Atman (Hinduism)

Atman (Hinduism)

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Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means 'self'. In Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

, especially in the Vedanta
Vedanta
Vedānta was originally a word used in Hindu philosophy as a synonym for that part of the Veda texts known also as the Upanishads. The name is a morphophonological form of Veda-anta = "Veda-end" = "the appendix to the Vedic hymns." It is also speculated that "Vedānta" means "the purpose or goal...

 school of Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 it refers to one's true self beyond identification with phenomena. In order to attain salvation (liberation
Moksha
Within Indian religions, moksha or mukti , literally "release" , is the liberation from samsara and the concomitant suffering involved in being subject to the cycle of repeated death and reincarnation or rebirth.-Origins:It is highly probable that the concept of moksha was first developed in...

) a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana
Jnana
Jñāna or gñāna is a Sanskrit and Pali word that means knowledge. It has various nuances of meaning depending on the context. The idea of jnana centers around a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced...

) which is to say realise experientially that one's true self is identical with the transcendent self (paramatman
Paramatman
In Hindu theology, Paramatman or Paramātmā is the Absolute Atman or Supreme Soul or Spirit in the Vedanta and Yoga philosophies of India....

) that is called Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

.

Etymology


The root *ēt-men (breath) is cognate with Old English "æþm", Greek "asthma", German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 "Atem": "atmen" (to breathe).The Spanish word "alma" (soul) is not related to "ātman". It is derived from Latin "anima" (breath,soul), which is cognate to Sanskrit "ánilaḥ" (wind). Although "ánilaḥ" and "ātman" have similar meaning, they are not etymologically related.

Vedanta


Philosophical schools such as Advaita (non-dualism) see the "spirit" within each living entity as being fully identical with Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 – the Principle, whereas other schools such as Dvaita
Dvaita
Dvaita is a school of Vedanta founded by Shri Madhvacharya....

 (dualism) differentiate between the individual atma in living beings, and the Supreme atma (Paramatma) as being at least partially separate beings. Thus atman refers to the individual spirit or the observer being.

Within Advaita Vedanta philosophy the Atman is the universal life-principle, the animator of all organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s. This view is of a sort of panentheism
Panentheism
Panentheism is a belief system which posits that God exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it...

 (not pantheism
Pantheism
Pantheism is the view that the Universe and God are identical. Pantheists thus do not believe in a personal, anthropomorphic or creator god. The word derives from the Greek meaning "all" and the Greek meaning "God". As such, Pantheism denotes the idea that "God" is best seen as a process of...

) and thus is sometimes not equated with the single creator God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 of monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

. Identification of individual living beings/souls, or jiva-atmas, with the 'One Atman' is the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta
Advaita Vedanta is considered to be the most influential and most dominant sub-school of the Vedānta school of Hindu philosophy. Other major sub-schools of Vedānta are Dvaita and ; while the minor ones include Suddhadvaita, Dvaitadvaita and Achintya Bhedabheda...

 position, which is critiqued by dualistic/theistic Dvaita Vedanta. Dvaita Vedanta calls the all-pervading aspect of Brahman Paramatman
Paramatman
In Hindu theology, Paramatman or Paramātmā is the Absolute Atman or Supreme Soul or Spirit in the Vedanta and Yoga philosophies of India....

different from individual Atman and claims reality for both a God functioning as the ultimate metaphorical "spirit" of the universe, and for actual individual "spirits" as such. The Dvaita, dualist schools, therefore, in contrast to Advaita, advocate an exclusive monotheistic position wherein Brahman
Brahman
In Hinduism, Brahman is the one supreme, universal Spirit that is the origin and support of the phenomenal universe. Brahman is sometimes referred to as the Absolute or Godhead which is the Divine Ground of all being...

 is made synonymous with Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

. Aspects of both philosophies are found within the schools of Vishishtadvaita Vedanta and Achintya Bheda Abheda
Achintya Bheda Abheda
Achintya-Bheda-Abheda is a school of Vedanta representing the philosophy of inconceivable one-ness and difference, in relation to the power creation and creator, , svayam bhagavan. and also between God and his energies within the Gaudiya Vaishnava religious tradition...

