So, what exactly is the soul? This is a question that has defeated mankind from time immemorial. Theologians, as well as philosophers and mankind in general, have been unable to understand what the soul is fully. Many are in agreement that since it is a term that is mostly abstract, we can only define it by highlighting what is not. Read on as I take you on a journey of understanding the soul according to Bhagavad Gita.
So, what isn’t it?
First, the soul is not the same as our body since our physical form can be replaced or even lost, but our true being shall always remain intact.
Also, the soul is not our thoughts because just like our physical incarnations, our thoughts change from time to time and are intimately affected by the environment in which we find ourselves in, something that the soul does not subscribe to.
Lastly, the soul is not our emotions because emotions change like shifting sand. This moment we may adore a particular person or thing while the next moment, we loathe it to the core.
So, what exactly is the soul?
The soul, according to Bhagavad Gita, is the part within us that animates our physical body and gives rise to ecstatic experiences.
Bhagavad Gita is a revered ancient Sanskrit text that is considered holy in the Hindu and the Vedic religions. In his bid to explain what the soul is, he uses the terms Atma, Jivatm and Paramatma.
What Is Paramatma?
Paramatma is also known as the soul of God, and it can be defined as the larger concept of Life or Divinity. According to Bhagavad Gita, this is also known as the Supreme Soul or the Supersoul, and it has a place in every being, dealing knowledge, remembrance and forgetfulness according to Bhagavad Gita 15:15.
For the mentioned attributes to arise, the soul has to be reincarnated into the present reality, the very physical form which our bodies take. Remembrance enables us to recall that, which has taken place in this and all previous reincarnations while the knowledge allows us to perceive the realities of our current incarnation. This knowledge can also enable us to point the way back Home’’ as we unite in time with the Divine.
Lastly, the attribute of forgetfulness is merely meant to let us focus on what we can achieve in our current incarnation instead of dwelling in what could have transpired in previous incarnations.
Jivatma is the individual soul so, in essence, it is the soul that is responsible for maintaining a sense of individuality as we move through various incarnations.
One thing to remember is that this soul carries with it all the karma of previous incarnations, but unlike the Paramatma, the Jivatma can be distracted by Maya or the illusions that affect this plane of existence.
The Atma can only be defined as the self with capital S. Now; this is the broader concept that encompasses individual souls and the Divine. This is why it is not the Self, concerning my Self, your Self, etc.3 but rather the Self.
Having looked at the three various concepts of the soul, we can safely conclude that the personal souls [Jivatmas] are subject to distractions by passing pleasures and circumstances. On the other hand, the non-personal souls exercise themselves in much higher spheres, and they do not conform to these Mayas.
All in all, when we try understanding the soul according to Bhagavad Gita, we realise that the soul, no matter the form, is not subject to death, emotions, thoughts or any other dynamics of our current incarnations. It is something that existed before this physical incarnation, and it is something that shall remain even when our present incarnations cease to exist.