Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 29 Oct 2011



Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

[Shri Phani Kumar asked “You have interpreted the Vedic analogy of two birds on a tree as God and soul in the context of the human incarnation. But Shri Shankara interprets, the two birds as soul and intelligence. Is there any difference between soul and intelligence?” Shri Swami explained as follows.]

The Mantra in the Veda says that there are two birds on the tree. One bird eats the fruits and the other shines without eating. Shankara took these two birds as the soul and the intelligence. I have taken these two birds as the unimaginable God and imaginable soul existing in the human incarnation. If you carefully analyze, both these versions become one and same. God was called as soul and the intelligence as the individual soul by Shankara. The tree is the human body in both the interpretations. The words only differ but the concept is one and the same. Different words have to be used based on the relevant atmosphere of the receivers of Knowledge. In the time of Shankara, even the word God could not be used and not to speak of the human incarnation, since all the receivers were atheists only. The human body of the human incarnation is actually the tree. Shankara kept silent about the human incarnation and only the human body was referred and the followers misunderstood that God and soul exist in every human body without realizing the problem of Shankara, surrounded by atheists. Atheists could conveniently digest this since the human body was acceptable to them. In the human body of the human incarnation, God and soul co-exist. In the place of God, the soul is brought and in the place of the soul, the intelligence is mentioned by Shankara. The human body of the human incarnation can be easily compared to the human body of the human being since both are one and the same. The main predominant component in the human being is the soul. Intelligence is only 1/4th part of the four faculties of awareness (antahkaranams). Hence, the intelligence becomes minor component only. Similarly, in the human body of the human incarnation, God is the major component and the soul is the minor component only. Shankara explained the comparison only and kept silent about the concept since atheists will not accept the concept of human incarnation. There is a special style of preaching in which, the simile is elaborated in the beginning and at the end, the concept is briefly introduced so that the concept is clearly understood through the already explained simile. In the Gita also, the soul in the human body is explained in the beginning by which the God in the human body of the human incarnation can be easily understood and subsequently the human incarnation was mentioned. Jesus also explains in this way.

Intelligence is a thought, which is the faculty of decision and it is the head of other faculties. It represents all the faculties of awareness. It is a specific mode of awareness. Awareness itself is the specific work form of inert energy. We experience the thoughtless awareness in the stage of meditation. Awareness itself is a mode in which it is aware of itself. The general awareness in the meditation itself is in a big mode and hence, such awareness should be also called as a big thought. When we call this as thoughtless awareness, it only means that all other thoughts are absent in this thought. We say that a lump of gold is formless from which several ornaments with different forms can be evolved. We say that the lump of gold has no form, which means that the other forms of ornaments are absent here. Actually, the lump also has a form, which is irregular circle. In deep sleep, the awareness disappears totally and the basic essence of awareness, which is inert energy, is left over. This inert energy attains a specific mode due to working in a specific machine, called nervous system. Once the specific mode of the inert energy appears, such inert energy in that specific mode is the thought or awareness in general. The general awareness is like a big water wave in which other minor thoughts like minute waves exist. These minor thoughts are called as Gunas or Bhavas, where as the major thought is called as Sattva Guna (general awareness). The water in the simile can be compared to the inert energy. In fact, the soul is inert energy only as said in the Gita (Sthanurachaloyam…). This inert energy is called as Atman. The same inert energy in the form of a specific work is called as awareness. Both the inert energy and the awareness are essentially kinetic energy only, but, the difference like inert and non-inert classifies them into two categories. The similarity in both is that both are kinetic energy. The difference is that one is inert and other is awareness. The deep scientific analysis brings both these into one phase, called as kinetic energy. Even if you take the example of water wave, water is matter and the wave is energy. This difference disappears since both matter and energy are inter-convertible and stand in one phase, called creation. In all these similies, Creator is not touched because the simile should be always from creation. All these four items i.e., water, water wave, inert energy and awareness stand ultimately in one phase only, which is the creation. Therefore, if you are explaining the soul and intelligence, you are explaining only the simile and not the concept. We can say that there are only two different items without any similarity, which are the unimaginable God and the imaginable creation. When you say that there are two items, the number two is based more on the difference but not unity. The Vedic Mantra starts with the word two, i.e., ‘Dvaa’. Therefore, when there are two items with total difference, you need not go to other two items, which have lesser difference. Hence, the number two in reality must refer only to unimaginable God and imaginable creation. The unimaginable God and the imaginable soul (representing the imaginable creation) exist only in the human body of the human incarnation. Except the human incarnation, there is no other place where these totally different items co-exist. The Mantra says that one bird is affected, where as the other bird is not at all affected by the process of eating. Eating is an action (Karma) by which all the co-existing items of the creation will be directly or indirectly affected since all the items in the creation are inter-linked. The soul (inert energy) and intelligence (a faculty of awareness) are the two items in the creation, which co-exist together as cause and effect since inert energy transforms into awareness. The inert energy is the cause, which is generated by the oxidation of the food. The awareness is the effect. The cause and effect may be different in one angle but inseparable in other angle.

