The Soul and Its Destiny
By Swami Nikhilananda
The Vedanta philosophy discusses the
nature of the soul from two standpoints:
By Swami Nikhilananda
The Vedanta philosophy discusses the
nature of the soul from two standpoints:
1. Absolute or transcendental and
2. Relative or phenomenal
From the absolute standpoint, the soul is non-dual, immortal, ever pure, ever free, ever illumined, and one with Brahman. It is untouched by hunger or thirst, good and evil, pain and pleasure, birth and death, and the other pairs of opposites. That is the soul's true nature. The realisation of which is the goal of a man's spiritual aspiration and striving. From this absolute standpoint, the soul is called PARAMATMA or Supreme Soul.
But from the relative standpoint, the Vedanta philosophy admits the existence of a multitude of individual souls called JIVATMAS, and distinguishes them from the Supreme Soul. Attached to the body, the individual soul is a victim of the pairs of the opposites. Entangled in the world, it seeks deliverance from the eternal round of birth and death, and with that end in view, studies the scriptures and practises spiritual disciplines.
The embodied soul is associated with the sense organs, the mind and vital breath (Prana). There are ten sense organs, all subordinate to the mind as the central organ; five organs of perception and five organs of action. The five organs of perception comprise the organ of taste (tongue),smell (nose), vision (eyes), hearing (ear), and touch (skin). The five organs of action are the hands, the feet, the organ of speech, the organs of evacuation and the organ of generation.
The four functions of the mind
The mind is the inner organ and consists of such functions as desire, deliberation, doubt, faith, want of faith, patience, impatience, shame, intelligence and fear.
The impressions carried by the organs of perception are shaped by the mind into ideas, for we see only with the mind, hear with the mind. Further, the mind changes the ideas into resolutions of the will.
There are four functions or divisions or parts of the mind.
One part of the mind called Manas, creates doubt.
The Buddhi (intellect) makes decisions
Chitta is the storehouse of memory
Aham (the ego), creates I-consciousness.
The five organs of action, the five organs of perception, the five pranas, the mind, and the intellect constitute the gross and the subtle body of the embodied soul (jiva). The subtle accompanies the individual soul after death, when the gross body is destroyed. The subtle body is the abode of the KARMA or impressions left by action, determining the nature of the new body and mind when the soul is reborn. As the jiva (the embodied soul) does and act, so it becomes.
The presence of an irrefragable Self or consciousness is assumed in all acts of thinking. The Self or consciousness, which is the true 'seer' or subject, is unchanging intelligence, and can never be imagined to be non-existent. Atman (the Self) in man and Brahman in the universe are completely identical.
The idea of body, senses, and the mind, associated with the non-self, is falsely superimposed upon the Self, and the Self, which is of the nature of pure consciousness, appears as a jiva, or phenomenal being, subject to the various limitations of the physical world.
The Rishis speak of two souls: the real soul and the apparent soul. The real soul is birthless, death less, immortal, and infinite. The same real soul, under the spell of ignorance, appears as the apparent man identified with the body, mind and senses. This apparent man becomes, on account of his attachment to the body, a victim of birth and death, virtue and vice, and the other pairs of opposites.The apparent man is bound to the world, and it is he,again, who strives for liberation. The enjoyment of material pleasures, and the subsequent satiation and weariness; the consciousness of bondage, and the struggle for freedom; the injunctions of the scriptures, and the practice of moral and spiritual disciplines- all this refers to the apparent man. Again, it is the apparent man who performs virtuous or sinful deeds, goes, after death, to heaven or hell, and assumes different bodies. But it must never be forgotten that rewards and punishments are spoken of only with reference to the reflected, or apparent soul. The real soul is forever free from the characteristics of the relative world.
But the real soul is always free, illumined, and perfect. The real sun, non-dual and resplendent, shines brilliantly in the sky, though millions of its reflections are seen to move with the movement of the waves.
Two souls are mentioned in the Vedas
From The Mahabharata
Santi Parva Section CCXXXVI
Translated by Sri Kisari Mohan Ganguli
Vyasa said: "That has been said to be Manifest which is possessed of these four attributes, viz., birth, growth, decay and death. That which is not posessed of these attributes is said to be Unmenifest. Two souls are mentioned in the Vedas and the sciences that are based upon them. The first (which is called Jivatman; embodied soul) is endued with the four attributes already mentioned, and has a longing for the four objects or purposes (viz., Religion, Wealth, Pleasure and Emancipation). This soul is called Manifest, and it is born of the Unmanifest (Supreme Soul). It is both intelligent and non-intelligent. I have thus told thee about Sattwa (inert matter) and Kshetrajna (immaterial spirit).
Both kinds of Soul, it is said in the Vedas, become attached to objects of the senses. The doctrine of the Sankhyas is that one should keep onself aloof or dissociated from objects of the senses. That yogin who is freed from attachment and pride, who transcends all pairs of opposites, such as pleasure and pain, heat and cold, etc., who never gives way to wrath or hate, who never speaks an untruth, who, though slandered or struck, still shows friendship for the slanderer or the striker, who never thinks of doing ill to others, who restrains the three, viz., speech, acts and mind, and who behaves uniformly towards all creatures, succeeds in approaching the presence of Brahman.
