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Ātman (Hinduism)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ātman (/ˈɑːtmən/; Sanskrit: आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit word for the true or eternal Self or the self-existent essence or impersonal witness-consciousness within each individual. Atman is conceptually different from Jīvātman, which persists across multiple bodies and lifetimes. Some schools of Indian philosophy regard the Ātman as distinct from the material or mortal ego (Ahamkara), the emotional aspect of the mind (Citta), and existence in an embodied form (Prakṛti).[note 1] The term is often translated as soul,[note 2] but is better translated as "Self",[1] as it solely refers to pure consciousness or witness-consciousness, beyond identification with phenomena. In order to attain moksha (liberation), a human being must acquire self-knowledge (Atma Gyaan or Brahmajnana).

Ātman is a central concept in the various schools of Indian philosophy, which have different views on the relation between Atman, individual Self (Jīvātman), supreme Self (Paramātmā) and, the Ultimate Reality (Brahman), stating that they are: completely identical (Advaita, Non-Dualist),[2][3] completely different (Dvaita, Dualist), or simultaneously non-different and different (Bhedabheda, Non-Dualist + Dualist).[4]

The six orthodox schools of Hinduism believe that there is Ātman in every living being (jiva), which is distinct from the body-mind complex. This is a major point of difference with the Buddhist doctrine of Anatta, which holds that in essence there is no unchanging essence or Self to be found in the empirical constituents of a living being,[note 3] staying silent on what it is that is liberated.[5][6][7][8]

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Etymology and meaning


Ātman (Atma, आत्मा, आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit word that refers to "essence, breath."[web 1][web 2][9] It is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word *h₁eh₁tmṓ (a root meaning "breath" similar to Ancient Greek ἀτμός along with Germanic cognates: Dutch adem, Afrikaans asem, Old High German atum "breath," Modern German atmen "to breathe" and Atem "respiration, breath", Modern English ethem, and Old English ǽþm and eþian).[web 2]

Ātman, sometimes spelled without a diacritic as atman in scholarly literature,[10] means "real Self" of the individual,[note 1] "innermost essence."[11] While often translated as "soul", it is better translated as "self."[1][note 2]


In Hinduism, Atman refers to the self-existent essence of human beings, the observing pure consciousness or witness-consciousness as exemplified by the Purusha of Samkhya. It is distinct from the ever-evolving embodied individual being (jivanatman) embedded in material reality, exemplified by the prakriti of Samkhya, and characterized by Ahamkara (ego, non-spiritual psychological I-ness Me-ness), mind (citta, manas), and all the defiling kleshas (habits, prejudices, desires, impulses, delusions, fads, behaviors, pleasures, sufferings and fears). Embodied personality and Ahamkara shift, evolve or change with time, while Atman doesn't.[12] It is "pure, undifferentiated, self-shining consciousness."[13]

As such, it is different from non-Hindu notions of soul, which includes consciousness but also the mental abilities of a living being, such as reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception and thinking. In Hinduism, these are all included in embodied reality, the counterpart of Atman.

Atman, in Hinduism, is considered as eternal, imperishable, beyond time, "not the same as body or mind or consciousness, but... something beyond which permeates all these".[14][15][16] Atman is the unchanging, eternal, innermost radiant Self that is unaffected by personality, unaffected by ego; Atman is that which is ever-free, never-bound, the realized purpose, meaning, liberation in life.[17][18] As Puchalski states, "the ultimate goal of Hindu religious life is to transcend individuality, to realize one's own true nature", the inner essence of oneself, which is divine and pure.[19]

Development of the concept


The earliest use of the word Ātman in Indian texts is found in the Rig Veda (RV X.97.11).[20] Yāska, the ancient Indian grammarian, commenting on this Rigvedic verse, accepts the following meanings of Ātman: the pervading principle, the organism in which other elements are united and the ultimate sentient principle.[21]

Other hymns of Rig Veda where the word Ātman appears include I.115.1, VII.87.2, VII.101.6, VIII.3.24, IX.2.10, IX.6.8, and X.168.4.[22]


Ātman is a central topic in all of the Upanishads, and "know your Ātman" is one of their thematic foci.[23] The Upanishads say that Atman denotes "the ultimate essence of the universe" as well as "the vital breath in human beings", which is "imperishable Divine within" that is neither born nor does it die.[24] Cosmology and psychology are indistinguishable, and these texts state that the core of every person's Self is not the body, nor the mind, nor the ego, but Ātman. The Upanishads express two distinct, somewhat divergent themes on the relation between Atman and Brahman. Some teach that Brahman (highest reality; universal principle; being-consciousness-bliss) is identical with Ātman, while others teach that Ātman is part of Brahman but not identical to it.[25][26] This ancient debate flowered into various dual and non-dual theories in Hinduism. The Brahmasutra by Badarayana (~100 BCE) synthesized and unified these somewhat conflicting theories, stating that Atman and Brahman are different in some respects, particularly during the state of ignorance, but at the deepest level and in the state of self-realization, Atman and Brahman are identical, non-different (advaita).[25] According to Koller, this synthesis countered the dualistic tradition of Samkhya-Yoga schools and realism-driven traditions of Nyaya-Vaiseshika schools, enabling it to become the foundation of Vedanta as Hinduism's most influential spiritual tradition.[25]

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad

The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (800-600 BCE[27]) describes Atman as that in which everything exists, which is of the highest value, which permeates everything, which is the essence of all, bliss and beyond description.[28] In hymn 4.4.5, Brihadaranyaka Upanishad describes Atman as Brahman, and associates it with everything one is, everything one can be, one's free will, one's desire, what one does, what one doesn't do, the good in oneself, the bad in oneself.

