“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal, fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.7)Download this episode (right click and save)
Take the tip of a piece of hair and divide it into ten thousand parts. Then take one of those parts. It’s practically impossible to see, but conceptually that one fragment is representative of the size of the individual soul. Despite being so small, this one fragment is powerful enough to light up the entire body. It gives life to both the infant and the adult. The soul does not transform with time. There is no evolution in terms of spirit. The body is what changes, and that body needs a spiritual spark for animation.
All sparks of spirit are the same, and yet there is an original source as well. The origin is the Supreme Spirit. He is known as Paramatma. He is one, though expanded to reside inside of every living thing. The individual soul is jivatma, which is often described as “conditioned.” What exactly does that mean?
1. It is under the jurisdiction of the material nature
Spirit has qualities that separate it from matter. Spirit has consciousness, while matter does not. Spirit is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. It can never be killed, either. What we lament over, the event known as death, is actually just the changing of bodies. It is like a departing flight for the tiny spiritual spark, set to reach another destination after some time.
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)
Though the spirit soul is free and indestructible, in the conditioned state the individual is under the laws of the material nature. Think of having to go to sleep at night. Think of the distress from the scorching heat. Think of the bitter cold and how other living entities cause us pain. These things are all the result of being conditioned. Paramatma is under no such control.
2. It has conditions to desires
The Sanskrit word kama means “desire.” In the discipline of mysticism there are various perfections that can be achieved. One of them is the kama-rupa siddhi. This is the ability to take any form desired. It comes after steady practice and advancement along the path. Not everyone can get this ability.
Nevertheless, even for the elevated yogi, not every desire is met. This is another meaning to conditioned. The individual spirit can desire while within a material body, but due to the nature of the land they inhabit not every desire can be met. Think of the job opening at the company. Many people apply, but only one will land the job. This means that the majority will have their desires unfulfilled. Paramatma, on the other hand, always gets what He wants. He is never frustrated.
3. It has chosen to be under maya
Maya is illusion. It exists in two forms: yoga and maha. Mahamaya is the bad kind, though the conditioned soul in the material world has actually chosen to be under its spell. Maya makes you forget who you really are. It makes you identify with an ever-changing body, accepting sense gratification to be the height of living.
Yogamaya is the energy directly supervised by the Supreme Lord. It is a kind of illusion too, but the good kind. It keeps a person in the spiritual consciousness. By definition, a soul who is conditioned is not linked to God in yoga.
4. It is conditioned by nature to be in illusion
Part of the deal is that if you choose in favor of maya, the material nature works to keep you in illusion. We can think of it like going on a ride at an amusement park. We’re choosing to enter danger. We can’t blame the park operators for the terror we feel afterwards. The harrowing ride is part of the experience.
The material nature works to keep the conditioned soul in illusion, because that is the underlying desire. Sitting in a movie theater, the audience wants to forget that what they are watching is a scripted performance, meticulously edited to look like real life.
5. It always has the opportunity to flip
The conditioned soul is bound in so many ways, through both the experience in one lifetime and the perpetual cycle of rebirth. Nevertheless, there is always the option available to change things. When the decision is made for yogamaya, the conditioned soul turns into a liberated one. Yoga leads to liberation, since it is a connection to the Divine.
Naturally, the liberated soul is not conditioned. They are not under the jurisdiction of the material nature, even though it may appear that way. The Supreme Lord and His yogamaya are completely in charge of the liberated soul. The lone desire is to remain connected with God, who is known as Krishna because He is all-attractive. This desire is never stifled, as Krishna does not deny anyone who wishes to serve Him in love.
Frustrated despite how hard tried,
Since on material nature relied.
For conditioned soul this a check,
Not every one of their desires to be met.
In illusion of maya to stay,
Since that material world’s way.
Despite however long forgetfulness of mine,
Door to spiritual world open all the time.