The Existence of the Soul

By Rudra Shivananda

There is a fascination among Western spiritual people to speculate about the existence of God, even though no-one has ever succeeded in proving either that God exists or that God does not exist. Simply, the definition of God is beyond the scope of our logic and mental boundaries. However, closer to home, a question that all sincere seekers should make an effort to ascertain is whether their souls exist and its relationship with reality.

Even the existence of the soul seems to be beyond our current scope of scientific research, just as X-rays would have been to the budding scientists of the 17th century. How else can we approach the soul if we cannot measure it, weigh it, photograph it or write an equation about it? The truth is that we need the soul to exist if there is to be any sense in our search for the true Self… if we have any existence beyond
this lifetime.

Even though there doesn’t seem to be any proof for its existence, most everyone is convinced that they have a soul. We feel that we have a continuous existence that transcends the body and mind – we take it for granted and although we don’t know what it is and how to take care of it, we get worried once in a while about its fate when the body and mind dies. In the west, the concern is whether the soul will go to heaven or hell, whereas in the east, the concern is on the next re-incarnated state.

Even a book would be insufficient to deal with the vast subject of the soul and so we can only touch upon that aspect which is germane as far as Self-realization is concerned, which is the very nature of the soul according to the sages of yogic wisdom. The soul is called the jiva and is neither eternal nor unchanging – it is the capacity of the soul-jiva to evolve that is of greatest interest to all sincere spiritual seekers.

It is the existence of this soul-jiva that is the cause of human suffering because it is only the apparent self – the self that is subject to karma and is reborn over and over again. The soul-jiva is hypnotized by the ego and enmeshed by the five senses. The soul-jiva has taken up a relative existence in matter.

person holding game pads

However, the soul-jiva is only a reflection, albeit a sentient reflection of the soul-atma which is spirit, eternal and unchanging. It is the soul-atma that is the true Self. This is somewhat analogous to the hypothetical situation when a character in a role playing video-game has so disengaged itself from the actual player that it seems to have a mind of its own and engages in the game without the active participation of the player who only watches and may sometimes give some guidance! The character is still subject to the rules of the game and cannot “see or know” beyond its limitations.

Of course, this analogy breaks down quite easily but it does give a sense to the human dilemma as far as the souljiva and soul-atma is concerned.

The process of yogic awakening and in fact for all spiritual awakening is the progressive expansion of the consciousness or awareness of the souljiva until it realizes it is really One with the soul-atma. At this stage, the souljiva gives up its apparent existence and there is only the soul-atma – this is the dissolution of the apparent self and the realization of the True-Self, which has never been enmeshed in matter, and which is spirit.

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