That Atman (self, soul) is indeed Brahman. It [Ātman] is also identified with the intellect, the Manas (mind), and the vital breath, with the eyes and ears, with earth, water, air, and ākāśa (sky), with fire and with what is other than fire, with desire and the absence of desire, with anger and the absence of anger, with righteousness and unrighteousness, with everything — it is identified, as is well known, with this (what is perceived) and with that (what is inferred). As it [Ātman] does and acts, so it becomes: by doing good it becomes good, and by doing evil it becomes evil. It becomes virtuous through good acts, and vicious through evil acts. Others, however, say, "The self is identified with desire alone. What it desires, so it resolves; what it resolves, so is its deed; and what deed it does, so it reaps.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5, 9th century BCE[29]

This theme of Ātman, that the essence and Self of every person and being is the same as Brahman, is extensively repeated in Brihadāranyaka Upanishad. The Upanishad asserts that this knowledge of "I am Brahman", and that there is no difference between "I" and "you", or "I" and "him" is a source of liberation, and not even gods can prevail over such a liberated man. For example, in hymn 1.4.10,[30]

Brahman was this before; therefore it knew even the Ātma (soul, himself). I am Brahman, therefore it became all. And whoever among the gods had this enlightenment, also became That. It is the same with the sages, the same with men. Whoever knows the self as "I am Brahman," becomes all this universe. Even the gods cannot prevail against him, for he becomes their Ātma. Now, if a man worships another god, thinking: "He is one and I am another," he does not know. He is like an animal to the gods. As many animals serve a man, so does each man serve the gods. Even if one animal is taken away, it causes anguish; how much more so when many are taken away? Therefore it is not pleasing to the gods that men should know this.

— Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10[30]

Chandogya Upanishad

The Chandogya Upanishad (7th-6th c. BCE) explains Ātman as that which appears to be separate between two living beings but isn't, that essence and innermost, true, radiant self of all individuals which connects and unifies all. Hymn 6.10 explains it with the example of rivers, some of which flow to the east and some to the west, but ultimately all merge into the ocean and become one. In the same way, the individual souls are pure being, states the Chandogya Upanishad; an individual soul is pure truth, and an individual soul is a manifestation of the ocean of one universal soul.[31]

Katha Upanishad

Along with the Brihadāranyaka, all the earliest and middle Upanishads discuss Ātman as they build their theories to answer how man can achieve liberation, freedom and bliss. The Katha Upanishad (5th to 1st century BCE) explains Atman as the imminent and transcendent innermost essence of each human being and living creature, that this is one, even though the external forms of living creatures manifest in different forms. Hymn 2.2.9 states:

As the one fire, after it has entered the world, though one, takes different forms according to whatever it burns, so does the internal Ātman of all living beings, though one, takes a form according to whatever He enters and is outside all forms.

— Katha Upanishad, 2.2.9[32]

Katha Upanishad, in Book 1, hymns 3.3-3.4, describes the widely cited proto-Samkhya analogy of chariot for the relation of "Soul, Self" to body, mind and senses.[33] Stephen Kaplan[34] translates these hymns as, "Know the Self as the rider in a chariot, and the body as simply the chariot. Know the intellect as the charioteer, and the mind as the reins. The senses, they say are the horses, and sense objects are the paths around them". The Katha Upanishad then declares that "when the Self [Ātman] understands this and is unified, integrated with body, senses and mind, is virtuous, mindful and pure, he reaches bliss, freedom and liberation".[33]

Bhagavad Gita

In Bhagavad Gita verses 10-30 of the second chapter, Krishna urges Arjuna to understand the indestructible nature of the atman, emphasizing that it transcends the finite body it inhabits. The atman neither kills nor can be killed, as it is eternal and unaffected by birth or death.[35] The analogy of changing clothes is used to illustrate how the soul discards old bodies for new ones. Krishna emphasizes the eternal existence of the soul by explaining that even as it undergoes various life stages and changes bodies it remains unaffected. It is imperceptible, inconceivable, and unchanging.[35]

Indian philosophy

Orthodox schools

Atman is a metaphysical and spiritual concept for Hindus, often discussed in their scriptures with the concept of Brahman.[36][37][38] All major orthodox schools of Hinduism – Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta – accept the foundational premise of the Vedas and Upanishads that "Ātman exists." In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta school of Hinduism, Ātman is the first principle.[39] Jainism too accepts this premise, although it has its own idea of what that means. In contrast, both Buddhism and the Charvakas deny that there is anything called "Ātman/soul/self".[12]



In Samkhya, the oldest school of Hinduism, Puruṣa, the witness-consciousness, is Atman. It is absolute, independent, free, imperceptible, unknowable through other agencies, above any experience by mind or senses and beyond any words or explanations. It remains pure, "nonattributive consciousness". Puruṣa is neither produced nor does it produce.[40] No appellations can qualify purusha, nor can it substantialized or objectified.[41] It "cannot be reduced, can't be 'settled'." Any designation of purusha comes from prakriti, and is a limitation.[42] Unlike Advaita Vedanta, and like Purva-Mīmāṃsā, Samkhya believes in plurality of the puruṣas.[40][12]

Samkhya considers ego (asmita, ahamkara) to be the cause of pleasure and pain.[43] Self-knowledge is the means to attain kaivalya, the separation of Atman from the body-mind complex.[12]

Yoga philosophy

The Yogasutra of Patanjali, the foundational text of Yoga school of Hinduism, mentions Atma in multiple verses, and particularly in its last book, where Samadhi is described as the path to self-knowledge and kaivalya. Some earlier mentions of Atman in Yogasutra include verse 2.5, where evidence of ignorance includes "confusing what is not Atman as Atman".

अनित्याशुचिदुःखानात्मसु नित्यशुचिसुखात्मख्यातिरविद्या

Avidya (अविद्या, ignorance) is regarding the transient as eternal, the impure as pure, the pain-giving as joy-giving, and the non-Atman as Atman.

— Yogasutra 2.5[44]

In verses 2.19-2.20, Yogasutra declares that pure ideas are the domain of Atman, the perceivable universe exists to enlighten Atman, but while Atman is pure, it may be deceived by complexities of perception or mind. These verses also set the purpose of all experience as a means to self-knowledge.

