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Soul Research


In 1972, a distinguished panel met in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and discussed "problems associated with attempts to define the exact moment of death." Panel members included  world-famous heart surgeon Dr. Wilfred G. Bigelow, Mr. Justice Edson L. Haines of the Ontario Supreme Court, and J. Francis Leddy, president of the University of Windsor. Dr. Bigelow upheld  the existence of the soul and urged systematic research to determine what the soul is and where it comes from. Dr.  Bigelow's  and  other panelists'   comments  were  later published in the  Montreal Gazette. When the article came to the attention of Srila Prabhupada, he wrote a letter to Dr. Bigelow offering substantial Vedic knowledge of the science of the soul and    suggested    a     practical method    for    scientifically understanding it. The Gazette article and Srila Prabhupada 's response follow.


Gazette Headline: Heart Surgeon Wants to Know What a Soul Is


WlNDSOR-A world-famous Canadian heart surgeon says he believes the body has a soul, which departs at death and theologians ought to try to find out more about it. Dr Wilfred G. Bigelow,  head of the cardiovascular surgery unit at Toronto General Hospital, said that "as a person who believes there is a soul," he thought the time had come "to take the mystery out of this and find out  what it is." Bigelow was a member of a panel which appeared before the Essex County Medical-Legal Society to discuss problems associated with attempts to define the exact moment of death.  The question has become vital in the age of transplants of hearts and other organs in cases when the donors are inevitably dying. The Canadian Medical Association has produced a widely  accepted definition of death as the moment when the patient is in coma, responds to no stimulus of any kind, and brain waves recorded  on a machine are flat. The other members of the panel  were Mr. Justice Edson L. Haines of the Ontario Supreme Court and J. Francis Leddy, president of the University of Windsor.


Bigelow, elaborating on points he had raised during the discussion, said in an interview later that his thirty-two years as a surgeon had left him no doubts that there is a soul."There are certain  cases where you happen to be present at the moment when people pass from a living state to death, and some mysterious changes take place. One of the most noticeable is the sudden lack of  life or luster to the eyes. They become opaque and literally lifeless. It's difficult to document what you observe. In fact, I don't think it can be documented very well." Bigelow, who became world  renowned for his pioneering work in the "deep freeze" surgical technique known as hypothermia and for his heart valve surgery, said "soul research" should be undertaken by theology and allied  disciplines within the university. Some sections of a reply written by the founder-achaiya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, are given below:


Srila Prabhupada Gives the Vedic Evidence


My dear Dr. Bigelow:

Please accept my greetings.Recently I have read an article in the Gazette by Rae Corelli entitled "Heart Surgeon Wants to Know What a Soul Is," and it was very interesting. Your comments  show great insight, and so I thought to write you on this matter Undoubtedly the soul is present in the heart of the living entity, and it is the source of all the energies for maintaining the body. The  energy of the soul is spread all over the body, and this is known as consciousness. Since this consciousness spreads the energy of the soul all over the body, one can feel pains and pleasures  in ar>y part of the body. The soul is individual, and he is transmigrating from one body to another, just as a person transmigrates from babyhood to childhood, from childhood to boyhood, from  boyhood to youth, and then to advanced old age. Then the change called death takes place when we change to a new body, just as we change our old dress to a new dress. This is called  transmigration of the soul.


When a soul wants to enjoy this material world, forgetting his real home in the spiritual world, he takes this life of hard struggle for existence. This unnatural life of repeated birth, death, disease,  and old age can be stopped when his consciousness is dovetailed with the supreme consciousness of God. That is the basic principle of our Krishna movement. As far as heart transplant is  concerned, there is no question of success unless the soul is there in the heart. So the presence of the soul has to be accepted. In sexual intercourse, if there is no soul, there is no conception,  no pregnancy 


The undertaking of "soul research" would certainly mark the advancement of science. But advancement of science will not be able to find the soul. The soul's presence can simply be accepted  on circumstantial understanding. You will find in the Vedic literature that the dimension of the soul is one ten-thousandth the size of a point. The material scientist cannot measure the length and  breadth of a point. Therefore it is not possible for the material scientist to capture the soul. You can simply accept the soul's existence by taking it from authority. What the greatest scientists are  finding, we've explained long ago.As soon as one understands the existence of the soul, he can immediately understand the existence of God. The difference between God and the soul is that  God is a very great soul, and the living entity is a very small soul; but qualitatively they are equal. Therefore God is all-pervading, and the living entity is localized. But the nature and quality are the  same. There is a bona fide method for the attainment of spiritual perfection by the spiritual spark of soul, and if he is properly cruided then he is very easily sent back home, back to Godhead,  wherefrom he originally fell. It will be a great contribution to human society if this authorized information from the Vedic literature is presented to the modem world on the basis of modern scientific  understanding. The fact is already there. It simply has to be presented for modern understanding.

Yours sincerely,

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami