THE HUMAN SOUL: A DIALOGUE BETWEEN EAST AND WEST
By Lawrence David Moon and Jijith Nadumuri Ravi
|Lawrence David Moon inside the Throne Room of the Raj Bhavan, Kolkata, 9 October 2006. The Oil Painting of Mahatma Gandhi is by Rashamoy Bhattacharyya, and the Urn contained Gandhi’s ashes which were placed in the River Ganges in 1948 by Governor Rajagopalachari. Lawrence was granted VIP Access to the Raj Bhavan by Gandhi’s grandson, the Governor of West Bengal, Gopalkrishna Gandhi. Lawrence is a lineal descendant of the British Governor-General who built the Raj Bhavan, the Marquis Richard Wellesley, whose governorship was between 1798 and 1805. From Lawrence’s 35mm Film, Roll1India. Permission to publish this Photograph is granted by Lawrence.
This column developed from private correspondence between Lawrence and myself during the first quarter of 2016. He suggested that Readers of the Mahabharata Times might enjoy seeing an actual Dialogue between two Thinkers of West and East, so we agreed to publish our discussion. We both hope that you enjoy the wide scope of these Questions and Answers.
Lawrence first contacted me on 5 July 2012, when he was living in Hollywood. He was then working on his Non-Fiction text called BardBlood, and prior to that had completed the sixth and final Novel of his West-East Sextet, linked Fiction spanning Occident and Orient that begins in London and ends in Kyoto. Novel Five, Consummation, is set in India, in the year 2006, with a storyline principally taking place in Varanasi, but with other scenes in Kolkata and various locations in Tamil Nadu, Lucknow, and Gujarat.
Lawrence was in India in 2006, gathering material for Consummation, and received assistance from the United States Embassy of New Delhi, mainly for VIP access to Kolkata’s Raj Bhavan and for a private audience of the Maharaja of Banaras that occurred at the stone fortress of Ram Nagar.
Assisted by the Press Office of Bengal’s Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, the Hindustan Times published three articles about Lawrence prior to and during his India Trip: ‘For The Record, Wellesley Heir Traces Roots’, 16 September 2006, by Nandini Guha, Kolkata; ‘Digging Up The Empire’s Past’, 3 October 2006, reporter not named, byline New Delhi; and ‘Novel Idea In Lanes Of History’, Interview with Lawrence conducted 9 October 2006 by Nandini Guha, Kolkata, and published 10 October 2006.
Newspaper coverage occurred because Lawrence’s great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, Marquis Richard Wellesley, not only was India’s Governor-General but the man who built Calcutta’s Governor’s Mansion, which still functions in the same capacity to this very day. Another prominent Governor-General of Lawrence’s family is the man who outlawed Sati, Lord William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, elder brother of Wellesley’s daughter’s husband from whom Lawrence descends. Thus, Lawrence’s familial connection with India, indeed, is profound.
Lawrence is a Published Poet, Published Novelist, Dramatist, Librettist, Lyricist, Songwriter, Opera Composer, and Book Editor. A graduate of New York University, Lawrence was trained to edit in Manhattan, at the Saturday Review Book Clubs and Bantam Books, then worked in London as Associate Editor for W. H. Allen, which coincidentally published Wellesley’s memoirs in the 1800s.
I am pleased to have Lawrence agree to participate in this Column, and we both invite Readers for Feedback.
Lawrence David Moon (henceforth: LDM) 
According to Modern Hindu beliefs, can a Human Soul of this Lifetime leave the Body upon Death and go to some sort of Heaven (as Heaven is understood by Western Religion; or, as Heaven is understood by Eastern Religion)?
Jijith Nadumuri Ravi (henceforth: JNR) 
Yes. Eastern Religion understands Heaven/Hell in multiple ways. The most prominent view is that Heaven/Hell is a state of Mind, but perceived as real. Even when we are in this world, the reality that we perceive as real is a projection of our Mind. Every bit information (Sight, Hearing, Touch, Smell, and Taste—all of these are bits of information) reach us through Mind, and the Mind creates its own distortions, even when we are alive. But, when we are alive, we also have this physical Body, which confines or localises us to a certain point in space and time. But when we are dead, our Body is separated from us, leaving us at the mercy of our Minds.