द्रष्टा दृशिमात्रः शुद्धोऽपि प्रत्ययानुपश्यः
तदर्थ एव दृश्यस्यात्मा

The seer is the absolute knower. Though pure, modifications are witnessed by him by coloring of intellect.
The spectacle exists only to serve the purpose of the Atman.

— Yogasutra 2.19 - 2.20[44]

In Book 4, Yogasutra states spiritual liberation as the stage where the yogin achieves distinguishing self-knowledge, he no longer confuses his mind as Atman, the mind is no longer affected by afflictions or worries of any kind, ignorance vanishes, and "pure consciousness settles in its own pure nature".[44][45]

The Yoga school is similar to the Samkhya school in its conceptual foundations of Ātman. It is the self that is discovered and realized in the Kaivalya state, in both schools. Like Samkhya, this is not a single universal Ātman. It is one of the many individual selves where each "pure consciousness settles in its own pure nature", as a unique distinct soul/self.[46] However, Yoga school's methodology was widely influential on other schools of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta monism, for example, adopted Yoga as a means to reach Jivanmukti – self-realization in this life – as conceptualized in Advaita Vedanta. Yoga and Samkhya define Ātman as an "unrelated, attributeless, self-luminous, omnipresent entity", which is identical with consciousness.[24]


Early atheistic Nyaya scholars, and later theistic Nyaya scholars, both made substantial contributions to the systematic study of Ātman.[47] They posited that even though "self" is intimately related to the knower, it can still be the subject of knowledge. John Plott[47] states that the Nyaya scholars developed a theory of negation that far exceeds Hegel's theory of negation, while their epistemological theories refined to "know the knower" at least equals Aristotle's sophistication. Nyaya methodology influenced all major schools of Hinduism.

The Nyaya scholars defined Ātman as an imperceptible substance that is the substrate of human consciousness, manifesting itself with or without qualities such as desires, feelings, perception, knowledge, understanding, errors, insights, sufferings, bliss, and others.[48][49] Nyaya school not only developed its theory of Atman, it contributed to Hindu philosophy in a number of ways. To the Hindu theory of Ātman, the contributions of Nyaya scholars were twofold. One, they went beyond holding it as "self evident" and offered rational proofs, consistent with their epistemology, in their debates with Buddhists, that "Atman exists".[50] Second, they developed theories on what "Atman is and is not".[51] As proofs for the proposition 'self exists', for example, Nyaya scholars argued that personal recollections and memories of the form "I did this so many years ago" implicitly presume that there is a self that is substantial, continuing, unchanged, and existent.[50][51]

Nyayasutra, a 2nd-century CE foundational text of Nyaya school of Hinduism, states that Atma is a proper object of human knowledge. It also states that Atman is a real substance that can be inferred from certain signs, objectively perceivable attributes. For example, in book 1, chapter 1, verses 9 and 10, Nyayasutra states[48]

Ātman, body, senses, objects of senses, intellect, mind, activity, error, pretyabhava (after life), fruit, suffering and bliss are the objects of right knowledge.
Desire, aversion, effort, happiness, suffering and cognition are the Linga (लिङ्ग, mark, sign) of the Ātman.

— Nyaya Sutra, I.1.9-10[48]

Book 2, chapter 1, verses 1 to 23, of the Nyayasutras posits that the sensory act of looking is different from perception and cognition–that perception and knowledge arise from the seekings and actions of Ātman.[52] The Naiyayikas emphasize that Ātman has qualities, but is different from its qualities. For example, desire is one of many qualities of Ātman, but Ātman does not always have desire, and in the state of liberation, for instance, the Ātman is without desire.[48]


The Vaisheshika school of Hinduism, using its non-theistic theories of atomistic naturalism, posits that Ātman is one of the four eternal non-physical[53] substances without attributes, the other three being kala (time), dik (space) and manas (mind).[54] Time and space, stated Vaiśeṣika scholars, are eka (one), nitya (eternal) and vibhu (all pervading). Time and space are indivisible reality, but human mind prefers to divide them to comprehend past, present, future, relative place of other substances and beings, direction and its own coordinates in the universe. In contrast to these characteristics of time and space, Vaiśeṣika scholars considered Ātman to be many, eternal, independent and spiritual substances that cannot be reduced or inferred from other three non-physical and five physical dravya (substances).[54] Mind and sensory organs are instruments, while consciousness is the domain of "atman, soul, self".[54]

The knowledge of Ātman, to Vaiśeṣika Hindus, is another knowledge without any "bliss" or "consciousness" moksha state that Vedanta and Yoga school describe.[12]


Ātman, in the ritualism-based Mīmāṃsā school of Hinduism, is an eternal, omnipresent, inherently active essence that is identified as I-consciousness.[55][56] Unlike all other schools of Hinduism, Mimamsaka scholars considered ego and Atman as the same. Within Mimamsa school, there was divergence of beliefs. Kumārila, for example, believed that Atman is the object of I-consciousness, whereas Prabhakara believed that Atman is the subject of I-consciousness.[55] Mimamsaka Hindus believed that what matters is virtuous actions and rituals completed with perfection, and it is this that creates merit and imprints knowledge on Atman, whether one is aware or not aware of Atman. Their foremost emphasis was formulation and understanding of laws/duties/virtuous life (dharma) and consequent perfect execution of kriyas (actions). The Upanishadic discussion of Atman, to them, was of secondary importance.[56][57] While other schools disagreed and discarded the Atma theory of Mimamsa, they incorporated Mimamsa theories on ethics, self-discipline, action, and dharma as necessary in one's journey toward knowing one's Atman.[58][59]


Advaita Vedanta

Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism) sees the "spirit/soul/self" within each living entity as being fully identical with Brahman.[60] The Advaita school believes that there is one soul that connects and exists in all living beings, regardless of their shapes or forms, and there is no distinction, no superior, no inferior, no separate devotee soul (Atman), no separate god soul (Brahman).[60] The oneness unifies all beings, there is divine in every being, and that all existence is a single reality, state the Advaita Vedanta Hindus. In contrast, devotional sub-schools of Vedanta such as Dvaita (dualism) differentiate between the individual Atma in living beings, and the supreme Atma (Paramatma) as being separate.[61][62]

