are we ?
Answer :When we ask the question ,Who am I,"we begin our quest for spiritual knowledge .This is the first step .The inscription on the temple of Apollo at Delphi says Knothi Seuton ,or "Know Thyself ".It is said that once Socrates was pondering over philosophic truths and walking absentmindedly on the street ,when he bumped into someone .Annoyed ,the man said ,"Can you not see where you are walking ?Who are you ?"
Socrates replied nonchalantly , "My dear friend ,I have been pondering over that question for the last forty years , and have still not found the answer .If you have any tips to offer ,do let me know ."
The Bhagvat Gita says in this regard :
क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोर्ग्यानम। (भगवत गीता ,तेरहवां अध्याय ,श्लोक संख्या ३ )
"To understand the difference between the body and the knower of the body is wisdom ."
The body is not you ;it is like a house in which you reside ,or like clothes you wear .You are the eternal soul seated within it .The body is made from matter ,and hence it is perishable ,but you ,the soul are Divine ,and hence immortal .
Question 2 :Where does the soul reside ?Is the soul in us or are we in the soul ?
Neither is the soul within us ,nor are we in the soul .We are the soul that is seated within the body .
Regarding its place of residence ,the Vedic scriptures state that the atma ,or soul ,resides in the heart .
हृदि ह्येष आत्मा (प्रश्नोपनिषद ३. ६ )
स वा एष आत्मा हृदि ..... (छान्दोग्य उपनिषद ८. ३. ३ ).
These Upnishadic sutras state that the soul resides in the region of the heart .However ,it is not physically bound to the heart .Often people ask that if the soul resides in the heart ,what happens in the case of a heart transplant .Does the soul get extracted from the body along with the heart ?No ,if a heart transplant takes place ,the soul continues to reside in the same location ,despite the change of heart .
Difference between Consciousness and the Soul
Question :What is consciousness "How does it differ from or is identical to the so -called "soul"?Are we in consciousness or the consciousness is in us ?Or is all that exists verily(in truth ) "consciousness "?
Answer :"Consciousness "is the sympton of life that is manifested by the soul .It is not the soul itself ;rather it is a quality of the soul .This is just as heat and light are manifestations of the fire ,but by themselves ,they are not the fire .
Everything that exists is verily the energy of God .However ,it is not all consciousness .Matter is "insentient"(without life ,consciousness or perception ),while the soul is "sentient "or possessing consciousness .This is an important distinction between the soul and matter .
Apart from having consciousness itself ,the soul also has the ability to impart consciousness to matter ,when it associates with it .Hence ,the insentient matter of the body is made sentient by the presence of the soul .As long as the soul resides in the body ,the senses ,organs ,and limbs ,all display signs of life .Upon death ,when the soul departs ,the body is dead matter once again .
How Dead Matter Receives Consciousness from the Soul ?
Question :If the soul resides in one place within the body ,how can it make the entire body conscious ?If consciousness is a quality of the soul ,kindly explain how it is passed on to the body ?
Answer :Ved Vyas has replied to the first question as follows :
अविरोधश्च्न्दनवत (अविरोधशचन्दनवत )-ब्रह्मसूत्र २. ३. २३
"Sandalwood possesses such a property that if you apply it to the forehead ,it cools the entire body .Similarly ,the soul ,although residing locally in the heart ,permeates its consciousness throughout the body ."
The second question regarding how consciousness is passed from the soul to the body ,has also been answered by Ved Vyas himself :
व्यक्तिरेको गंधन्वत (ब्रह्म सूत्र २. ३.२६ )
"A flower carries aroma itself ,and the garden where it grows also becomes aromatic by its presence ."
Likewise ,the soul is sentient ,and by its presence ,it makes the dead matter of the body sentient as well .
साथ में पढ़िए पारिभाषिक शब्दावली गीता से :
Important Terms in the Bhagavad Gita
(1)God(Bhagvan ):In the Vedic scriptures ,including the Bhagvad Gita ,God refers to the one Supreme entity .He is all -powerful ,all -knowing ,and omnipresent .He is the creator ,maintainer ,and dissolver of this creation .He possesses innumerable contradictory attributes at the same time .Thus ,he is near and yet far ,big and yet small ,formless and yet possessing a form ,without qualities and yet possessing innumerable qualities .
People approach the Supreme Entity in three ways .Some relate to him in his formless all -pervading aspect ,which is called Brahman .Others choose to worship him as the Parmatma ,who is seated within the hearts of all living beings .Yet others seek to worship him in his personal form ,as Bhagvan .All these three -Brahman ,Pramatma ,and Bhagvan -are diferent aspects of one Ultimate Being .
