We shall continue the Vedic lessons and touch upon the concept of Self and its relation with Ishwar. To understand Ishwar, please review first three articles of the series: Vedic Lessons.
Q: Who am I?
A: You are the soul or Atma or Jeeva. You are different from your mind and body. When body perishes, you do not perish because there is no entity in the universe that can destroy you.
Q: How do I know that I am different from body and mind? Am I not a chemical reaction?
A: Very simple! Your body and thoughts have changed since your birth, but you remain the same. Even on regular basis you find body and thoughts changing. Thus you are different from body and mind. The feeling of consciousness or ‘I’ is real you. This I is questioning right now and reading this article and knows that ‘I’ exists. This ‘I’ is the one who is currently keen to explore who this ‘I’ is. Even when you sleep without dreams, you wake up and say I had a good sleep. This ‘I’ enjoyed the peace of sleep as well. Read further and discover the ‘I’ further.
Some people say that consciousness is nothing but a chemical in brain and there is no soul. They say that all the emotions and feeling of pain and pleasure is simply chemical reaction. Nothing can be more foolish than this to claim as truth. Normally such views are held by people who have dumbed their intellect below a threshold by indulging in a variety of immoral activities. They are running away from their guilt feelings and ‘inner voice’ and hence indulge in such empty talks.
But just consider: when someone slaps you, reactions happen in body and neurons fire to give feeling of pain. But ‘who’ feels the pain? And when you are praised, agains neurons fire in a different manner and you feel happy. But again, ‘who’ felt happy? The very fact that something is felt implies someone is feeling. Obviously an electron, proton or neutron or a hydrogen atom or a water molecule or whatever cannot be ‘I’ that feels. This ‘I’ that feels and decides is the soul within our body – our true self. And since it is not a physical entity, it cannot be affected by physical things like fire, water etc. Thus it is indestructible. After all destruction means breakdown of various components. So how can something which has no further components be broken down. Also a gross thing cannot break a subtler thing like a sword cannot break an atom. Thus soul is indestructible as explained in almost all scriptures.
Further ask these childish ‘chemical intellectuals’ that if its all chemical reactions, then why they have a problem when we refute them? After even that is chemical reaction and so are they! Why they love, why they feel offended, why they take education and why they have urge to propagate their knowledge and counter ‘superstitions’? Also, why don’t they oppose laws against crime? Because if its all chemical reactions, why to punish a chemical reaction? Do you punish acid when someone throws that on someone’s face to damage it? Also if they are chemical reactions, why to take them seriously? All they speak or write or argue may just be a stupid random chemical reaction creating disturbance, like two acids mixing in chemical lab!
In summary, if its chemical reaction or non-eternal entity, the whole concept of law, order, love, emotions, education, character, crime, punishment, rewards, sports, entertainment, compassion etc become useless. Whole life becomes meaningless. So this theory is only for meaningless people with meaningless intellect who would not mind even being killed because even their life is meaningless and murder is also a chemical reaction!
Let us keep such meaningless arguments aside, and explore further the logical truth of we being ‘soul’ that is unborn and undying.
Q: Is Soul free to act or dependent on Ishwar?
A: It depends. When the universe is destroyed (Pralaya), soul (except souls that have reached salvation or Mukti or Moksha) remains unconscious without any free-will. During existence of universe, soul is imparted limited freedom to act when it is given a birth as per its deeds. However how much freedom the soul desires for itself is also based purely on the soul through its deeds.
For example, typically Indians decide to remain slaves of foreigners due to their celebrated slave-mentality. So they have limited freedom and face humiliations even in their own country. This limited freedom is not divinely provided but purely choice of our own society as a whole. Same happens at individual soul level.
In other words, depending upon the capability of the soul, Ishwar provides a domain of freedom to soul to act. And it keeps modifying this domain on an ongoing basis.
This is similar to the level of freedom we provide to our child. When its a baby, we restrict it to a small cot. As it starts walking on four legs, we ensure that we restrict its movement so that it does not fall down from a high bed. Gradually we provide him more and more freedom till he becomes a grown up man. If in the process, we find that it is cultivating bad habit of eating dirty things on floor, the mother finds some innovative way to prevent it from doing so. Its freedom is thus restricted. On contrary, if the child behaves like a good boy and obeys parents, does not do messy things, he obtains increased freedom quickly.
Ishwar, like our parents, keeps doing this on an ongoing basis like a continuous simulation of optimization algorithm. And he does so, like our parents, only for our own benefit.
In summary, soul is completely free in deciding how much freedom it wants for itself.
To state this in other words, Soul is free to decide its actions, but its dependent completely on Ishwar to face fruits of its actions.
Q: Could you explain what you mean by ‘free’ and ‘fruits of action’?
A: One whose ‘will’ rules over its body, senses and life-force is called free. If soul is not free, there would be no reason why it should face fruits of sinful or noble actions. Because if it acts only like a puppet of Ishwar, then Ishwar should face fruits of sinful or noble actions. Because if you kill someone with a sword, you get the punishment and not the sword.
