahman. In time, it became clear these qualities came through Brahman rather than from it.

Their deeper source is ParaBrahman or pure Divinity. We could call them the afterglow of Divinity. Now we can see that ParaBrahman is the source of the source of all experience. The world is pure subjectivity.

Just as pure consciousness is awareness without content or expression, so too is pure Divinity without qualities or expression. Even Brahman is beyond the subtle dualities of being/ non-being and created/ uncreated. And yet, Divinity’s presence contains all qualities through intelligence. In the process of experience, the subtle qualities express in consciousness and thus to experiencers and the objects of the world.

The Lalita Sahasranama, for example, lists 1,000 names or qualities of the Divine. These are embodied qualities that can be experienced and described but point to more subtle, fundamental qualities. Yet even those fundamental qualities can be seen in the world like love, strength, clarity, etc. Lalita is “she who plays,” related to Lila, the Divine play.

(Most interpretations get muddled by a materialist perspective.)

We might say that nothing becomes something through the layered display of alertness, liveliness, and intelligence interacting within consciousness. But they all have to be in play before consciousness becomes self-aware and self-referencing. In this sense, consciousness is a side-effect of Divinity.

Stages of God
Just as we discover consciousness through stages, we also discover Divinity in several stages.

Most of us start on the level of belief. In the West, many were taught that our religious institution was our liaison with God. They would tell us what and how to believe. As we become adults, we consider what God belief-camp we’re in: I do, I don’t, I don’t know. Or even: I haven’t thought about it.

Yet all of this is on the level of mind. An opinion about how I believe. This entirely leaves out direct experience. In fact, the question of the Divine is often seen as an unknowable mystery or meaningless delusion. However, what I’m pointing to is the direct experience. This does not require belief.

While anyone can have tastes of qualities of Divinity, it helps to have a stable experiencer for a more refined ability to experience. It’s also important to recognize that subtle does not always mean Divine.

After the Self Realization shift, we gain a stable, infinite experiencer. The intellect becomes resolute – Buddhi becomes Buddha. When perception refines and the deeper heart (Hridaya) awakens, we notice the “hand of God” and gradually come to experience the Divine.

This is the first stage of knowing Divinity. It is not pure Divinity but expressed aspects of Divinity.

We can see this arise in two fundamental ways: as expressed qualities in form or as fundamental principles. This is known as the personal and impersonal aspects of God.

In the Personal, the heart is emphasized. God is experienced in form with distinctive qualities. This is the God of our highest ideals. Religions the world over describe some ways we might experience God. For some, the form will be more masculine, for others more feminine.

Alternately, some may open the heart more readily to their teacher or their mate, the upaguru.

In the Impersonal, the intellect is prominent. God is known through fundamental principles. Someone more devotional may favour the first. Someone more scientific, the second. And yet both have advantages we can tap in to. Both are available to us.

This is a profound relationship that cannot be underestimated. Losing this connection is the primary cause of suffering. And yet it pales compared to pure Divinity, just as waking state pales compared to pure infinite consciousness.

I use the word Realization as equivalent to ‘become’ or ‘realize oneself as.’ God Realization is the second stage of knowing Divinity. It can arise in late Unity stage when we realize we are one with God in their expressed value or aspect. This is the climax of both God Consciousness and the unification process of Unity.

While this writer is visual and uses visual words, this doesn’t mean we’ll come to the Divine by seeing. It may be through sound or feeling.

Yet without a process of refinement, Divinity from any perspective will not be unfolding in awareness. It is hidden by our inability to recognize those more refined qualities.

Brahman Plus
Enlightenment may lead us to see consciousness as the ultimate reality as it contains ourselves, the world, and expressions of the Divine. It is infinite and eternal.

But as we go beyond the field of expression into Brahman, we can leave behind qualities of the Divine and our prior relationship with them.

The nature of Brahman Consciousness is living Brahman in a body that is conscious. We’re still “in consciousness” but no longer see it as “who I am.” The body-mind is seen as an effect and a means of being in the apparent world, of living Brahman. In a sense, we need a “faint remains” of ignorance to live Brahman in the world.

We may not initially be aware of Brahman. But in time, Brahman comes to know Brahman. We can say it becomes conscious of itself or intelligently alert to itself but this is prior to the dynamics of consciousness. Subtle but a big distinction.

