“I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas am I to be known; indeed I am the compiler of Vedanta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.15)Download this episode (right click and save)
For the serious student of genuine spiritual life, the first philosophical instruction is “you are not your body.” This instruction is required at the outset because without this knowledge, none of the other truths will make sense. Sort of like having to know that 2 + 2 = 4 in order to understand calculus, the seeker of the truth should at least theoretically understand the difference between matter and spirit. They, including every other individual, are spirit, and everything else is matter. This spirit is known as the atma, or soul.
As one gains further knowledge, that soul is known by a more specific term: jivatma. This refers to individual soul. The distinction is necessary because of the presence of a higher soul: Paramatma. Paramatma lives side by side with the individual soul within the heart of the living entity. As the term “living entity” applies to any life form, we see that the jivatma and Paramatma exist in every creature, large and small, human and nonhuman.
Paramatma translates to “supreme soul” because it has a notable distinction. It is one. The soul in my body is different from the soul in your body. That’s what makes us individuals. The Paramatma, however, is the same in both of us. It represents the same individual. Paramatma is one way to understand Bhagavan, or the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Paramatma is His feature as the all-pervading witness. It is the mechanism through which God sees everything.
One day Amarnath was discussing these topics with his friend and classmate Parth during a long car ride back to their university. Amarnath spoke of the aforementioned facts, and Parth listened intently but still had a few doubts.
“But how do we know that the Paramatma is there? I know that there is a soul in my body based on the fact that I am living. You know that I’m here because I’m alive and speaking to you. But how do we see Paramatma?,” asked Parth.
“It’s just one of those things you have to accept first and then realize later on,” replied Amarnath.
“Yeah but if something like that is so close by, I would think that you could realize its presence without a problem. I’ve read other philosophies that say something to the effect that the individual souls are all actually one. They don’t mention a Supersoul. This makes more sense to me, as the individual souls can be noticed based on the close proximity. How do I believe that God’s expansion of the Supersoul is so close by if I can’t even notice its presence?”
Seeing the difficulty in getting this vital point across, Amarnath then tried to explain using a few stories from the life of his friend Kumar. Kumar worked at a business where there was a large call center. His duties pertained to management of the IT infrastructure. He was in charge of the network maintenance and also purchase and development of software for the company. While the majority of the company dressed casually, in his office Kumar always wore a shirt and tie. He had a few others with him in his department, and they had their own area in the building.
The company had an entire building for themselves, and the entrance to that building was the same for everyone. However, after walking in there were two paths: one for the people who worked in the call center section and one for the higher ups. Naturally, Kumar always took the path leading towards the management offices. Though so many people worked in that company, Kumar hardly knew any of them. He was close with the higher ups, and they were the ones running the show.
Kumar shared his office with other IT staff, and they were all on good terms. One time a guest arrived in the office. They seemed to know one of the IT staff members very well. When that guest approached Kumar’s desk, Kumar got up, shook his hand, and introduced himself. This made the fellow IT staff member in the room at that time laugh hysterically.
“Kumar, you don’t know this guy?” asked the IT staff member, barely able to contain his laughter.
A little embarrassed now, Kumar responded that he didn’t. This guest knew Kumar very well, however. He worked in the call center, on the other side of the building. In fact, most of the people working on that side knew who Kumar was. This guest was a little taken aback by the fact that Kumar didn’t know who he was, though the two worked at the same company and arrived at the same office complex every day for many years.
Another story involving Kumar related to important things at his house. Kumar lived with his wife and her parents. Kumar didn’t do much at home, since he was at the office all the time. His wife handled all the finances. She took care of the different repairs at the home. Kumar hardly ever picked up the mail out of the mailbox, even. This all made for an interesting adventure when one time Kumar’s wife and her parents went away for a weekend.
This took place in the dead of winter, and so one night upon returning home Kumar noticed that there was no hot water. Guessing that the problem might be related to the heating system, which relied on oil, Kumar decided to call the oil burner maintenance shop. His wife had left him a few numbers to contact in case of emergency, and this certainly was an emergency situation.
Upon making the call, Kumar had no idea what to say to the person on the other end. They asked him if there was oil in the tank. Kumar said he didn’t know. They asked where his tank was. Kumar said he thought that maybe it was at the side of the house. They then asked him to go to the tank and read the gauge to let them know if there was any oil. Kumar said he would check and call them back.
So Kumar went outside hastily and attempted to get in the backyard. He noticed there was a new fence put in. He eventually figured out how to open the latch to the fence door. But then the door wouldn’t open. He couldn’t even get his hand through the opening. The problem was that it had snowed recently. Kumar took the responsibility to shovel the driveway and neighboring areas, but didn’t even think of the backyard. In fact, he hadn’t been in the backyard in a few years.
Realizing that snow around the fence door area had turned ice-like, Kumar climbed up using a garbage can and then jumped over the fence, landing on his back. Picking himself up and dusting the snow off his body, Kumar then dug out the snow, which then allowed the fence door to open. He was only halfway there, as next he had to figure out how to open the lock that was on the cap of the oil tank. After fifteen minutes, struggling through the freezing temperatures and using a flashlight to see, Kumar finally got it open. That was it for that night, and the next morning he scheduled an oil delivery. Then a technician had to come and get the oil burner restarted. All of these things were known to his wife very well, and though Kumar lived in the same house, he was unfamiliar with them.
Amarnath referenced these stories to show Parth that it is indeed possible to have something close by for a very long time and not notice its presence.
“See, it’s the same way with the Supersoul. He travels with us from lifetime to lifetime, even if we have no idea that He’s there,” he told Parth.
“I guess that makes sense. That Kumar sounds like a piece of work. Good thing he’s got his wife taking care of stuff for him,” Parth replied.
“Yeah. He should get her two dozen roses every year on Valentine’s day.”
“So how do I see the Supersoul. How do I connect with Him, as He is so close by?”
Amarnath then explained that through following the principles of bhakti-yoga, by chanting the holy names on a regular basis, eventually the vision comes.
“If you chant ‘Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare’ and take the mercy of a spiritual master, who is like the visible version of the Supersoul’s influence, then the situation becomes one where the Supersoul notices you. You won’t have to notice Him specifically. And that connection to Him is known as yoga, and in yoga one finds transcendental happiness.”
How presence of Supersoul to believe,
And how its causeless mercy to receive?
Understand that a soul inside of me,
And others too living easy to see.
But of next-door neighbor consider,
Of whom might be known little.
Just because in proximity next,
Presence not automatically to detect.
Supersoul through theory first know,
Then see when in bhakti-yoga to go.