Our Mind can give us happiness, causing us to experience Heaven, or it can give us sorrow or horrors, causing us to experience Hell. If the Mind is restful, the Soul stays in a steady-state, contemplating its experiences in the recent life, as well as in the previous lives. It may like its experience in some previous lives (which could be a non-human, animal, plant, worm or micro-organism—life apart from its recent human lives) and may choose to re-experience it, by taking another Birth, or by choosing to complete some unfinished business in one of the previous lives. It can meet up with other Souls it knows from all the previous lives.
If a Soul upon Death does leave a Body, and does go to some sort of Heaven, is this a momentary/temporary visit there (like to some halfway house, some way-station, between the Previous Life and the Next Life)?
Some people conceive Heaven and Hell as another ‘place’, for example, some other part of this Universe, or some other place beyond this Universe, a Parallel Universe, et cetera. But my view is that, when we are detached from the Body, which is the connecting link that links us with the time and place of this world, a physical location of a Soul after Death is meaningless. It can be nowhere or anywhere at once.
Thus, the word ‘go’ (as in…to go to Heaven) is ambiguous here. We can say that the Soul ‘goes’ to a new state (after the state of Life is finished, after the event of Death) where Heaven and Hell are perceived
Sleep is a state. Dream is a state. Being awake is a state. After Death, we reach this new state, where Heaven and Hell are perceived. It is a temporary state. After the experience of Heaven/Hell, the Atman/Soul decides to take another Birth, based on its current orientation and sense of purpose.
If a Soul, upon Death, does leave a Body, and does go to some sort of Heaven, does Contemporary Hinduism believe that this Soul can then meet up with Souls of the Departed whom it knew in the Previous Life upon Earth? (As you may be aware, this is at the heart of Christian viewpoints about Death, where the Soul is said to have the opportunity to be reunited with Loved Ones): What is the Hindu concept regarding this?
Yes. Hinduism also believes that we can meet up with the Departed Souls known to us, even when we are alive, apart from believing that this can be done more perfectly when the Soul is in the state after Death, and there is no need to wait for a final resurrection, et cetera, for this (unlike in Christianity). It happens quite often during the journey of the Soul, through multiple states of Births and Afterlives.
If Souls do not reunite, after Death, then each Soul’s Life on Earth is spent in Solitude, as it then goes into some Bin for Reincarnation, whereby no further contact with Loved Ones from Earth, or with Previously-Known Souls of Other Reincarnations, is possible. This would effect a totally lonely existence, whereby each Soul is its own separate entity unconnected to any other Soul. This would thus argue against Linked Fates of Souls reuniting over a period of different Reincarnations. Any thoughts?
No. This is not the case. However, atheist philosophies in Hinduism do have this view, propounded by Brihaspati and Charvaka. This is the basis of some of the Buddhist philosophies, and some modern atheists have similar views (as per them, the Current Life is all that there is, and, after that, there is nothing else).
If a Soul, upon Death, leaves the Body, but does not go to some Heaven, according to Modern Hinduism, where and when does such a Soul go? And is such a stay there temporary?
I recommend you to read these articles that I created, in AncientVoice, in this regard:
When we are alive, the Soul is going through a journey, driven by Time, along our ‘Life-Line’. Our Life-Line (a four-dimensional entity) is an assemblage of our three-dimensional Bodies, representing our action at any given moment. It is elongated like a train or like a railway track. We travel in Time. It is the present-moment that carries us in this journey of Life through our Life-Line. Every moment is like a view from within the Life-Line to the outside, like looking through the window of a moving train travelling along a railway track.
Our Life-Line is connected with the Life-Lines of our parents, grandparents, et cetera, and to our remote ancestors, and, through them, connected with all other living beings, by way of Birth and Descent. Our Life-Line are also connected with all others with whom we interact in our Life, by way of interactions and engagements. Thus, our Life-Line is nothing but a branch of a giant Tree of Life, which spans the whole of this cosmos, containing trillions and trillions of other Life-Lines entangled into a huge cobweb of tangled Life-Lines.
An alternative way of visualising our Life-Line is thinking of it as a film-reel composed of thousands of individual film-frames used in motion pictures. Each frame contains an image of You as an actor and that of others interacting with You as other actors. Though individual still-images of You, in each of these individual film-frames, add up into thousands, all of these still images add up to only one dynamic You!
As the film-frames pass through the beam of light (the present-moment) lit from the back and projected onto the screen (the Mind), each still image of You add ups to the You who is dynamic (not still), walking, running, jumping, talking and acting various things. Similarly all of your instantaneous three-dimensional Bodies which are still and static in a specific moment of time add up to the dynamic You which is self-same as your whole current Life, and which is self-same as the Life-Line that I am talking about.
