What is difference between Aatma, Jeevatma and Paramatma?
Atma simply means one's true Self. This is the root or fundamental entity of anything or any being that is eternal, unchangeable, unmodifiable and so on. Atma can mean different things depending upon the context it is used. For living beings like us, atma means the soul about which Shri Krishna explains in the Gita using the following verses:
For the soul there is neither birth nor death at any time. He has not come into being, does not come into being, and will not come into being. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain. [BG - 2.20]
The soul can never be cut to pieces by any weapon, nor burned by ﬁre, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind. [BG - 2.23]
But atma can even mean Brahman or God also as He is the soul of everything. So when it is said only the atma was there in the beginning, atma there means God:
ātmā vā idameka evāgra āsīt [Ait. Up -1]
- Atma alone was there in the beginning.
Atma which is quality-less and attribute-less when gets combined with prakruti, forms different kinds of senses (both subtle and gross) and gets different material natures. This combination of atma and qualities arising from prakruti is called as jivatma.
apareyam itas tv anyāṁ prakṛtiṁ viddhi me parām
jīva-bhūtāṁ mahā-bāho yayedaṁ dhāryate jagat [BG - 7.5]
Besides these (insentient matter), O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature.
It is the jivatma which resides in the physical body and in many other subtle bodies after casting off of the gross one. Jivatma or the jivas are sentient and eternal energy fragments of God:
mamaivāṁśo jīva-loke jīva-bhūtaḥ sanātanaḥ
manaḥ-ṣaṣṭhānīndriyāṇi prakṛti-sthāni karṣati [BG - 15.7]
The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.
Paramatma means supreme soul. If the self of the body is the soul, then Parmatma is the self of the soul. That is, the soul of the soul is the supreme soul:
ānandaṁ paramātmānam ātma-sthaṁ [SB - 11.26.1]
- Paramatma is the reservoir of all pleasure situated within the soul of every living being.
God basically has three forms or modes. Brahman, Paramatma and Bhagavan:
vadanti tat tattva-vidas tattvaṁ yaj jñānam advayam
brahmeti paramātmeti bhagavān iti śabdyate [SB - 1.2.11]
Learned transcendentalists who know the Absolute Truth call this nondual substance Brahman, Paramātmā or Bhagavān.
Among these three, in Barhman no attribute, no activity, no power is exhibited. Parmatma exhibits only few more powers and dwells in the heart or soul of every being. But in Bhagavan all power, all lila(pastimes) and all attributes are exhibited.
And the major difference between Jivatma and Paramatma is that, Jivatma is mayadhin, that is, he is under the influence of maya. But Paramatma is mayadhis, that is, He is the Lord of maya. And both over the atma or jivatma and maya rules one Lord who is known as God, Bhagavan, parmatma, etc.
kṣaraṃ pradhānamamṛtākṣaraṃ haraḥ kṣarātmānāvīśate deva ekaḥ [Sve. Up - 1.10]
- Matter is perishable, immortal and imperishable is the soul. Both over the perishable and the soul rules one God.
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