Atman, (Sanskrit «self breath») as a term has several meanings, in the profoundest sense means self, pure consciousness, the «universal selfhood» that is the same in each individual entity whether organic or inorganic. It is a philosophical topic.

In Hinduism, when spelled was a capitalized «A», it means the Great Self, identifiable with Brahma, the Creator. However, when not capitalized, atman has the quantity of being individual egos, or invisible «Higher Selves». It is one of the main principles of Hinduism.

Atman translation can be «Soul». It is not designated as body, mind, or even thought because these designations are conditions that prevent the Soul’s union with God.

In the Upanishads it is stated, «The Self, smaller than small, greater than great, is hidden in the heart of the creature» and «In the beginning there was the Self.»

In Buddhism, Atman does not exist whereas in Hinduism it does. Hindus believe in Atman, as dual or not dual. A.G.H.


«Atman» is a fundamental concept in Hindu philosophy, encapsulating a rich and multifaceted understanding of the self and consciousness. Its various interpretations and meanings offer a glimpse into the philosophical depth of Hindu thought and its contrasts with Buddhist beliefs.


Meanings and Interpretations in Hinduism

  • Profoundest Sense: In the most profound sense, Atman refers to the self or pure consciousness. It is considered the «universal selfhood» present in every individual entity, whether organic or inorganic. This concept points to a universal essence or spirit that underlies all existence.
  • Great Self and Individual Egos: When spelled with a capitalized «A,» Atman refers to the Great Self, often identified with Brahma, the Creator in Hindu cosmology. In contrast, when not capitalized, atman refers to individual egos or the «Higher Selves» of individuals. This distinction highlights the dual aspect of Atman as both a universal principle and an individual essence.
  • Main Principle of Hinduism: Atman is a central concept in Hindu philosophy, representing one of the religion’s main principles. It is integral to understanding Hindu perspectives on the nature of reality, the self, and the ultimate goal of moksha (liberation).


Translation and Philosophical Implications

  • Translation as ‘Soul’: Atman is often translated as «Soul» in English. This translation, however, might not fully capture the depth of its original Sanskrit meaning, which encompasses a broader and more nuanced understanding of consciousness and being.
  • Beyond Body, Mind, and Thought: Atman is not designated as the body, mind, or even thought, as these are seen as temporary conditions or limitations. The realization of Atman involves transcending these to achieve union with the divine or ultimate reality.
  • Upanishadic References: The Upanishads, ancient Hindu scriptures, contain profound statements about Atman, such as «The Self, smaller than small, greater than great, is hidden in the heart of the creature» and «In the beginning, there was the Self.» These highlight the paradoxical and all-encompassing nature of Atman.


Contrast with Buddhism

  • Non-Existence in Buddhism: A key difference between Hinduism and Buddhism is their view on Atman. In Buddhism, the concept of Atman, as an enduring, unchanging self, does not exist. Buddhism teaches the doctrine of Anatta or Anātman, which is the denial of a permanent self.
  • Dual or Non-Dual Belief in Hinduism: Hinduism entertains diverse interpretations of Atman, ranging from dualistic perspectives, where Atman and Brahman (the ultimate reality) are distinct, to non-dual perspectives, where Atman and Brahman are seen as one and the same.


Sources: 2, 18; 81, 50.