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A History of Indian Philosophy, Volume 1

But Indra did not return back to the gods


The Atman doctrine.

The sum and substance of the Upani@sad teaching is involved in the equation Atman=Brahman. We have already seen that the word Atman was used in the @Rg-Veda to denote on the one hand the ultimate essence of the universe, and on the other the vital breath in man. Later on in the Upani@sads we see that the word Brahman is generally used in the former sense, while the word Atman is reserved to denote the inmost essence in man, and the

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[Footnote 1: B@rh. IV. 5. 15. Deussen, Max Muller and Roer have all misinterpreted this passage; _asito_ has been interpreted as an adjective or participle, though no evidence has ever been adduced; it is evidently the ablative of _asi_, a sword.]

[Footnote 2: Ka@tha III. 15.]

[Footnote 3: Sa@nkara on _Brahmasutra_, III. 2. 17, and also Deussen, _Philosophy of the Upanishads_, p. 156.]

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Upani@sads are emphatic in their declaration that the two are one and the same. But what is the inmost essence of man? The self of man involves an ambiguity, as it is used in a variety of senses. Thus so far as man consists of the essence of food (i.e. the physical parts of man) he is called _annamaya_. But behind the sheath of this body there

is the other self consisting of the vital breath which is called the self as vital breath (_pra@namaya atman_). Behind this again there is the other self "consisting of will" called the _manomaya atman_. This again contains within it the self "consisting of consciousness" called the _vijnanamaya atman_. But behind it we come to the final essence the self as pure bliss (the _anandamaya atman_). The texts say: "Truly he is the rapture; for whoever gets this rapture becomes blissful. For who could live, who could breathe if this space (_akas'a_) was not bliss? For it is he who behaves as bliss. For whoever in that Invisible, Self-surpassing, Unspeakable, Supportless finds fearless support, he really becomes fearless. But whoever finds even a slight difference, between himself and this Atman there is fear for him [Footnote ref 1]."

Again in another place we find that Prajapati said: "The self (_atman_) which is free from sin, free from old age, from death and grief, from hunger and thirst, whose desires are true, whose cogitations are true, that is to be searched for, that is to be enquired; he gets all his desires and all worlds who knows that self [Footnote ref 2]." The gods and the demons on hearing of this sent Indra and Virocana respectively as their representatives to enquire of this self from Prajapati. He agreed to teach them, and asked them to look into a vessel of water and tell him how much of self they could find. They answered: "We see, this our whole self, even to the hair, and to the nails." And he said, "Well, that is the self, that is the deathless and the fearless, that is the Brahman." They went away pleased, but Prajapati thought, "There they go away, without having discovered, without having realized the self." Virocana came away with the conviction that the body was the self; but Indra did not return back to the gods, he was afraid and pestered with doubts and came back to Prajapati and said, "just as the self becomes decorated when the body is decorated, well-dressed when the body is well-dressed, well-cleaned when the body is well-cleaned, even so that image self will be blind when the body is blind, injured in one eye when the body is injured in one eye, and mutilated when the body is mutilated, and it perishes

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[Footnote 1: Taitt. II. 7.]


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