Advaita Vedanta philosophy considers Atman as Sat-cit-ānanda, self-existent awareness, limitless and non-dual.[63] To Advaitins, the Atman is the Brahman, the Brahman is the Atman, each self is non-different from the infinite.[60][64] Atman is the universal principle, one eternal undifferentiated self-luminous consciousness, the truth asserts Advaita Hinduism.[65][66] Human beings, in a state of unawareness of this universal self, see their "I-ness" as different from the being in others, then act out of impulse, fears, cravings, malice, division, confusion, anxiety, passions, and a sense of distinctiveness.[67][68] To Advaitins, Atman-knowledge is the state of full awareness, liberation, and freedom that overcomes dualities at all levels, realizing the divine within oneself, the divine in others, and in all living beings; the non-dual oneness, that God is in everything, and everything is God.[60][63] This identification of individual living beings/souls, or jiva-atmas, with the 'one Atman' is the non-dualistic Advaita Vedanta position.

Dvaita Vedanta

The monist, non-dual conception of existence in Advaita Vedanta is not accepted by the dualistic/theistic Dvaita Vedanta. Dvaita Vedanta calls the Atman of a supreme being as Paramatman, and holds it to be different from individual Atman. Dvaita scholars assert that God is the ultimate, complete, perfect, but distinct soul, one that is separate from incomplete, imperfect jivas (individual souls).[69] The Advaita sub-school believes that self-knowledge leads to liberation in this life, while the Dvaita sub-school believes that liberation is only possible in after-life as communion with God, and only through the grace of God (if not, then one's Atman is reborn).[70] God created individual souls, state Dvaita Vedantins, but the individual soul never was and never will become one with God; the best it can do is to experience bliss by getting infinitely close to God.[71] The Dvaita school, therefore, in contrast to the monistic position of Advaita, advocates a version of monotheism wherein Brahman is made synonymous with Vishnu (or Narayana), distinct from numerous individual Atmans.


Applying the disidentification of 'no-self' to the logical end,[5][8][7] Buddhism does not assert an unchanging essence, any "eternal, essential and absolute something called a soul, self or atman,"[note 3] According to Jayatilleke, the Upanishadic inquiry fails to find an empirical correlate of the assumed Atman, but nevertheless assumes its existence,[5] and, states Mackenzie, Advaitins "reify consciousness as an eternal self."[72] In contrast, the Buddhist inquiry "is satisfied with the empirical investigation which shows that no such Atman exists because there is no evidence" states Jayatilleke.[5]

While Nirvana is liberation from the kleshas and the disturbances of the mind-body complex, Buddhism eludes a definition of what it is that is liberated.[6][7][note 3] According to Johannes Bronkhorst, "it is possible that original Buddhism did not deny the existence of soul," but did not want to talk about it, as they could not say that "the soul is essentially not involved in action, as their opponents did."[6] While the skandhas are regarded is impermanent (anatman) and sorrowfull (dukkha), the existence of a permanent, joyful and unchanging self is neither acknowledged nor explicitly denied. Liberation is not attained by knowledge of such a self, but by " turning away from what might erroneously be regarded as the self."[7]

According to Harvey, in Buddhism the negation of temporal existents is applied even more rigorously than in the Upanishads:

While the Upanishads recognized many things as being not-Self, they felt that a real, true Self could be found. They held that when it was found, and known to be identical to Brahman, the basis of everything, this would bring liberation. In the Buddhist Suttas, though, literally everything is seen is non-Self, even Nirvana. When this is known, then liberation – Nirvana – is attained by total non-attachment. Thus both the Upanishads and the Buddhist Suttas see many things as not-Self, but the Suttas apply it, indeed non-Self, to everything.[8]

Nevertheless, Atman-like notions can also be found in Buddhist texts chronologically placed in the 1st millennium of the Common Era, such as the Mahayana tradition's Tathāgatagarbha sūtras suggest self-like concepts, variously called Tathagatagarbha or Buddha nature.[73][74] In the Theravada tradition, the Dhammakaya Movement in Thailand teaches that it is erroneous to subsume nirvana under the rubric of anatta (non-self); instead, nirvana is taught to be the "true self" or dhammakaya.[75] Similar interpretations have been put forth by the then Thai Sangharaja in 1939. According to Williams, the Sangharaja's interpretation echoes the tathāgatagarbha sutras.[76]

The notion of Buddha-nature is controversial, and "eternal self" concepts have been vigorously attacked.[77] These "self-like" concepts are neither self nor sentient being, nor soul, nor personality.[78] Some scholars posit that the Tathagatagarbha Sutras were written to promote Buddhism to non-Buddhists.[79][note 4][80][81] The Dhammakaya Movement teaching that nirvana is atta (atman) has been criticized as heretical in Buddhism by Prayudh Payutto, a well-known scholar monk, who added that 'Buddha taught nibbana as being non-self". This dispute on the nature of teachings about 'self' and 'non-self' in Buddhism has led to arrest warrants, attacks and threats.[82]

Influence of Atman-concept on Hindu ethics

Ahimsa, non-violence, is considered the highest ethical value and virtue in Hinduism.[83] The virtue of Ahimsa follows from the Atman theories of Hindu traditions.[84][85]

The Atman theory in Upanishads had a profound impact on ancient ethical theories and dharma traditions now known as Hinduism.[84] The earliest Dharmasutras of Hindus recite Atman theory from the Vedic texts and Upanishads,[86] and on its foundation build precepts of dharma, laws and ethics. Atman theory, particularly the Advaita Vedanta and Yoga versions, influenced the emergence of the theory of Ahimsa (non-violence against all creatures), culture of vegetarianism, and other theories of ethical, dharmic life.[87][88]


