Atman Kranti or Human Revolution- Meaning, Background

All of us as individuals are unique in our own way with respect to every aspect one can think of. Whether appearance, personality, voice, mindset, tendencies, weakness, strength or in gist if we indulge in a much deeper level karma. Revolutions across the globe of myriad kinds whether cultural, economic or armed have only one aim in mind; that being true happiness and lasting peace. But, throughout history such an ideal couldn’t be achieved, and societies across the world are still struggling. The west has abundant wealth but, is starving spiritually and on the other hand India has been the spiritual capital of the world for countless millennia. Now, which revolution will fulfill the ultimate aim of humankind? 

The changes occurring outside ourselves have their origin within which is quite evident. Like before taking any action with our mouth or hands we think about it. That thought either can be subtle or conspicuous before manifesting in our day-to-day life. So, the crimes we read in the newspaper, protests taking place over an issue or an employer shouting at his employees. All these take birth in the realm of our mind or inner world. If this inner world is conquered like we see in the lives of the great saints of India then, the outer world can automatically be conquered. The great king Ashoka too realized this after conquering Kalinga. The ultimate revolution which can transform society from its very roots is not something without, but within us. This self known as atman, declared to be eternal by the Upanishads and Buddha is where true happiness is to be found. In this form of revolution one has to fight with all his might against his own negative tendencies like anger, jealousy, hatred, Maya or delusions.

A slow but deeper in level this movement of the heart can help us realize the ideal society of our dreams. Human revolution or Atman kranti unlike hippy, Cuban or green revolution is at the core of all the revolutions. The sky remains bright with stars even when the pollution is at its highest, the river is ever clear and silver even when the surface is clouded with mud and the sun is ever shining bright though veiled by the clouds. Similarly, all other revolutions though glamorous and immediate but alter only the surface, not the substance. The atman is the other name of the sky, river and sun beyond the smoke, mud and clouds of delusion. 

Who was Ashoka?

Ashoka, who once believed in outwardly glory, self-realized the meaning of atman kranti after his conquest over Kalinga. Ashoka was an Indian emperor of the Maurya dynasty who ruled over the almost entire Indian subcontinent. He was the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya and promoted the spread of Buddhism throughout ancient Asia. His devotion and understanding of the teachings of the Buddha brought about a revolutionary change in the thought-process of an entire civilization. Ashoka during his reign had expanded his empire over a territory stretching from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. The massive destruction he caused in Kalinga resulted in 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deported. He is considered to be the only star in the endless skies of monarchs and conquistadores. 

Do meditation and yoga help in realizing ‘Atman Kranti’?

Meditation and yoga, both a part and parcel of each other are the best ways to actualize the revolution of the atman. Sri Paramahansa Yogananda defines yoga as consisting of the actual methods for rising above our narrow identification with the mortal body and restless mind. The main aim of yoga according to him is the identification with the calm, immortal soul. The Raja yoga system of self-realization which is considered to be one of the four spiritual vehicles in Hinduism elucidates the eightfold path of knowing the atman. In order to know more about the Raja yoga system do give a read to our article: Yoga – Union or Communion

Is the concept of ‘Atman Kranti’ alien to other civilizations?

The concept of Atman kranti is not alien to other civilizations around the world. In Japan, the term human revolution which is the other name of atman kranti was coined by a man named Josie Toda. He was the president of the Japanese Buddhist organization known as the Sokka Gakkai. Human revolution primarily focuses on the myriad emotions that rise and fall within us. These emotions as evident in history have given rise to ruthless dictators like Adolf Hitler and also to ideals like the very Mahatma: The father of modern India. One who has gained control over his karmic tendencies and weaknesses that give rise to all forms of sufferings is said to have achieved his own human revolution. The term human revolution has two meanings: one underscores the spiritual aspect as mentioned above, and the other is better understood by archaeologists and anthropologists who define it as the apparently sudden emergence of language, consciousness and culture in our species. 

How does the Buddha relate to the ‘Atman’?

Shakyamuni Buddha articulated the nine levels of consciousness through his speech to his disciples. These levels of consciousness range from the basic five senses to the realization of the immortal, eternal atman or enlightenment. 

FIVE SENSES

-Sense of touch

-Sense of smell

-Sense of vision

-Sense of taste

-Sense of hearing

SIXTH CONSCIOUSNESS

The information derived from the five senses is interpreted by the sixth consciousness. Here a painted canvas is formed regarding the information provided by the five senses. Memory, imagination and dreams take place at this level. It is also known as the mind-consciousness. 

SEVENTH CONSCIOUSNESS

This level includes one’s sense of individuality or the ability to distinguish oneself from others. One’s unique personality shines in this level of consciousness. It is not dependent on the external world unlike the first six levels of consciousness. The seventh consciousness is also known as the manas-consciousness. 

EIGHTH CONSCIOUSNESS

The other name of the eighth consciousness is Alaya consciousness. It is the karmic storehouse of all our thoughts, words and deeds. The eighth consciousness gets manifested through our conduct in different situations we face in a day.

NINTH CONSCIOUSNESS

The ninth consciousness is considered to be the state of perfect enlightenment. This level is the manifestation of the very Buddha or Buddha nature which is immune to karma, external circumstances and evil temptations. In this state of being one enjoys eternal freedom and bliss both within and without. 

Great sages and wise men of India who have established with their very lives the spiritual foundation on which this society thrives are the very manifestation of Atman kranti. Ramakrishnan, Shakyamuni Buddha, Ashoka, Paramahansa Yogananda to name a few have taught the very purpose, meaning and essence of life. It is the realization of the atman; eternal and universal. 

What happens to our atman when we die?

The Upanishads declare that the atman or energy which is none other than life itself becomes a part of the whole universe before taking birth again as per one’s karma. So, the flesh of sperm and blood gets decomposed in the soft mud of the earth, or burnt to ashes as per Hindu tradition. The life energy or life force which as per the Lotus sutra is the body of the true buddha never dies, and is the perfect definition of eternity. Our lives are eternal, and not limited to this short-lived body, says the philosophy of sanathan.  

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