The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross road

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Parikh1019, Feb 21, 2011.

  1. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    Is “Atman of Hinduism” and “Soul of Christianity” synonymous??? What about Anatman???

    “The Rishis speak of two souls: the real soul and the apparent soul. The real soul is birthless, deathless, immortal, and infinite. The same real soul, under the spell of ignorance, appears as the apparent man identified with the body, mind and senses. ………Again, it is the apparent man who performs virtuous or sinful deeds, goes, after death, to heaven or hell, and assumes different bodies. But it must never be forgotten that rewards and punishments are spoken of only with reference to the reflected or apparent soul. The real soul is forever free from the characteristics of the relative world. But the real soul is always free, illumined, and perfect. The real sun, non-dual and resplendent, shines brilliantly in the sky, though millions of its reflections are seen to move with the movement of the waves”. Swami Nikhilananda

    “That has been said to be Manifest which is possessed of these four attributes, viz., birth, growth, decay and death. That which is not possessed of these attributes is said to be Unmanifest. Two souls are mentioned in the Vedas and the sciences that are based upon them. The first (which is called Jivatman; embodied soul) is endued with the four attributes already mentioned, and has a longing for the four objects or purposes (viz., Religion, Wealth, Pleasure and Emancipation). This soul is called Manifest, and it is born of the Unmanifest (Supreme Soul). It is both intelligent and non-intelligent”. Mahabharata Shanti Parva, Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli).

    “Buddhism stands unique in the history of human thought in denying the existence of such a Soul, Self, or Atman. According to the teaching of the Buddha, the idea of self is an imaginary, false belief which has no corresponding reality, and it produces harmful thoughts or ‘me’ and ‘mine’, selfish desire, craving, attachment, hatred, ill-will, conceit, pride, egoism, and other defilements, impurities and problems.” Dr. W. Rahula, “What the Buddha Taught”.

    I have always been intrigued, fascinated, befuddled, bewildered and at times confused by various overlapping terminologies (employed in the scriptures of Indic tradition) and most importantly its subsequent translation in to English language.

    I have often wondered about the applicability and/or suitability of utilizing conceptual framework and lexicon used in Abrahmic faiths to describe the concept of Atman. I have often noticed the English word “Soul”, used as approximate translation for Atman, Jivatman, self, Self, Brahman, Parmatman among others and always wondered whether this translation carries the same meanings, connotation and understanding inherent in Vedanta.

    I have often wondered about oversimplification of the complex subject matter, in to a model based on Western understanding that may end up diluting or even subverting the fundamental precepts of Hinduism especially Vedanta.

    I have often wondered about the logic of utilizing “Arundhati Nyaya” where the seeker is led from a point of commonly understood reference to a newer and alien concept. I have often wondered that by using such a logic are we stagnating ourselves at their point of reference in western world!

    I have often wondered whether Buddhism refers to Atman /Brahman complex or Jivatman when it uses lexicon of “Anatman” in denying its existence. I have often wondered about Buddhism’s use of “Anatma” signifies same concept that Vedanta actually means to convey but expresses it differently.

    I am searching for the answers to some of the questions that I am raising here. I have searched and tried to digest thousands of pages on the web, along with texts of Vedanta books, by various authors, to understand and analyze the conceptual framework of various terms. This article is my humble effort to explore meanings and implications out of those concepts as my own understanding is evolving. If it remains incomplete and even contradictory (arising from my primitive knowledge of Sanskrit language) it is because I am unable to synthesize and juxtapose various models on to each other to make a logical progression in my line of thinking. The fault must lie with me not the thinkers of past. Readers are welcome to join and point out the varying concepts and thought processes so a sensible, coherent, cohesive and logical interpretation can be achieved in a meaningful manner, all the while maintaining the original concepts in as envisioned by our Rishis in Vedantic literature.

    The questions that I am raising here are

     What is a Soul? Is it Soul or soul? What are two “Souls”?
     What is an Atman? What is Jivatman? What is their relationship?
     What is Self? What is self? Is Self synonymous with self?
     Is Atman synonymous with Soul?
     Is Jivatman (Jiva) synonymous with soul?
     What is relationship of Brahman, Parmatman, Atman and Jivatman?
     What is relationship of Atman, Jivatman, Soul and Psyche/mind?
     What is the evolution of the framework in different theology?
     How does Buddhism with “Anatman” (No- Self) tie in to this conceptual framework?
     How does Vedantic model juxtapose into Abrahamic model?

    I will start from a basic question in a simplified manner.

    I - What is a man?

    It can be answered as follows:
    1. A Man is body.
    2. A Man is a body with a “Soul”. (Define what constitutes a soul).
    3. A man is a soul with a body.
    4. A man is Jivatman enveloped a body (Define what is a Jivatman).
    5. A Man is really an ATMAN deluded by Maya and believing himself to be a Jivatman enveloped in a body. (Define Atman).

    II - What is Soul in west?

    Let us begin with western view and its genesis and then we will move forward with eastern concepts in comparing the framework with concluding thoughts.

