WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SOUL, SELF AND THE SUPREME-SELF?
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We are aware of the words Soul, Self and the Higher or Supreme self. We often mistakenly get confused and consider these three words meaning as same. But there is a fundamental difference in consciousness that these words represent.
2. Self may be described as Supreme self’s ray of light, which exists as the “light of life” in every living being. It is part of Supreme self and is therefore, identical in nature with it.
Just as the seed of a tree contains all the qualities of the tree, the atman also carries the qualities of the Supreme Self.
The word, atman means “the individually distinct entity,”aka, the self, in Sanskrit.
3. Soul, the individual soul, is the reflection of the Self within an individual; a “wave” that emerges from the ocean of existence and wanders from embodiment to embodiment. After a long process of development and experience, the soul returns to the unity of the Self.
The soul that has manifested itself in a form, however, does not identify with its divine essence but rather with its attributes, the physical body, the mind, the thoughts, etc.
What is the reason that the individual soul separates from Supreme Self? The cause lies in the principle of the ego. Here, ego means ‘the will to exist’; it is the aspiration for manifestation and self-expression in the sense of “I want to exist”.
Ego is the seed from which the variety within nature comes into existence. The difference in form is relevant only to the external manifestation and to the expression of consciousness and intellect – the essence, however, is the same within all, Self.
Just as the water in clouds appears to be different than the water in the ocean, in the same way the individual only ‘appears’ to be different to God. In reality there is no division – it only exists externally.
The individual follows the path set down by cosmic law, which has the same validity for all life forms.
The aim and purpose of life is in the ongoing development and enlightenment of the consciousness, which achieves its ultimate expression in the conscious union of the individual soul with the divine Self . The opening of the individual consciousness of the Soul to the all-conscious-existence of the Self is called enlightenment or self-realization.
“Enlightenment means that there is no corner of consciousness remaining in darkness.”
One cannot explain or describe the Self. The closest comparison is with light or space. Space cannot be cut, burnt or otherwise destroyed. Space always remains space. One can divide space with fences or walls to create “individual” spheres that can be shaped or understood separately, but as soon as the demarcations are removed, the undivided, unified space again emerges.
“Just as walls divide space, the body, mind, intellect, disposition, qualities and experiences assembled as the “person”, mark the boundaries of the Self for a while. The body dies, the person changes, but not the Self. Our true Self is unborn, unchanging and immortal.”
Examine yourself: Are you the body? The mind? Your qualities, thoughts or feelings? Or are you something else? As you continue to search more deeply you realize the more subtle aspects of your being, right up to the level of the elements. Then finally you recognize that you are:
Truth, Consciousness and Infinite Potential
It is the essence of the divine Self that lives within you, the eternal, infinite and immutable Self. The only true reality within us is the Self.
Everything else is an illusion, slowly revealing itself to us. Self is the knower of past, present and future, and the conscious witness of everything that happens.