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Body Mind & Soul


Sep 24, 2004

I.J. Singh

I am part of a small group of Sikhs that meets once a month to discuss matters spiritual and historical over a fine repast. A recent conversation veered towards an issue that has recently set the Internet aflame with passionate arguments on the nature of mind, body and soul.

Matters were copacetic until someone cited an iconic Sikh writer to make the case that “We are not body but soul which is the essential element of existence.” A high-octane debate erupted that laid bare a firewall holding all reason at bay.

And I wondered!

In fact this is not a shocking or unusual position to take when talking of spiritual matters. Ancient Indian mythology looks at atma (soul) as a part of Paramatma or the Creator; Literally “Param-atma” would translate as the first or primary soul. In this model, at death the human soul would be recycled into some species of existence after Judgment or merge into Paramatma and become freed of the cycle of birth and rebirth. (Is the latter then the equivalent of the Judeo-Christian concept of finding a place on the right hand of God in heaven?)

It becomes natural then to diminish and degrade the body, including bodily functions, needs and wants. Then the goal of life becomes to withdraw from worldly concerns and look for an available mountain top or a jungle to focus on a life of prayer and worship in solitude. And that exactly is the essence of much of Indian mythology.

Incidentally Sikhi, from its very beginning, has clearly rejected such a mind set. Mortifying the flesh has absolutely no place in Sikh teaching or practice. I consign to similar reasoning the question that occupies many religions – what gestational day does the soul enter the fetus?

Remember also the essential Sikh teaching that the Creator is best experienced in the Creation, not outside of it; this would be naturally and necessarily evident from its attribute that we label as omnipresence. Certainly the Creator occupies no specific location in a different zip code or time zone where we need to reach in order to affect whatever merger we have in mind. The best merger is of divine attributes to be attained and practiced during life and not at death.

I know that mythology offers some formidable models of the journey of the soul that takes, in Hindu mythology, eleven months from the place of death to the abode of the Final Judgment wherever that is.

Mind you no one has ever seen the soul, nor is it demonstrable or even approximated by any of our most sophisticated devices; there is no measurable loss of even an iota of any substance in amount or volume at death.

From our limited human perspective then soul is perhaps best understood as life force; physical death occurs when the force departs the flesh – when the link between the vessel and the content is sundered. The flesh returns to earth whence it emerged to become part of the greater biological life cycle.

Nevertheless, in our limited understanding, mind, body and soul are seen and talked about as three separate entities, each capable of independent existence. In such a formulation then to diminish the body and exalt the soul would not be an alarming or astonishing concept at all and that’s the usual take of most religions on the matter.

The run of the mill Sikh teaching/practice is not much different. In fact the idea I started with that “We are not body but soul which is the essential element of existence” appears to have become the core of much of Sikh lore and comes to us from the ever rich and popular Indic mythology.

Think with me a bit:

We all know that water has no shape of its own; it assumes the form of the container and that’s how we become aware of it. It can exist as vapor, as moisture in clouds, as a pitcher full, as steam, as ice or as a wave in the sea – in free form or combined with something else, within the living flesh or outside of it.

By its shape we experience it, so I would think that the carrier (vessel and its shape) would be just as essential as the water within it. (Before someone jumps on me for fundamental ignorance of basic chemistry, let me state that I understand the chemical structure of water but that’s not the issue here.) Similarly, one needs to comprehend ideas of body, mind and spirit or soul in collective interaction and not as packets of isolated and independent existence.

Certainly, mind and soul have no three-dimensional structure.

The soul is something similar to water with no shape of its own but, for us earthlings it is experienced as what gives us life -- the force within the vessel of flesh. Without the body the soul has no reality. The mind is similar – without the flesh – the brain – the mind does not exist. The container of the flesh gives them shape and existence. So what comes first: the brain or the mind; the flesh or the soul? I hope to explore my take on the mind in a longer essay at another time.

Parsing this triad of body, mind and soul often engages us in spirited discussions that just as often end in frustration because the three elements are analyzed individually – in somewhat of a reductionist’s approach. Nothing wrong with this model of reasoning except that it remains incomplete. A holistic view needs to step in after the reductionist’s analysis has completed its task.

Guru Nanak refers thus to this timeless dilemma in Assa-di-Vaar (Guru Granth, p. 469):

Kumbhe badhaa jull rahae, jull bin kumbh na hoye;

Gyan ka badha munn rahae, Gur bin gyan na hoye.

In other word, just as the pitcher confines the water but cannot be shaped without water; similarly the mind is restrained by the sagacity within it but sans gnosis there is no mind

Forget not that if the mind is shaped by the knowledge within it then this information can range from pure unbridled evil to sublime wisdom – always with large patches of ignorance.

The reductionist’s approach alone is a useful mental exercise and wonderful analytic tool it but doesn’t help our understanding all that much.

November 15, 2013
Last edited by a moderator:


ਨਾਮ ਤੇਰੇ ਕੀ ਜੋਤਿ ਲਗਾਈ (Previously namjap)
Jul 14, 2007
Mind you no one has ever seen the soul, nor is it demonstrable or even approximated by any of our most sophisticated devices; there is no measurable loss of even an iota of any substance in amount or volume at death.
In Gauri Sukhmani M.5, Pitta Ka Janam Kya Janey Poot.
How can the son/child comprehend the birth of the Father.

In Christian Prayer, the famous recitations starts with, "My Father in Heaven"

My take on this is that, we cannot even begin to form any concept of the Almighty Creator. Any concept put forward becomes inaccurate. Of course that in itself gives us the challenge to get to the bottom of every concept. All concepts are born from the mind. So as Sikhs we are given an even greater challenge, "Mann Jitey Jagjeet". We have to conquer or go beyond the mind. Beyond, concepts and thoughts.

It is an on-going challenge. A challenge for our higher Self (call it Jot, Soul, Etheric Body) which can reach the realm of No Thought. I am not trying to connect Sirian or Orion mythology to Sikhism, but I know so that they only recently developed their concepts from Sikhism and other off-shoots of Sikhism.

Sikhism stands with no borrowings from other religions. Not even Hinduism. This is my take on this subject.


Dec 4, 2011
So what comes first: the brain or the mind; the flesh or the soul? I hope to explore my take on the mind in a longer essay at another time.
answer- The MIND,- mann tu jyot saroop hai
and The SOUL before flesh, just as the water doesn't get created or begin to exist only in the pitcher !


Mar 18, 2012
Good writings.Please can you quote from SGGS ji .Will some Gursikh ji help to find out answers to the following quoting from SGGS.
1.Who am I,body?soul?mind? ,what is the purpose of getting human form.where will I go after leaving the body if i am not a body
Purpose of life and how to chieve.
Gur Fateh,

Ajeet Singh

Mar 24, 2015
You exist as a body under control of a fine computer known as mind . Mind is the child of electron size soul . Soul is the bliss or charging power of your heart to beat & pump over 2000 gallons of blood daily. Soul gets the energy from the kingdom of GOD inside your spiritual heart .GURU/GOD blessed us the human body to enjoy the philosophy of LOVE of NAAM . Aim of life is to collect the treasure of NAAM . NAAM is a state of enjoying INFINITE BLISS of LOVE of TRUTH. By buying the ticket from the treasure of NAAM , we succeed in boarding the SPACE SHIP at the time of death or leaving the mortal coil . It is good enjoy this ride of space ship while being in youth phase of life . NAAM is even higher than GOD !!!!! ...................DIVINE LOVE

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