If you hit the mud pot with your leg cursing the ugly shape (effect) only, not only the pot is insulted but also the mud in the pot, which must be inevitably touched by the leg. The mud and pot (shape) are inseparable. We agree that cause and effect are separate items because when you break the pot, the shape is destroyed but not the mud. Mud is the matter and shape is the kinetic energy introduced into the mud through the workmanship of the pot maker. Matter is the cause and shape is the energy. These two items are different to certain level only, because matter and energy are inter-convertible and form the same phase of creation. Even though we agree that they are two different items, they are inseparable and linked with each other in the mud pot. Hence, the process of insulting by hitting one item has to affect the other item also.

On one side, we agree the initial difference between the cause and effect but on the other side we have to agree to the inseparable link between the two, which makes one item to effect the other. This point relating to the soul (cause) and Jeeva or intelligence (effect) is clearly explained in the Gita (Naanyam Gunebhyah Kartaram…). Therefore, one item affected by the process influences the other item also in reality. However, taking the basic initial difference, it is said that the other item is not affected. You cannot bring perfection of the concept in the simile. This also proves that the soul and intelligence stand only as an example but not the actual concept. Shankara has taken the simile only in the relevance of atheists. The actual concept was also revealed by Him, when He stated that He was the human incarnation of God. When the atheist was converted into devotee, the actual concept was revealed by Shankara.

In both the concept and simile, the two items are closely associated and the close association is stated by the Mantra (Sayuja Sakhayaa…). The unimaginable God identifies Himself with the soul and the body also as stated in the Veda (Antarbahishcha…). In the case of the ordinary human being, the soul and intelligence are inseparably associated like water and wave. Therefore, the effect of one item naturally falls on the other item. But, this happens as a rule in the case of soul and intelligence since both are imaginable items closely associated with each other. In the case of God and soul (or even body), God is unimaginable and the soul is imaginable. The effect of the imaginable item can never touch the other unimaginable item i.e., God even if they are closely associated as in the case of human incarnation. The simile for this concept must involve imaginable items only since there is no unimaginable item other than God. When you take a simile in which two imaginable items are closely associated, the interaction of the effect one item on the other is inevitable because both are imaginable items and also closely associated. When the unity or similarity between the two imaginable items is more, the extent of interaction between them is also more. All the imaginable items are basically linked to each other since every imaginable item is basically energy only. Such basic unity and the close association are favorable for the transmission of effect from one item to the other. You have to forcibly stop the transmission of the effect at least based on the assumed superficial difference. Then only you can explain the concept through the simile. For this purpose, the assumed external difference is magnified in the simile. You can say that the water remains as water only irrespective of the magnitude of the kinetic energy that decides the size of the wave. The water is one and the same in a small wave or a big wave. This angle helps to explain the absence of effect of one item on the other item. For the sake of explanation of the concept, you have to confine to this angle only. You should not take the other angle in which the formation of wave has affected the peaceful and standstill water leading to the modification.

