THE SELF OR SOUL – HIS MANY NAMES A CLARIFICATION
The main terms that the Self or soul has been called have been mentioned for those particularly interested in them.
However, apart from the essential concept of the Atman, dealt with in the next chapter, generally speaking they are not really necessary and can even become a confusing distraction.
In the end, as Ramana Maharshi noted:
All verbal wrangling about the nature and existence of the Self
is but the play of Maya.
In Hinduism the Self or soul is sometimes called Atman, Jiva,
Jivatman, Kshara Purusha and Akshara Purusha.
A clarification is very much needed because even in India the deeper understanding of the Upanishads in which they are distinguished to a certain extent has been lost and a lot of confusion has ensued.
The Atman, the Jivatman, the psychic being, (Purusha Antaratman),
the Manomaya Purusha, the Pranamaya Purusha
are often used as if they were synonymous.
The term “soul” for the Divine element in us is somewhat similar to the Jivatman and the Atman.
As Sri Aurobindo said,
More often than not, in ordinary parlance, no clear distinction is made between mind and soul and often there is an even more serious confusion,
for the vital being of desire – the false soul or desire-soul – is intended
by the words ‘soul’ and ‘psychic’ and not the true soul,
the psychic being.
The soul and the psychic being are practically the same, except that even in things which have not developed a psychic being, there is still a spark of the Divine which can be called the soul.
Sri Aurobindo defined the Atman thus:
The self, Atman is in its nature either transcendent
or universal (Paramatma, Atman).
When it individualizes and becomes a central being, it is then the Jivatman.
The Jivatman feels his oneness with the universal but at the same time
his central separateness as a portion of the Divine.
is the Absolute Atmanor Supreme Soul or Spirit (also known asSupersoulorOversoul) in theVedanta
Paramatman is the “Primordial Self” or the “Self Beyond” who is spiritually practically identical with the Absolute, identical with Brahman. Selflessness is the attribute of Paramatman, where all personality/individuality vanishes
Paramatmanis formed from two words, parama, meaning “supreme” or “highest”, andātma, which means individual spirit or soul or self.
Etymologically Jiva derives from theSanskrit rootjīv-‘to breathe’ and corresponds to the Latin wordvivus: “alive”.
The Jivais our immortal essence which survives the body’s death
and has a measure of individualization, while the Atman
is the cosmic self.
According to the Upanishads the Jiva is the same Self as the Atman, only to some extent individualized
According to Aniruddha,
the Jiva consists of the body, the external sense-organs, mind, intellect,
and egoism. When the Jiva becomes free of all this at last
it becomes the Atman
The Bhagavad Ghita calls it
an eternal portion of the Divine
and it is the individualized spirit that upholds the evolution of all sentient beings from birth to birth.
The Jiva is realized as the individual Self,
as the Atman.
The Bhagavad Ghita also defines the Jiva as:
the central being above the Nature, calm, untouched by the movements
of Nature, but supporting their evolution
though not involved in it.
Through this realization as the Atman it dwells in silence, freedom, wideness, mastery, purity, a sense of universality in the individual as one centre of this divine universality becomes a constant experience.
According to Vivekananda,
The Atman in bondage is called Jiva.
Thus you see that when it is said that the Atman comes and goes, it is said only for facility of understanding, just as for convenience in studying astronomy you are asked to suppose that the sun moves round the earth, though such is not the case.
So the Jiva, the soul, comes to higher or lower states.
This is the well-known law of reincarnation;
and this law binds all creation.
The Yoga Vashista presents another aspect of it,
The Jiva is like a small agitation on the surface
of the ocean of Brahman.
When in this small agitation the vastness of the infinite Consciousness is veiled, the limitation of the consciousness seems to arise.
This also is inherent to this infinite Consciousness
and is known as the Jiva.
The movement itself of thought is called Jiva, cause and action; it is the seed for the apparition of the world.
What follows is the creation of the body.
The Jiva is nothing more than the limitation of the Consciousness.
When the limitation is dissolved, there is peace.
Essentially, there is no difference between the Jiva and Brahman.
When Avidya, the basic Ignorance is removed,
the Jiva becomes identical to Brahman.
According to Sivananda,
In Hinduism the Jiva the immortal essence in us
which survives physical death.
It has a very similar usage to atman, but where as atman refers to “the cosmic self”,jivais used to denote an individual ‘living entity’ or ‘living being’ specifically.
According to Aniruddha,
The Jiva consists of the body, the external sense-organs, mind, intellect, and egoism.