    “We can accept knowledge as real only insofar as it is a manifestation of a being capable of perception, thought, discrimination, and experience, and possessing, in addition, the powers of abstraction, conceptualization, generalization, and self-analysis. These, we have shown, are found only in an empirically real self or individuality, capable of saying, ‘I am.’ This individuality we call the soul”. Reyes, Scientific Evidence of the Existence of the Soul

    The Soul in Christianity

    The Bible does not give a formal definition of specific concept of soul and hence Christian interpretations vary greatly. The Creationist principle that God created individual and separate soul has been generally held as a mainstream doctrine of Christianity.

    Let me summarize various view points of Christianity from different sources here.

     Most Christian’s schools consider the rational sou lof human being alone as immortal and capable of union with God. The soul of beasts is called the “animal soul”,The soul of plants the “vegetative soul”.

     The Catholic Church defines the soul as “the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is most especially in God’s image: ‘soul’ signifies the spiritual principle in man.”

     Augustine described the soul as “a special substance, endowed with reason, adapted to rule the body”.

     Philosopher Anthony Quinton said the soul is a “series of mental states connected by continuity of character and memory, [and] is the essential constituent of personality. The soul, therefore, is not only logically distinct from any particular human body with which it is associated; it is also what a person is”.

     Richard Swisburne argues, “Souls are immaterial subjects of mental properties. They have sensations and thoughts, desires and beliefs and perform intentional actions. Souls are essential parts of human beings...”

    A few Christian groups do not believe in the soul, and hold that person is mind and body. The boundaries between “soul” and “mind” can vary in different interpretations.

    Is Soul mortal or immortal as per Christianity?

     The soul that is sinning - it itself will die,” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Acts 3:23; Revelation 16:3)
     “The livings are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all. (Ecclesiastes 9:5)
     “Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul”.(Genesis 2:7).

    Most Christians regard the soul as the immortal essence of a human entity and God either rewards or punishes the soul after death. This reward or punishment depends upon doing good deeds or merely upon believing in God and in Jesus. Another minority of Christians believes in the soul, but don’t regard it as inherently immortal. This minority also believes the life of Christ brings immortality, but only to believers.The soul sleep theory states that the soul goes to “sleep” at the time of death, and stays in this quiescent state until the last judgment.The purgatory theory states the imperfect soul spends a period of time purging or cleansing before becoming ready for the end of time. According to some Christians belief system soul equates to the person, and that the soul dies, but that God will resurrect the soul again on the last day. They claim term “immortal” does not appear together with the term “soul” anywhere in Bible. They believe that the concept of the immortality of the soul entered into Christian teaching via converts who brought the teachings of their former religions into Christianity.

    Conceptual evolution of a “soul” in Christianity?

    One can see an evolution of concepts in Greek civilization, which forms the basis of current Christian belief systems and often the basis of their confusing and at times contradictory epistemology. Some of the concepts have a great deal of similarities with Vedantic and Samkhya concepts as it becomes evident here. Plato considers the soul as the essence of a person, as that which decides how we act. He considered this essence as an incorporeal occupant of our being.

    “I should imagine that those who first use the name psyche meant to express that the soul when in the body is the source of life, and gives the power of breath and revival, and when this reviving power fails then the body perishes and dies, and this, if I am not mistaken, they called psyche”. Plato

    The Platonic soul comprises three parts:
    1- Reason or mind or Logos. The reason equates to the mind.
    2- Body or passion. The appetite drives humankind to seek out its basic bodily needs
    3- Spirit. The spirit comprises our emotional motive that which drives us to acts of bravery and glory.

    “If the soul in me is a unity, ……And if that, too, is one soul and yours, and mine, belongs to it, then yours and mine must also be one: and if, again, the soul of the universe and mine depend from one soul, once more all must be one”. Plotinus, Fifth Ennead.

    Aristotle defined the soul as the core essence of a being, but argued against it having a separate existence. Aristotle did not consider the soul as some kind of separate, ghostly occupant of the body. As the soul is an activity of the body it cannot be immortal. Some traditional Christians argue that the Bible teaches the survival of a conscious self after death. They interpret this as an intermediate state, before the deceased unite with their resurrected bodies and restore the psychosomatic unity that existed from conception and which death disrupts as evidenced in following quotes:
    • There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another
    • Jesus says “At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven”.

    What is the view of Christian Gnosticism?

    Valentinus in “The Gospel of Truth” wrote, “People who say they will first die and then arise are mistaken. If they do not receive resurrection while they are alive, once they have died they will receive nothing”. He conceived the human being as a triple entity, consisting of
    • Body (soma, hyle),
    • Soul (psyche)
    • Spirit (pneuma).

    This version appears closer to gross body, subtle body and causal body concepts of Vedanta. He viewed that all humans possess semi-dormant “spiritual seed” can unite with spirit, equated with Christ. This spiritual seed resembles shes-pa in Tibetan Buddhism, jiva in Vedanta, Ruh in Sufism or soul-spark in other traditions.

