CHENNAI: Scriptures describe the Supreme Being (Brahman) as existence, consciousness, infinite and bliss. Brahman according to Advaita appears as the many individual souls (Jiva) due to the power of Maya (Avidya). In man there are four sheaths (Kosha) that are adjuncts to the innermost Self (Atman), which is blissful (Ananda). The Koshas are the physical (body), vital (Prana), mind (manas) and intellect (vijnana), and they envelop the Self to give it a distinct individuality.

In his discourse, Sri P.M.Vijayaraghava Sastrigal said a spiritual seeker was bound to get the doubt that as Maya was posited as without a beginning, should individuality also be so. In his Vivekachudamani, Sankara has discussed this matter through a doubt expressed by a disciple to his preceptor: “Be it through delusion or otherwise that the Supreme Self has come to consider Itself as the Jiva, this superimposition is without beginning, and that which has no beginning cannot be supposed to have an end either. Therefore, the Jivahood of the soul must have no end… How then can there be liberation for the soul?”

This is an existential dilemma experienced by every seeker of liberation when he makes an attempt to understand the origin of individual selves and bondage (Samsara). As scriptures state that they have been so without a beginning, it is logical to doubt whether there would be an end to it (liberation from bondage). Not only this but related questions also arise like why there were dissimilarities between different souls at the time of creation, and given the fact that even human birth is full of sorrows why many of the bonded souls are born in the form of the countless living beings whose condition must be even more miserable. And, why should the Lord, who is all-merciful and impartial, allow suffering and disparities?

It is not man’s brief to question divine dispensation and it is for this reason that in matters of spirituality tradition asserts that the scriptures are the ultimate authority as these are beyond the scope of intellectual understanding. Faith in the scriptures is the cornerstone of spiritual quest but the truth can be verified by experience by the seeker who pursues it sincerely.