Transmigration of the Soul What is the Self?

To begin to process of self-realization we must first understand our self, or ātma (soul) within the body. The existence of life is very subtle. Our gross body is made of solids, liquids, radiant energy, gasses and space. Beyond this is a subtle body of mind, intelligence, and ego. When I give up the gross body, the subtle body carries me to another gross body. Thus even when the gross body is lifeless, the subtle body is continues to exist. For example at night when the gross body is asleep the subtle body is active in a dreaming state. Similarly, when the gross body dies the subtle body of mind, intelligence and ego carries us to the next life.

The  Bhagavad-gītā elegantly explains how a person changes bodies. When the mind, intelligence, and ego of a dying person are absorbed in a certain kind of thought, that thought takes him to a suitable body for the next life. Just as the air is pure but when passing over a rose bush it carries the aroma of the rose and when passing over a filthy place it carries the smell of that filthy place, so the mind, intelligence, and ego carry the flavor of our present activities to the next life. This is the subtle mystery of the transmigration of the soul from one body to another. If in our present life we purify our consciousness, then in our next life we shall get a body full of transcendental "flavor."


Beyond the Gross and Subtle Bodies

Spiritual realization means to free ourselves from the two bodies in which we are now living—the gross body and the subtle body. Suppose a man's gross body appears dead. One must know that the subtle body has carried him to another body. The subtle body still exists. It continues even after the gross body dies. But one must free himself from the subtle body. This is liberation or mokṣa. If we want to progress toward spiritual advancement in knowledge, we must have this preliminary knowledge: "I am not the body." This is the A-B-C's of spiritual life.




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