    Jewish belief

    Most Jewish traditions claim that the soul comprises that part of a person’s mind, which constitutes physical desires, emotion, and thought or a person’s developed intellect.

    The Zohar a classic work of Jewish mysticism in Kabblah tradition posits that the human soul has three elements:
    • Nefesh - the lower or animal part of the soul. It links to instincts and bodily cravings.
    • Ruach - the middle soul or spirit. It contains the moral virtues and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
    • Neshamah - the higher soul, Higher Self or super-soul. This distinguishes man from all other life forms. This part of the soul is provided both to Jew and non-Jew alike at birth. It allows one to have some awareness of the existence and presence of God.
    • After death Nefesh disintegrates, Ruach is sent to a sort of intermediate zone where it is submitted to purification and enters in “temporary paradise”, while Neshamah returns to the source, the world of Platonic ideas, where it enjoys “the kiss of the beloved”.

    Once again this division resembles the classic Vedanta where Neshamah is close to Atman and Rauch is similar to impressions of a Jivatma (which will be explained later on in this essay).

  2. 3rddec

    3rddec New Member

    Mar 4, 2011
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro

    its a bit lonely posting a question with no reply, i am no scholar but i will try to give you the prevalent christian view.

    the human being is made up of body ( physical)
    Mind ( control of body and origin of thoughts and personality)
    Soul ( the true spiritual being the immortal part )

    I accept that it can be difficult to completly explain the grey areas of difference between Mind and Soul . But as far as when there is talk of sould death it does not mean death in the sence of a physical death or a termination in existance but rather a complete seperation from Gods presence for eternity. there can be nothing worse. We believe that just as the body can be ravaged by disease the souls suffers a deterioration in purity when we sin in deed or thought and this then brings upo the subject of heaven hell purgotary etc but that a bigger question.

    hope it helped, at least its an answer lol
  3. Nick the Pilot

    Nick the Pilot Well-Known Member

    Feb 19, 2007
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro


    You have heard of Atman. Have you heard of Buddhi, the state of consciousness just below Atma?

    The two states of consciousness Atman and Buddhi are referred to as Jivatman. Does that make sense?
  4. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro

    PART II continued>>>>>>>>>>
    III- What is “Atman” in Hinduism?
    Let us begin a transition to Eastern concepts:
    Swami Vivekananda explains that there are four theories of the origin of the individual soul:

    v Traducianism: The soul, as well as the body, comes from the parents. The Lutheran and the Eastern Orthodox Churches believe it. God created the Soul of Adam, and everyone afterwards has had a soul as a result.
    v Pre-existence of all souls. Mormons believe it. Origen favored pre-existence of souls.
    v Creationism, whereby God creates a fresh soul for each body. Roman Catholics and most reformed and Calvinist Churches favor creationism.
    v Reincarnation is the belief that an individual human soul passes through a succession of lives. No conventional Christian Denomination believes in reincarnation, but Hindus, Buddhists and Jainists do. Some Western groups believe in reincarnation, but they limit it to human form, where Eastern religions feel that reincarnation could involve any living creature.

    The Atman is described variously as thus.

    -The individual “soul” or essence.
    - The supreme universal self
    -“A” in this word is a negative particle. One popular, albeit apocryphal, etymology has it that the ‘tma’ of “atma” “Tma” means “darkness” in light of the word “tamas” – “darkness, ignorance or inertia”, “spiritual darkness” – has the same root. Therefore “A-tma” or “Atman” means “opposite to darkness” (shining).
    -Brahman=Atman=atman. Brahman is the totality of the universe as it is present outside of you; Atman is the totality of the universe as it is present within you; (Richard hooker).

    Sri A. Parthasarthy (Vedanta Life Institute) “Vedanta Treatise” explains a classical Vedantic view, which categorically states that “I” the “Atman” is enveloped in to following layers.
    “The structure of man can be divided into five material layers enveloping Atman (indwelling soul). Atman is the core of your personality. The five sheaths (pancha-kosas) are:

    1 -Food sheath (Anna-maya kosa). Food sheath is the physical body. The five organs of perception and the five organs of action are a part of it.
    2- Vital-Air sheath (Prana-maya kosa)They correspond to the five physiological functions. They are called the five Pranas. Together they constitute the vital-air sheath.
    Faculty of perception (prana): is the functioning of the five senses as seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching.
    Faculty of excretion (apana) such as faeces, urine, sperms, sputum, and perspiration etc.
    Faculty of digestion (samana): digests food received by the stomach.
    Faculty of circulation (vyana); distributes digested food to different parts of the body through blood stream.
    Faculty of thought-absorption (udana): takes in fresh knowledge.
    Vital-Air sheath is subtler than food sheath.

    3- Mental sheath (Mana-maya kosa) The mental sheath is the mind. Mind consists of passions and emotions, feelings and impulses. Mental-sheath controls vital-air and food sheaths.

    4- Intellectual sheath (Vignana-maya kosa) It functions as thinking, reflecting, reasoning, discriminating, judging, etc. It analyses and distinguishes between pairs of opposites. It controls the above three sheaths.