The Dharmasutras and Dharmasastras integrate the teachings of Atman theory. Apastamba Dharmasutra, the oldest known Indian text on dharma, for example, titles Chapters 1.8.22 and 1.8.23 as "Knowledge of the Atman" and then recites,[89]

There is no higher object than the attainment of the knowledge of Atman. We shall quote the verses from the Veda which refer to the attainment of the knowledge of the Atman. All living creatures are the dwelling of him who lies enveloped in matter, who is immortal, who is spotless. A wise man shall strive after the knowledge of the Atman. It is he [Self] who is the eternal part in all creatures, whose essence is wisdom, who is immortal, unchangeable, pure; he is the universe, he is the highest goal. –

Freedom from anger, from excitement, from rage, from greed, from perplexity, from hypocrisy, from hurtfulness (from injury to others); Speaking the truth, moderate eating, refraining from calumny and envy, sharing with others, avoiding accepting gifts, uprightness, forgiveness, gentleness, tranquility, temperance, amity with all living creatures, yoga, honorable conduct, benevolence and contentedness – These virtues have been agreed upon for all the ashramas; he who, according to the precepts of the sacred law, practices these, becomes united with the Universal Self. –

— Knowledge of the Atman, Apastamba Dharma Sūtra, ~ 400 BCE[89]


The ethical prohibition against harming any human beings or other living creatures (Ahimsa, अहिंसा), in Hindu traditions, can be traced to the Atman theory.[84] This precept against injuring any living being appears together with Atman theory in hymn 8.15.1 of Chandogya Upanishad (ca. 8th century BCE),[90] then becomes central in the texts of Hindu philosophy, entering the dharma codes of ancient Dharmasutras and later era Manu-Smriti. Ahimsa theory is a natural corollary and consequence of "Atman is universal oneness, present in all living beings. Atman connects and prevades in everyone. Hurting or injuring another being is hurting the Atman, and thus one's self that exists in another body". This conceptual connection between one's Atman, the universal, and Ahimsa starts in Isha Upanishad,[84] develops in the theories of the ancient scholar Yajnavalkya, and one which inspired Gandhi as he led non-violent movement against colonialism in early 20th century.[91][92]

यस्तु सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मन्येवानुपश्यति । सर्वभूतेषु चात्मानं ततो न विजुगुप्सते ॥६॥
यस्मिन्सर्वाणि भूतान्यात्मैवाभूद्विजानतः । तत्र को मोहः कः शोक एकत्वमनुपश्यतः ॥७॥
स पर्यगाच्छुक्रमकायमव्रणम् अस्नाविरँ शुद्धमपापविद्धम् । कविर्मनीषी परिभूः स्वयम्भूःयाथातथ्यतोऽर्थान् व्यदधाच्छाश्वतीभ्यः समाभ्यः ॥८॥

And he who sees everything in his atman, and his atman in everything, does not seek to hide himself from that.
In whom all beings have become one with his own atman, what perplexity, what sorrow, is there when he sees this oneness?
He [the self] prevades all, resplendent, bodiless, woundless, without muscles, pure, untouched by evil; far-seeing, transcendent, self-being, disposing ends through perpetual ages.

— Isha Upanishad, Hymns 6-8,[91]

See also


  1. ^ a b Definitions:
    • Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press (2012), Atman: "1. real self of the individual; 2. a person's soul";
    • John Bowker (2000), The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0192800947, Atman: "the real or true Self";
    • W.J. Johnson (2009), A Dictionary of Hinduism, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198610250, See entry for Atman (self).
    • Encyclopedia Britannica, Atman: Atman, (Sanskrit: "self," "breath") one of the most basic concepts in Hinduism, the universal self, identical with the eternal core of the personality that after death either transmigrates to a new life or attains release (moksha) from the bonds of existence."
    • Shepard (1991): "Usually translated "Soul" but better rendered "Self.""
    • John Grimes (1996), A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy, State University of New York Press, ISBN 0791430685, Atman: "breath" (from the verb root at = "to breathe"); inner Self, the Reality which is the substrate of the individual and identical with the Absolute (Brahman).
    • The Presence of Shiva (1994), Stella Kramrisch, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691019307, Atma (Glossary) p. 470 "the Self, the inmost Self or, the life principle"
  2. ^ a b While often translated as "soul," it is better translated as "self":
  3. ^ a b c Atman and Buddhism:
    • Wynne (2011, pp. 103–105): "The denial that a human being possesses a "self" or "soul" is probably the most famous Buddhist teaching. It is certainly its most distinct, as has been pointed out by G. P. Malalasekera: "In its denial of any real permanent Soul or Self, Buddhism stands alone." A similar modern Sinhalese perspective has been expressed by Walpola Rahula: "Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self or Ātman." The "no Self" or "no soul" doctrine (Sanskrit: anātman; Pāli: anattan) is particularly notable for its widespread acceptance and historical endurance. It was a standard belief of virtually all the ancient schools of Indian Buddhism (the notable exception being the Pudgalavādins), and has persisted without change into the modern era. [...] both views are mirrored by the modern Theravādin perspective of Mahasi Sayadaw that "there is no person or soul" and the modern Mahāyāna view of the fourteenth Dalai Lama that "[t]he Buddha taught that [...] our belief in an independent self is the root cause of all suffering"."
    • Collins (1994, p. 64): "Central to Buddhist soteriology is the doctrine of not-self (Pali: anattā, Sanskrit: anātman, the opposed doctrine of ātman is central to Brahmanical thought). Put very briefly, this is the [Buddhist] doctrine that human beings have no soul, no self, no unchanging essence."
    • Plott (2000, p. 62): "The Buddhist schools reject any Ātman concept. As we have already observed, this is the basic and ineradicable distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism."
    The notion of no-self is not so much a doctrine, as it is a 'technique' to disidentify from any sorrowfull existent, akin to the Samkhya-notion of Kaivalya:
    • Jayatilleke (1963, pp. 246–249, from note 385 onwards) refers to various notions of "self" or "soul" rejected by early Buddhism; several Buddhist texts record Samkhya-like notions of Atman c.q. consciousness being different from the body, and liberation is the recognition of this difference.
    • Javanaud (2013): "When Buddhists assert the doctrine of 'no-self', they have a clear conception of what a self would be. The self Buddhists deny would have to meet the following criteria: it would (i) retain identity over time, (ii) be permanent (that is, enduring), and (iii) have 'controlling powers' over the parts of a person. Yet through empirical investigation, Buddhists conclude that there is no such thing. 'I' is commonly used to refer to the mind/body integration of the five skandhas, but when we examine these, we discover that in none alone are the necessary criteria for self met, and as we've seen, the combination of them is a convenient fiction [...] Objectors to the exhaustiveness claim often argue that for discovering the self the Buddhist commitment to empirical means is mistaken. True, we cannot discover the self in the five skandhas, precisely because the self is that which is beyond or distinct from the five skandhas. Whereas Buddhists deny the self on grounds that, if it were there, we would be able to point it out, opponents of this view, including Sankara of the Hindu Advaita Vedanta school, are not at all surprised that we cannot point out the self; for the self is that which does the pointing rather than that which is pointed at. Buddha defended his commitment to the empirical method on grounds that, without it, one abandons the pursuit of knowledge in favour of speculation."
    Liberation (nirvana) is not attained by a "self," but is the release of anything that could be "self":
    • Collins1990, p. 82): "It is at this point that the differences [between Upanishads and Abhidharma] start to become marked. There is no central self which animates the impersonal elements. The concept of nirvana (Pali nibbana), although similarly the criterion according to which ethical judgements are made and religious life assessed, is not the liberated state of a self. Like all other things and concepts (dhamma) it is anatta, not-self [in Buddhism]."
    • McClelland (2010, pp. 16–18): "Anatman/Anatta. Literally meaning no (an-) self or soul (-atman), this Buddhist term applies to the denial of a metaphysically changeless, eternal and autonomous soul or self. (...) The early canonical Buddhist view of nirvana sometimes suggests a kind of extinction-like (kataleptic) state that automatically encourages a metaphysical no-soul (self)."
  4. ^ Williams (2008, pp. 104–105, 108–109): "(...) it refers to the Buddha using the term "Self" in order to win over non-Buddhist ascetics."