Some equate the term Brahman (meaning The Great) with the silence of samadhi or with the emptiness of a flat Self-Realization. This is not wrong, but it’s not pure Brahman. That’s what arises when we go beyond consciousness, just as pure consciousness arises if we go beyond the mind.

As we deepen into Brahman, the deeper value of the Divine unfolds in ParaBrahman. We reach a much deeper, fuller value of Divinity, beyond the constraints of our conceptions. This is the third stage when we can come to pure Divinity itself.

And yet, like consciousness, Divinity knows it’s totality but cannot fill out all the details unless it is experienced. Thus, the Divine expresses forward to explore all the detail and potential through love and intelligence.

Pure Divinity is also unfolded in a series of stages related to the structure of our vehicle of experience.

The Scale
Our own bodies are made of trillions of cells, each with their own awareness and specialization. The body also houses an even larger number of microbes, some assisting with bodily processes like digestion.

There are innumerable other beings on this planet, from single-celled organisms right up through mammals that are each also composed of many other life-forms.

There are many other places in our galaxy with life, some with the diversity of our planet. Some of that is modeled in similar ways to ourselves. There are galaxies beyond count in our universe.

Concurrently, there is life throughout the other layers of being, on what we experience as our emotions, mind, intellect, and bliss body.

And yet our universe is only one of many distinct universes, each with a different combination of laws of nature to bring different experiences to its uncountable experiencers. Those universes exist in a larger field that I refer to as our creation. And there are many creations, each very distinct from our own. Many are less complex, experiencing fundamental principles more directly.

This may give us the tiniest peek into the range of experience required to bring out the detail of the profound intelligence of Divinity. Each of us has a role to bring our wholeness into totality.

When people are expressing oneness, they may say God is the Self or Atman is Brahman. But this doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Rather, they’re recognizing them as one. Like apples and oranges are both fruit but not the same fruit. Oneness and diversity coexist and function on different layers.

When records of past figures have been translated without a fundamental understanding of the stages of enlightenment and of consciousness becoming, the information can get garbled.

But if we see there are 7 stages of enlightenment, each of which have their own reality and all of which build on our usual stages of human development, we have a better sense of our natural potential. And if we see that the world arises from consciousness in 7 primary layers, we can get a sense of fundamental principles that show in many ways on the surface of life.

That said, we shouldn’t confuse the map with the road. Your experience now is what is real for you. Adopting the ideas of a different stage can deny us the fullness of our life now. Go with what is real for you now and live it fully. That’s how the process evolves. Consciousness comes to know itself fully, then it can look beyond itself, for example.

Don’t try to figure it all out with the mind. The mind likes to have “the right answer” but there is no one right answer. There is a progressive series that will be somewhat unique to you. If you think you have it figured out, that will become a barrier to further unfolding. A mind that thinks it knows enlightenment is a barrier to enlightenment.

Moksha is liberation, even from the ideas of enlightenment.

Last Updated on January 12, 2020 by Davidya

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  1. Jim

    Hi David, You do a good job of mapping the perspective of Brahman, as it relates to enlightenment and states of consciousness, and cosmic experience.
    But what is missing here in your discourse is the hard core symptom of living Brahman in this world. That symptom is the fulfillment of all personal desires – health, wealth and happiness. Brahman is the fulfillment of all states of consciousness, so with the cosmic awareness fully alive in the body, and radiating outwards, all desires for ourselves are fulfilled by nature, always. Full stop. We no longer work out our karma except for that which we create willfully for the good of the world.
    Many throughout the world are exploring endless avenues and perspectives of enlightenment, but what will always set Brahman apart from everything else, is this hard reality of the absolute personal fulfillment of our earthly existence.
    Otherwise there is not the fulfillment of Brahman. it is something else. It cannot be Brahman until we meet such absolute criteria. In other states of consciousness, even Unity, this cannot said to be so, but in Brahman it is absolute.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jim
      Interesting point. I view the stages and completion as parallel and intertwined processes. In an ideal world they’re synced but they are not always.
      The winding down of karma and the fulfillment of desires can happen with Brahman, may even happen somewhat prior, but quite commonly happens somewhat later. At least based on the examples I’ve seen.
      It would be fair to argue that it’s not complete if it isn’t embodied on all levels. Brahman is said to clear 7 generations forward and back too. But that can take time. Depends on the load people come in with, timing of lie cycles, and so on.

