The connection between the cosmos and the common man is one that has always fascinated us. Who am I? What is my purpose on the earth? What is the point of human suffering? Most of us would have pondered over these questions at one point or another in life. Unfortunately, science does not have satisfactory answers to these questions. Maybe this is why, when the existential crisis consumes us, we often end up dipping our toes in the ocean of religion and philosophy.
One of the concepts that most religions and philosophies espouse is ‘soul’. It is commonly believed that human beings are more than just bodies and minds. We have souls, which are the essence of our existence. According to Achieving Oneness with the Higher Soul by Master Pranic Healer Choa Kok Sui: “The soul is a spiritual energy with consciousness. It is a being of divine intelligence, divine love, and divine power.” And energy, as we know from our science classes, can neither be created nor destroyed. Therefore, the soul, it is believed, is eternal.
This means that our souls existed before we were born, and they will continue to exist after we die. It is the spark of divinity within us, and it connects us with what the religious amongst us might call god. This concept of ‘god’ is referred to as ‘Brahman’ in the Hindu Advaita Vedanta philosophy. According to the philosophy, there is only one infinite soul that pervades the entire cosmos, and it takes different forms that are finite. The finite soul (atman) and the infinite soul (Brahman) are one and the same. To help us picture the concept better, Giridhara Shastry, a Vedic scholar, explains, “Imagine space. Space, as we know, is all-pervading. Now imagine a vessel. The space occupies the vessel and takes up its shape. Now, if you remove the vessel, where does space go? Nowhere. It was everywhere, to begin with, and it continues to be everywhere.”
The Brahman or the Supreme Soul chooses to take finite forms to experience life on earth, make mistakes and learn its lessons before going back to the source, the philosophy says. Of course, Hinduism is among the many religions in the world that espouse reincarnation—the concept of multiple births being the means by which the soul can achieve salvation.