Seekers of the Truth and religious leaders often speak of spirituality and commonly use the term "spirit". In this book too, readers will constantly encounter the word "spirit" and especially the expression "human spirit" which refers to the human being.
As mentioned before, this word confuses many, since it belongs to the realm of the beyond, i.e. the physically intangible. And since everything that belongs to this realm remains a fuzzy picture, out of which all the distortions in the present day religions have arisen, so also is the very interpretation of just this particular word!
On the one hand, "spirit" is understood as something to be feared, as belonging to the realm of ghosts and demons. Superstitions and myths have thus been built around this particular interpretation. Thus many now shy away whenever the word "spirit" is mentioned, for it conjures in their minds visions of hauntings and often the most fantastic ideas, which have only been promoted by horror films.
This has engendered a great amount of fear in many people. Fear is unnatural according to the Laws of Creation. It can develop only when a human being has no real grip on life, when his knowledge of God and His Laws is lacking. Consequently, a great deal of karma is brought about through fostering such a fearful concept.
Yet on the other hand, we find another totally different interpretation of the word "spirit"! For instance the expression "to be rich in spirit" is commonly interpreted as having a strong intellect or a high-quality of education. Hence, those who have a wide variety of world-experiences and who are well-versed in various fields or in their profession are regarded as being rich in spirit, when in fact many of them are not in any way spiritual.
And finally, "spirit" is also associated with "spiritism", with "occult practices", shamanism, meditation and psychic experiments as well as religion. Those who dabble in one or more of these fields are considered highly spiritual and advanced, since they are able to access realms that are closed off to those who are more intellectual.
But the term "spirit" refers to none of these various designations. In order to gain a partial understanding of what "spirit" refers to, it is important for us to put aside all preconceived notions that we have gained in our upbringing. This particular definition of "spirit" comes from a very special Source of Knowledge that has been given to mankind for their spiritual development. In this chapter, however, we can only provide a limited definition of this word, which nevertheless gives us a glimpse of the ultimate reality.
In short: spirit or atman is the living animating core within each of us, the driving force behind all that we think, say and do.
Every action, whether impulsive or premeditated, is first and foremost willed by the spirit before it is channelled through the various connections that allow it to manifest in this physical world (or World of Matter). Our thoughts, words and deeds originate from this spiritual core. There is not a single thing we do that is excluded from this. We are first and foremost spiritual beings, incarnated on earth for the purpose of learning, maturing and perfecting ourselves.
The spirit within us is our real self! And yet when asked this question "what is ‘spirit’?", hardly anyone will answer: "it is me, myself, my true being"! However, just this right interpretation of "spirit" will provide the necessary answers to all questions in due course. To know that the spirit is one’s own real innermost self is the first stage of spiritual enlightenment.
The spirit dons the body like a garment at birth (incarnation) and lays it aside at death. The spirit works through the physical body during this lifetime, which it needs in order to mature and develop to perfection. Once the spirit has attained to this goal, it can then return to its high luminous origins where it can continue to work in peace and harmony with others who have done the same.
The karma we bear is connected with our spirit not the physical body. A part of this karma manifests during our life on earth either directly in our physical body or through the circumstances we are compelled to live in. The spirit sows the seeds through the body that grow into our karmaic harvest. But we will examine all these other concepts in the essays to come, which will hopefully give a clearer picture of the matter. For now, we should try to intuitively absorb the concept of the spirit.
This spirit is of a substance totally alien to anything material. The spirit cannot be found in matter, because their nature and consistency are completely different from each other. Spirit originates from the high realms of the beyond, it is pure and immortal in its primeval form.
However, spirit has the capacity to form and shape its environment by exerting a pressure on it. It is able to direct the process of movement in its surroundings, and in this way it animates the physical body that it dwells in.
Thus while it may seem like our physical bodies perform all the actions as directed by the brain, everything really originates from within the spirit! The spirit makes the decisions - it is the source of the much-praised "free will". Everything that is willed by the spirit is channelled to the brain before the latter converts it to deed through the physical body. The brain is merely a tool, an "interpreter" of commands that really have their origin in the spirit.
The preceding words mention the "free will" of man. Human beings have always wondered what really is the free will, when it appears that so many are victims of fate. Those who are familiar with the ancient Indian philosophy are more fortunate, in this regard, because they accept the Law of Karma.
The ability to make decisions is given to us in the free will. It is part of this very spiritual core that we bear within ourselves. We can make decisions that influence and direct ourselves as well as our environment. This can be either upbuilding or damaging. But whatever we do in Creation, we do solely for ourselves, that is to say, everything that we do returns to us so that we may fully experience whether what we did was upbuilding or destructive. Through this we learn and mature spiritually so that in the future we will do only that which is upbuilding.
This is an automatic and simple process, which is given to all human beings for their maturation in Creation. In this lie the answers to all questions, both great and small. Therefore just this level of knowledge is sufficient for most seekers to begin on their paths towards spiritual enlightenment.
It is only through this process of learning that the formless spirit-core of man becomes a living and active spirit in Creation! Hence, it needs the free will in order to develop towards this goal, where it performs only those kinds of deeds that are of benefit to all Creation. When it has reached this degree of personal recognition and consciousness, it has achieved the goal of its existence.
The free will is therefore an integral quality of the spirit. The ability to make personal choices that influence and direct Creation is what constitutes a spiritual being. The animal lacks this ability, because its level of influence is just the immediate ecosystem. The animal lives on the impulse, in its struggle to survive. The human being lives through his personal decisions, of which there are many he makes every hour.
Those who strive towards spiritual enlightenment will easily understand what is stated here, because these are simple and most logical concepts. As they awaken in the ensuing enlightenment, they will also recognise another attribute that goes hand in hand as a balancing force for this ability to make decisions. This balancing force is the "intuitive perception", which ensures that the spirit is helped to make the right kind of decisions so that it does not burden itself karmaically through wrong decisions.
The intuitive perception, like the free will, is part and parcel of the human spirit! Through the intuition, man can correctly choose his path in Creation, so long as he listens to it. It is therefore important that his ability to make decisions is guided by his intuition… and not by his intellect, which latter is meant only to transform into physical deed that which was already decided by the spirit!
In the next chapter, we will examine this working. But for now, let us strive to simply understand the spirit or the atman as the innermost core within us.
Copyright 2004 by R. M. Duraisamy. All rights reserved. Used with author's permission.