Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Texas Faith 28: What does "soul" mean to you?

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

Our Sunday opinion section, Points, ran an intriguing piece last month by Stephen Asma, a professor of philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. He starts it out this way:
"No self-respecting professor of philosophy wants to discuss the soul in class. It reeks of old-time theology or, worse, New Age quantum treacle. The soul has been a dead end in philosophy ever since the positivists unmasked its empty referential center. Scientific philosophy has shown us that there's no there there.
But make no mistake, our students are very interested in the soul
From there, Asma goes into a discussion about how people talk about the soul and what their discussions about it may mean. You can read his essay in the link to Points.
What I would like to hear from you all is this:

What does "soul" mean to you? And how do you talk about it? What's more, how would you talk about it if asked to discuss the concept of a soul in a lecture, sermon or essay?

Keep reading for some provocative answers.

That's the question we posed this week to Texas Faith panelist.   Here's how they responded:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

No one HAS a soul, it is not a possession. Rather we ARE a soul and have a body.
In the tradition of the East, knowledge of the self is considered to be the essential preliminary knowledge that is necessary to understand higher topics such as God, the universe, and religion. We must first know who we are.

According the Bhagavad Gita and logic as well, the soul, the conscious observer, is entirely different from the body. The body itself is simply a vehicle, but due to a type of spiritual delirium, maya, we identify ourselves with our temporary material bodies. Thus we know ourselves as White, Black, Indian, Republican, liberal, heterosexual, homosexual, Christian, Hindu, Muslim etc.

If we examine ourselves in a logical and scientific manner, we will see that although the body and mind change over time, (every single cell in the body is eventually replaced in a period of 7 years) we remain the same observer. If you owed a debt to a person and were approached 40 years later could you say: "That is not me, that person who owes you money was young, I am old with gray hair."

So although every single cell in the body has changed, the same observer has remained in that vehicle. Therefore Krishna states, BG 2.13: "As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change." and BG 2.22: "As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones."

So just like your car, you have to change out old parts for new ones, and eventually the vehicle cannot work anymore and for the body that is called death.

"Consciousness cannot be denied. A body without consciousness is a dead body. As soon as consciousness is removed from the body, the mouth will not speak, the eye will not see, nor the ears hear. A child can understand that. It is a fact that consciousness is absolutely necessary for the animation of the body. What is this consciousness? Just as heat or smoke are symptoms of fire, so consciousness is the symptom of the soul. The energy of the soul, or self, is produced in the shape of consciousness. Indeed, consciousness proves that the soul is present." -Beyond Birth and Death

Hare Krishna :)
Your humble servant,
Nityananda Chandra Das
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here

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