There are No Individual Souls!
Anubhavananda Saraswati has said that that the two most important ideas to understand in spiritual life are freedom from identifying with our body and the realization that there is only one Soul that expresses through many bodies.
These two pieces of ultimate Wisdom can be found in the Bhagavad Gita XV.7 & 8 if they are read accurately. Krishna tells Arjuna that it is the One, the one controller (Ishvara) of everything, that takes the appearance of forms in individual beings. We are in fact the One that has manifested Itself as temporal appearances of individuals. In other words, our belief that we are individuals is founded in our ignorance and delusion. There are no individuals. There is only the appearance of individuals which express and experience for the One through mind and the sense apparatus, Prakritis GUNAS.
Muni Narayana Prasad expresses this in his commentary on Bhagavad Gita IV.9 which says that the One takes birth through karma, Its creative urge. Those who know the true nature of karma as the creative urge of the One, are no longer bound into repeating cycles of death and birth. When we realize that our essential nature is that One pervading All and residing always within us, then we cease to feel that we are individuals. such a person may be said to have left identity with the body. He has realized that he is that immortal Reality. It is only our insistence on identifying with our body, the data-collecting vehicle which we inhabit for a short period of time, that binds us into Samsara, the ocean of death and birth.
As we come to shift our identification with the body and our current small ego-self individuality back into the One, which is our Source and the sole eternal immutable immeasurable Real, we are Liberated. The enlightened know we are not the Doer because in the ultimate understanding, we never exist to Do anything. There is only the One and TAT TVAM ASI, Thou art That!
Atma [the One] indeed remains
To all that takes place within Itself.
Only due to ignorance
One performs karma
As if attached to them.
The wise one, on the other hand,
Thinks, I do nothing
And does not feel himself
Clinging to karmas.
- Narayana Guru: Garland of Visions, Chapter VI.5
Muni Narayana Prasad in Kerala India is part of a line of teachers that began with Narayana Guru (1856-1928), and he has translated the inspired visionary works of Narayana Guru. In the Garland of Visions Muni Narayana Prasad elucidates the Wisdom-Knowledge of Narayana Guru regarding karma and the problem of thinking we are the Doer.
The one actionless Atma [the One]
Alone is what moves
In individuated beings
Pulsates within the nervous system
- Narayana Guru: Garland of Visions, Chapter VI.7
Narayana Guru uses the Sanskrit word Atma here to describe the indescribable unquantifiable One, which no word or even thousands of words can serve to describe, as the One is indeed beyond all words. Muni Narayana Prasad informs us that the Sanskrit word Atma [AtmA] comes from the root <At> meaning to pervade, thus alluding to the invisible-to-the-five-senses substance that pervades all visible forms.
The appearance of multiplicity is described by Muni Narayana Prasad as the universal-particular division and he says that this is of no relevance, in other words appearances exist only as an ideation of our mind. All sense perceptions ultimately have no being. The universe is an idea in the mind, Gods Play the Divine LILA. God is playing through you and me!
The karmas, the acts we as individuals perform are nothing more than the specific manifest forms of the overall one karma that goes on in the Self Atma as Its creative urge. Muni Narayana Prasad compares our acts with the involuntary acts that continually go on in the body such as breathing, our heart beating, and blood circulating, etc. Our everyday ordinary actions are said to be just as involuntary because we are in fact programmed and compelled by the Matrix of our GUNAS, Prakritis three modes which produce layers of flavors, our inborn proclivities that can be read in an astrological birth chart. These tendencies gathered through experience accumulate in our DNA. The term in Sanskrit is Samskaras and accrue over many lives. They are passed through the generations in DNA and create-project the temporal illusory appearance of our individuality. We are not that, we are the One.
Muni Narayana Prasad says that while we may think we have free will, as long as we identify with the body, we do not. Bound in identification with the body and the appearance of individuality, we do not have free will because we did not create the mind and it is the mind reacting to data from the senses that impels us. Thus our perceived free will does not originate with us, but was created by and of the Self, the One, which has many names. Here the One is called Atma, and Ishvara the Controller in Bhagavad Gita XV.7
This awareness, which requires a constant vigilance, allows us to observe our karmas, those patterns of endlessly repeating actions in our behavior; and overtime become unattached to their results. Thus through intense focused awareness, we are soon liberated from the binding effects of all our acts. The small identity self is not the Doer.
Bhagavad Gita XVIII.16
There in truth thus, the one who acts,
Who sees himself, indeed, as the only exclusive agent,
He sees, he perceives from an imperfect incomplete understanding
He sees not, the blockhead!
This metaphysical principle is reflected in Kashmir Shivaism in the understanding that as long as we think we have free will, we do not. When we come to know that we are compelled by the Matrix, Prakritis three GUNAS, which operate on automatic driving us hither & dither in the same old boring ruts, only then we begin to experience authentic free will in the sense that we can choose to align our Being and Consciousness with the God-within us, the Creator of All. Then will we find Liberation and the Peace that is beyond understanding.
That which assumes the six states
Of basically existing, being born, growing,
And finally becoming extinct,
Is not really different from
The one actionless Atma.
