seanpdx wrote:Out of curiosity, what was the established, brahminic understanding of atman/atta at the time of the Buddha?
This is not bad:
one of the most basic concepts in Hindu philosophy, describing that eternal core of the personality that survives after death and that transmigrates to a new life or is released from the bonds of existence. While in the early Vedic texts it occurred mostly as a reflexive pronoun (oneself), in the later Upanishads it comes more and more to the fore as a philosophic topic: atman is that which makes the other organs and faculties function and for which indeed they function; atman underlies all the activities of a person, as Brahman (the absolute) underlies the workings of the universe; to know it brings bliss; it is part of the universal Brahman, with which it can commune or even fuse. So fundamental was the atman deemed to be that certain circles identified it with Brahman. Of the various systems (darshans) of Hindu philosophy, the schools of Sāṃkhya and Yoga (which use the term purusha to convey the idea of atman) and the orthodox school of Vedānta particularly concern themselves with the atman, though the interpretation varies in accordance with each system’s general worldviews.
The Wiki article is not so good, because it jumps straight into later Advaita, which is rather irrelevant to what the Buddha was dealing with.
Here is also some quotes from the Upanisads, look about half way down:
Be careful with a lot of "quotes" about atman, eg. the Bhagavat Gita, as many of them come from much later post-Buddha philosophies, when the Brahmins had already often re-constructed their philosophical systems in the light of the challenges posed to them by the Buddha, Mahavira, and other thinkers.