Existence of the Soul—Fact or Fantasy?

By Yamuna Sundari dasi

The first step to attain perfection in life is understanding who we are. This process is called self-realisation where we realise the intricacies of our inner self.

Are we only a bunch of chemicals or something beyond them? Dr. Harry Monsen, Professor of Anatomy at Illinois College of Medicine says: “Most of the human body is water. In a 60 Pound person there are about 5 pounds of calcium, 1.5 pounds of Phospate, 9 ounces of Potassium, 6 ounces of Sulphur and Sodium, 1 ounce of Magnesium and less than an ounce of iron, copper and iodine.”

The valid question that arises is whether our human body is just a bundle of chemicals that have been aligned together by chance and are exhibiting various emotions? Is the love one feels for their parents simply some chemical secretion? Are emotions like happiness, distress, fear, anger merely a synthetic reaction?

If we analyse Death, nobody likes to perceive or stay connected with a dead body and thereby all provisions are made to discard, bury or burn the dead body. However, the irony is that when the body is alive we praise it, decorate it, spend unlimited money to preserve and beautify it, but contradictory as it is, the true value is in the living forcewhich maintains the body. The body is a combination of earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego. Nonetheless, the most significant aspect of the body is the soul which is the active principle that combines all these elements together and gives it sustenance.

There is a beautiful story of a bird entrapped in a cage. The owner used to clean and decorate the cage in an excellent fashion. It was exquisite, gold-plated and bedecked with jewels and diamonds. Apparently, there was a bird inside the cage who was thin, lean, and weak and starving as the owner forgot to feed the bird. Gradually with time, the health of the bird began to deteriorate due to malnutrition and dehydration, and the bird as a result died. If we ponder upon this story, it is sorrowful that the owner neglected the bird and only looked after the cage, but in reality, we are somewhere doing the same mistake to keep an eye on the demands of the body but neglect the callings of our inner self.

There are different methods to understand this mystery of the soul which is characterised by the symptom called Consciousness. The first method relies on Common Sense. For instance, we always remark ‘My hand’, ‘My eyes’ , ‘My finger’, so a thoughtful person would contemplate that who is the ‘Me’ behind the hand, eyes and finger as we never exclaim as ‘I hand’ or ‘I eyes’. We can also review the scenario of when someone dies, we often cry out as ‘This person has gone’—so the catch is to evaluate that if the body is lying there before us, who actually left the body and made it lifeless? If we compare the lens of a material object like a Camera and the eyes of Judge, we can see that the eyes of the Camera would have no experience, emotions or consciousness, whereas a living person like a Judge would see things from a different perspective. Some may argue that the soul cannot be perceived by material eyes. This is a fact. Just as a person cannot experience an atom without scientific training, similarly, a person cannot experience the soul without spiritual training.

The second method is by taking evidence from Science based on facts like Near-Death Experience/ Out-of-Body Experience and Past-life Memories. 11-14% of the average American population who are mentally and physically healthy have had an Out-of-Body Experience (Medical Journal of Current Problems in Pediatrics). A factual case recorded by the Missouri Medicine from the International Association for Near-Death Studies of the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine, cites about a man who fell from a horse and hit the treetop, and post the incident, he was out of his body and could see the doctors treating him and meeting his other family members. Ian Stevensonfrom the University of Virginia has done extensive research of over 2000 cases of spontaneous reincarnation or past-life memories. Dr. Jim-Tucker, Director of Division of perpetual studies has recorded numerous incidents of young American children who remember their past lives (aged 2-5 years) and these children can give accurate accounts of their past life memories and references. This is has been documented in his famous book—‘Return to life’.

This knowledge of the soul is not found in academic books, but can be found in the ancient Vedic scriptures. The Bhagavad-gita which is the manual of life states in Chapter 3, Verse 47: “The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.” Chapter 2, Verse 13, Lord Krishna explains: “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change.”

Some look at the soul as amazing, some describe it as amazing and the others are unable to fathom the greatness of the soul. A wise person who wishes to dive deeper into this science will need to approach bonafide scriptures, just like if anyone wishes to learn Accounting, they would follow recognised accounting books.

The nature of the soul is described as Sat, Cit and Ananda, which means eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. This characteristic of the soul looking for spiritual happiness, is generally misunderstood as the body looking for material needs like houses, cars, money, lust and fame. This hankering of happiness from material things leads to frustration and discontentment, and thereby many indulge in intoxication to temporarily forget the miseries of life. We also want a permanent life and do not wish to meet death because of our innate nature to be eternal.

Therefore, the success of this human birth which is precious and very rare, is to inquire on these basic questions of Who Am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going after this life? Who exactly is God? How can I escape this cycle of birth, death, old age and disease? How can I become immortal?

Finding the answers to these questions is the first step in attaining self-realisation, in other words, realising the true value and potential of our existence.

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