- Narayana Guru: Garland of Visions, Chapter VI.8
The eternally changing, shifting and varying states of manifested appearances are like waves cresting on the ocean, appearing and disappearing. The Self Atma, the One is the ocean, the underlying ubiquitous substance that pervades All temporal appearances. Waves rise and subside, they emerge on the surface and merge back into the ocean. Without the ocean as substance, waves could not appear and thus would not exist.
Death and birth can be understood in this way. Our bodily forms, what I call data-collecting vehicles, emerge at birth out of the One and dissolve back into that One, our Source, at death. Identifying with our Source, aligning and placing our consciousness into that which dwells within our Heart, our true Being, the Real beyond all temporal appearances, liberates us from Samasara, the ocean of death and birth. We are not the Doer, we are not the GUNAS. We are the One that happily enjoys playing in Time and Space.
Karmas become self-accomplished
With mental faculties and senses
As instruments; yet I remain
Unattached and firm like a rock.
Thus is the steadfast understanding
Of the wise one.
- Narayana Guru: Garland of Visions, Chapter VI.9
Our acts karmas are executed and accomplished through the mind and the five senses (indriya). While the appearance of multiplicity and endless activity are being generated via the interactions of our mind and senses, the God-within us remains unaffected and unattached. The Enlightened also are not attached to their acts karmas, because they are identified with the God-within them, the One that resides secretly in the Heart and simultaneously pervades All. The Enlightened have left identification with the body. The wise do not grieve. The Enlightened have no attachment to the results of their acts karmas, and thus are liberated from the illusory bondage which attachment compels.
Muni Narayana Prasad says that we wrongly think we are the Doer because of our small ego-selfs self-centeredness and a false sense of being the center of the universe. We only think in terms of the small identity-self I when we say I have done this and I am doing that etc. We are not the Doer. There is only the One.
Identify with That!
Upon shifting our identification from the temporal body back into the eternal One, we realize that we have not done anything. We are the apparent forms the One has taken to enjoy expressing Its infinite potential of Creativity in Space & Time. We are merely the temporal waveforms of that One, beings that emerge from and subside back into a vast oceanic consciousness, the substratum. In the Real sense, we never have existed. Our temporal identity-self that we give so much importance to is only another cresting wave upon Samsara, the ocean of death and birth.
Our eternal Self is the One, the God that dwells within our Heart and waits patiently for us. That One is never attached to the cresting waveforms in Its ocean of Time. The One is eternal. We are That. TAT TVAM ASI.
When we come to identify with the God-within, we begin to align our consciousness with That. United and in harmony with universal Truth SATYA, we may align our lives with the Creators Will and live in Joy. As Anubhavananda Saraswati has said, God is never depressed. When we are sad and depressed, then we are in ego and bound. When we are happy, we are closer to God-Consciousness. This world is nothing but the Divine Presence and we are that Supreme Bliss in which the whole world is appearing. [link below]
By observing our thoughts as they pass through the mind like the proverbial clouds across the sky, we may come to a liberating understanding of how the interactions between the mind and the senses bind us into temporal illusory realms. A focused discernment is the key.
Thinking that we are the Doer takes place in the illusion and generates our incorrect feeling of being an individual ego. Muni Narayana Prasad calls this the I-sense. It is this mistake of not realizing that we are the One pervading All which seduces, enticing our focus from the eternal Real out onto the external temporal multiplicity; and we get lost in unending vacuous desires. Our small identity-self and its objects of desire may feel very real to the senses that deceive us. This ego-self that extols its wrongly perceived individuality functions as polarity within the temporal illusory hologram. It is not the Real, the Source that creates and pervades all universes. This I-sense is generating external appearances which come and go, are born and die, bringing both pain and pleasure always.
As data-collecting vehicles, we are the mirrors for the vast spectrum of Gods infinite creativity. Without our perceiving and reflecting the temporal illusory holographic universe, it would not exist. God loves us! Muni Narayana Prasad defines karma as the Creative urge of the One. TAT TVAM ASI.
Not everyone will realize that they are not the Doer. They are busy, both happy and miserable generating fluctuating appearances in the temporal universe. As an Indian lady friend once told me - if everyone became enlightened, the universe would collapse.
When you are weary of playing here, free yourself from the wrong notion that you are the small identity-self who is the Doer. Then your acts will not bind you into this glorious Illusion of pain & pleasure that is the Woven Universe. You will discover and merge into your Infinite Self that is only Joy and Bliss.
V. Susan Ferguson
Swami Anubhavananda Saraswati on the Ashtavakra Gita part 4 & 5
Lifes Pilgrimage Through the Gita, A Commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, by Swami Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Print world Ltd. New Delhi, 2005.
Narayana Guru Complete Works; Translated, Compiled and Introduced by Muni Narayana Prasad; National Book Trust, India, 2006, 2009
GARLAND of VISIONS, The Darshanamala of Narayana Guru, With an Extensive Commentary by Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Print world Ltd., New Delhi, 2007.
Karma and Reincarnation, Swami Muni Narayana Prasad; D.K. Printworld Ltd., New Delhi; 1993, 2006.
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