Raj Kumar Dogra
“Little knowledge is a dangerous thing, goes the saying. Seven big blunders about the soul described here are sure to generate curiosity to know more.”
In the Bhagavad Gita, God, as represented by Shri Krishna, gives Arjuna knowledge about the soul. He tells the pandava warrior that the soul is immortal and immutable. It is neither born nor does it die; the sword cannot cut it, fire cannot burn it, water cannot wet it and the wind cannot dry it.
The above facts about the soul are well-known and widely accepted, but there are also other beliefs, some of which are contrary to the basic attributes of the soul described in the Gita.
We will take a look at seven of these blunders here:
The soul is a particle of God
According to some people the soul is a particle or fragment of God. They believe that the soul has emerged from God and will eventually merge into Him.
This raises several questions. If the soul is a fragment of God, it should have qualities similar to God, but that is not the case at all. On the other hand, God’s qualities, such as compassion, peace, unconditional love, mercy and purity, are conspicuous by their absence in most people today.
Also, if souls are particles of god, does it mean that God is getting fragmented? And since the human population is increasing, meaning that more souls are taking birth, should we conclude that God is losing more and more of His being? Also, what purpose is served by souls emerging from God and then merging into Him if the souls do not show or use God’s qualities while in this world?
The soul is ever pure
Many believe that the soul always remains pure irrespective of the kind of actions it performs. According to them, it is the body that bears the consequences of all actions. This belief lies behind the practice of people taking a dip in ‘holy’ rivers to cleanse themselves of all sins.
If washing away one’s sins were just a matter of taking a dip in a river, why would the pious do penance to achieve purification? The soul carries a record of all actions it performs and experiences it has through successive lives, and bears the consequences thereof. The body is just the medium through which the soul expresses itself and gets various experiences. It is the quality of the soul that makes a person great, ordinary or evil. And the soul may carry its qualities with it over many lives. Child prodigies are souls with skills or talents carried over from their previous life. Similarly, it is not just ‘fate’ if a child is born with a serious ailment – that , too, is the result of the soul’s past actions.
The soul can become pure only when it is aware of its spiritual identity and remembers God, purifier. Such remembrance gradually cleanses the soul of the negative traits it picks up during its journey in this world.
The soul is formless
Since it cannot be seen with physical eyes, the soul is believed by many to be formless. The soul is indeed infinitesimally small. It is like a tiny point of light. The soul’s form and size does not change, though its shade and brightness may vary according to its degree of purity.
The idea that the soul is formless leads many people to believe that God, the Supreme Soul, is also formless. He, too, is a point of light as small as soul, but unlike souls His quality does not vary and He always remains an ocean of virtues, knowledge and power.
The soul is a form of energy
Some who are scientifically inclined say that the soul is energy. It is true that the soul is the source of life for the body – without it the body is a corpse. But the soul is a sentient being that thinks, feels and acts through the body. It is not an inanimate thing like a battery that provides electrical energy to operate a device. The soul not only provides life to the body but also uses it as a medium to express itself. It is an autonomous entity that has free will to act. It is a living source of spiritual energy – the essence of life.
The soul is a part of
Those who believe in universal consciousness or universal mind say that it is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. Through the universal mind everyone can access all knowledge, infinite power and limitless creativity. All these, they say, are present within everyone in their potential form.
If all souls were part of one consciousness, what explains their individuality and widely different ways of thinking and behaviour? And if we all have access to infinite power, why has no one been able to achieve it? All souls have a common home, the soul world, and one Father, the Supreme Soul, but each has a unique consciousness and traits. This uniqueness is manifested even physically – all seven billion humans have unique fingerprints and physical features.
The soul acts as per God’s will
Whenever there is a tragic incident, a commonly heard refrain is: ‘it was God’s will’. Those who say this do so with sorrow and resignation, indicating that God is directing all that is happening in the world and humans are mere puppets in His hands. The same people can be found praising God as infinitely benevolent, merciful, the ocean of love, peace and purity, the remover of sorrow, and the comforter of hearts.
If God, the Father, were directing human actions, would all the evil taking place in the world occur? Can God commit fraud, theft or murder, or wage war? Such a belief is a convenient way of absolving humans of responsibility for their actions. All souls have free will to act and they are solely responsible for their actions. God, like a good teacher, gives guidance on what kind of actions one should perform and makes it clear that we reap what we sow. But it is up to each soul how it conducts its life.
The soul merges in God after liberation
If the soul were to merge in God, it would cease to be. But, as the Gita tells us, the soul is eternal. Liberation does not mean the end of the soul’s existence but the end of suffering. It is experience of pain and sorrow that makes souls seek liberation. No one longs for salvation when they are happy. What souls really look for is freedom from their woes.
Liberation comes from understanding the true nature of the self as a soul and connecting with God by remembering Him. Through this link souls receive god’s power which helps them overcome their weaknesses and regain their original, pure state. In addition, God teaches souls the law of karma, which brings the understanding that we reap what we sow. If we want to be happy, we must perform good deeds. A soul that attains liberation this way is free from sorrow for many births. Souls cannot opt out of the cycle of rebirth, but they can live a life liberated from sorrow.
Because of the above misconceptions about the soul, people are oblivious to the fact that they will have to account for their actions sooner or later, either in their current life or in future lives. They, therefore, take short-sighted decisions that bring them sorrow later on. True spiritual knowledge saves us from making that mistake.
(The author is Meditation and Spiritual Music Therapy expert).
Raj Kumar Dogra