That is why, those cults who believe that Ishwar has already written everyone’s future even before he created them, and kept in some book (like Lohe Mehfooz of Muslims under throne of Allah) are actually saying that God/ Allah should be punished for all wrong things happening in the world. All sensible people should reject such obviously self-contradictory theories.
As per Vedas, soul is completely free to act and govern its body, senses and life-force within the domain of limitations it has. And through its actions, it can choose to increase or decrease this domain of limitation. When the domain of limitation is completely broken away, the soul acts in sync with Ishwar’s inspiration and becomes completely free or Mukta.
To understand this from another example, consider the freedom a child has. Because he did not study he could not become a doctor. So he has no freedom to conduct surgeries. But if he would have studied and become an MS, he would gain the freedom to conduct surgeries. This freedom is his own choice. But unlike manmade laws, where one cannot become a doctor after a certain age, as per laws of Ishwar, each soul possesses the chance to transform itself and reach ultimate bliss and potential every moment.
The cumulative of all such choices that we have exercised each moment since Anaadi Kaal (beginninglessness) up to this moment across various lives and deaths decide our present ‘fruits of actions‘.
These ‘fruits of actions’ are such that they are the best possible fruits to have to reach complete bliss in MOST optimal and fastest manner. This department of optimization or deciding the ‘fruits of actions’ is managed by Ishwar and soul has no control over it.
Now ‘fruits of actions’ is a term used to define the aggregate of the ‘domain of limitation’ we possess at any point in time as well as feeling of pleasure or pain. Basically these emerge from one and same thing that we call ‘Sanskaars’ or our innate tendencies.
Thus, to put in very simple words:
Soul is free to act but is totally dependent on Ishwar to face the fruits of his actions.
Q: Had Ishwar not created the soul and given it the capability to act, soul could not have done anything. Hence it is Ishwar alone who dictates the souls.
A: Again a very pertinent question, but relevant only to those superstitious cults – like Islam and Christianity – that believe that Ishwar ‘creates’ the soul.
As per Vedas, soul is never created nor destroyed. Just as Ishwar is eternal, so is the soul. The root cause of material world – nature (Prakriti) is the third eternal entity. Ishwar creates neither the soul nor the Prakriti.
There was never a time when these three eternal entities did not exist nor would a time come when they would cease to exist.
The role of Ishwar is to integrate the inanimate or non-living nature with conscious soul in a manner that soul is able to perform actions, exercise choices and reach eternal bliss. Thus Ishwar is like an engineer who designs and works with existing items and NOT a creator in the sense that He creates lollypops and ‘lemon choos’ like Sathya Sai Baba or Allah from nothingness.
After integrating nature and soul, he passes on the the control of mind and body to soul as per the optimization algorithm discussed in previous section. Now it is soul who obtains the capability to act and hence faces the ‘fruits of actions’.
When someone murders another person with sword, punishment is accorded to the murderer and not to the maker of sword, the seller of sword or the miner who extracted iron from earth because only the murderer is responsible for the crime. Similarly, Ishwar does not face ‘fruits of actions’ nor can be held responsible for good or bad act of the soul.
Had Ishwar been forcing souls to act, no one would have been committing sins because Ishwar is beyond sins and the most pure. This is what happens with those exalted souls who burn all seeds of ignorance and act solely as per inspiration of Ishwar and then achieve salvation.
Q: What are the characteristics of Soul and Ishwar?
A: Both soul and Ishwar are conscious (Chetan) and basically pure. Both are immortal, unborn and undying.
But Ishwar has additional characteristics like creator of universe, manager of universe, destroyer of universe, infinite knowledge, infinite powers, infinite bliss etc as discussed in previous articles of the series.
The characteristics of soul as per Nyaya Sutra (1.1.10) are following:
1. Desire to obtain something (Ichha)
2. Repulsion from something (Dwesha)
3. Will to put efforts (Prayatna)
4. Feel happiness (Sukha)
5. Feel sorrow (Dukha)
6. Have knowledge (Jnana)
Vaisheshik Sutra (3.2.4) details characteristics of soul when it is in mortal body as:
5. Mind and feeling of Self
7. Sense and work organs under control
When soul is in a body, these characteristics are manifested. When it leaves the body, these characteristics are no more present. From these scholars deduce the existence of soul.
Q: What is the size of soul? Does it fill entire body?
A: Soul is like a point in space. Soul is point-like in size and limited in knowledge. Ishwar is even finer than soul and has infinite knowledge.
Thus Ishwar manages the entire functioning of the body and soul controls it like the CEO in its office.
Some people believe that soul of an elephant is bigger than soul of an ant. This is not true. All souls are completely equal in their potentials and dimensions. The only difference between the different souls is the ‘fruits of actions’ that they face as per their different deeds. So soul does not change size when it transmigrates from one species to another. Only its locus of control changes.
Q: So you say that Ishwar is both within and outside soul? But how can another object be where an object is already existing? Hence Ishwar cannot exist where soul exists. They may be close to each other but Ishwar cannot be within soul.
