Soul

Ko’ham asmi?  

Who Am I? – The Concept Of Soul

Hello! My name is Satish Prakash.  I possess a body, and this body has limbs.  I walk with my feet, I speak with my mouth, and I do other things with my other limbs.  I know that I think and I make decisions, and after due reflection, I even know that I am, that I exist.  I also know that sometimes I feel happy and other times I feel sad, even depressed.  Intermittently, I feel rich and poor, healthy and sick – like a pendulum, I keep being tossed to and fro between oppositional feelings.  If people praise me I feel elated, and if they criticize me I feel downcast. On the outside, I possess a house, a job, a degree, money in the bank, and I have many friends.  I know that I am, but I am not sure what or who I am in reality.  I see my friend Surendra living a healthy and happy life, and one day, I hear he has suddenly died.  When I go to the funeral, I see his body lying in a coffin, ready to be cremated.  And I ask: What has happened?  What, and who, has caused this once living person to be now dead? I go home and look at myself in the mirror and I ask:  Am I gonna be sick too?  Would I too, one day, lie in a coffin, ‘dead’, as they would say?  What and who am I? Where did I come from when I was born from my mother?  Will I continue to live on after I ‘die’? If I do continue to live on after ‘death’, where will I be living, and with whom?  Whom can I approach for answers to these questions? 

 

A close examination of the above testimony, and also of how our body functions, can inspire us to think along the following lines:

  1. Who or what sees, hears, and walks?  Is it that my eye sees, or is it that I see with my eye?  Is it that my feet walk, or is it that I walk with my feet?  Is it that my ear hears, or is it that I hear with my ear?
  2. Many times, when I am lost in thought, my eyes are open, I am not blind, there is enough light to facilitate seeing, and still, I do not ‘see’.
  3. If I lose my eye, I am unable to see, but I can still hear with my ears, and I can still taste with my tongue.  Is the ‘I’ who hears and tastes any different from the ‘I’ who used to see and can no longer see?
  4. When I go to sleep, I cease using my body organs – every organ is resting.  When I wake up, my body organs report their presence to me, and I begin assigning tasks to them. Chew, I say to the mouth; Listen, I say to the ears; Walk, I say to the feet; Pick up, I say to hand. 
  5. Before I went to sleep last night, my brain had a stream of thought.  As soon as I woke up this morning, that stream of thought began to flow again, exactly from the point where it had stopped.  It seems as if I had ordered my brain to stop flowing last night.  The fact that I woke up and ordered the brain to start flowing again forces me to ask:  Did the real ‘I’ ever stop existing?

 

It would not be unreasonable to conclude that 

  1. the ‘I’ who sees is the same ‘I’ who hears, tastes, and does many other things in the body;
  2. this ‘I’ is indivisible; 
  3. while life is a series of changeable events, there is this ‘I’ who is at the back of all those events; 
  4. the constant use of ‘I’ is very significant.  There is a lot of meaning to this ‘I’.  Events appear and disappear and are separable from each other and do not make life.  It is this ‘I’, this unchangeable ‘I’, that acts like a thread to interconnect these event beads to make up the rosary of life.  Events come and go, but life goes on and on because I am, I live, and I continue to live on.  I am a living being.
  5. Call me whatever you want to call me – spirit, self, soul – but I have the capacity to know, to remember, to feel, to act, and to experience the fruits of my actions.  
  6. As I live, I develop instincts, habits, and tendencies that shape my personality. I take these instincts, habits, and tendencies with me throughout life and this brings constancy to my personality.  
  7. During sleep, between two periods of waking, I never cease to exist.  Sometimes, when I analyze the evidence that the study of human behavior yields, I wonder whether death at the end of one life span leads to another life span.  And, I also wonder whether, in traveling from one life-span to another, I take my instincts, habits, and tendencies with me in my onward traveling.
  8. As I live my life, every event that takes place yields some kind of experience, either in the form of joy or sorrow.  It is seen that events ultimately pass away and may even disappear from my memory, but I treasure my experiences of joy and sorrow, success and failure, as my earnings.  I hold them dear to my inner self.  

Medial Summary: Who are you?, someone asks you, and you reply, I am Satish.  And if that person were to ask: Which part of you is Satish? Is it your head, your body trunk, your ears, or your eyes?, you are challenged – you cannot give an answer easily.  You know that each body part has its name, and the body in its entirety also has a name.  So, who is Satish?  Is Satish the name of the outer body with its inner instruments of mind, intellect, and ego?  When the body ceases to function, they say:  Satish is gone, but the body is still there.  So, what, or who has gone?

 

The Truth is that I have this body; I am not this body, nor am I any one of my body limbs.  I am not the mind, nor the intellect, nor the ego. I am something deeper – I am what they call a Soul.  I am a Soul in a body.  I am not a body with a Soul. I was not born with this body – this body grew around me, the Soul.  Like me, countless other individual souls are living in bodies that are both like and unlike my own body.  This body is my instrument, a tool for me to use to arrive at a certain destination that is free from all pain. The universe was created and filled with bounties – galaxies and solar systems, Earth and its fertility, airflow, sun and moonlight, rainfall, seasonal cycle, trees, rivers – to satisfy my physical and psychical needs.  The saddest thing in life is that even though most of us can, to some degree, justify that we are Soul, we do not know much about the Soul.  In this three-day workshop, we seek to understand the Soul by analyzing and studying evidence taken from several sources that would include major religions of the world, atheists, scientists, and finally, Vedic [Hindu] Religion.

 

Aashcharya-vat pashyati kash-chid enam 

Aashcharya-vad vadati tathai’va chaa’nyah

Aashcharya-vach chai’nam anyah shrinoti  Shrutwaa’pye’nam veda na chai’va kash-chit 

 

Some people behold the Soul in amazement. Some speak of the Soul as marvelous. Others listen to discourses on the Soul and are in awe. But, there are those who hear of the Soul and they understand nothing – they have no reaction. Bhagavad Gita 2:29

 

Shravanaayaa’pi bahu-bhir yo na labhyah 

Shrin-wanto’pi bahawo yam na vidyuh

Aash-charyo waktaa kushalo’sya lab-dhaa 

Aash-charyo jyäätaa kushalaa’nu-shishtah 

There are many who have no opportunity to hear about the Soul. Others hear of, but do not understand, the Soul. But wonderful is he who teaches about the Soul and skillful is he who discovers the Soul. And equally wonderful is he who knows the Soul when taught by a competent teacher.Katha Upanishad 1:2:7