"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Concept Of Individual Soul According To Indian Philosophy

There are many apparently different concepts of the soul among the various schools of Indian philosophy. The Cārvāka system states that the soul consists of the living physical body and its attributes. According to Buddhist philosophy, there is no soul. Buddhism teaches that the stream of ever-changing thoughts and feelings is the ultimate reality. This may be termed soul, but it is not considered to be a permanent entity, as is maintained by other philosophies.

According to the concept of soul held by the Nyaya and Vaisheshika systems, the soul is a unique substance, of which all desires, aversions, pleasures, pains, and cognitions are qualities. There are different souls in different bodies. The soul is indestructible and eternal, and its attribute is consciousness. Because it is not limited by time and space, the soul is also seen as infinite or all-pervading. There are many souls, because one person's experiences do not overlap those of another person; one's experience is completely distinct from any other's. 

Nyaya gives numerous arguments to prove the existence of the soul. It first argues that the body is not the soul because immaterial consciousness cannot he said to be an attribute of the material body, which in itself is unconscious and unintelligent. Neither can the functioning of the senses explain the process of imagination, memory, and ideation - none of these functions depends on any external sense. The mind can also not be the soul because the mind is considered to be an imperceptible substance. Nor can the soul, as the Buddhists maintain, he identified as the ever-changing series of cognitions. The soul cannot be said to be an eternal and self-effulgent consciousness because consciousness cannot subsist without a certain locus. At the same time, the soul is not mere consciousness or knowledge but is the knower of knowledge and the enjoyer of objects. In sum, the soul is not consciousness but is a substance having consciousness as its attribute. 

The soul experiences the external world through the mind and senses. All the cognitions and conscious states arise in the soul when the soul is related to the mind, the mind to the senses, and the senses to external objects. It is because of this sequential contact or relationship that the whole process actuates; otherwise there would be no consciousness in the soul. In its disembodied or disintegrated state, the soul has no knowledge or consciousness. How then can one know whether there is such a thing as an individual soul'? The Nyaya system answers that the soul is not known by sensory perception but rather by inference or testimony. The existence of the soul is inferred from the functions of desire, aversion, and volition, from the sensations of pain and pleasure, and from memories of these. These memories cannot be explained unless one admits a permanent soul that has experienced pain and pleasure in relation to certain objects in the past. The process of knowledge based on memory requires the existence of a permanent self that desires to know something and then desires to attain certain knowledge about it. Desire, volition, pain, and pleasure cannot be explained by the body, senses, or mind. Just as the experiences of one person cannot be remembered by another person, the present states of the body or the senses or the mind cannot remember their past states. The phenomenon of memory must depend upon a permanent entity - the soul. One's own soul can be known through mental perception, but someone else's soul in another body can only be inferred.

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