Ātmabodha

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Atmabodha, Atmabodha, AAtmabodha


Ātmabodha literally means ‘knowledge of the self’.

Origin of Ātmabodha

Śaṅkara (A.D. 788-820), the doyen of Advaita Vedanta, has composed three types of works :

  1. Bhāṣyas - The bhāṣyas are his commentaries on the prasthānatraya. Prasthānatraya is the three basic works of Vedānta viz., Upaniṣads, Brahmasutras and Bhagavadgitā.
  2. Stotras - The stotras are devotional hymns.
  3. Prakaraṇas - The prakaraṇas are elementary treatises on Advaita philosophy. Out of nearly forty prakaraṇas attributed to him, ātmabodha is one of the smaller works. It consists of sixty-eight verses.

Gist of Ātmabodha

  • As the very name suggests, the work deals with Self-knowledge.
  • It briefly describes the qualifications of an aspirant for mokṣa.
  • It asserts that only jñāna (knowledge) can give mokṣa (liberation) directly. It is compared to the fire that is directly responsible for cooking food.
  • It describes the world as ‘mithyā’ or transient.
  • It analyzes the three śarīras (bodies) and the five kośas (sheaths) to prove that the ātman is different from all these.
  • The process of meditation on the ātman comprises the three well-known steps :
  1. Śravaṇa - Hearing
  2. Manana - Reflection
  3. Nididhyāsana - Meditation
  • It ends with the description of the identity of the jīva (individual soul) with Brahman (Supreme Self) and the state of a liberated soul.


References

  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore


Ātmaguṇa

By Swami Harshananda

Ātmaguṇa literally means virtues that help in manifesting the Self.

Significance of Ātmaguṇa

Social legislators consider the life of man as an integral unit and prescribe several sanskāras or sacraments to purify him in all aspects. These sanskāras should not be performed mechanically. It should be observed with due faith.

General Ātmaguṇas

The general virtues called ‘ātmaguṇas’ can be induced in him. These general virtues by all the authors can be listed as follows :

  1. Sarvabhutadayā - Compassion towards all creatures
  2. Kṣānti - Forbearance
  3. Anasuyatā - Absence of jealousy
  4. Śauca - Purity
  5. Anāyāsa - Avoiding exertion
  6. Maṇgala - Auspiciousness
  7. Akārpaṇya - Large-hearted
  8. Aspṛhatā - Absence of covetousness
  9. Satya - Truth
  10. Ārjava - Straightforwardness
  11. Dāna - Giving gifts
  12. Ahiṅsā - Non-injury
  13. Śama - Peace of mind
  14. Dama - Self-control
  15. Dhṛti - Courage

Ātmaguṇas as per Chāndogya Upaniṣad

The Chāndogya Upaniṣad[1] has listed eight guṇas or qualities natural to the Ātman as follows :

  1. Apahata-pāpmā - Free from sins
  2. Vijara - Free from decrepitude
  3. Vimṛtyu - Deathless
  4. Viśoka - Without sorrow
  5. Vijighatsa - Free from hunger
  6. Apipāsa - Free from thirst
  7. Satyakāma - With unfailing desires
  8. Satyasaṅkalpa - With unfailing will


References

  1. Chāndogya Upaniṣad 8.7
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore



Ātmahatyā

By Swami Harshananda

Ātmahatyā literally means ‘suicide’.

Ātmahatyā or suicide has been considered a great sin by the dharmaśāstras.[1][2] Though it was prescribed as the ultimate punishment for sinners of most heinous crimes,[3][4] it was also disapproved by other writers.

However, it was permitted as a religious act under following circumstances only :

  • A vānaprastha (forest hermit) suffering from incurable diseases and unable to perform his duties
  • An old man incapable of taking care of himself due to serious old-age decrepitude or illness beyond cure
  • A householder who has fulfilled all his duties and obligations and has no desire to live and so on.

Such suicides were committed in various ways such as fasting unto death, mahāprasthāna, drowning oneself at the Triveṇī in Prayāga (modern Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh) or burning oneself in the fire prepared out of cowdung-cakes.

References

  1. Parāśara Smrti 4.1 and 2
  2. Yama Smrti 20 and 21
  3. Manusmrti 11.90, 91
  4. Gautama Dharmasutras 23.1
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore