‘Brahman is all of which the Upaniṣads speak’ begins the celebrated Kena Upanishad.
Brahman is from the root ‘Brh‘: ‘To Uphold, Support’. Brahman is: ‘That which upholds’. It was originally a Mantric expression for Yagnic formalities before it took on conventional lingual meaning.
The earliest Mahāvākyam, a summary affirmation of primal Vedic Truth, is from the Chandogya Upaniṣad (3.14.1, among others; around 1,000 BCE):
Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma: ‘All [this] is Brahman‘.
What is Brahman? I don’t know. In fact I can never know what Brahman is. And why not? Because I am part of this ‘All’, whatever this ‘All’ is. Else it wouldn’t be the ‘All’.
The word Brahman is ensconced in layers of self-reference. It will twirl you around like a top if you don’t stay alert to the Self-Loop.
It is only when the construct of Shūnyam as a Self-Negating Expression is fully understood and its implications acknowledged that the original meaning of Brahman lights-up. In this sense, Brahman is the ancestor of Shūnyam.
This has not dampened the enthusiasm of commentators on exactly what they think Brahman is. The only requirement was that the definition of Brahman be adequately mysterious and opaque.
Brahman had become conceptualized and deified. All versions were variants of the short-list you can find across every serious religious tradition [‘Being’; Pure; Perfect; Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Onmiscient..et al]
Brahman is an ancient, venerable word, rightly so. But I shall not inflame the pious. Instead I shall replace it with something close, the more mundane: ‘Everything’.
So how do I go about locating ‘Everything’? There is a problem. A big problem. And what is the problem?
I can’t locate ‘Everything’ while sitting on my rocker because ‘Everything’ includes me sitting on my rocker. And it includes me thinking about locating ‘Everything’ while sitting on my rocker. And…ad infinitum.
If I want to get to ‘Everything’ I need to create a perch from which I can get a good look at it. I need, in other words, to get to ‘True Nothing’.
Here’s a clip I once wrote about the origins of Self-Reference in Classical Logic:
‘In looking for ‘Nothing’, you must remember to exclude any sensory, cognitive or affective representation of it as Object. Especially and including the word ‘Nothing’. ‘Nothing’ is radically exclusive.
In looking for ‘Everything’, you must remember to include the Looking-Subject. Especially and including the word ‘Everything’. ‘Everything’ is radically inclusive.
The Symbol ‘0’, the original Self-Negating Expression, is a synthetic construct that was put together with the very specific objective of helping the investigator get to the bottom of all this.
In particular, this ‘I’.