When the Jiva breaks the shackles of Prakriti becomes the Atman,
which is devoid of empirical cognition, merit, demerit,
and other mental modes.
The Jainism adds that
not only humans but also all organic and inorganic forms have a Jiva,
and they are all interconnected
Note: in many texts the Jivatman is simply called Atman.
The Jivatman it the intermediary state
between the Jiva and the Atman
The essence of the Jivatman does not change or evolve but is above
our personal evolution and remains always detached,
unaffected by Nature’s movements.
According to Sivananda,
Jivatman is the individual soul, a reflection of Brahman
in Avidya or the mind.
Paramatman is the Supreme Soul, Brahman or the Atman.
From the empirical viewpoint, the Jivatman is a finite and conditioned being, while the Paramatman is the infinite, eternal, Sat-chit-ananda Brahman.
Essentially, the Jivatman is identical with Paramatman
when Avidya (ignorance) is destroyed.
Sri Aurobindo defines it thus:
The Jivatman is above all planes. It has no fixed form or color;
though it may represent itself in a form.
Somewhere else He clarified that:
By Jivatman we mean the individual self.
Essentially it is one self with all others,
but in the multiplicity of the Divine it is the individual self,
an individual centre of the universe –
and it sees everything in itself or itself in everything or both together according to its state of consciousness and point of view.
In the Bhagavad Ghita it is spoken of figuratively as an eternal portion of the Divine:
The multiple Divine manifested here as the individualized self
or spirit of the created being.
Its essence stands above the personal evolution; within the evolution itself
is represented by the evolving psychic being supports
all the rest of the nature.
Mère spoke of it thus:
The Jivatman is in the Divine and remains in the Divine, and doesn’t move
from there; and it is not progressive.
It is in the Divine, it is identiﬁed with the Divine, it remains identiﬁed
with the Divine, not separated. It makes no difference to it,
whether there is an earthly body or not.
About the Jivanmukta Sri Aurobindo said that:
has his consciousness completely dissolved beyond recognition
in his Brahman-Self. Eternally alone in his Self, he is ever
lost in the enjoyment of the bliss of his Brahman-Self.
A Power descends no Fate can perturb or vanquish,
Calmer than mountains, wider than marching waters,
A single might of luminous quiet
Tirelessly bearing the worlds and ages.
A Bliss surrounds with ecstasy everlasting,
An absolute high-seated immortal rapture
Possesses, sealing love to oneness
In the grasp of the All-beautiful, All-beloved.
He who from Time’s dull motion escapes and thrills
Rapt thoughtless, wordless into the Eternal’s breast,
Unrolls the form and sign of being,
Seated above in the omniscient Silence.
Although consenting here to a mortal body,
He is the Undying; limit and bond he knows not;
For him the aeons are a playground,
Life and its deeds are his splendid shadow.
Only to bring God’s forces to waiting Nature,
To help with wide-winged Peace her tormented labour
And heal with joy her ancient sorrow,
Casting down light on the inconscient darkness,
He acts and lives. Vain things are mind’s smaller motives
To one whose soul enjoys for its high possession
Inﬁnity and the sempiternal All is his guide and beloved and refuge.
According to the Ribhu Ghita,
The Jivanmukta is a person liberated
during his lifetime,
who continues to have consciousness of the body and the world (as Brahman) along with his firm abiding in his Shiva-Self.
He ever abides in the blissful peace of Sat-Chit-Ananda, poised
rock-firm in the awareness that he is not the body
and that his Being is the sole existence.
– Meditate on these words of Mère:
– When She was asked: “is everyone’s central being the same?”
Her answer was
No, for we are told that it is identiﬁed in multiplicity.
It is the eternal truth of each being.
From one point of view they are identical, from another they are multiple; because the truth of each being is an individual truth, but it is identiﬁed with the Divine.
It is outside the manifestation but it is the origin of the manifestation.
It is a unity which is not a uniformity. It is indeed the same thing that I was explaining last time;
each one is different and yet
each one is identical.
When She was asked: “Sweet Mother, the true self and the psychic are
the same thing?”
Her answer was
No. The true self is what is also called the truth of the being. It is the divine
element which is your individual reality. It is the divine element
which makes you a separate individuality,
and it is at the same time a fragment of the one Being and naturally the one Being itself; that is, while being a particular aspect which makes you an individual, it is an integral part of the One which makes you only an objectivisation of the One. This is the true self.
The psychic being is a terrestrial formation. It is human beings who have a psychic being which has been developed upon earth and by earthly life and which
is a projection of the divine Consciousness into Matter to awaken Matter
out of its inertia so that it takes the path
back to the Divine.