Recently saw “Choice,” a wonderful new play by Winnie Holzman, which asks us to consider: What is a soul? (That the playwright has the most boring and least powerful character of the play pose this question—whereupon he/his question are immediately snickered at and then ignored—strikes me as a brilliant piece of writing!) So I have.
And as these things work sometimes, while searching for something else, stumbled across this ancient poem which attempts to answer that boring man’s poignant, probing, right-on question:
Song of the Soul, by Shankarachary
(788-820 CE, mystic saint of India)
I am neither ego nor reason,
I am neither mind nor thought,
I cannot be heard nor cast into words,
nor by smell nor sight ever caught:
In light and wind I am not found,
nor yet in earth and sky –
Consciousness and joy incarnate,
Bliss of the Blissful am I.
I have no name, I have no life, I breathe no vital air,
No elements have molded me, no bodily sheath is my lair:
I have no speech, no hands and feet, nor means of evolution –
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss in dissolution.
I cast aside hatred and passion, I conquered delusion and greed;
No touch of pride caressed me, so envy never did breed:
Beyond all faiths, past reach of wealth, past freedom, past desire
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is my attire.
Virtue and vice, or pleasure and pain are not my heritage,
Nor sacred texts, nor offerings, nor prayer, nor pilgrimage:
I am neither food nor eating, nor yet the eater am I –
Consciousness and joy incarnate, Bliss of the Blissful am I.
I have no misgivings of death, no chasms of race divide me,
No parent ever called me child, no bond of birth ever tied me:
I am neither disciple nor master, I have no kin, no friend –
Consciousness and joy am I, and merging in Bliss is my end.
Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower am I, formless is my form,
I dwell within the senses but they are not my home:
Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound –
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I am found.