At the event of Death, the Soul ends its journey along the Life-Line, moment-by-moment, dictated by the flow of Time, and the Soul then detaches from this Life-Line and wanders in the ‘Inter-Life-Line Space’. Then, we will have an overview of our Life. It will be like someone who, only having seen the forest by walking on the ground, suddenly goes high up in the sky, and gets to see the whole of the forest for the very first time!
At the event of Death, our Consciousness spreads to the whole of our Life-Lines, so that we become at once aware of our whole Life and re-experience every moment of it more vividly. Our Consciousness is no longer confined to the limits of three dimensions. It goes beyond the three dimensions, and will be able to encompass the fourth dimension of Time, seeing the Past, Present, and Future as one whole. This will enable us to see or experience the whole of our Life more clearly. We will get a recap of our whole Life, like a movie replay, but not just watching it but experiencing it all at once.
This state is temporary.
Does Modern Hinduism believe that all Souls, upon Death during this plane of Existence, get channelled into a Reincarnation Repository, for recycling into the Next Life? Or, do only a certain percentage of Earth’s Bodily Souls get recycled for Reincarnation, and the rest go where? The rest become Ghosts? Dæmons? Perhaps Bodhisattvas? Perhaps Buddhas? Perhaps Deities? Perhaps Nothing-At-All, they just vanish?
Some Souls refuse to go beyond the above-mentioned stage, and stay attached to their Life-Line and the Life-Lines of the people they know in their Life, some of whom might be still alive. This results in the phenomenon of Ghosts and Possessions, when the Dead Soul tries to interact with people who are still alive, due to various reasons (hatred, love, attachment, urge for revenge, et cetera).
Hindu belief is that there are diverse ways in which a Departed Soul/Consciousness continues its journey. The Life-Line I talked about before is also the physical representation of one’s Karma, which has the necessary information encoded in it (since it is an exact record of what You did in your Life, in every moment whether someone is seeing it or not, so nothing remains secret here) so as to dictate what will be the next course for the Soul, so that Reincarnation is decided based on this information. Bad Karma will result in the Soul requiring to experience bad things by choosing an Incarnation suitable for those experiences. Similarly, good experiences. Besides, Hinduism’s view describes this experience as fulfilled in part by the experience of being in Hell, Heaven or in another Incarnation.
Those who have gained the knowledge of Karma and its bondage are considered as learnèd enough (or having passed the ‘examination’) and are moved into a higher state of existence (like the Bodhisattvas). They, thus, escape from the cycle of Birth and Rebirth. Yet they may still take Birth out of compassion for those who are still trapped in the cycle of Birth and Rebirth. It all depends upon what each Soul wants to do. Some Souls, after attaining freedom from the cycle of Birth and Rebirth, concentrate on overseeing higher aspects of the Cosmos, such as observing and managing Stars, Galaxies, or regions of the Universe, or engage in matters unknown to us and beyond the Universe.
Some attain to the ultimate state of Consciousness and becomes one with the Cosmic Consciousness.
Though the laws of Karma are self-regulating (like the laws of Gravitation and other laws of Physics) Hinduism does describe some Controllers who oversee the Soul’s stay in Heaven and Hell and their travels through the cycles of Births and Rebirths. For example, Yama is considered as the overseer of the Dead Souls. Chitragupta, his Accountant, is considered as the one who reads everybody’s Karma and who make decisions about their future experiences (Heaven, Hell, Next Life, et cetera). The soldiers of Yama conduct the Departed Souls, to make them familiar with the After-Life environment, and are often described as ruthless in dragging the Soul out of their Life-Line. They also discipline the Erring Souls (such as the Ghosts whom I explained) who refuse to comply with the rules of the After-Life.
Regarding various realms (Lokas) of After-Life, Hindu texts give plenty of information (not just the binary system of Heaven and Hell, but with many shades of grey in between), such as the Seven Lokas (Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Rasatala, Mahatala, Sutala, and Patala, which are Underworlds (not necessarily filled with hellfire, but can also be beautiful realms like Sutala) and Upperworlds, such as Bhu Loka (our realm, the Earth, the Karma Bhumi, where Karma can be acquired), Bhuvar Loka, Svar Loka (often equated with the Christian heaven), Mahar Loka, Jana Loka, Tapo Loka, and Satya Loka.