    5- Bliss sheath (Ananda-maya kosa) When you are in deep sleep i.e. dreamless sleep you are in bliss sheath. But the bliss experienced in deep sleep is relative. It is not to be confused with the absolute bliss of Self-realization.

    The five sheaths enumerated above may also be classified under three different headings viz.gross body, subtle body and causal body.

    IV – Are there TWO SOULS?

    The Mundaka Upanishad answers: “Like two birds perched on the same tree, intimate friends, the ego and the self, dwell in the same body. The former eats the sweet and sour fruits of life, while the later looks on with detachment”.

    Swami Nikhilananda explains the relationship: “The Vedanta philosophy discusses the nature of the soul from two standpoints: Absolute or Transcendental and Relative or phenomenal.
    From the absolute standpoint, the soul is non-dual, immortal, ever pure, ever free, ever illumined, and one with Brahman...... The realization of which is the goal of a man’s spiritual aspiration and striving.
    From this absolute standpoint, the soul is called PARAMATMA or Supreme Soul.

    But from the relative standpoint, the Vedanta philosophy admits the existence of a multitude of individual souls called JIVATMAS, and distinguishes them from the Supreme Soul. Attached to the body, the individual soul is a victim of the pairs of the opposites. Entangled in the world, it seeks deliverance from the eternal round of birth and death.

    The embodied soul is associated with the sense organs, the mind and vital breath (Prana). ……The mind is the inner organ and consists of such functions, as desire, deliberation, doubt, and faith, want of faith, patience, impatience, shame, intelligence and fear.

    There are four functions or divisions or parts of the mind.
    1. One part of the mind called MANAS creates doubt.
    2. The BUDDHI (intellect) makes decisions
    3. CHITTA is the storehouse of memory
    4. AHAM (the ego) creates I-consciousness.

    The five organs of action, the five organs of perception, the five pranas, the mind, and the intellect constitute the gross and the subtle body of the embodied soul (jiva). The subtle accompanies the individual soul after death, when the gross body is destroyed”.

    Let us compare and contrast this concept with Buddhism.
    In Buddhism, the concept of Atman is the prime consequence of ignorance, itself the cause of all misery.

    According to Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutras of Mahayana Buddhism, as well as in certain Buddhist Tantras, “Atman” is used in a dual sense:
    o Denoting the impermanent, mundane ego (attachment to which needs to be overcome)
    o Ultimately real, pure, blissful Self of the Buddha in the state of Nirvana, a Selfhood stated to be unchanging, unshakably firm, and eternal within all beings.

    Is it Atman or Anatman?
    · Do all Buddhist scriptures deny the reality of atman?
    · What is the basis of concept of Anatman/Anatta?
    · What did Buddha mean when he said “no-Self”?
    · How do various schools of Buddhism apply the concept of Anatman?
    · What is the meaning of “Shunyata”? Is it Nihilism?
    · If there is “no-self”, no abiding essence of the person, what it is that is reborn?
    According to Yogachara school, at death the body & mind disintegrates, but if the disintegrating mind contains any remaining traces of karma, it will cause the continuity of the consciousness to bounce back an arising mind to an awaiting being.

    Ø Thomas Phelan (Comments on the Buddhist Concept of Anatta) states “The Buddha taught that we are composed of five aggregates: form, feeling, perception, mental processes, and consciousness; nothing more. No eternal being”.

    He points out that in Theravada Buddhist temples, the monks have a Morning Chanting, which goes like this:
    - Rupam aniccam (Form is impermanent),
    -Vedana anicca (Feeling is impermanent)
    -Sanna anicca (Perception is impermanent)
    -Sakhara anicca (Mental processes are impermanent)
    -Vinnanam aniccam (Consciousness is impermanent)
    -Rupam anatta (Form is not self)
    -Vedana anatta (Feeling is not self)
    -Sanna anatta (Perception is not self)
    -Sankhara anatta (Mental processes are not self)
    -Vinnanam anatta (Consciousness is not self).

    Ø In another words what is impermanent is not Self. Conversely as he rightly points out that if something is permanent and eternal it must be “SELF”. It appears that Buddha refused to answer the question about “Self”. When Ananda asked, The Buddha replied that to respond there was a soul would support the belief of the Eternalists. To answer, there was no soul would support the belief of the Extinctionists.

    Based on the information that is before us one can safely say that what is denied is equivalent of “Mithya” in Shankara’s terminology because it is deemed impermanent and hence it is not Atman. It appears that the doctrine of Anatta (Anatman) states that concept of Atman is unnecessary and counterproductive as an explanatory device for analyzing action, causality, karma, and reincarnation in a Buddhist context.... Buddhists are apparently not saying that Atman does not exist, but that it exists solely as a cognitive obscuration. ....Buddhism sees the apparent self (our identification as souls) as a grasping after a self. One can recognize a close resemblance to individual self or a Jivatman of an Advaitin here.”

