Soul and Spirit
Vedic Atma, Jivatma and Jiva
It is a common observation that all types of animate life have some energy on birth. While a human infant on birth is normally found, crying but many newborn babies of animals are found even walking along with their mothers. Somewhat similar phenomenon is observed in the other animate life like, birds, fishes and sea animals. Is it only the intake of food by the mothers of all animate life, the source of energy of all new born babies or is there some thing else which can be termed as the energy principle and operates through the divine Nature? What had made Dante to say, “man is a divine animal” and Aristotle to say, “man is a social animal”? If for Socrates, Plato and Dante the soul is the individual's real self, why the same soul Plato's greatest and the most renowned disciple Aristotle could not find and in lieu found entelechy moving towards perfection both in animate and inanimate life? What made Oscar Wilde to say, “I am the only person in the world I should like to know thoroughly”? This “I” certainly cannot be the gross body. If due to any unfortunate major accident the eyes become blind, either the legs or hands are badly injured and finally amputated, this “ I ” still remains intact even though gross human body is not complete.
This “ I ” can at best be brain, mind, intellect, will, ego, spirit or soul. The Vedic metaphysics tells us that it is the soul which makes a person separate and distinct individual. The spirit is the cause of his/her social being and along with mahabhuta– five main elements and three gunas of purity, activity and stupor is the cause of good or bad actions of the individuals. Thus in the Vedas an individual is both divine and social animal, capable of doing both good and bad deeds. Metaphysicists like Sankracharya of India, Lao Tse of China and Immanuel Kant of Germany had found gross body as part of the phenomenal world of Maya or Phantasmagoria. They found the real extended “ self “ of the individual in his/ her divine soul. However, the Vedic metaphysics describes clearly all these concepts relating to soul (atma), manifested soul (jivatma), spirit (jiva), ego (ahamkar), intellect (buddhi), mind (manas), gross body (sthool sharira) etc.
According to Vedic metaphysics human gross body has an inward looking mind (manas) and an outward looking mind (etani), both combined work as engine of the gross body. Five Koshas (sheaths/coverings of the body) are the wheels and the path to be covered is not known to the engine (mind). This path is only known to the manifested soul (jivatma), which is nearest on self-realization and farthest when phenomenal and the material worlds become the closest (A.V. X-8-8). The various hymns in the Vedas as well as most of the 108 Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita (considered by many savants as 109th Upanishad) explain in details the metaphysical concepts of soul as part omniscience principle and spirit as energy and life principle. Both are divine instruments in the human gross body along with ego, intellect and mind. The various terms are used in the Vedas like Parmatma, Purushuttam and Brahma for Supreme Self – the formless and ineffable God. Jivatma, Purusha and Brahmansh are used for the real higher self in the human body, which is the manifested immaterial soul. For the soul still not manifested in the human body, instead of jivatma, the term atma is mentioned.
For the divine spirit in the gross body the epithets like Jiva, asu, kundalini, manas, prana etc., have been given. This spirit is found in all parts of the subtle and gross body including nails and hair. Spirit is the one, which makes things move not only in animate but also inanimate life. Kundalini is described as the storehouse of coiled energy. Asu and Pranas are ten different vital breaths of which, seven are subtle and three are gross. While making a distinction, Vedas make it clear that God is both the Supreme Soul and Supreme Spirit. In the Vedic metaphysics this is described Parmatma – the supreme soul andMahadeva – the supreme spirit. Being subtle in nature, His spirit even pervades in ideas, thoughts, actions, assemblies etc. Very often we say “the spirit behind” the action, thought, desire or religious or political assembly is XYZ … Thus the spirit of God pervades not only in animate or inanimate life but also in subtle concepts, ideas, actions etc., and makes the formless and ineffable God as omnipresent. The individuals who know and understand the spirit as the powerhouse of creativity in them create subtle waves of nobility, love, and harmony even if they sit silently in any gathering or assembly.
Patanjali's Yog shastra, Manu Smriti, Puranas, Brahma sutras and other scriptures agree with Vedas that the Spirit of God pervades every where in all animate and inanimate life. However, right from Charvakas days, a large number of Hindus find difficult to accept any energy principle in the inanimate life. For them matter in any form is inert. The acceptance of God's spirit in the inanimate life is more as a faith but not conviction. The Newtonian classical mechanics made it still more difficult for the masses to accept life in iron, silver or gold, granite and marble stones. Newton held atom as the building block, which could not be further divided into sub-atomic particles and confirmed that atom is inert. The classical mechanics of Newton and Tyndall encouraged the western philosophers and thinkers to decry idealism of Socrates, Plato, Immanuel Kant and many others in the East and West.
The worst controversy arose when the experimental biologist Charles Robert Darwin (1809-82) agreed that the evolution of the present day morphology had been built up by the gradual and opportunistic mechanism of natural selection that he described as “survival of the fittest”. He also held this principle rules this gross universe and there is no such thing as subtle or subtlest of the subtle. His discovery of survival of the fittest in this universe has no relationship to soul, spirit or other metaphysical concepts contained in the Holy Scriptures and various philosophies, particularly those of pure and objective idealists. Vedic metaphysics that had reached its pinnacle of glory during Sankracharya, Ramanajum, Vallabh ‘s periods got a set back.
Ritualistic and ceremonial portion of the Vedas commonly known as Brahamanas became more important than Upanishads containing perfect philosophy of Brahma, soul, spirit, Prakrti, primordial subtle matter of three gunas etc. However, individuals like Swami Daya Nand, Vivekananda, Rama Krishna and all the ten Sikh gurus kept their faith unshaken in spite of the contrary scientific discoveries of the western scientists and continued spreading Vedic metaphysics unmindful of the criticism, challenges and faced all kinds of obstructions from the fundamentalists. Swami Daya Nand was poisoned but escaped death owing to timely action of his well wishers. Two Sikh gurus were killed/beheaded by the then Mughal rulers on the advice of fundamentalists and one guru of the Sikh religion lost two of his noble and divine sons on this path of divine Vedic knowledge. For Sikh religion, Vedas are the supreme scriptures. The holy Grantha Sahib says,” Asankh granth mukhi Veda path.” There are innumerable scriptures but the study of Vedas is supreme.
The discoveries, inventions and scientific formulae of earlier centuries started changing very fast in the third decade of 20th century. Western savants found in the new scientific discoveries of sub atomic particles, Aristotle's “entelechy” also in the inanimate life and movement of “matter” towards perfection was observed. “Fatigue” was found even in steel. Those who had continued their faith in the Vedic metaphysics found once again the permanency of the truths contained in the Vedas, giving rude shocks to materialists and even rationalists. Albert Einstein (1879-1955) an eminent mathematical physicist independently arrived at a new formula E= mc2 where c denotes the speed of light which is 186,000 miles per second. C being constant, energy is dependent on the mass of the particle at sub atomic level. Each atom is a “energy ball” with over 80 kinds of sub atomic particles. Some of these particles are without weight and electric charge like protons but having enough energy to create electro magnetic radiation. A few of such particles like electrons, neutrons, pion, keon, omega have weight and electric charge.
He thus found a large number of extremely tiny machines ever working within an atom that do not take rest, need no looking after or repairs by human beings. Nuclei of the atom have no gross matter but waves, wavicles and even some thing non material (akin to subtle); but full of energy. This made him believe the insignificance of science in this vast Nature. He even put a small board in his laboratory with words prominently written “Thou Art That” which Vedas had already found as “Tat tvam Asi”. Metaphysically his scientific discoveries can be described as Vedas say, “an inner subtle world in the gross matter.” Since inanimate life is not dependent on any kind of food known to human beings, this energy in the gross atoms of air, water, earth etc., is provided by the divine Nature “Prakrti” which herself gets it from the Supreme Spirit described as Mahadeva in the Vedas. All knowledge, consciousness and energy emanate from Him and HE always remains the “Whole”. This supreme spirit is the cosmic energy of the western metaphysicists like Saint Augustine and Acquinas and is the “Shiva Shakti” of Atharva Veda. Hindus worship Lord Shiva as Maha Deva and rarely describe Him as Parmatma. Maha deva exercises this energy through His consort Parvati known by many names Amba, Durga, Kamakhya, Kali etc.
This cosmic energy first entered through the cosmic Word “Shabad Brahma” OM pronounced as AUM, which changed into mass ashiranyagarbha– the cosmic golden Egg (Y.V 16-4). On the opening or bursting of this “Cosmic Egg” great mass of this entire universe was formed with the combination of subtle gunas in different proportions, along with subtle and gross particles, atoms etc. These started joining in different proportions to form ether, air, water, fire and earth. Thus, the entire universe visible to human eye, perceivable by senses, visualized by scientists with powerful telescopes and other material instruments along with non-visible subtle worlds was formed. According to the Vedas only about 25% of the entire Brahamand is visible and remaining about 75 % is Brahmalok, Deva lok etc., which no material eye, senses or instruments can see except the human manifested soul. It is very likely that the dimensions of visible and non- visible universe could be only symbolic to depict that visible universe is much smaller than the non visible part ofBrahamand.
