There is a great battle raging on, between the practical man of science and the faithful man of religion – the battle over the existence of the soul. Often, this battle rages within our very own selves, and for good reason.
Born in this great century of science we find it difficult to reconcile the achievements of science with those of religion. The pragmatic instincts within us compel us to question the existence of the soul because science has failed to uncover any conclusive proof.
However before we dismiss this grandest of beliefs, which forms the cornerstone of all major religions of the world and which has persisted for well over 2,500 years of human history, we must remember that lack of scientific evidence cannot be construed as proof of non-existence.
“There are some who are exclusively modern, who believe that the past is bankrupt time, leaving us no assets, but only a legacy of debts.
It is well to remind ourselves that the great ages of renaissance in history were those when man suddenly discovered the seeds of thought in the granary of the past.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
Modern science which is in its comparative infancy, being less than 350 years old, is very much a work in progress and even though it has made giant strides in understanding our outer world of matter, it has yet to shine its light on our inner world of spirit – of feelings and emotions – of consciousness.
It must also be highlighted that the existence of the soul cannot be construed as a mere philosophy or an idea dreamed up by a group of people, rather it represents a Supreme Truth, witnessed by countless teachers and prophets in the highest states of super-consciousness. The belief in the soul stems not from imagination but from direct perception.
And while science cannot offer us conclusive proof just yet, a rational analysis of our inner nature reveals powerful and persuasive truths that point to the presence of this great spiritual reality within us. Listed below are three such truths:
Truth #1: Man Lives Life as if He will Never Die
Death is the tremendous fact of life. In the great Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, the story is told how King Yudhishthira, was once asked: “What is the most wonderful thing on this earth?”
“Life and death are only different names for the same fact. Both are an illusion. Beyond this lies our true nature, the Soul that is never born, which never dies, never changes and never goes or comes.”
– Swami Vivekananda
The king replied, “Every day people are dying around us, and yet man thinks he will never die.”
And, this in fact is the most stupendous wonder of human life. In spite of all arguments to the contrary, in spite of the inability of reason to penetrate this veil of mystery, man is thoroughly persuaded that he cannot die.
There is something inside of him that refuses to accept death as the inevitable annihilation; which compels him to cling to life, to laugh, to play, to love, to build and to hoard right in death’s face.
This something is the Atman, the Soul, the real self of man, subject to neither birth nor death, ever-existing and free, that is percolating through the layers of thought and matter, and in spite of witnessing death everywhere, is ever asserting its unshackled existence and continuity beyond the portals of physical death.
Truth # 2: In All Ages and Climes Man Has Been on a Quest for Perfection
The struggle towards perfection is one of the most important components of what we call life. In all ages and climes, man has been searching for the one who represents the highest ideals of love, kindness, integrity, faithfulness and beauty.
“The revealment of the infinite in the finite, which is the motive of all creation, is not seen in its perfection in the starry heavens, in the beauty of the flowers. It is in the soul of man.”
– Rabindranath Tagore
We look for this perfection everywhere – in our religious and political leaders, in our spouses, in our children, even in our physical appearances; and though we seldom find it, the hope refuses to die within us and the search continues unabated.
So the question then arises: Why is man searching for perfection?
The answer is because that ideal lies within us. Our desire to connect with the perfect arises from our deeper desire to know our true self – to know the perfect soul that lies hidden within each of us.
It is this soul, that is propelling us to seek for it, to realise it, and after a long search here and there, at last we come back to our own self and find that the perfection that we have been seeking in all things external, is nearest of the near, it is in our own Self, it is the reality of our own life – it is in our soul.
Truth #3: Life Cannot be Explained as a Mere Evolutionary Impulse. It has a Higher Purpose
What is the goal of life? Is there a purpose in being born, spending a whole lifetime struggling to live, at times, even defying the worst odds to survive, only to have to let it all go in a moment, when death knocks at the door?
“The entire purpose of manifest existence is simply to facilitate the realization of who and what you really are.”
– Metta Zetty
Life’s grand struggle for existence cannot be fully explained by the propagation of species argument or by the survival of the fittest hypothesis, for it does not account for man’s cherished ideals of sacrifice, selfless service and dying in the line of duty to protect the life of others.
The struggles of life attain full meaning only when in addition to the evolution of our outer bodily Nature; we also account for the gradual manifestation (revelation) of our inner Nature i.e. our soul.
In Nature two processes are occurring in parallel: the first is evolution, which as science tells us is the adaptation of the physical bodies of plants, animals and man for survival in Nature and to propagate the fittest progeny forward.
“We are here to awaken to the reality of our true identity – that we are sparks of the Eternal Imperishable Spirit, who is the source of all Creation and the very essence of our being.”
– Shriram Sharma Acharya
But there is a second more vital process simultaneously ongoing, and that is the gradual unfolding of the soul that animates these bodies over cycles of life and death. The aim being to reveal the perfect spirit that lies hidden within. The entire system as it were, is struggling to evolve from efficiency in Nature to perfection in spirit.
In view of this, life attains a higher purpose. It no longer appears like a battlefield where the weakest goes to death and only the strongest survives, but life becomes like a playground – an obstacle course running through which we evolve to become more perfect.
Just as a seed needs the right kind of soil, temperature, air and water to germinate, so too do we need the right circumstances to manifest our true nature, our soul – the source of infinite strength and potential. Without the proper opportunity our cherished ideals of bravery, courage, sacrifice, judgment, integrity and unconditional love would never be fully revealed.
One life cycle is usually not enough to attain this perfection and so we dip again and again into this ocean of life, till finally at long last the divinity within is fully manifest. And what happens when we attain this perfection in spirit? We have reached God and are one with Him.
The above essay has been built upon the teachings of Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), one of India’s greatest and most beloved spiritual teachers. The ideas along with many of the words in this essay have been borrowed directly from his book, Speeches & Writings of Swami Vivekananda.
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Sadhana: The Realisation of Life – FREE Book on Spirituality by Rabindranath Tagore
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