    When one reads the Mahayana texts, it becomes very obvious that they indeed use Trikayas (Three bodies of Buddha) as analogous to Vedantic concepts. They are:
    1-Dharmakaya (Reality body) by which the Buddha is of the nature of the essential Absolute Reality, or “emptiness (Shunyata)”, so called because it is “empty” of all finite characteristics.

    2- Sambhogkaya (Complete Enjoyment body), by which the Buddha exists as a transcendent, eternal, celestial being; a primordial archetypal deity or Tathagata Buddha.
    3- Nirmankaya (Transformation body), which is visible historical form of the Buddha.
    It is not unreasonable to assert here that these concepts have a resemblance to Nirguna Brahman, Saguna Brahman and human form.

    It is reasonable to conclude that “anatta” doctrine attempts to encourage the Buddhist practitioner to detach him/herself from misplaced clinging to what is mistakenly regarded as his or her “Self” (i.e. Jivatman). Buddha’s teachings were not meant to know the Atman, but to know the fact that all clinging to concepts and ideas of a self are faulty and based on ignorance.
  5. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro

    PARTIII Continued>>>>>
    What is Shunyata of Buddhism? Can it be reconciled with “Satchitananda” of Vedanta?
    Shunyata is not nihilism but it signifies that everything one encounters in life is empty of soul, permanence, and self-nature. Everything is inter-related, never self-sufficient or independent. The exact definition and extent of Shunyata varies within the different Buddhist schools of philosophy. The Heart Sutra declares that the skandhas, which constitute our mental and physical existence, are empty in their nature or essence, i.e., empty of any such nature or essence. It is not a nihilistic emptiness that undermines our world, but a “positive” emptiness which defines it.“Here, O Sariputra, emptiness is form; form is just emptiness. Apart from form, emptiness is not; emptiness, form is not. Emptiness is that which is form; form is that which emptiness is. Just thus are perception, cognition, mental construction, and consciousness.”
    One may look at the concept of “self” (Jivatman as in Vedanta) and shunyata in this light when Monk Ananda asked Buddha “It is said that the world is empty lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?” The Buddha replied, “In so far as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty”.
    Bijoy H. Boruah (Atman, self, Jivatman and Shunyata) explains these points very succinctly,
    “Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism are at loggerheads with one another on the metaphysical issue of the self or soul. Whereas the former school of thought is credited with the belief in the existence of the Atman or the soul as the core reality of the human individual, the latter school is famous for the theory of Anatman or denial of the existence of any self or soul substance. Vedanta is metaphysically Being-oriented, specifically the Being of Atman or the true individual self, which is ultimately identical with Brahman or the Absolute Reality. Buddhism is metaphysically oriented to Nothingness or Emptiness, known as Sunyata, so much so that Absolute Reality is identified with Absolute Nothingness.According to Vedanta, liberation as self-realization is the realization of our ultimate identity with Brahman. Short of our understanding of our Atman-essence we are each a Jiva, an individual ego distinct from other similarly “unrealized” individuals. As Atman, none of us is really an individual self, but a universal self-merging with the absolute universality of Brahman.

    When Buddhism and Vedanta are thus juxtaposed in a comparative perspective, the two systems present themselves in the form of a mutually exclusive relation. An affirmation of the existence of Atman would presuppose a negation of the reality of Sunyata. Conversely, identifying reality with the field of Sunyata would entail a denial of the existence of Atman. So, either it is Atman without Shunyata, or it is Shunyata without Atman”.
    How do we reconcile these diametrically antagonistic viewpoints? He answers,
    Consciousness decentred is also consciousness universalized, and a self nourished by universalized, perspective less consciousness is evidently empty of all inner encumbrances that accrue to a self of centered consciousness… One meaning of the Buddhist concept of emptiness is the idea of the self’s emptying itself of accumulations of inner traits born of ego-specific consciousness. Transcendence from the life of a Jiva to that of Atman requires that the self render itself into emptiness (Shunyata) as far as the perspectival subjectivity of the former mode of life is concerned. It would therefore be no travesty of Vedantic truth to say that there is a great deal of Shunyata in the inner constitution of Atman. Cast in terms of consciousness, Shunyata is a state of pure consciousness that one would revert to if one were able to empty oneself of any illusory constructions or impressions of an unchanging or permanent reality, whether of things or persons”.
    He argues further,” Can we not say, now, that the Buddhist awakening in “the field of Shunyata” is most akin to the Vedantic realization of the ultimate identity of Atman with Brahman? And is not Brahman—the absolutely indeterminate (Nirguna) Ultimate Reality—itself more like a “field of Shunyata,” the original ground of everything? We have intimations of a “hidden” Atman of Buddhism on the one hand and of the “silent” Shunyata in Vedanta on the other”.

    V - What is Brahman?

