Lately, I’ve been thinking about how to summarize what I’ve learned about what the human soul is. One of my sources is the Mandukya Upanishad and the individual sentence “Ayam Atman Brahman” which is translated as “This individual consciousness is (the same as) the Divine Consciousness.”
Those who are familiar with their nature as Awareness Itself, know that in looking for the boundaries of Awareness, they find no sense of spatial boundaries and no sense of age or aging in Awareness. In other words, the Awareness is experienced as eternal and infinite, which are two attributes that those in Western religions attribute to God. So, the Awareness which is the deepest part of each of us has the same attributes as God and is God.
What, then, makes this an individual consciousness or a particular soul? My experience tells me that it is the reality that this Awareness has taken on the very particular limits of one body and one mind. It is only able to register the three-dimensional physical reality through one set of sensory organs: one set of eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and nerve endings. It is only listening to one set of thoughts, those within my own specific bodymind. It is only aware of one set of emotional responses on a continuing basis: my own. It is only aware of producing the speech of this mouth, and the actions of this body.
In some mysterious way, we can experience an unlimited Awareness and paradoxically experience Awareness limited to this individual bodymind. This individual soul learns its own lessons from its own mistakes and successes and has to learn to live in a very particular time and place.
This location in a specific: bodymind, time and place, is what seems to make Awareness into individual souls. It’s also the least developed aspect of any modern spirituality: there seems to be no relationship between most people on a spiritual path and the particular time and place that they live in. It’s as if spiritually oriented lives can be lived without reference to culture but, if we notice, we long for spiritually based culture in our time and place, and feel bereft without it. I will write more about this lack of relatedness between modern spiritual practice and culture bound in time and place in the next blogpost.