I am looking for a precise scriptural definition of Adhyatma (अध्यात्म) which is also known as spiritual in English.

So, Let me ask relevant questions:

  • What is the definition (meaning) of Adhyatma?
  • Is there any scriptural definition of Adhyatma?

2 Answers 2


Adhyatma means relating to Atman or belonging to self. In other words, transcendental.

The Sanskrit word अध्यात्म is combination of two words : अधि + आत्म = अध्यात्म.

Adhi(अधि) means over/upon/concerning and Aatm(आत्म) means the self/soul;
Adhyatma can be defined as : आत्मनि अधि इति अध्यात्म ।

From Swadhyay:

....the Sanskrit scriptures have a very precise definition of the word spirituality (adhyatma): "aatmani adhi iti adhyatma", meaning all that which is performed in accordance with the wishes of the soul (aatma)is spirituality.

From Bhagavad Gita, 8.3 : अक्षरं ब्रह्म परमं स्वभावोऽध्यात्ममुच्यते । means:

The indestructible, transcendental living entity is called Brahman, and his eternal nature is called adhyātma, the self.

The word "Spiritual" means about "concerning the spirit".

  • In which scripture, I can find "aatmani adhi iti adhyatma" ?
    – Pandya
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 5:33
  • There is no "Soul"in our scripture. Atma and Soul are NOT synonymous. Soul has a begining and and an end. It does not pervade and is confined to a body. Animals do not have souls. There is no English term for Atma. Just use the Sanskrit word Atma please. Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 22:44
  • @RamaKrishnan I've also provided Sanskrit term आत्म with transliteration Aatma.
    – Pandya
    Commented Nov 8, 2017 at 0:40
  • So which means Brahman's swaroopa is the Adhyatma which resides in the body of a human right? Adhyatma in Samkhya called Purusha? Right? Commented Jun 25, 2019 at 10:59

AdhyAtma is indwelling in the self or our own nature which is also called as svabhAv. From Bhagvat Geeta Chapter 8.3.

The Brahman is the highest indestructible, AdhyAtman is explained to be the continuous flow of consciousness (svabhAva). Action is the name given to the creative force (visarga) that brings the variety of beings into existence.

Now, AchArya Abhinavgupta comments on this verse in this way-

...The word svabhAva is the state of being (bhAva) which never ceases (sva) and is expressed by the word consciousness. Therefore the word svabhAva means continuous flow of consciousness.

The translation which I have, which I find appealing, merge svabhAv & adhyAtma to denote non duality in our own being & the Brahman. Because in 7.29 AdhyAtma is said to be Brahman as well & this translation & commentary adjoining these two words - svabhAva & adhyAma as the continuous outflow of consciousness. Continuous outflow of consciousness is nothing but indwelling in our own real nature, considering ourselves distinct from the body & mind.

Those who strive for release from old age and death, taking refuge in Me, they fully know the Brahman, the highest self (AdhyAtma) and all about action. 7.29

Note that - the verse numbers might be different because the BG I have, has more verses & some different sanskrit verses.

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