If the Absolute reality is termed as Brahman from an universal POV and the same is termed as Atman from an individual POV, then what about Jiva. Doesn't that makes two individual selves, namely Atman and Jiva? How can there be two Individual selves?


Although referring to the same Absolute Existence, Brahman is the usual reference when seen from the universal aspect, Atma or Atman is usually when referencing Brahman when enclosed in the individual jiva. By definition, jiva is Brahman enclosed within the koshas. Professor Chandradhar Sharma writes in his book A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, pp 25-27 (available here - https://archive.org/details/IndianPhilosophyACriticalSurvey):



We have seen that the same reality is called from the subjective side as ‘Atman’ and from the objective side as ‘Brahman’. The two terms are used as synonyms. The Absolute of the Upanisads manifests itself as the subject as well as the object and transcends them both. The Absolute is as certain as the Atman and also as infinite as the Brahman. This blending of the subject and the object in a transcen¬ dental principle, this synthesis of the self and the not-self in the Absolute, this dialectical march of pure self-consciousness from the subject through the object to its own synthetic nature was arrived at by the Upanisadic sages centuries before Hegel, and many many years before Plato was born. To quote Deussen: ‘It was here that for the first time the original thinkers of the Upanisads, to their immortal honour, found it when they recognized our Atman, our inmost indi¬ vidual being, as the Brahman, the inmost being of universal nature and of all her phenomena’. ‘That thou art’ (tat tvam asi) is the great saying (mahavakya) of the Upanisads. ‘I am Brahman.’ ‘Atman is Brahman.’ ‘I am that.' ‘I am the non-dual Bliss.’ The subject lacked infinitude and the object lacked certitude. The Absolute has both infinitude and certitude. The self and the not-self are equally manifestations of the Absolute and are at bottom one. The individual self is, in fact, no longer individual, but universal. The microcosm and the macrocosm are blended together. In microcosm we find the three states of waking, dreaming and sound sleep and we find the self as the Fourth, the immanent yet transcendent reality. In macrocosm waking (jagrat) corresponds to Virat, dreaming (svapna) to Hiranyagarbha, deep sleep (susupti) to Ishvara, and the Fourth (turlya) to Brahman. In macro¬ cosm, body corresponds to Virat, life and mind correspond to Hiranya¬ garbha, self-consciousness corresponds to Ishvara and bliss corresponds to Brahman. The Absolute is Pure Existence, Pure Knowledge, and Pure Bliss—all in one. It is called Sachhidananda. It is Satyam (Truth), Jnanam (Knowledge) and Anantam (Infinite). It is Truth, Goodness and Beauty—Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram. By knowing it the unseen becomes the seen, the unknown becomes the known, the unthought of becomes the thought of.

All this is beautifully described in the Chhandogya (6) in a dialogue between Uddalaka and Shvetaketu. The father teaches his son Shvetaketu thus: ‘In the beginning Sat alone was, without a second. It thought “May I be many”.’ Then it evolved itself into this manifold world. Thou, O Shvetaketu! art that—‘Tat tvam asi Shvetaketo!’. This teaching blends the subject with the object, the indubitable with the infinite, the microcosm with the macrocosm, the self with the not-self. None of them can be taken as independent and separate. Both are relative terms and like the two sides of the same coin, both are manifestations of the same Sat. The Sat runs through them (tadevanupravishat) and constitutes their being. Yet the Sat cannot be confined to them. In its own nature it transcends them both. The individual self of Shvetaketu of which he is immediately conscious and absolutely certain is identified with the infinite objective reality which is the cause of this universe including the individual selves and the world of matter. But how can a portion of the effect be identified with the whole cause? How can the self of Shvetaketu which is itself an effect along with others (i.e., other selves and matter) be one with the cause, the Brahman? How can the private and the limited self of Shvetaketu be the cause of this entire universe? The answer is that both the self and the not-self are mere manifestations of the Absolute. The Absolute is immanent in them all and constitutes their being. The self of Shvetaketu is one with the Universal Self which is immanent in it. ‘I live, yet not I, but God liveth in me.’

  • So Atman is the individual self then? But isn't jiva the individual self? – Greg Levenski Dec 23 '18 at 21:51

There are no two selves. Man misidentifies his I-sense with his body-mind complex. Actually his I-sense is really the Atman.

Then, addressing the devotees, Sri Ramakrishna said: "The spiritual wisdom of worldly people is seen only on rare occasions. It is like the flame of a candle. No, it is rather like a single ray of the sun passing through a chink in a wall. Worldly people chant the name of God, but there is no zeal behind it. It is like children's swearing by God, having learnt the word from the quarrels of their aunts.

"Worldly people have no grit. If they succeed in an undertaking, it is all right, but if they don't succeed, it scarcely bothers them at all. When they need water they begin to dig a well. But as soon as they strike a stone they give up digging there and begin at another place. Perhaps they come to a bed of sand. Finding nothing but sand, they give that place up too. How can they succeed in getting water unless they continue to dig persistently where they started?

"Man reaps the harvest of his own past actions. Hence you read in the song:

O Mother, I have no one else to blame: Alas! I sink in the well these very hands have dug.

"'I' and 'mine' — that is ignorance. By discriminating you will realize that what you call 'I' is really nothing but Atman. Reason it out. Are you the body or the flesh or something else? At the end you will know that you are none of these. You are free from attributes. Then you will realize that you have never been the doer of any action, that you have been free from virtue and faults alike, that you are beyond righteousness and unrighteousness.

"From ignorance a man says, 'This is gold and this is brass.' But a man of Knowledge says, 'It is all gold.'

"Reasoning stops when one sees God. But there are instances of people who have realized God and who still continue to reason. Again, there are people who, even after having seen God, chant His name with devotion and sing His glories.

"How long does a child cry? So long as it is not sucking at its mother's breast. As soon as it is nursed it stops crying. Then the child feels only joy. Joyously it drinks the milk from its mother's breast. But it is also true that, while drinking, the child sometimes plays and laughs.

"It is God alone who has become everything. But in man He manifests Himself the most. God is directly present in the man who has the pure heart of a child and who laughs and cries and dances and sings in divine ecstasy."

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, Advice to the Brahmos, April 7, 1883

  • So why do they call the absolute with two names like brahman & also atman? Why not call the real 'I' as Brahman instead of atman? – Greg Levenski Jan 1 at 12:25

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