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date: 18 April 2021


A Dictionary of Hinduism

W. J. Johnson

brahman (masculine: brahmán) 

1 The name of one of the four main types of priest at the Vedic śrauta sacrifice. In the Ṛg Veda the brahman priest recited the mantras to Indra in the soma sacrifice. Subsequently, it became the brahman's job to oversee the rites in silence. He knows everything about the ritual and its complex interconnections, but does nothing unless called upon to heal some breach in the process through prescribed prāyaścittas or ‘reparations’ (he is the ‘physician of the sacrifice’). The adhvaryu priest, however, has to ask his permission to perform most actions, and he responds with muttered mantras and an affirmation. In so far as he understands the three-quarters of speech (i.e. the Veda) that is not articulated, the brahman is regarded as the ‘mind’ (manas) of the sacrifice. That is to say, he understands brahman (neut.), a power not expressed through speech, but, rather, that through which speech expresses itself. Although he is supposed to know the Triple Veda, at a later period the brahman had the Artharva Veda nominally ascribed to him.

2 See brāhmaṇa (masc.).