The Nature of the Soul

The Nature of the Soul

Ātmasvarūpam
The Nature of the Soul

A part of Infinite Consciousness becomes our own finite consciousness, with powers of discrimination and defini­tion and with false conceptions. He is, in truth, Prajapati and Visva, the Source of Creation and the Universal in us all. This Spirit is consciousness and gives consciousness to the body. He is the driver of the chariot.

Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 2.5. upm, 99


What Is the Nature of Our Individual Soul?

SLOKA 26

Our individual soul is the immortal and spiritual body of light that animates life and reincarnates again and again until all necessary karmas are created and resolved and its essential unity with God is fully realized. Aum.

BHĀSHYA

Our soul is God Śiva’s emanational creation, the source of all our higher functions, including knowledge, will and love.

Our soul is neither male nor female. It is that which never dies, even when it’s four outer sheaths—physical, prāṇic, in­stinctive and mental—change form and perish as they natur­ally do.

The physical body is the annamāyā kośa.

The prāṇic sheath of vitality is the Prāṇamāyā kosa.

The instinctive-intel­lectual sheath is the manomaya kośa.

The mental, or cognitive, sheath is the vijñānamaya kośa.

The inmost soul body is the blissful, ever-giving-wisdom ānandamaya kośa.

Parāśaktī is the soul’s superconscious mind—God Śiva’s mind. Paraśiva is the soul’s inmost core. We are not the physical body, mind or emotions. We are the immortal soul, ātman.

The sum of our true existence is Ānandamāyā kośa and its essence, Parāśaktī and Paraśiva.

The Vedas expostulate:

“The soul is born and unfolds in a body, with dreams and desires and the food of life. And then it is reborn in new bodies, in accordance with its former works. The quality of the soul determines its fu­ture body; earthly or airy, heavy or light.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.

How Is Our Soul Different from Śiva?

SLOKA 27

Our soul body was created in the image and likeness of the Primal Soul, God Śiva, but it differs from the Primal Soul in that it is immature. While Śiva is un-evolutionary perfection, we are in the process of evolving. Aum.

BHĀSHYA

To understand the mysteries of the soul, we distinguish between the soul body and its essence.

As a soul body, we are individual and unique, different from all others, a self-effulgent being of light which evolves and matures through an evolutionary pro­cess.

This soul body is of the nature of God Śiva, but is differ­ent from Śiva in that it is less resplendent than the Primal Soul and still evolving, while God is un-evolutionary perfection.

We may liken the soul body to an acorn, which contains the mighty oak tree but is a small seed yet to develop.

The soul body matures through experience, evolving through many lives in­to the splendor of God Śiva, ultimately realizing Śiva totally in nirvikalpa samadhi.

Even after Self Realization is attained, the soul body continues to evolve in this and other worlds un­til it merges with the Primal Soul, as a drop of water merges with its source, the ocean. Yea, this is the destiny of all souls without exception.

The Vedas say:

“As oil in sesame seeds, as butter in cream, as water in river beds, as fire in friction sticks, so is the ātman grasped in one’s own self when one searches for Him with truthfulness and austerity.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.

How Is Our Soul Identical with Śiva?

SLOKA 28

The essence of our soul, which was never created, is im­manent love and transcendent reality and is identical and eternally one with God Śiva. At the core of our being, we already are That — perfect at this very moment. Aum.

BHĀSHYA

At the core of the subtle soul body is Parāśaktī, or Satchidānanda, immanent love; and at the core of that is Paraśiva, transcendent reality.

At this depth of our being there exists no separate identity or difference—all are One. Thus, deep with­in our soul we are identical with God now and forever.

These two divine perfections are not aspects of the evolving soul, but the nucleus of the soul which does not change or evolve.

From an absolute perspective, our soul is already in non-dual union with God, but to be realized to be known. We are That. We do not become That.

Deep within this physical body, with its turbulent emotions and getting-educated mind, is pure perfection identical to Śiva’s own perfections of Parāśaktī and Paraśiva.

In this sacred mystery we find the paradoxes of oneness and twoness, of being and becoming, of created and uncreated existence subtly delineated. Yea, in the depth of our being, we are as He is.

The Vedas explain:

“The one control­ler, the inner Self of all things, who makes His one form man­ifold, to the wise who perceive Him as abiding in the soul, to them is eternal bliss—to no others.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.

One gift of spiritual awakening is to see oneself in all things, animate and inanimate. Abhaktaexperiences this Satchidānanda, realizing his soul’s essence as the core of existence, witnessing the truth that he is, and always was, That—God within all.

Why Are We Not Omniscient Like Śiva?

SLOKA 29

The three bonds of āṇava, karma and māyā veil our sight. This is Śiva’s purposeful limiting of awareness which allows us to evolve. In the superconscious depths of our soul, we share God Śiva’s all-knowingness. Aum.

BHĀSHYA

Just as children are kept from knowing all about adult life un­til they have matured into understanding, so too is the soul’s knowledge limited. We learn what we need to know, and we understand what we have experienced.

Only this narrowing of our awareness, coupled with a sense of individualized ego, allows us to look upon the world and our part in it from a practical, human point of view.

Pāśa is the soul’s triple bond­age: maya, karma and āṇava.

Without the world of māyā, the soul could not evolve through experience.

Karma is the law of cause and effect, action and reaction governing māyā.

Āṇava is the individuating veil of duality, source of ignorance and finitude.

Māyā is the classroom, karma the teacher, and āṇava the student’s ignorance.

