Brahman A term used in Hinduism for ultimate reality, as well as for the priestly caste. Brahman is a neuter term (the masculine form is Brahma, which is also the name of the Hindu god but is distinct from the term Brahma). It refers to the sacred powers implicit in and created through sacrificial ritual by the priests who are called Brahmans. A Brahman is believed to be a god. In the sacred book Satapatha Brahmana a Brahman is defined thus: “There are two kinds of gods; first the gods, then those who are Brahmans, and have learnt the Veda and repeat it: they are human gods.” Of course, this sentence was written by a Brahman and was used to reinforce his authority and position in Indian society. Some Hindu texts equate the terms Brahman and Atman, both being used for “ultimate reality” or “world spirit.” The term Brahmin in English and American literature has come to mean a socially exclusive person who considers himself better than those not of his own class. It was applied to many rich families in New England during the 19th century, and the term Boston Brahmin is still occasionally heard.
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante