While discussing about knowing the knowledge, we concluded that soul is the beholder of knowledge, in fact complete knowledge, and also from time immemorial. Moreover, it would have it forever.
“Wouldn’t that mean existence of everyone’s soul also from time minus infinity to time plus infinity?”, questioned Jāti.
Yes, it does. And not only that, they have been even bound by karm particles from time immemorial.
So you mean, there was worldly existence of my soul before my birth, and would be there after my death, as well?
Yes Jāti, we all had a worldly existence before our *this* birth. In fact, we had already gone through infinite births and deaths. And that’s what our topic of discussion today – the cycle of birth and death.
So, would we have infinite births and deaths in the future also?
That depends. Going forward, if we get rid of all our karm particles and attain mokṡ, we come out of this painful cycle – no worldly existence – no rebirths, no deaths – just stay forever in mokṡ-shila. Otherwise, yes we would further keep going through this cycle of birth and death.
“Where is this mokṡ-shila?”, asked Ātmā curiously.
It is within this universe only, but at one of its ends.
O! So this universe have an end also.
Yes, the universe which contains matter, energy, soul, … is humongous but finite – and is referred to as lok (लोक). However, outside that, is alok (अलोक), which is infinite and has nothing in it and cannot have anything in it, except the empty space.
Can’t we go in alok?
No, nothing can be there, and so nothing can go there either.
How old are these lok and alok?
Again, like the soul, they were never created, they would never be destroyed. They have been there without any beginning (अनादि) and would be there forever without any end (अनंत).
How big is this finite lok?
I think, we are going off-topic for today. We would talk about lok in detail, some other day. So, we were talking about our existence before birth. In broad level, there are four gati (गति), so called forms through which soul can move through, while being in this world.
“How does the soul decide its gati?”, queried Danḋak.
It is decided by the karm particles, the soul has accumulated in its previous gati, by its puruṡārth (deeds).
Do you mean the karm particles keep moving around with the soul, through these gati?
Yes. Because if they don’t, the soul would attain its purest form and attain mokṡ, getting rid of moving through the various gati.
Ok. What do you exactly mean by gati?
These are the four forms or categories of worldly living beings, namely Celestial being (देव), Human being (मनुष्य), Tiriyanch being (तिरियंच), Hellish being (नारक).
So do these celestial and hellish kind of beings really exist? If yes, then why don’t we see them.
Yes, they very well do exist. We do not see them because their bodies are of different kind, which are not visible to our eyes. Moreover, they generally do not live here among us.
Where do they live? Heaven & Hell?
Sort of. Most of the celestial beings live in the various heavens (स्वर्ग) and all the hellish beings in the various hells (नरक). To be more precise, we’d need to understand the structure of lok.
Did you say heavens & hells? Are they not just one-one each?
No. There are 26 heavens & 7 hells.
And for sure, all of them are in this lok only, as there can’t be anything in alok?
Yes, exactly. We’ll talk more about their positions in our detailed discussion on lok.
What are these tiriyanch beings? I hope them to be the normal living beings, we see.
Yes, all the living beings except human beings, which biology talks about falls into this category.
So, the complete animal kingdom (except humans) & plant kingdom constitute the tiriyanch gati.
Animals, plants, and four more living beings.
“What else is left?!”, exclaimed Kāy.
Water (अपकाय), Earth (पृथ्वीकाय), Fire (तेजसकाय), Air (वायुकाय).
What?! Even they are living beings?!
Yes – they have souls residing in them, as well. In fact, one drop of water, one pinch of soil, a spark of fire, handful of air, each may contain innumerable number of souls.
You mean to say they may contain so many microbes.
No, not microbes – microbes would come under the biological animal or plant kingdom. Here, we are referring to living beings, whose body is water, earthly components (soil, minerals, …), fire, air, respectively.
That will take some time to digest.
No problem. Bose’ experiments had already shown signs of living beings from various minerals. In future, science will possibly verify others also.
Oh! Okay. I hope gati of human beings at least contains just we humans.
Human beings, yes. But not just we, there is at least one more variety, in there – though not getting in detail of that right now. With this, I hope you have got a bigger picture of the four gati, through which soul can travel.
“Each gati also seems to have further varieties. So, do all souls travel through all of them?”, asked Leshyā.
Not necessarily, as there are infinite tiriyanch, who would remain as tiriyanch. So, what all varieties, they would not even go through all gati. But highly likely that ours would have gone through at least all the four gati, if not all varieties.
Why do you say so for our souls?
When soul enters into a living form, we refer to it as its birth (in that life), and when it quits that living form, we refer to it as its death (in that life). But, the soul actually never dies. It just moves around from one living form to another. And every soul had already gone through such infinite births & deaths. And our soul is currently out of tiriyanch gati. So, with high probability, it would have gone through all the four gati, at least once.
“Even through tiriyanch?! Eeek! Animals, plants, water, earth, … whatever”, exclaimed Leshyā with an uneasy face & feeling.
Highly likely. That’s why, we in this human gati, should take maximum advantage to understand all these and try our best to get rid of all the karm particles, so as to avoid going into any further gati.
Meaning, even the life in heaven & hell is not permanent, the soul returns from there?
Yes, the only permanent thing is mokṡ – and that’s why the ultimate goal of life should be to settle in mokṡ.