Some Basic Ideas Relating To The Soul

Introduction:  Each living organism expresses an urge to know. There is a seat of consciousness in every living organism that is responsible for this urge to know. This seat of consciousness is called the Soul. Based on what it knows, the Soul acts and then experiences results.  

Name: The most known word for Soul in Sanskrit is Aatmaa.  As long as the soul is not liberated, the Soul is called Jeevaatmaa.  In the Vedas and other texts of Vedic Literature, the Aatmaa is called by other names.  

Definition: The Sanskrit Grammar text Unaadi Kosh defines the Soul as a continuously dynamic entity. It is always involved in performing actions and transmigrating into commensurate life forms to reap the fruits of its actions.  

Birth: In entering a fetal gross body at the time of conception, this Soul, through its inherent powers of consciousness, enlivens the otherwise inert sperm-egg combination and infuses shape into the emerging body.  The Soul is present in the fetus from the time of conception, as soon as egg and sperm combine or else the fetus would have no life, and the sperm and egg would begin to rot and smell.  It is the Soul that is the seat of life, feeling, and consciousness.

Size: The size of the Soul has been a subject of much controversy among Indian Philosophers.  There are three views regarding the size of the Soul:

  1. It is atomic in size – Anu 
  2. It is as big as the body it occupies – Madhyam
  3. It is all-pervadingVibhu 

We have seen [above] that the Jains posit that the Soul is Madhyam, as big as the body it occupies.  Acharya Shankar feels that since there is only One Soul, it is Vibhu, all-pervading.  Rishi Dayananda strongly advocates that the Soul is Anu, atomic in size, and in so advocating, takes his inspiration from several Vedic and post-Vedic sources.

Residence: Many philosophers posit that the Soul resides in the brain.  Rishi Dayananda says that the Soul resides in the heart, below the neck, between the breasts, and above the navel. This is the focal point of all sensory and motor nerves. From the heart region, the Soul controls the body through biological, physical, and chemical apparatus.

Gender:  The Soul has no gender.  Gender notions are associated with the body only.

Number: From a human perspective, Souls are countless.  Human beings have no mechanism to count the number of souls. However, even though countless, there is an exact number, which God alone knows.

Free Will:  The human Soul is endowed with the faculty of discretion and free will.  He is free to do what he can do and wants to do.  If God had wanted, He could have eliminated evil from the world, but this would be at the cost of denying Man his freedom of choice – and this would contradict God’s Nature and Purpose.  God can only influence and inspire Souls; He does not control them – He does not interfere with their ability to choose.   God is not a dictator but a good teacher.  As soon as Man feels inclined to do something that violates Cosmic Law, God inspires in him feelings of fear, shame, and doubt. On the other hand, if Man contemplates doing something in harmony with the Law, God inspires in him feelings of joy, fearlessness, and courage.  The Voice that warns or encourages us is God’s Voice, for God sits within us, somewhere deep in the core of our hearts, and speaks to us.  We have a choice – we can disregard His Voice or we can embrace it.  In opting to resist His Voice, we sell our Souls to gain the world.  Why sell for gold what gold cannot buy?

Slaying The Soul:  When we think one thing, speak something else, and do something quite the opposite, in other words, when our thoughts, words, and actions are not the same, we end up slaying our Soul.  Diplomacy, strategy, policy, and tact many times are all polished names for falsity, deceit, cheating, fraud, and hypocrisy. They are all contributing factors that end up causing the “death” of the Soul.  Yes, rigidity might not work many times, and the call will be for us to adjust, adapt, and compromise.  But, a line must be drawn somewhere, and once that line is drawn, our belief system begins to assert itself. You should certainly respect the beliefs of others, but you must insist on your right not to let your conscience be weakened.  Never compromise your core principles, for that will amount to self-betrayal.