The water molecules in the wave are highly agitated due to influence of the kinetic energy, whereas the same molecules in the stand still water are unaffected. This angle proves that the effect of one item falls on the other item. We have to forget this physical change of water and be satisfied that there is no chemical change in the water. The absence of chemical change should be only taken from the simile to understand that the unimaginable God is not at all affected by the imaginable soul. Whenever you take a simile for the concept, the desired aspect in the simile should be only taken neglecting the other undesirable aspects. If you compare the moon with the face, only the aspect of pleasant nature should be selected rejecting the other aspects like black spots, appearance only in the night etc., Similarly, in the simile i.e., soul and intelligence, the desirable aspect is only that the soul is not affected by the intelligence like the absence of chemical change in water due to formation of wave. Though, only the convenient aspect is taken, it does not mean that the inconvenient aspect does not exist. Hence, the Gita mentions both the aspects of unity and difference between Atman (Soul) and Jeeva (represented by intelligence) in the above mentioned verse.

Subject of Philosophy

Philosophy is the subject, which always deals with the concepts of God only. Therefore, the unimaginable God and imaginable soul in the human incarnation only can stand as the concept. The soul and intelligence in an ordinary human being involving two imaginable items can be taken only as a simile to explain the concept. If the subject is psychology or zoology or physics, you may take the soul and intelligence as the concept and bring water and wave as the simile. But, remember, here, both the concept and the simile involve only imaginable items. Here, you explain one part of the creation with the help of the other part of the creation. In philosophy, the concept always involves the Unimaginable Creator and the simile for the concept is always taken from the creation involving imaginable items.

One way is to treat the soul as inert energy and the awareness represented by intelligence as the other non-inert item. The awareness is a specific work form of inert energy. In this way, the difference between the soul and intelligence is very easy because the soul is inert energy unaffected by the tensions of all the thoughts of awareness. This way is mentioned in the Gita since the soul is said to be eternal (Nityah), all pervading (Sarvagatah) and inert (Sthaanuh) cosmic energy. The limited soul in the body is a minute drop and the external cosmic energy is the infinite ocean. Even the body made of matter that separates the soul from the external cosmic energy is also another form of energy, you can understand the continuity of discontinuous ocean of cosmic energy. In the Gita, another way is also mentioned, which was not contradicted by the Lord. In this alternative way, the soul is the thoughtless general awareness that is observed in the state of meditation. In this alternative way, the soul appears and disappears everyday (Atha Chainam Nitya Jaatam…). In this alternative path, the soul is not the inert energy, which can be detected in the deep sleep. Now, if you take the soul as awareness and intelligence as one of its faculties, the difference between soul and intelligence is very very little and subtle. In such case, the soul is a macro wave of general awareness (awareness aware of itself only) and the other faculties are only small waves of same awareness. In this case, you can differentiate the general awareness of meditation from the awareness in the form of various thoughts. But, this difference does not help since in the daily life (other than the state of meditation), the general awareness cannot be isolated from the thoughts to establish that the general awareness is not disturbed by thoughts. Hence, in the explanation of Shankara, the soul is taken as the basic inert energy only so that the difference between the soul and intelligence is very very clear because the inert item is clearly different from the non-inert item. This means that the soul taken as pure general awareness by the present Advaita Philosophers is not the correct version of Shankara. The correct version of Shankara is that the soul is inert energy only as said by Him and that the soul is left over in deep sleep (Sushiptyekasiddhah…) and this is the elaborated view taken by the Lord Krishna all along the second chapter of the Gita. In deep sleep, since the nervous system stops functioning, the transformation of the inert energy into awareness stops. Even though current is supplied, if the grinding machine stops functioning due to some damage, the transformation of current into grinding work is stopped and the current remains as current only. Similarly, in deep sleep, the inert energy remains as inert energy only, which is the essential form of the soul. Awareness is a specific work form of inert energy like grinding work.