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|Sometime in the
journey of life, some of the following questions might have crossed your
mind. Even if they haven't, they eventually will certainly occur!
Who am I? What am I?
What is my real identity?
How do my thoughts and feelings interact with the body?
How can I make my mind powerful?
These are the questions that often come to your mind and remain unanswered. The first lesson of yoga is all about complete understanding of the self, which has remained a mystery that has eluded scientists, philosophers, great thinkers and many other intellectuals.
In order to get a vague idea of this mysterious philosophy, one needs to understand certain basic concepts.
Soul and body
According to the Hindu philosophy, the soul is an immortal and spiritual body of light, the essence of which is eternal, uncreated and identical with God. The soul animates life and reincarnates again and again until all necessary karmas are created and resolved and its essential unity with God is realized. The soul is the atman of the Vedas.
It is the spiritual principle of human beings. The soul is the subject of human consciousness and freedom; soul and body together form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual and immortal, immediately created by God. The soul does not die with the body, from which it is separated by death, and with which it will be reunited in the final resurrection.
Aristotle defines the soul as the perfect expression or realization of a natural body. From this definition it follows that there is a close connection between psychological states, and physiological processes. Body and soul are unified in the same way that wax and an impression stamped on it are unified. Metaphysicians before Aristotle discussed the soul abstractly without any regard to the bodily environment; this, Aristotle believes, was a mistake. At the same time, Aristotle regards the soul or mind not as the product of the physiological conditions of the body, but as the truth of the body -- the substance in which only the bodily conditions gain their real meaning.
The human body is a complex pattern of physical and mental energies. Atomic particles build together to form the organic structures and inorganic minerals, which perform the body's chemical interactions, thus forming the basis of the hormonal and nervous control of the body. What we see as the old or young, ugly or beautiful, male or female, are also the differing levels of physical energies. However marvelous a machine, the body, may be, it is the presence of the non-physical conscious energy, the soul, which makes it function.
What Am I?
I am a living entity different from the body! Just as a person who speaks with the help of a telephone or listens to a call with the help of that instrument, has his entity different from that of the telephone - he himself being a living person who has the faculties or characteristics of feelings, thinking, willing and making effort. Similarly, the conscious entity in the body, which uses the word "I" is different from the body which has eyes, ears, nose etc as its components. I am not the eyes, the ears or the mouth but I see with my eyes, speak through the mouth, hear with the ears and am their master. I am a soul (Atma), which is eternal and immortal. The body is mortal; I have got it to do actions and to experience the result of my actions. I am the doer and the one who experiences.
The soul is like a driver in-charge of the body. The body is nothing but a carriage to the soul. The soul is a diamond, the body being the casket for it. When the soul leaves the body, the body is declared 'dead'. Then people set about cremating it because, it's valuable owner, the soul, has already left and the body is of no use. When the soul has relinquished the body, people say, " the light (which is the soul) has gone, that which lived in it has departed and the drama is over."
Faculties of a Soul
The soul is a living or a sentient being. It is said to be so because it can think and reflect; it can experience pleasure and pain, so also bliss and peace; it can bestir itself and make efforts and actions - good or bad. A soul has three faculties - mind, intellect and predispositions. Mind is the thinking faculty of the soul. It is the mind that imagines, thinks and forms ideas. The thought process is the basis of all emotions, desires and sensations. It is through this faculty that, in an instant, thoughts can be projected to a distant place, past experiences and emotions can be relived or even the future can be anticipated. It is the mind that experiences the variation of moods. The mind is a faculty of the metaphysical soul, not to be confused with the heart or the brain.
Intellect is used to assess thoughts. This is the faculty of understanding and decision-making, which stands out as the most crucial faculty of the three. With the deepening and broadening of the intellect, clear understanding and the realization of the knowledge become natural, and the power to decide and reason becomes clear. It is the intellect, which remembers, discriminates, judges and exercises its power in the form of will.
Predispositions (called Sanskaras in Hindi) are the "impressions" or "subconsciousness" which is the record of all the soul's past experiences and actions. Sanskaras can take the form of habits, talents, emotional temperaments, personality traits, beliefs, values or instincts. Every action as an experience either creates a sanskar ( this is how a habit begins) or reinforces an old one. Whatever impression is etched in the soul remains within it, forming a complete archive of all the experiences that the soul has had. When we speak of defects, specialities or virtues, we are referring to the sanskaras. The sanskaras are the basis of the soul's individuality.
