“The Self” According to Indian Philosophy
After completing the readings in this Indian Philosophy course I have come to realize that it is all centered, built upon and around the idea of “the self”. It is bent on teaching those who choose to study Indian Philosophy or achieve the status of Brahman or finally become a Buddhist all the components of the self. Whether it is physical or none physical components it all leads to the idea of coming into fruition with the self. To truly know who you are and where you are going you must truly know thy self. It is said that in order to achieve enlightenment or Brahman the most important aspect is learning all one can about the self and then removing all your attachments that your current identity has, because that will ultimately lead you to a life of suffering from losing those attachments. It is very detrimental to note that the Buddhist and Upanisadic term for the self is called “Atman” and its opposite is called “Anatman”. In this paper I will explain all the notions and ideas surrounding the idea of “the self” and “no self” that we have covered in Indian Philosophy including the ancient story of how Buddhism came to be and how the development of theories lead to the creation of Atman and Anatman, then I will attempt to critically discuss that idea and its complete opposite as it pertains to two ancient but very valid perspectives, one being the Upanisadic view on the self and the other being the Buddhist view. Although the two perspectives may have different ideas, many similarities can be drawn from the ancient texts. From there I will compare and contrast the two sets of beliefs as pertains to Atman and Anatman and finally take a stand on which set of beliefs on the subject seems to be more plausible and effective towards describing ones true sense of one’s existence otherwise known as the self. According to the Upanishads, the idea of the self also known as Atman is considered to be the essence of Brahman or the vital principle of life. A Sourcebook In Asian Philosophy defines Atman as, “Hindu term for the ultimate self, which is held to be identical with Brahman, the ultimate reality” (569). So in other words, it is the features that make us tick, such as; our breath and our soul. It is our true identity that is beyond the realm of our conceptual understanding. This is further explained in the Vedanta, “It is the innate assumption of people that Atman is not distinct from the body and the like. This arises from nescience. So long as they have it, the Vedic injunction to perform actions would be valid” (94). These statements are basically saying that it is only valid to say that Atman is not a part of you if you are lacking knowledge. It is also argued that Atman is the ultimate core of consciousness or state of pure consciousness. This specific state is also known as the third state. However it is also argued that this state can only be achieved when in a deep sleep. “Learn from me the doctrine of sleep. When a man literally ‘sleeps’ then he has merged with Existent. He has ‘entered the self’ that is why they say that he ‘sleeps’. For he has entered the self” (27). This an explanation that only through sleep can one prove ones existence. This is due to the fact that while we are awake our five senses can deceive us. Therefore when they are at rest and only the mind is functioning to some capacity can we really know ourselves. Through ones dreams you can see yourself and look deep into your own soul to reveal what you truly desire or what your darkest fears are. That is what was meant by “entering the self”. I cannot agree more with this statement, there are no boundaries to the scenario your mind can come up with while sleeping. You can really come to terms with the person you want to be and/or the person you are not.
The Upanisadic idea of Anatman means “no self” which is the opposite of “the self” as it refers to the existence of oneself. So therefore the idea of...
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