By Suryc Nayr
Swarupa: The True Self
Can we know our true Self?
We are told that we have a Spirit, Soul, and we know we have a Body. So as humans we are made up as a triplicity of Spirit, Soul, and Body. So which is our true Self? Is it the body, the soul, or the spirit? If we look at our society and the amount of importance we put into maintaining our bodies, trying to look slim, young, and fit, it would seem that with all of this attention, that our bodies are our true self. Then maybe we should be Body, Soul, and Spirit! How much attention during the day do we focus on our Souls or Spirit? How much advertising is there asking us to buy products for either our Souls or Spirit? What is the relationship of the body to the Soul or Spirit?
We know a lot about our physical body, but what do we know about the Soul or Spirit. Is there a difference between the Soul and Spirit or are they the same? Can we know our Soul or Spirit? These are very important questions that should be considered and pondered on.
“Swarupa” is a Sanskrit word. “Rupa” means form and “swa” real or true. This leads to another questions, does the Soul or the Spirit have form? Such questioning can lead you to think deeply about our spiritual makeup or what is called in the Ageless Wisdom, “the Occult Constitution of Man”. So what does the Ageless Wisdom say about Soul and Spirit.
First I want to make you aware that in one sense, Spirit and Soul are different. The Spirit or Atma is like a ray of light from the source of ALL LIFE that carries the Light and Life of the ONE LIFE into matter or form. The Soul on the other hand is the vehicle of the Spirit, while the body is the vehicle of the Soul. In Yoga, the Soul is called “Vijnana Maya Kosha”. Vijnana is consciousness and Kosha means sheath, like what you put a knife in. So “vijnana maya kosha” means that consciousness is enclosed in ‘maya’ or illusion which refers to our created universe. Interpreting this phrase further, our consciousness is contained within a form and is separate or appears independent from its source. From the point of view of Yoga or Dwaite Vedanta all creation is in Maya or illusion while the ultimate reality or “Sat” is the only true reality, all other realities are relative, Maya.
Spirit-Atma-as a ray of life and light of the One Greater Life or Paramatma is at-one with the Greater Life (Logos) only becoming separate as it descends into matter, then it becomes Jiva Atma or an individualized Soul. The Spirit is formless but as it descends it gives the impression of separation from its source, the One Great Life. The Spirit descends to the Soul on the plane of Mind, the higher mental plane, where it lies hidden in the heart of the Soul and is sometimes called the ‘Jewel in the Lotus’. This Jewel lies hidden in the lotus petals of the Soul only awakening when one becomes a ‘Soul infused being’, an Initiate with a purified transformed personality that exists only to consciously fulfill the Soul’s purpose or Dharma. This is a very advanced state. You have awakened on the plane of the Soul and have even transformed the Soul to such a point that you now become conscious of the influence of the Ray of your Spirit, or Monad. At this advanced stage the identity of the human personality ‘I-ness’ dissolves. Paramahansa Yogananda and Sri Ramakrishna are two such great beings that have achieved this advanced level. This is not yet the fully liberated yogi or Jivan Mukta. In Theosophical terms, the Master DK mentions that this is the level of the 4th Initiation.
This Jewel and lotus are enclosed in the body of the Soul which is sometimes called the ‘formless form’, or a body of light. It is within this Soul body that all the memories of past lives are stored like a hard disc stores all the memory in a computer. Further and of great importance is that the Soul stores the quality of life that has been realized through the various incarnations and experiences in the physical body. This quality of life can be seen as the evolution of the Soul that develops from each incarnation.
It is from this Soul-body that a further thread of life and light (sutratma) descends even further finding its home in the heart chakra of the physical body. From this point the vitality of the Soul on its own plane energies the physical, emotional, and lower mind of an individual. This is why we are alive. It is this lowest point of the Soul’s descent into matter that is called the ‘Essential Nature’, our ‘Inner self, Swarupa’. It is this Essential Nature that is covered or hidden by the personality with all its psychological characteristic of desire (trishna) in each life.
Awakening is the process of first discovering your “Essential Nature” and that it is separate from, and not the personality. Once the Essential Nature has been experienced, realized, even for just a short period, then the work, sometimes called the “Great Work” begins. The work is learning to center in one’s Essential Nature transferring one’s focus from out of a personality-desire based existence. This process can take a long time. It is necessary to know not only the feeling of your Essential Nature but also to know the different changes that occur with one’s personality as situations in life change. Self observation of different thoughts and feelings and the personality activity initiated by them becomes a full time discipline. In fact the key here is discipline. Discipline involves more than just the body, but the mind with all its thoughts and creative image making abilities. In time as one becomes more centered, established in the Essential Nature the power of the personality life with all its glamour and attractions lessens. The higher life begins to take hold of you. Even at this point you do not really know your true self, but you are beginning to sense many of its characteristics or qualities. Eventually when the raging mind is tamed and you are established in the Essential Nature, aligned to the Soul on its own plane, then you start to know your true self, but the self with a little ‘s’. Then you have developed a true ‘center of gravity’ and your life comes under different laws guided by the Masters of Wisdom.