I have often asked people "Who are you?" and for some reason this simple question leaves people confused. Some answer "Rahul" or "Anita". But really thats just a word. Its your name. Its not you. Some say "girl" or "boy" but again thats your gender.
Just like when you claim- its my bag or my book you do not become the bag or book. You are different from either of those two. Similarly you cannot say I am my body. They are your hands, your eyes, it is your body. You are not that body.
So then who are we?
The scriptures state that we are the spirit soul- a spark of energy that animates the body. The body is simply a dead machine unless it is activated by the soul. We can consider the analogy of a car. The car has wheels and the body has legs for motion, the car has a horn to generate noise and the body has the lungs, vocal cords etc. But the car will never move until the driver activates it. Similarly the body needs spirit to activate it.
Now some of you may be thinking the above is just word jugglery. I, my - just playing with pronouns. People want proof of the soul's existence. This is a little funny- you are actually asking for the proof of your own existence :) But anyways for cynics
The body is ever changing. It is claimed that every seven years all the cells of the body are replaced by new ones. Everybody knows that as a baby, a toddler, a teenager and as an adult your appearance has changed tremendously. But you are still you right? Your identity is not dependent on the appearance of your body. Then how can you identify yourself with your body?
Some times people ask, why cant I see the soul? But is seeing or (direct experience) the only way to accept something's existence? In fact the entire field of electrostatics is based on something which we cannot perceive with any of our senses- the electron. We know that an electron exists from its symptoms.(You can see its light reflection on a CRT screen). Also we cannot percieve X-rays. We can only see their effect on the right material. Similarly consciousness is the symptom of the soul. Consciousness differentiates a dead body from a live one.
3)Near Death Experiences-
Many cases have been documented where patients undergoing a critical operation are able to recall later, in very accurate detail, the operation theater, people present, instruments used, conversations etc. Many cases have been scientifically documented(See link)
When someone dies the common phrase is "he passed away" but the body is lying right there. Then who passed away? Also the fact that near death experiences are called out-of-body experiences goes to show that you are not the body - you are the soul.
Hopefully by now you might be convinced that you are not your body, you are something different. Now what exactly does it mean to be a soul?
It means that
1)The soul is sat, chit and anand. i.e. full of knowledge, eternal and full of bliss. ("Strange", you wonder "I cannnot claim to be full of knowledge and nor am I always happy") Yes, this has happened because we identify ourselves with our body. We are covered by this material nature which is exactly opposite. Everything related to matter is temporary, full of ignorance and can never give us true happiness.
By appropriate spiritual training we can all realize our true nature.(More about this in next blog)
2)Knowledge that we are not the body frees from fear, stress and lamentation that arises when near-and-dear ones pass away or when we suffer illness or disease related to the body.
3)Realization of the soul also brings true universal brotherhood. Major problems like terrorism, racism, infact everything arise because people identify themselves on factors related to their body(eg race, caste, etc) and hate everybody else externally different from them. Knowledge that we are all eternal spiritual beings encourages
Reference: (Bhagvad Gita As it is-Srila Prabhupada, Discover Yourself-Radheyshyam Das, www.thespiritualscientist.com)