Occasionally ,of his causeless grace ,God descends upon the earth and engages in divine pastimes to uplift the souls .Such a descension is called a Avatar .Shree Ram and Shree Krishna are both Avatars of the Supreme divine personality .Since God is all-powerful ,he is not limited to one form ;he can manifest in innumerable forms.But we must remember that all these are different forms of the one Divine Lord ,and not different Gods.
(2) Soul(atma):The individual soul is a tiny fragmental part of God .It is spiritual in nature ,and hence distinct from the material body .The presence of the soul imparts consciousness to the body ,which is made from insentient matter .When the soul leaves ,the body becomes dead matter again .The body is perishable ,while the soul is eternal .
This is a bit different from the Abrahamic conceptof new souls being created with each birth of a human being upon the earth .According to the Vedic understanding ,the soul is without begining or end ;it neither originated on birth nor will it be destroyed when the body dies.What we term as death in worldly parlance is merely the soul changing bodies .The Bhagvad Gita likens this to a person changing clothes to put on new ones .The soul is not free to choose its next birth ,which is decided by God based upon the Law of Karma.
Why has the material energy enveloped us in the first place ?This is because we have turned our backs toward God .God is of the nature of light ,while the material energy is of the nature of darkness .One who turns away from the light is naturally overcome by darkness .Likewise ,the souls who have turned their backs toward him have been covered by the material energy .
Understanding the Vedic terminology regarding the word atma will be helpful .The soul that is in the embodied state is called jivatma because it keeps the body live (jivit ).These words atma and jivatma are interchangeably used while referring to souls in the material realm .Along with the individual soul (jivatma ),God is also seated within the body .He is called Paramatma (Supreme Soul ).He accompanies the jivatma life after life whichever bodily forms it goes .The Paramatma does not interfere with the activities of the living entity ,but remains as a silent witness .The jivatma is forgetful of its eternal friend and is struggling to enjoy the material energy .
The word atma ,which literally means soul ,occurs regularly in the Gita ,for a variety of usages .In some places ,atma is used to refer to the jivatma (individual soul ),without including the body ,mind and intellect (i .e verse 6.20 i .e 20 th verse of sixth chapter ).At times, it refers to the entire personality of the living being ,including the soul and the body,mind ,intellect (e.g.verse 6.20 ).Occasionally ,atma refers to the mind (e .g .verse 5.7 ).And in some places ,it is used for Pramatma (Supreme Soul /God ,e.g .verse 6.29)
(3)Material Nature (Prakriti or Maya ):The material energy ,called prakriti ,is not antithetical to God ;rather it is one of his innumerable powers .At the time of dissolution ,prakriti remains latent within the being of God .When he wishes to create the world ,he glances at it ,and it begins to unwind from its latent state .It then manifests the various gross and subtle elements of creation .
While one aspect of material energy ,Maya ,is responsible for creating the world ,its second aspect is instrumental in keeping the souls bound to the samsara of life and death .Maya makes us forget our identity as divine souls ,and puts us under the illusion of being the material body .Hence we pursue bodily pleasures in the world .After innumerable lifetimes of endeavoring in the material realm ,the soul comes to the realization that the infinite bliss it seeks will not be attained from the world but from God .Then ,it must follow the path of Yog to reach the stage of perfection .When the soul achieves perfect union with God ,it becomes liberated from the clutches of the material energy .
(4)Modes of Nature (Gunas):The material energy has three constituent modes :sattva guna (mode of goodness ),rajo guna (mode of passion ),tamo guna (mode of ignorance ).The mode of ignorance induces laziness ,stupor ,ignorance ,anger ,violence ,and addiction .Thereby ,it pulls the soul deeper into the darkness of material illusion .The mode of passion inflames the desires of the mind and senses ,and induces one to endeavor passionately for fulfilling worldly ambitions .The mode of goodness illumines a person with knowledge and nourishes virtuous qualities ,such as kindness ,patience ,and tolerance .It makes the mind peaceful and suitable for spiritual practice .A sadhak (spiritual practitioner ) must strive to reduce the modes of ignorance and passion by cultivating the mode of goodness ,and then transcend even sattva guna .God is transcendental to the three gunas ;by attaching the mind to him we too can ascend to the transcendental platform .
"Excerpted from 'The Bhagvad Gita 'by Swami Mukundananda ,courtsey JKYog ,USA."