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Svarupa Lakshana In Advaita Vedanta Philosophy

Svarupa Lakshana is a term used in Advaita Vedanta philosophy to define Brahman, the Absolute Reality. Though Brahman is not an object of knowledge, the mind can approach it through two kinds of indications, viz., the svarupalakshana (essential feature) and tatastha lakshana (accidental qualification).

The svarupa lakshana of a thing indicates its real nature and is present in that thing so long as it lasts and distinguishes it from the rest (Vedanta Paribhasha). The Vedantic texts define the essential nature of Absolute Real as being (sat), intelligence (chit) and infinite (ananta) (satyam jnanam anantam brahma – Taittiriya Upanishad II, I, 1).

These three constitute the essential nature of Brahman. They seek to convey indirectly that the Brahman is other than unreal, insentient and limited or finite. Brahman is advaita (monistic). It implies that the reality which is one, non-dual, is free from difference in toto. Brahman is beyond all relations ways of knowledge. Shankara says that Brahman can only be expressed negatively in terms of what it is not (neti neti). Every attribute falls short to express the reality of Brahman, therefore it cannot be described precisely in positive terms.

Shruti text say, “Brahman is that from which these beings are born, that by which they live and that into which they finally enter” (Taittiriya Upanishad III. 1.1), defining Brahman in terms of accidental attributes (tatastha lakshana) of Brahma. It is easy for the beginner to understand Brahman from a relative standpoint, in terms of accidental qualities super-imposed on it. Subsequently, at a higher level of knowledge, it is denied and the essential nature is brought out.