Friday, January 6, 2012

The Size of Soul

Swami Mukundananda lecturing on the size of soul
The soul does not have physical boundaries, since it is formless. But this does not mean that the soul is indistinguishable from other souls. Each soul resides in a different body; each soul has a different personality, existence, karmas, and destiny, which are associated with it.
On the subject of the size of the soul, Indian philosophers present three divergent views:
1. Some say that the soul is vibhu, or infinite, because it is non-different from its source, God, Who is infinite.
2. Others say that the soul is madhyamākār, or medium-sized.
3. Yet others claim that it is aṇu, or tiny in size.
Now let us consider each of these views. First, is the soul infinite in size? No, for had this been so, there would not have been any question of going to heaven or hell after death; we would have existed everywhere; simultaneously; at all times. Our soul would have encompassed the earth, heaven, and hell, and there would be no need to go and come from anywhere. However, the Vedas state:
puṇyena puṇya lokaṁ nayati pāpena pāpamubhābhyāmeva manuṣhyalokam (Praśhnopaniṣhad 3.7)
“If you do pious deeds, after death you will go to the higher abodes; if you engage in sinful activities, you will be sent to the lower planes of existence; and if you engage in both kinds of activities, in your
next life you will come back to the earth planet.” This Vedic mantra negates the possibility that we are infinite in size.
Now consider the second view. Is the soul medium-sized? Let us assume the size of the soul is some finite value “X”. This means the soul cannot reside in any life form of size less than “X”. However, in nature, we see life-forms that vary in size-from the smallest organisms to giant whales. Therefore, the assumption that the size of the soul is a finite value “X” is flawed. The Jain scriptures are of the view that the soul is finite. They state that the soul is equal to the size of the body.
They come to this conclusion because the soul provides consciousness to the entire body. However, if the soul were of the size of the body, the problem would come upon rebirth. Let us say that the soul was in an elephant’s body in one life, and hence, equal to the size of the elephant. If in the next life it were put in a pigeon’s body, how would such a big soul fit into the tiny pigeon’s body? So only the third option remains: The soul is infinitesimally small.  To give us an idea of its size, the Vedas state:
eṣho ‘ṇurātmā (Muṇḍakopaniṣhad 3.1.9)
aṇupramāṇāt (Kaṭhopaniṣhad 1.2.8)
The above mantras of the Upanishads declare: “The soul is miniscule in size.”


  1. Haribol Wonderful Prabhu

    Hare Krsna

  2. Radhe Radhe, I have no doubt that the soul is anu in size. I am completely convinced by the reasons also why it is so. But then why does the following shloka of Bhagwad Gita say about the soul:

    "The embodied soul is eternal in existence, indestructible, and infinite; only the material body is factually perishable, therefore fight O Arjuna."

    Pls read the word 'infinite' in the above mentioned shloka. If it is 'infinite', then how can it be 'anu'.

    Kindly clear my doubt.

    Radhe Radhe
    S. Srinivasan

    1. Radhey Radhey S. Srinivasan Ji,

      I am Parth from JKYog.

      The verse that you have mentioned is the 24th Verse of 2nd Chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

      In that verse, the word "Sarvagatah" is used for the Soul which is translated as "Infinite" by interpreting it as "That which is pervaded (Gatah) everywhere (Sarva)". Clearly, this interpretation denotes that if such is the case then Soul has to be infinite in dimension. And then arises the great confusion.

      Actually, "Sarvagatah" has another meaning of "That entity which is able to go (Gatah) everywhere (Sarva)". Since Soul can go to Hell, Heaven, Earth, Divine Abode of God (upon God-attainment); this definition befits the Soul actually.

      Another definition of "Sarvagatah" can be interpreted as "That entity which has access (Gati and hence Gatah) in all (Sarva) the three forms of time viz. Past, Present and Future". Since Soul is eternal, it is Sarvagatah or has access in all the three modes of time when they come across the Soul.

      Parth (JKYog).

  3. Thank you, I am completely convinced by the answer. Kindly elaborate on the last line you have written. What do you mean by 'When they come across the soul'?

    Shri Radhe