  2. Herwig

    Hi David

    Thank you for this profound and detailed elaboration. I will certainly have to read it again.

    One thing that spontaneously came to my mind in connection with the antagonism of spiritual and materialistic world views was the epistemology of Erwin Schrödinger.

    Generally I am a man of letters rather than science, and mythology finds a faster way to my heart than physics (thanks for mentioning the 1000 names of Lalita, by the way!).

    But Schrödinger’s (the guy with the famous cat) philosophical texts are quite worth reading – not only for scientists.
    As probably everyone knows, he developed the mathematics of quantum physics, but fewer may know that he was also well-versed in western and eastern philosophy. Far ahead of his time – even from today’s point of view.

    For those interested: MIND and MATTER
    Surprisingly easy to read, also for lay persons, without sacrificing profundity or scientific reliability.
    Schrödinger was Austrian. One should keep in mind, that the word “mind” in the title is a translation of German “Geist”. Geist can mean mind as well as spirit, and usually he refers to consciousness in general rather than only to the organ of thinking when he speaks of “mind”.

    “….. the turning-up of nerve cells and brains within certain strains of organisms is a very special event …
    “Are we prepared to believe that this very special turn in the development of the higher animals, a turn that might after all have failed to appear, was a necessary condition for the world to flash up to itself in the light of consciousness? Would it otherwise have remained a play before empty benches, not existing for anybody, thus quite properly speaking not existing? This would seem to me the bankruptcy of a world picture.“

    Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter

    1. Hi Herwig
      Yes, some the the well-known physicists of the last century were quite deep thinkers and observers of life. Some were driven by profound experiences. And yes, so often some meaning is lost in translation.
      That’s part of why I use some Sanskrit terms.

      1. Guru

        This is not understandable for mind. I am yet to see any other blog which goes beyond enlightenment and consciousness. I hope my life time is sufficient to digest this map with my uniqueness. we are blessed to have access to you in our spiritual journey. I feel you are carrying fruits of previous lives. Thanks for your insights.

        1. Right, Guru. This is not for the mind alone. This is mainly for those in the territory and to give some perspective to others.
          Some don’t talk about it because their audience is not yet ready. Some use different language or emphasis, and some are simply unfamiliar yet.
          Yes, fruits, but also gifts the Divine has given.

  3. Jim

    Hi David, Yes Brahman is the fulfillment of all states of consciousness. There is nothing beyond it in terms of human experience, as Brahman is the fulfillment of human life. Granted we may start with spotty experience of this, but that is not Brahman yet.
    The key to Brahman is a mature experience of Divinity. Rather than that common experience even for enlightened people, of the Divine peeking into our life here and there, it is the dominant reality. This gets enlivened along a spectrum, but it is a mistake to think this is some sort of post-brahman experience. For human beings there is no post-Brahman experience. Brahman introduces itself and grows to maturity. Incorporated into this maturity is the fulfillment of human life. Yes it takes a few years to grow up, but what else is new?
    Thank you!

  4. Lewis Oakwood

    Hi David,

    I like this—

    ‘Concurrently, there is life throughout the other layers of being, on what we experience as our emotions, mind, intellect, and bliss body.’


    Itself expressed to itself as if an objective world of presence.

  5. Lew Rudner

    Speaking of Brahman, I would like to hear your commentary on the final passage of the Vedanta Sutras: The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, Commentary by Sankara (SBE38), tr. by George Thibaut [1896] at

    22. (Of them) there is non-return, according to scripture; non-return, according to scripture.

