What is the Atman definition In Hinduism?
Questions about Atman remember me of a story told by an Indian master.
A man was running on the village streets and screaming: ”Beware, beware, there come a mad elephant and tramples everything in his way!”
Hearing this, one of the villagers who knew the spiritual tradition, that Atman exists in every being, says to everyone present:
”It is impossible for the elephant to do me any harm because one Atman cannot hurt another Atman!” In the meantime, the elephant appears and bluntly hits the erudite villager.
After the elephant passes through, the villagers gather around the wounded man, who was ready to abandon altogether the whole philosophy after such an experience, when another villager says:
”In essence, you really are Atman, but the elephant was also Atman. Your mistake is that you haven’t taken into account what the man running on the streets was saying, warning about the elephant. Wasn’t he Atman as well?”
Allegorically, this story contains the whole concept of this notion in Indian thinking. On a deeper level, we are all Atman, the only differentiation exists on the superficial levels. This differentiation is seen constituting ever since the birth of man.
The environment, society, parents, etc., mold the man on a superficial level, giving him all relative links which he builds in life.
Thus, all human bonds fall under this relativity: parents, children, husbands, wives, friends; any other connections create the individual’s own differentiation, which the person strongly manifests to be real in a transient world.
But Indian thinking has developed the concept of spiritual salvation. By reaching the stage of liberation (Jivanmukti), the individual awakens, realizing the role he has played so far in life.
Action directed into a material, transient reality made the man hold on to the materiality of the world and do his utmost, forcing his way, to go in the direction he has chosen.
Instead, when liberation is attained, the man rises far above materiality, becoming a spectator.
The idea that most people cannot understand is that the spectator, who is now a Jivanmukta (‘liberated in life’), not only does he watch the show of the whole world he perceives, but he also watches himself with the same spectator eyes.
In other words, he is both the actor and the spectator. Practically, the liberated in life asks himself: What now? What happens to me?
The spectator’s ability to watch the show of his own life is the sign of spiritual liberation in Indian thinking. Watching the show of his own life places the spectator on divine position, because God is the spectator of everything.
From this moment on, the man reaches the level of self-consciousness, thus internalizing the cosmos, although he manifests himself in the limitations of matter.
It is self-awareness, so that all those who have reached this level are at the level of self-consciousness, although they are different on a material level: one teaches Yoga, other lives in a cave, another honors his family obligations, such as the Karma Yogis, etc.
The essential role in the life of a Yogi is now the one of an aware spectator (drashta), whereas before he was just an actor unconsciously carried away by the waves of his life’s show.
Now he is liberated, although he manifests in the world of illusions, Maya, as transitory manifestations, the man appears the same mortal man from the outside, but his inner life experience is incomparable to that of an ordinary man.
Not being caught in the world’s materiality, he lives consciously in a perpetual present, being inspired every step of the way on how to live his life, for now, he has access to the mental space of all humanity, the so-called Cidakasha.
Access to Cidakasha represents the opening to one of the manifestations of the Brahman principle, manifestations which take various forms, relevant to this principle.
Brahman, the Supreme Creator in the Indian philosophical thinking, is regarded as the causality which exists behind any development, any world.
Primordial causality, which is related to the matter, generates a penetration in the material world by projecting time in this materiality.
Brahman creates the time called Kala, which becomes the causality of the existence of intrinsic manifestation of space called Akasha; all these keep a “core” (Bija), derived from Brahman primordial causality.
Time moves, thus engaging the dynamics of space and therefore the whole materiality in Akasha.
As the mathematical material solution to infinity is the circle, not the straight line, cyclicity is the answer to returning to the source.
More specifically, the closed spiral is the configuration that allows both infinity of movement around the circle, but also the evolution from one stair of the spiral to another.
Therefore, we manifest in a closed spiral in the guise of a circle. Therefore, we are stimulated by the projection of time from the spiral’s center, Atman within everyone’s hearts returns to Brahman, who is at the apex of the closed spiral.