SOUL-SUBSTANCE


 

The word substance used with reference to the soul is not generally appreciated or understood. But it simply means some- thingness, and is a philosophical term employed to denote the idea of a some thing which depends on it self for its existence, that is to say, which is self-existent. All simple things, as distinguished from compounds, are self- subsisting, hence, indestructible and eternal. Perishing is associated only with what is made up of parts that might fall apart. Hence what is a simple (partless) thing in its nature cannot be wiped out to existence.

 

     Consciousness, too, is a something, for we are aware of its operations. It is also dependent on itself for its existence, and is partless and non-composite in its nature, as shown elsewhere in my writings. Therefore, it is also a substance. The name soul has been given to it from the point of view of substantiveness.

 

     The materialistic theory that a primary nucleus of tactile sensitivity, bound up in the simple atom of matter, has, in the course of evolution, evolved out into the highly complex consciousness of man, is not tenable and valid, as it is inconceivable how a simple sensation of touch can possible transform itself into taste, smell, sight, hearing, understanding, ratiocination and the like. The one great difference between consciousness and atomic matter is this: consciousness is endowed with an 'interior' which is capable of entertaining and developing an infinity of ideas and concepts, but the atom of matter has no inside to accommodate even a thought.

 

     Knowledge is the nature of the soul. If it were not the nature of the soul, it would be either the nature of the not- soul, or of nothing whatsoever. But in the former case, the unconscious would become the conscious, and the soul would be unable to know itself or any one else, for it would then be devoid of consciousness; and, in the latter, there would be no knowledge, nor conscious beings in existence, which, happily, is not the case.

 

It might be urged that knowledge, consciousness, or the power to know or cognize, is an independent quality which, when it comes in contact with the soul, enables it to perceive and know itself and other things, but his is untenable on the ground that qualities only inhere in substances* and cannot be conceived to exist independently of concrete things. The fact is that qualities are pure mental abstractions; no one has ever seen them existing by themselves.

     (*That qualities inhere in substances in a self- evident truth, for they cannot be conceived to exist by themselves. If they could lead an existence independently of substance, we should have softness, hardness, manhood and the like also existing by themselves, which would be absurd. Moreover, if qualities were capable of leading an independent existence of their own, existence also would exist separately from all other qualities. But this would make existence it self a featureless function or attribute of nothing whatsoever, on the one hand, and all the other remaining qualities simply non-existent, on the other, because existence would no longer be associated with them. It follows, therefore, that qualities cannot be conceived to exist apart from substances.)

 

The soul is a wonderful thing; it is a substance, and at the same time is the repository of knowledge. Knowledge and memory do not exist in it like loose images stocked in a drawer, or photos in an album but as the diversified aspects of a partless entity, the mutually interpenetrating flashes or coruscation's of a hug undivided conscious illumination, or as a multitude of inseparable and co-existing notes or rhythms of a unitary intelligent force.

 

     From the point of view of somethingness, the soul is a substance; from that of consciousness it is a pure embodiment of knowledge, consisting in an infinity of inseparable; and yet separately perceivable, scintillation's of intelligence itself, and from the point of view of energy it is an unbreakable unit of force that cannot be exhausted by any means, being eternal and non-perishing, in its nature.

 

As shown elsewhere the soul suffers the loss of functions and dignity by the association with matter. But new attributes, which, however, are poor substitutes for the things lost, arise in its constitution. Sense perception thus replaces the full direct knowledge, which a pure Soul enjoys. The soul also evolved out harmful appetites and instincts, namely, those of hunger and fear and sex and the love of possession. These are the roots of desire and the feeders of its passions, which stand in the way of its salvation. Delusion is also produced by the flowing matter in the consciousness of living beings. All living beings firmly believe themselves to be identical with the body, and never anything other than the body. Only a very few are able to escape from this terrible delusion; and they are the lucky ones who shall, by treading the Right Path, obtain release from the bondage of the flesh and matter, one day.

 

The appetites are all rooted in the body, even the one that is called the love or instinct of possession. It is these appetites which have to be eradicated before salvation can be had, for through their gratification additional matter is constantly pouring into the soul, which perpetuates its bondage.

 

The order of the eradication of these instincts is as follows:

 

(1) The pious householder virtually conquers the instinct of possession at the time when he sells off his belongings and gives them away, and the remaining tinge of it, when he parts from the very last vestige of possessions, namely, the loin-strip.

 

(2) The sex- instinct is also eradicated by the householder prior to his parting with his belongings.

 

(3) The saint grapples with the instinct of hunger and eradicates it before the attainment of omniscience.

 

(4) The instinct of fear is a bit more difficult to be radiated. The saint easily conquers the rear of death, but seems to experience a great deal of difficulty in overthrowing the fear of sickness and disease, that is to say, the love of the bodily well- being. In consequence of this he even experiences a fall from the Samadhi of self- contemplation many a time. But even this little bit of fear is conquered at last by the combined power of self-knowledge and the joy of self-contemplation, aided, probably, by the reinforcement of the Sallekhana*- thought that enable a saint to face calamity with tranquility.

     (*See the next following article for the description of the term.)

 

When the physical appetites are all gone the soul is freed from the element of desire and speedily obtains release and wholeness, and is reinstated at once in its natural Divinity and Godhood.