    Those who, in following the road of the gods, to which the vein and the ray are leading, and on which light is the first stage, reach the world of Brahman as described by scripture–where ‘there are the two lakes Ara and Nya in the world of Brahman, in the third heaven from hence,’ and where ‘there is the lake Airammadîya and the Asvattha tree showering down Soma. and the city of Brahman Aparâgitâ and the golden hall built by Prabhu’ (Kh. Up. VIII, 5, 3)–and set forth at length in mantras,

    p. 419

    arthavâdas, and so on; those, we say, who reach that world do not return from there after having finished the enjoyment of their deeds; as those do who have gone to the world of the moon and other places.—Why so?–Because scriptural passages teach that they do not so return. Compare ‘Moving upwards by it he reaches the immortal’ (Kh. Up. VIII, 6, 6); ‘For them there is no return’ (Bri. Up. VI, 2, 15); ‘Those who proceed on that path do not return to the life of man’ (Kh. Up. IV, 15, 6); ‘He reaches the world of Brahman and does not return’ (Kh. Up. VIII, 15, 1). That the finality of their lordly power does not imply their return to the life of man, we have shown under IV, 3, 10. It is a settled matter that those who through perfect knowledge have dispelled all mental darkness and are devoted to the eternally perfect Nirvâna do not return. And as those also who rely on the knowledge of the qualified Brahman in the end have recourse to that (Nirvâna), it follows that they also do not return.–The repetition of the words, ‘Non-return, according to scripture,’ indicates the conclusion of this body of doctrine.

    418:1 All the commentators explain the reading ‘mîyante.’–Ân. Gi. says–tam brahmalokagatam upâsakam hiranyagarbhah svasamîpam upâgatam sânunayam âha mayâ khalv âpa evâmritamayyo mîyante drisyante bhugyante tavâpy asâv amriarûpodakalakshano loko bhogyo yathâsukham bhugyatâm.

    Also… Did you ever read anything written by Itzhak Bentov… especially the “Cosmic Book”? What did you think? Thanks LR

    1. Hi Lew
      OK – I’ve yet to find a remotely decent translation of the Brahma/ Vedanta Sutra. Sivananda’s translation is clearer but…
      It may be best to call it a sequence of realizations and recognitions in developing Unity through Brahman stages. It refers to the growing unification as the aggregate.
      Shankara wrote one of the best known commentaries, which is intellectual arguments for the statements in the text. He was trying to establish the Brahma Sutra as superior to some of the other philosophies of the day.
      However, the sutras themselves are usually translated as arguments themselves. This in itself is a distortion. The resolute intellect is in play in Unity, but it’s not the mind driving the bus. It’s consciousness recognizing itself and uniting more and more.
      Ideally, someone in Unity could read the text and recognize things they’d not yet. But current translations don’t support that.
      The text does not seem to cover ParaBrahman, just the process into Brahman. That is still the “end of the Veda” but not the full picture. Shankara came to recognize this in the later part of his teaching.
      The verse itself refers to the end of vasanas and samskaras that draw a soul on into further incarnations. It seems to repeat itself in reference to Shruti and to Smriti.
      However, it’s useful to note this, like the Yoga Sutra, was written in a higher age. It takes longer in the current time for some of the “side effects” to unfold as there is more of a load to clear. It is entirely possible for someone Self Realized to clear much of the deck in this life and not require rebirth. Unity and Brahman stage go deeper and have the potential to speed the process up. But many things can get in the way of the process – there has to be a willingness to clear old patterns, for example.
      The current time has been highlighting the shadows for many people, including those awake. I’ve been surprised by some of the behaviour that’s shown up in those I know.
      I would not describe this as a good translation of the commentary. Our spiritual process is not to follow the road of the gods but to go further. (they have a different path) The world of Brahma and hiranyagarbha are not remotely Brahman. Those lokas reside on the level of the bliss body. Nice place but the advice is to go beyond the 3 gunas, beyond the play of consciousness. (the quote at the bottom of the blog is a reference to that)
      On Bentov, I read the Comic book back in the 70’s. Saw an old copy more recently and didn’t find much that agreed with the experience.

  6. Jim

    Hi Lew, If I may, David, some pertinent thoughts came to mind:
    Speaking of not returning, how often do you return to the child’s playground of your youth? It is the same thing. For the most part why bother?
    Also to live Brahman means that there are far fewer boundaries in this life than are apparent to most of us. Along with the absence of attachment living Brahman, you may consider a person living Brahman more dead than alive. Of course the notion of death is silly, though the perspective of one living Brahman is without any boundaries of perception, or attachment, as if the body has already been dropped.
    So once Brahman is lived, there is nothing to “return” to.
    The progression of life continues in this body as a necessary devotion for this vehicle that was selflessly given to us by Mother Divine. In a way it is no longer ours, or more accurately, the Divine use of the body becomes more important than anything we can dream up for it.
    Hope this helps!