Chhandogya Upanishad describes this cosmic energy in a philosophical manner. It says, “from this engenderment, beams of light shot up and down, leading to formation of subtle and gross matter in the form of Prakrti – the divine Nature and also the Universe which too expanded in all directions as the sentient One spread Itself every where.” Even scientists like Eddington held that the physical world is without actuality apart from its linkage to consciousness. He also says that Time and Space are spun out of consciousness (The Nature of Physical World by Eddington. pages 282 and 332). Many scientists now agree that whatever is not visible to human eyes, senses cannot visualize, scientific material instruments cannot observe are part of the subtle world beyond the scope of physical sciences.
The word “ Purusa” is found in a number of hymns in the Vedas and many verses in Bhagavad Gita as well. Some highly learned seers and savants have found the origin of this word from “puri and saya” meaning city and dweller. Purusa dwells in the inner world of the human beings. In the Vedas Purusa isjivatma or manifested soul and in Bhagavad Gita, it is the higher “self” of the human beings. The Vedic Purusa is related to both subtle and causal bodies and is a particle of the Supreme Reality. Yajur Veda 34-43 has a vivid reference to three bodies of the divine Nature (Prakrti) and of the human beings, describes as “tri-ani-pada” three kinds of bodies- gross, subtle and causal.
For those on the path of Sankhya Yoga of Bhagavad Gita, Jnanmarga of Upanishads and vidya of Sankracharya, Vedic metaphysics not only refer to three bodies but also three conditions i.e., waking, sleeping and profound sleeping as mentioned in the mother hymn Gayatri mantra. Atharva Veda refers to these three as “Jagrit, Swapna and Sushupti” conditions of the human manifested soul. Sankracharya in his Brahma Sutra 1-3-28 has mentioned that the sound created by the explosion of primordial atom or Cosmic Egg (Hirnya Garbha) gave rise to causal, subtle and gross form of the universe. The sound of this explosion was AUM or the Sound Supreme, which the Vedas describe as Shabad Brahma. Vedas further say this sound is revered as Brahma Himself. “AUM khamma Brahma,” which literally means “O M” Thy name is Brahma.
Many spiritualist and realists like Aristotle, St. Acquinas in the west and exponents of Sankhya and Mimansa Schools of philosophy in the east tend to believe only gross and subtle bodies and consider soul and spirit as one. Such spiritualist and metaphysicists normally conclude that both God and Nature are real. God is only an Unmoved Mover, the Supreme Guru or preceptor who helps in understanding and learning of Yogas as observed by Patanjali. The pure Idealists like Sankracharya believe in three bodies. God lives in the causal body of the divine Nature as well as in the human beings in their hearts. The gross body of the Nature i.e., the entire universe as we see is only a Maya or Cosmic delusion. The true and the only Reality is formless God. In Rig-Veda, many Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, it is clearly mentioned that God live in human heart of the causal body (Katha ups.1-2-20 to22, Rig-Veda VIII-suktam 89). In the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita, the higher self of the human beings is Jivatma or the divine manifested soul.
Since Brahma is also the supreme Spirit and He energises Prakrti (Nature) through His Spirit, all animate and inanimate life get the spirit directly from Prakrti in the form of manas (Mind), Asu (ten vital breaths or Pranas), Kundalini – the store house of coiled energy. Aristotle’s entelechy is both soul and spirit, for Schopenheaur the spirit is Will. In the holy Bible, there is a mention of trinity of soul, spirit and body (gross) to be preserved blameless (Thessalonians 5-23). The Advait Vedantists (pure idealists with belief in absolute monism) have found from the Vedas that the Mind, Will, Intellect and other inner instruments of the gross body have only subtle and finer atoms like ether etc., unlike the senses, sense organs which have gross atoms. These subtle and finer atoms are also found in Time, Space, Sound and Ether and are extremely powerful. The power of the gross atoms is relatively limited. Three types of Gunas (primordial matter) exist in the five elements or “mahabhuta” i.e. air, water, fire, ether and earth – in the Nature, universe and human beings. Vedas describe these three gunas assattavic, rajasic and tamasic representing harmony, activity and passivity respectively. All these three gunas have subtle atoms, but the sattavic gunas are lighter and tamasic gunas are the heaviest.
Prakrti has higher nature as Shakti, which is a store house of energy and also lower nature, which is cause of five mahabhuta ( main elements) with three gunas. Owing to the effect of higher Shakti, all animate and inanimate life tends to move towards perfection. Thus, higher Shakti or cosmic energy in the Nature is the cause of energy in all types of life. Only those who recognise prevalence of God's Spirit every where and use the material resources to the barest minimum by resorting to the need based living, move towards higher knowledge. The spirit which is the life force has also its intermediaries, mind, will, intellect and ego, which are much higher and powerful than the body self i.e. gross body consisting of senses, sense organs etc.
The spirits in conjunction with soul through these intermediaries take the human beings towards Jnan and Vijnan as mentioned in Bhagavad Gita. Jnan and Vijnan in the Vedic metaphysics refer to divine and spiritual knowledge and ajnan (ignorance). All the divine instruments in the human beings make us understand the noble concepts of love, virtue, truth, beauty and harmony and make us move towards God. Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita clearly says that individuals who love money, wealth, gold even in their thoughts worship God only for show and are born again and again. No one can worship God and Mammon together is mentioned in the holy Bible. In the mythological epic Ramayana, Bharta tells his mother Kakeyi that for all her misdeeds (sending Rama to exile for 14 years) the only “prayaschit”– moral punishment was not to stay in tapovan (life of austerity) along with her son but to stay alone in the palace and enjoy all luxuries.
Thus Ramayna like Bhagavad Gita, Vedas and even Bible leaves no doubts that luxurious life of gaiety, pomp and show is moral punishment of God. Nobility lies only in the life of moderation and moving towards need based living. It is only those who recognise the trinity of soul, spirit and gross body, tend to move away from money, matter, gold, pride, false status etc. There are other mythological characters like Ravana, Kaurvas, Kansa and certain historical personalities like, the ancient Nandas, a large number of Charvakas of the past and present who would like to worship God along with Mammon. While worshipping God they would like to give, form to the formless, attributes to the Ineffable and make His presence restricted to the limited area of the temples and other places of worship, even though He is omnipresent.
Since it is a question of faith, Vedas and Bhagavad Gita do not say much against giving Form to the Formless, so long as a person follows the path ofNishkam karma – selfless action of Bhagavad Gita or the Vedic philosophy of enlightened liberalism (Idd Nan Mmam).However, certainly Vedas prohibit making mindless pursuit of money in the name of worship and love of God. Worshippers of mammon first give form to the formless God and then make tons of money through the exploitative commercial techniques. They cleverly camouflage their material thoughts as spiritualism. They have a strange illusion that they are spreading divine and spiritual knowledge for the uplift of society, while themselves enjoying the life of affluence and all types of material excesses that are sinful. As mentioned in Bhagavad Gita in verses 42 to 44 of chapter 2 that such worshippers of Mammon obsessed by desire of making tons of money are normally devoted to the letter of the Vedas and other scriptures without understanding the spirit of these. They utter flowery words and speech them selves make their mythological deities and characters to speak in a similar language, for the attainment of their own pleasure and prosperity. Bhagavad Gita clearly says, such people cannot attain determinate intellect.
The Vedic metaphysics further describes that for most of these people soul and spirit are one but still they are not fully convinced of even this One-ness. This doubt mainly arises as they consider the phenomenal world, life of senses, false status, power of money and muscles as “real”. Thus the belief in true reality of the gross body is paramount for them and soul as the religious fiction for material exploitation. The Nature, entire world along with inert matter is only meant for the enjoyment of senses and sense organs, even if it involves excessive exploitation of all types of resources and treating the Mother Earth as quarry. They believe in the ancient Epicureans philosophy “pleasure is the chief aim of life”. Like the Charvakas they also identify self with body and it is not immortal. Since the world consists of various types of individuals, the concept of soul, spirit, lower self, higher self, gross body varies considerably. This confusion is the major cause of evil and corruption in any society.
