It is emphasised in Advaita Vedanta that "I am neither the mind nor the body, I am the Atman which is in fact the same as Brahman" (not a quote but my understanding).

I would like to know in what sense the mind and Atman are different. What makes decisions? The mind or the Atman? What gives rise to consciousness? The mind or the Atman. Is my personality a result of my mind or the Atman?

  • Atman is the only conscious entity. This consciousness gets reflected in the antahkarana or internal organ (roughly the mind). Mind by itself is inert. It is part of prakruti. Mind makes decisions. Personality is the result of mind, not Atman. Same Atman is there in everyone, but manas or mind differs.
    – user16581
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 11:03
  • 2
    The screen on which movie runs is Atman and the movie is mind. Screen is completely unaffected by movie.
    – Pinakin
    Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 12:02
  • If the mind makes decisions and personality is also the result of the mind then Karma theory makes no sense. The mind is the one that suffers the fruits of Karma but the mind that is suffering now has nothing to do with the mind that commited the sin that resulted in the suffering. Commented Feb 4, 2019 at 12:30
  • @Jaikrishnan If current state of your mind is different from your past state of mind that performed bad karmas, you are free to remove your suffering by performing good karmas. This life and past life karmas fight among one another and one who is stronger wins.
    – Lokesh
    Commented Mar 3, 2019 at 20:59
  • @Lokesh Thank you your clarifications! To me the whole edifice of Karma now seems patently unfair and unjust. So long as I mistakenly identify myself with the body and the mind, my suffering is real to me. It is evil on the part of Brahman to let the billions of Jivatmas suffer this way for no apparent reason. To say that the suffering is an illusion and the Atman is eternal, blissful and unaffected shows apathy at best and Schadenfreude at worst. Commented Mar 4, 2019 at 15:40

2 Answers 2


Nirvanashatkam says:

"[Real] I am not mind,intellect, heart or ego. I am Atman".

That which is thinking and roaming always is the mind. The sense of ego-centric 'I' and 'My'is caused by the functioning of mind.

Atmaa is All-pervading and ever changeless.

Gita says:

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि

न्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः।

अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो

न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे।।2.20।।

2.20 Never is this One born, and never does It die; nor is it that having come to exist, It will again cease to be. This One is birthless, eternal, undecaying, ancient; It is not killed when the body is killed.

But mind is born and it dies when Atman is realised in Nirvikalpa-samadhi.


इन्द्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्यः परं मनः।

मनसस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धेः परतस्तु सः।।3.42।।

3.42 They say that the organs are superior (to the gross body); the mind is superior to the organs; but the intellect is superior to the mind. However, the one who is superior to the intellect is He.

Our brain controls our mind and intellect. Atmaa is beyond these. In fact Atmaa is the Knower and mind is its instument. Atmaa is realised at the Nirvikalpa-Samadhi samadhi state where there is no functioning of body, mind, intellect and so of brain.


The mind is basically experienced, you can know when you are happy, sad, you can feel the I(Ego), which means the mind is the seen and you are the witness of your mind. Mind is an object to your awareness which cannot be objectified and which has no other seerer. It is the subject.

The thoughts of desire, willingness or doubt, belief or disbelief, fortitude or its lack, modesty, understanding, fear, and such others – Consciousness, remaining the same, illumines them all. This (Witness) does not rise, nor does It set; It does not increase, nor does It decrease; It shines by itself and then others does It illumine, without any external aid.(Drig Drishya Viveka 3-4)

Swami Bhaskarananda in Many to One, page 46 writes,

What about my mind? I know its presence and also know the various thoughts that arise in it. Therefore, my mind is also the object of my knowledge. As its knower I am different from it. I know that my intellect is comparatively superior or inferior to the intellects of other people. Therefore, being the object of my knowledge the intellect is different from me. Now let me examine if I am my ego. Firstly, my ego is no other than my thought. Itisanidea only. [It acts as a factor of separation in my mind. It helps me to separate myself from whatever I think I am not.] As ego is a thought, it is only a modification of my mind. As I am not my mind, I can’t be my ego. I know that my ego, which dwells inside my mind, is also an object of my knowledge. I know its nature as well as its functions. Sometimes it is stubborn, sometimes cruel, sometimes kind, and so on. It also thinks, “I did this” or “I enjoyed that.” Thus, not only the ego but also its functions are the objects of my knowledge. I, therefore, cannot be my ego. I must be different from it.

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