Life is full of happiness and distress. Events like birthdays, marriages, promotions, success, etc., bring happiness while failure, loss, disease, death, etc., bring distress.
When someone dies, we say he or she has passed away?
But “who has passed away?”
The body, with whom we interacted for whole life, is still lying here?
So “when you die what leaves your body” and thereby making it dead?
It’s hard to get a satisfactory answer from modern scientific research.
However, our scriptures like Bhagavad-gita, Bible, and Quran mentions it as a soul. But what is the soul of a person? Let’s discuss it in the following section.
What does the soul mean?
From our discussion so far, we can say a soul is an immaterial object whose mere presence makes the body live.
A nice example can illustrate the subject matter. When someone lives in a house, it has a different look, a different feeling than a house that has been vacated for a long time.
The landlord’s mere presence in the house gives it the feeling of a living place and not otherwise. A similar connection is there between the soul and the body.
Because authoritative scriptures like Bhagavad-gita, Bible, and Quran, etc., are the source of knowledge about the soul. Therefore, let’s understand, “What is the soul according to the Bhagavad-gita” or “What is the soul according to the Bible?”
What is the soul, according to the Bhagavad-gita?
Bhagavad-Gita elaborately describes the soul at various places beginning from chapter two. A brief discussion is presented below.
Soul is immortal
The soul owns the body as we own our home and dwells there till the body can sustain it.
The 30th verse of chapter 2 beautifully mentions it as “dehī nityam avadhyo ’yaṁ.”
It means that the soul is eternal “dehī nityam”. The term “dehī” means the owner of the body, the soul.
The eternal soul can not be slain “avadhyo ’yaṁ”.
When the body can not sustain itself, the soul changes it. The changing process is explained below. This is called the transmigration of the soul.
The soul changes the body as the body changes the cloth
The 22nd verse of chapter 2 compares the body to the cloth.
We discard the cloth when it is old and torn (vāsāṁsi jīrṇāni yathā vihāya) and wear new ones (navāni gṛhṇāti naro ‘parāṇi).
Similarly, the soul changes the old body for accepting a new one (tathā śarīrāṇi vihāya jīrṇāny anyāni saṁyāti navāni dehī).
The soul is eternal and the body is mortal
The 16th verse of chapter 2 says “nāsato vidyate bhāvo nābhāvo vidyate sataḥ”.
It means there is no permanent endurance of something which has manifested temporarily, the body. On the other hand, there is no shortcoming in something eternal, the soul, and thus it continues to exist eternally.
Where is your soul in your body?
If the soul resides in the body, then where is your soul located in the body? The 61st verse of chapter 18 tells that the soul lies in the region of heart “hṛd-deśe ’rjuna tiṣṭhati”.
Is your soul your heart? Obviously not. It is also worth noting that the soul is not part of the heart; rather, it resides in that region.
That’s why in heart transplantation, the heart changes, but the soul remains the same because the soul is located in the heart region, not in the heart itself.
In heart transplantation surgery, the heart is changed, but its location in the body remains the same. Therefore, the soul has nothing to do with the physical form of the heart.
Do all living things have a soul?
The concept of body and soul is universally applicable to every living entity under material creation. Therefore, all living forms have a soul.
The 18th verse of chapter 5 says
vidyā-vinaya-sampanne, brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca, paṇḍitāḥ sama-darśinaḥ
It means that a truly learned man sees equally to a learned man, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog eater. Because he sees them as a soul in relation to the supreme.
The 4th verse of chapter 14 mentions that “sarva-yoniṣu kaunteya, mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ; tāsāṁ brahma mahad yonir, ahaṁ bīja-pradaḥ pitā”.
It means all forms (sarva-yoniṣu) of life are coming from the same source, namely the material nature as a mother and its owner, the Lord as a father.
Therefore, the concept of body and soul is similarly applicable to all forms of life.
Is soul formless?
This has been a point of controversy. Some say the soul has form, while others say the soul is formless. Let’s see what Bhagavad-Gita says in this connection.
The 23rd verse of chapter 2 speaks that the soul can not be destroyed by any four means, namely- by any weapons, by fire, by water, and by air. Let’s elaborate on these points further.
- The soul can not be destroyed by cutting with any weapons “nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi.”
Can you speak of cutting something which doesn’t have a form? Therefore, if Gita is saying that the soul can not be cut into pieces, the soul must certainly have a form.
Otherwise it would be meaningless to say that the soul can not be cut if it would not have a form.
- The soul can not be destroyed by burning with fire “nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ”.
Can you speak of burning something which doesn’t have a form? Therefore, if Gita is saying that the soul can not be burnt, then the soul must certainly have a form.
Otherwise it would be meaningless to say that the soul can not be burn if it would not have a form.
- The soul can not be destroyed by dissolving in the water “na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo.”
Can you speak of dissolving something which doesn’t have a form? Therefore, if Gita is saying that the soul can not be dissolved, the soul must certainly have a form.
Otherwise it would be meaningless to say that the soul can not be dissolved if it would not have a form.
- The soul can not be destroyed by drying by air “na śoṣayati mārutaḥ.”
Can you speak of drying something which doesn’t have a form? Therefore, if Gita is saying that the soul can not be dried, the soul must certainly have a form.
Otherwise it would be meaningless to say that the soul can not be dried if it would not have a form.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the soul is an eternal, indestructible, and individual living entity that resides in the region of the heart to make the body alive. As soon as it leaves the old body, the body dies and is destroyed within a short duration.