Archives for posts with tag: Antaryami


Analogies have always come in handy in explaining difficult concepts. Our scriptures are replete with analogies which even the simplest minds can comprehend. The fine arts are another medium to carry difficult concepts both to the intellectual and the rustic. Poetry’s imagery, symbols in paintings, themes in dance, village narrations with the help of painted screens like ‘Bababji ka Phad’ folk songs devotional Bhajans, the myths and the Puranas convey what a sermon or lecture may fail to do, and a written treatise may make even more difficult to comprehend.

It is all very simple really, what our scriptures tell us about our selves. There are basically three elements that constitute our being. The gross body, its ego,  and the mysterious Soul that inhabits us.  The first two perish after a lifetime is over at death, whereas the third carries on being eternal.

An apt analogy we can use is that of the first, our gross body being a vehicle ( whether a Benz, Maruti, Rolls Toyota or even a Tonga or a Bullock cart, it does not matter). The Ego is the chauffeur or  driver or even the master of the vehicle and has full control over it, to serve its various purposes. 

In literature and religions this entity has been for good reason been much maligned. But without it the vehicle would be no more than a corpse. In fact the ego is to the body what gravity is to the earth. Without gravity the earth would lose all valuable assets it possesses like a barren planet. Gravity helps it hold together all its elements like the ocean, the atmosphere, living beings etc. It gives the earth its personality as the blue planet. The ego too holds the gross body together helping to protect it against external threats, and to enhance its ability to survive and thrive. Of course in the process it may exceed the basic needs it serves and become more than an element in survival. Whatever its manner of working it is the driver of the vehicle and takes it where it wants at the speed it wants and even risking destruction.

The third element is the Soul, which we can describe as the distinguished Passenger in the back seat. It witnesses the journey but cannot interfere with the driver’s wishes beyond occasionally whispering caution, temperance and wisdom, observing the right from the wrong as the journey proceeds. This is done in the most unobtrusive manner possible, as would a house guest. He refrains from interfering with the will of the driver or host after quiet counselling, and as a passenger, politely witnesses the goings on.

The backseat of the vehicle may be likened to our conscience or sub conscious mind where the Soul’s voice can be heard if the driver cares to listen (absolutely no compulsion or dictation – totally free will of the driver). Here too arise intuition, creative inspiration and genius. This is the area where the visiting soul brings its great assets from another world, whether it is employed by the ego or simply ignored on account of its own preoccupations like pleasure, survival, dominance ( a form of survival) aggression ( yet another facet of the same) exploitation, aggrandizement at the expense of others, pursuit of wealth, power and distinction and stature ( again related to survival)  even criminal activity like murder, war, usurpation, degrading others as inferior and regarding oneself as superior. In all this the Passenger plays no role beyond cautioning and barely audible above the ego’s roaring purposes. The journey sometimes reckless continues and the passenger willy nilly joins in the journey whether pleasant or horrific.

The Passenger is not unlike an Ambassador from another world sent to observe witness and report to his superiors there but never interfering directly beyond quiet counsel in the actions of the ego on this other world. In this foreign land there must be no interference in its ‘internal affairs’.  When there is a fatal accident or total breakdown of the vehicle  the ego and the vehicle the gross body perish and cease to be. The passenger then has to return to his world and is assigned another vehicle. He is like the eternal tourist, witnessing observing learning without interference. It is not a pleasant experience trying to influence ( but mostly failing) all manner of drivers and vehicles but it is a command from his world he cannot fail to comply with.

When a unique driver and vehicle are assigned to him,  a fortunate occurrence when the driver is given to listening with respect the voice from the back seat and complying with the advice rendered, the journey concludes with all round joy and understanding and the passenger returns to his world fulfilled, never needing to go again on tours in the other world on the back seat.

In the Bhagwat Gita the analogy can be reversed where the “driver” is in the back seat and the passenger now becomes the Driver and is called Parthsarthi or Driver of Partha, and He then takes him on a journey revealing what Partha could never have imagined.




Credit :

The great lyrical and musical compositions of the mystic-poets of 16th century India have commanded the hearts and souls of devotees over the centuries and influenced and inspired present day composers and poets. The poetic compositions are sung by all the renowned singers of India set to different melodies of their choosing. One lyric has of late been casting his spell through his compositions on devotional love, similar to Meera, Sur, Tulsi, Raidas and Kabir. Narayan Agarwal in the tradition of  the devotional movement of the 16th century calls himself Narayan Das ( disciple) much as Tulsi was Tulsi Das and Sur was Surdas and Rai was Rai Das. I have tried to translate his lyrics which when set to music have moved me deeply with their fire of devotion, intensity of love, and poetic beauty, stirring the soul. I cannot say I have done full justice to the poem in question, as in translation it loses its linguistic magic, yet I hope and trust that it has retained the essence and spirit of  the devotional passion expressed by the poet. This being my 100th post, it is also a tribute to the Soul, the Indweller ( Antaryami ) within my being.


