We are told that we are souls. What is this soul? The Bhagavad-Geeta provides the answer. Souls are parts of God (15.7). What does this mean? Are we God-like? Are we different from what we appear to be? Is our relationship with God similar to a father-son relationship? If so, why does God, who is all-powerful, let us suffer so much? What advantage is there in knowing that one is a soul and not a material body?
Let us try to understand this complicated matter, which baffles most people. When Lord Krishna speaks of ‘mama eva amshah’ (15.7), He means a spiritual spark. God is the absolute whole encompassing everything, whereas individuals can only be parts. Being parts, does not mean that God is obliged to act in our favour like a father has to for his son. There is a big difference between being a part of God and a spiritual spark. Part shows connection which may not be there. Spark indicates independent existence, unless decided otherwise by us.
What then is our relationship with God? We all exist eternally (Gita, 2.12). However, God is not attached to us, and therefore, remains impartial (Gita, 9.29). We are not God’s extensions either, though God can be our father if we so choose. We can choose to link anytime with Him. There is relationship if we want not otherwise. God also does not get emotional about us. For Him, maintaining primacy of rules is most important. He rarely goes beyond the laws of nature as set by Him. We are so used to violating the laws of nature that we expect God to do likewise. God is not heartless; He is just practical. He allows the material nature to act. We can get cooperation from His material nature if we follow its rules, like in matters of health. After all, the nature is based on sound scientific principles, which if violated attract punishment.
What should then a soul do? One should become attached to God and detached from materialism. One should depend on God only and not on any opulence like wealth. One should practise linking with God and not remain on a theoretical level. One has to be patient because realising God is a slow and long process, but a sure thing. And one should not be foolishly emotional in our dealings as we are naturally inclined to be.
Summarizing, a soul is a spiritual spark. It is partially independent and small. A soul desires, decides, and enjoys or suffers. Everything else is done by the same material nature, which is in God’s control. Sooner we realize our identity and act accordingly, better off we will be.