I have tried to do some analysis of the Fourteen Lokas in my website AncientVoice, at:
Here, I equated Bhu Loka with Earth, Bhuvar Loka with the Geospace containing Earth, its atmosphere and magnetic field, id est, the sphere of influence of the Planet Earth in the Solar System, Svar Loka as the Solar System, Mahar Loka as the Interstellar Space which is in the neighbourhood of the Solar System, Jana Loka as the Milky Way Galaxy, Tapo Loka as the Intergalactic Space which is in the neighbourhood of Milky Way Galaxy, and Satya Loka as the Observable Universe. Subsequently, I have equated the Seven Underworlds as different sections inside planet Earth, like Crust, Mantle and Core.
Besides this, some Hindus consider that the Pitris (Deceased Ancestors) stay in Pitri Loka, and equate it with the Moon, from where they watch their Descendants and try to guide them in their Life. Some consider the immediate atmosphere of our Planet, where airplanes fly, as the place where Spirit Beings (like Siddhas, Charanas, and Vidyadharas) reside. They can fly from the high Himalayas to the south, Kanyakumari, and can see the affairs of the people of Bharata (India). Beyond that, in the atmosphere and magnetosphere (Bhuvar Loka), and in the Solar System (Svar Loka), reside the spirits of Gandharvas, Apsaras, Rakshasas, Yakshas, and Kinnaras. All of these Spiritual Beings, some Hindus believe, interact with Humans occasionally. For example, in Kerala, people believe that Gandharvas possess women, and lead them to ecstasy or turn them mad.
This view, I must warn, however is different from the theory that all these Lokas are beyond the physical Universe and non-physical/non-material.
Given that Current Hinduism has always been way more advanced about the size of the Cosmos, than Western Philosophy/Religion, what is the present Hindu concept regarding the limitless/timeless Expansion of the Universe, and the Soul of one Human Being who currently is residing upon Planet Earth? I’m trying to fathom what precisely Modern Hinduism believes about such a Microcosmic Concept as a Human Soul versus the Immense Limitless Size of the Universe, and is there any belief of correlation between the Soul and the Universe, and how? Plus: I’m not just talking about the pat generic thought that the Soul is a ‘part’ of the Universe (we all know that!) but I am attempting to reach deeper into this concept, by ascertaining if Modern Hinduism can consciously deduce that one specific Soul goes anywhere inside this Universe, upon the earthly Death of its Body, or does Modern Hinduism believe that all our Universe and all our Earthly Knowledge is but Maya, Illusion, and we really don’t have a clue what is the True Nature of the Soul or of the Universe in which we live?
Maya is certainly one explanation regarding our reality. I have expressed this in my article at:
But, there is also a materialistic view about the Soul, according to which the Soul is sookshma (extremely small), smaller than the quantum particles, like the proton, and that a Soul has a reach or field which extends to the whole of Cosmos. But often, the awareness of the Soul is limited. For example, when alive, the Soul is aware only of the three-dimensional Body (which is only a cross-section of a Soul’s four-dimensional Body, id est, the Life-Line), and hence can only ‘remember’ about the Past and ‘speculate’ about the Future. Only the Present Moment comes to the light of actual experience. But, after the moment of Death, the Soul’s awareness expands to the fourth dimension, and it is now aware of the whole of its Life-Line, so that the Soul can see its Karma clearly (even the deeds done in utter secrecy). The Soul will also be able to see its Karma in all the Previous Lives. This expanded awareness prepares the Soul for the next experience or the Next Life.
At what moment does Modern Hinduism consider that an exterior Soul enters a Baby Human's Body? At the moment of Sperm entering Egg inside a Woman's Womb? Sometime during Foetal Development? At the moment when the Baby's head leaves the Vagina and breathes its first earthly breath? None of the above?
At the moment of Birth, only a seed of the Ego of the Soul exists. The Soul begins to express itself more clearly as we age. For example, it is at the age of 3 or 4 that the expression of the Soul, with its currently assumed Ego, is expressed recognisably well. Thus, the emergence of Soul, in its full strength (expressing its Ego clearly), is a gradual process, though the Soul, which plans to journey through the Life-Line, enters it when the Zygote is formed after the fertilisation of a mother’s Egg by father’s Sperm.
Where does the Soul that enters a Human Baby come from, and how does it get inside the Baby?
