(Using the "body" and "hand" instead of "Brahman" and "Atman")

Ramanuja says, "the hand is the same as the body but the hand is not the body itself".

Madhu says, "the hand is not the body and the body is not the hand".

Shankara says, "I'm not saying the hand and the body as the same but the hand and the body are not two different things"

HELP! What is Advaita if Brahman and Atman are not being affirmed as being one but negated as being two?

  • Advaita means non-dual in Samskrit. Equality of Atman and Brahman is something different though somewhat related. By non dual we mean Brahman doesn't occur in two parts like cold-heat, good-bad etc.
    – Lokesh
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 3:29
  • Thank you for answering!
    – Tamela
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 3:32
  • 1
    Just understand it in this way, from a tree seeds come which can eventually grow into more trees producing more seeds. Brahman/Paramatma is the tree, all living beings are seeds, liberated beings are saplings. From inside in static realm everything is same, that is body and hand are part of same system with same blood flowing, but from outside hand is dependent on body for support. Hence, Brahman is Paramatma(Main soul) and all living beings are Aatma(soul). But its like a drop separated from ocean in a frame of time and a paradox "I and Father are one" eventually.
    – user16530
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 4:07
  • Now, when I ask you, Who is Tamela? You will say "She is I", but thats the name society gave to your body and you got attached to its ego that "I am Tamela" because of repetition and God is some third person. But is society eternal? No, Is the name eternal? No. What is eternal? Brahman or One consciousness that exists within you and all living beings alone is eternal, called God in different cultures, which is your and all living beings "real I am"/self.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_that_I_Am
    – user16530
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 4:26
  • 9
    Hand and body analogy is not correct one to understand. Use Wave and Ocean (Water). Wave emerges in Ocean, preserves for sometime and then dissolves in Ocean. Initially wave feels it is different from ocean or Water. This is duality or Dvaita. Later wave feels it is part of Ocean and this is improvement (this state is VisistaAdvaita). Finally, wave knows it is water alone and not different from ocean at all. This final state is Advaita or non-dual state. All 3 are correct. State of Advaita can only be know through real experience.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 5:47

4 Answers 4


It is not possible to say that Brahman and the Atman are one because in the Advaita experience the ego dissolves. Without the ego there is no one left to do the counting.

In that state a man no longer finds the existence of his ego. And who is there left to seek it? Who can describe how he feels in that state - in his own Pure Consciousness - about the real nature of Brahman? There is a sign of Perfect Knowledge. Man becomes silent when It is attained. Then the 'I', which may be likened to the salt doll, melts in the ocean of Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute and becomes one with It. Not the slightest distinction is left.

The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Master with the Brahmo Devotees (I), October 28, 1882

  • This is wrong. Atman by its very definition is Brahman. Atman is defined as who we really are and not what we think we are. When we ask a question, we presume we are talking in state of duality because every name and form would lose meaning in non dual Brahman. Rishis refer to Brahman by many names like Atman, Ishwar, etc. and all these mean Brahman verily. Ved mahavakya is अयं आत्मा ब्रह्म।
    – Lokesh
    Commented Aug 11, 2019 at 0:44

As per advaita, all the souls are reflections of same Higher Self/Brahman/Paramatman/God.

Tree of Jiva and Atman

The Rig Veda samhita 1.164.20-22, Mundaka Upanishad 3.1.1-2, and Svetasvatara Upanisad 4.6-7, speak of two birds, one perched on the branch of the tree, which signifies the body, and eating its fruit, the other merely watching.

Rig Veda samhita says:

1.164.20 Two birds associated together, and mutual friends, take refuge in the same tree; one of them eats the sweet fig; the other abstaining from food, merely looks on.

1.164.21 Where the smooth-gliding rays, cognizant, distil the perpetual portion of water; there has the Lord and steadfast protector all beings accepted me, though immature in wisdom.

1.164.22 In the tree into which the smooth-gliding rays feeders on the sweet, enters, and again bring forth light over all, they have called the fruit sweet, but he partakes not of it who knows not the protector of the universe.

The first bird represents a Jiva, or individual self, or soul. She has a female nature, being a shakti, an energy of God. When the jiva becomes distracted by the fruits (signifying sensual pleasure), she momentarily forgets her lord and lover and tries to enjoy the fruit independently of him. This separating forgetfulness is maha-maya, or enthrallment, spiritual death, and constitutes the fall of the jiva into the world of material birth, death, disease and old age.

The second bird is the Paramatman, an aspect of God who accompanies every living being in the heart while she remains in the material world. He is the support of all beings and is beyond sensual pleasure.

