The myth of the soul or the inner self

 

Slide1Question: At times we have to take decisions, how to know that we are listening to our inner voice or outer voice?

Acharya Prashant: You see, there are those who remain enslaved by the outer, by outer forces, outer situations, outer voices etc., and worse than them are those who start believing in the inner. There are those who are compelled by forces outside of themselves and then there are those who say we are impelled by forces inside of ourselves. These two are not different, in fact the latter is even more deeply self deceived than the former.

What is this ‘outer’ and ‘inner’?

Reading a few texts in spirituality, very quickly you come to the conclusion that all outer is just a mirage, and if outer is a mirage, what do you say of the inner? Does the inner exist without the outer? If the outer is gone, what is the question of the inner? What is this thing called ‘inner’? Where does it exist?

Listener: Soul

AP: Soul, inside what? What do you mean by ‘inner’?

L: In ourselves, in our hearts.

AP: When you say something is ‘in’ something, then you mean it is enveloped, it is enclosed.

L: In the body

AP: So, the soul is inside the body? Then how is the inner any false, because the body thrives on the outer. When you say, the soul is ‘in the body’ and at the same time you decry the outer, tell me how is the outer false? Because the body feeds on the outer. Remove the outer, would the body exist?

L: No

AP: So, look at what you are saying. The soul, which you call as the supreme Truth, lives inside the body, and the body feeds on the soil, the grass, the sun and the air. So, the soul too, by definition, lives on these, right? Because the body is so big that it contains the soul.  And if the body lives on soil and grass then the soul too, must be feeding on these. If the body is dependent on soil and grass, then the soul too has to be dependent.

L: It is not dependent

AP: If it is not dependent, then it must be able to live without the body? What is it doing inside the body? The body is always dimensional, the body is always a happening, temporal, the body is in space and time. And by saying that the soul is inside the body, you have located the soul too, in space and time.

L: The body cannot be like this without the soul

AP: That is fine, but how does that mean that Truth is inside the body?

L: It pervades all over

AP: If it pervades all over, then why are you calling it inside the body? Why don’t you say, it is upon the table? Don’t you see the deep ego contained in that? “I am so great that I envelope the Atman. My measure is of a dimension that can encircle the Truth itself.” If the Truth is somewhere inside your body, then where will you bow down? What then is the need of bowing down? I am carrying it in my back pocket, I am carrying it in my kidney, I am carrying it in my nostrils. Now, what is the question of submitting?

Neither inside nor outside. Inside and outside exist only as long as you are looking with your eyes. For 8 to 10 hours in the day (in your sleep), where do these inside and outside disappear? Are they real? What happens to all inside and outside in your sleep? What will happen to them, after the body is gone? Who is this one, talking of boundaries and insides and outsides of the boundaries?

This is one of the deepest fallacies that religion has bred that the soul is inside the body. And this has led to mass illusion and great suffering. On one hand you say, “I am not the body”, on the other hand you say, “inside the body is the Truth.” Don’t you see, what that implies? You are saying, “I am not the Truth.” And it is not about any one line of thought, or any one philosophy. Across religions, and across the thoughts and ages, this belief holds way.

L: Many a times people say, we are going for meditation to find ourselves. Isn’t that when we are meditating, our preconditioned mind is answering to these questions.

AP: Of  course. All these things, inner self, inner voice, inner reality, all of them are just illusions. And because they have come in circulation, they have taken the form of mass hysteria. Everyone wants to dig out something from his insides.

We don’t even ‘look at’ the facts of living. Don’t you see that this that you call as ‘inner’, always speaks in a language that you have acquired? Has your inner voice ever spoken to you in French, in Russian? Has it ever spoken to you in your deep dreamless sleep? Don’t you see that it only tells you that which you are anyway conditioned to do? Don’t you see that your deepest conditioning speaks to you in your so called ‘inner voice’ or ‘inner reality’. And that is why I am saying that this concept of an ‘inner truth’ has done mankind great damage. It has enabled man to justify all his rubbish in the name of the ‘voice of conscience’ or the ‘voice of inner truth’. Justify, not so much to other, but firstly justify to himself.

Why do you need to look at facts, why do you need to be present, when an ‘inner voice’ can come up with solutions? Why do you need to know by ‘attending to’ the reality, when the substitute to the reality is assumed to be present inside you?

L: Spirituality says that you have to ‘find yourself’. If there is no soul inside us, then what are we finding?

