The Atman is the part of the Divine in us
experiencing the world
and how we see ourselves while being awake, subtle images while sleeping
and dreaming, and Ananda, Divine Bliss
in dreamless sleep.
Very often it is confused with the Witness or the Psychic being, but corresponds more to the Western concept of the Soul.
Ramana Maharshi warned that:
There is no investigation into the Atman.
The investigation can only be into the non-self.
Elimination of the non-self is alone possible.
The Self being always self-evident will shine forth of itself
Atman is realized with a mind devoid of thoughts and turned inward.
Then the mind sees its own source and becomes That.
It is not as the subject perceiving an object.
The Mundaka Upanishad makes these essential points::
That subtle Atman is to be known by the intellect here in the body where the prana has entered fivefold. By Atman the intellects of men are pervaded, together with the senses.
When the intellect is purified,
Atman shines forth.
How will you purify your intellect?
No longer identify yourself with your thoughts.
This Atman cannot be attained through study of the Vedas, nor through intelligence, nor through much learning. He who chooses Atman –
by him alone is Atman attained. It is Atman
that reveals to the seeker Its true nature.
This Atman cannot be attained by one who is without strength or earnestness or who is without knowledge accompanied by renunciation.
But if a wise man strives by means of these aids, his soul
enters the Abode of Brahman.
As Vivekananda said,
The Atman has neither form nor shape, and that which has neither
form nor shape must be omnipresent.
Time begins with mind, space also is in the mind. Causation cannot stand without time. Time, space and causation, therefore, are in the mind,
and as this Atman is beyond the mind and formless, it must be beyond time, beyond space, and beyond causation. Now, if it is beyond time, space and causation, it must be infinite.
The Atman is the only existence in the human body which is immaterial.
Because it is immaterial, it cannot be a compound, and because it is not
a compound, it does not obey the law of cause and effect,
and so it is immortal.
That which is immortal can have no beginning because everything with a beginning must have an end. It also follows that it must be formless; there cannot be any form without matter.
The Atman never comes nor goes,
is never born nor dies.
It is nature moving before the Atman, and the reflection of this motion is on the Atman; and the Atman ignorantly thinks it is moving, and not nature.
When the Atman thinks that, it is in bondage; but when it comes
to find it never moves, that it is omnipresent,
then freedom comes.
According to the Avadhut Ghita,
All the Scriptures speak of Atman as without attribute, forever pure,
imperishable, without a body, the eternal Truth.
That know it as YOURSELF.
All this arises out of you like a bubble from the sea. Knowing that likewise
you are one with all you find peace: equal in pain as in pleasure,
hope as in disappointment, life as in death, complete as
you are, you will find peace.
Sri Aurobindo has the last word:
Atman, our true self, is Brahman; it is pure indivisible Being,
self- luminous, self-concentrated in consciousness, self-concentrated
in force, self-delighted. Its existence is light and bliss.
It is time- less, spaceless and free.
The Atman signifies the consciousness in man which experiences gross objects during the waking state, subtle objects during the dream state, and the bliss arising from absence of the duality of subject and object in dreamless sleep.
The kingdom of Heaven is the Atman.
The Atman is the Self or Spirit that remains above, pure and stainless, unaffected
by the (vicissitudes) of life, by desire and ego and ignorance.
It is the true being of the individual,
but more widely, the same being in all, and the Self of the Cosmos. It has an existence above the existence of the Individual and the Cosmos and is then called, Paramatman, the Supreme Divine Being.
He also explains that the difference between the Atman and the psychic being is that
the Atman is not born, doesn’t pass
through birth and death,
is independent from the birth and death of the body, from the mind, life
and manifested Nature; is not subject nor limited to such things
although it allows and sustains them.