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HINDUISM MYTHOLOGY
 
 

Belief in the Eternal Soul or the Inner Self

Belief in Soul

Hindus believe in the existence of soul, which is eternal, invisible, imperishable, unchanging and exists beyond the grasp of the mind and the senses. Hindus call it Atma or Atman, that which is deep inside. It is derived from the root word "an" which means to breath. Atman is that which breathes. Atman is ajobhaga , the unborn part of man (Rigveda), which is different from and not to be confused with neither the body nor the mind.

 

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit words most closely corresponding to soul are jiva, Ātman and "purusha", meaning the individual self. The term "soul" is misleading as it implies an object possessed, whereas self signifies the subject which perceives all objects. This self is held to be distinct from the various mental faculties such as desires, thinking, understanding, reasoning and self-image (ego), all of which are considered to be part of prakriti (nature).
The three major schools of Hindu philosophy agree that the atman (individual self) is related to Brahman or the Paramatman, the Absolute Atman or Supreme Self, but they differ in the nature of this relationship. In Advaita Vedanta the individual self and the Supreme Self are one and the same. Dvaita rejects this concept of identity, instead identifying the self as a separate but similar part of Supreme Self (God), that never loses its individual identity. Visishtadvaita takes a middle path and accepts the atman as a "mode" (prakara) or attribute of the Brahman. For an alternative atheistic and dualistic view of the soul in ancient Hindu philosophy, see Samkhya.


The atman becomes involved in the process of becoming and transmigrating through cycles of birth and death because of ignorance of its own true nature. The spiritual path consists of self-realization – a process in which one acquires the knowledge of the self (brahma-jñanam) and through this knowledge applied through meditation and realization one then returns to the Source which is Brahman.
The qualities which are common to both Brahman and atmam are being (sat), consciousness (chit), and bliss/love (ananda). Liberation or moksha is liberation from all limiting adjuncts (upadhis) and the unification with Brahman.

 

 

The Mandukya Upanishad verse 7 describes the atman in the following way:

"Not inwardly cognitive, not outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive, not a cognition-mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark, non-thinkable, that cannot be designated, the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being one with the Self, the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second (a-dvaita)-[such] they think is the fourth. That is the Self. That should be discerned."

In Bhagavad Gita 2.20 Lord Krishna describes the soul in the following way:

na jayate mriyate va kadacin nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah ajo nityah sasvato yam purano na hanyate hanyamane sarire

"For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever - existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain." [Translation by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada (Srila Prabhupada)]

Srila Prabhupada, a great Vaishnava saint of the modern time further explains: "The soul does not take birth there, and the soul does not die...And because the soul has no birth, he therefore has no past, present or future. He is eternal, ever-existing and primeval - that is, there is no trace in history of his coming into being."

Since the quality of Aatma is primarily consciousness, all sentient and insentient beings are pervaded by Aatma, including plants, animals, humans and gods. The difference between them is the contracted or expanded state of that consciousness. For example, animals and humans share in common the desire to live, fear of death, desire to procreate and to protect their families and territory and the need for sleep, but animals' consciousness is more contracted and has less possibility to expand than does human consciousness.

When the Aatma becomes embodied it is called birth, when the Aatma leaves a body it is called death. The Aatma transmigrates from one body to another body based on karmic [performed deeds] reactions.

In Hinduism, the Sanskrit word most closely corresponding to soul is "Aatma", which can mean soul or even God. It is seen as the portion of Brahman within us. Hinduism contains many variant beliefs on the origin, purpose, and fate of the soul. For example, advaita or non-dualistic conception of the soul accords it union with Brahman, the absolute uncreated (roughly, the Godhead), in eventuality or in pre-existing fact. Dvaita or dualistic concepts reject this, instead identifying the soul as a different and incompatible substance.



 
 


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