In Bhagavad-Gita we hear the terms like Atma, Paramatma and Jeevatma being used.
What is Atma, Paramatma and Jeevatma???
How are they interrelated???
In Hindu Dharma there are many schools of thought which explain the three in an explicit way. This variety of thought has an equally enormous variety of approaches to the three. I am an ordinary seeker who wish to share my understanding with you hence what I write here may seem to be a contradiction to what you understanding of these three. If it is so, we can hope to start a discussion, let’s try to comprehend by bringing up questions. I wish to clarify that the discussion is not because I claim to know about the three.
Bhagavad-Gita classifies the beings as two categories, the Kshara (Perishable) in material world and Aksara (Imperishable) in the spiritual world. Besides these two, there is the greatest living personality, the Paramatma Himself, who permeates into the universe and is sustaining it. He is seated in the heart of every being and from Him comes Smriti (Memory), Jnana (Wisdom) and Apohana (Forgetfulness).
From the illustration from Gita, Paramatma is present in each and every living being. When an entity incarnates as a present reality (just as you and I are at this moment) three essential attributes arise from Paramatma, They are memory, knowledge, and forgetfulness.
By memory He bestow us the ability to recall not only that which has happened in this present birth but also a deeper memory of that which has happened in our previous births. This helps us on the subtle level to work on what is needed to be done to fructify the purpose of this particular birth.
Wisdom conferred by Paramatma again has two forms. Initially it is a gift to perceive this particular birth, which could also be interpreted as Prajna (Intelligence) which allows our mind to work at the higher level of Consciousness. Furthermore, it is the wisdom of Vedas that can route us back to the source; Union with the Divine.
Forgetfulness is forgetting the past births, in order to enable ourselves to focus on the work to be done in this current birth.
Jeevatma is the self with a small “s.” It is that which maintains a sense of identity by carrying with it the Vasanas (Tendencies) and Samskrara (Impressions) of previous many births. The striking difference between Jeevatma and Paramatma is the catastrophic ability of Jeevatma to get entangled with Maya (Illusion).
Atma is the Self with a capital “S” it can neither be burnt in fire nor will it get wet by water, there is no birth or death to it. It is unborn, eternal and primeval. It is not slain when the body is slain. It is the all-pervasive, the broad concept that envelops Jeevatma and Paramatma alike. The Param in Paramatma translates from Sanskrit as highest or best. The Jeeva in Jeevatma refers to an incarnated being, specifically one who has become identified with the body. Thus, Paramatma is the highest Soul; Jeevatma is the incarnated Soul, while Atma refers to the Soul in a broad sense. Kind of like high school and primary school are both school, but distinct in and of themselves.
Since the Atma is permanent, and Paramatma is permanent they are reality. However, anything that I see, touch, taste, etc., is subject to change or cause illusion, hence they are unreal. However, if I can recognise the presence of Paramatma in everything, beyond the change and illusion, I begin to recognise the importance of focusing on that which further illuminates Divinity. That Divinity which is surrounding me with beauty, love and truth, instead of looking at hatred, anger and lies. The more I cultivate the former in my life; the Jeevatma in me is closer to Paramatma…….What say???