However, the followers of Vedic metaphysics have to first get themselves released from their body consciousness, three modes of Prakrti i.e.,sattavic, rajasic and tamasic gunas. It is only after that the individual starts moving towards perfection. This all happens under the guidance of inner world of intermediaries, which are the divine instruments. At this stage of release and perfection human soul and spirit merge and become One with Brahma. Sankracharya describes this stage as “aham Brahma asi” i.e. I am Brahma. Even before Sankracharya in the 8th century AD, the holy Bible in Genesis 1-26, 27 had found that God created man in His Own image. God being the Supreme Reality, formless, omniscient, His image in the gross body is the only “real self” which is formless. This image is the divine soul in the human body. In a stage of perfection and self- realization Christ also became God Himself. It is due to this metaphysical concept that a large number of Christians consider Christ as God, while others consider Him as Son of God. Only in the stage of perfection, both concepts mean the same. So long as the individuals do not reach the stage of perfection and self- realization, soul and spirit remain separate and perform different roles. This divine concept leads to Personal and Impersonal God, or “Sakar and Nirankar” Brahma. Those worshipping Him as personal God, tend to give form and attributes to the God and even give different attributes to a large number of gods/goddesses and want blessings from all of them.
The gross body of a person consists of billions of living cells, which are different for heart, lungs, muscles etc., and have different individuality and functions. However, only when they all combine, the gross body is formed. They are bound together as a unified whole by the spirit or will, which is energy principle in all-animate and inanimate life. These billions of cells exist only to serve the interest of individual “Will” as a whole. Apart from that they have no separate existence and if separated due to any reason, they perish and cease to be cells. At the time of death of the gross body, cells merge with the earth, spirit merges with Prakrti, the soul being immortal remains alive, and hence consciousness remains. Based on degree of truth, quality of karma (good or bad deeds), acquired in the present and previous births as individual's running ledger account, it gets manifested again on the birth of an other gross body. This process of birth and rebirth continues until, the soul achieves perfection, is released from the three modes of Prakrti and moves beyond three gunas of transparency, activity and passivity. It is the stage of salvation, liberation, Vedic Moksha and Buddhist Nirvana.
Vedic seers tell us that ego, character, reason all belong to the world of senses and are part of MAYA. According to Sankracharya only Atman or the soul, which is our moral and true self, is the only reality behind these appearances. It is the divine spark and the light that lighteth every person who comes in this world. Real knowledge comes not through reason or material world but intuition, which get the same from the soul. While most of the human beings use their mind as logic inventing machines to justify any kind of material activity, the logic of the soul is a-priori and never changes. Therefore, the transcendental knowledge obtained by ancient seers, sages and the pathfinders from their real selves and on which the Vedas are based, is the only true knowledge, which Sankracharya calls Vidya or Bhagavad Gita refers to as Jnan.
According to Atharva Veda XI-8-30, the manifested soul (jiva atma) in the body administers it. The gross body of human beings is the soul holding body. Those individuals, who do not allow the soul to administer the body, normally are devoted to the letters of the scriptures and not the spirit behind their teachings. They utter flowery speeches themselves and also through their mythological characters and deities for the attainment of their own pleasures and material prosperity. They camouflage their materialistic outlook in the form of fake spiritualism. According to Bhagavad Gita, such persons cannot attain determinate intellect (B.G.2-42 to 44). However, where the body is administered by the manifested soul, even the human beings become Brahma. This stage of perfect control of the body by manifested soul is described as “Chhavo” or “Shava”. According to Atharva Veda XI-8-34, at this stage the soul in the human body becomes the highest force and vigour.
Vedas clearly mention that it is not possible to describe all the attributes of God, as He is ineffable. Still we should discuss, meditate and do transcendental research to find His as many attributes as possible. It is in this background that some of the attributes of Brahma are mentioned in the Vedas. A few of these are, HE is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, immanent, the only supreme reality, supreme consciousness, bliss and of course many others amongst His infinite attributes. However, human soul, which is a particle of God, it does not have infinite attributes. Soul is finite, is partly omniscient and is not all pervading or omnipotent. Still its utility to human beings is immense. It contains all the knowledge of four Vedas i.e. divine, spiritual and material knowledge. It is able to maintain the complete record of good and bad actions of the human beings, in the form of subtle particles and atoms, which accumulate over the soul and make it heavier or lighter based on the type of subtle atoms.
Bad deeds in the form of Tamasic or Rajasic actions create heavier subtle atoms. Sattavic actions of truth, nobility, transparency etc., create lighter subtle particles. Heavier souls are not able to move up towards the heaven, get rebirth faster in appropriate families, irrespective of region, caste, creed and religion. However, the attributes of Prakrti – the divine Nature, are power, energy, transparency, and harmony, selfless service that it gets through the Supreme Spirit, which pervades through out the Nature and remains constant. While the energy in animate and inanimate life may go on increasing or decreasing, the total energy in the Nature remains constant, until it is withdrawn at the time of Pralaya (cosmic dissolution). It is for this reason; Prakrti does the entire creation of the animate and inanimate life under the supervision of God. The spirit or energy principle is given by Prakrti to all human beings, animals, birds, fishes, insects etc., and even the inanimate life i.e., the all kinds of elements and other matter. It is this energy in the Nature that is converted into mass (matter) with its five main elements – water, air, fire, earth and ether along with three modes of Prakrti – sattavic, rajasic and tamasic gunas. God being the Unmoved Mover, there is a complete decentralization in the Cosmos.
This brief introduction of soul and spirit is likely to lead to a large number of questions. These questions could vary depending on the degree of knowledge an individual possesses. What is the “self”? Is it the gross body, human personality or some thing else? Like human body, the personality of a person is different in child hood, youth, middle age and old age. It changes very fast after marriage and arrival of children in the individual's family and on the type of a job a person accepts as his/her permanent vocation. Hence, personality is a Flux and as such, it cannot be the real self. The same with human body that undergoes continuous change cannot be considered as real self. Is the human Ego or the Mind the real self? Life is short, human Ego is sweet and mind is powerful but creates different and divergent thoughts at different times and situations. Is it the Will – part of our impulse or desire of self-preservation? How do we know that soul is immortal and is not affected by Flux? Is the concept of soul and spirit varies with the growth of material prosperity, when one does not find any use of soul, spirit and formless God. This is a stage when concepts like “all due to my efforts develop” and only those – real or mythological deities with form are acceptable which can give blessings for permanent material prosperity even by sharing some of the ill gotten material wealth. It is the stage when concepts of false ego, status and power develop and a person becomes his/her own enemy. Is the human being like other animals, if not what makes him/her different? What makes a person different and distinct than other human beings? Is he divine, social or material animal or all combined?
There are many philosophical questions. Socrates was one of the most ancient founders of metaphysics in the west and he used to raise questions “what I am, where I came from and where do I go after my gross body becomes manure for the earth? How is it that many metaphysicists and religious leaders tell us that soul is in all animate life of human beings, animals, birds’ etc., and pure idealists say it is only in the human beings? Did I have any choice before coming to this world or getting birth in a particular family? Human mind can create many more questions.
Again, the most ethical Buddhist metaphysics has been built without God and soul. Human body has billions of living cells, germs, bacteria, etc., do all these have separate souls in addition to the one in the gross body? Do animals, birds, sea animals, insects, plants, trees, bushes and other animate life have any soul? If human beings can aim at “self realization” and “know thy self” of Socrates, Turiya of Sankracharya, Kaivalya of Patanjali or Nirvana of Buddha, Moksha of Vedas, can animals, birds, plants etc., also aim at moksha and self-realisation? What was meant by the ancient Egyptian metaphysicists that “ khu ” lives in “ sahu ” and is immortal? Egyptian Khu was the soul and Sahu the spiritual or subtle body. What has made Garuda Purana CX111to say, “a frightened mouse runs to its hole, a scared serpent to a well, a terrified elephant to its slake but where a man can fly from his karma(deeds)? As all man create their own fate even in their foetal life, they cannot escape their past existence” owing to the immortality of their souls.” What is that macrocosm and microcosm of Upanishads and subtler than the subtlest “Self” of Katha Upanishad (1-2-7 to 9 and 2-6-9)?
If the modern scientists tell us that human body consists of billions of living cells and also has millions of germs, bacteria, etc., if so, do all these tiny living creatures have souls? In that case, has the human body one soul or billions of souls or these merge into one big soul? What is the size of the soul- is it of the size of a thumb (angush matra) or the entire body or just a just a subtle tiny particle? Why do many scriptures say that the highest birth on this earth is as a human being? Why in Bhagavad Gita it is mentioned that God is the procreating Father and the Supreme Mother is the divine Nature i.e., Prakrti? Has it any thing to do with the concept of soul and spirit? Why did the ancient Greeks referred to the energy principle as “Thumos” akin to mettle or eagerness and called it mortal? An inward thinking mind can raise hundreds of more such questions.
