Faith

The immortal soul

The Mahabharata is the greatest exponent of dharma in practice. It is not easy to give a synonym for the term dharma, for in it is subsumed a highly complex subject. The way of dharma is subtle and hence difficult to understand. The Itihasa takes care to drive home the point that dharma has to be upheld for dharma’s sake alone and not for the sake of enjoyment of desires, pointed out Sri B. Sundarkumar in a discourse.

In the Yaksha Prasna section that is placed in the Aranya Kanda of Vana Parva, interpreters go beyond the questions and answers to grasp their deeper significance. The first sloka in the Yaksha Prasna has four questions and is followed by Yudhishtira’s succinct reply to all these. To the first question, “Who is it who makes Aditya or the sun to rise?”, the answer given is that the Vedas help Aditya to rise. Neelakanta in his commentary says that Yudhishtira thinks of the atma or the soul of man when sun is mentioned. So it means the soul which through the five senses, mind and intellect gains knowledge of the world. Accordingly, his answer that the Vedas make the sun to rise means that the atma is able to realise itself with the help of the Vedas. The esoteric awareness leads the atma to differentiate between nitya and anithya aspects in life.

The watchword in spiritual practice is that all jivas are bound by karma and are redeemed with jnana. The emphasis on gaining true jnana about the immortal nature of the soul as distinct from the body has to be internalised. The Gita echoes this truth about the ultimate value of jnana in freeing the jiva from the shackles of samsara. The Lord assures that just as fire that is kindled turns all fuel to ashes, jnana can turn to ashes all the effects of karma.


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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 3:48:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/faith/the-immortal-soul/article37179099.ece

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