Chapter 12: What is the Soul?
All definitions are devices. One can define in any way; Mahavira defines in one way and Shankara is going to define in another way, because all definitions are equally false or true. It makes no difference. How one defines depends on the type of person he is. There are so many definitions, and those definitions have become so many religions, so many philosophical systems. They have made man’s mind so confused by now that really it sometimes appears that those who have remained silent were more compassionate. Definitions have become conflicts. One definition cannot allow the other, otherwise it contradicts itself.
Mahavira tried to say that every definition has some truth in it, but only some; then something remains false about every definition. But it was impossible for Mahavira to have a big following because if you do not define clearly, the confused mind becomes even more confused. If you say, “Every path is right,” then you are saying, “There is no path,” and one who has come to find the path is just bewildered. You cannot get any help from me if I say, “Every path is right: wherever you go, you go to the divine. Go anywhere, do anything, everything has some truth.” It is true, but still it is not helpful.
If you define in a particular way and make the definition absolute, all other definitions become false. Because Shankara has to define things exactly he may say, “Buddha is not right, he is wrong.” But if Buddha is made to appear wrong, it just creates confusion. How can a Buddha be wrong? How can a Christ be wrong? Is only Shankara right? Then there are conflicts.
Even the third attitude, the Buddhist attitude of denying, has not helped. It has not helped because by denying the very search is lost, and without the search there is no need of denying. Very few people are capable of understanding what total cessation is. The lust for life is so deep-rooted that we are even reaching for a god who is a part of our lust for life: we are searching for more life, really. Even if we are searching for moksha, we are not searching for total death. We want to be there somehow.
Buddha had been asked, and asked continuously for forty years, only one question: “If we are to cease completely, then why this whole effort? It seems meaningless! Just to cease? Just to not be? Why this whole effort?” And yet people around Buddha felt that he had not ceased; really, he had become more - that was the feeling. Buddha had become something more, but still he went on denying and denying.
How can you define something that cannot be defined? But you will either have to be silent or you will have to define it.
As for me, I do not fall into any of these three groups; that is why I cannot be consistent. Each of these three types can be consistent, but I am not concerned with the concept of soul at all. I am always concerned with the questioner, the one who has asked. How can he be helped? If I think that he can be helped through positive faith, then I proclaim it; if I feel that he can be helped by silence, then I remain silent; if I feel he can be helped by definition, then I give the definition. To me, everything is just a device. There is nothing serious about it: it is just a device.