Hinduism is one of the most ancient religions dating back over 4,000 years. It holds very interesting spiritual concepts, one of which is “Soul“. In this article, we’ll talk about what’s the meaning of the soul according to Hinduism.
The soul is a bodiless essence of human beings, according to many religious and philosophical beliefs. In many religious texts, it mentions that the actual state of human beings is the soul, but we, because of delusion, never experience it.
There are many religions that have different faiths and meanings about the soul, but this article discusses what Hindus believes about the soul.
But in order to understand what Hinduism say about the soul, we must understand how Hinduism defines the soul.
Meaning Of Soul In Hinduism
In Hinduism, the word used for the soul is Ātman. Ātman is a Sanskrit word that means the universal essence of human beings, distinct from ego(Ahamkara), mind(Citta) and matter(Prakṛti). Soul according to Hindusim, is believed to be a part of Brahman(Ultimate Reality) who is believed to be the creator of this universe.
Hinduism On Soul
Now, as you might have understood what soul means in Hinduism and its origin, let’s now shed light on what Hindus believe about the soul.
According to Hinduism, the soul or Atman is not something that one can see or touch in his entire life because it is different from the material body.
The most popular Hindu belief is that when a person leaves this world, his/her atman, reborn only after spending time in heaven(Swarg) and hell(Narak). This cycle of reincarnation goes on and on.
That is, if the soul has not acquired self-knowledge (atma jnana) and until and unless it does, it will continue to live and die and live and die again over millions of years. But if the soul has gained self-knowledge, it will no longer be reborn.
The primary goal and belief of Hinduism is to discover the ātman, that which makes every person a unique individual.
Ātman is not a distinct entity that resides inside a person. Rather, it is something on which various psychological and physical aspects of a person depend. Ātman is the “true self” of every individual.
Every living and non-living thing can be destroyed, but not the soul.
In the holy text of Hinduism, The Holy Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:
“Know that to be imperishable & indestructible, by which all this is pervaded; for none can bring about the destruction of this indestructible substance, the imperishable soul.”
But now one may ask if the soul is so eternal and it is a universal truth why one cannot see it or even feel its existence in this universe?
This is well, described by Hindu Lord Krishna in Chapter 2 of Bhagavad Gita:
“The spirit soul bewildered by the influence of false ego thinks himself the doer of activities that are in actuality carried out by the three modes of material nature.”
“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.”
“The working senses are superior to dull matter; mind is higher than the senses; intelligence is still higher than the mind; and he [the soul] is even higher than the intelligence.”
These beliefs are the core concept of the Soul according to Hinduism. The Dharma Sutras of Hinduism talks about Atman in great detail, as they quote:
“There is no higher object than the attainment of the knowledge of Atman. We shall quote the verses from the Veda which refer to the attainment of the knowledge of the Atman. All living creatures are the dwelling of him who lies enveloped in matter, who is immortal, who is spotless. A wise man shall strive after the knowledge of the Atman. It is he [Self] who is the eternal part in all creatures, whose essence is wisdom, who is immortal, unchangeable, pure; he is the universe, he is the highest goal.”– Knowledge of the Atman, Apastamba Dharma Sūtra
Hindus believe that we humans are non-different from infinite, but this is only because of our ignorance and blindness due to our desires that we are unable to commune with God. These beliefs of rebirth and non-separateness of the soul from the body make Hinduism a very interesting yet deep religion.
The concept of soul in Hinduism is not so simple, but if one might want to conclude, then according to me the belief of Atman or the soul in Hinduism is all about communion with God and attaining self-knowledge.
This is because of the belief that the soul is impressible but reincarnates after death. There could be a purpose in this concept of rebirth, but what may it be, we are eternal beings experiencing this life.
What happens to the soul after death in Hinduism?
According to the Hinduism, the soul never dies, only the body does. Hence, the soul takes a new birth according to its karmic actions.
What is the goal of the soul in Hinduism?
The goal of atman or the soul in Hinduism is to attain self-knowledge in order to make communion with God in order to be free from the cycle of life and death.
Who created the soul in Hinduism?
It is believed that Brahman created the soul. There is also a belief that soul came into existence on its own. As Krishna in Gita said that souls have neither beginning nor any end.