Spiritual Glossary

Spiritual Glossary: Brahman & Atman

Brahman is the Sanskrit word for the Ultimate Reality, the Supreme Being, or the Absolute. It is unchanging, unborn, unmanifest, and infinite. But Brahman is both transcendent and immanent; the ground from which all of manifest reality arises, including time and space. Brahman is omnipresent and is the spiritual source of the universe.

In Hinduism there are different interpretations as to the ultimate nature of Brahman depending on whether the texts are non-dual or dualistic, or variations of the two.

Brahman is also sometimes personified as the creator god Brahma, and is seen alongside the two other divine functions in the TrimurtiVishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

Depiction of the Trimurti at Hoysaleswara in Halebidu
Depiction of the Trimurti at Hoysaleswara in Halebidu

Atman is a Sanskrit word meaning self or breath. It is your basic essence as an individual before you become identified with changing phenomenon. Atman is the true Self as opposed to the personal self identified with the body and mind.

In Hinduism, the Atman is the universal self which reincarnates until it achieves moksha, or liberation from samsara. As Brahman is to the workings of the universe, so the Atman is to the workings of your being as a person.

Atman is your little spark of Brahman. In some systems of thought, Atman and Brahman are considered to be one.

See also: Hinduism, Maya

Image: Trimurti

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5 thoughts on “Spiritual Glossary: Brahman & Atman

  1. Brahman is also sometimes personified as the creator god Brahma, and is seen alongside the two other divine functions in the Trimurti – Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva the destroyer.

    And of course some Shaivites ‘personify’ (wrong word in many cases) Brahman as Shiva and some Vaishnavites ‘personify’ Brahman as Vishnu.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve always been fascinated by Hinduism. (Except for the caste system, of course.) I’ve read a few texts, but if I’m being completely honest, I’m not sure I fully understand it. Looking forward to reading more of your enlightening posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you like it, David. Actually, I’m just transferring some posts over from my old Glossary blog because I’m shutting it down. I didn’t realise the posts were going out to followers. They’re from a while back, so I thought I could just sneak them in. Sorry if you’re getting bombarded with posts! The ones that come after this will be new posts, as and when I get round to writing them…

      Liked by 1 person

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