“Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.17)
अविनाशि तु तद् विद्धि
येन सर्वम् इदं ततम्
न कश्चित् कर्तुम् अर्हति
avināśi tu tad viddhi
yena sarvam idaṁ tatam
na kaścit kartum arhati
“The soul this. The soul that. I hear about the same things every day. You are not the body. You are Brahman. You are spirit soul.
“After a while, it gets to be tiring. Why is it so important to know the soul? I thought knowledge is not that big of a deal. I thought bhakti is like the mother, and jnana and vairagya, knowledge and renunciation, are her two children. They are looking tired and old.
“They get rejuvenated through hearing Bhagavata Purana, which focuses on devotion to God the person. He is Bhagavan, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is above everyone else. At the same time, He is not above interacting with special people in what is otherwise the material world.
“Why should we constantly be talking about the soul, then? Doesn’t it get a little boring? What is a person to gain from such information?”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that as soon as a person understands the soul, they can realize the existence of God. The key is to know that the soul is there. Otherwise, a person remains in the dark.
They swing between bhoga and tyaga. They are happy at gain and sad at loss. They enjoy the years spent with a beloved elder member of the family. Then, like a strike of lightning, that person is gone. Never to be heard from again, the pain of loss is indescribable.
Lost in the fever of enjoyment and suffering between the paired events of birth and death is the steadiness of the individual. If a person realized the existence of the soul, they would have less reason to lament. They would know that no one actually dies. No one takes birth, either. The body is distinct from the soul. The body is like a set of clothes that get taken off at the end of the day.
वासांसि जीर्णानि यथा विहाय
नवानि गृह्णाति नरो ऽपराणि
तथा शरीराणि विहाय जीर्णान्य्
अन्यानि संयाति नवानि देही
vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya
navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi
tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny
anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī
“As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, similarly, the soul accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.22)
A single lifetime can be taken as a single day, for reference purposes. We don’t say that a person has ceased to exist after they change clothes at night. We don’t think they have become a new person the next day, when they wear something else.
In the same way, the individual carries forward their conceptions of life into the next cycle. The comparison is to air carrying aromas. No one sees the particles travelling from the kitchen to the room upstairs, but I can smell the blueberry muffins that are baking in the oven. This is due to the transport of air.
शरीरं यद् अवाप्नोति
यच् चाप्य् उत्क्रामतीश्वरः
वायुर् गन्धान् इवाशयात्
śarīraṁ yad avāpnoti
yac cāpy utkrāmatīśvaraḥ
vāyur gandhān ivāśayāt
“The living entity in the material world carries his different conceptions of life from one body to another as the air carries aromas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.8)
To realize the existence of the soul is a great achievement for the human being, who is otherwise relegated to a life in illusion. To know the soul is to realize that there is something behind the curtain, so to speak. There is more to life than meets the eye.
The soul is actually in the superior position. Material shifts do not make an impact on its existence. Through this definition, the soul is of a different nature. It is amazing in its ability to withstand the influence of time, which otherwise destroys.
If there is soul at the individual level, there must be something higher. That superior entity is God. It is one way to define Him. Without referring to a specific tradition of spirituality, we can know that God is the Supreme Soul. He is the individual of individuals.
To know God is to understand the craziness of the world around us. Just as the soul is above the changes to the body, so the Supreme Soul is not affected by what takes place in the multitude of universes.
पुनर् आवर्तिनो ऽर्जुन
माम् उपेत्य तु कौन्तेय
पुनर् जन्म न विद्यते
punar āvartino ‘rjuna
mām upetya tu kaunteya
punar janma na vidyate
“From the highest planet in the material world down to the lowest, all are places of misery wherein repeated birth and death take place. But one who attains to My abode, O son of Kunti, never takes birth again.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.16)
The living beings come and go, based on their desires. Bhagavan is always in the transcendental position. His realm is called unmanifest because it never gets destroyed. The souls who go there never have to return.
Never having to return,
From highest realm to earn.
Of Supreme Soul one,
Through His favor won.
Helpful for individual to know,
Further with knowledge to go.
Shastra emphasizing atma when,
Because mind to open then.