We are now entering into more familiar ground with less emphasis on soul extensions as Advaita Vedanta places them as secondary to the all-encompassing and Cosmic notion of the Self. The Self is synonymous with Ātman or the Absolute Parabrahman. Firstly, let’s break down its etymology:
A + Dvaita (अ + द्वैत)= Advaita
Dvaita (द्वैत) = Duality,
A-Dvaita = not- duality = non-duality
Vedanta means the end parts of Vedas, containing the essence of Vedas. Here the end part is to be taken as essence and not literally ‘end’ part. Hence, Advaita Vedanta can be defined as a marg (path) which teaches the essence of vedas that there is one supreme reality (non-dual). Ramana Maharshi emphasized that what “truly exists is the Self Alone. The world, the individual soul, and God are appearances in it like silver in mother-of-pearl.” In this sense Advaita Vedanta teaches that the manifest creation, the soul, and God are identical—but transcendent to them all is the Divine Ātman or Self. Yogananda testifies:
The muni or man of wisdom has withdrawn his consciousness from the distorted testimony of the sense mind and has focused it on the soul. The searchlight of his wisdom is thrown steadily on the kingdom of an everlasting joy. The divine man, finding the nature of the soul to be different from the nature of the body, does not become inwardly ruffled when trouble invades the body, nor unduly elated over impermanent worldly joys. The soul is not in any way identified with the transitory bodily experiences. Thus, when the ego-self is settled in the true Self, wisdom-paralyzing emotions cannot impinge upon the consciousness of the Overlord.
Nisargadatta Maharaj always taught that the best adage is to “Know Thyself”. The soul makes its appearance in the I AM, but transcendent to that is the Parabrahman. He takes this Self-realization to mean that the Self is so Absolute that it is not even aware of Itself, but only of Its manifestations in the I AM wherein the soul is Its function, or outward manifestation. To remain prior-to consciousness is the best avenue of returning home to the Self-Absolute.
Some traditions, such as Vedanta, believe the self-realization of the absolute is the final realization, and further stages (of the soul) are not contemplated. The material man is an ego, plus excessive worries; the divine man is a calm soul, plus the eternal joy of Spirit—it enjoys Noumenal Bliss. Thus Sat Chit Ananda. Thus an awakened-soul is never interested in temporal matters. The rarified-mystic is one who stands on the high-parapet of Noble Wisdom, nevermore involved with the seedy-misfortunes of those inhabitants who dwell below in darkest-dukkha. The fortunate-spirit who now lives in noumenal-bliss needs to celebrate this auspicious reality; otherwise how can one possibly retire from the pressing external environment and enjoy the fruits of this Dharmakayic-liberation? Such an emancipated-soul can now enjoy the silent-reverie and quiescent-exuberance of the Unborn undeterred. Cut and Dry, end of story. Our series on the Unborn Bhagavad-Gita highlights this Self-realization….
7.21 I am in everyone’s heart and soul as THE Supra-Essential Spirit—Unborn and Uncreated. While not forbidding other forms of Worship—I do plant within the authentic-seed of Self-awakening from such subordinate ventures.
8.14 The True Yogin, Arjuna, always keeps me well in-mind and thus is never attached nor distracted by anything else. Success in the Noble Self-realization of Divine-Selfhood depends on incessant-Mindfulness of Union with the Unborn Lord, not out of a morbid obsession of duty, but rather out of the development of a deeper-bliss the world has never known.
8.15 Those who come unto me are Mahaathmas (Great Souls). They no longer fear the terrors of the night nor suffer the ignominious pangs of rebirth ever-again. Karmic-bonds are broken once one is resolutely Selfhood bound.
9.13 But the great-souls (mahatmas) know my True Nature and always take refuge therein. They Self-realize that I AM the True Source of All and thus they worship-me with an unwavering and devoted spirit.
10.11 Out of my Infinite Compassion I dispel the darkness of ignorance from their minds; I AM the inward Lamp of radiant Self-gnosis, perpetually leading them away from the snares of the evil one. The Lord’s wisdom-lamp perpetually burns within, like a Divine pilot-light for the soul.
As a little bonus to this blog, the following definitions concerning Indian notions of soul are taken from The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion: Buddhism, Taoism, Zen, Hinduism, a most invaluable resource—highly recommended.
Akshara-Purusha (Aksara-Purusa), Skt.; the motionless soul, the uninvolved Self that detaches itself from the movements and modifications taking place in – prakriti (nature) and merely witnesses its processes.
Amara-Purusha (Amara-Purusa), Skt.; the immortal Self, the soul.
Asanga (A sanga) Skt., lit. “Untouched,” “Unbound,” “Unfettered.” The state of a free soul Atman man that knows it consists not of body and mind but of absolute consciousness.
Darshana (darsana), also darshan, Skt., lit. ( 1 ) “view, sight”; (2) “system.” Paying respect to a holy man or a sacred site in order to receive blessings and purification from that presence. Every encounter with a guru or holy person can be regarded as darshana; to liberate the soul from the round of births and deaths and to bring about union with God or the Absolute. They are all represented in the Bhagavad-Gita.
Laya Skt.; dissolution, melting, disappearance; the merging of the individual soul in the Absolute; union with God.
Mahapurusha (Mahapurusa), Skt., lit. “the great soul”; the world soul as the highest being, a name for – Vishnu. Important sages and saints are often addressed by devotees as Mahapurusha.
Mahatma Skt., lit. “great soul”; term of respect given to important spiritual teachers and leaders. The term is known through Mahatma – Gandhi.
Nara-Narayana (Nara-Narayal).a), Skt., lit. nara: “man,” narayana: “God”; the human soul and God commingled. This representation of God as narayana is a symbol for the highest truth, that is, that the Self in man (- atman) is one with – brahman; at the same time, it brings God close to humanity in a vivid and inspiring manner.
Paramatman Skt. , l it. “the supreme-atman “; the supreme Self, often also translated as “world soul.” As absolute consciousness, it is identical with – brahman.
Parardha Stk. , lit. para: “beyond,” ardha: “half’; the spiritual half of the path taken following death, synonymous with – devayana, the “way of the gods.” According to the Vedas, two possibilities exist for the human soul after death: devayana, the path that leads to liberation from rebirth, and – pitriyana, or dakshinayiina, the path that leads back to earth after an intermediate stay in Chandraloka, the “realm of the moon”.
Paravairagya Skt., lit. “uttermost indifference, dispassion”; the complete detachment of a liberated soul, one who has renounced everything and no longer is moved by the ego.
Prapti-Prapya Skt.; one who has attained everything there is to attain; term used to refer to a liberated soul (- jivanmukta).
Purushottama or uttama-brahman, Skt., lit. “highest spirit, highest soul”; a term used to refer to the highest Self.
Udana Skt. a specific form of prajna: upward-flowing prana current that binds the physical and metaphysical parts of our being and, when activated, furthers spiritual development. Through it, the soul leaves the body at the time of death.
Yukta Skt.; a human being who has attained union with the world soul that permeates the entire universe, and who is free from all attachment to the things of this world.