Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ātmavāda in Veda and Upanisad


ĀtmavAda means the theory or theories related to the concept of soul (Atma) which is believed to transmigrate from life to life irrespective of the fact that body destroys at death. This word is sown even in the earliest Vedasuttas and it gives the meaning the breath or life. According to the early Vedic view everything on earth has a soul, this theory basically is believed to have arisen as the response to the common question of religious discussion, ‘what is the essence of man?’ the direct answer was ‘the soul is the essence of man’. Many answers were given, almost everybody accepted a soul but their interpretation of its nature and function was varies. What is basically meant by the term soul is that permanent happy and self-controllable entity within the man’s personality.

Soul concept originated from the Vedic period came to be developed as omni-present eternal phenomena when it evolved up to Upanishad period. In the Upanishad period the soul was considered to be two fold.

1.   JagadAtma – The truth of universal soul
2.  PratyagAtma (pudgalAtma) – The truth of individual soul 

Here JagadAtma means the final truth about the world or the universe. Brahman is the word synonym for that. PudgalAtma means the soul of each individual which stays separately from the universal soul due to impurities, the basic theory of Upanishad is that these two souls in reality are one and the same due to ignorance the person does not see it. The aim of individual life is to be purified the soul from stains and to make PudgalAtma united with JagadAtma. As long as ignorance is there PudgalAtma undergoes suffering, the end of suffering is dispelling ignorance and defilements and there by cause the union of PudgalAtma and JagadAtma.

The Kathopanisad explains the soul like this:

ña jayate na mRyate va vipaścin - nAyaM kutaścinna babhUva kaścit,
ajonityaM ŚaśvatayaM purANo - na hanyate hanyamAne sArIre.

=The soul is not born it does not die,
Nowhere it comes from and nowhere it goes to,
It’s undestroyable eternal unchanging and old,
It is undestroyable in the destroying body.

In the PoTThapAdasutta of DN a few forms of souls as were accepted by contemporary religious people are given, ParibbAjakapoTThapada questions the Buddha whether the soul and saJJA is same or different. The Buddha putting a counter question to PoTThapada as what do you mean by soul, he explains his knowledge of three kinds of souls.

1.  OLArikaM kho ahaM bhante attAnaM paccemi rUpiM catummahAbhUtikaM kabalikaraM kAra hAra bhakkhanti. – The rough soul of form made of four great elements and depends on material food.
2.  µanomayaM kho ahaM bhante attAnaM paccemi sabbaGgapaccangaM ahIndriyanti. – The mental soul endowed with all the faculties and with powerful senses.
3.  årUpiM kho ahaM bhante attAnaM paccemi saJJAmayanti. – The formless soul made of perception.

The three kinds of soul given above refer to sensual sphere, form sphere and non-form sphere. Although even Buddhism accepts the existence of three forms of worlds mentioned here Buddhism does not recognize a soul related to them.

The BrahmajAlasutta bears many evidences for the fact of emergence of many views related to soul. All those views are two fold again.

1.   The views on soul experienced from past lives (pubbanta kappa)
2.   The views on soul experienced from future births (aparAnta kappa)

All these soul theories which are many fold again paved the way for four views, they are

1.   Eternalist soul theory related to origin.
2.   Eternalist soul theory related to existence.
3.   Nihilist soul theory related to origin.
4.   Nihilist soul theory related to existence.

Buddhism rejects all these views whenever it is related to a permanent soul.

The Buddha says the belief in a soul is natural to all the worldlings due to wrong perception as they received through mediation. All the puThujjanas held the idea that ‘I have my soul.’ To the concept of soul what the philosophers have done is giving a sound meaning to the concept of soul naturally prevalent in the minds of men.

In the ßanupassanAsutta of SN, the Buddha says how worldlings develop their view of soul.

Yehi keci bhikkhave samaNA vA brahmaNA vA anekavihitaM attAnaM samanupassamAnA samanupassanti. sabbe te paJcUpAdanakkhandha samanupassanti. etesaM vA aJJataraM.

=O monks! Those recluses and Brahmins who see various souls, they see in five aggregates or in one of them.”

At the philosophical discussion of the Buddha on soul He shows the development of the soul theory like this way:
·    etaM mama (this is mine)
·    eso ahaM asmi (this am I)
·    eso me attA (this is my soul).

This shows how the experience of world (when it is taken in the wrong way) leads to misconception of the soul, to be freed from soul theory one has to experience the world individually and intentionally otherwise in this way:

·    netaM mama (this is not mine)
·    neso ahaM asmi (this is not I)
·    neso me attA (this is not my soul).

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