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An adjectival compound, indicating the transcendence of all qualities (guṇa), properties, or predicates by the absolute (brahman (neut.)), or by God, conceived as the absolute. Śaṅkara distinguishes between the incomplete and limited apprehension (vyavahāra) of brahman as a personal deity and object of devotion (saguṇa brahman—brahman with qualities), and the higher knowledge (paramārtha-satya), which apprehends—i.e. experiences—the non-dual reality of nirguṇa brahman. Somewhat paradoxically from a Śaṅkaran, Advaitin perspective, some North Indian bhakti movements, which worship Viṣṇu as a deity beyond attributes, have been characterized as nirguṇa bhakti traditions, in an attempt to distinguish them (or themselves) from those saguṇa traditions which worship him as an embodied or anthropomorphic deity (e.g. as the Kṛṣṇa of Vṛndāvana). Some commentators therefore distinguish between nirguṇī and saguṇī bhakti poets and sants.

Subjects: Hinduism.

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