Sikh Research and Education Center
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Status of the Soul
"Wondrous and peerless is the Gospel of the Lord; the Soul is the very form of Transcendent God. (Pause) Neither is this Soul old, nor young. Neither it suffers sorrows, nor is caught in the Yama's noose. Neither it is wasted away, nor it dies. It has ever been in existence. Neither it knows heat, nor cold. Neither it befriends any, nor is it estranged from another. Neither it is in joy, nor in pain; yea every thing belongs to it, every thing is under its sway. Neither it has any father, nor it has any mother, for it has come down from eternity. It is affected neither by virtue nor sin. It is ever Awake in every one. *The matter of three qualities gave birth to Maya or Illusion. The great ignorance prevails on account of this. The Lord is Undeceivable, Mysterious and Compassionate. He is Merciful to the meek. He is ever Beneficent and Kind. No one can tell His Expanse or the State. So Nanak is ever a sacrifice unto his Lord."* Matter has the following three qualities as already described -
Sri Kabir Ji, in Gond Rag, page 871 of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, also states -
"Neither is my Soul human, nor angelic. Neither it is ascetic, nor a Shaivite. Neither it is yogi, nor a sanyasin. Neither it has a mother nor it is the son of any one. Then, what is it that abides in the body of man? Nay, no one can find its limits. (Pause).Soul is the Light of God and has the same Divine Qualities. Soul is Nirlaip" or Detached like God and is not affected by one's sins or virtues; although abiding in creature, giving them life and sustaining them. Nothing can be added or taken out from the Qualities of God or Soul. Then, how Soul can be in bondage, that too by the actions of Mind, Its creation? In Sikh Scriptures it is addressed as "SATGURU". Hardly there is any passage or stanza in the Scriptures where submission to Satguru in complete devotion and love for Spiritual Bliss and for union of our Mind or Self or Stream of Consciousness with the Transcendent Absolute God, is not mentioned. The Gurus repeatedly and emphatically state that one cannot attain union with Transcendent Absolute God without self realization or reflecting his Mind on God's Ray of Light in him, called Satguru.
Neither it is a house-holder, nor one who renounced world. Neither it is a king, nor a beggar. Neither it has a body, nor it has a drop of blood. It is neither a Brahmin, nor ever a Kshatriya. Neither it is a man of austerity, nor a Sheikh. Neither it lives nor it dies. If someone cries that it has died, he loses honor being so unwise. I have found the Path by His Grace and obliterated the experience of both birth and death. Kabir says, This Soul is of the Same Essence as is Lord. It lives ever, as does the indelible ink on paper."
"Look upon the Guru and God as One, and accept whatever be His Will."
(Sri Guru Arjan Dev Ji, Rag Gond, page 684, Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
"My True Guru is Eternal and Forever; He neither comes (takes birth) nor goes (dies), He is Everlasting Pursha (Person), present in all. Nanak has gathered the Riches of the Lord's Name and has kept his capital stock whole. The Guru has blessed him in His mercy and he has been approved at the Lord's Court."
(Sri Guru Ram Das Ji, Rag Suhi, page 759 , Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
"The Guru and God are One - God pervades everywhere and abides in every one. They, for whom it was so writ, dwell on the Lord's Name. Nanak seeks the refuge of the Guru, Who ever lives; neither He is born nor dies". . 4.30.100.
(Sri Guru Arjan Dev, Sri Rag, page 53, SGGS)
"O lady gardener, you pluck leaves from plants, but in every leaf there is Life (God is present in them). The stone for which you pluck the leaves, is lifeless. (1)
The lady gardener is gravely mistaken. God, the True Guru (Satguru) is present in the leaves, is the Living Master. (1) Pause."
"Paati torai maalani paati paati jeeyo
Jis paahan kau paati torai, so paahan nirjeeyo. (1)
Bhooli maalani hai eyo
Satgur jaagta hai deo (1) Rahao."
(Sri Kabir Ji, Rag Asa, page 479, Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
"Your Light pervades all. From that Light You are known. Through Love we meet with You, all too spontaneously. Nanak says : I am a sacrifice to my Friend (God), the Embodiment of Truth, Who meets with me in my very home."
"Sagli jot jaata tu soyee miliya bhaaye subhaaye. Nanak saajan kau bal jayeeyai saach mile ghar aaye."
(Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji, Rag Suhi, page 765, Sri Guru Granth Sahib)
It is through God's Light that an organism comes into existence. One takes birth, grows, sees, hears, thinks, speaks and performs varied deeds so long God sustains him. As soon as God takes out His Light from the organism, it becomes dead. Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in a stanza in Gauri Rag, page 152, SGGS teaches us as under -
"O man, it is the union of air, water and fire, how your body is created under God's Command. The body is brought to play at the behests of your restless intellect. There are the Nine Doors or openings to the body (their irrational use leads to varied types of sensual pleasures. These are - two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, mouth and two excretory and urino-genital openings). There is the Tenth Door (hidden), where abides God's Light. (This Door opens, when God blesses a person to efface totally his mind (self) to enter this Door to attain union with Him). O wiseman, understand this Truth. It is God, Who makes discourses and speaks and hears. The one, who makes self analysis, he alone is a wiseman. (1) Pause.God has created this Universe, and put everything in it to begin with. Nothing is lost and nothing can be added to it. Sri Guru Nanak Dev states in stanza 31 of JUP: "God is present everywhere and everywhere are His stalls. He put what He willed in them once for all - aasan lohe lohe bhandar, jo kich paya so aika var." Nothing can be added and nothing is lost. What is here has always been here, or gathered up from the dust of the Universe. Energy changes matter, alters it, evolves it and then destroys it, under His Will; the extent of basic elements remain unchanged.
The body is merely dust and the breath is the wind. O wiseman, try to understand, as to who ever dies. The death is verily of the strife ridden ego and the stream of consciousness or the mind (both body and mind have arisen from the Five Elements - earth, air, water, fire and space). God's Light, the Seer within the body (Who gives life to it) does not die. (2)
There is no point in visiting holy places in search of Him, when in reality He abides within you. The Pundit vainly reads and re-reads his religious books, then argues and raises unnecessary controversies, as he does not know that the most Valuable Jewl (God) within him. (3)
It is not my real self, which dies, but only the demons of the distracting forces of Ego and ignorance, which die. How can one who lives in Him die? Nanak says, God's Light (Guru in me) has revealed to me this Mystery of the Lord, that birth and death is merely the phenomenal change, as real man does not die and nothing is lost." (4)
Prevalent notions about the Soul are vague, unphilosophic and incorrect. No distinction is made in common parlance between the mere passing states of consciousness and the Soul (God in man), which is that permanent spiritual being on which these states are combined. It is commonly believed, that the spirit means something changeable, ephemeral, unreal, whereas according to the Sikh Teachings the very reverse is true. The world of form, the phenomenal, is the impermanent, devoid of essential reality, while spirit is that which is alone unchangeable and real in the absolute sense It is regrettable that even the Sikhs make wrong exposition of the Sikh teachings. Sikhs also say about Soul, as the people of other religions say about it. The translations made so far of the Sikh Scriptures are also incorrect in this respect. No wonder that the critics of Sikhism have been and are maligning the revered Gurus as self-indulgent self adulators inconsistent in their approach to Divinity.
Salvation of Soul is a common belief in people. All the religions reflect this belief. Soul, being God's Light in man, cannot possibly need salvation from anything, since it can never be better or degenerated, like God. Much of this vagueness rises from confusion of terms as well as ideas. What is generally thought of the Soul, is not the Soul at all, but merely the Stream of Consciousness. Nothing is more important than to clearly understand this distinction, and to do this we must divest ourselves of unphilosophic ideas in which we have grown up and which we have accepted without any thought on this subject. The true spiritual philosophy is the root idea of the permanence of the Soul, the real man, in distinction to the changing consciousness. If it were not for the Soul, which is the absolute and unchangeable background of consciousness, man could not be said to have any real identity at all, for consciousness itself is merely a flowing stream.
In our various states of Mind we are more or less aware of an "I", who is conscious. I am now aware that my Mind is reflecting on this subject. Who is this "I"? - who is observing the stream of consciousness like a spectator on the banks of a river. Who is this in the background of my idea of self? It is the self as the knower - the thinker - while the stream of consciousness at any given moment is the self as known - the empirical ego. The self as knower - the Soul - is one and unchangeable. It is that by which we are conscious; that which gives us the identity as "I", "me", and sense of distinction "he", "you". It is the Soul upon which the various states of Mind or flowing stream of Consciousness are combined to give the identities of various states. This sense of identities and egos would be impossible, if there were nothing permanent upon which to arrive at such an understanding in the running river of conscious pictures. Just as Absolute God is All Wise and Eternal, while the creation is of phenomenal nature, subject to changes and dissolution; similarly God's Light in creatures as God Himself, is the Creator, the Eternal, and All Knower, while the body and sensations/passions/instincts are not of lasting nature and are subject to changes, like the phenomenal world.
