Atman, aka: Ātman; 14 Definition(s)


Atman means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, the history of ancient India. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Ayurveda (science of life)

The Ātman (आत्मन्), or jīva, is the third factor required for the proudction of the foetus, besides the union of the male seed and female blood. It accounts for the individual and mental characteristics. It is carried by the subtle body and manas, under the influence of the law of karman, into contact with a particular embryo. Only when this union is effected, does the embryo start to develop.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āyurveda and botany
Ayurveda book cover
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Āyurveda (आयुर्वेद, ayurveda) is a branch of Indian science dealing with medicine, herbalism, taxology, anatomy, surgery, alchemy and related topics. Traditional practice of Āyurveda in ancient India dates back to at least the first millenium BC. Literature is commonly written in Sanskrit using various poetic metres.

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Vedanta (school of philosophy)

Atman is only another name of Brahman. Whenever we perceive a thing, from any mental impression, it must be the Atman and nothing else that we perceive. Only in our ignorance we fail to grasp the real nature of the thing experienced (the Atman), and call it under various names and forms. So, our egoism, our intellect, and all mental slates are manifestations of the Atman and Atman alone.

Source: Vivekachudamani
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Vedanta (वेदान्त, vedānta) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. There are a number of sub-schools of Vedanta, however all of them expound on the basic teaching of the ultimate reality (brahman) and liberation (moksha) of the individual soul (atman).

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Vaisheshika (school of philosophy)

Ātman (आत्मन्, “self”) is one of the nine dravyas (‘substances’), according to the Vaiśeṣika-sūtras. These dravyas are considered as a category of padārtha (“metaphysical correlate”). These padārthas represent everything that exists which can be cognized and named. Together with their subdivisions, they attempt to explain the nature of the universe and the existence of living beings.

Source: Wikipedia: Vaisheshika
Vaisheshika book cover
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Vaisheshika (वैशेषिक, vaiśeṣika) refers to a school of orthodox Hindu philosophy (astika), drawing its subject-matter from the Upanishads. Vaisheshika deals with subjects such as logic, epistemology, philosophy and expounds concepts similar to Buddhism in nature

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Kosha (encyclopedic lexicons)

Ātman (आत्मन्).—The term ātman is of crucial significance in Indian thought. Basically it denotes the essence of anything that is all-pervading. At the seconday level ātman (self) is also identified with body, mind, intellect, vital force and so on. As such there are the concepts—Supreme Self, individual self. Kalātattvakośa (Vol. I) elucidated the many dimensions of the concept.

The etymology of the word ātman is uncertain. It is variously derived from the roots an-‘to breath’ (cf. prāṇa), at-‘to move’, or -‘to blow’.

Source: Google Books: Kalātattvakośa, volume 3
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Kosha (कोश, kośa) refers to Sanskrit lexicons intended to provide additional information regarding technical terms used in religion, philosophy and the various sciences (shastra). The oldest extant thesaurus (kosha) dates to the 4th century AD.

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Yoga (school of philosophy)

Atman in Yoga glossary... « previous · [A] · next »

Ātman (आत्मन्, “lower self”).—The duality involved in this conception of a friend and a foe, of conqueror and conquered, of an uplifting power and a gravitating spirit, naturally involves a distinction between a higher self (paramātman) and a lower self (ātman). It is only when this higher self conquers the lower that a self is a friend to itself. In a man who has failed to conquer his own passions and self-attachments the self is its own enemy. The implication, however, is that the lower self, though it gravitates towards evil, has yet inherent in it the power of self-elevation.

Source: A History of Indian Philosophy (yoga)
Yoga book cover
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Yoga is originally considered a branch of Hindu philosophy (astika), but both ancient and modern Yoga combine the physical, mental and spiritual. Yoga teaches various physical techniques also known as āsanas (postures), used for various purposes (eg., meditation, contemplation, relaxation).

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Vyakarana (Sanskrit grammar)

Ātman (आत्मन्).—Agent or Kaṛtr as in the terms आत्मनेपद (ātmanepada) or आत्मनेभाषा (ātmanebhāṣā), cf. सुप आत्मनः क्यच् (supa ātmanaḥ kyac) III. 1.8.

Source: Wikisource: A dictionary of Sanskrit grammar
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Vyakarana (व्याकरण, vyākaraṇa) refers to Sanskrit grammar and represents one of the six additional sciences (vedanga) to be studied along with the Vedas. Vyakarana concerns itself with the rules of Sanskrit grammar and linguistic analysis in order to establish the correct context of words and sentences.