    Brahman, according to Vedanta is a concept of the unchanging, infinite, immutable, immanent and transcendent reality that is the Divine Ground of all being. It is considered to be a source and sum of the cosmos akin to the “world soul that got constricted by time, space, and causation”. Brahman in addition to being material, efficient, formal and final causes of the cosmos was also utterly beyond all senses. The Upanishads identify Brahman (possibly expressed as the world soul) with atman, the inner essence of the human being, or the human “soul”. The legitimate question here is whether it is Atman and Jivatman as Vedanta sees it or soul as understood in Christianity! If Brahman is beyond the senses, beyond the mind, beyond intelligence, beyond imagination then it cannot be equated with soul as Abrahmaic faith but it must have a close resemblance to Atman as Vedanta views it
    Hinduism regards Brahman as the all-pervading consciousness, which is believed to be the basis of all the animate and inanimate entities and material. And hence must manifest as Atman in a sentient being as inner core as and Atman or a self. That Atman/self cannot and should not be bound to senses. In Samkhya analogy it is Purusha and a separate and independent entity different from Prakriti. This Brahman/Atman complex is and should be totally different from a Jivatman, which is a conglomerate of body/ mind/ intelligence complex. (Clearly akin to soul in Christianity or Abrahmamic faiths). One must conclude that Maya /Avidya has created confusion in the mind as it begins to believe in a false identity of itself as Jivatman or a soul because of an ego complex.
    Brhman and world Soul:

    In the Upanishads, Brahman is the name for the ultimate, unchanging reality, composed of pure being and consciousness. Brahman lies behind the apparent multiplicity of the phenomenal world, and is ultimately identical to the atman or inner essence of the human being. While many early Greek philosophers saw the world as of one principle, Plato was the first to state that this concept held the same relation to the world as the human soul did to the body. Hinduism is a religion whose theoretical basis is a world soul, called Brahman.
    What is Jivatman?
    Most authorities of Vedanta view it as Mind/intelligence/ego complex,which is attached to body and the world because of desires. It has lost its own TRUE identity with Atman. It is equivalent to “subtle body” which carries all the impressions in to future life until it gets reunited with Atman/Brahman complex.

    What is the relationship of Jivatman/Soul/Atman?

    Swami Tathagatananda (Vedanta society new York) nicely explains the fundamental differences between “Self” and self”, “Higher Self and Lower Self” or “Atman and soul/Jivatman”.

    “Each of us has two types of consciousness, as it were, individual and universal, or lower self and higher Self…Rather, the same self has different characters. The term Self includes both the Atman and its reflection or shadow, the ego. The Atman or God is the same in everybody; it is our diehard inveterate attachment to an egocentric life or psychophysical organism or simply the ego that differs from individual to individual. It is the ego that separates us from our higher Self, from other beings and ultimately, from God…. Plato only said that there were three kinds of Soul, the plant, the animal and the rational… without making the attempt Aristotle referred to a difference in the degree of consciousness. But he too finally upheld the contradictory notion that these different degrees of consciousness constituted the different kinds of Souls. The concept of Soul in the West is something like the concept of the subtle body in Vedanta. In the Western view, man consists of body and soul. Here soul is synonymous with mind, ego, and consciousness. In the West…Self as a real entity distinct from body, mind, and ego has never been satisfactorily established”.

    Swami Tathagatanada further points out that the basic differences in Vedantic principles and Western view:
    · In Vedanta, Atman or Self is beyond body and mind, ego, intellect, and all physical appearances. It transcends everything. The Self is self-existent, pure and immortal. In the West, each soul is created by God individually.
    · In Vedanta, the human being consists of Atman, mind, and body. In the West, human being consists of body and mind, which are created by God. Western scholars study only what the Vedantists call attribute consciousness, not existential consciousness.
    · According to Vedanta, the human is divine, as the Pure Self is the inmost essence of man. God is not extra—cosmic or distant, He is immediate, direct and the nearest. Two concepts---the non-divine nature of man and the distance of God---are not accepted in Vedanta.
    · In the Western view, God being the Creator is the subject, while the created soul is the object; the two can never be the same.

