In my understanding of the scriptures, it's mentioned that Atman, a small part of Brahman, resides within every living entity, giving rise to Chetna, which we can equate with consciousness.

So, is it accurate to say that Chetna is an outcome of Atman? Furthermore, I've come across the idea that the purpose of human life is to elevate one's level of Chetna, or consciousness. This raises the question: How can one enhance their level of consciousness? Given that consciousness is often perceived as unchanging, complete, and eternal, what exactly undergoes transformation?

I'm also curious about the concept of Chetanya. My exploration of the scriptures has left me a bit perplexed about the distinctions and relationships among these three terms: Atman, Chetna, and Chetanya. Could you kindly provide some clarity on this matter? I approach this inquiry with the curiosity of a novice student seeking guidance.

Thank you.


2 Answers 2


The Atman is indicated as something other than the gross, subtle and causal bodies, beyond the five sheaths of matter; a witness to the Waking, dream and deep sleep states of Consciousness and the perceiver in the sense organs, and the thinker in the intellect.

Swami Chinmayananda

(Despite Atman being independent of sharira , its manifestation in sharira (body), attributes to the reason why it is identified with the body. The nature of Atman is explained thru neti-neti in Upanishads)

Chaitanya is intrinsic in Atman , as Atman is sat chit ananda.

Chaitanya ,pure consciousness is unconditioned, whereas Chetana the pratibimba of Chaitanya , is conditioned by its avidya

Brahman is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss(sat chit ananda). The existence aspect alone is manifested in inanimate objects, but not consciousness and bliss. This is because inanimate objects have no subtle body which alone can reflect consciousness and bliss. The consciousness aspect is manifested in all animate beings, even when the mind is agitated, for we see that even a person who is unhappy is conscious. But the bliss aspect is manifested only when the mind is calm. A doubt arises as to why, when Brahman has both the aspects of consciousness and bliss, only one of them, consciousness, is reflected in an agitated mind. When you look at the reflection of your face in a mirror, you find that the face in its entirety is reflected and not only some aspects of it. This doubt is answered by giving two examples. When water is in contact with fire, only the heat aspect of fire is absorbed by the water and not the light of fire. But when a log of wood comes into contact with fire, it absorbs both the heat and the light aspects. Similarly, only the consciousness aspect of Brahman is reflected in an agitated mind, but both the consciousness and the bliss aspects are reflected when the mind is calm.
Panchadasi chapter 15 , Sri SN Saastri.

In terms of Gita 7.5

This is My lower nature. Know My other and higher nature which is the soul, by which this world is upheld, O Mighty-armed (Arjuna). The Supreme is Iśvara, the personal Lord of the universe Who contains conscious souls and unconscious nature . The two are regarded as His higher (para) lower (aparā) aspects. He is the life and form of every being .The Universal Being of God includes the totality of the unconscious in His lower nature and the totality of conscious in His higher. The embodiment of the soul in body life, sense, mind and understanding gives us the the ego, which uses the material setting for its activity. Each individual two sides, the soul and the image, Kşetrajña and ksetra. These are the two natures of Iśvara who is superior to them both
Dr. S Radhakrishnan

How can one enhance their level of consciousness?

Gita chap 16 enumerates the , divine virtues that enhances spiritual progress (thereby level of consciousness), and demonic qualities ,that clutches one into samsaara..Also Gita suggests, karma , bhakti , jnana Marg to spiritual ly elevate oneself. Jnana is more subtler than karma and bhakti Therefore, Sri Krishna time and again emphasize s Karma yoga(as precursor) , becos if a yog that is more grosser is impossible , there is no point venturing into those that are subtler (like dhyana -meditation etc).

V Apte page 498(In the context of Vedanta by and large Chaitanya seems to connote pure consciousness only, yet there could be exceptions , (connotation may change depending on the treatise ))

V Apte page 498

V Apte page 493 V Apte page 493

वेदानां मध्ये सामवेदः अस्मि। देवानां रुद्रादित्यादीनां वासवः इन्द्रः अस्मि। इन्द्रियाणाम् एकादशानां चक्षुरादीनां मनश्च अस्मि संकल्पविकल्पात्मकं मनश्चास्मि। भूतानाम् अस्मि चेतना- कार्यकरणसंघाते नित्याभिव्यक्ता बुद्धिवृत्तिः चेतना।।(Sri Shankara Bhagavad Padaa s commentary for Gita 10.22)

So here chetana seems to connote conditioned consciousnes manifested on the budhi /intellect sheath, being above the intellect sheath(yo buddheḥ paratas tu saḥ Gita 3.42)

  • Can you please tell me what is causal body? and the relationship between causal body and Atman? Also can we say that Chetna is basically our Vivek (discrimination) and our Intellect? Sep 8, 2023 at 17:47
  • 1
    @SwarnimKhosla , Causal body is a repository of unmanifest vaasanas . As how a seed that is unmanifest, is the storehouse of trees blue print as well as the cause of the tree..(akin to it) the causal body is the blueprint/cause of other two bodies..I hope the second q. is in the context of Gita 10.22. I've included the Sanskrit commentary in ans.sec.. I'm not any erudite scholar of Sanskrit / vedanta. Vaidikas who devote their life for Vedic studies are those who are truly well versed / right authority,( no doubt.).Ive just tried to ans. you Q, to my knowledge
    – Athrey
    Sep 10, 2023 at 10:43

Chetana means consciousness.

Chaitanya = chetanasya bhAvana shyaN, meaning 'the feeling of consciousness'. To be more precise, Chetana + 'ya' = Chaitanya. shyaN is a formal way of referring to the ya suffix. 'ya' suffix is applied when we want to make a root indicate a potential passive participle in grammar.

So while Chetana means consciousness, chaitanya is saying the same thing in a passive sense, i.e. you can say chaitanya = conscious, as applied in this sense - "He is a conscious person". Which is why you will find people's name being Chaitanya and not Chetana.

Atma simply means the "I" in your frame of reference. i.e. the Individualized Identity. For ex: Aham Atma = I, the identity.

Adi Shankaracharya says this in his Bhashya on BrihadAranyaka Upanishad -

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Meaning: By whichever whatever thoughts man creates knowledge of 'Atma', each such throughs are real, flawless and there is no other creation (i.e. source/creation of Atma) in existence than that created by such thoughts.

On Chetana vs Chaitnaya, you can refer to this & this for further understanding.

  • In the answer given above by @Athrey, he says that Chetanya is "unconditioned consciousness" and Chetna is the reflection of Chetanya but is an "ignorant" aspect of Chetnaya. According to your answer, Chetna and Chetanya words are grammatically the same thing. So can you clarify whether the answer given above is right or not? Thank you. Sep 8, 2023 at 17:55
  • The other answer was written by someone who does not know Sanskrit language & its grammar (Vyakaran). My answer is based on Sanskrit language & its vyakaran. No, I did not say Chetana & Chaitanya are the same thing, unless you feel 'Sight' and 'Seen' are the same word. Regardless of which Hindu scripture you read, if you do not know Sanskrit language with its Grammar, you will never know the accurate meaning. Which is why, Vyakaran is one of the Vedangas (6 limbs of the Veda). And as you know without learning the 6 vedangas, one can never know the accurate meaning of Vedas. Sep 8, 2023 at 23:31

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