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Thread: Definitions: ātman

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    Definitions: ātman

    ātman आत्मन् we know as the soul , the essence (sāra) of one being human.

    Sometimes ātman is called adhyātma defined as 'own , belonging to self'. It is my humble opinion this is where ātman has taken on the name of 'Self' . This at times causes some angst as Self ( captial S, suggesting Universal Self) gets co-mingled with self ( lower case s) , suggesting the bound individual constrained to space, time and cause.

    If we take a deeper look into this word ātman perhaps a better appreciation can be had and one can eliminate some confusion on the matter.
    Note that ātman can also be defined as brahma. The term brahma is used for nirguṇa brahman (without qualities) and brahmā is used for for saguṇa brahman, with qualities. We sometimes think of nirguṇa brahman as the Absolute; I think of it as akṣara (a+kṣara) not + destroy = imperishable, indestructible, stainless.

    etymology or niruktiḥ¹
    This ātman is quite interesting in its makeup. It is said it is derived from an , to breathe ; at , to move ; , to blow.
    This association as I see it is that quality that makes beings (nara and the like) mobile and living. That is, the core of being is ātman, that which brings life as indicated by breath and to move.

    Some say² 'at' means 'to eat, to enjoy'. This has a realistic parallel with the 2nd derivation of 'at' meaning to obtain. We are told it is the ātman which is the final enjoyer of all activities. Eating is a word that not only means that which is taken in by the mouth, but by all the senses. So it is said atti iti ātma, that which eats or enjoys; the consumption or obtaining of experience.

    Yet what is intriguing to me is the notion of 'āt' has the quality of ād vyāpana, meaning to go , pervade, or cover thoroughly. So within this ātman it is that which pervades everywhere, thoroughly. It is that one quality-substance ( if I can use that word) that is ubiquitous (being everywhere at the same time). Now for me, this is very profound, no? It suggests our real nature that the śāstra-s wish us to know and experience.

    Additional insights
    If we look to the very first śloka of the aitareya¹ upaniṣad it says ātmā alone existed here in the beginning. This suggests our core essence meets the highest definition of sāra. This sāra not only means essence but also 'stretching out' - being everywhere or ād vyāpana from the paragraph just mentioned above. This being everywhere also suggets it is beyond time, as ātman was there 'in the beginning'.

    The śloka uses the word 'agra' meaning 'first, in front, in the beginnning' ; this word also means 'projecting' and is useful. Why so ? Because this aitareya upaniṣad śloka also says , let me now create the worlds ( loka ). It uses the word sṛjā iti , meaning thus letting go, emitting, letting loose. Now we can see the connection of agra ( projecting) + sṛjā iti ( thus letting go). It is ātman in the beginning (agra) that thus lets go (sṛjā iti) and projects (agra) all of creation ( loka ).

    1. words
    nirukta - uttered , pronounced , expressed , explained ; niruktiḥ - etymological interpretation of a word

    2. references
    • svāmī muni nārāyaṇa prāsad in his translation of the aitareya upaniṣad, pg. 16
    • aitareya mahīdāsa is the ṛṣi of this upaniṣad. Aitareya means the decendent of itarā his mother,
      and mahīdāsa is the servent (dāsa) of mahī or bhūmi devī.
    • Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary (2008 revision)
    • A Concise Dictionary Of Indian Philosophy -John Grimes
    • general studies & knowledge
    Last edited by yajvan; 01 October 2011 at 05:45 PM.
    यतस्त्वं शिवसमोऽसि
    yatastvaṁ śivasamo'si
    because you are identical with śiva


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