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Who Am I? 

What is the soul? 

How can we understand it in simple terms? 

These and many such questions are clearly defined and explained by

Swami Dr. Vishwa Mitter Ji Maharaj

Published in the 

monthly magazine

"U CAN CHANGE THE WORLD"

February 2003

Vol. I, No. 4


The person who plays a pivotal role in the family is often called 'Soul of the family'. Nothing can happen without the permission of the 'head of the family'. So is the case with the soul in our body. When the 'head' of the family departs the family mourns and feels the extreme vacuum. Similarly, when the soul leaves the body, it cannot think, speak, see, move, eat, digest, grow.... or live. The soul governs and directs our being. The concept of soul can be easily understood with a simple definition. In a room there is a fan, an electric heater, a refrigerator and a bulb, all fitted and connected to the switchboard. However, without electricity these gadgets cannot work Similarly, without the soul, the body is a corpse. Moreover, the electricity cannot be seen except through the lit bulbs or through moving fans etc. Similarly, the soul being consciousness, identified with super-consciousness, exquisitely subtle, cannot be seen but experienced and realized. This power in an individual is the soul or Jivatma. When it is universal consciousness or Supreme Soul, it is called Paramatman. However, it should be clearly understood that for electricity which lights up a zero power bulb or 1000 watt halogen bulb, the source of energy is the same; only the consumption and performance vary. Likewise individual and cosmic souls are inseparable entities. 

The difference between the animate and inanimate is the consciousness or chaitanya. The five sense organs are the soul's agents or windows to obtain knowledge and to gauge the subtle aspect of any given thing. For example, to see, we have eyes but who sees is the soul. For hearing, we have ears but it is the soul that hears. This journey from gross to subtle with consciousness is the play of the soul. If this consciousness departs from the body it becomes a corpse. This is the relation between the soul and the body. The soul is the pivotal hinge whereupon the body functions with consciousness or chaitanya.

 

What is the nature of soul?

The Bhagavat Gita says: "Arjuna! Ishwara resides in the heart of the all creatures, causing them to revolve according to their karma by His illusive power." The human body is made of perishable elements and therefore impermanent in nature, but the power that dwells within is imperishable; is eternal. It is to be remembered that the real self is part of that super-soul that is never born nor dies and is eternal.  The body after death return "unto dust" and the soul meets the cosmic soul or Paramatman. Merger of the pure individual soul with the cosmic soul is the sole aim of human life. The body is ours but we are not the body. We are an inseparable part of the supreme. Just as a grain of sand is sand or a drop of water is water, likewise part of Paramatman is Jivatma. We are eternal. Yet, the body has four states and remains perishable. Childhood, youth and old age are seen as states of our body but not the state of our soul. Moreover there is a fourth state called death. The souls is simply the seer for whom there is no fear of death! The soul is eternal truth that is immortal and imperishable. The soul is pure and sacred. The soul is embodiment of all knowledge.

What is Karmic philosophy?

Karmic philosophy declares that actions punctuated with raga dwesha (likes and dislikes), delusions, jealousy, ego etc are the binding agents whereas selfless actions break the bondage and pave the path for liberation from the karmic field of birth and rebirth. The biggest cause of karmic bondage is maya (illusion) which is play of the mind.

Mind attached to the world is the sole cause of bondage and the same mind when attached or devoted to the supreme reality becomes the source of emancipation. Moksha (salvation) is nothing but getting rid of ignorance: "I am my body; I am sense organs or indriy; I am Brahman; I am poor; I am a scholar; I am intelligent; these are my enemies/friends...." These 'reality labels'  need to be removed. Furthermore, if we try to ignore the ego: "I have done/achieved this" etc then we can realize the 'pure self' of Jivatma... When the bondage of ignorance is unknotted the soul appears in its purest original form. This is moksha!

If the soul is immortal and pure then why do we behave aberrantly?