As I said, the Soul, after being done with its Previous Birth, and having passed through the temporary states of Heaven, Hell, Contemplation, et cetera, decides to take the Next Birth. Then, it chooses its potential future parents by observing their Life. When it understands that a Zygote may be formed at anytime, it becomes ready to enter into the Zygote, and finally enters it as soon as it is formed.
What about all other Animals and Plants, and their Souls? It is my belief that Modern Hinduism does not belief that it is only Human Beings who possess Souls, right?
Yes. Hinduism believe that all animals and plants have Souls. Soul is nothing but a Concentration of Consciousness which is capable of identifying itself as a distinct entity. Consciousness permeates the whole of the Universe and beyond. In Hinduism’s view, thus, the Soul is both distinct and connected and blended into the Universal Consciousness which is One.
Think of it in terms of the magnetic field of a magnet. The magnetic field of one magnet extends and blends with that of another magnet. Each magnetic field is distinct but all of them blend together and forms a single whole.
What does Modern Hinduism consider that the Soul actually is? Some Light? Some Fire? Some Indescribable Entity that never will be disclosed/diagnosed/detailed?
Soul is a Concentration of Consciousness, which is both distinct and blended into a whole. Soul is often wrapped in a Mind and Intellect (which are themselves transformed states of Consciousness, and are called Subtle Bodies, composed of quantum-level microscopic matter that does not obey the laws of classical Physics defined by Newton or Einstein) giving rise to an attribute called Ego. Once born, the Soul is also wrapped in a physical covering called the Body (which is made of classical Matter, the grossest form of Consciousness, which does obey all the laws of classical Physics defined by Newton or Einstein). Thus, a Body exhibits the property called Locality, id est, it can be located in a place and time. Mind and Intellect do not have the property of Locality and, hence, cannot be located in a place or time, but are field-like and spread into Infinity.
How big does Modern Hinduism believe that the Soul actually is? Microscopic? Bigger? Has any Hindu Scientist ever yet attempted to see one, to record one, to document one?
Modern Hinduism consider the Soul as non-material as it is Pure Consciousness. It is also considered as sookshmam, id est, microscopic, which also agrees with the view that it is beyond classical Physics and does not obey the laws of Physics as defined by Newton or Einstein. Mind and Intellect, that wrap around the Soul/Atman, are most likely quantum entities and, thus, in the realm of the quantum world, where entities can appear simultaneously at different places and can be entangled, even if separated by infinite distance (or immune to distance and separation). Soul/Atman is even subtler than Mind and Intellect and is, thus, the purest form of Consciousness, which forms the basis of all Time and Space, Energy and Matter.
Does Modern Hinduism have any belief in the concept of Guardian Angels, that is, of the Souls of the Dearly Departed remaining here on Planet Earth in order to guide and protect those Bodies Still Living?
In place of the Guardian Angels described in Christianity, in Hinduism we have the Pitris (the Souls of our Forefathers) watching over us and trying to guide us in our Life when we do right or wrong things. The Ishta Devata (one’s personal God or Goddess, who can be anyone like Durga, Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Ganesha, et cetera), chosen by each Hindu, also watches a person and gives guidance. All of these work only if the guided Soul has a habit of listening to the guidance, since these guiding whispers are very subtle, and will be drowned in the clutter and noise of one’s busy Life.
Besides this, there is the concept of Saptarshis, the Seven Sages, in spirit form, watching the affairs of Earth from the Pole-Star (Dhruva), who try to protect Earth and its Life if humans anytime mess up the planet knowingly or unknowingly.
If Modern Hinduism does have a concept of Guardian Angels as Departed Souls remaining on Earth, is their Stay on Earth temporary? Where would the Guardian Angel’s Soul then go, if the Earthly Stay is temporary, once the time is up for the Soul to go somewhere else?
These Guides, especially the Devatas and the Seven Sages, are Souls who have overcome the cycle of Births and Rebirths (though they may choose to take a Birth out of compassion for people who are still entrapped in the cycle of Birth and Rebirth). The Pitris who watch us are temporary, as they move into other Births.
I had to disable general visitor comment feature in this website due to the number of stray comments arising per day and my lack of time to review, manage and reply to each of those comments. However people who found this topic interesting and are serious about providing a comment both critical and favorable can email their comments to the following email address moc.liamg|rnhtijij#moc.liamg|rnhtijij. I shall publish them as comments to this page, after review by myself and Lawrence