Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (IV.iv.5) says “The self (soul) indeed is the Brahman, as also identified with the intellect, the mind and the vital force, with eyes and ears, with earth, water, air, ether and fire and what is other than fire, with desire and the absence of desire, with anger and the absence of anger, with righteousness and unrighteousness, with everything identified, in fact with what is perceived and what that is inferred. As it does and acts, so it becomes. By doing good, it becomes good and by doing evil it becomes evil. It becomes virtuous through good acts and vicious through evil acts. Others, however say, “The self (soul) is identified with desire alone. What it desires, it resolves. What it resolves, it works out. What it works out, it attains.”

The Upanishad says that there is no difference between the Brahman as Self and the Brahman as self. The Brahman is known by different names such as Self, Paramatma (Para-atman), God, etc. Soul too has different names such as purusha, self, jivatma (jiva-atman), etc. When the soul interacts with mind and senses, it becomes susceptible to karmic afflictions, as the soul attains a body to perform actions. When it is said that the Brahman is Self, then what is self? In fact the difference between Self and self is too subtle to interpret. This question is raised in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad ‘katham atmethi’ (IV.iii.7), which means ‘which is the self (soul)?’ The difference if any is to be empathized as the karmas afflict only the self and not the Self. The Self is beyond everything and it is the source of everything that exists in the universe. But the self is a miniscule of the omnipresent Self. The self is not identified with the body or mind. It continues to be independent. This self has been explained as mind, intellect or self-illuminating atman (soul) within heart’s cavity (biological heart does not have any cavity). A soul is mainly guided by the intellect, which invariably fails to use its full potency due to the influence of maya (illusion). “Three he designed for himself” says the same Upanishad (I.v.3). ‘Himself’ here means the soul. The three are the mind, the speech (shabdha Brahman) and the vital force also known as prana. The soul is placed among them ‘like a rock in the midst of trees’. The soul does not undergo any change and remains as a mere non-tumultuous spectator. It quietly watches the other three growing. In terms of subtleness, the self is subtlest of all. Then come intellect and then prana. Sound however undergoes transformation from subtle to gross before it is delivered.

Intellect, prana and sound in different proportions make the organs of perception and action to perform. When they perform for the sake of performance alone, they do not cause any karmic afflictions. Actions are needed to sustain the embodied soul and organs (both action and perception) have been provided merely as tools to sustain the embodied soul. But the originality of the intellect gets deluded by semblance of maya giving rise to the worst enemy of spirituality, the ego. Ego takes fictitious and wrongful credit for all the actions done by the organs of action and perception without any reasoning. Ego is the supreme destroyer of entire spiritual aspirations. Krishna says (Bhagavad Gita XVIII.14, 15 and 16) “the contributory factors for whatever actions, right or wrong, man performs with mind, speech and body. He, whose mind is free from the sense of doership, and whose reasoning is not tainted by worldly objects, does not really slay even having slaughtered all these creatures, nor is bound by sin.” But the fact remains that “all actions cannot be given up in their entirety by anyone possessing a body, he alone who renounced the fruit of actions is a called a man of renunciation” (Bhagavad Gita VIII.11). But this principle is easier said than done. If desire is nurtured, it always manifests as ego causing ownership of actions leading to karmic afflictions. There is only a single antidote for ego, renunciation. To renounce, one has to have the highest kind of knowledge that can be attained only internal query and exploration. The answer for such query dawns only in the highest meditative stage.

(To be continued)