A: Two things cannot exist at same place only when they have same dimension like size. But just like electricity exists subtly within iron in same manner Ishwar resides within each soul and in fact each point in world. So Ishwar and soul have relation of pervader-pervaded, ruler-ruled, parent-child etc.
Q: Do soul and Ishwar ever unite as One or always stay separate?
A: Soul and Ishwar are never separate. Because as discussed earlier, Ishwar pervades within and outside soul. Thus soul can never ever separate from Ishwar.
But that does not mean soul becomes Ishwar ever. If that were so, it would have happened already. After all soul and Ishwar exist from beginninglessness.
However when soul burns all seeds of ignorance, it acts completely in sync with Ishwar. Now in such a situation, soul becomes completely Ishwar-oriented in same manner as a hot piece of iron becomes a ball of fire within a big fire. This is the state of ultimate bliss or Mukti.
For more details on this, refer More on Vedic God.
Q: Ok, I got it. I understand what is soul and what is its relation with Ishwar. But what do I need to do in this life? What is its purpose?
A: We shall discuss all this in details subsequently. However to put briefly, the purpose of this life is to achieve ultimate bliss or Mukti through right actions.
Q: How do I know what are right actions?
A: Right actions are those actions which are as per Dharma. Dharma is NOT religion. Dharma means natural traits. For example, to burn is natural trait or Dharma of fire. To wet is Dharma of water. Similarly there are natural traits or Dharma of souls. However due to ignorance, this understanding and acting according to Dharma fades in us. But if you notice, that inner voice always keeps guiding you. When you start following that inner-voice, rest of the things fall in line automatically.
You will find that it is unnatural for you to do fraud, to be cruel, to be characterless, to not be patriotic, to be lazy and so on. As and when we start getting natural, we feel the urge to do more and more natural things – to be disciplined, to put efforts, to be compassionate, to be truthful, to be patriotic, to seek knowledge of Vedas, model life accordingly and move fast towards ultimate bliss. All these are thus natural Dharma. This may take one life, two lives, several lives and Ishwar will ensure that the journey is never broken.
We shall discuss these in more details later. But keep one thing in mind – Vedic wisdom is completely intuitive. The knowledge already resides in you as Ishwar. So blind belief in completely out of question. This is applicable even to Vedas. However skepticism and needless criticism as shown by communists towards our culture, and doubting everything is also a recipe for regression (opposite of progress).
All those cults who demand blind faith in any book, prophet, angels, heaven, hell through fear or lure are for sure demanding you to follow the most wrong actions that one can. Stay away from them!
Q: Nice to know all the details. But I am still not convinced. How do you prove truth of these fancy hypothesis?
1. We never promised that we would convince you. We simply presented knowledge of Vedas in most logical manner to best of our intent and capabilities. Conviction would come only through your own efforts and we can no way interfere in that process.
All we can recommend is to evaluate all the existing ideologies of the world, scrutinize them and think why should we believe in them. Include Atheism also. And assess why and how they are better than what Vedas – the oldest and most preserved texts of the world – offer. Also consider that if any one of them seems more appealing, why is another not appealing? Is it merely a personal choice or something more logical?
2. Whatever has been presented is most intuitive from observations in the world. We know we exist, we know that the whole world including our body is being managed in most ordered manner, we know that noble acts bring us bliss, we feel that natural urge to do something productive etc etc. As and when we get rid of bad sanskaars and control mind better, all this knowledge becomes more and more intuitive.
3. And finally there is no compulsion to believe arbitrarily and blindly. So simply accept truth and reject falsehood and steer ahead!
In next lessons, we shall discuss concepts of creation and then move to concept of salvation, how to achieve it and understand Law of Karma better in the process.
Before we end, an amazing message from Aitreya Brahman 7.15 of Rigveda for all the souls:
“One who does not put noble efforts tirelessly and relentlessly cannot achieve prosperity and glory. A lazy person who only thinks but does not do anything significant, gets destroyed due to this greatest sin. Ishwar helps only him who puts the best efforts. Hence keep walking, keep walking.
A laborious person makes his body strong and his soul becomes deserving of greatest fruits of actions. Efforts destroy all road-blocks. Hence keep walking, keep walking.
What is destiny? One who sits also makes his destiny seated. One who sleeps puts his destiny into slumber. One who walks forces his destiny also to move forth. Hence keep walking, keep walking.
When one sleeps, it is Kaliyug. When one wakes up, it is Dwapar. When he stands, it is Treta and once he gets into action, he creates Satyug. Hence keep walking, keep walking.
Only one who walks gets sweetness and bliss of honey. Only one who walks achieves sweet fruits of action. Look at sun, it never stops and keeps moving. Hence keep walking, keep walking.”
May my country and entire humanity start walking in right direction, dazzle like bright sun and bring Satyug immediately. O Ishwar! Please make us work to our best to fulfill this ambition very soon.
This article is also available in Gujarati at http://agniveer.com/5714/understanding-self-hinduism-gu/