“There is no specific date at which the jiva was born. Nor can anyone trace out the history of jivatma's manifestation from the Supreme Lord. Therefore it is beginningless.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 13.13 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
Who am I? What is my true identity? From where have I come? In the future, where will I go? Not just tomorrow, the next day, or the day after - what about after the inevitable end of life called death?
For many spiritual traditions these questions go too far. The typical response is something like this:
“Don’t overthink it. Just have faith. Put your trust in the savior. We don’t know the answer to these questions, but we do know that the Lord works in mysterious ways.”
The Bhagavad-gita provides answers to the best extent that can be understood. And there is an extent. That is part of the definition of the true identity. The living entities, the people asking, are individual spirit souls. Those souls don’t have a specific size or shape in which they can be found. Sure, the actual size is compared to the tip of the hair divided into ten thousand parts, yet that tip is so powerful that it animates both the large elephant and the tiny ant. It gives intelligence to the rocket scientist and to the horse to do what is necessary to survive. Like the electricity powering both the television and the toaster, spirit soul is capable of amazing things.
That solves the issue of identity, but what about origin? We know that in this life we came from our parents. Life comes from life. Contrary to what the atheistic scientists say, man is no further along in creating life from chemicals than they ever have been. Nor will they ever be able to succeed, as they are not capable of providing the missing chemical to bring back life to a dead body, i.e. they can never be successful at running the most basic experiment to prove their hypothesis.
The spiritual science is something that can be studied for an entire lifetime even, as there is plenty of source material available. The Bhagavad-gita, though comparatively short in length to other scriptural works, has knowledge so profound that after many readings new revelations continue to emerge. Indeed, the truth about the identity of the individual as spirit soul comes from that great song sung by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Shri Krishna.
1. We don’t know when the jiva was born
The individual soul is jivatma. Atma usually means “soul,” but it can also refer to “mind” or “body.” Jivatma is the word used to mark the distinction from Paramatma. Jivatma is individual soul, whereas Paramatma is Supreme Soul. Jivatma is a sample of the spiritual energy, while Paramatma is the source of the spiritual energy. One is the power, while the other is the powerful.
As both are spirit, the shortened jiva is sometimes used interchangeably. There is no known date of birth for the jiva. There is simply no way of knowing. We don’t remember the birth in the present life, but we can get verification from high authorities. We trust their word. We believe them when they give us a date of birth.
In Vedic literature there is a description of the individual soul coming from a region of energy called tatastha. This is the marginal potency, wherein there is a choice in association. Jiva can choose to either be with God the person or go to a land where there is strong forgetfulness of Him.
Even if there is a date in the vast span of time in which that choice was made, the issue of infinity still exists. There is always a beginning to a beginning. Shri Krishna confirms in the Bhagavad-gita that there never was a time that the individual soul did not exist.
“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.12)
2. We can’t trace out when the jiva manifested from God
The explanation of the birth of the material world is simple. The Supreme Lord, in His spiritual form of Vishnu, lies down to rest. When He exhales, the many universes and their component planets come into existence. When He inhales, everything gets destroyed and comes back into Him. It’s as simple as that.
The species are populated through the work of Lord Brahma, who is also known as the creator. Still, He only crafts the body types, in varieties numbering up to 8,400,000. These are like different sets of clothes. The clothing company manufactures clothes and the retail outlet sells them, but neither generate people to fit into them.
“It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 14.4)
That work is accomplished by the Supreme Lord. He is the seed-giving father, injecting the spiritual energy into the unmanifest material substance, pradhana. That is the explanation for the many living beings, appearing in so many different shapes and sizes. Evolution is real, but it is simply the travel of the individual soul, the jiva, from one body type to another. The body types themselves don’t create other body types.
The jivas are part of the marginal energy that comes from the powerful Bhagavan, which is another name for God. There is no way to trace out when this energy came into existence. We are expansions of God, but when that expansion took place is impossible to discover.
What does this mean? Is the spiritual science beyond comprehension? Should we not ask such questions? Should we follow blindly? The idea is that the jiva can know a lot. To bring doubts to the discussion is always beneficial. Indeed, part of knowing who we are is understanding the limitations to knowledge. If we could know everything then we would be equal to God, which can never happen.
Jivatma and Paramatma are meant to be together, connected in a link called yoga. That is the objective to an existence, and the potential is especially there in the human form. When the link is created, the forgetfulness vanishes, and the choice is made for residence in the spiritual world. We do have a say in that event happening, as it is shaped by consciousness, which is shaped by thoughts, words and deeds from this lifetime.
Jivas from tatastha region to go,
When occurred never can know.
Also expansion from Supreme Lord came,
But limitation with knowledge the same.
But hopeless spiritual life is not,
Best chance in this human life got.
Jiva with Paramatma connect for real,
Then travel to Supreme Abode seal.