                            MY  HEART IS A THRONE

( hriday hamara singhasan hai, Jispe Shyam biraje


My heart is a throne

On which my Lord sits,

My lips are cushions

For him to recline,

Credit : ISKCON

Credit : ISKCON

My lashes are a swing

On which he sways,

His name is a song

I can never forget

Whose rhythms are my life,

Thus on my heart, lips and lashes

Back and forth as  my Lord moves,

My desire to behold him 

spreads like a fragrance

From limb to limb

And every pore, turn by turn begins

To call out his name,

My body then turns into a harp

Whose strings hum with love

As my Lord rests on his throne

 In my heart.


Krishna, the Indigo Lord (Shyam)



The concept of the personality as distinct from the soul is a recurring theme in Hindu scriptures and literature. I have already dwelt at length on the subject in my earlier posts ( see Pages above). The soul is a fragment of divinity that dwells within the personality-body-ego complex (Antaryami). The host is volatile, wilful, passionate, acquisitive and mortal, unlike the soul which is calm, serene, wise, divine and immortal. They share the same space on the material plane for a life time. The content is divine but not the container which is given to all the frailties of human existence. The soul is also the conscience of the host but its counsel is not mandatory and generally ignored as a whisper from nowhere. Inspired by these thoughts of  duality which constitutes us I composed a poem which I place below – the imagery is of  the transparence of the soul and the rainbow colours of the personality and the rare moments when the two may indeed become one:


            P R I M A L   C O L O U R


Colours from another

Transform my translucency

Darkening vitriolics of mistrust,

Stirring orange clouds of love

Or opaque to transparency with trust.


I change,

Assuming colours of  the other’s

Accent, posture, arrogance,

Allowing possession


As the image thrusts

Into the mirrors of my mind,

Reflection upon reflection

Invading my innermost crust.


Kindness for the kindly,

Arrogance for the arrogant,

Love for love.


How like a chameleon

The camouflage

Protects my neutral state

And placid core,

Reflecting the environment’s

 brilliance more.


How my rarest tones

 Belong outside, the gullible smile

As our eyes engage,

A rude remark

Ignite a sudden rage,

A unique grace

Impel rare perception

Or condescension

Shrink my space,


Till stimuli withdraw,

Colours dissipate

And I turn transparent

As before.


Painting - Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Painting – Raja Ravi Varma / Wikipedia

Shankaracharya ( Shanker + Acharya – sage,seer ) is regarded as one of India’s most eminent and brilliant philosophers of the post-Vedic age. He lived in the early 9th century A.D. His brief career of 31 years was remarkable for consolidating Hindu thought contained in the Upanishads ( primal musings of sages in the forest on the nature of reality) the Bhagawat Gita (India’s most sacred religious text ), the Yoga Sutra (treatises on meditation) and Vedantic thought ( post-Vedic philosophy) in his  philosophy of Advait (non dualism). At the time Hindu thought and practices had become disparate, ritualistic, conflicting and full of superstition with the fringes even adhering to  atheism and gross materialism. The genius of an earlier age which had created great religious movements reaching out to far corners of the world had lost its dynamism, clarity and momentum and was beset by confusion and strife. His writings and debates turned much of this around breathing new warmth and life into thought, belief and practice and having a far-reaching influence in rejuvenating Hindu Philosophy and beliefs.

Shanker revived and reasserted with renewed vigour the Upanishadic premise of a grand unity underlying everything. The Upanishadic aphorism ‘thou art that’ (Tat tvam asi) became the central slogan of his Advait (non-dual) philosophical teachings which were contained in a systematic and consistent doctrine. The self (Soul – Atma) and the Universal Essence (Brahman) were the only reality, the rest of phenomenal existence and the world was illusory. The apparent reality of the ego and the cosmos was the result of ignorance. But ‘Ignorance’ indeed was a positive force with the power (Shakti) to create a grand illusion. The ego and the sheaths covering the Soul, together with the phenomenal world were like a mirage in the desert. Like a cloud covering the sun so too did ‘Ignorance’ cover up the Soul. To overcome the ‘Ignorance’ which produces the magic of phenomenality, the weapon was self-realization – getting to know the Soul

The practice begins with adopting a stern morality in life (ethical behaviour – Dharma), altruistic action without attachment towards results (dispassionate action of the Gita), Yogic practices to cleanse the mind and body (Yoga Sutras). To prepare himself he must first acquire knowledge of the scriptures, have unshakable faith and adopt a Guru to guide him and draw the road map.