Our idea of self, then, is in reality dual and includes the self as the knower and the self as the known. Now the self as knower - the Soul - is the subject, not the object of thought, and it is this self which is identical in its nature with the Supreme Knower of the Universe, Whom we call God. As God is Absolute, and out of Time and Space, so is the Soul Absolute. It is one with God and inseparable from Him as the sunbeam is one with the Sun. The sunbeam has no life of its own, but partakes of the life of Sun and whatever may be said of God may be said of the Soul, which is God in us. Sikh Scriptures abound in praise of the Soul (Satguru) in the synonymous terms of God and in loving submission to it. It is unborn, it does not die, it is not sick, does not suffer any pain and so on. It is purity and freedom, as God is purity and freedom. Fear and ignorance, which are the enemies of the world, affect the empirical ego alone and the conditions of consciousness, not of being, precisely as the fog does not obscure the Sun, though it appears to; what it really does is to obscure the Earth.
The Soul (God) is the essential reality in man; for the stream of consciousness, changing every moment, has only that reality of the phenomenal. Know thyself means that we should establish our identity with the Absolute and Unchangeable. If, standing on the bank of a stream, you should imagine yourself to be moving onward with the current, now tossed in the air, now drawn under the waters, your condition would illustrate the usual state of mind. In similar way we observe the passing stream of the phenomenal world and identify ourselves with it, whereas as knower (as real men) are not moved and only act as mere observers.
The Soul is that in us, which does not suffer, it commits no sin, nor does it die, it is one with the Unchangeable Truth, and the problem of life is that we are to learn to identify ourselves or lovingly submit to the Soul (Satguru) and not identify with the phenomenal world. The Soul is the Eternal Knower in us, and is not the subject of consciousness, but by which we have consciousness. Again it is not that which is seen but that spiritual light by which we are able to see at all.
There is the intimate relationship between the Mind and the body. If mind is tormented with unquenchable thirst for material desires to lead a life of ease and sensual pleasures, then the body will be afflicted with varied types of sickness, pain and filth. Let this be clearly understood in this context that all sensation is necessarily in consciousness. If we are not conscious of it there is no sensation. Pain and pleasure are in the mind, and are the mental states within the stream of consciousness.
Consciousness must necessarily have an object. If that object be the body, and if it is wholly engrossed with the material self, it will produce bodily disorders and certainly it is an unprofitable state of mind. Too much attention to the body's material needs and enjoyment brings about its sickness. The needs of the body should be cared for to the extent it is necessary to keep the body and Soul together. If we have reliance on God, He provides us with such needs. He has created the wealth of the world for this purpose. When the body is pampered, it readily induces a false consciousness and the material self becomes a tyrant usurping the place of true and better selves. Wrong concepts of life and the lack of discipline cultivates confusion and chaos. Dignity is lost and so is the man.
When such people come in power, they create havoc in the world. They become utterly deplorable and sickening creatures. They deceive and plunder others in the name of religion, caste, creed, country, nation and whatever other means which suit their ends.
To understand the Hindu idea of transmigration of Soul fully, it is necessary to understand their concept of make-up of human being. They divide human being into three constituents: the soul, the Sukshma Sarira or the subtle body which is, more or less, a permanent appendix to the soul till its final liberation, and the Sthula Sarira or gross body. The soul is unchangeable, above all sense of pleasure and pain; the subtle and gross bodies have sensibilities and manifold variations that lend themselves to innumerable conditions. Man, on death, sheds his gross body but the soul with its subtle body, is entangled with the effect of Three Modes of the Matter (Maya), is not completely detached from its earthly moorings, and hence hovers round the cremation ground. To sever the soul's connections with the gross body and make it rise above with its subtle body to the regions of Yama (Angel of Death), Hindus observe certain devices to this end. They believe that the funeral obsequious and the Shraadha ceremonies performed immediately after, are believed to give soul the necessary nourishment for the journey to the Court of Yama. Hindus do not have the clear vision of Soul, as the Light of God, the Creator, beyond the effect of Maya, which He creates. Strange enough Vedic seers have depicted God, the Creator of Matter of Three modes, Himself in bondage of the effect of Maya, subject to Karmic load or deeds performed, and subjected to the cycle of repeated births and deaths.
Sikhism, as explained above, does not subscribe to these views about the Soul, which is verily God Himself present in all creatures in IMMANENT FORM. Just as God remains unaffected and Absolute after the act of creation, similarly Soul remains unaffected by the deeds of a creature. It is one's Mind (Self), which is subject to the cycle of repeated births and deaths, and has to transcend the effect of Three modes of Maya till it is blessed by God to attain to maturity to be one with Him. The subtle body said to be attached to Soul, is nothing else but the Mind, which according to the Sikh Teachings is distinctly separate entity from that of Soul, the Divine Presence. Body and Mind are created by Divine Light from the Five Elements; space, earth, air, water and fire. Soul is the Divine Light, NOT CREATED WITH FIVE ELEMENTS. How can Mind, the creature of Soul (God), entangle Him to degenerate to the cycle of repeated births and deaths!! It is a mistaken belief.
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