  6. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro

    Final Posting>>>>

    VI - Concluding thoughts:
    “But if it seem strange to you that the old Indian philosophers should have known more about the soul than the Greek or Mediaeval or modern philosophers, let us remember that however much the telescopes for observing the stars of heaven have been improved, the observatories of the soul remained much the same.... The rest and peace which are required for deep thought or for accurate observation of the movements of the soul were more easily found in the silent forests of India than in the noisy streets of our so-called centers of civilization.” Max Mueller.
    When one studies the fundamental implications of what and who we are, it become obvious that intricate relationship of Body/Mind/Intelligence (Psyche) /Ego /soul and its inherent relationship with what Hinduism calls Atman/Brahman complex becomes pivotal. The word “Atman” is often translated into English as “soul” or “self.” Atman in Hinduism has a much richer and deeper meaning than standard western concept of soul because Atman is considered equivalent to Brahman the ultimate reality. Atman should be translated, “Universal Soul,” “Eternal Soul,” as it is same in each person and is identical with Brahman. It should be Soul and not soul (Jivatman) as understood in west.
    In Western thinking, the “Soul” is indeed an paramount consideration because if man is the soul with a body as per religion, the body as a secondary entity is meant to fulfill a spiritual need of human life. If man is the body as per materialist claim, glorification of the body is the goal of human existence. This is the rationale for Western religious thinking as far as I understand and can decipher from various writings. The question that remains unresolved in my mind, is this the concept of “Atman’ in Hinduism? It is beyond a reasonable doubt that Vedanta views man as neither a former entity nor a later entity (jivatman) because later is based on a false identification and false attachment. The definition of a “soul” in Abrahmic precepts is fundamentally a definition of Jivataman and not “Atman” as Vedanta defines it. The soul of Christianity is variously described as the spirit belonging to Father in heaven and/or Christ but not equivalent or identical to them so in essence Jivatman must remain a separate and dependent entity to the ultimate creator. Most Abrahamic faiths (with the exception of mystics like Eckhart in Christianity) appear to go as far a Jivataman in defining “I” with different emphasis and may even state that soul has divine spark of what Hinduism will consider “Atman” but none ever dares to proclaim that “I am Atman hence I am Brahman or the world soul”. The“I” in “Me” can never be identical to “The Self” of Atman/Brahman complex. AHAM BRAHMASMI i.e “I am Brahman” is not where in the lexicon of western religious theological concept. Any such claim will be an ultimate blasphemy in their line of thinking because the veil of duality is never breached in their theology.
    Buddhism appears to state that annihilation of Jivatman is a way to Nirvana or nothingness or Shunyata but it is not the void of dead silence or nihilism. It is very obvious that Nirvana is a state of “Blowing out”. What needs to be recognized here is being “Blown Out” is in fact, Body/Mind/Intelligence complex, which functions in the world as an Ego of a Jivatman. The “blowing out” should imply extinguishing the “Ego complex”. It is recognizing the futility of a candle in the bright light of Sun in the form of Brahman /Atman complex. The shunyata must pertain to the ego complex and it has to be a tool to climb to the fullness of Atman. In fact, one can also argue that shunyata of transitoriness must be overwhelmed by vibrant energy and consciousness of Brahman. When glass is half full, Shankara assumes the perfection to be a state of fullness while Buddha argues it is other way around (i.e. emptiness). Although Buddha and Upanishads (Shnakara) appears to view the reality of Atman in a diametrically opposite manner one can safely say that Shankara views emptiness of Jivatman as “ Mithya” and recommends to get rid of attachment to reach a full potential of ‘Fullness of Satchitananda”. Conversely Buddha appears to view that half full glass is the impermanent Skandha, which need to be emptied to reach the state of Nirvana. They are not mutually exclusive but complimentary in nature implying similar things with a different emphasis.
    When one reads a dialog in Chandogya Upanishad between Aruni and Shvetketu, it becomes evident to us that nothingness observed by Shvetketu, in the seed, is akin to nothingness perceived by Buddha as well. As the father points out, “Verily, my dear, that finest essence which you do not perceive - verily, my dear; from that finest essence, this great fig tree arises. Believe me, my dear that which is the finest essence - this whole world has that as its self. That is Reality. That is Atman. That art thou (Tat tvam asi) Svetaketu.”
    Yes indeed it is true that this metaphor is one of the several ones used to describe the Atman in Chandogya Upanishad but the fact must not be ignored here that Atman being compared to the “essence of reality” is characterized in the terms of “Nothingness”.

    One can safely state that Nirvana and ultimate Moksha is a process of recognition of impermanent or Mithya. The void of Nirvana and annihilation of ego ultimately paves the pathway to Moksha of realization and absorption in to Atman/Brahman complex.
    · It is process of melting or dissolving the ego complex or “false sense of self”.
    · It is process of weaning human mind from the world attachment.
    · It is a process of detachment from a “pilgrim soul” which is harbinger of the feeling of “separateness” based on the illusion of an external universe.
    · It is a process of weaning from “head consciousness” of the mind fostering the sense of otherness to “heart consciousness” fostering the unity of all beings.
    G.R.S.Mead (The theosophy review) rightly points out, “The attainment of Nirvana, or the “Peace of God”, or Moksha (Liberation), or by whatever name you choose to call it, is the attainment of a degree of consciousness of the World-Soul. To become the World Soul, the Nirvana of the “eye” must be renounced, just as the world of external sensation must be renounced, to become one with the Higher Self’.
    Indeed that higher Self is nothing but Atman/Brahman complex as Vedanta defines it.
    H.P. Blavatsky (The secret Doctrine.) appears to make same point more succinctly.
    “Not till the Unit is merged in the All, whether on this or any other plane, and Subject and Object alike vanish in the absolute negation of the Nirvanic State (negation, only from our plane), not until then is scaled that Peak of Omniscience — the Knowledge of things-in-themselves; and the Solution of the yet more awful Riddle approached, before which even the highest Dhyan Chohan must bow in silence and ignorance — the unspeakable Mystery of That which is called by the Vedantins, Parabrahman.”
    In essence what is being negated is crux of our own false identification of Jivatman and what must be affirmed is our true identity of Atman, as Vedanta would define it.
    When LORD Krishna states emphatically in Gita.
    “Ahamatma Gudakesha sarvabhutashyasthitah
    Ahamadishcha madhyamcha bhutanamanta eva cha”