In Atharva Veda the soul is a particle of God, in Katha Upanishad it is “angush matra” of the size of a thumb, while Jain metaphysicists refer to it as of varying sizes, small in a child, big in adults and old people and very big in elephants. Nemi Chandra in Dravya sangrah -2 has mentioned that the soul is characterised by knowledge and vision, has the same extent as its own gross body. Thus, the concept of soul and spirit right from the ancient periods in India and other parts of the world to the present age continues to remain an enigma.
The Vedic seers and sages, endowed with insight and truthful spirit, looked only for the welfare of mankind did their best to find all possible answers to these two divine and spiritual principles of soul and spirit. More than one thousand hymns in all the four Vedas describe God, soul and spirit. Bhagavad Gita refer to God as Purushuttam (Supreme Soul), non perishable, immortal and higher Purusa as soul and perishable Prakrti Purusa as lower Purusa i.e. Jiva(B.G.13-2, 3and 21). The concept of two Purusa is not only in Bhagavad Gita but also in Prasana Upanishad, which refers to second self as cause of energy and with food, it produces the seeds in all animate life inclusive of plants and trees. These seeds are the cause of the birth of all creatures, plants and other animate life. This energy principle in the human beings is also described as Asu, Prana (vital breaths) which hold 5 senses, 5 main elements in the body together. Pranaswith their ten subsidiaries live in different parts of the body. Thus spirit in the form of Pranas spreads in the entire body and when all the ten Pranas leave the body one by one on death, all senses and five main elements get disintegrated. In the Vedas, these Pranas or vital breaths are described as Asu that according to Rig Veda 1-2-7 is the great devourer of diseases.
Maharsi Yajnavalkya, had mentioned the strongest part of Prana as Kundalini Shakti (store house of immense coiled energy) in the subtle body of human beings capable of giving immense power, will and determination to the human beings and also the other animate life. Rig Veda 6-9-5 finds this power and energy in the Manas i.e. inward looking mind, which consists of finer, and subtle atoms, unlike the brain and senses that contain gross atoms. Since the cosmic Creation (Sristi), the energy created by the Spirit of God in Prakrti has remained the same and hence at all times the sum total of energy in the subtle Nature and gross universe remains constant. Vedas also refer to mind as part of Prakrti “self” in the human beings, where thousands of thoughts reach through sense organs, if these thoughts could be organized and kept in proper locations in the mind, highly useful and well coordinated results are achieved. If this coordination is not done, the energy of the mind loses its potency and confusion arises and mind virtually becomes a logic inventing machine and makes you feel happy that you have logical reasoning for all your good and bad actions, thoughts and desires.
Since outward looking mind (etani) would provide contradictory logic to human beings following different vocations, professions with stakes/vested interests and having different degree of knowledge, society will be flooded with all kinds of contradictions. Rig Veda 6-9-5 refers to this immense energy of the inward looking mind (manas) that can create with the help of spirit complete harmony in the body and soul. Bhagavad Gita has a large number of verses on the mind which could be both turbulent when uncontrolled due to ajnan (ignorance ) and calm when controlled through Jnan and Vijnan – divine and spiritual knowledge, excellent results are achieved. Maitri Upanishad 6-34-3 to 7 brings out that energy of the mind is dependent on its contact with lust or otherwise. Sama Veda 179 and 913 refers to 99 evil and corrupt practices based on impurity of thoughts in the mind under the influence of senses, which results in the reduction of power of the spirit in the human body. Avesta Yasna 28-1 says, “ beneficent spirit is provided to us to perform our right deeds. Good thoughts relate to the soul.” Thus, human mind is completely joined with soul and spirit but under the influence of senses, phenomenal world of matter it is de-linked from these divine inner instruments and is badly entangled with matter, lust, greed infatuation and attachment.
There are some Vedantists who refer to spirit, as JIVA, cause of energy, will and desire. It is more like entelechy of Aristotle, who could not reduce the world to building blocks of atoms and void like the Shuniya Vadins of the Vedic metaphysicists. He found the essence of all human activity towards perfection in entelechy. Owing to the presence of entelechy in the inanimate life as well, he observed that all material things – animate or inanimate tend to move towards perfection, as some potency was hidden in every substance, which left no rest until perfection is achieved. Every form of matter is a higher form and is a reality pregnant with development. Aristotle held both matter and Nature were real and did not find the world as phenomenon or appearance. When any matter fails to reach its full development, it degenerates. Scientists of the 20th century like, Dr. J.C. Bose later found “fatigue” even in the certain matter, hinting that quantum of energy in each matter is different. The degenerated matter loses its energy and joins the Nature's energy pool. Scientists have even found that whenever the matter is not in harmony with the environment, it degenerates quickly.
The above scientific finding conforms to Vedic metaphysics, according to which even the human beings, animals etc., when not in harmony with Nature degenerate quickly. This metaphysical Vedic truth is observed by many savants and even ordinary individuals – for illustration fishes degenerate very fast in highly polluted rivers, certain animals, birds get extinct owing to environmental hazards and human beings also degenerate very fast in highly polluted environments. To get maximum energy from the spirit and nature, Vedic seers and sages found through their transcendental research, endowed with insight of deep inner power, found cosmic laws of social and moral order and called these laws as RTA. They found that God follows these laws strictly, even though He Himself has created these laws. However, for the individuals to know these laws, a Book of Nature has been created, language of which can be understood even by animals, birds, fishes etc., so that all animate life could read, understand and follow in their day to day conduct, behaviour and dealings. The laws relating to humility, selfless service, firmness, golden mean, harmony and many other virtues are contained in these Rta. These laws are for the creation and preservation of the entire cosmos.
However, during cosmic dissolution of the universe and Prakrti, as per God's Design the entire mass of the universe gets converted into subtle energy and goes back to Supreme Spirit of Brahma. The complete cycle of Srsti (creation) and Pralaya (dissolution) takes over 4 millions of years. During this long duration four celestial Periods or Yugas appear on this universe. It is again based on the laws of God that whatever is created or born has to perish or die. According to the Vedas 3/4th of both visible and invisible Brahmand, which include Heavens (swarga), Brahma lok, Deva lok, etc., is self created, just as no one has created Brahma – the formless and ineffable God. Rta or the laws of creation and dissolution are not applicable to this part; it is the remaining 1/4th ofBrahamand covering the entire universe, which faces the creation and dissolution again and again (S.V 618 and Y.V 31-4). This concept of four celestial periods is also found in Plato's metaphysics. He has described these four periods as golden, silver, copper and iron or dark ages. Vedic metaphysics explains that owing to continuous decline amongst the human beings in the knowledge of soul and spirit from Krita Yuga towards Kali Yuga, there is a corresponding decline of moral and social values. People start following less and less of the cosmic laws of social and moral order.
Thus blind pursuit of money, matter and material prosperity beyond the life of moderation, is the main characteristic of Kali Yuga. This leads to steady decline in the divine guidance from Krita to Kali Yugas. While in the Krita or Golden age the individuals are trustees of the material things, with a view to avoid exploitation of the earth and nature, in Kali Yuga, they tend to become owners and compete for material possessions, resulting in excessive exploitation of the Nature and treating the mother earth as quarry. To maintain equilibrium and harmony, Nature has to divert a lot of extra cosmic energy. A stage reaches when to maintain this equilibrium becomes impossible, as the sum total of energy is constant in the Nature. Dissolution of the Nature commences and during this process the entire mass of matter – both in animate and inanimate life gets reconverted into Energy Ball, which goes back to the Supreme God as part of HisShiv Shakti. The complete cycle of Sristi and Pralaya is known as one Kalpa of over 4 million years. Bhagavad Gita also mentions about 1000 Kalpa as Brahma's Day and another 1000 Kalpa as Brahma's Night. The abode of God, known as Brahma lok or Vaikuntha is eternal. Thus, the concept of spirit in the divine Nature, universe, human beings, birds, animals etc., and in inanimate life in the form of cosmic energy is linked with the cycle of creation and dissolution of the universe and Nature.
Rig Veda 1-164-20, 10-9-20, 10-8-43 and 44 describe three divine substances, Parmatma (Supreme Soul), Atma (human soul) and the divine Nature. On the death of human beings, spirit goes back to Prakrti and merges with the Nature as part of the vast storehouse of energy. The soul does not go back to Parmatma who is the Supreme Soul as it gets affected with subtle atoms and particles of human good and bad deeds, thoughts and desires. Atharva Veda 19-32-1 says, “in the beginning first desire is created by the spirit and it becomes the primordial seed of manas (mind).” Atharva Veda thus considers mind as part of spirit or energy principle. It further says that this spirit dwells in grass, wood, earth, water and all elements and matter and it is the impeller of the body, its organs, its inner senses, their controller possessing desire, malice, volition, misery, happiness, depending on the predominance of sattavic, rajasic and tamasic gunas. Spirit is the immaterial part of the individuals and lives in the subtle body in the form of Manas, Pranas, Kundalini, Asu, Will, Desire and Ego. In the Vedas, there are two types of Ego – false ego and divine ego. When “I” becomes part of the whole, it is false ego and when “whole” becomes part of real- self as “I”, it is divine ego. In the case of false ego, human senses and sense organs tend to exploit this vast energy of the spirit for their vested interest, power, status and leads to weakening of mind, pranas, asu (vital breaths), various types of diseases start overtaking the gross body and process of degeneration starts.
