Soul versus Atman

Soul atman

The word “atman” from Hinduism is translated as “soul” in English. But this is an incorrect translation. “Atman” is different from “soul” the way “doughnut hole” is different from the “doughnut.”

A soul is something. It is like the doughnut made up of thought material (ideas, visualizations, assumptions, etc.). But an atman is nothing. It has no substance. It is like the doughnut hole surrounded by the thought material of the doughnut.

A soul is that “I,” “will” or “intention” that one feels subjectively. It seems that there is a permanent self there. From this self-centric viewpoint, the ultimate reality is the “perfect self” of God. When undesirable thought material is purged and the soul is purified, it goes to heaven to be with God. The soul and God do not merge because different selves maintain their integrity.

However, an atman is surrounded by thought material that presents itself as a relative, conditioned and impermanent self. From this reality-centric viewpoint, one arrives at the ultimate reality by “neti, neti” (shedding all that is relative, conditioned and impermanent). As the conditioned reality of self is purged, atman merges with the ultimate reality.

So, soul becomes the best it can be, while atman sheds all its conditioning to return to what it basically was all along.

 

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Comments

  • Chris Thompson  On June 18, 2014 at 7:38 PM

    “However, an atman is surrounded by thought material that presents itself as a relative, conditioned and impermanent self. From this reality-centric viewpoint, one arrives at the ultimate reality by “neti, neti” (shedding all that is relative, conditioned and impermanent). As the conditioned reality of self is purged, atman merges with the ultimate reality.”

    We have been over this conjecture before and I find it fascinating every time. Each time, I learn a little more about this concept.

    I think my addiction to analogies and metaphors is abating a little bit. I credit that with studying and learning not more about God, but more and better understanding of metaphor and analogy.

    Sometimes I have thought that I think only metaphors and analogies. I used to get the idea that my father thought only in cliches’. haha The more I’ve learned about metaphors, analogies, parables, and allegories, the less poignant they seem to me.

    • vinaire  On June 18, 2014 at 8:22 PM

      “We have been over this conjecture before and I find it fascinating every time. Each time, I learn a little more about this concept.”

      Yes, that is true for me too. Just now I added the last sentence realising that atman was basically that ultimate reality all along, only lost a little bit. Haha!

  • Chris Thompson  On June 18, 2014 at 7:40 PM

    The less I know about God, the more I understand God. Maybe it works this way for Atman, the hole in the donut, the space between the leaves in the tree.

    • vinaire  On June 18, 2014 at 8:33 PM

      I am realizing more layers of self-centricity that I have to shed off.

  • vinaire  On June 23, 2014 at 8:03 AM

    Death comes about when the continuity and coherence of awareness throughout the body is broken.

    All atoms and molecules of the body go back to their individual, disconnected awareness. The life of the body, which existed due to connected awareness, disappears. This connectedness had earlier brought about processes, which now disappear.

    Thus, there is no soul that leaves the body. It is simply the fact that the condition of life ceases to exist.

    The condition of life does not come from a “soul controlling the body.”

    The condition of life comes from the connected awareness of all atoms and molecules, which then allows awareness to flow throughout the body, making it act as a single organism.

    A higher harmonic would be that of a community in which all members are connected by awareness, which then flows in a consistent and coherent manner throughout the community. We may peg the death of the community to the point in time when the individuals in the community go back to their individual, disconnected awareness.

    • Chris Thompson  On June 23, 2014 at 8:14 AM

      Excellent analogy. I saw the movie “Transcendence” last night. Excellent exploration.

    • vinaire  On June 23, 2014 at 8:24 AM

      Great!

      I think that the continuity and coherence of awareness may get broken in stages.
      First the organism fails, but the organs may still be operational. Then the organs start to fail one by one.

      I do not think that there is a soul that leaves the body at death. It is just the loss of the flow of awareness.

      Awareness is expressed as a disturbance seen or experienced as light.

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