The "I", the soul, change and salvation

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Oct 12 09:28:25 CDT 2001

Man is a compound of the mind, body and spirit. The existence of the spirit
is proved in deep sleep where when we wake up, we wake up as the same person
who went to sleep. And the state of deep sleep is not an abstract, objective
state which we only infer as state between the dream state and waking up -
for when we wake up we wake up with the full realization of having
experienced peace and bliss for a particular period of time after the dream
state. Thus are we the spirit.

Here in reference to the compounded psycho/physical/spiritual entity that is
every human being, where does the identity - the "I" - rest? In the waking
state it rests in the tri-combitnation of the mind/body/spirit. In dream
state it is the bi-combination of mind and spirit. In deep sleep it is the
spirit in itself.

One thing to be noted is that, of the three states it is only during the
waking state that we've the will/control over our being. The state of dream
is beyond our control where the mind creates its own world based on prior
experiences in the waking state. In the deep sleep state we've no "I"
consciousness as it is in the waking state.

When we talk about saadhana where human will/effort is implied, we're
primarily talking about only the state of waking. And in the state of waking
man is a psycho/physical/spiritual complex.

In the compounded human being, when we talk of change, change can be either
with respect to the body or mind - the spirit is considered to be
changeless. One way to prove the changelessness of the spirit is that while
we experience the changes in the mind, body and objects around us, still we
who experience are always the same - constant - as the experiencer. So the
"I" in its spiritual sense remains changeless and constant.

So in the constant expressions in our normal lives where we say to another
person whom we meet after a long time : "you've changed" - what does the
"you" refer to here?  It cannot refer to either the body or the mind
seperately for if the person's physical appearance has changed - he's grown
bigger or fatter or slimmer - we don't say "your body has grown or
fattened". We say "you've grown tall or fattened". Or if we detect a changed
perspective of life in the person - some seriousness or frivolity - we don't
say "your mind has changed" - we say "you've changed".

The body changes - we grow/age/become old. The mind also changes - thoughts
flow in an unceasing stream; we also "acquire knowledge". But changes to the
body doesn't necessarily imply any change to the mind and vice versa. Even
if it does, change is necessarily limited to the object it changes - to the
mind or the body. But neither the body nor the mind is the "you" or "I" in
itself. So how does any change on either get translated into a "you've
changed" or "I've changed".

So what's the normal "you" or "I" refer to?

The "you" or "I" in our normal life which we use either to address other
people or ourselves is with regards to the compounded psycho physical entity
- the combination of the mind/body/spirit. Coming together these give rise
to the identity of the "I". As human beings, in the waking state, we are the
whole package together - the mind, body and spirit.

But again it should be noted that when we talk about essence or substance or
soul, this "I" has a dual perspective. Because as a compounded entity,
without the things that make up the compound the "I" cannot be said to exist
in itself. But again since the base or the essence of the "I" lies in
consciousness - since we're conscious beings and the knower - and while the
body and mind have no existence in themselves apart from the spirit (even as
it is in deep sleep or death), still the spirit can exist in itself as it
does in deep sleep - from that angle the spiritual "I" is the essence or
soul of man.

The great problem in philosophy lies in the confusion between the compounded
"I" whose identity lies in the compound of the psycho/physical/spiritual
being and the true "I" which is the spirit or pure consciousness which
"powers" the psycho physical being. All change is only from the stand point
of the compounded identity and not the true identity or the soul - which is
the changeless absolute.

This understanding has great relevance to spiritual practice too. If we
mistake the compounded "I", which is nothing but the Ego, for the true I,
then there will only be strengthening of the Ego and there cannot be any

But again what is salvation and what's spiritual effort?

When we talk about salvation, it is necessarily interpreted as becoming
something else - becoming something which we already aren't. Such a view is
natural for human beings as becoming is the nature of psycho/physical
entities who constantly experience change and becoming.

The spirit is the true "I" and is already part of our compounded identity.
To be the spirit we need not become something else, cause in our essence
we're already it. If we transcend our compounded identity and abide in our
true "I", that's salvation. All that conduces to this state is true
spiritual practice. To be the spirit, one should necessarily avoid
identification with the body and mind. Action, both physical and mental, is
what reinforces our identity with the body and mind. To be still is to abide
in the spirit. That's the reason Advaita teaches that karma (action) is the
anti-thesis of jnaana (knowledge). Hence the significance of the teaching of
silence of Dakshinaamurti and Ramanamaharishi. As the Tamil siddas say
"summa iru" or "keep quiet" or as the Bible says : "be still and know you
are God".

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