In our first episode of Bhagavad-gita Introduction we saw that it is our ego, which leads us into a world full of conflicts and confusion.
What it this little ego actually? Where does it come from? And how can yoga help us to go beyond the level of this little ego?
You may not agree with the answer of the Bhagavad-gita, but this is what it says:
“The ego exists because we accept a temporary and irrelevant (or at least insignificant) situation as the all in all.”
We grow up and learn to create a certain image of ourselves. I am a successful man… an intelligent woman… I am German, American, Spanish, Chinese… I have a PhD… I am an honorable member of Newcastle’s gymnastic club… I am of an athletic build… I have a crooked nose… I am too fat… I and mine…
The reality of the soul
The unreal has no permanent existence; the real exists forever without change. So conclude seers of truth who have studied the nature of both. Bhagavad-gita 2.16
That which pervades the body is indestructible. No one can destroy the imperishable soul. Bhagavad-gita 2.17
Although the material body is called unreal in these verses, it is also kind of a reality, but in any case its final destiny is already sealed. After some time it will cease to exist. Like all material things it has a beginning and an end. A strong identification with one’s body therefore must lead to misery and confusion.
However, there is another reality beyond the body that is of a different nature. This is the reality the Gita wants you to know. According to the Gita the soul is imperishable.
What is the significance of something impermanent, compared to something that will always be with you?
The identity of the soul
When abandoning worn-out garments, a person acquires new ones. So abandoning worn-out bodily frames, the soul accepts new ones. Bhagavad-gita 2.22
According to the Gita, our identity is to be the soul that pervades the body with consciousness. The body itself is just a garment that is changed after some time, when it becomes old and useless.
Now, it would be wrong to ignore one’s body. You need it, even though it only accompanies you for a little while. Yet, under no circumstances should we ignore the person inside of the body.
This person is neither fat nor slim, neither intelligent nor dull, neither American, nor French, German or Korean.
It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable and unchangeable. Knowing this you should not lament for the body. Bhagavad-gita 2.25
Some have direct experience of the soul, whereas some only hear or speak about the soul. All these find the soul wonderful. Others, though they hear about the soul, cannot understand it at all. Bhagavad-gita 2.29
You are… wonderful, unchangeable and invisible. This is what we learn about the soul right here in the beginning of the Bhagavad-gita. In later chapters this knowledge will be completed. But until we actually put these teaching into practice, the soul will remain intangible to a certain extent.
What is the proof for the existence of the soul?
The proof is your personal experience when you apply the teachings of the Gita. Or any other authentic process for self-realization. In the Gita the process consists in different forms of yoga. In other traditions the process may be slightly different or just be named differently. But one who doesn’t take to a process of self-realization won’t be able to dive deep enough to see the essence of his or her being.
There is a thought-provoking verse in the beginning of the second chapter of the Gita:
Just as the embodied soul passes from childhood to youth to old age, so it passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by this change. Bhagavad-gita 2.13
The changes from one body to another in this life is something you can personally witness, it is not a question of belief. Where is the body of a small child, which you once possessed, now? But you yourself are still there, and you are able to remember that you once had this body. What it means is that your existence does not depend on one body or another body.
Normally, you won’t be able to remember your past lives. You would have to be advanced in self-realization, as the Gita says.
Death is natural for the body, but it’s totally unnatural for the soul. People fear death, because they intuitively feel that non-existence is contradicting to their own nature.
The level beyond the ego
According to the Bhagavad-gita, self-realization means to fathom the level of the pure soul. And the Gita wants to show us, how we should act, think and feel, to firmly establish ourselves on this level.
However, simultaneously, or rather a little bit before that, we should know what binds us to the level of absolute identification with our body and our ego. We cannot attain the higher level without freeing ourselves from the lower level.
That’s why the next episode of our Bhagavad-gita series is all about:
The shackle of karma (or the law of action and reaction)
You may have heard about karma before, but it is especially the understanding of the more subtle aspects of karma that can lead to a tremendous change of consciousness.
So, see you there, in the next part of “Bhagavad-gita Introduction”. [coming soon!]