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Atma Anatma Viveka – Discrimination Between The Self And The Non-Self In Hinduism

Atma Anatma Viveka, often translated as the "discrimination between the self and the non-self," is a foundational concept within the Vedanta system of Hindu philosophy. Vedanta, one of the six classical schools of Indian philosophy, is based on the interpretation of the Vedas, ancient sacred texts of Hinduism. Atma Anatma Viveka is a crucial aspect of the spiritual journey within Vedanta, emphasizing the discernment between the eternal and unchanging reality of the Atman (Self) and the transient and changing nature of the Anatman (Non-Self).

According to Vedanta, the ultimate reality is Brahman, the unchanging, formless, and infinite source of everything. The individual self, or Atman, is considered identical to Brahman, representing the divine essence within each being. However, due to ignorance (avidya), individuals often identify themselves with the physical body, mind, and ego, leading to a sense of individuality and separation from the ultimate reality.

The purpose of life, as per Vedanta, is to realize this fundamental truth and recognize the oneness of the individual self (Atman) with the universal reality (Brahman). Atma Anatma Viveka serves as a crucial step in this realization process. It involves a systematic and discriminative analysis to distinguish between what is eternal and real (Atman) and what is transient and illusory (Anatman).

The various components of the human experience, such as the body, sense organs, vital airs, mind, intellect, and ego, are considered as Anatman – not the true Self. Through contemplation, introspection, and meditation, individuals engage in discerning the impermanence of these components, realizing that they are not the essence of their being.

By practicing Atma Anatma Viveka, one gradually weakens the attachment to the physical and mental aspects of existence. This process of discrimination, coupled with logical thinking, leads to a deeper understanding of the self and the non-self. It paves the way for the practitioner to move beyond mere intellectual understanding and into direct experiential knowledge of the Atman.

As individuals progress through the fourfold discipline (sadhana-catustaya) that includes Atma Anatma Viveka, they create the foundation for advanced spiritual practices, eventually reaching a state where they directly experience the eternal and unchanging nature of the Self (Atman). This realization, according to Vedanta, brings about liberation (moksha) from the cycle of birth and death (samsara) and leads to the ultimate union with Brahman.