…A few years ago I asked a teacher a question about soul. “I” had been doing some reading outside my usual posse of authors and was beginning to expose myself to some “pure” Buddhist teachings that were being used by another teacher of mine in the context of Advaita or non-duality.
When “I” asked this teacher he kind of shrugged “me” off with some statement that implied the question was not so important; he implied by what he said “I” assume, that it was not really something to worry about.
One can never understand why a teacher might respond the way they respond to any question especially when it comes to the level of awareness. “I” could make an assumption that since the teachings of his organization were primarily based on a more “Hindu” philosophical approach to spirituality i.e. the belief in the existence of a soul that reincarnates from life time to lifetime, that he might not want or feel that it was important to go too deep into the question or validity of such two opposing and confrontational perspectives: i.e. soul, no soul. The risk in asking the question, the risk in exploring and exposing the question deeply, can open a Pandora’s Box with regards to the fundamental principles and techniques being used and sold by the organization he represented and by many spiritual philosophies and teachings that are available out there.
To create a little more context for this post; the main philosophical difference between what we call most “Hindu teachings” and Buddhism for example; can be really reduced down to the one defining question of soul; no soul. Though it may not be discussed by many, Siddhartha Gautama, later to be known as Gautama Buddha, was actually a Hindu; prior to “his” realization. Then again, Jesus of Nazareth was also a Jew; prior to his realization and “becoming” the Christ!
They are unfortunate facts that often go unnoticed in both camps and especially by outsiders to those systems of thought, which are greatly influenced by those systems. Those facts go unnoticed and they go mostly unspoken, as do the ramifications and implications of those very simple, obvious and important facts. If you are on the “path” of finding out Who You Are; when it comes down to understanding the philosophical differences they are relevant.
Siddhartha Gautama’s realization under the Boddhi Tree some 2500 years ago was essentially based on the realization that there is no soul that reincarnates from lifetime to lifetime. It is arguably the understated foundation of what was to become the Buddhist paradigm from which all teachings arose, which “I” now:
Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Form is none other than emptiness; emptiness is none other than form.
Plainly said, there is no soul.
Better said, there is no soul; even if there appears to be a soul.
Most accurately said; there is ONLY soul or, everything is soul/not soul.
Said another way: the soul exists and the soul does not exist simultaneously and there is no individual in it all. Everything is the “One” substance that appears to be many substances.
Back then, when “I” asked the question “soul, no soul?”; when “I” was shrugged off by the reply of this teacher, “I” felt uncomfortable. “I” felt incomplete with his response. “I” felt like something unspoken, needed to be spoken. “I” felt at the time, that what was not being said, was more important than what was being said and “I” needed to find out why what was not being said, seemed so important to “me”.
Naturally, as every naughty little aspirant does, “I” continued to pursue “my personal” agenda of finding out more of what was not being spoken and it lead “me” in directions that “I” could never have imagined. There was a question in side “me” that was screaming investigation; it was begging enquiry. There was no damn way “I” was going to shrug this question off as unimportant. After all this was “my” spirituality we were talking about! If my trip was to find out Who “I” AM, it felt damn important to answer a question that was obviously the source and foundation of so many spiritual beliefs, philosophies, and so called spiritual truths or paths.
I’m glad “I” did, and “I’m” glad “I” listened to that voice inside “me”.
I’m glad that “I” did not accept his response so casually ~ so unconsciously as is so easy to do with so many teachers and their accepted teachings that are passed down and regurgitated over, and over and over again, to the masses. After all, conventional religion has been feeding us nonsense teachings for thousands of years, what makes contemporary, alternative spirituality any different?
The perception of a soul, a body, creation, the mind or our world, comes from an “I” that imagines it is separate from the “one” substance and declares: “there is a soul”; “there is a body”; “there is a mind”; “there is a world”.
Only an “I” can perceive something, and in doing so forgets everything.
In our search for something we give up everything. To an “I” that stands on the outside looking in there is separation, distance, time, past, present and future. To an “I” living in the foreground of life, there is a process, an evolution, and devolution. There is a cause and effect; there is an up and a down; there is a right way and a wrong way. There is a source and not source. With separation, there is a path to unification.
With separation, there is also a reason for everything. And if there is a reason for everything, then that something that is out there, can be controlled, changed, fixed or transformed. That something can be purified to become everything ~ potentially.
Only an “I” could come up with such thinking, such distinction, such delusion. Only an “I” could be caught up in the web of its own confusion and delusion, trying to explain a story and separation and distinction; a soul trying to find its way home.
As the “I” conceives and perceives the story of its imagined distinction and then identifies itself to those fictitious stories of separation, it loses touch with its knowing. Instead of knowing “the not I” as the “one substance”, it grasps, clings and holds onto the explanation and story of the “I” itself, and all its delusions. Distinction leads to separation and struggle and are symptoms of the absence of love; love is the absence of distinction, separation and struggle…