Thus, Prakrti purusa or what Bhagavad Gita refers as lower Purusa is steadily forgotten and human beings tend to call “self ” as the gross body. To hide the loss of inner world and the vacuum thus created, the outer world of sensual life, glamour, false prestige, artificial living in the company of material goods, vulgar consumerism is expanded. With the decline of spiritual energy, the life of sin and evil takes root. There is growing feeling of insecurity and all precautions are taken for the protection and safety of the perishable and highly impure gross body. It is common observation throughout the world that the houses of people with material opulence and worshippers of deities in the form of Mammon are built like forts, citadels with built in electronic alarm systems manned by watch keepers day and night but still inner peace is evading them. They run after the gurus, god men, priests and others in search of inner peace. Fear complex continues to remain as a part of their false ego and greed based tamasic life. Such people also develop seven kinds of “Pride” (1) pride of body self (2) pride of being superior (3) pride of greater than ordinary pride (4) pride of thinking “I” (5) pride of conceit i.e., of things still not achieved (6) wrongful pride i.e. praising wrongful and faulty deals and (7) pride of lowliness i.e. hypocrisy of being servant of the poor masses or working for the poor and not with the poor.(Nagurna Precious Garland 406-12).
Pure idealists like Badrayana, Sankracharya do not give great emphasis to Jiva or the spirit. They consider universe not a creation but manifestation and projection of Brahma Himself. It is Brahma's Lila (cosmic play). Prakrti and the entire cosmos are the supreme Brahma Itself – “Brahmai vedam vishwam idam varishtani”(Munadaka Ups 2-2-11). Thus, the universe is cosmic illusion, which Vedas refer as Maya. All animate and inanimate life is part of Brahma. It is the material knowledge, which separates us from the God and makes us feel that we are independent of God and live in a material world, which is controlled by Nature. As and when the material knowledge becomes intense, individuals start feeling that they can even control the Nature and create their own laws and tend to overlook RTA – the laws of God made available to us through the working of Prakrti and its gross form the universe. According to Sankracharya, when Vidya or divine knowledge is acquired, the entire cosmic illusion goes away and self becomes part of Brahma.” Aham Brahma Asi” – I am Brahma. The concept of energy principle in the human body remains so long as the individuals consider both the gross body and the Nature as real. It is for this reason that many materialists of the past and present have doubts about the existence of God and the soul. The greatest miracle of the world is that billions of people in the past and present had been in search of God and searched Him at far distance places, idols, icons material temples of marbles when He was always within them. It is a separate matter that the most ethical and noble pathfinder Buddha did not consider it necessary to bring God and soul in his divine teachings and spiritual philosophy. He found Nature and Dhamma were the adequate cause for creation and guiding the entire mankind on the path of virtue and attainingNirvana in one birth.
The energy principle was the cause of Flux, leading to every moment change in life of animate and inanimate bodies and things of whatever size and dimensions including atoms, particles etc. Flux is the main attribute of Prakrti. It is also the cause of changes in body structure, thoughts, actions in different ages from birth to death and healthy body to sickly body. To avoid the negative effect of Flux, Buddha prescribed Ashta Marga (Eight fold Path) for good and righteous human living and conduct. He also found in his ethical metaphysics three modes of Prakrti i.e., sattavic, rajasic and tamasic gunas in the human beings and Nature. The Flux has greatest negative effect on those who perform predominantly ignoble tamasic activities of passivity and untruthfulness. Human karma – good or bad deeds along with Flux are the main cause of rebirth, more like the degeneration of atoms not in harmony with Nature and their regeneration to assist Nature in maintenance of stability, equilibrium and harmony. The Buddhist metaphysics substituted God and soul with Dhamma as the source of right knowledge and the energy principle as the cause of flux. He was certainly not a materialist or atheist but at best an agnostic or a theist who perhaps believed in God but did not consider it necessary to bring Him in his ethical philosophy for good and virtuous human conduct. In the 20th century, the eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell also doubted about the existence of God and soul. He even mentioned in his book “Why I am not a Christian?” that he was not sure whether Christ was ever born. Certainly, the Nobel Prize winner Bertrand Russell was not a materialist or atheist, but was an agnostic.
In the Vedas God is described as unborn, eternal and pervades in all animate and inanimate life. His attribute of all pervasiveness is through His Supreme Spirit, which enters all type of life through the Nature in the form of subtle energy. Food that should be pure and sattavic provide the mechanical energy to the gross body. Quality of future children is greatly dependent on food, as it is the cause of “seed” in the human beings. To get maximum advantage of the subtle energy principle, Bhagavad Gita advises sattavic way of life. It should be based on moderation, pure and simple nutritious food, purity of gifts without any desire for return, amiable speech, simple, transparent and truthful reasoning, while spreading divine and spiritual knowledge of soul and spirit. Complete suktam 19-6 of Atharva Veda relates to soul, spirit and Nature. In the Bible, soul is immaterial part of human beings; spirit is immaterial being – the God. It is the Spirit, which gives life (John 6-3, 2 Cor 3-6). Soul keeps God's Word (Deut 11.8). It also keeps God's laws (Deut 26.16). Thus, even holy Bible makes a clear distinction between soul and spirit.
Many hymns in Rig-Veda 1-70-2,1-65-1 and others mention that God lives in our souls as a true preceptor. Brahma is omniscient, the only Reality, perfect truth, supreme consciousness and other infinite number of divine, nobler qualities are attributed to Him. We all live in Him and He lives in us, since He is all pervading. The soul is part of Brahma being His particle and has some of the attributes of God. Owing to the presence of soul in the human body an inner world of beauty, virtue and selfless duty is created against the outer world of matter created by senses and sense organs. The human beings under the guidance and knowledge provided by the soul and energy provided by spirit perform all noble deeds. The soul is ever keen to provide us right path and knowledge but it is for the gross body, its various senses, organs under the influence of three modes of Prakrti to take this knowledge or not. The Inner Light of the soul continues to shine.
It is our bad and evil actions, which create tamasic subtle atoms and these go on accumulating on the soul. These subtle atoms being heavier and darker have the effect of dimming the light of the soul and the knowledge it provides does not reach the gross body and capacity to do noble and virtuous deeds become virtually negligible. Individuals can also perform noble deeds and good actions under the influence of senses, but such deeds will be based on self-interest, personal gain and getting social recognition in society. It is for this reason Uttradhyana sutra advises that always listen to the voice of your inner soul that is your real self. Practice through knowledge and even meditation to reach your real self. Adi Sankracharya says that your “self” is the essence of AUM. You are pure knowledge, you are without blemish, radiating peace O: Dakshina murthy”. Uttradhyana Sutra in verse 23-73 says, “ the body is boat, the manifested soul is the sailor, sansara (material world) is the ocean of matter which is crossed by only wisemen.”
Human beings have 21 kinds of fuel, three kinds of bodies, five sheaths (kosha) and 16 parts. These include spirit in the form of ego (ahamkar), vital breaths (pranas), desire, five mahabhuta, five senses, intelligence (mahat), food, vigour and penance. According to Prasana Upanishad when all 16 parts enter human body in the mother’s womb along with three gunas, only there after soul enters as manifested soul (jivatma). Again, when soul leaves the gross body all the 16 parts start merging with Prakrti. Chapter 39 of Yajur Veda is entirely devoted to the description of Soul. The soul comes in the womb through water or semen and before birth moves with the Sunbeams to get its shine back and higher knowledge and nobler qualities. Those who understand the immortal soul as the real self of individual are not afraid of death. Socrates who always listened to the inner voice of the soul and found in it his immortal real self preferred death of his gross body rather than not listening to his inner voice of spreading the message of virtue, social and moral good. He even refused to appeal in spite of his friends' advice against the death penalty. He had a firm belief in the theory of rebirth and transmigration of soul.
There is no indication from any source that he ever studied Vedas, unlike his great disciple Plato. He probably had known the Vedic metaphysics either by studying the Vedas or through wise sages of the East when he left Athens for a very long period, perhaps over a decade and visited Egypt, Persia and probably North West part of the then India. Only when the soul acquires higher and nobler qualities and when the human beings consider soul as the real self, then the world gets people like Yajnavalkya, king Janaka, Sankracharya, Ramanajum, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda, Gandhi ji and others in India and Socrates, Plato, Confucius, Mencius, Lao-Tse, Immanuel Kant and many others in different parts of the world.
