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Atman or Atma ( Sanskrit , n., आत्मन्, ātman , Pali : atta, originally: breath of life, breath) is a term from Indian philosophy . It describes the (absolute) self, the indestructible, eternal essence of the spirit, and is often translated as " soul ".

In the Hindu concept, “ Jiva ” (Sanskrit: जीवा jīvā f .: life, living being, soul), the bearer of the individual personality, a subtle, invisible body that is subject to rebirth, is differentiated from the Atman. For its part, the Atman, enveloped by Jiva and therefore not recognizable, is unchangeable and eternal. He is the immortal, immaterial soul and does not have to be liberated, but is eternally free. In salvation , Atman unites with Brahman , the Absolute Supreme, on whom everything is based.


According to the Advaita Vedanta philosophy, the Atman is identical with the absolute Self ( Brahman ). This is the true self, which remains unchanged in all perceptions, thoughts and feelings. Since Atman and Brahman are viewed as a single principle rather than two, Advaita-Vedanta is a monistic philosophy.


In the age of the Upanishads (750-500 BC) the world soul Brahman and the self, Atman, are understood as a unit of essence that represents the true essence of the world. This one becomes recognizable in the cosmos as Brahman, in detail as Atman. The goal of life here is to recognize the unity of Atman and Brahman. Atman is always present and never separated from the cosmic force, the Brahman, it does not change. The Indo-European language root of Atman is recognizable in the German word “ Atem ” (from ēt-men, see also old English æthm).


While followers of Advaita Vedanta see the Atman as identical with the world soul, free of all attributes, others, such as followers of Dvaita Vedanta , to which in particular many Vishnuits belong (who worship God as Vishnu ), see the Atman with transcendent properties. Rupa Goswami, a student of the important Vishnuit philosopher Chaitanya , described this in detail in his work Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu: According to this, the Atman has sat , being, eternal identity, it is filled with consciousness, knowledge, cit , as well as ananda , bliss. In Vaikuntha , the spiritual world, it has an eternal spiritual form, rupa . According to this conception, the form of the Atman resembles the male form of God or God's power of love in female forms such as that of Radha , Sita or Lakshmi . This is a monotheistic view.

Aspects of Atman Teaching in Buddhism

According to Volker Zotz , Siddhartha Gautama , called Buddha , was originally also convinced of the existence of the Atman and tried to find it through particularly harsh ascetic practices. In the course of these attempts he finally came to the conviction that such an indestructible, eternal core of personality did not exist. In this knowledge he saw the key to salvation. According to Gautama Buddha, human subjectivity is ultimately a delusion. The worldview founded by him, which was later given the name Buddhism, has its founder "Anatmanvada" (roughly: non-Atman teaching). called.

“Bhikkhus, these are these two views: the view of being and the view of nonbeing. All hermits or brahmins who relate to the view of being, adopt the view of being, accept the view of being, conflict with the view of nonbeing. All hermits or brahmins who refer to the view of non-being, adopt the view of non-being, accept the view of non-being, conflict with the view of being. ”- The Shorter Discourse on the Lion's Call

In the Mahayana scriptures of the “Tathagatagarbha” sutras, however, the understanding of “not-self” differs from such interpretations and is therefore remarkable: The teaching presented in these texts of the Buddha makes it clear that it is only the ephemeral Are elements ( skandhas ) of a sentient being, which represent the "not-self" ("anatman"), while the actual reality, the innate essence ( Svabhava ) of the being is no less than the Buddha principle ("Buddha-dhatu") - "Buddha principle" or " Buddha nature "): self, pure and deathless. In the “Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra” this inherent, immortal Buddha element is referred to as the “true self”. It is not affected by rebirth, is always perfectly flawless, radiantly pure, and awaits discovery in the depths of the polluted everyday consciousness of every being. In the "Tathagatagarbha Sutra" the Buddha explains that with his Buddha eye he can see this hidden Buddha jewel in every being.

"Hidden in the klesas (mental defilements) of greed, hatred and delusion sits sublime and immobile the wisdom of the Tathagata (the Buddha), the perception of the Tathagata and the bodies of the Tathagata ..." All beings, "although in them all forms who can find spiritual defilements have a Tathagatagarbha (a Buddha essence) which is perfectly pure for all time, and which is saturated with virtues which are no different from my virtues. "

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Atman  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. ^ Elvira Friedrich: Yoga. The Indian way of salvation. The classic system and its background. Diederich's Yellow Series, Diederich, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-424-01378-1 , p. 29 f.
  2. Possibly, however, the concept of the Upanishads ( Hinduism ) coincides with the Atman, for example according to the Advaita-Vedanta philosophy, where the Atman is seen identically with the absolute self ( Brahman , "world soul"), i.e. the true self of man, which remains unchanged in all perceptions, thoughts and feelings and the Buddhist Anatman teaching is not so far apart. Because the Atman is not to be equated with the individual “I” (“Ego”) and thus remains identical with the Buddhist “Not I”; for Buddhism denies the existence of an eternal, immortal individual soul as "ego". See Werner Scholz: Hinduism. A crash course. Dumont, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-8321-9070-5 , p. 47.
  3. Volker Zotz : Buddha ; Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2001 6 ; ISBN 3-499-50477-4 ; S. ???
  4. Cula-sihanada Sutta: The Shorter Discourse on the Lion's Call , translated from the Pali by Ñanamoli Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi
  5. ^ Donald Sewell Lopez Jr .: Buddhism in Practice , Princeton Readings in Religions . Princeton University Press (1995). ISBN 0691044414