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General definition (in Hinduism)

Ātman (आत्मन्, “self, body”) refers to one of the dravyapañcaka (fivefold substances), defined in the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka 7.7.1. The dravyapañcaka, and other such fivefold divisions, are associated with the elemental aspect (adhibhūta) of the three-fold division of reality (adhibhūta, adhidaiva and adhyātma) which attempts to explain the phenomenal nature of the universe. Adhibhūta denotes all that belongs to the material or elemental creation.

The Taittirīya-āraṇyaka is associated with the Kṛṣṇa-yajurveda and dates from at least the 6th century BCE. It is composed of 10 chapters and discusses vedic rituals and sacrifices (such as the mahāyajña) but also includes the Taittirīya-upaniṣad and the Mahānārāyaṇa-upaniṣad.

Source: Wisdom Library: Āraṇyaka

Atman is the soul. It is believed to be indestructable and immutable. The Advaitha (not-dual) principle (this was propounded by the great philospher Adi-Sankara), states that the Soul is the only one, it is the truth and all else is Mithya (illusion). As per this theory, Moksha (salvation) is attained when illusion is dispelled by self-realization. It states that Karma (deeds) is the basis of the cycle of life and birth. Likes and dislikes spring from attachment. To attain Moksha, it is necessary to be free from Likes and dislikes.

The counter principle Dvaitha states that Atman is separate from the universal spirit that is Brahman. The soul is constantly trying to achieve unity with the universal spirit from whence it sprang. Salvation is attained when this union takes place.

In the Katha Upanishad, which is associated with the "Black" Yajur Veda, Nachiketa asks Yama to explain the nature of Atman (soul). Yama says,

"The soul is devoid of beginning and an end. It is infinite and is devoid of cause and effect. It is free from life and death. It is one, it is flawless. The body is merely a transitory home for the soul. The body ceases to exist at death, but Atman is indestructible."

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

In Buddhism

Mahayana (major branch of Buddhism)

Ātman (आत्मन्).—According to Mahāprajñāpāramitāśāstra (chapter XIV).—Ātman is non-existent (anupalabdha); it is only a designation (prajñaptipat). It exists as a result of diverse causes and conditions, but only nominally and conventionally (nāmasaṃketa). Thus when a magician (māyākāra) kills himself, the spectators see him dead, and when a trick resuscitates him, the spectators see him alive; but his life and his death have only nominal existence (prajñaptisat) and are not real (dravyasat).

Source: Wisdom Library: Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra
Mahayana book cover
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Mahayana (महायान, mahāyāna) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

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Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

N (Self inherent entity). That which rests upon itself. Self inherent existence of a thing.

Source: Dhamma Dana: Pali English Glossary

'self, ego, personality,

is in Buddhism a mere conventional expression (vohāradesanā), and no designation for anything really existing; s. paramattha-desanā, anattā, puggala, satta, jīva.

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
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Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

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General definition (in Buddhism)

The individual self or the soul in Brahmanic thought.Source: Buddhist Door: Glossary

Atman or Atta (Pali) literally means "self", but is sometimes translated as "soul" or "ego". The word derives from the Indo European root *et men (breath) and is cognate with Old English aethm and German atem In Buddhism, the belief in the existence of an unchanging atman is the prime consequence of ignorance, which is itself the cause of all misery and the foundation of samsara. The early scriptures do, however, see an enlightened being as one whose changing, empirical self is highly developed.

Some Mahayana Buddhist sutras and tantras present other Buddhist teachings with positive language by strongly insisting upon the ultimate reality of the atman when it is equated with each beings inborn potential to become and future status as a Buddha (Tathagatagarbha doctrine).

Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

Languages of India and abroad

Sanskrit-English dictionary

Ātman (आत्मन्).—m. [at-maniṇ Uṇ 4.152 said to be from an to breathe also] 'आत्मा यत्नो धृतिर्बुद्धिः स्वभावो ब्रह्मवर्ष्म च (ātmā yatno dhṛtirbuddhiḥ svabhāvo brahmavarṣma ca)' इत्यमरः (ityamaraḥ)

1) The soul, the individual soul, the breath, the principle of life and sensation; किमात्मना यो न जितेन्द्रियो भवेत् (kimātmanā yo na jitendriyo bhavet) H.1; आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव तु (ātmānaṃ rathinaṃ viddhi śarīraṃ rathameva tu) Kaṭh.3.3. (In ātmā nadī saṃyamapuṇyatīrthā H.4.87 ātman is compared to a river).

