Thursday, 1 January 2015


Credit: ISKCON International Society for Krishna Consciousness
Credit: ISKCON
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
The Hindu concept of the ubiquitous presence of the Universal Essence, as souls in every individual, generated the idea of 'Same - sightedness' (Sama Darshinah in Sanskrit) - seeing the same essence in the highest and the lowest in creation - a democracy of the spirit. The Gita underlines this concept thus:
'' Men of self-knowledge see the Eternal equally in a wise and courteous Brahmin (man of learning), a cow, an elephant, a dog and an outcast.''
One then sees that the Divine essence is in all, and all are in it. This supreme egalitarianism becomes possible because the essence of the creator is present in every minute atom of his material creation.
This sense of the universal presence of divinity is further explained in the Gita in the following verses:
''He who sees me everywhere and sees all in me, he never becomes lost to me, nor do I become lost to him.''
''He who established in oneness, worships me abiding in all beings, that yogi lives in me....''
Such a mind-set creates the right attitude for engaging in the welfare of all, a humanitarianism which is concerned for the well-being not only of mankind but of the animal world as well and beyond to inanimate objects comprising nature (equally imbued with divinity) -  an attitude that would encourage the environmental consciousness of today.
The placing of a vermillion dot or mark on the forehead at religious ceremonies among Hindus and by women as a cosmetic adornment, become a daily reminder of the existence of the soul within. The vermillion mark indicates the location of the seat of the soul.
The presence of the soul as a divine fragment in every individual is further highlighted through the customary Indian salutation and greeting of one another with folded hands. People often wonder why Indian culture has adopted this mode of greeting which elsewhere is reserved for prayer in places of worship. The salutation with folded hands is not to the ego-personality you happen to meet but to his soul, the divinity within him. That explains why it looks more like a gesture of prayer than a greeting.
Likewise in Hindu temples the priest after worshipping the deity on the altar with waving wicker lamps turns to the gathering of worshippers and waves the light at them in a second gesture of worship. Here he is acknowledging the divinity within the gathered congregation. God is both on his high altar as the worshipped and in the congregation as the worshippers.
Indian culture employs these varied devices, cosmetic, religious and through the mode of greeting, to underline the presence of divinity within every individual.


In India people are enjoined to meditate on the divinity within and seek to sense the presence of the soul, as an exercise in evolution. The purpose of life is to get to know ones 'true' nature (Svabhav in Sanskrit), which is the perfection of the indwelling soul, itself an extension of the Universal Essence. The goal is to recognize and access this divinity within. This is enabled by prayer, contemplation and meditation but above all through dispassionate, compassionate and altruistic action. However, the scriptures mention the great difficulty of sensing the soul. The Gita cautions that the soul is indeed quite inconceivable and difficult to access. It is shown as dwelling within the gross body, divine, eternal, blissful and inactive, mysterious and virtually unfathomable. The Gita speaking of the soul says for instance:
''Some look upon the Self as a marvel, as a marvel another speaks of it and as a wonder another hears of it but though all hear of it none know it.''
According to seers, the difficulty of sensing the soul, divinity within, is so great that people find it easier to objectify divinity by worshipping or admiring a prophet, an Avatar, a Guru, a saint, or even an idol as a sacred symbol.


We have seen that the soul enters a new body after the demise of the previous one. This process of rebirth can go on indefinitely until all Karmic debts and obligations are fully discharged. We may wonder what is the purpose of this exercise. The purpose is the evolution of man on the earthly plane. The Karmic law ensures, by designing a new personality and body that lessons which earlier incarnations failed to learn may well be learnt in the new life. Thus eventually, slowly but inevitably, the process of evolution begins to gather momentum after several false starts and hicups and the shroud that was a thick coarse blanket begins to refine.
The shining spark of divinity within, the soul, is the supreme standard to which the physical entity has to aspire in the course, if neccesary, of hundreds of thousands of life-times. As it begins to approximate the perfection of the 'indweller and reflect in some measure the divinity within, the shroud gets refined, until in its very last incarnation the personality/body has shed all ego with its attendant grave failings and stands out as a shining, altruistic star totally reflecting the divinity and perfection of the soul within. Such a state would have been achieved by the personality/body of the Buddha in his last incarnation or innumerable other prophets, sages, seers and saints.
Picture of the role or function of a Buddha: t...
Picture of the role or function of a Buddha: to enlighten the path for other people to follow, so they too can cross the stream of samsara and reach Nirvana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
 At this point of enlightenment, the 'shroud' finally slips away and there is total identity between the soul and the person in question. Karmic effects have now dissolved, there is no  debt left in the subtle body ('History' in the PC now stands deleted) and at this last death, reincarnation ceases with 'Moksha;, 'Nirvana', enlightenment - whatever one calls it and the soul finds ultimate release from the cycle of reincarnation, merging back into the divine source from which it emerged, even as the drop of water that had been thrown up from the ocean by the tidal wave, falls back into the ocean and becomes one with it.


