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Soul vs self

india Updated: Jul 08, 2010 03:46 IST
Prafulla and Vasant Raval
Prafulla and Vasant Raval
Hindustan Times
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Broadly speaking, one’s body represents the self, which encompasses everything except the soul.

Soul is often called the not-self, or the conscience. The duality of the self and the soul is critical for us in our search for a new compass.

The two have contrasting attributes: the self is drawn to the outer world, the soul likes the inner world.

The self is relative, transient, time-bound; but the soul is absolute, eternal and timeless.

Soul is beyond comprehension for many people. It escapes clear and easy definitions, and has no visible identity.

It is weightless, nameless, changeless and formless.

It has no recognisable needs, it does not crave for anything. For example, ego, desire, anger, fear and excitement are all foreign to soul.

The only way one can recognise the soul is by rejecting what is not, rather than something that it is.

That is why it is described as the not-self.

By deductive reasoning, as you keep on eliminating from your repertoire, everything that you know, you can identify the soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson has an interesting observation in this regard: “the soul in man is not an organ, but animates and exercises all organs. It is not a function like the power of the memory, of calculation, of comparison, but uses all this as hands and feet. It’s not a faculty but a light. It’s not the intellect or the will, but the master of the intellect and the will. It is the background of our being.”

Because the soul is the background of our being, the odds of getting to know the soul are nearing the impossible.

What is in the background is often ignored or is not seen. The background is not where we are trained to focus.

It never seems to bother us, nor does it interfere with what we do, how we live, what we chase.

Only occasionally we are reminded of the soul’s existence, as when a chick breaks out of an egg; and during early spring when trees and plants experience an explosive growth.

(Edited extracts from the authors’ book Finding Soul in Work and Life)