First, there is mind, manaḥ, then intelligence, buddhi, then soul, ātmā. The soul is evergreen: it does not die. The soul is eternal, constant. It is said in the Upaniṣads and in the Gītā: if once we can meet our soul, then a diametrical change comes in our life. At that time, we will be astonished to realise, “Oh, such a highly qualified thing is here within me! In ignorance, I was considering that this perishable body and this flickering mind were my true self. But the material senses and mind are all trespassers. They have some inimical tendency towards my true self. I am soul. I have no necessity of all these things. Without these unnecessary material things I can live! No food is necessary for the soul from the jurisdiction of this material plane. The soul is independent. What a wonderful existence I have! In reality I am soul, and the nature of the soul is so noble, so high, so good.” A diametrical change of consciousness comes at this point and one tries to enter into that higher realm. Spiritual reality is what is necessary for us. We are soul, we are independent of matter. We are made of such transcendental existence. Nothing can threaten the soul’s existence—not the atomic bomb, nuclear war, lightning, thunder, or earthquakes. All the troubles of this material world are limited to this body which is a foreign carcass, a concocted representation of my true self. My true self exists on the spiritual plane, on a higher level. If we can really have a touch of that realisation, a glimpse of our own identity—if we can feel within that the soul is independent of matter—then a revolutionary change will take place within our minds. Then, our attempt to progress in spiritual life becomes quite genuine. Otherwise, our progress is suspicious, doubtful. We grasp it intellectually and think, “Yes, let me try. I’m hearing, of course, that I have a good prospect in spiritual life; by my intelligence I can follow something. Let me try.” But progress on the intellectual plane is only hesitating progress. When one comes to the plane of one’s own soul, however, one will find one’s self and realise, “Here I am!” At that time all false conceptions which have been held for so long will vanish like a dream. They will all be finished, and one will think, “I’m to start a new life.” And the new prospect will open to make progress in the higher plane.
Soul is nearby. We can try to find out what the soul is if we can eliminate the material elements. This is the process of the Upaniṣads and is mentioned in the Bhagavad-gītā (3.42): indriyāṇi parāṇy āhur. First we are to understand that our senses are primary. If my senses are removed, the entire world of our experience is nothing to me. Only through my senses can I be aware of the existence of the outside world. Minus senses, eyes, ears, no world is apparent to me. Then, above the senses is the mind. What is the mind? The mind deals with acceptance and rejection: saṅkalpa-vikalpa. In other words, the mind thinks, “I want this; I don’t want that.” It deals with attachment and hatred. The mind determines who is enemy and who is friend. “This is mine, that’s yours.” If we want to understand the mind, we have to look within, to enquire within: what is that element in me that seeks friends and avoids enemies? Where is he? Sometimes the mind is apparent; then other times it is hiding. I must find out where the mind exists. Of what substance is it composed? By analysis, I can understand what aspect of my inner self is the mind. Then, having some idea of what the mind is, I may analyse that part of me which deals with reason, the intelligence. Where is the intelligence?
When the mind demands something, the intelligence says, “Don’t take that, don’t eat that.” By introspection, I may look within and find out what is that principle in me which reasons? Where is that fine thing? What is its nature, its substance, its existence? We shall try in our introspection to find it out, substantially. If that is possible, then the next step will take us to the soul. What is that soul which makes possible the intelligence, the reason by which we act, which prompts the mind to want and also gives our senses the power to connect with things? What is that spark of knowledge? Where is that soul within me? What position does it hold? I want to see it face to face. Then in this way, we can evaporate like lightning all the misconceptions of the body and mind. By finding the soul through introspection, we may experience the lightning touch of realisation.
At that time, the whole world will be turned in a diametrically different line, and we shall see things differently: “Oh, this material life is undesirable! These senses are enemies in the garb of friends. If I confront them now, they say that I may have an honourable friendship with them and that without them I can’t live. But it is all a hoax.”
From a realisation of the soul, from the point of that wonderful knowledge, one may come to see the ocean of knowledge. One may begin to see what is in the subjective area and hanker for how to come in connection with that divine realm. At that time, the very trend of one’s life will be changed, and a total change will come in our search, in our standard of prospect in life. And our search will take a concrete shape in devotion. In this way, we must begin our search after the higher sphere. And how to enter there?
It is the opposite of this plane of exploitation. In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Satan said, “It is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.” But we shall experience just the opposite: “It is better to serve in heaven than to reign in hell.” To serve in heaven is highly superior than to reign in hell.
The question of energy and power is important in the mortal world, but in the constant and eternal world, this sort of energy has no value. That plane is composed of eternal substance. It is not like this troubling plane which is always breaking, always disappearing, always disappointing, and full of treachery. That divine plane is constant. Life goes on there without any need of food, rest, or medicine. There is no need of the labour to earn bread in that higher realm. All these things are not necessary in a plane of reality where everything is permanent and of eternal value. All these problems which are making us madly busy are easily eliminated in one stroke. That is the nature of that plane. And if we realise that we are members of that plane, then the question becomes what to do? How to approach the higher realm? That will be our problem. We cannot force our entry there; we must be granted a visa. We cannot master that finer realm; we must allow ourselves to be utilised by it. In other words, we must come to the position of slavery. We shall have to realise that mastership here in the mortal world is a curse and the slavery in that higher world is a boon.
(excerpt from ‘Subjective Evolution of Consciousness’)