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Knowledge of the Soul     


The Gross Body and the Subtle Body


The Lord states in the Bhagavad-gita (7.4)


bhumir apo nalo vayuh kham mono buddhir eva ca

ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakrtir ashtadha


"Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego are My eight separated inferior energies." These eight energies are always subject to change. The gross body, also known as the 'sthula sharira' is made up of five elements - earth, water, fire, air and ether. Earth represents all solids, water represents all liquids, fire represents light and radiation, air represents all gases and ether represents space and sound.


The mind, intelligence and false ego constitute the subtle body. The subtle body is also called the 'sukshma sharira'. 'True ego' is to understand that 'I am a spirit soul, an eternal servant of God'. 'False Ego' is to think in illusion that, T am this body'. The subtle body and the gross body are coverings on the soul. Such a soul entrapped in these subtle and gross bodies is called a 'conditioned soul'. One who becomes free from these coverings and attains spiritual consciousness is called a 'liberated soul'.

In the next verse, the Lord says:


apareyam itas tv anyam prakritim viddhi me param

jiva bhutam maha baho yayedam dharyate jagat


"Besides this inferior nature, there is a superior energy of Mine, that are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe" (Bhagavad-gita 7.5).


Both inferior energy (matter: gross and subtle) and superior energy (spirit soul: sat-cit-ananda) are subordinate to the Supreme Lord. The soul is life. The body is always dead. Just like if you wear gloves in the hand and move the fingers, the gloves may appear to have life, similarly the soul moves the body. The body is always dead even when the spirit soul is present in it, because the body is after all made up of dead matter - earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego; which have no life in themselves.


The Soul Is Indestructible



Lord Krishna states in the Bhagavad-gita (2.23):


nainam chindanti sastrani nainam dahati pavakah

na chainam Medayanty apo na sosayati marutah


"The soul cannot be cut by sharp weapons; it cannot be burnt by fire; it cannot be dried by wind; nor can it be moistened by water." As soon as a scientist hears of any substance, he would immediately like to study physical and chemical characteristics. Here Krishna explains how soul is spiritual by nature and cannot be destroyed by weapons, fire etc. Also the soul is not subjected to the limitations a material object is subjected to. Just as the law of conservation of energy says how energy can neither be created nor destroyed, similarly the soul is spiritual energy and cannot be created or destroyed.


The Soul is an Individual


Each soul is a separate individual with separate consciousness. You are aware of your body, mind, intelligence and false ego. I cannot perceive your headache and you cannot know what I am thinking. But God is present in the heart of every living entity. So lie can know everyone and everything.


na tv evaham jatu nasam natvam neme janadhipah

na caiva na bhavisyamah sarve vayamatah param


"Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be." (Bhigavad-gita 2.12).


'mamaivamso jiva loke..' "The souls in this material world are etenally My parts-and-parcels..." (Bhagavad-gita 15.7). The part remains the part and the whole remains the whole etenally. A small golden ornament may be of the same quality of jold mountain but it can never equal the quantity of the mointain; similarly the soul or jiva is minute and Krishna is infnite in opulences.


The Soul Has Form


Thespirit soul is not some 'impersonal light' or 'void' as some people wrongly think. The soul is a beautiful personality whose bodj is made up of sat-cit-ananda (eternity-knowledge-bliss). Thesoul is not just energy; he is a person. The qualities of soul are just opposite to that of matter. Matter is temporary-full of suffering-full of darkness and the soul is eternal, full of knowledge and bliss.


Matter Is Formless - Spirit Gives Form to Matter


Matter in itself has no form. Matter acquires a form only when a spirit enters it. For example, if you take a plain cloth it may be formless, but if you put your finger inside then it assumes a form. When you remove your finger then it loses its form. Similarly, matter (the eight elements in the body) assumes a form when soul enters it. At death, when the soul leaves the body, the body starts decomposing and disintegrating and loses its form. So matter is formless, the spirit gives form to matter. A table/chair may have a form, although it is dead matter. Matter can assume form only when spirit soul manipulates it. The table has been given a form by a spirit soul (carpenter).


The Soul Has a Form of Eternity (sat)- Knowledge (cit)- Bliss (ananda)


The soul comes from the kingdom of God and he has a spiritual body of eternity knowledge and bliss, to relate with the Lord. But when the soul desires to become an independent enjoyer, he is dispatched to the material world, where he is entrapped in a material body. This is something like a parrot (soul) in a cage (material body). Why do we suffer? Because the 'sat-cit-ananda' soul is entrapped in a 'asat-acit-nirananda' (temporary-ignorant-miserable) body, there is an incompatibility. So we suffer.


The Soul is Situated in the Region of the Heart


Just as the sun situated in one corner of the universe spreads light everywhere around, the soul situated in the region of the heart spreads consciousness all over the body. The soul is not removed during heart transplantation, as he is spiritual. For example, when the stepney or radiator of a car is changed, nothing happens to the driver. Similarly one heart (which is just like a radiator pumping blood) may be replaced by another, but that does not affect the soul.


The Size of the Soul


The Shvetasvatara Upanishad and the Srimad Bhagavatam describe the size of the soul (seed form):


balagra shata bhagasya shatadha kalpitasya ca

bhagojivahsa vijneyah sa canantyaya kalpate


"If you divide the tip of the hair into 100 parts, and if you further divide one of those parts into 100 parts - that 1/10,000 part of the tip of the hair is the size of soul." (Svetasvatara Upanishad 5.9)

This is the size of the soul in the seed form, when he wanders in the material universe. But the soul has a original beautiful spiritual sat-cit-ananda form in the spiritual world, which is known as svarupa (spiritual constitutional position). The soul has an eternal sweet relationship with God in this svarupa.


The Soul is Inconceivable


The size of the soul - 1/10,000 part of the tip of the hair - is too small to be seen through an electron microscope. But even if man may design a microscope more powerful than the electron microscope, yet to try to see soul through it will be futile. We are unable to even quantify or perceive a thought. Even the mind, the subtle form of matter, is unmanifest. The soul, by definition, is beyond the mind. It is not only unmanifest, but it is also inconceivable. One cannot even think of it: 'avyakto yam achintyo yam avikaryo yam ucyate' "The soul is unmanifest, inconceivable and unchangeable." (Bhagavad-gita 2.25)