    1. (laughs) Speak for yourself, Jim. Fewer boundaries also means more alive, more distinct. I’ve noticed that many post-Brahman lose former constraints and become more distinct (apparent) individuals.
      But yeah, in terms of karma, I get your point. The wheel has stopped turning and we’ve gotten out of the bus. In some ways, it just has to wind itself down.
      But in other ways, we become a vehicle the Divine can express with more directly, as above.
      The paradox of Brahman – both and…

      1. Jim

        ha ha Yes, I thought that would get your attention! More me trying to make a clever though accurate point about nothing to return to… Another way to say we are already here always in every way, shape, and form.
        I completely agree with your point about being more and more distinct – more individual facets to express. I am having a blast and enjoy radiating it! 🙂
        Thank you!

      2. Lew Rudner

        If you could, let me know your perceptions on the Gods and their role in helping those to develop higher consciousness. Anandamayi Ma and others place a high importance on repeating the names of God to gain enlightenment… This is Dewali…a good time to discuss the Bhakti or devotional path and how this worship cultivates higher awareness… Worship of the aspects of Divine Mother, Ganesh, Ram, Krishna, Shiva etc. It also seems to me that considering the theory of relativity..that they and their stories…and the vibrations of their names exist at all times…despite whatever Yuga may be present…that the names of Ram Saraswati Vishnu etc. are ever present paths to God Awareness…. Are they forms of Brahman and Parabrahman …It is also said that in this age the names of God is the most direct path both through meditation, chanting….

        1. Hi Lew
          A big topic.
          For one, the yogas or paths. Each of us have natural inclinations but tend to be something of a blend. And even if we’re strongly intellectual, for example, we may have devotional periods such as during heart openings.

          The next thing to understand is that everything that happens is being done. It has an actor. We can call these laws of nature.
          From an impersonal science perspective, these laws of nature can be studied. From a personal, heart perspective, those same laws are personified and can be interacted with. 2 modes of knowing.

          What have been called gods are essentially fundamental principles, like power, love, etc. Shiva, for example, is an embodiment of the observer or witness aspect of consciousness. The feminine gods are embodiments of Divine Shaktis.
          As we progress on the path. refined perception unfolds and some of this can become known, depending on our culture and inclinations.
          As fundamental laws, they can help set the stage but it’s Divinity itself that drives enlightenment. For a devotional practice, we may choose a form we most relate to as way to express, what is called the ishta devata. But I’d be careful about using prescriptions or mind to determine that. Let the heart guide the heart.
          Bhakti can be valuable if it cultures opening, etc. If someone is just doing ritual for a certain gain, it’s superficial. That’s partly why Buddha rejected the Vedic teachings of the time.
          Stories or parables exist in every culture as ways to teach right action and to draw us home.
          Yes, as fundamental principles, they are universal. The Divine beings of the west and the gods of the east exist together in wholeness. But how you come to know them will vary some from the standard iconography.

          The mantra uses knowledge of the qualities cultured by different sounds. Those qualities are associated with different gods. A devotional practice leans on those associations. A transcending meditation practice ignores those associations to go beyond the field of qualities into source.
          To my experience, the second is the most direct path as you’re going to source. However, it’s also valuable to culture the heart. I’d consider that a secondary practice, depending on ones natural yoga.
          Much more could be said on any of these topics and there are probably several articles on each.

    1. Hi Michael

      Aside from this summation, nothing much to report. Filling in some gaps. I can add that the decent of Divinity and enlightening some devas kicked up a lot of dust, locally and cosmically. Then we moved into the sabbatical period.
      The Nadi reading said big openings mid-2020 or so. We’ll see. 🙂

  7. KjKjetil Wedervang Mathiesen

    Hello David

    This is a fantastic post, thank you. One of the very best of your posts, in my opinion, and there are so many fantastic posts on your blog. And I also enjoy Jims comments, and your response to his comments (in many posts). Very good to have these maps when one ventures out in the terrain. Thanks again.

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