There are only 2 things in spiritual vocab, static masculine spirit/Akasha/ space and dynamic matter/Prana/mind. When the soul identifies itself with matter/mind and body and its ego, it is called feminine Jivatma/Shakti but when the same soul identifies itself with the Higher Self/Brahman and calling world to be a dream, it is masculine Paramatman/Shiva. Hence, some Samkhya Yogis, Advaita Gyanis like Kapil, Buddha identifying themselves with higher bird and one with Brahman denies existence of God while Dvaita Bhakts who identify themselves with lower bird describe God for God can be only seen from divisible feminine material realm not from the formless One masculine realm.

In the beginning this was Self alone, in the shape of a person (Purusha). He looking around saw nothing but his Self (Atman). He first said, "This is I", therefore he became I/Aham by name. — Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.1

Na Tasya Pratima Asti - He has no image - Yajur Veda 32.3

Just like your soul, mind, intellect and ego are formless as this is the part of your consciousness, so is the masculine aspect of cosmic consciousness Brahman is also imageless and formless like infinite space.

The one that is formless is masculine and one that takes form in the form of earth and infinite living beings is feminine, hence God is worshipped in pair like Shiva-Shakti, Vishu-Laxmi, Purush-Prakriti. The entire creation is running on duality that is Day-Night, Male-Female, Kshetrgya-Kshetra, Seer-Seen, Right-Left, Sun-Moon, 2 eyes, 2 legs, 2 hands etc., to teach this thing.

Ramakrishna Paramhans regarded the Supreme Being to be both Personal and Impersonal, active and inactive:

When I think of the Supreme Being as inactive - neither creating nor preserving nor destroying - I call Him Brahman or Purusha, the Impersonal God. When I think of Him as active - creating, preserving and destroying - I call Him Sakti or Maya or Prakriti, the Personal God. But the distinction between them does not mean a difference. The Personal and Impersonal are the same thing, like milk and its whiteness, the diamond and its lustre, the snake and its wriggling motion. It is impossible to conceive of the one without the other. The Divine Mother and Brahman are one.

Formless cant be understood without a form and divisions like mind and intellect and shapes etc., hence the creation are created as a teaching area for all the souls based on their individual Karmas, that are reflections of Brahman. But most souls forget their real self i.e. soul and start believing their temporary body and its ego to be eternal especially in Kaliyuga, i.e. current age, hence miseries of old age, diseases and death.

Corinthians 4:18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Avadhut Geeta explaining the state achieved after Moksha which is called the state of Jivanmukta

[1.31] When the pot is broken, the space within it is absorbed in the infinite space and becomes undifferentiated. When the mind becomes pure, I do not perceive any difference between the mind and the supreme Being.

Uttara Geeta

    1. As the Akãsa of the pot is absorbed in the Mahãkãsa when the pot is broken, so also the ignorance bound Jîvãtman is absorbed in the Paramãtman when ignorance is destroyed.
    1. He who has been able to acquire the knowledge of the Tattvas that the Jîvãtman is absorbed in the Paramãtman, even as the Akãsa of the Pot is absorbed in the Mahãkãsa, becomes undoubtedly free from the chain of ignorance, and goes into the sphere of the Light of Supreme Knowledge and Wisdom.

Opposite of Dvaita. The foundation of everything. The ultimate form of existence. Basic fabric of entirety. God / Brahaman.

Advait is term given to the form prequel to existence. - E.g., material of a Coin

Advait roop is the ultimate non dual roop - One god - still a Coin /both its sides are made up of same metal

Dvait is dual and is sequel to advait - Point where seemingly opposite pole appears - [Siva sakti / yin yang / good / bad / + / - / atma -parmatma ]

Sides of coin

Existence the way we perceive is from this point on-wards

Further to advait is trinity/Trigun principles - [Tamas - Sattav Rajas ] Governing flip of coin - Head - Tail - Both/None

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    – The Destroyer
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 9:31
  • @Prasoon, thank you. I have just begun studying Dvaita and you're the first I've seen mention it. It is possible to believe both paths: Advaita and Dvaita? I know through reading that the Vedas mention both concepts: Advaita and Dvaita?
    – Tamela
    Commented Aug 1, 2019 at 11:59

All philosophy can be very difficult to understand. However, what is important to be understood is that ultimately it is the practice/ behaviour/ deeds which eventually matter. As such, there are various books which have been written which cater to various people. The direct Sanskrit sources may not be very accessible. It would be best to grasp these ideas via a Western person who has properly grasped these ideas and written them in plain English and using metaphors and ideas which can be understood by a Western person. I recommend David Godman's books and talks on YouTube. Also, Arthur Osborne's book on Ramana Maharishi can also be very instructive. These are the modern methods to grasp the same understanding. This along with a reading of a simple translation of Gita and Swami Vivekananda's works in English is more than sufficient to grasp the core ideas. However, ultimately your motivations, correct seeking and karma will lead you to the right sources i.e. the right books/ gurus will reveal themselves, otherwise not.

Arunachala Siva


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