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Ātman (आत्मन्) is a Sanskrit word used to indicate the Self or Soul in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist traditions. In Hindu philosophy, especially in the Vedanta schools, Ātman is the true self of an individual beyond identification with phenomena, the ultimate essence of all individuals. In order to attain salvation (liberation), a human being must acquire self-knowledge (atma jnana), realizing that one's true self is identical with the transcendent Self, Brahman.


  • Similar to a person who is not attached to external pleasures but enjoys happiness in the Atman (soul), the person who perceives Brahman in everything feels everlasting joy.
  • One would say Atman is more like the meaning. But then what is meant would be Brahman, I suppose—the identity of consciousness and cosmos. This claims that the meaning and what is meant are ultimately one, which is the phrase ’Atman equals Brahman’ of classical Hindu philosophy.
    • David J. Bohm source: Quantum Implications: Essays in Honour of David Bohm, Basil J. Hiley and F. David Peat.Quoted from Gewali, Salil (2013). Great Minds on India. New Delhi: Penguin Random House.
  • The atman, in the knowledge of which emancipation consists, is nothing else than the knowing subject in us. For this reason it is not knowable by the grace the senses, "ne'ter canst thou see the seer of seeing. It cannot, like an object, be placed before us and examined; knowledge of it cannot be obtained at will, and even searching in the Scripture is not enough to attain this knowledge, but merely serves to remove obstacles. Whether the atman is known or not depends, as does the perception of every object, on one fact, whether it manifests itself to us; depends consequently on the atman itself. Hence in the lower knowledge, which opposes the atman to our own self as a personal god and worships it.
  • Knowledge appears as the grace of God. In the higher knowledge, since the atman is in reality not an object, the cause of its knowledge is not further explicable. In spite of this, religious practice recognizes certain means by which knowledge of the atman may be promoted.
    • From "Outline of the Vedanta system of philosophy according to Shankara".
  • The mystic and the physicist arrive at the same conclusion; one starting from the inner realm, the other from the outer world. The harmony between their views confirms the ancient Indian wisdom that Brahman, the ultimate reality without, is identical to Atman, the reality within.
    • Fritjof Capra, in The Tao of Physics : An Exploration of the Parallels Between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (1975), Epilogue, p. 305.
  • Ruysbroeck puts it extremely well. He speaks of "a waylessness and darkness in which we never find ourselves again in a creaturely way." We lose ourselves in that divine darkness. And he goes on to speak of God, this "God beyond", as it were, as "a simple nudity, an incomprehensible light". The one who has reached this point " finds himself and feels himself to be that light, gazing at that light, by that light, in that light. Here one has entered totally into the Godhead and one knows in the light and by the light". This is exactly how it is put in the Upanishads and in the Bhagavad Gita, where it is said that one knows the 'atman', through the 'atman'. The 'atman' cannot be known by any other means. God is grasped and held through God.
    • Bede Griffiths, in A New Vision of Reality : Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith (1990), Ch. 11, p. 248.
  • There is, so I believe, in the essence of everything, something that we cannot call learning. There is, my friend, only a knowledge — that is everywhere, that is Atman, that is in me and you and in every creature, and I am beginning to believe that this knowledge has no worse enemy than the man of knowledge, than learning.
  • The one Reality takes manifold names and forms as a result of human ignorance. It is one and the same Thing that a Bhakta calls God, a Jnani calls Brahman, a Shakta calls Shakti, an Atheist calls Nature, a Scientist calls Force or Energy, a Christian calls Father in Heaven, a Mussulman calls Allah, some others call Infinity or Truth and a Vedantin calls Atman or Self. Whatever different names there may be, the fact remains that the Thing is one and the same. The difference is only in names. The Absolute Thing, which is beyond name and form, is birthless, growthless, decayless, deathless, sexless, All-pervading, All-knowing, All-blissful, without beginning, without end, changeless, beyond time, space and causation. The One Thing or the Ocean of Consciousness by Itself is ever the same — One only without a second.
    • Swami Narayanananda, in A Practical Guide to Samadhi (Spiritual Teachings) (1957), p. 166 (2001 edition).
  • A mind that has the slightest trace of attachment to the world cannot be called pure. When all the impurities of the mind are removed, you may call that mind Pure Mind or Pure Ātman.
    • Ramakrishna, as quoted in The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna (1942), p. 68.