  1. ^ a b Shepard 1991.
  2. ^ Lorenzen 2004, p. 208-209.
  3. ^ Richard King (1995), Early Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791425138, page 64, Quote: "Atman as the innermost essence or soul of man, and Brahman as the innermost essence and support of the universe. (...) Thus we can see in the Upanishads, a tendency towards a convergence of microcosm and macrocosm, culminating in the equating of atman with Brahman".
  4. ^ * Advaita: "Hindu Philosophy: Advaita", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 9 June 2020 and "Advaita Vedanta", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 9 June 2020
    * Dvaita: "Hindu Philosophy: Dvaita", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 9 June 2020 and "Madhva (1238—1317)", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 9 June 2020
    * Bhedabheda: "Bhedabheda Vedanta", Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, retrieved 9 June 2020
  5. ^ a b c d Jayatilleke 1963, p. 39.
  6. ^ a b c Bronkhorst 1993, p. 99 with footnote 12.
  7. ^ a b c d Bronkhorst 2009, p. 25.
  8. ^ a b c Harvey 2012, p. 59–60.
  9. ^ Dalal 2011, p. 38.
  10. ^ McClelland 2010, p. 16, 34.
  11. ^ Karel Werner (1998), Yoga and Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarsidass, pp. 57–58, ISBN 978-81-208-1609-1
  12. ^ a b c d e Plott 2000, p. 60-62.
  13. ^ Deutsch 1973, p. 48.
  14. ^ Roshen Dalal (2010), The Religions of India: A Concise Guide to Nine Major Faiths, Penguin Books, p. 38, ISBN 978-0-14-341517-6
  15. ^ Norman C. McClelland (2010), Encyclopedia of Reincarnation and Karma, McFarland, pp. 34–35, ISBN 978-0-7864-5675-8
  16. ^ [a] Julius Lipner (2012), Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices, Routledge, pp. 53–56, 81, 160–161, 269–270, ISBN 978-1-135-24060-8;
    [b] P. T. Raju (1985), Structural Depths of Indian Thought, State University of New York Press, pp. 26–37, ISBN 978-0-88706-139-4;
    [c] Gavin D. Flood (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, pp. 15, 84–85, ISBN 978-0-521-43878-0
  17. ^ James Hart (2009), Who One Is: Book 2: Existenz and Transcendental Phenomenology, Springer, ISBN 978-1402091773, pages 2-3, 46-47
  18. ^ Richard White (2012), The Heart of Wisdom: A Philosophy of Spiritual Life, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, ISBN 978-1442221161, pages 125-131
  19. ^ Christina Puchalski (2006), A Time for Listening and Caring, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195146820, page 172
  20. ^ ऋग्वेद: सूक्तं १०.९७, Wikisource; Quote: "यदिमा वाजयन्नहमोषधीर्हस्त आदधे । आत्मा यक्ष्मस्य नश्यति पुरा जीवगृभो यथा ॥११॥
  21. ^ Baumer, Bettina and Vatsyayan, Kapila. Kalatattvakosa Vol. 1: Pervasive Terms Vyapti (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts). Motilal Banarsidass; Revised edition (March 1, 2001). P. 42. ISBN 8120805844.
  22. ^ Source 1: Rig veda Sanskrit;
    Source 2: ऋग्वेदः/संहिता Wikisource
  23. ^ PT Raju (1985), Structural Depths of Indian Thought, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0887061394, pages 35-36
  24. ^ a b Grimes 1996, p. 69.
  25. ^ a b c Koller 2012, p. 99-102.
  26. ^ Paul Deussen, The Philosophy of the Upanishads at Google Books, Dover Publications, pages 86-111, 182-212
  27. ^ Patrick Olivelle (2014), The Early Upanishads, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195124354, page 12-13
  28. ^ Raju, Poolla Tirupati. Structural Depths of Indian Thought. SUNY Series in Philosophy. P. 26. ISBN 0-88706-139-7.
  29. ^ Sanskrit Original: बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद् मन्त्र ५ [IV.iv.5], Sanskrit Documents;
    Translation 1: Brihadāranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5 Madhavananda (Translator), page 712;
    Translation 2: Brihadāranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5 Eduard Roer (Translator), page 235
  30. ^ a b Sanskrit Original: बृहदारण्यक उपनिषद्, Sanskrit Documents;
    Translation 1: Brihadāranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 Eduard Roer (Translator), pages 101-120, Quote: "For he becomes the soul of them." (page 114);
    Translation 2: Brihadāranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10 Madhavananda (Translator), page 146;
  31. ^ Max Müller, Upanishads, Wordsworth, ISBN 978-1840221022, pages XXIII-XXIV
  32. ^ Original Sanskrit: अग्निर्यथैको भुवनं प्रविष्टो, रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बभूव । एकस्तथा सर्वभूतान्तरात्मा, रूपं रूपं प्रतिरूपो बहिश्च ॥ ९ ॥;
    English Translation 1: Stephen Knapp (2005), The Heart of Hinduism, ISBN 978-0595350759, page 202-203;
