ĀTMA (soul): [ಆತ್ಮ]
ĀTMA (soul): The word ‘ātma’ (Skt.‘ātman’), depending on the context, means part or vehicle of Paraśiva, or individual (bound) soul. The Lingayats believe that the soul, being uncreated, is a spiritual substance, having neither the perceptible qualities like, colour, smell, etc. nor spatial qualities. In its original, natural state, it is an inseparable part of Paraśiva and pure bliss. In its bound state, because of ignorance the individual thinks that he is separate from Paraśiva. Being aided by instruments like senses, mind, intellect, etc. he is engaged in all kinds of activates, most of which only strengthen his bond to the world of pain and suffering. Though the ātma and Paramātma (Paraśiva or Linga) have different ontological statuses and functions, they are in essence identical and therefore, can unite with each other indistinguishably, as in final liberation. Water can unite with water, oil with oil, because they are substantially identical. Water and oil cannot unite because they are substantially different. Just as the different ornaments made of the same substance, gold, when melted will again become gold, so also the individual souls when they undergo spiritual training leading to liberation become pure like, and merge in, Paraśiva.
It seems that the Lingayats use the terms ‘ātma’ both in the empirical and in the transcendental sense. In the former sense, the ātma is a part (anga) of Linga (Paraśiva) and as such is not creator, etc.; in the latter sense, no distinction is made between the individual soul and the universal soul, since the two are essentially alike. Or, empirically the souls, which are different from one another, are innumerable; and transcendentally, the śhivayōgi who realises at the end of his spiritual journey that Paraśiva and the souls are essentially one.
The word ‘ātma’ is also used, though very rarely, to mean the universal soul. For example, the question “Can the myriads of worlds arise except in the Ātma?” [7:602] intends to show that the world originates in Paraśiva.
In the strict sense the soul is always pure as it is a part of Linga (Paraśiva). It is wrongly conceived by the ignorant to be impure. By ‘impure’ is meant ‘subject to ignorance, suffering, rebirth and certain other limitations’. None of these limitations actually destroys the original purity of the soul. The individual because of his metaphysical ignorance (marevu or aJnyana)[ಮರೆವು ಅಜ್ಞಾನ] assumes that he is just a bodymind complex, that he is defiled and delimited, that he is separate from Paraśiva, that his goal should be worldly pleasure, etc. He performs all kinds of acts under this (wrong) assumption and is subject to pain and suffering in innumerable lives. But when the guru teaches him his true nature and the way to regain it, he realises the necessity of religious life. As a result he subjects his body, senses, mind, intellect, etc. to spiritual discipline and arrives at the unshakable conviction that his personality as whole is just a vehicle of Paraśiva. Then he realises that his soul was already pure and the threefold impurities (MALA or MALA-TRAYA) [ಮಲ, ಮಲ-ತ್ರಯ] had not defiled it, just as the sky is always pure and clouds, smoke, dust, etc. which appear to defile it actually do not defile it.
[7:602]: 602 Vachana in the 7th Volume, (Samagra Vachana-Samputa in 15 volumes)
Publisher: Kannada Pustaka Pradikhara Govt of Karnataka, Bangalore, 2001.
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