Srimad Bhagavatam 11.10.08 - Back to Basis You Are Soul (download mp3)
by Dwarkadhish Prabhu at ISKCON Chowpatty
dehad atmeksita sva-drk
yathagnir daruno dahyad
dahako ’nyah prakasakah
Just as fire, which burns and illuminates, is different from firewood, which is to be burned to give illumination, similarly the seer within the body, the self-enlightened spirit soul, is different from the material body, which is to be illuminated by consciousness. Thus the spirit soul and the body possess different characteristics and are separate entities.
It is analytically demonstrated in this verse that one should never falsely identify the ego with the material body. Such misidentification is called false ego, or material illusion. The following question may be raised. Since it is commonly known that the Supreme Personality of Godhead enlightens the conditioned soul, why is the term sva-drk, or “self-enlightened,” used in this verse? Srila Visvanatha Cakravarti Thakura explains that although the Supreme Personality of Godhead certainly furnishes consciousness to the living entity, the living entity, being endowed with the potency of the Lord, has himself the capacity to revive and expand his pure consciousness. He may therefore be considered, in a secondary sense, self-enlightened. The example may be given that gold or silver domes brilliantly reflect the rays of the sun. Although the light comes from the sun, the inherent properties of gold and silver can also be considered causes for the brilliant reflection, since other substances do not possess suitable properties to reflect the sun’s light. Similarly, the spirit soul can be considered sva-drk, or self-enlightened, because he possesses characteristics by which he can brilliantly reflect the potency of the Personality of Godhead, thus illuminating his existential situation, just as a gold or silver dome shines due to its reflective properties.
A nice example is given in this verse to illustrate the different characteristics of the body and soul. Fire, which burns and illuminates, is always different from that which is burned for illumination. It may be said, however, that fire is present in an unmanifest form within wood. Similarly, in the conditioned life of ignorance, the spirit soul is present, though unmanifest, within the body. The enlightened condition of the living entity can be compared to the act of arousing fire within wood. Just as fire quickly burns wood to ashes, similarly the spirit soul, when enlightened, burns to ashes the darkness of ignorance. We are conscious of the body; therefore it may be said that the body is illuminated by consciousness, which is the energy, or symptom, of the spirit soul. Identifying the body and soul as one is just as foolish as considering fire and wood to be the same. In both cases, the intimate circumstantial connection between fire and wood or between the soul and the body does not alter the fact that fire is different from wood or that the soul is always different from the body.