    “I am the Self seated in the heart of all beings.
    I am the beginning and middle and end of all creatures”.
    One has to conclude that “I” is atman and Arjuna in the form of Jivatman is being educated about the fact that he is deluded in wrong identification and must introspect to realize that he (Arjuna and by implication all of us) is “I’ the Atman.
    That Atman is who “I” am as Gita succinctly describes its characteristics.
    “He who regards this (The Atman) as a slayer, and he who thinks it is slain, both of them fail to perceive the truth. It does not slay, nor is it slain. This is not born, nor does it die, nor is it a thing that comes into being once and passing away will never come into being again. It is unborn, ancient, and sempiternal; it is not slain with the slaying of the body”.
    “Weapons cannot cleave it, nor the fire burn, nor do the waters drench it, nor the wind dry. It is uncleavable, it is incombustible, and it can neither be drenched nor dried. Eternally stable, immobile, al l- pervading, it is forever and forever. It is unmanifest, it is unthinkable, it is immutable, and so it is described”.
    Sir William Jones states ““May that Soul of mine, which, distributed in other bodies, guides mankind, as a skilful charioteer guides his rapid horses with reins; that Soul which is fixed in my breast, exempt from old age, and extremely swift in its course, be united by devout meditation with the Spirit supremely blest, and supremely intelligent!”
    This description of “soul” is the Atman as Vedanta understands it and not the soul that is described in the Abrahmaic faiths (because it is either a spark of divine or creation of divine enveloped in a body of sin), it cannot be entirety of divinity as Atman/ Brahman complex seems to imply in Vedantic literature.
    Leadbeater (A Textbook of Theosophy) readily agrees,
    “The principle which gives life dwells in us and without us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception”.
    Yes, that ‘Soul” of mine is Atman (and not Jivatman) or more importantly “I’” is “Atman itself.
    One can easily see that when Ralph Waldo Emerson describes soul, he could only possibly mean “The Soul” (Atman/Brahman complex) and not the “soul” which essentially is Jivatman.
    “It is one light which beams out of a thousand stars. It is onesoul, which animates all men” (The American Scholar).
    “The act of seeing and the thing seen, the seer and the spectacle, the subject and the object, are one. We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul”.(The Over-Soul)

    I am convinced that Buddha’s Nirvana and Vedanta Moksha are nothing but same concepts emphasizing different aspects of reality in a different context I am convinced that annihilation of ego resulting in Niravana is a preparatory process of ultimate identification and eventual merger of Jivatman to Atman in to Brahman. I am convinced that Mithya of Shankara is same of impermanent of Buddha expressed in a different terms.
    If indeed it is true that one must melt into Atman/Brahman complex to realize it and to experience it. If it is true that Atman cannot be observed or defined, as itself is the very subject, beyond senses mind and words, then one is left with a puzzle where no solution is at hand in form of an essay.
    This essay is nothing but a tiny step in a journey to recognition of consciousness or the Atman that resides in all of us. It is indeed the spirit that binds all humanity into one homogeneous entity that Vedanta calls Brahman. It is my humble effort to decipher and decode these concepts in light of my understanding.
    It is conceivable that my evolving understanding is incomplete and inconclusive. It is conceivable that I may be oversimplifying contextual framework of Atman/Brahman, Mind/soul/psyche, Self/self, Soul/soul, and Atman/Jivatman in to model of confounding improbability.
    It is here that I am reduced to all the humility and humbleness of our ancient Rishis when they proclaimed in the most ancient scripture of human race - Rig Veda:
    Who knows the Secret? Who proclaimed it here?
    Whence, whence this manifold Creation sprang?
    The Gods themselves came later into Being:
    Who knows from whence this Great Creation sprang?
    That whence this All, this Great Creation came -
    Whether Its Will created or was mute,
    The Most-High Seer that is in highest Heaven,
    He knows it - or perchance He even knows it not.

  7. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    @@@ Thanks for comments. Yes. Indeed, I making a point in my article that concept of soul in west is equivalent to JIVATMAN of Hinduism and not "ATMAN". That concept where "I" am "ATMAN = BRAHMAN' is absent.

    It is equivalent to saying that "I" am " Jesus, spirit and the father combined"!!!

    I have broken down my article in 4 components for posting ( It will not allow me) and some how 2nd and 3rd are waiting for moderator's approval while 4th one went through which says final posting and concluding thoughts.

  8. Parikh1019

    Parikh1019 Interfaith Forums

    Feb 16, 2011
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro

    ### Thanks. Please read my complete article.
    Hopefully it will be posted soon.


    Please arrange it the order. 4th posting got posted earlier than secone and third.

  9. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

    Jul 10, 2003
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    Re: The soul of Christianity, Atman of Hinduism and Anatman of Buddhism at a cross ro


    what do you want to talk about?

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