We saw that the soul does not act nor is it an agent of action. Actions arise from the free will of the ego and the personality - ego - body which then  faces the consequences. As the soul does not engage in action it is not tainted by it, though it continues to inhabit the body that commits those actions. If the soul is not tainted by the actions of the body, urged by the ego ( neither participating nor taking responsibility for them) and cannot control or direct those actions, we may well ask what is the purpose or role of the soul inhabiting that body! What indeed is the role or utility of this apparently passive, non- acting soul as 'indweller'.
The soul is the great guide within, the inner voice, the conscience. Its purpose is to perpetually engage in inspiring, counselling and messaging, softly, unobtrusively and without compulsion of any kind, the correct path of righteous action, our duties and responsibility - right from wrong. The most creative and compassionate acts, like the works of art by Michelangelo, inspirational discoveries and inventions and the humanitarian labours of Mother Teresa and other saints, take place when the 'Host' fully heeds the soul's counselling. Thus, the 'Host' body hears it all, may take heed, or as is generally the case, ignore or rationalize the advice of the inner voice, to suit its ego generated compulsions and purposes or worse dismiss the inner voice as an irrelevant thought. Having stirred the conscience the souls purpose is completed. The rest is up to 'You'. The soul is therefore the compass on the corporeal boat and yet many 'ships' are lost on the high seas of life.


In the previous post we saw that the soul is not the agent of action, the ego is. We also saw that it does not dictate terms to the ego. We are also familiar with the idea that the soul is a fragment of the Divine Essence and the 'indweller'' in the body. Often in India the devout call God the indweller (Antaryami) and when in prayer or meditation they look inwards to the God within. Does the fact that divinity resides within us make us divine? No it does not. The content is divine not the container. There is divinity within you but you are not divine.
As this is so, the question arises whether a person can identify himself with his soul. When he says 'I', whom is he referring to? The 'I' of a person is his personality and ego, his actions, acts of omission and commission, in the present and in past lives, which have registered in his subtle body and which produce the Karmic dynamics for shaping his future incarnations. Like the DNA of a cell, his actions past and present are the determinant of his future form and incarnation. the 'I' is therefore not his soul under any circumstances. The soul is within the host but distinct. One may call it the benign Alien within.


credit : Elena Duvernay
credit : Elena Duvernay
In the last post we saw that the subtle body incurs the effects of action under the law of Karma but the soul, though dwelling within it ( Indweller - Sanskrit: Antaryami ) does not. Through all the actions generated by the ego - personality-body, the soul remains untouched, pure, eternal and uncontaminated by these actions of the 'shell' or 'shroud', standing aside as it were, observing but not participating. We must remember that it is indeed a part of the Universal Essence, the Supersoul. It is after all, God in miniature within your body even if that body or personality is immersed in sinful activity. Just as God is not responsible for your good or bad deeds neither is the soul. The Gita explains that the soul incurs no sins committed by the body it inhabits and forever remains untainted. Why so is the obvious question. The answer lies in several verses/cantos of the scripture:
'' he truly sees who knows that all actions are done by Prakriti (nature or the acting body's inherent characteristics and impulsions ) alone and the Atma (soul) does not act''
and again
''....he who in imperfect understanding looks upon the Self (soul ) as the agent (of action) - he does not see at all.''
and again
Having mentally renounced all actions, the self disciplined indweller (soul ) rests in the city of nine gates ( the body and the senses), neither acting nor causing action.''
The 'agent' often spoken of in the Gita is the ego-body complex. It is free to act the way it wishes. This is not a deterministic puppet show with human puppets on a string controlled by an inexorable fate or divine command. The human entity, the body-ego-personality, is free as was Hitler to commit the gravest atrocities based on free will while of course, accumulating negative Karmic effects with dire consequences in this and future incarnations. On the physical plane there is total freedom and free untampered will to act for good or ill. Thus the Gita explains:
''The Lord (God) does not create agency or actions for the world. He does not create fruitful consequences for actions. Nature ( the ego- personality complex as doer and the Law of Karma meting out consequences) does all this.''
The law of Karma (like the law of gravity) is the inexorable natural law at play on the earthly plane and like any body of law strictly applies measured consequences for actions committed. The soul merely councels prudence but does not dictate - it is the voice of your conscience which you are free to ignore.


We learnt that it is the Ego and not the soul that dictates to the physical self what it needs to do to survive in the world of senses. The actions that the physical self performs to satisfy the ego's demands produce Karmic effects. Here the law of Karma comes into play. The nature of actions, good, bad or indifferent create Karmic results and effects which inexorably get registered as marks, scars, or odours ( called Sanskars in Sanskrit) left by previous and present actions, inclinations, desires and acquired potential. Where are these marks registered? This brings us to the nature of the physical self as understood by Indian philosophical traditions.
These traditions hold that the physical 'body' is not merely what appears to the eye. What is visible is merely the gross body. but enveloping it are other layers of physicality, even though not visible to the naked eye of an ordinary person. That is what in the West has been termed as Auric phenomenon.Subtle body These are pulsating fields of energy   falling within the defination of the physical, which hover around the gross body and are an integral part of that body. We  need not here go into details but briefly these sheaths are those of the vital force ( Prana- the harmonized bodily functions that allow the body to function in good health ), the mind and the understanding. Even though the other sheaths are not clearly manifest and tangible, like the gross body is, they are essentially a physical category as opposed to the spiritual one and are known in India and elsewhere in mystical circles as the subtle body.
It is in this subtle body that the 'History' of every act and its effects are registered indelibly (much like in present day Personal Computers) and which sets in motion the dynamics of the Law of Karmic effects - 'as you sow, so shall you reap'. While the subtle body is marked by all the traces and effects and 'odours', its 'Indweller', the soul is not.
English: Illustrative image showing the Soul B...