.

In some instances both Advaita and Dvaita schools may accommodate the others's belief as a lower form of worship or practice towards the same ultimate goal.

Yoga


In the view of the Yoga
Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline, originating in ancient India. The goal of yoga, or of the person practicing yoga, is the attainment of a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility while meditating on Supersoul...

 school, the highest attainment does not reveal the experienced diversity of the world to be illusion
Maya (illusion)
Maya , in Indian religions, has multiple meanings, usually quoted as "illusion", centered on the fact that we do not experience the environment itself but rather a projection of it, created by us. Maya is the principal deity that manifests, perpetuates and governs the illusion and dream of duality...

. The everyday world is real. Furthermore, the highest attainment is the event of one of many individual selves discovering itself; there is no single universal self shared by all persons.

Development


The pre-Buddhist Upanishads link the Self to the feeling "I am." Among the religious thinkers of the time, and in common usage, the concept "self" entails the notion of "I am". However, following the Buddha, later Upanishads like the Maitri Upanishad write instead that only the defiled individual self, rather than the universal self, thinks "this is I" or "this is mine", and the even later Mandukya Upanishad
Mandukya Upanishad
The Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of the Upanishads – the scriptures of Hindu Vedanta. It is in prose, consisting of twelve verses expounding the mystic syllable Aum, the three psychological states of waking, dreaming and sleeping, and the transcendent fourth state of illumination.This...

, which was written with heavy Buddhist influence, defines the highest state to be absolute emptiness.

Miscellaneous


Adherents to Jainism
Jainism
Jainism is an Indian religion that prescribes a path of non-violence towards all living beings. Its philosophy and practice emphasize the necessity of self-effort to move the soul towards divine consciousness and liberation. Any soul that has conquered its own inner enemies and achieved the state...

 and Brahma Kumaris religion also use the phrase the atman to refer to 'the self'. Often atman is mistaken as being interchangeable with the word jiva
Jiva
In Hinduism and Jainism, a jiva is a living being, or more specifically, the immortal essence of a living organism which survives physical death. It has a very similar usage to atma, but whereas atma refers to "the cosmic self", jiva is used to denote an individual 'living entity' or 'living...

 with the difference being somewhat subtle. Whereas atman refers to the self, jiva refers to the living being, the exact comprehension of which varies throughout the philosophical schools.

See also

  • Atman (Buddhism)
    Atman (Buddhism)
    The word Ātman or Atta refers to a self. Occasionally the terms "soul" or "ego" are also used. The words ātman and atta derive from the Indo-European root *ēt-men and are cognate with the Old English æthm and German Atem....

  • Bhagavan
    Bhagavan
    Bhagavan, also written Bhagwan or Bhagawan, from the Sanskrit nt-stem literally means "possessing fortune, blessed, prosperous" , and hence "illustrious, divine, venerable, holy", etc.In some traditions of Hinduism it is used to...

  • Heart
    Heart
    The heart is a myogenic muscular organ found in all animals with a circulatory system , that is responsible for pumping blood throughout the blood vessels by repeated, rhythmic contractions...

  • Karma
    Karma in Hinduism
    Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a soul's reincarnated lives forming a cycle of rebirth...

  • Jnana
    Jnana
    Jñāna or gñāna is a Sanskrit and Pali word that means knowledge. It has various nuances of meaning depending on the context. The idea of jnana centers around a cognitive event which is recognized when experienced...

  • Tree of Jiva and Atman
    Tree of Jiva and Atman
    The Tree of Jiva and Atman appears in the Vedic scriptures, predating current Hinduism, as a metaphysical metaphor concerning the soul.The Rig Veda samhita 1.164.20-22, Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1-2, and Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.6-7, speak of two birds, one perched on the branch of the tree, which...