[Advaita-l] Fwd: 12 characteristics of the Atman mentioned by Prahlada

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Sun Apr 9 04:12:45 EDT 2023

Prahlada's excellent spiritual sermon to his classmates in the Bhagavatam

In this chapter he describes that our self is distinct from the body and
lists its 12 distinct characteristics. With this understanding we can free
ourselves from the misconception that we are the body mind complex and have
the right awareness of who really we are:

श्रीमद्भागवतपुराणम्/स्कन्धः ७/अध्यायः ७


आत्मा नित्योऽव्ययः शुद्ध एकः क्षेत्रज्ञ आश्रयः।
अविक्रियः स्वदृघेतुर्व्यापकोऽसङ्ग्यनावृतः १९।
एतैर्द्वादशभिर्विद्वानात्मनो लक्षणैः परैः।
अहं ममेत्यसद्भावं देहादौ मोहजं त्यजेत् २०।

What are those 12 traits:

1. Atma Nitya, . Not born, not destroyed.
2. Avyayah - Atma does not decay or decrease
3. Pure - without any defect
4. Ekah - That which is one, that which is not-Atman is many, anatma
5. Kshetrajna - the witness of the material body mind complex
6. Ashrayah - Refuge/abode, without attachment, to all experiences
7. Avikriyah - The Atman has no transformations
8. Swadrik - There is no other that illuminates the Atman, Swaprakasha,
9. Hetuh - the Cause of all
10. Vyapaka - The nature of the Atman is infinite
11. Asangi - There is no association for Atman with anything
12. Anavritah - The soul does not have the defect of being enveloped (by

By knowing one's own nature in this way, the adhyasa tadatmya (false
understanding that I am the corporeal mind body complex) in the anatma is

This atmanaatma viveka that Prahlada teaches here is what the Vedanta
Shastra accomplishes as its sole agenda. While commenting on this set of
verses, Sridhara Swamin has cited appropriate Upanishad mantras for these
12 attributes, as examples  (see image below).

In the Vedanta Shastra, the Atman that is alienated from the body mind
complex is Brahman. This is what is said in these two verses in the 13th
chapter of the Bhagavad Gita:

श्रीभगवानुवाच —
इदं शरीरं कौन्तेय क्षेत्रमित्यभिधीयते ।
एतद्यो वेत्ति तं प्राहुः क्षेत्रज्ञ इति तद्विदः ॥ १ ॥

(Kshetrjna is the one that illuminates the entire anatma, non-Atman, inert,

क्षेत्रज्ञं चापि मां विद्धि सर्वक्षेत्रेषु भारत ।
क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ज्ञानं यत्तज्ज्ञानं मतं मम ॥ २ ॥

('I am that luminous spirit present in every body', says the Lord. This is
the Mahavakya of Vedanta: Brahman is the spirit different from the
body-mind complex situated in the body. No one, however capable, can
establish any other spirit than this Brahman in the body as distinct from
the body-mind complex.)

It is to be specially noted here that Atman is all-pervading (vibhu): this
premise is accepted only in Advaita. The Atma is atomic size in other
schools. And  the Kshetrajna (jiva consciousness) of the 13th chapter of
the Bhagavad Gita is non-different from the  Paramatma:  the same chit,
consciousness, present in every body.  This premise of the Bhagavatam is
inadmissible in other schools.

A detailed study of each of the Upanishadic passages cited by Sridhara
Swamin would be a very rewarding exercise in Vedanta.


See Sridhara Swamin's commentary image here:

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