If history of philosophy tells us that Socrates – the wisest man ever born suffered death penalty for listening to the inner voice of “self”, the Hindu mythology does not lag behind. Prahalad a child devotee of God suffered physical torture happily and bravely rather than compromising on the voice of his soul. The torturer was no one else but his own father Haranyakshap who claimed himself to be the living God on this earth. Prahalad's inner voice of the self did not accept his father as God. Even two Sikh Gurus Arjun Dev ji and Tegh Bahadur ji suffered death penalty rather than ignoring their inner voices All such pathfinders and torch bearers were convinced that human personality in the form of “self” survives after death. Thus it is not only the Vedas, Brahma sutras, Bhagavad Gita, Upanishads which refer to the soul as immortal, the lovers of wisdom in other parts of the world also consider the soul as immortal.
Soul and spirit as described in the Vedas are immaterial part of the human beings and have no sex. Only the gross body has male and female organs. While spirit is not a cause of birth and rebirth but its diminishing energy during old age, physical, mental or spiritual sickness could result into death of the gross body. The human spirit is not affected by karma of good or bad deeds. Soul being immortal moves on death from one gross body to an other based on accumulation of subtle particles of good and bad actions, deeds, desires and thoughts of earlier births. It is Law of Nature that what ever is created or is born has to perish or die. The souls of Prakrti and human beings remain immortal. Based on accumulation of past karma – thoughts, deeds and actions, it becomes fierce, calm, terrible, fearless, ignorant and enlightened, trembling and steadfast, forbearing and nonbearing, passionate and ascetic and a prey to bewilderment (Y.V. 39-7). Thus the quality of manifested soul is different from individual to individual based on his/her past and present deeds, actions, thoughts and desires but quality of spirit is the same in all individuals being their energy principle.
The journey of soul after death of the gross body for 12 days to acquire noble traits and divine light is described in Y.V 39- 6. It goes to Prakrti devas particularly Chandrama ( moon) , Surya and Savitar (sun), Indra, Agni, Mitra, Varun and others. In another hymn of Y.V 39-5, its qualities of luster, brilliance, light and one that gives commands and orders are mentioned. The concept of souls going up for purification is also described by a qualified monist Ramanajum. Only the sinful souls cannot go up even for purification as subtle particles of evils, sins and corruption make the soul heavier. It gets manifested in a new gross body even before its 12 days journey to moon, sun etc. Such a birth is the lowest as the infant is born in families where corruption is parading up and down and tamasic way of living is the highest based on greed, ego and ostentation.
It is for this reason birth in the families of vulgar rich, smugglers, black marketers and other evil-minded persons are considered as the lowest type of birth. This Vedic metaphysical concept is rebirth even Plato agreed, though he arrived at this concept independently. Lighter souls are purified of their knowledge and light but effect of good or bad action stays. However, noble souls, which are still lighter, cross six other noble and divine communities (Taittriya Upanishad) and tend to move towards Vaikunth – the abode of God. Vaikunth and the abode of six other communities are beyond the range of human senses and even scientific material instruments.
Atharva Veda Book 19, chapter 6 also relates to Purusha – the immortal soul. It has complete knowledge of Rta – the laws of God and is the nucleus force of cosmic order, body and society. This hymn gives the spirituo-materialistic interpretation of the world, human beings as part of society and also the “self” integral part of human body and senses. Vedas clearly aim at harmony of body and soul, even though in Atharva Veda, matter, soul and God have been taken as separate entities. God permeates the world made of elements, while pervading the earth from all sides. One fourth of His grandeur is seen in the universe, Prakrti and cosmos and remaining 3/4th of his grandeur is in immortality i.e., abode of God which Vedas describe as Brahma lok, Heavens (Swarga lok), Pitri lok, Deva lok etc; where the Creation and Dissolution is not applicable.
While providing soul to individuals, God also created a social structure and four divine professions as Chatavar Varna ashram. Vedas thus give a great emphasis that human soul is the cause of social order and to maintain this cosmic and social order, the soul is provided with complete knowledge of Rta, divine laws. Even holy Bible also says “ the soul keeps God’s laws”(Deut 26-16). In this Book 19 of Atharva Veda, the word Purusa has been used both for God and soul, leading to the conclusion that on realisation of the real self, individual himself becomes Brahma. The Vedic metaphysicists like Badrayana, Sankracharya and all of their Brahma Sutras guide the individuals to achieve “self realisation,” which stage has been described as Turiya by Advaita Vedantistsand Kaivalya by seer Patanjali. The a-priori principles known to the soul and manifested soul relating to love, harmony, truth, transparency, selfless service, cosmic laws of social and moral order and other are beyond Time an Space. This knowledge in the soul always remains but gets covered with the subtle atoms of human karma of good or bad deeds. It is at this stage that the out ward looking mind (etani), senses and sense organs start explaining these a-prioriprinciples based on sense experience and distortion emerges owing to vested interests of individuals and also degree of knowledge each individual possesses. Thus even a-priori principles and also laws of God get corrupted. It is for this reason that the definition and description of love, truth, self less work and other virtues would considerably vary with each individual and it becomes the major cause of confusion in any society in regard to social and moral values. Thus purity of the manifested soul and keeping it free from the effect of bad, corrupt and evil deeds, thoughts and desires make it as our philosopher, guide and friend.
Rig Veda 6-9-5 refers to six major constituents of the gross, subtle and causal body of the human beings. There is the refulgent Brahma as universal Over self, soul, mind, Prana (ten vital breaths), senses and the gross body. Mind is the inner sense of finer elements. The spirit energises mind, Pranas, senses and the gross body. Thus, spirit is found in the entire body as subtle energy principle. Atman makes the human being as a divine animal, being a particle of God with its center in the heart and infinite circumference. R.V.6-16-35 says, “He Himself is seated with the soul (atman) with His imperishable higher nature.” It is the mind under the influence of senses, which shuts you from your real being – the immortal soul. Sankracharya explained this phenomenon due to Maya (cosmic illusion) and with the understanding of Vedic metaphysics, when reality emerges, real self appears as atman.
According to him, Brahma is “Bhuman” as bliss and this Bhuman is no other than the innermost self or the soul of the individual. Soul's wisdom tells you do not resist flux and law of change as these are beyond resistance, but the wisdom through human senses aims at providing permanence to the non permanence, like matter, material wealth, mythology, effort to control divine Nature and make human beings run after these non permanent things, ideas and mythology. The wisdom through senses makes certain mythological gods, characters and religious fairy tales to look real and even permanent. Only after realization of the real self, the veil of cosmic illusion disappears and the need for any type of mythology, idols and icons is no longer felt.
The soul has been addressed by various names and epithets in the Vedas. Samrat (the ruler of the body), Vaishva Deva, Teja, Vak, Agneye, Prajapati in chapter 39 of Yajaur Veda. Each name or epithet indicates its attributes, like the controlling lord, the nourisher of human beings, the just ruler etc., It is also called Twashta – subtle soul. In Bhagavad Gita, apart from atma, jivatma, words like sah (self), dehin, deha, sharirin, shariri are used (B.G.3-42, 14-11 and 12, 2-18). All these later epithets generally mean lord of the body. Ramanajum – the Vedic metaphysicist and Vedantist of medieval period, refers to it asSesa – servant of God who is Sesi (master). A few other Vedantists refer to it as Kshetri – the soul that illumines the entire body. Atharva Veda and other scriptures also mention it as Shivansh (particle of God), dehinam, Purusa – the dweller in the city of God i.e., the sublime causal body seated along with God. Most of the names indicate its attributes of knowledge, light, always at the service of God, master of subtle and gross body. It is for this reason Bhagavad Gita refers to it as “higher self” and the other body self, which is described as lower self. Vedas contain an interesting discussion and conversation between soul as atman and spirit as manas, prana to indicate which is superior. At the end of discussion, all the divine and gross instruments in the body accept superiority of the soul.
Dante found soul in the human beings and described man as divine animal. Aristotle who was not an idealist like his eminent teacher Plato, could not find soul as different than spirit and combined both in his entelechy and found it in all animate and inanimate life. He could thus find man as a social animal and the entelechy makes the person move towards perfection. However, the Vedic metaphysics has found the higher self only in the human beings on this earth and six other divine communities not living on this earth. These six communities like devas (gods), angels, pitries, gandharvas etc., are more divine and noble than human beings. According to Ramanajum, a Vedantist the human soul when goes on acquiring noble and higher qualities passes through all these communities before merging with God as His servant. He described God as Sesi – the Master and the soul when attains Moksha i.e. salvation and attains Brahma Lok – the abode of God becomes Sesa, the servant of God. Only the sinful souls which are heavier owing to accumulation of three gunas and predominance of tamasic guna of stupor and rajasic guna of selfish desires and activity get rebirth on this earth based on past good or bad actions. The concept of lighter souls going upwards on death and the heavier souls remaining on the earth and getting manifested in gross bodies of human beings in nine types of families of philosophers, musicians, soldiers, traders etc., is also given in the metaphysics of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato.