According to Advait interpretation God with attributes is like a mask upon the sublime Universal Essence (Brahman), which is without attributes. The adept Vedantin seeker is warned that a stage will appear in his quest for truth and spiritual evolution when the vision of God incarnate will finally appear resplendent before him. This is the final stage of phenomenality and duality. The feelings of ecstasy and euphoria arising then have to be contained and the adept has to resist the temptation to remain in that state of bliss. For he has to move on in his search for the real truth, beyond the splendid vision, towards the sublime. silent, featureless one without attributes, one who cannot be an object for a subject. When he goes beyond this penultimate stage he finally dispels ‘Ignorance’ and attains enlightenment by realizing that ‘he is that’; there is no subject any more nor an object, there is only the One.

According to Advait, Brahman (Universal Essence) is ‘the one without a second’, the one which alone exists (Sat), which is pure consciousness (Chit), and is in a state of bliss(Anand). The Soul (Atma) does not merge with it because it never really separated from it. Brahman remains the one without a second (Advait) and the Atma’s separation is an illusion, the result of ignorance which when dispelled, produces enlightenment. The influence of Shanker’s doctrine of Advait on Hindu belief systems to this day remains far-reaching. Yet, succeeding philosophers like the sage Ramanuja in the 11th century dissented from this interpretation of Vedant philosophy, holding that the incarnated Souls were separate from the Divine Essence and only finally merged with it after the cycles of birth.

Likewise thinkers and poets of the Age of Devotion (Bhakti) of the 16th century believed in a God with attributes who became very tangible when incarnating as Avatar,  and was attainable simply through love and devotion rather than scholastic and intellectual meditation.  For them the Gita became tha main vehicle of inspiration with its qualified and deistic Monism, rather than the scholastic and esoteric path shown by Advait doctrine. Shanker never rejected devotional prayer (Bhakti) or denied its value for he held that it was a necessary but intermediate stage for the adept on his journey to the ultimate realization of the true nature of the Universal Essence.

Shankeracharya’s philosophy and doctrine was enshrined in four monastic centres (Maths) which he set up in different corners of India  surviving to this day at Sringeri (South), Govardhan (East), Kalika (West), and Jyoti (North). The heads of the four monasteries are revered in India, much as the Vatican’s Pope is in the Christian world.

In addition to his philosophical treatises Shanker wrote numerous brilliant poems which are sung and recited to this day. One of his most popular songs is recited as an aid to meditation by disciples and seekers.



At dawn I dwell on the essence

Of the shining self in my heart,

Truth, consciousness and bliss,

That Supreme Essence am I,

Indivisible, without parts,

Neither body, senses nor mind,

Not the vital breath nor intelligence,

I am not my ego

I am neither male nor female

Nor am I sexless,

Indeed I am the witness

Neither born nor ever dying

I am eternal,

The inner Self,

The blissful one.


A related inspirational Upanishadic riddle showing the relationship between the Soul and its host the body with its senses is cited below:

The blind one found the jewel;

The one without fingers picked it up;

The one with no neck put on;

And one with no voice gave it praise.

Shankaracharya statue



a soul

In India people are enjoined to meditate on the divinity within and seek to sense the presence of the soul, as an exercise in evolution. The purpose of life is to get to know ones ‘true’ nature (Svabhav in Sanskrit), which is the perfection of the indwelling soul, itself an extension of the Universal Essence. The goal is to recognize and access this divinity within. This is enabled by prayer, contemplation and meditation but above all through dispassionate, compassionate and altruistic action. However, the scriptures mention the great difficulty of sensing the soul. The Gita cautions that the soul is indeed quite inconceivable and difficult to access. It is shown as dwelling within the gross body, divine, eternal, blissful and inactive, mysterious and virtually unfathomable. The Gita speaking of the soul says for instance:

”Some look upon the Self as a marvel, as a marvel another speaks of it and as a wonder another hears of it but though all hear of it none know it.”

According to seers, the difficulty of sensing the soul, divinity within, is so great that people find it easier to objectify divinity by worshipping or admiring a prophet, an Avatar, a Guru, a saint, or even an idol as a sacred symbol.




We saw that the soul does not act nor is it an agent of action. Actions arise from the free will of the ego and the personality – ego – body which then  faces the consequences. As the soul does not engage in action it is not tainted by it, though it continues to inhabit the body that commits those actions. If the soul is not tainted by the actions of the body, urged by the ego ( neither participating nor taking responsibility for them) and cannot control or direct those actions, we may well ask what is the purpose or role of the soul inhabiting that body! What indeed is the role or utility of this apparently passive, non- acting soul as ‘indweller’.