  • One should understand that the Atman is always like the King, distinct from the body, senses, mind and intellect, all of which constitute the matter (Prakriti); and is the witness of their functions.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Just as luminosity is the nature of the Sun, coolness of water and heat of fire, so too the nature of the Atman is Eternity, Purity, Reality, Consciousness and Bliss.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Atman never does anything and the intellect of its own accord has no capacity to experience ‘I know’. But the individuality in us delusorily thinks he is himself the seer and the knower.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Sitting in a solitary place, freeing the mind from desires and controlling the senses, meditate with unswerving attention on the Atman which is One without-a-second.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Atman is an ever-present Reality. Yet, because of ignorance it is not realised. On the destruction of ignorance Atman is realised. It is like the missing ornament of one’s neck.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Nothing whatever exists other than the Atman: the tangible universe is verily Atman. As pots and jars are verily made of clay and cannot be said to be anything but clay, so too, to the enlightened soul and that is perceived is the Self.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • Though Atman is Pure Consciousness and ever present everywhere, yet It is perceived by the eye-of-wisdom alone: but one whose vision is obscured by ignorance he does not see It; as the blind do not see the resplendent Sun.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • The Atman, the Sun of Knowledge that rises in the sky of the heart, destroys the darkness of the ignorance, pervades and sustains all and shines and makes everything to shine.
    • Adi Shankara, in Atma-Bodha, as translated by Swami Madhavananda.
  • The recognition ATMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world. The striving of all the scholars of Vedanta was after having learnt to pronounce with their lips, really assimilate in their minds this grandest of all thoughts.
    Again, the mystics of many centuries, independently, yet in perfect harmony with each other (somewhat like the particles in an ideal gas) have described, each of them, the unique experience of his or her life in terms that can be condensed in the phrase: DEUS FACTUS SUM (I have become God).
    To Western ideology, the thought has remained a stranger... in spite of those true lovers who, as they look into each other's eyes, become aware that their thought and their joy are numerically one, not merely similar or identical...
  • Is there any sex-distinction in the Atman (Self)? Out with the differentiation between man and woman— all is Atman! Give up the identification with the body, and stand up!
  • Above all, beware of compromises. Hold on to your own principles in weal or woe and never adjust them to others’ “fads” through the greed of getting supporters. Your Atman is the support of the universe—whose support do you stand in need of?
  • After every happiness comes misery; they may be far apart or near. The more advanced the soul, the more quickly does one follow the other. What we want is neither happiness nor misery. Both make us forget our true nature; both are chains--one iron, one gold; behind both is the Atman, who knows neither happiness nor misery. These are states, and states must ever change; but the nature of the Atman is bliss, peace, unchanging. We have not to get it, we have it; only wash away the dross and see it.
    • From Vivekananda's Quotes.
  • Always discriminate—your body, your house, the people around, and the world are all unreal like a dream. Always think that this body is only an inert instrument. And the Atman within is your real nature.
    • From Vivekananda's Quotes.
  • Learning and wisdom are superfluities, the surface glitter merely, but it is the heart that is the seat of all power. It is not in the brain but in the heart that the Atman, possessed of knowledge, power, and activity, has its seat.
    • From Vivekananda's Quotes.
  • The weak, the fearful, the ignorant will never reach the Atman. You cannot undo, the effect must come, face it, but be careful never to do the same thing again. Give up the burden of all deeds to the Lord. Give all, both good and bad. Do not keep the good and give only the bad. God helps those who do not help themselves.
    • From Vivekananda's Quotes.
  • The whole universe is one in the Atman. That Atman when it appears behind the universe is called God. The same Atman when it appears behind this little universe, the body, is the soul. This very soul, therefore, is the Atman in us.
    • From Vivekananda's Quotes.
  • Pray all the time, read all the scriptures in the world, and worship all the gods there are …[but] unless you realize the Self (atman), there is no freedom.
  • This is the great lesson that we are here to learn through myriads of births and heavens and hells — that there is nothing to be asked for, desired for, beyond one’s spiritual Self (atman).
  • I charge you — forget the names you bear, forget the words I speak as soon as they are uttered. Look, rather, upon the Nameless within yourselves, which arises as I address it. It hearkens not to my words, but to the reality within me, of which it is part. This is the atman, which hears me rather than my words. All else is unreal. To define is to lose. The essence of all things is the Nameless. The Nameless is unknowable, mightier even than Brahma. Things pass, but the essence remains. You sit, therefore, in the midst of a dream. Essence dreams it a dream of form. Forms pass, but the essence remains, dreaming new dreams. Man names these dreams and thinks to have captured the essence, not knowing that he invokes the unreal. These stones, these walls, these bodies you see seated about you are poppies and water and the sun. They are the dreams of the Nameless.
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