That person who cherishes no desires for earthly objects, who is not unwilling to take what comes, who is dependent on earthly objects to only that extent which is necessary for sustaining life, who is free from cupidity, who has driven off all grief, who has restrained his senses, who goes through all necessary acts, who is regardless of personal appearance and attire, whose senses are all collected (for devotion to the true objects of life), whose purposes are never left unaccomplished, who bears himself with equal friendliness towards all creatures, who regards a clod of earth and a lump of gold with an equal eye, who is equally disposd towards friend and foe, who is possessed of patience, who takes praise and blame equally, who is free from longing with respect to all objects of desire, who practises Brahmacharya (celibacy), and who is firm and steady in all his vows and observances, who has no malice or envy for any creature in the universe, is a Yogin who according to the Sankhya system succeeds in winning Emancipation."
"I am the Self seated in the hearts of all beings"
-Gita,Chapter 10, verse 20:
The soul is the very pivot of our existence. Either man is the body and has a soul or man is the soul and has a body. If man is the body and has a soul, then the materialist is right. Then glorification of the body is the goal of existence, and competition, violence, and hatred are the means to attain this goal. But if man is the soul and has a body, then religion is right. Then the body becomes a secondary thing, only a means to fulfil a spiritual end.
The Rishis of the Upanishads describe the different
courses followed by the unillumined souls after death.
After death the souls of the extremely wicked-
those who are given to violence, greed, lust, passion and cruelty - assume after death the subhuman bodies of animals and insects. They too, after the punishment is over, come back to earth to be incarnated as human beings. The experiences in a subhuman body cannot destroy the innate spiritual nature of the soul.
Those who have performed meritorious actions on earth, but with the selfish motive of reaping their results, pass after death through a succession of stations associated with gloom and darkness, and at last arrive at an inferior heaven called the 'plane of the moon' where they enjoy for many years material pleasures as a reward for their previous works. Afterwards they are reborn on earth and again take up the thread of their spiritual evolution. This is known as the 'way of the fathers.'
Then there is the 'way of the gods.' Those who devote themselves to worship and righteous activities but cannot attain to Self-Knowledge owing to certain defects, pass, after death, through a number of stations associated with light, and at last reach an exalted sphere called the plane of Brahma, corresponding to the highest heaven of the dualistic religions. The inhabitants of this plane are always aware of Cosmic Consciousness, but a thin obstacle stands in the way of their complete emancipation. After spending many years in meditation, they attain to emancipation at the end of the cycle, when the whole plane itself is absorbed in Brahman, or the God-head.
What Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi
wrote about a cow named Lakshmi
"Even as a calf Lakshmi behaved in an extraordinary way; she would daily come to me and place her head at my feet. Years later, on the day the foundation was laid for the goshala (cow shed), she was so jubilant that she came and took me for the function. Again on the day of graha pravesham (on completion, making formal entry to the cow shed), she came straight to me at the time appointed and took me to the goshala. In so many ways and on so many occasions, she behaved in such a sensible and extremely intelligent way that one cannot but regard her as an extraordinary cow. What are we to say about it?"
"The soul goes out of the body enveloped with subtle parts
of the elements with a view to obtaining a fresh body."
In a universe of oneness, death is impossible
Bell's Theorem suggests that conscious human activity influences the behaviour of subatomic particles in actual laboratory experiments.
The implication that human consciousness is a factor in determining the features of the 'real' world is affirmed by the quantum physicist H.S.Stapp. Stapp contends that Bell's Theorem is the most important result in the history of science, and that it demonstrates the effect of human consciousness at the level of Macrocosm. The impact of our consciousness lies both in the direction of the very small and the very large (microcosm and macrocosm).
The principle of oneness is revealed through Bell's Theorem and through the connectivity in the 'Biodance'. In essence it says that through the unbelievable richness of contact that every human has with the universe at large and with every other human being, our concept of death is wrong. In a universe of oneness, death is impossible. The richness of connectivity renders personal extinction impossible, because personal extinction is possible only in a universe of personal isolation. We do not live in such a universe.
The failure to feel the universal oneness that envelopes us all perpetuates the greatest illusion of modern man: the inevitability of personal extinction. This illusion can be countered by an appreciation of the quality of oneness in the universe so well described by modern science.
The usual tradition of equating death with an ensuing nothingness can be abandoned, for there is no reason to believe that human death severs the quality of oneness in the universe. If we participate in this universal quality before our death, our survival after death is demanded. The oneness principle endures and we endure with it.
The theorems of Godel and John.S.Bell do much to affirm the experiences of the great Rishis of the Upanishads.
Our greatest spiritual achievement may lie in total integration of the spiritual and the physical - in realising that the spiritual and the physical are not two aspects of ourselves but one. Perhaps the ultimate spiritual goal is to transcend nothing, but to realise the oneness of our own being, which is implied by Godel and Bell.
The view of ourselves as independent objects that are isolated from the universe we inhabit is erroneous. We cannot distance ourselves from the universe because of our oneness with it.