The calm soul examines well good, bad, virtuous, evil, pleasant and other actions. While human senses prefer pleasant and transitory pleasures to good, the soul prefers good to pleasant. Katha Upanishad 1-2-2 further says that the fool chooses the pleasant out of greed and avarice. Bhagavad Gita in chapter 2 refers to Soul as “shashwat” – ever lasting and “ajo” – unborn and cannot be cognized by any of the senses and sense organs. It is ever keen to get out of the gross body and get merged in God. However, the evil activities, thoughts, desires make it manifest again and again. Human mind cannot conceive it under the control of senses and so it is unthinkable (B.G.2-25). Human beings are manifest only during the interim stage and are unmanifested before and after death, so the relationship of individuals is more like Maya (cosmic illusion). In reality neither the children nor other relations are yours nor you are theirs.(2-28). The concept that children do not belong to you, they only come through you has been also brought out in the metaphysics of Khalil Gibran.
Boyhood, youth and old age are attributed to the soul through the body; even so it attains another body (B.G.2-13). For the soul, change of body is like change of clothes. However, the spirit becomes more or less effective in the gross body, not so much with age but kind of activities towards perfection or otherwise. With evil activities, thoughts and desires the gross body can start degenerating even at young age and the spirit gets weaker. Many of the physical sicknesses are related to your activities and thoughts and get further aggravated with idleness that Bhagavad Gita describes as sin. Since God is Perfect, the spirit always aims at perfection and in this movement towards perfection; it helps the gross body to remain healthy.
Holy Koran also confirms that idleness is sin and enjoins that whenever free, get occupied in some constructive work for the welfare of society. Both holy Koran and Bhagavad Gita clearly refer to work as selfless work for the members of society and any work performed for self-interest is idleness and hence sin. Chhandogya Upanishad says, “Spirit is the creative force, which hides behind animate and inanimate things, moves us, moves the planets, moves the universe”. In the Upanishad sage Aruni asked his son, Svetaketu to drop a pinch of salt in water contained in a bowl and then take it out. The boy failed. The father again asked him to taste the water and found it salty. Similarly, a common person cannot perceive the soul in the body but its subtle effect and essence can be felt as it is always there. Father concluded, “My son that is the soul and you are that.” Sama Veda (222) brings out that Brahma keeps His wondrous form in every atom, pervades through His spirit the earth, middle region and the sky.
As against the description of spirit in Sama Veda and Chhandogya Upanishad, Rig-Veda 6-47-9 mentions that Twashata i.e., the subtle soul shines in the body when senses are under control and when predominance of sattavic guna of purity and truthfulness effect is there. It also shines in the company of wise men. With predominance of passivity and stupor i.e., tamasic guna, it feels miserable and its light diminishes in the body though its original shine remains. The soul is untouched by sense experience of joy, pleasure, sorrow, pain and attachment. It always longs for communication with God through three types of Yogas or paths. These three Yogas mentioned in Mundaka Upanishad III-1-1 and Bhagavad Gita are path of knowledge (Sankhya yoga), path of selfless action (Karma yoga) and path of dedicated devotion to God (Bhakti yoga). Soul is not seen but its effect is all-pervasive in the body, like you do not see salt in water as already mentioned above sage Aruni’s teachings to his son.
Soul does not eat food and is silent observer of the actions of the human beings. Intake of food along with energy principle is the cause of “seeds” for reproduction in all types of animate life. Not only animals, birds and others which have mind, will and energy principle in them but even plants, trees have spirit for their growth, reproduction and the instinct of survival. Thus, soul and spirit are clearly distinguished as two separate divine entities. While soul is only in the human beings and is a particle of God, spirit is in all animate and inanimate life, which is also divine but comes through the Nature. There is an important simile in the Vedas and Svetasvatra Upanishad 4-6, which refers to two birds sitting on a tree, one bird is enjoying its fruits and the other bird is observing silently without eating its fruit. It is the soul, which does not eat any food and is silent observer of the activities of human beings, though all the time it advises and guides the right path. With sattavic food that is pure, nutritious and simple along with ten Pranas (vital breaths), the spirit maintains its energy and provides the same to all parts of the human body. Vedas further make it clear that in the human beings spirit, mind, will, vital breath and virtually all parts and organs of the body are born of the atma (soul). Once atma leaves the gross body, all others disappear and merge in Prakrti and the universe. It is like a man and his shadow, which are inseparable. So long as the real self i.e., soul is in the gross body, mind, will, pranas etc., remain as shadow of the soul being part of the cosmic illusion – Maya.
According to Shuniya vadins , our gross body is made of atoms of five mahabhuta i.e., water, air, fire, earth and ether and inner most part of all these atoms is Void or Shuniya. This void portion contains the spirit of God and acts as energy principle in all animate and inanimate life. The gross body that is also part of Vedic Maya appears real to human senses. This illusion is necessary as to achieve salvation the human soul has to get rid of gunas effect along with its past good and bad actions and this is only possible when material body is provided to the soul. (R.V.1-164-38). Thus mortal and immortal are associated since immemorial. times. Those who believe that soul and spirit are the same, normally consider the matter as inert and there is no life in atoms and their conglomeration or any other coherent mass of matter. Such individuals find soul/spirit in animals, birds and all animate life. Exploitation of matter, treating earth as quarry, creating all round pollution and not finding any sin or evil in this kind of activity, is mostly by such people and by those who do not believe the existence of soul or spirit at all. For them even the laws of God and Nature do not exist and they create their own laws to justify all types of exploitation. For such persons their minds become logic inventing machines.
Prasana Upanishad tells us that the “real self”- soul of the individual is the eternal seer. He is always working in the body and is multiform (R.V. 6-9-4). Being the eternal seer assumes many bodies according to actions performed by the gross body under the influence of three gunas. It is ear of the ear, mind of the mind, speech of the speech, breath of the breath; eye of the eye and still it is independent of the senses and mind. Thus the soul gets full knowledge of the activities, thoughts and desires of any part of the body at all times, including the spirit in the subtle body. This eternal seer is unmoved mover in the body, being still, it moves swifter than thought to caution the individual against ignoble and evil action, it outstrips all that run to guide you of the impending danger. Only men of stable mind, wisdom and truthful thoughts take benefit of this wise eternal seer. Isa Upanishad says without “Self” there is no life. It is the supreme essence in the man. It is smaller than the smallest and greater than the greatest, make it free from senses, you can see the glory of “Self” which is without sorrow. Katha Upanishad 1-2-20 to 22. It dwells in the heart along with the God (R.V.5-8-89). It is not touched by the evils of the world and transcends all. Soul is the eternal light that gives light to the entire body.
It is like electricity, which takes the form of object it enters and communicates silently with the entire body through innumerable nerves, which are contained in the body along with heat energy (R.V 6-47-8). Though it is silent, it teaches limitless knowledge being a particle of the Supreme Brahma. According to Yajnavalkya, we are but HE when we know our real self. In Kena Upanishad, it is made clear that the soul is Brahma Himself. Brihadrnayaka Upanishad mentions “ahm Brahma asi” – I am Brahma. Mundaka Upanishad says, “ayam atma Brahma”- my soul is God. Thus, Vedic metaphysics leaves no doubt that soul of an individual is part of the formless and ineffable God. Sankracharya however, makes it clear that this stage of soul being part of God is when all good and bad actions of the body on the soul disappear and we reach beyond gunas of purity, activity and passivity. This stage is reached when only transparent, truthful, selfless actions for the welfare of others in the society are performed. According to Vedas, this is the only purpose of our birth. No on can acquire this stage without divine and spiritual knowledge, also known as Brahma Jnan or Vidya. We also acquire a-priori knowledge through the soul and the knower of real nature of soul gets permanent bliss (R.V.1-58-5, 6). Those who do not know its real nature hanker after transitory pleasures through matter under the influence of their senses. These transitory pleasures are the source of pain and misery to them and other members of family and society.
