The real meaning of ATMAN

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Misunderstood Theory rectified by Practical Demonstration
O Learned and Devoted Servants of God,

The word Atman not only means the self but also the body covering the self as per Amarakosha, the standard dictionary in Sanskrit language. The word Atman is derived from the verb ‘atati’, which means that, which extends or grows or pervades. The body occupies some space and grows in course of time pervading some more space. The soul is a specific form of ordinary inert energy.

Actually, it is a specific form of work involving transfer of information from the senses with help of neurons and the receipt of the information by the brain in the form of impression is a subsequent step, which is also involved in this specific work. This step of receipt of the information by the brain is called knowledge or the process of knowing (jnaanam). Hence, the soul is said to be the form of knowledge. This specific work takes place in a specific system called nervous system. The soul also pervades all over the body through nerves since the soul is a form of inert energy. Since the inert energy is always in the form of waves occupying some space, the soul can be called as the Atman that pervades some space. Therefore, the word Atman means both the body and the soul. Therefore, the word Atman means totally a human being, which consists of two parts called body and soul. Body stands for matter and the soul stands for energy.

Both matter and energy are like the two friendly classmates and none is a boss or a slave to the other. Rama and Krishna are two friends. You can call Rama as Krishna’s friend or Krishna as Rama’s friend. If you superimpose the ‘I’ on the soul, you will call the body as ‘My body’. If you superimpose the ‘I’ on body, you will call the soul as ‘My soul’. Neither body belongs to the soul nor does the soul belong to the body because both belong to God, the ultimate single owner.

The ultimate conclusion of the meaning of the word Atman is only an individual human being, which is composite of body and soul. The meaning of the word Atman is very very important in spiritual knowledge because this word misled several people. The word Atmajnaanam is very important because by achieving this, one gets the salvation. People think that the word Atmajnaanam means the knowledge of self and start analyzing the soul leaving the body.

Such analysis is based on the error that Atman is confined to self only. Even if you realize that Atman stands for both self and body and go on analyzing the self and body, you will not get the salvation. No doubt the Atman stands for both self and body. But, the word Atmajnaanam does not mean the analysis of self and body. It only means the analysis of identification of a specific human being, which is the composite of both self and body that is pervaded by the unimaginable God. Here, the word knowledge means the identification of that specific human being pervaded by the unimaginable God, which exists in this world of humanity like a specific water drop in the ocean. The word knowledge stands for only the identification knowledge of the specific human being immersed in this vast humanity and it does not mean the analysis of any human being. If somebody says “do you have any knowledge of that fellow?”, it only means the knowledge of whereabouts of that fellow. It does not mean the knowledge of anatomy of that fellow, which is as good as the anatomy of any fellow.

God incarnates in the human form for the sake of humanity (Manushim tanu maashritam… Gita). To catch God existing in that specific human form is the essence of all the spiritual effort (sadhana). Since the absolute God is unimaginable, the only way to catch such God is catching that specific human form in which the unimaginable God is existing. There is no other alternative way than this.

Running after the energetic form of God is also meaningless since such form is irrelevant and such form is also not the actual God. It is as good as the human form of God. Since God pervades all over the specific human form, that specific human being can be treated as God for all practical purposes. Since you receive the shock by touching any spot of the electrified wire, you can treat the entire wire internally as well as externally as the current itself. Similarly God pervades all over the human form internally and externally, the entire human form is treated as God. The word Atman indicates the pervasion of God all over the human form to impress you that you need not hesitate to treat such human form as God in total sense. You can treat not only the soul but also the body of such human form as God. Gopikas treated Krishna in this way since they were sages, who were the scholars of the word Atman.
Shankara preached Atmajnanam to His disciples in the sense that they should identify Him as the human form of the God. The word Atman means an individual human being. But, the disciples took the word Atman in the sense of themselves and thought that they were the human forms of the God.

Thus, they thought that Atmajnanam means the analysis of themselves. When Shankara told “I am God” (Aham Brahmaasmi), the disciples took the word ‘I’ applying to each individual self and thought that each one of them was God. When Shankara told “you are God” (tat tvam asi), it means that every disciple is expected to become God shortly. Here, the verb in the present tense does not mean the actual present time but means immediate future as per Sanskrit grammar. But, the disciple took the verb in the present tense only and thought that he is already God. Shankara told “this human being is God” (Ayam Atmaa Brahma). Shankara means that a specific human being like Himself or Krishna is God. But, the disciple took this to mean that every human being is God. Shankara told “awareness is God” (Prajnanam Brahma).