Seat of the Soul
The soul is located in the middle of the forehead in between the two eyebrows. This is the seat of the soul. The brain is the "control-room". Just as a driver controls the car using different parts of the mechanism seated at one place, the soul employs the brain to control the body. Brain is the machine by means of which the soul thinks, remembers, receives messages or gives directions to the sense organs. The brain is the meeting place of all nerves, which carry sensations from all parts of the body to the brain which functions like a control-room and makes the body to work. It is through the brain that the soul experiences physical sensations, pleasure and pain or happiness and sorrow. But, the brain is separate from the soul. Brain is a complex thing made of matter whereas the soul has the life-principle or consciousness.
Nature of Soul
A soul is a tiny, metaphysical, coincident point of spiritual light. There are a finite number of souls. Each soul is eternal. They were never created, and will never be destroyed. Each soul is unique. We are all souls, unique and different and remain so eternally. As such, souls are invisible to the naked eyes, but one can experience its presence. A soul has no gender.
The intrinsic nature of the soul is that of love, peace, happiness, truth, bliss, purity, knowledge and power. Therefore, souls always desire for experiences of these qualities. These are the qualities that naturally emerge when the soul is aware of its existence, or in other words, is soul-conscious.
Body-Consciousness - the root cause of all evils in the world
A person is body conscious when he/she identifies himself or herself with the physical body, ie. when the thinking, feeling, actions and behaviors are with the awareness that he or she is a body. Being body conscious is the root cause of all the evils in the world because the vices like lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego all have their roots in body - consciousness.
Soul - Consciousness - the key for a blissful life
When a person is in the state of awareness that "I am a Soul and not this physical body," then he/she would be in soul consciousness. In other words, the person thinks, feels, acts, behaves, compares with the awareness that he or she is a soul, the master of the body, which is just an instrument. When in soul-consciousness, the original qualities of a soul naturally emerge. Then it is possible to experience lasting peace and bliss.
There are times when thoughts of distress and tension emerge in the mind. There are situations when a person searches for right answers to questions like - Why are we here? Why was I born here? Why am I not as beautiful as my friend? Why did he do that to me? Why is there so much suffering? Why this, why that?
The answers lie in one eternal truth - based on the Law of Karma or the Karma Philosophy - that no one can escape the result of his or her karma. Depending on the bad or good karma or action, one will suffer or enjoy, either in this or the next life. No one can escape the result of his or her karma. The law of Karma is inviolable. So everyone must act with a sense of responsibility. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. So we must acquire right knowledge of what is good and what is bad action. The moral of the story, therefore, is - I have to do right karma for my benefit; it is not for showing it to anyone outside.
Every human action has a moral aspect. If a certain act of a person is morally good, the person always benefits from it. If, on the other hand, his acts are morally bad, he suffers. It would require a lot of space to express what is morally good and bad. But in one sentence, it may be said that, if a person acts under the influence of hatred, anger, lies, prejudice, greed, ego, partiality, lust and other such acts like body-consciousness, then his actions are considered bad or negative. These create disharmony and conflict and sufferings in the society. On the other hand, if a person has a balanced judgment, stability of mind, peace of the spirit and acts with the feeling of love, justice, sympathy, humility and other such actions like soul-consciousness, then his acts are considered good or positive because such acts promote harmony, peace, unity and happy feelings.
The Power of Thought
The most powerful instrument that mankind possesses is the power to think. Thoughts build our consciousness and shape our attitude. One needs to know the importance of thoughts. Every human creation we see in this world is due to powerful thoughts in human minds. Thoughts shape our world. Thoughts are fertilized by knowledge. A person with a certain kind of knowledge usually creates thoughts in harmony with that knowledge. Knowledge gives wisdom. Thoughts without knowledge lead to ignorance.
Every action is preceded by thoughts. The quality of thoughts determines the quality of our karma. The karma in turn has good or bad effect on us. This again influences our thinking. So right thinking based on right knowledge is essential for leading a peaceful and contented life. Raja Yoga meditation helps us in doing the right thinking that leads to righteous actions. This also helps in remaining mentally strong amidst turbulent situations.
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