2) Self, oneself; in this sense mostly used reflexively for all three persons and in the singular number, masculine gender, whatever be the gender or number of the noun to which it refers; अनया चिन्तयात्मापि मे न प्रतिभाति (anayā cintayātmāpi me na pratibhāti) Ratn.1; आश्रमदर्श- नेन आत्मानं पुनीमहे (āśramadarśa- nena ātmānaṃ punīmahe) Ś.1; गुप्तं ददृशुरात्मानं सर्वाः स्वप्नेषु वामनैः (guptaṃ dadṛśurātmānaṃ sarvāḥ svapneṣu vāmanaiḥ) R.1.6,4.35,14.57; Ku.6.2; देवी (devī)... प्राप्तप्रसवमात्मानं गङ्गादेव्यां विमुञ्चति (prāptaprasavamātmānaṃ gaṅgādevyāṃ vimuñcati) U.7.2; गोपायन्ति कुलस्त्रिय आत्मानमात्मना (gopāyanti kulastriya ātmānamātmanā) Mb.; K.17; sometimes used in pl. also; आत्मनः स्तुवन्ति (ātmanaḥ stuvanti) Śi.17.19; Māl.8.

3) Supreme deity and soul of the universe, Supreme Soul, Brahman; तस्माद्वा एतस्मादात्मन आकाशः संभूतः (tasmādvā etasmādātmana ākāśaḥ saṃbhūtaḥ) T. Up.2.1.1; Ms.1.15,12.24.

4) Essence, nature; काव्यस्यात्मा ध्वनिः (kāvyasyātmā dhvaniḥ) S. D., see आत्मक (ātmaka) below.

5) Character, peculiarity; आत्मा यक्ष्मस्य नश्यति (ātmā yakṣmasya naśyati) Rv.1. 97.11.

6) The natural temperament or disposition; Bhāg.11.22.2.

7) The person or whole body (considered as one and opposed to the separate members of it); स्थितः सर्वोन्नतेनोर्वीं क्रान्त्वा मेरुरिवात्मना (sthitaḥ sarvonnatenorvīṃ krāntvā merurivātmanā) R.1.14; योस्या- त्मनः कारयिता (yosyā- tmanaḥ kārayitā) Ms.12.12; Ki.9.66.

8) Mind, intellect; मन्दात्मन्, नष्टात्मन्, महात्मन् (mandātman, naṣṭātman, mahātman) &c. अथ रामः प्रसन्नात्मा श्रुत्वा वायु- सुतस्य ह (atha rāmaḥ prasannātmā śrutvā vāyu- sutasya ha) Rām.6.18.1.

9) The understanding; cf. आत्म- संपन्न, आत्मवत् (ātma- saṃpanna, ātmavat) &c.

1) Thinking faculty, the faculty of thought and reason.

11) Spirit, vitality, courage; त्यक्त्वाऽऽत्मानमथाब्रवीत् (tyaktvā''tmānamathābravīt) Mb.12.18.6.

12) Form, image; आत्मानमाधाय (ātmānamādhāya) Ku.3.24 assuming his own form; 2.61; संरोपितेऽप्यात्मनि (saṃropite'pyātmani) Ś.6.24 myself being implanted in her.

13) A son; 'आत्मा वै पुत्रनामासि (ātmā vai putranāmāsi)' इति श्रुतेः । तस्यात्मा शितिकण्ठस्य (iti śruteḥ | tasyātmā śitikaṇṭhasya) Śi.2.61.

14) Care, efforts, pain.

15) The sun.

16) Fire.

17) Wind, air.

18) Mental quality; बाहुश्रुत्यं तपस्त्यागः श्रद्धा यज्ञक्रिया क्षमा । भावशुद्धिर्दया सत्यं संयमश्चात्मसंपदः (bāhuśrutyaṃ tapastyāgaḥ śraddhā yajñakriyā kṣamā | bhāvaśuddhirdayā satyaṃ saṃyamaścātmasaṃpadaḥ) || Mb.12.167.5. आत्मन् (ātman) is used as the last member of comp. in the sense of 'made or consisting of'; see आत्मक (ātmaka). The form त्मन् (tman) is also found to be used; कृतार्थं मन्यते त्मानं (kṛtārthaṃ manyate tmānaṃ) Mb. [cf. Gr. atmos, aitmen]

Source: DDSA: The practical Sanskrit-English dictionary
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Sanskrit, also spelled संस्कृतम् (saṃskṛtam), is an ancient language of India commonly seen as the grandmother of the Indo-European language family. Closely allied with Prakrit and Pali, Sanskrit is more exhaustive in both grammar and terms and has the most extensive collection of literature in the world, greatly surpassing its sister-languages Greek and Latin.

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Relevant definitions

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Ātmaghāta (आत्मघात).—1) suicide. 2) heresy. Derivable forms: ātmaghātaḥ (आत्मघातः).Ātmaghāta is...
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Ātmajñāna (आत्मज्ञान).—1) self-knowledge. 2) spiritual knowledge, knowledge of the soul or the ...
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