What is a Soul?

What is a Soul?

The topic of souls came up in conversation with friends. In the west, we debate if animals have souls and talk of loosing one’s soul, splitting the soul, and so forth. A lot of that is confusing a sense of self driven by mind with the eternal, untouchable soul.

The Vedas contain several philosophies with some variation on this topic. But generally, soul is seen as equivalent to jiva, a living being with life force. In other words, a dog and a plant have a soul but a chair does not. Even though everything arises in and of consciousness, it takes a jiva to activate a chakra system and allow life force to move through a being. When we die, the jiva leaves and the body becomes inert and lifeless.

But a dog or plant have different levels of expression of a soul. For example, how many senses does a life form express? How much self-awareness does it have?

As humans, we can do well on that count. We can experience our soul as breath and as a light in the heart. But the second requires some refined perception and some clearing of protective resistance.

Jiva or soul is distinct from ego. Ahamkara is the sense of individuality that comes from the intellect recognizing the distinction of self and other. This arises as a process in childhood as we distinguish ourselves as distinct from objects and mother.

The difficulty arises when we identify with that distinction; when our sense of self is driven by our sense of individuality. This leads to separation, conflict, and so forth. Based in the mind, it also leads to a lot of stories.

The Vedas see Jiva as a subset of Atman, the universal Self or universal soul. Atman is defined here as universal consciousness aware of itself.

In the experience here, Consciousness (atman) is aware of itself both globally and at every point. Each of those points has the potential to become a jiva, expressed into a living being – but not all of them are.

What determines which become jivas? I’d describe that as divine shaktis, the flows of divinity that bring intelligence, direction, and form into neutral consciousness.

Shakti stirs Shiva. Consciousness awakens to its own fullness.

Without a jiva, there is no life. Without consciousness, there is no jiva. Without Divinity, there is no alive consciousness which creates life. Our very breath depends on Divinity.

Note that our soul is joined to divinity by a thread that comes down through the top of the head within sushumna. It comes down through the layers of creation, connecting us together. It’s like the soul is a leaf on a massive tree. There is also a second thread that comes in directly from divinity into the chest, grounding the soul in this form.

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    1. Thanks, Gayatri

      The key is samadhi. This connects us with inner Being and cleanses the windows of perception. For that, I recommend an effortless mantra meditation. This can be supplemented with other limbs of yoga like Asana and Pranayama. And it can be useful to have a bit of targeted healing.

      If you browse the Practices section on the Key Posts tab above, you’ll see some of the commentary on practices.

      As perception is cleansed and refined, such things become apparent.

    1. Hi Guru

      Not sure what you mean by “consciousness thread” but if you mean the 2 threads mentioned in the Update I can add a bit more.

      Essentially, there is a thread or sutra that comes down from the top of creation, branching periodically as it comes down into our universe, our type of being, etc. At the end is our soul that travels though lives.

      Late in a pregnancy, that thread enters the top of the head and the soul is placed in the heart bringing the soul into the body and preparing it for birth. The path of the soul and the path of the bloodline/ DNA are integrated.

      Prior to that, the fetus lives off the mothers energy. After this, the fetus prepares to have it’s own prana or life-force.

      There is a distinct thread perpendicular to this that’s more subtle. It comes in through the front of the chest. It connects the soul directly with the Divine without all the branches. It doesn’t have a function like life force – it’s simply a connection.

      The first is often talked about. The second much less so.

  1. Guru

    What is location of divinity? what is status of these threads during deep sleep? what is their role in awakening? I am dying to know as these things are either kept secret or very few experience. you are blessed with these beings or experiences. as usual thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Guru
      We are immersed in Divinity. It is everywhere but more subtle even than consciousness and our sense of being. All experiences can be said to arise from a song of Divinity and the response of consciousness to that song. Our soul can also be said to be a song too, a specific frequency.

      The threads don’t go anywhere in sleep. They anchor the life in this body. I’ve heard it said that some travel in their dreams and remain attached to their physical body by a thread. This would be a coarser thing.

      At a certain point, when presence is established we would only be moving within ourselves, within infinite consciousness. Then the attention simply falls back to its default jiva.

      The threads don’t have a role in awakening. That is by grace, the Divine itself. However, I did notice quite a few devata that resided along that upper thread, left after i woke up. Apparently, it was their job to help prepare the ground.

      Such things did used to be rare and little talked about. The texts that describe them have not been understood. But times have changed and the experiences are becoming much more common.

      I’ve been called to talk about this stuff but I know others who have been asked not to.

      And yes, it is a blessing. One mainly given by getting out of the way as much as possible. 🙂

  2. Guru

    Spontaneity and depth of your understanding is evident in your answer. i intuitively knew that song of soul which I hear. i loved that attention falling back to default jiva. you covered divinity, soul and jiva lucidly. i had those experiences of devatas working on me. happy to know that it was real. Thanks to divine it has chosen you to disseminate all this pure stuff.

    1. Song of the soul is also known as our true name. They are short but packed with overtones that amplify certain laws of nature here. Have an article on the topic underway.

      You’re welcome. Not sure I’d ever call writing pure though. There’s an old Vedic saying – Knowledge in books remains in books. Unless it is also your experience, words are interpreted to meet the needs of the reader. 🙂

  3. Pete

    Sometimes I ask myself; what is the source of this particular perception? and it feels as though i trace it through the body, back to the heart centre.

    I know that Self, is considered to be everywhere, and at times teachers will say, rest in the heart, which I take to be non local…but also somehow connected to this particular heart in this particular body.

    Recently reading about cosmic geometry it was said that every form has a centre, a single point, and every centre is shared/ the same.

    Could you elaborate on this?

    1. Hi Pete
      Yes, Self is consciousness. We dwell in an ocean of it and all forms and experiences arise in it.

      The heart is many-layered. There is a local physical heart, a heart chakra which is associated with the causal or celestial level where the universe is first becoming, and there is the heart mahamarma, what might be called cosmic heart. There are further values I’ve mentioned in other articles.

      So yes, the heart is both local, the seat of our soul, and the fulcrum between our individual nature (lower 3 chakras) and universal nature (upper 3).

      On the point, yes. From the perspective of universal consciousness, it is aware of itself both globally (totality) and at every point within itself. Each of those points can be said to be the center of something. That center is both universal consciousness and consciousness focused to a point. Infinity and locality together.

      A point enlivened in a life form is the soul. That is never separate from the whole just focused.

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