The soul has seven means for knowing God. In the Rig-Veda 1-58- 6, these seven means are described as five senses, mind and intellect like seven-coloured flame of fire. For knowing God and obtaining Moksha (emancipation) and finally merging of the soul with God, all these seven means have to be purified of all sinful thoughts, so that only transparent, truthful and virtuous information is transmitted by these to the soul. Mahatma Gandhi referred to this stage as perfect harmony of body and soul. All souls once manifested in human body as Cosmic Play of the God (Maya) always yearn for going back to God, but lack of harmony between body and soul, results in a number of births till this harmony is achieved. Many Upanishads tell us that the same can be achieved in one birth and failure to achieve this is a great loss of the human beings. Similar views of the soul yearning to reach God are mentioned in Rig Veda 1-58-7,8. Vedas give more emphasis to self-realisation than Moksha (R.V 1-59-1). Without self-realisation, Moksha is not possible. This stage of self-realisation is described as turiya, kaivalya , Brahma jnan in Bhagavad Gita. To spread this message of know “thy self”, Socrates suffered a death penalty, Christ was crucified and two Sikh gurus and two sons of guru Gobind Singh ji achieved martyrdom.
Human soul is an unmoved mover. Our real self cannot remain even for a moment without doing an act or getting its fruit in the form of accumulation of subtle particles of good or bad actions, so Rig Veda (1-70-2) enjoins doing continuous good work and righteous activities on the philosophy ofidd nan mmam. The actions should be for the welfare of society and not for your personal material gain and these actions should be on the concept of enlightened liberalism. All other actions are not called actions but idleness and become cause of corruption and evils in society.
For the concept of good action a kind of litmus test has been prescribed in the Vedic metaphysics. The Vedic “good” is not subject to any interpretation or material reasoning of the mind. It is absolute and hence a divine concept. A simple test is that any act, desire or thought which you perform or have, if the same action others perform or the same desire and thought all the individuals have in the society, find out its result in your “buddhi”-( intellect). If the resultant effect is good and beneficial to the entire society, it is good, otherwise not so. By the application of this litmus test, it will be found that speaking truth, having love for the entire mankind, animals, birds, trees etc., following laws of God (Rta) and other apriori knowledge known to the soul are good.
However telling lies, performing magic, sorcery which create confusion in the mind and society, taking bribe, resorting to exploitative profits, aimless pursuit of matter, leading ego based or greed based life, spreading vulgar consumerism etc., are not good. If the entire society or even mankind resort to all such activities, thoughts and desires, there will be disharmony, confusion, turmoil, excessive selfishness and corruption. All these will become the predominant features of such a society.
The a priori principles leading to good are silently told by the soul to intellect, ego, mind, will and even senses. In the yogic stage one finds more such a priori principles. R.V. 1-48-3 even tells us that soul makes sound in yogic stage. This stage has been explained in greater details by seer Patanjali in his YogShastra. Incidentally this yogic stage is more metaphysical than physical exercises as now being popularised by many individuals. This state is not possible as a material person but one who harmonises matter with spirit. The individuals resorting to magic, sorcery, superstitions, miracles, exploitative profits, bribery etc., should not move towards this stage to avoid disappointment later on. Before movement towards this yogic stage it would be desirable to know more about mother Teresa, mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda, Guru Nanak and their divine way of living based on moderation, golden mean, middle path of Buddha and by continuously reducing material needs.
In spite of soul being resplendent and remover of obstacles, powerful intellectual controller of the sense organs, excellent, immortal (Sama Veda 327), it is partially omniscient and is not aware of the entire Reality. It has adequate knowledge for your welfare as well as the society and mankind but not enough about the subtle world and Vaikuntha – the abode of God. However, its degree of knowledge varies with the accumulation of kind of gunas. Its knowledge goes on increasing with the sattavic activities and when a person moves beyond gunas it has the maximum knowledge and even its shine can be observed. Thus manifested soul has its limitations owing to your actions, desires and thoughts. To remove these hurdles and limitations the soul needs the eternal speech of God contained in Vedic knowledge. With this knowledge soul can enjoy the essence of the vital world. It is for this reason that Swami Dayananda had advised to all noble human beings that study Vedas and if not possible listen to Vedic knowledge whenever you get an opportunity. This will benefit you as well as the society and the entire mankind. Holy Koran says,” life is a gift of Nature but beautiful life is a gift of wisdom”- knowledge provided through the soul”. Holy Koran like the Vedas greatly emphasise a-priori knowledge contained in the soul, which can help you leading noble, virtuous, beautiful and purposeful life.
Vedas give great importance to both soul and spirit in the human beings for acquiring divine qualities for ideal human conduct in society. This is Vedic Dharma. Many learned people consider Hindu Dharma and Vedic Dharma as synonymous. The source of soul and spirit is God. The soul is provided to human beings directly from God and in the case of spirit it comes through Prakrti. Thus following the laws of God and Nature is more like obeying your Divine Father and Supreme Mother Prakrti and it leads to noble and virtuous life. It is a common observation that the parents take special precautions so that their small children do not go alone near a lake or swimming pool lest they fall and get drowned. They take similar precautions against electricity, fire, use of knife etc. The supreme Father and supreme Mother Prakrti take similar precautions for their children i.e., entire mankind through the Rta – the cosmic laws of social and moral order known to the soul as a priori principles.
Bhagavad Gita in the verses 14-3,4 says “sarva bhutanam tato bhavati” – of all embodied things God is seed giving Father and Nature is the conceiving Mother. Unfortunately under the influence of extreme materialism based on inert matter, the importance of Prakrti has considerably declined amongst the followers of Hindu organised and hierarchical religion and personal God with form and attributes is now Father, Mother, brother, friend and provider of all luxuries and other mundane things. This diminishing respect of Prakrti has made the role of Nature almost redundant. She is hardly worshipped or respected as supreme mother Aditi, Devaki or Daivi and her 33 Prakrti devas are no longer the main deities. Mythological gods and goddesses have become more real than formless devas of Nature and even ineffable and formless Brahma of Vedic metaphysics.
The path finders and the ancient seers and sages clearly bring out that where reverence and love for Nature diminishes, in such societies women tend to get lower status, less respect and their exploitation is not considered by non-divine class as sinful. At present in certain sub sections of Indian society women folk are not only given lower status by men folk, but their exploitation is at the peak in the cinema, T V serials, all kind of advertisements etc. Many women get lower wages in agriculture, civil works etc., for doing similar work. Many women touch feet of their husbands and in-laws every day for being accepted in that family as wife and daughter-in-law. Many women observe certain ritualistic fasts for the long life of their husbands where as no such social obligations are prescribed for the husbands. The obnoxious Sati ritual, dowry deaths, girl infanticide and dev–dasi system to some extent still prevail. The fact remains the Indian society largely remains indifferent to these aspects. A stage has now reached when having seen and faced exploitation in their own lives, many women do not like the birth of a girl child. At present millions of girl children are missing owing to infanticide, abortion, etc. Some districts in India have less than 600 females against 1000 males.
Apart from this, there is continuous decline in the importance of supreme Mother Prakrti and benign mother Prithvi. This decline has become the cause of over exploitation of earth (Prithvi) and the Nature leading to all kinds of pollution, environmental hazards with the sole aim of denuding the earth of its material resources. Many human beings have forgotten that apart from over 6 billions people of the world, even animals, birds and others have their share in the material resources of their mother earth. Holy Koran clearly tells us that all animals, birds etc., also form nations and communities like human beings, are mustered and not left in Our Book(6-38).
In this “modern progress” the share of not only poor people is being misappropriated but also the helpless animals, birds, fishes and others are being deprived of clean and pure drinking water, air and shelter in the forests and other places. The earth which is an important globe of Nature is now beings used as quarry by economic exploiters, non divine vritras and avarnas to become rich quickly. Such non divine persons compete with others in leading ego based artificial life away from Nature in the stuffy air conditioned highly infected rooms in the thick jungles of concrete. The most sacred rivers of Indians particularly Ganges, Yamuna, Godavari and others are highly polluted. Deforestation is going on large scale leading to number of species of animals, birds. fishes etc., getting either extinct or nearing extinction. Cities after cities are becoming gas chambers, diseases are fast spreading amongst infants and small children. It now appears many individuals in the world have de facto fundamental rights to create pollution in water, air and atmosphere, resort to corrupt practices, distort spiritual knowledge with impunity and other negativity. Perhaps the revival of Vedic knowledge in the entire world can arrest these self- destructive practices of denuding the mother earth and polluting the Nature. The knowledge of soul and spirit as contained in holy Bible, Koran, Zend Avesta, Grantha sahib and other scriptures can also stop this obnoxious trend where nations after nations of birds, animals, fishes are on the brink of total or partial extinction
Since the same spirit of God pervades in all human beings whether Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and others, the Vedic metaphysics has developed a spirituo-social concept of Universal Brotherhood (Vishwa Bandhutva). It is this spirit, which makes the entire mankind as spiritual brothers and sisters. However, the manifested soul makes us all different and distinct in personality, conduct, outlook and divinity. It is the spirit which makes a person social animal and through soul only divinity can come taking a person towards perfection. Vedic metaphysics is emphatic that owing to the prevalence of the spirit of God in all human beings, any distinction of class superiority or inferiority is negation of religion and ethics.