The three bonds, or malas, are given by Lord Śiva to help and protect us as we unfold. Yet, God Śiva’s all-knowingness may be experienced for brief periods by the meditator who turns within to his own essence.

The Tirumantiram explains:

“When the soul attains Self-knowledge, then it becomes one with Śiva. The malas perish, birth’s cycle ends and the lustrous light of wisdom dawns.” Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.

How Do Hindus Understand Moksha?

SLOKA 30

The destiny of all souls is moksha, liberation from rebirth on the physical plane. Our soul then continues evolving in the Antarloka and Śivaloka, and finally merges with Śiva like water returning to the sea. Aum Namaḥ Śivāya.

BHĀSHYA

Moksha comes when earthly karma has been resolved, dharma well performed and God fully realized.

Each soul must have performed well through many lives the Varṇa dharmas, or four castes, and lived through life’s varied experiences in order to not be pulled back to physical birth by a deed left undone.

All souls are destined to achieve moksha, but not necessarily in this life. Hindus know this and do not delude themselves that this life is the last.

While seeking and attaining profound realizations, they know there is much to be done in fulfilling life’s other goals (Puruṣārthas): dharma, righteousness; artha, wealth; and kāma, pleasure.

Old souls renounce worldly ambitions and take up sannyāsa in quest of Paraśiva, even at a young age. Toward life’s end, all Hindus strive for Self Real­ization, the gateway to liberation.

After moksha, subtle karmas are made in inner realms and swiftly resolved, like writing on water. At the end of each soul’s evolution comes viśvagrāsa, total absorption in Śiva.

The Vedas say:

“If here one is able to realize Him before the death of the body, he will be lib­erated from the bondage of the world.” Aum Namah Śivaya.


The ātman pervades all like butter hidden in milk. He is the source of Self-knowledge and ascetic fervor. This is the Brāhman teaching, the highest goal!

He who with the truth of the ātman, unified, perceives the truth of Brāhman as with a lamp, who knows God, the unborn, the stable, free from all forms of being, is released from all fetters.

The inspired Self is not born nor does He die; He springs from nothing and becomes nothing. Unborn, permanent, unchanging, primordial, He is not destroyed when the body is destroyed.

Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda, Śvetāśvatara Upaniṣad 1.16; 2.15 & 18. ve, 711, 762, 566

There is a spirit which is pure and which is beyond old age and death; and beyond hunger and thirst and sorrow. This is ātman, the spirit in man. All the desires of this spirit are Truth.

It is this spirit that we must find and know; man must find his own soul. He who has found and knows his soul has found all the worlds, has achieved all his desires.

What you see when you look into another person’s eyes, that is the ātman., immortal, beyond fear; that is Brāhman.

Sāma Veda, Chāndogya Upanishad 8.73-4. upm, 121-122

Now, the teaching concerning the ātman: the ātman is below, it is above, it is behind, it is before, it is in the South, it is in the North. The ātman indeed is all that is.

He who sees, reflects and knows this—he has joy in the ātman, he plays with the ātman, he unites with the ātman, his is the bliss of the ātman. He becomes free and is free to move in all the worlds.

But those who think otherwise are ruled by others and their worlds are perishable. They are unfree in all the worlds.

Sama Veda, Chāndogya Upanishad 7.25.2. ve, 740

There are five subtle elements, tanmantra, and these are called elements. There are also five gross elements, Mahābhūtas, and these are called elements. The union of these is called the human body.

The human soul rules the body; but the immortal spiritual soul is pure like a drop of water on a lotus leaf.

The human soul is under the power of the three constituents and conditions of nature, and thus it falls into confusion.

Because of this confusion the soul cannot become conscious of the God who dwells within and whose power gives us power to work.

Kṛishṇa Yajur Veda, Maitrī Upanishad 3.2. upm, 100

He who dwells in the light, yet is other than the light, whom the light does not know, whose body is the light, who controls the light from within—He is the ātman within you.

Śukla Yajur Veda, Brihadaranyaka Upaniṣad 3.7.14. ve, 708

The three impurities are āṇava, maya and the one caused by actions.

Suprabheda Āgama 2.1. sa, 102

Pure consciousness, taking form as knowledge and action, is present in the soul everywhere and always, for the soul is universal in its unfet­tered state.     

Mṛigendra Āgama, Jñāna Pāda  2.A.5. ma, 60

When the state is attained where one becomes Śiva, the malas—the bonds diverse, mental states and experiences that arose for the individ­ualized soul—will all fade like the beams of the moon in the presence of the rising sun.  

Tirumantiram 2314. tm

When Jīva attains the state of neutrality to deeds good and evil, then does divine grace in guru form descend, remove attributes all and implant jñāna that is unto a heavenly cool shade. The Jīva is without egoity, and the impurities three are finished. He is Śiva who all this does.

Tirumantiram 1527. tm

In the primal play of the Lord were Jīvas created. Enveloped in mighty malas were they. Discarding them, they realized themselves and besought the feet of their hoary Lord. Thus they became Śiva, with birth no more to be.         

Tirumantiram 2369. tm

A goldsmith fashions several ornaments out of gold. So God, the great goldsmith, makes many ornaments—different souls—out of the one Universal Spirit.     

Natchintanai, “Seek the Profit...” NT, 11

The ātman is eternal. This is the conclusion at which great souls have arrived from their experience. Let this truth become well impressed in your mind.

Natchintanai, Letter 1. NT, 15