"Both the Supersoul [Paramatma] and the atomic soul [jivatma] are situated on the same tree of the body within the same heart of the living being, and only one who has become free from all material desires as well as lamentations can, by the grace of the Supreme, understand the glories of the soul." (Katha Upanishad, 1.2.20)
There are two distinct souls within every living entity. The regular soul represents our identity and the Supersoul, known as the Paramatma, represents Krishna, or God. We are a part and parcel of God, thus we are qualitatively the same as Him. However, quantitatively, God is much more powerful.
God is all-knowing, all-caring, all-feeling, and all-powerful. He knows the past, present, and future of every living entity. On the battlefield of Kurukshetra some five thousand years ago, Lord Krishna declared this very fact to His disciple, cousin, and dear friend Arjuna. On the eve a great war, in hopes of easing his bewildered mind, Arjuna took spiritual instruction from Krishna. The Lord explained the meaning of life to him in a song famously known as the Bhagavad-gita. One of the key points stressed by Krishna was that the soul never takes birth and never dies. Both He and Arjuna had lived before and would live again after their current lives. Arjuna was quite baffled by this fact, for he couldn’t remember any of his previous lives. Not only that, but Lord Krishna also informed him that at the beginning of time, He had educated the sun god, Vivasvan, on the same tenets of religion. Arjuna couldn’t understand how Krishna could remember such an incident which took place millions of years in the past. Krishna explained that as God, He could remember all previous births of not only Himself, but of every living entity. This is the definition of God. God is not only great, but He is the greatest. Nothing can be put past him. A living entity has limits to its power. “To ere is human” is the famous phrase. Krishna has no errors.
Consciousness represents the existence of the regular soul, the jivatma. This soul is present in every living entity, even in the animals, a fact which has been rejected or overlooked by most of the major religions of the world today. They believe that because animals either have no soul or have different types of souls, it is okay to unnecessarily kill them for food. However, we see that an animal eats, sleeps, mates, and defends just like a human being does. It takes birth, grows old, contracts diseases, and then eventually dies. Animals feel pain, happiness, and sadness. They also have consciousness, so it is incorrect to say that they don’t have souls. This consciousness proves the existence of the soul, for as soon as the soul departs, the body of the living entity becomes useless. It starts to smell and rot, and people are forced to either burn the body or bury it in a cemetery. Therefore we can conclude that it was the spirit soul inside that was important, providing the life force to the gross material body.
The consciousness of the living entity is different from the Supreme consciousness, manifest as the Supersoul. As mentioned before, the living entity has a tendency to forget. We have trouble remembering what we ate for lunch or dinner the previous day, but the Supersoul remembers everything, acting as a witness to all our activities. Every living entity is subject to four general defects, with the tendency to commit mistakes being one of them.
Since the Paramatma, or Supersoul, is an expansion of God Himself, the goal of human life is to connect our consciousness with that of the Supreme. This isn’t very easy to accomplish since maya, the illusory power that pervades the material world, is constantly leading us to become attached to the material world. The key is to foster renunciation and detachment from mundane sense gratification. In the past, this was achieved through the mystic yoga process. Lord Krishna briefly describes the proper way to perform meditational yoga in the Bhagavad-gita. There are many stringent rules required for one to successfully meditate. One has to be in a secluded place, sitting upright on a deerskin rug, so as to keep insects away. The most important rule is that one has to become completely celibate. Sex pleasure is the ultimate type of sense gratification, and therefore the greatest hindrance to those seeking spiritual advancement. In fact, the entire Vedic regulatory system, from marriage on down, is designed to regulate this sex desire. We see today that yoga is a very popular fad, known more for being an exercise routine than a spiritual activity. “Please meditate for 15-20 minutes, then spend the rest of the day involved in sensual activities such as meat eating, intoxication, and sex pleasure.” In this way, the yoga performed is essentially a waste of time.
The meditational yoga system is very hard to perfect in the present age. For this reason, there are other, more effective ways to connect with the Supersoul. The best method is the process known as bhakti yoga, or devotional service. God’s ultimate feature is that of Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. This is the Lord’s original form, known as sac-cid-ananda-vigraha, His eternal body full of bliss and knowledge. In our conditional state, we can acquire knowledge of various subjects and can also be blissful from time to time, but more or less, we are in ignorance due to contact with this material world. God is full of knowledge and bliss all the time. When we see pictures of the Lord or His deity in a temple, He is always blissful. Krishna is happy playing His flute or dancing with the gopis. Lord Rama is smiling while holding his bow and arrow, ready to give protection to His devotees. Even Lord Narasimha Deva, who is known for His violent act of killing the demon Hiranyakashipu, is happy protecting His devotee Prahlada. These forms of God, with the original being Krishna, are all non-different from the Lord Himself. By lovingly serving the Supreme Personality of Godhead, we can automatically come into contact with the Supreme Consciousness since Bhagavan and Paramatma represent the same person.
Great personalities of the past have achieved perfection by following the principles of bhakti yoga. Hanuman, Prahlada, and the gopis of Vrindavana all worshiped the Lord as Bhagavan. If we follow their example, we are sure to become aware of our real nature, that of a spirit soul eternally existing as part and parcel of God.