1. What logical arguments do our scriptures advance to show that Atma is not something material like the body?
  2. How do the six astika schools of Hindu Philosophy(Mimamsa, Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika and Vedanta) deal with this question?
  3. Do the different vedantic philosophies like VisistAdvaita, Dvaita and Advaita, etc,. share the same stance on this issue? In what ways do they differ?

Note: I want the core philosophical view only for 2) & 3) i.e couple of statements or brief information only needed for each, no need to elaborate descriptively.

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    Your question is too broad. You ask one question in your title and another at the end of the question. 1) Which question are you asking? 2) What the atma is by the different philosophies is another entirely different question. For a definition of the what the body is and where the atma resides in the body, see - hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/6758/… Commented Jun 13, 2017 at 10:15
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    @SwamiVishwananda 1) What I've asked in the title i've expanded in the body of the question 2) I'm asking for the stance of the different philosophies regarding the relation of Atma and the body not what each philosophy describes the Atma to be. This I feel can be answered briefly acc. to each school. Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 13:39
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    @Vishalprabhulawande Given the scope of the question i can see why it may be considered a broad question but i'm in essence asking about one specific relational concept. One or two sentences acc. to each school can be summarised i believe alongwith the main logical argument advanced in regards to why atma is different from body. Commented Jun 17, 2017 at 13:41
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    I wonder why this question is still alive. Should have been closed as too broad.
    – TheLittleNaruto
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 4:33
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    The scope of the question was decreased after it was once closed and it was reopened by the users. OP explained why it is not too broad and check revisions. But the six vedanta schools question can be asked separately. It doesn't invalidate any answers and can work as a distinct question too. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 5:40

3 Answers 3


रुद्र विष्णुप्रजानाथप्रमुखाः सर्वचेतनाः । स्वरसेनाहमित्याहुरिदमित्यपि च स्वतः ॥ २॥

The Consciousness is the principle entity amongst, Rüdra, Vishñu, and Prajänätha(Brahma).The Instinctual expression, in expressing the essence of the self, by thus having said here "I".

एवं समस्तजन्तूनामनुभूतिर्व्यवस्थिता । भ्रान्ता अपि न कुर्वन्ति विवादं चात्र सत्तमाः ॥ ५॥

And thus established as an experience in all living creatures, Not only the wise here but even the deluded too don't make any debate over it.

These two are the shlokas are from Skanda Purana's---Suta Gita's---Fifth chapter---आत्मस्वरूपकथनम्, through which we conclude, That there's no paradox that whether Ätmä exists or not, rather it's factual that it verily exists, It's the substantial verity of every sentient entity extant here in the world.

Swami Vidyaranya tirthagaru of Shringeri in his dřg-drishya viveka, avows that, such a person who says, I don't believe in Ätmä, is alike to the person who loudly says that, I don't have a tongue. This is the attitude beholded by every Vedantist or even other philosophers whether it's from the rest five orthodoxical Vedic schools of philosophy and even the heterodoxical Jain school of philosophy.

But whatever that is experienced is an Object, while Ätmä is the one who experiences. Objects are said to be ज्ञेय-Jnèya(that which can be known) while Ätmä is ज्ञाता-Jnätä(that which knows), Objects are said to be कृति-krüti(That established by actions being done), while Ätmä is कर्ता-kartä(That which is doer of actioms), Objects are said to be दृष्ट-drishta(That which seen or percieved), while Ätmä is दृष्टा-drishtä(That which is the seer or perceiver). By these concepts of discerning what is Ätmä, and what is Object.

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    Welcome to Hinduism Stack Exchange :) Always use blockquote when quoting from any text.
    – user9969
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 14:38

In the Kathopanishad (Kath Up) we find the famous discussion between NachiketA and Yama. Where Yama gives NachiketA a short discourse on AtmAgyAna (knowledge of the self or soul).

In that context, he (Yama) gives three (logical) arguments to show that the AtmA (or Soul) is not only different from the body, but also different from the Indriyas (senses) and the vital breaths ( PrAna VAyus).

  • AtmA is distinct from the Indriyas

    Urdham prAnamunnayatyapAnam pratyagasyati |
    Madhye vAmanamasinam visve devA upAsate || - Kath Up 2.2.3

    One who makes the PrANa vAyu to flow upwards and the ApAna vAyu to flow downwards, that worship-worthy AtmA is always worshipped by the Indriyas (senses; here senses are mentioned as DevAs or deities) with presents (objects of the senses eventually are all for the enjoyment of the AtmA only; this is what is meant here).

  • AtmA is distinct from the body

    Asya visramsamAnasya sharirasthasya dehinah |
    DehAdvimuchyamanasya kimatra parishishyate | Etadvai tath || - Kath Up 2.2.4

    When, one, who is established in the body as it's lord, gets detached from the body, what remains in the body then? That is the AtmA.

  • AtmA is distinct from the PrAna vAyus

    Na prAnena nApanena martyo jivati kashchana |
    Itarena tu jivanti yasminnetAvupashritau || - Kath Up 2.2.5

    One does not live by the vital breaths, like PrANa and apAna, but lives due to some entity that is distinct from these vital breaths and which these breaths themselves are dependent upon.

2.2.3 proves that AtmA is distinct from the senses. Because, otherwise, they worshipping the AtmA do not make any sense.

2.2.4 shows that AtmA is different from the body too. Because the body itself is considered as living or dead depending on whether the AtmA is attached to it or not.

Finally 2.2.5 shows that the AtmA is distinct from even the vital breaths, which all in turn are said to be as dependent on the AtmA itself.


In Vedanta, different logical processes are described to help us understand many of its core concepts. For example, Drg-Drishya-Viveka (discrimination between seer and seen) explains logically why our identity or the "I" (or atman or self) is not this body. In brief, this is as follows -

  1. Axiom 1: Subject and object are always different entities. For example, if you are watching TV, you can not be the TV!

  2. Axiom 2: Subject is always one, but the object can be many. You can see TV, or look at the table or another person.

Now if you think these two axioms are right, then we should follow it and move further.

For example, you - the subject, is aware of whether your eye is closed or open, or aware of its different states. Now as the axiom says that objects can have multiple names and forms, but the subject is one and subject and object are always different. So, you are not your eyes! You can't be! The same argument can be applied to any other sense organs.

God forbid, if one accidentally lose one of his legs, the person remains the same! We don't start to call him by some other name or treat him like another person! Same is true for if the person had gone through kidney transplantation! So atman, the true essence of one person can't be the body.

Vedanta goes even further! It proves that he is not even the mind or the intelligence! He is one that stands beyond intelligence; he is consciousness (atman). As you just wanted the core method, I am not elaborating on these points here.

Ref. Drg-Drishya-Viveka by Vidyaranya

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