Mankind of Nature: Search for the Soul 

The ‘atman’ is not something one searches in the academic circles.  its definitions are not available in textbooks.  The closest one gets to understand it is by negation, by saying it is not this, it is not that.  The nearest English equivalent to this word is the soul.  It is equally non-definable.  But is all pervasive.  so each one sees the manifestation of the soul in one’s own perspective, through an individual, personal, subjective prism.

The IGNCA and the Millennium Trust, England, jointly hosted a two-day seminar on ‘Mankind and Nature: Search for the Soul.’  The topic challenged some of the assumptions of both contemporary scientific materialism and of those who stand for environmentalist.  It posed the question and sought to answer whether we continue striving to effect outward change or dare to regulate our world first through individual inner change and spiritual development?  It echoed the ancient question – ‘What am I?  Is the soul something I have, or something I am?’  the conference also explored whether these alternatives might be reconciled by a third way?

Mr. Tim Eddi in his paper ‘Soul of Socrates’ discussed the philosophy of the great thinker.  Quoting from his works, he said “the soul is bound to the body and is liberated by becoming impassive to the body….Nature indeed bounds the body to the soul, but the soul binds itself to the body.  Nature therefore liberates the body from the soul but the soul liberated itself from the body.  hence there is a two-fold death.”

Dr. Ronald Lello discussing ‘Belief’ said that when the “my” word got attached, like ‘my family,’ ‘my land,’ ‘my nation’ etc., we were in a world of possession, limitation, competition, identification and bondage.  “This happens because the soul has lost its connection with the Immortal and the Divine.  It has forgotten its real function and got sunk in the dark cave of materiality.” he said while discussing the relativity between Man, Soul and Nature.

Dr. Y.P. Anand – (former Chairman, Railway Board and Gandhian) in his paper The Gandhian search for truth’ dealt with Gandhian search for truth representing the yearning for self-realization, attained through realization of one’s true relationship with the social and natural universe of which one was but a part, and of the underlying Unity of all existence as conceptualizing the Ultimate Reality.

‘Sloul and Spirituality in the Bhagavadgita’ by Vivekanand Jha – (former Director ICHR) went into the various implications of the notion of soul for spirituality in this text.  He said that though encumbered with the limitations of nature in the human body, the soul was essentially no different from God and realizing ones own divinity in practice by breaking all the barriers between man and man, unselfishness, love and promotion and well-being all creatures was spirituality.

‘Art: an exploration of the self’ by P N Mago, the renowned painter discussed art and soul.  “art (kala) is the explorations of the spiritual basis of man’s being.  Spiritual bliss is the same as aesthetic bliss.  Both are obtained by contemplated absorption and inwardness/  the artist has to bring himself in unison with the cosmic spirit.  Only then will the mirror of the artists’ mind reflect the forms.” he said.

Transcending the mind – the ascetic and aesthetic routes in Indian tradition was the paper presented by J. Veeraraghavan, Director, Bharatiya Vidhya Bhawan.  He said the Indian tradition asked the seeker to “experience” for himself the reality (soul) behind and beyond the mind through various prescribed procedures.  One of the methods was the Yoga.  The method of yoga was codified by Patanjali in 400 BC or before, which prescribed eight steps.  They are Pranayama or breath control, dhyana or contemplation, pratyahara or restraint, dharana or concentration, sattarka or logic, samadhi or the merging of consciousness, yamaor self control, niyama or ritual observances and asana or postures.

K.L. Seshagiri Rao, the chief editor of a forthcoming 18 volume work ‘Encyclopaedia of Hinduism’ talked about the five primal elements of which all things in the universe were comprised.  The Hindu ecological vision regarding life-promoting and life-sustaining elements were based on the concept that all things were composed of the same five great elements; they were thus interconnected, interrelated and interdependent.  The moral duty of humans in relations to the natural environment was given specific attention in the Vedic heritage, he said.

This was the fourth conference in a series which had been held alternately in India and the UK, sponsored by the Millennium Trust.  The series had been exploring the relationship between the wisdom of spirituality, the arts and economic spheres of life as they manifested in human experience.  MT was founded in 1988 in London as a forum for people who were interested in encouraging the pursuit of wisdom and truth in the arts, science, education and commerce.

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