lunedì 17 gennaio 2011

Brahman and Atman

I think that the crucial element of all philosophical speculation of Hinduism is the identity between Atman and Brahman, between individual self or soul and universal self.
According to Hinduism every human being has within himself, in the more secret part of his heart, this spirit and this is nothing but a small part of the universal spirit, this is him, the same thing.
In Chandogya Upanishad you can read: "The light which shines above us, above all things, above the universe, above every world and above which there is no more, this light is that same light that shines inside us"
(III, 13, 7). And again, "this Self within my heart, smaller than a grain of rice, than a grain of barley, than a grain of mustard seed, than a grain of millet, this Self that is within my heart is greater than the earth, greater than the space, greater than the sky, greater than all the worlds……this Self that is within my heart, this Self is the Brahman” (Ch. Up. 3, XIV 3-4).
Contrarily to the thought of other religions, Hinduism does not believe that the Atman is something inextricably tied to the individual to whom it refers, it is not believed to be born with the birth of each human being, it is the Being, it has always been considered existing. So  the Being cannot be created because otherwise it would mean that before it was not and this is a contradiction in terms. The Atman isn’t the soul as well as christian tradition sees it.
In a beautiful piece of the Bhagavad Gita you can read: "the Atman that is inside every man is not born, it never dies, Being, it will never cease to be. It is innate, necessary, eternal, primordial, it doesn’t die when the body dies " (Bhagavad Gita II, 20).
The Universal Spirit, the Supreme Being, Brahman, is the only real and actually existing thing, because the reality that man knows is usually transitory, passing, changeable and what is changing can not be considered real. This is why according to Hinduism, especially to Vedanta, it is argued that the commonly perceived reality is nothing but Maya, illusion.
Given this background, we understand perfectly well that the goal of each one is to have the knowledge, the experience of Brahman which is inside us. This means being able to understand that "tat tvam asi" or "I'm the that" (Chandogya Upanishad VI, 8, 7). The deepest aspiration of Hinduism is to feel the presence of God or Brahman in themselves.
In this way, as all rivers join the ocean, so Atman will join the Brahman too and Atman will be indistinguishable (Prasna Upanishad VI, 5), putting a stop, by what is called moksha, to samsara that is the cycle of rebirth.
The instruments indicated by the Hindu reflection to achieve this are many and vary with the times, situations, contexts and people, but meditation has a central role. Those who think that rituals, sacrifices, good deeds or the study of texts is the road to liberation will be condemned to be reborn, but who is dedicated to asceticism and remains free of passions and desires reaches the Supreme Brahman (Mundaka Upanishad II, I, 11-12).
The religious experience of Hinduism is essentially an intimate experience of the trascendental reached by meditation and ascetism; dogmas, beliefs, rituals, prayers are only one stage more or less back on spiritual individual path.
Man is the fortress with eleven doors, all facing outwards to the changing and deceptive reality. Man has to close these doors and, free from desires, must open the third eye, the eye of wisdom, the eye that is at the center of our forehead and which sees inside of us and not outside.
"Some wise men, wishing for immortality, turning their gaze towards themselves, they saw within themselves the Atman" and cut all the ties that held them enthralled, those mortals became immortal (Katha Upanishad 1, IV,1).
Once man could perceive, have experience of this identity, the man leaves the world of illusions, the reality of opposites (good/evil, pleasure/pain, good/bad) reaches the source of all joy and is saved from slavery death. "By pondering on the Self, by joing it, by identifyng with it, every illusion shall cease" (Svetasvatara Upanishad I, 10-11).


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