    English Translation 2:Katha Upanishad Max Müller (Translator), Fifth Valli, 9th verse
  33. ^ a b Sanskrit Original: आत्मानँ रथितं विद्धि शरीरँ रथमेव तु । बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मनः प्रग्रहमेव च ॥ ३ ॥ इन्द्रियाणि हयानाहुर्विषयाँ स्तेषु गोचरान् । आत्मेन्द्रियमनोयुक्तं भोक्तेत्याहुर्मनीषिणः ॥ ४ ॥, Katha Upanishad Wikisource;
    English Translation: Max Müller, Katha Upanishad Third Valli, Verse 3 & 4 and through 15, pages 12-14
  34. ^ Stephen Kaplan (2011), The Routledge Companion to Religion and Science, (Editors: James W. Haag, Gregory R. Peterson, Michael L. Speziopage), Routledge, ISBN 978-0415492447, page 323
  35. ^ a b Sutton, Nicholas (2017-03-13). Bhagavad Gita: The Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies Guide. Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. pp. 35–37. ISBN 978-1-5030-5291-8.
  36. ^ A. L. Herman (1976), An Introduction to Indian Thought, Prentice-Hall, pp. 110–115, ISBN 978-0-13-484477-0
  37. ^ Jeaneane D. Fowler (1997), Hinduism: Beliefs and Practices, Sussex Academic Press, pp. 109–121, ISBN 978-1-898723-60-8
  38. ^ Arvind Sharma (2004), Advaita Vedānta: An Introduction, Motilal Banarsidass, pp. 24–43, ISBN 978-81-208-2027-2
  39. ^ Deussen, Paul and Geden, A. S. The Philosophy of the Upanishads. Cosimo Classics (June 1, 2010). P. 86. ISBN 1616402407.
  40. ^ a b Sharma 1997, pp. 155–7.
  41. ^ Chapple 2008, p. 21.
  42. ^ Osto 2018, p. 203.
  43. ^ Paranjpe, A. C. Self and Identity in Modern Psychology and Indian Thought. Springer; 1 edition (September 30, 1998). P. 263-264. ISBN 978-0-306-45844-6.
  44. ^ a b c
  45. ^ Verses 4.24-4.34, Patanjali's Yogasutras; Quote: "विशेषदर्शिन आत्मभावभावनाविनिवृत्तिः"
  46. ^ Stephen H. Phillips, Classical Indian Metaphysics: Refutations of Realism and the Emergence of "new Logic". Open Court Publishing, 1995, pages 12–13.
  47. ^ a b Plott 2000, p. 62.
  48. ^ a b c d Original Sanskrit: Nyayasutra Anand Ashram Sanskrit Granthvali, pages 26-28;
    English translation 1: Nyayasutra see verses 1.1.9 and 1.1.10 on pages 4-5;
    English translation 2: Elisa Freschi (2014), Puspika: Tracing Ancient India Through Texts and Traditions, (Editors: Giovanni Ciotti, Alastair Gornall, Paolo Visigalli), Oxbow, ISBN 978-1782974154, pages 56-73
  49. ^ KK Chakrabarti (1999), Classical Indian Philosophy of Mind: The Nyaya Dualist Tradition, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791441718, pages 2, 187-188, 220
  50. ^ a b See example discussed in this section; For additional examples of Nyaya reasoning to prove that 'self exists', using propositions and its theories of negation, see: Nyayasutra verses 1.2.1 on pages 14-15, 1.2.59 on page 20, 3.1.1-3.1.27 on pages 63-69, and later chapters
  51. ^ a b Roy W. Perrett (Editor, 2000), Indian Philosophy: Metaphysics, Volume 3, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0815336082, page xvii; also see Chakrabarti pages 279-292
  52. ^ Sutras_1913#page/n47/mode/2up Nyayasutra see pages 22-29
  53. ^ The school posits that there are five physical substances: earth, water, air, water and akasa (ether/sky/space beyond air)
  54. ^ a b c Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore (Eds., 1973), A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Princeton University Press, Reprinted in 1973, ISBN 978-0691019581, pages 386-423
  55. ^ a b PT Raju (2008), The Philosophical Traditions of India, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415461214, pages 79-80
  56. ^ a b Chris Bartley (2013), Purva Mimamsa, in Encyclopaedia of Asian Philosophy (Editor: Oliver Leaman), Routledge, 978-0415862530, page 443-445
  57. ^ Oliver Leaman (2006), Shruti, in Encyclopaedia of Asian Philosophy, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415862530, page 503
  58. ^ PT Raju (2008), The Philosophical Traditions of India, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415461214, pages 82-85
  59. ^ PT Raju (1985), Structural Depths of Indian Thought, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0887061394, pages 54-63; Michael C. Brannigan (2009), Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values, Rowman & Littlefield, ISBN 978-0739138465, page 15
  60. ^ a b c d Arvind Sharma (2007), Advaita Vedānta: An Introduction, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120820272, pages 19-40, 53-58, 79-86
  61. ^ Bhagavata Purana 3.28.41 Archived 2012-02-17 at the Wayback Machine
  62. ^ Bhagavata Purana 7.7.19–20 "Atma also refers to the Supreme Lord or the living entities. Both of them are spiritual."