This can be explained through a story: Four intellectuals of Mathura decided set out for Prayag by boat. They boarded the boat as evening caved in and were in a great hurry to reach Prayag. They rowed all night taking turns with the oars. At daybreak they thought  they had reached their destination. Someone on the banks of the river shouted a greeting, "Jai Radhey, Jai Radhey!" then asked, "Why are you people perspiring so much?" The intellectuals answered, "We have been rowing all night in order to reach Prayag at daybreak." The person on the banks of the river said, "But this is not Prayag! This is Mathura! You have not untied the anchor!" This anchor rope is nothing but ignorance (Deha-abhiman). It keeps us tightly tied to the world and hence we remain devoid of divinity and divine behaviour which results in aberrant deeds.

Our soul is ever free of bondage but our body as 'doer' invites the bondage. Due to our ignorance, our karmic aspects remain worldly and we are unable to break the cycle of birth and re-birth.

When we are free of ignorance and we establish our real being our atman swarup, the tendency to do wrong deeds vanishes. Samskaras are reduced to ashes.

Once a person realizes his divine nature he serves all, seeing divinity in all. This is Parabhakti - pinnacle of knowledge -- when a person sees the lord in all. He becomes an embodiment of love and service.

If individuals carry the same soul then why are some wicked and some good?

Atman is like energy, like electricity which, when made to pass through a filament lights the lamp. Similarly, Atmic energy flows through an individual's accumulated samskaras thus producing different manifestations and results. However, the energy, meaning the Atman, does not get altered at all. 

A guru asks his student, "Bring 1000 pots and fill them with water. See the moon's reflection in all the pots. In muddy water, it is not clear, it is also not clear in rippling water, but it's clear in clean, still water. So is Atman in different beings. 

If there is one atman in all, then when a person dies why do I not die as well?

Break one pot, the reflection of the moon disappears but it is visible in the remaining pots. When an electric bulb breaks it does not mean that the flow of power ceases, Similarly, with the death of a body, the Atman remains. 

Should not the experience of pleasure and grief be felt by one and all?

No, if you boil water in a pot will the moon reflected in it also get boiled? Pleasure and displeasure is the play of the mind and body, not of the soul.

How would you explain maya?

At the karmic level one suffers from all kinds of delusions or maya and one is unable to distinguish between 'real' and 'unreal'. A story goes that once a daughter of a king lost a valuable necklace at the bottom of a pond. When they tried to retrieve it only mud came out. Every one was perplexed. A saint standing amidst the crowd of onlookers intervened. He explained that the necklace, lifted by a bird, was actually hanging on the branch of a tree and what they were seeing was its reflection in the waters of the pond! Similarly our bodies are merely shadows of the real Sukhad Parmanand -- blissful eternal happiness -- which one can achieve by realizing that he is soul and not the body. All pervading existence in the form of Atman dwells in the bodies of all beings.

How does one awaken divinity?

Through constant remembrance. When a devotee believes that Paramatman is the sole doer, the controller and director of his life and that he is simply an instrument in his hands, he spiritualizes all his impulses and this makes all his actions divine. Karma yoga is the way for a householder to meet the Supreme Being. It means non attachment with karma i.e. not craving for the fruits of a deed. The objective of a karma yogi should be like a cobra which has become poison-less or a roasted seed that cannot sprout. And, attachment to the Paramatman, is the key to success for any karma yogi.

How to attain liberation?

One must have a craving for liberation as a drowning man swims to save his life.

He must consider the world as Hari-lila and a place for serving humanity.

He must be of the firm conviction that everything belongs to the Supreme.

He must rise above duality and attachments to worldly pleasures.

He must dispel ignorance or false knowledge. 

He must be in constant remembrance of the divine.

He must develop fervent love for the divine and all beings.

he must understand that there is only one Doer and one Cosmic Mind and he must surrender or merge his mind with the Cosmic Mind.

Maharishi Vyas concludes that I and mine (restless, unstable mind) is the cause of bondage while Thou and Thine (steady, calm mind) is the solitary means of attaining liberation. When the mind stops agitating and wandering, it ceases to exist, then the soul manifests.

As told to Dr. Gautam Chatterjee


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