Swamiji has run an entire series of daily messages on the ‘Soul’ — he has given many insights about the Soul and the Self. The object of this post is to see how there is actually no difference between the soul and the self — in fact the soul is the real self.
Atman or the Soul refers to the non-material self, which never changes. It is distinct from both the mind and the external body. This real self is beyond the temporary designations we normally ascribe to ourselves, in terms of race, gender, species and nationality. Ideas of reincarnation are natural extensions of this preliminary concept. Consciousness, wherever it is found, is considered a symptom of the soul, and without it the body has no awareness. This life-giving soul is considered spirit (brahman), differentiating it from inert matter. Belief in the soul is not just theoretical or the property of theologians, but is a worldview expressed by Hindus in all walks of life.
The key points to remember are: The real self is distinct from the temporary body. Material designations do not apply to this eternal soul. The atman is spirit (brahman) — unchanging, eternal and conscious. Consciousness, as spread throughout the body, is a symptom of the soul.
In many discourses you will find that the body is compared to a vehicle and the soul to the driver. For example:
· A car cannot run without a driver. Similarly, the body will not work without the presence of the soul.
· Just as a young child may not realise that each and every car needs a driver for it to move, those without developed knowledge perceive the body but fail to see the soul within.
· The driver may identify with his car and even feel kinship with drivers of a similar model. Similarly, feelings of friendship or enmity arise from identifying with the body.
· The driver develops a deep attachment to the car, so in an accident he commonly cries out “You hit me!” If the soul identifies with the body in the same way, then — preoccupied with the body’s condition — he becomes caught in a web of distress and happiness.
· The driver is not satisfied maintaining the car alone without looking after his own needs. Similarly, looking after the body alone cannot satisfy the soul.
· Although the driver is not the vehicle, he will move according to the nature of the car, namely fast, slow, etc.
· The same driver can get out of one vehicle and drive another. Similarly, the soul leaves one body and enters another.
All forms of yoga and spiritual discipline are aimed at realising the true self. Only when one stops seeking external happiness and looks within, can one perceive the true self. According to the Bhagavad-Gita, this can be achieved not only through study, meditation, and renunciation but also by active and selfless performance of one’s duty.
Based on Hindu Philosophy