AP: Spirituality is not at all about finding something inside of you. Who said that? Show me, where it is said that you have to find something inside of you. What are these popular illusions?

Spirituality is simply ‘Silence’.

The Upanishads say and they put it so beautifully -“That which powers the mind to think, is THAT which the mind cannot think of; That which powers the tongue to speak, is That which the tongue cannot speak of; That which powers the ears to hear, is That which the ears cannot hear of.”

You don’t need to go inside the body, the body itself ‘is the proof’ and ‘THAT’. In another instance, the Upanishads say, “the ear behind the ears, the eye behind the eyes, the voice behind the voice, the mind behind the mind.” Looking at the mind, you require ‘the mind behind the mind’. ‘Seeing how you hear’, you have started ‘listening’, (shrotrasya shrotram = the ear of the ear). That does not mean that there is another ear inside your ear.

(Laughter)

That does not mean that there are eyes behind the eyes and behind them is some soul. What kind of model making is this? Have you read no Biology?

(Laughter)

I think a basic course in Anatomy is a prerequisite to basic spirituality. Before you touch the Upanishads you must first go to the textbook on human anatomy. So that there remains no confusion regarding any vacancies inside the body, where the soul can take refuge. People have gone far to conduct very clever experiments. Actually, there is a verse in ‘Kathopanishad’, where it is said that the Atman is of the size of the thumb.

People have taken that literally. And they have gone to great lengths, in trying to find out where that pocket is, where this thumb shaped cavity is there. And then there are others, who objected, Buddhists and Jains. They said, if the Upanishads are right, then tell me where is that thumb sized cavity inside the body of an ant? So, then came another clever reply, that in the case of the ant, the thumb refers to the ant’s thumb.

(Laughter)

After all the soul is supposed to be inside the body. Nonsense.

But then the Vedantists were not to be left far behind, they said, “how about the fish, they have no thumb? What is the size of their soul?”

So, what is said from opposition of meditation, must be understood in the same meditative way. When it is said that the soul is the size of the thumb and inside of you, what is implied is, that it is small. It is an idiom, it is a way of saying, a metaphor. It is said that it is not so large that you can look at it with admiration, it is not the size of a mountain. It is not something imposing, it is subtle. Hence the metaphor of the thumb was used.

Similarly, when it was asserted, and it comes in the Bhagavad Gita as well, Krishna does say that “I live inside of you.” When it was asserted that the soul is inside the body, it was only to counter the feeling that the soul is outside the body. ‘Inside’ has to be read as, ‘not outside’. But when somebody is under the impression that the Truth is outside of him, then it is even more dangerous for him to start believing next that the Truth is inside of him. Because, the inside and the outside go together. If you start in the inside, you will also have to believe in the outside.

Truth is neither inside nor outside, ‘it is the basis of all insides and outsides’. ‘It is the substratum on which that mind rests which thinks of all insides and outsides’.

As the Upanishads say, “the mind underneath the mind.” So, inside and outside are mind. The Truth is that which is both beneath the inside and outside. Outsides, insides keep coming and going, the Truth remains. Bodies keep coming and going, the Atman remains. Were you talking of any inside, before you were born? Would you be talking of any outside after you are gone? Does that mean that the Truth came with you and will go away with you? Your outside and inside will be washed away by the time, the Truth remains.


~ Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.

Watch the session: Acharya Prashant: Krishna is that within you that already knows


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2 thoughts on “The myth of the soul or the inner self

  1. “Truth is neither inside nor outside, ‘it is the basis of all insides and outsides’. ‘It is the substratum on which that mind rests which thinks of all insides and outsides’.”

    This blog is a myth breaker. Everyone should read it. We think there is some soul inside our body. This article will clear everything out.

    Like

    • Dear remembrance1blog,

      Greetings from PrashantAdvait Foundation!

      The reply to this comment is made by the volunteers of the Foundation who maintain the blog.

      This article by Acharya ji is something which people never hear of.
      Keep reading.

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      We are glad to inform you that seekers from all over the world get connected with Acharya-Ji through the following offerings by the foundation:

      1. Meet the Master:
      Meet the Master aka MTM is an opportunity to meet Acharya Prashant personally, either physically or online.

      To meet the master, send your application to requests@prashantadvait.com or contact: Smt. Anoushka Jain: +91-9818585917

      2. Advait Learning Camps:
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