  63. ^ a b A Rambachan (2006), The Advaita Worldview: God, World, and Humanity, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791468524, pages 47, 99-103
  64. ^ Karl Potter (2008), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vedānta, Volume 3, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120803107, pages 510-512
  65. ^ S Timalsina (2014), Consciousness in Indian Philosophy: The Advaita Doctrine of 'Awareness Only', Routledge, ISBN 978-0415762236, pages 3-23
  66. ^ Eliot Deutsch (1980), Advaita Vedanta: A Philosophical Reconstruction, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0824802714, pages 48-53
  67. ^ A Rambachan (2006), The Advaita Worldview: God, World, and Humanity, State University of New York Press, ISBN 978-0791468524, pages 114-122
  68. ^ Adi Sankara, A Bouquet of Nondual Texts: Advaita Prakarana Manjari, Translators: Ramamoorthy & Nome, ISBN 978-0970366726, pages 173-214
  69. ^ R Prasad (2009), A Historical-developmental Study of Classical Indian Philosophy of Morals, Concept Publishing, ISBN 978-8180695957, pages 345-347
  70. ^ James Lewis and William Travis (1999), Religious Traditions of the World, ISBN 978-1579102302, pages 279-280
  71. ^ Thomas Padiyath (2014), The Metaphysics of Becoming, De Gruyter, ISBN 978-3110342550, pages 155-157
  72. ^ Mackenzie 2012.
  73. ^ Williams 2008, p. 104, 125–127.
  74. ^ Hookham 1991, p. 100–104.
  75. ^ Mackenzie 2007, pp. 100–5, 110.
  76. ^ Williams 2008, p. 126.
  77. ^ Hubbard & Swanson 1997.
  78. ^ Williams 2008, p. 107, 112; Hookham 1991, p. 96.
  79. ^ Williams 2008, p. 104–105, 108–109.
  80. ^ Fowler 1999, p. 101–102.
  81. ^ Pettit 1999, p. 48–49.
  82. ^ Mackenzie 2007, pp. 51–52.
  83. ^ Stephen H. Phillips & other authors (2008), in Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, & Conflict (Second Edition), ISBN 978-0123739858, Elsevier Science, Pages 1347–1356, 701-849, 1867
  84. ^ a b c d Ludwig Alsdorf (2010), The History of Vegetarianism and Cow-Veneration in India, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415548243, pages 111-114
  85. ^ NF Gier (1995), Ahimsa, the Self, and Postmodernism, International Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 35, Issue 1, pages 71-86, doi:10.5840/ipq199535160;
    Jean Varenne (1977), Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0226851167, page 200-202
  86. ^ These ancient texts of India refer to Upanishads and Vedic era texts some of which have been traced to preserved documents, but some are lost or yet to be found.
  87. ^ Stephen H. Phillips (2009), Yoga, Karma, and Rebirth: A Brief History and Philosophy, Columbia University Press, ISBN 978-0231144858, pages 122-125
  88. ^ Knut Jacobsen (1994), The institutionalization of the ethics of "non-injury" toward all "beings" in Ancient India, Environmental Ethics, Volume 16, Issue 3, pages 287-301, doi:10.5840/enviroethics199416318
  89. ^ a b Sanskrit Original: Apastamba Dharma Sutra page 14;
    English Translation 1: Knowledge of the Atman Apastamba Dharmasutra, The Sacred Laws of the Aryas, Georg Bühler (Translator), pages 75-79;
    English Translation 2: Ludwig Alsdorf (2010), The History of Vegetarianism and Cow-Veneration in India, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415548243, pages 111-112;
    English Translation 3: Patrick Olivelle (1999), Dharmasutras, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0192838827, page 34
  90. ^ Sanskrit original: तधैतद्ब्रह्मा प्रजापतये उवाच प्रजापतिर्मनवे मनुः प्रजाभ्यः आचार्यकुलाद्वेदमधीत्य यथाविधानं गुरोः कर्मातिशेषेणाभिसमावृत्य कुटुम्बे शुचौ देशे स्वाध्यायमधीयानो धर्मिकान्विदधदात्मनि सर्वैन्द्रियाणि संप्रतिष्ठाप्याहिँसन्सर्व भूतान्यन्यत्र तीर्थेभ्यः स खल्वेवं वर्तयन्यावदायुषं ब्रह्मलोकमभिसंपद्यते न च पुनरावर्तते न च पुनरावर्तते ॥१॥; छान्दोग्योपनिषद् ४ Wikisource;
    English Translation: Paul Deussen, Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Volume 1, Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-8120814684, page 205
  91. ^ a b Sanskrit original: ईशावास्य उपनिषद् Wikisource;
    English Translation 1: Isha Upanishad Max Müller (Translator), Oxford University Press, page 312, hymns 6 to 8;
    English Translation 2: Isha Upanishad See translation by Charles Johnston, Universal Theosophy;
    English Translation 3: Isavasyopanishad SS Sastri (Translator), hymns 6-8, pages 12-14
  92. ^ Deen K. Chatterjee (2011), Encyclopedia of Global Justice: A - I, Volume 1, Springer, ISBN 978-1402091599, page 376


Printed sources
  1. ^ Atman Britannica, Atman Hindu philosophy
  2. ^ a b Atman Etymology Dictionary, Douglas Harper (2012)

External links

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