The soul is the great guide within, the inner voice, the conscience. Its purpose is to perpetually engage in inspiring, counselling and messaging, softly, unobtrusively and without compulsion of any kind, the correct path of righteous action, our duties and responsibility – right from wrong. The most creative and compassionate acts, like the works of art by Michelangelo, inspirational discoveries and inventions and the humanitarian labours of Mother Teresa and other saints, take place when the ‘Host’ fully heeds the soul’s counselling. Thus, the ‘Host’ body hears it all, may take heed, or as is generally the case, ignore or rationalize the advice of the inner voice, to suit its ego generated compulsions and purposes or worse dismiss the inner voice as an irrelevant thought. Having stirred the conscience the souls purpose is completed. The rest is up to ‘You’. The soul is therefore the compass on the corporeal boat and yet many ‘ships’ are lost on the high seas of life.


In the previous post we saw that the soul is not the agent of action, the ego is. We also saw that it does not dictate terms to the ego. We are also familiar with the idea that the soul is a fragment of the Divine Essence and the ‘indweller” in the body. Often in India the devout call God the indweller (Antaryami) and when in prayer or meditation they look inwards to the God within. Does the fact that divinity resides within us make us divine? No it does not. The content is divine not the container. There is divinity within you but you are not divine.

As this is so, the question arises whether a person can identify himself with his soul. When he says ‘I’, whom is he referring to? The ‘I’ of a person is his personality and ego, his actions, acts of omission and commission, in the present and in past lives, which have registered in his subtle body and which produce the Karmic dynamics for shaping his future incarnations. Like the DNA of a cell, his actions past and present are the determinant of his future form and incarnation. the ‘I’ is therefore not his soul under any circumstances. The soul is within the host but distinct. One may call it the benign Alien within.





Let us now embark on our journey to explore the meaning of the soul. There are many paths one can take. I can only begin by choosing one that appears familiar to me. Going along it I arrive at the august portals of Hindu thought and beliefs concerning the soul. For millenia the soul has been the subject of intensive introspection in India, a land immersed in mysticism and the spiritual quest, which produced great thinkers, sages, philosophers and prophets like the Buddha and Mahavir ( the last Jain prophet or ‘Tirthankar’ a contemporary of the Buddha).

India’s quintessential scripture the Gita or Song Celestial, begins its discourse with a definition of the soul. It calls it the ‘Indweller’ (Antaryami), the one that dwells within. It also calls it the embodied one – one that has acquired a physical body. While the physical shell is destructable, its indweller, it asserts, is indestructable, eternal, not manifest, inconceivable and unchanging. It is neither born nor does it die. It describes it as stable, constant, invulnerable and ancient.

The question arises, where does this soul which gets embodied and becomes the ‘indweller’ come from. What is its source? This takes us back to the very fundamentals of Hindu metaphysics and cosmology. We cannot answer the question of the origin of the soul without first understanding the source or backdrop from which it emerges. That source is obviously the Universal Essence, Universal consciousness, the Supersoul, Cosmic Being or God. (more in next post)


Credit :

Credit :

From childhood we are led to believe that we are more than the physical self represented by the body – that in fact our essence is spiritual. We are told that at our core there is a Soul. This core, most faiths hold, is constant, indestructable, immortal and eternal. Most faiths underline that this core, the soul, survives after the body perishes at death. Thus at funerals and at memorials we often hear people whisper ‘may his soul rest in peace’ or ‘may his soul ascend to heaven’ etc. When uttering such good wishes or blessings do we actually give any thought to what we may indeed be referring to?

While some faiths speak of the ascent of the soul to heaven or sometimes descent to hell, others speak of its reincarnation in future births in other bodies.

The soul goes by different names in different faiths, cultures and languages. Soul, for english speaking Christians, Atma for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains and Rooh for Muslims. For Christians and Muslims it is not the living person but his soul or Rooh that eventually stands before the Almighty for judgement. For Hindus, Buddhists and Jains, the Atma passes from one lifetime to another getting embodied again and again before its final release from compulsive embodiment. This release from rebirth is called Moksha, Nirvana or enlightenment.

These appear to be varied interpretations and explanations of the same essential truth, depending on the cultural backdrop and metaphysical dogmas of the concerned faiths. But unless we go deeper and explore such concepts and relate them to individual experiences, we can no more understand this universal concept of soul, than when we began. so let us then commence our journey of exploration to see if we understand the soul as anything more than a word in our language.



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