A Simple Test for Thoughtful People. Am I my head or my face? No, it is my face. Am I my chest? No, it is my chest. Am I my arm or my hand? Am I my leg? No, it is my leg. All the parts of my body – indeed, my entire body – is mine. But who am I, the owner of the body?
Am I my head or my face? No, it is my face. Am I my chest? No, it is my chest. Am I my arm or my hand? Am I my leg? No, it is my leg. All the parts of my body – indeed, my entire body – is mine. But who am I, the owner of the body?
If we perform the experiment as above, we can immediately come to the very first understanding in spiritual life: we are not our bodies; rather we are conscious of them. Under the influence of illusion, however, we falsely identify ourselves with our bodies and think we belong to a certain family, nation, race, religion, political party, and so on. The goal of human life is to awaken from this illusion and become reinstated in our real identities as fully conscious spiritual beings.
Our daily lives can be compared to acting in a play. We have become so absorbed with our temporary roles in this play that we have completely forgotten our true offstage identities. Someone is taking the part of our parent, another person is acting as our lover, another as our friend or foe, but actually it is all simply a performance; our real identities are something else. Our very bodies are nothing more than costumes, but out of illusion we identify ourselves with them and try to relate to others on the basis of these costumes. The resulting relationships are not false; they are real, but they are temporary and therefore illusory. When the curtain falls on our play – when death comes – all the different relationships we have cultivated during our lives will be finished, and our real self, an individually conscious spirit soul, will be transferred to a new situation.
The Nature of Consciousness
Modern scientists have touched upon
the properties of the spirit soul in their research into anti-material particles. A fundamental assumption of their theory is that there may exist another world, an anti-material world, composed of anti – particles. They conjecture that this anti-material world might consist of atomic and sub-atomic particles spinning in reverse orbits to those of the world we know.
But if we really want to find out about the nature of consciousness and its source, the anti-material spirit soul, we must go beyond the tentative gropings of mundane scientists. We must search out the revealed knowledge contained in the Vedas, the most ancient and widely recognized source of transcendental science in the world. Since the soul is imperceptible by our gross senses, the authoritative Vedic wisdom is the only means for understanding it. We must accept many things solely on the basis of superior authority. For example, if I want to know who my father is, I must accept the authority of my mother. I cannot experimentally find out his identity; I must simply use intelligent discrimination to find the right source of knowledge. Similarly, to understand the science of the soul, we must turn to the Vedic literature, and specifically to the Bhagavad-gita. Bhagavad-gita contains the essence of the Vedas, for it is spoken by Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme All-knowing Personality of Godhead.
In the Bhagavad-gita (13.34), Lord Krishna says, “As the sun, situated in one place, illuminates the entire universe, so a small particle of spirit [the soul situated within the heart] illuminates the entire body with consciousness.