The existence of soul is widely believed, and disbelieved but it continues to dominate the social and religious discourse especially among theists and agnostics across all faiths.
Dhirasanta Das Goswami Maharaj of International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) observed that the society is deliberately avoiding to study soul from academic perspective because many of them are not interested to give up their materialistic and consumeristic way of life (avoidable indulgences). If that is not the case, why isn’t there a single institution or organisation or university for the study of soul, he asked. He referred to the importance of eternal soul as emphasised by Lord Krishna to Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 2 of 18).
According to ISKCON (school of Hinduism): “Understanding the difference between body and soul—between matter and spirit—is the beginning of spiritual life and the only basis for true self-realization.
“Our body is constantly changing: infancy, childhood, youth, middle age, old age, and finally death. But we, the unchangeable soul, witness this “virtual reality” from within. That’s why, even though our body changes throughout life, we always keep our sense of identity.
“Matter is temporary, and spirit is eternal. Therefore we eternal souls are more important than our bodies. To understand this point is real knowledge.
“We are by nature eternally happy and full of knowledge. The human body affords us the opportunity to perform spiritual activities that will free us from getting further material bodies, which are by nature full of suffering.”
Material compassion, lamentation and tears are all signs of ignorance of the real self. Compassion for the eternal soul is self-realization. – Purport of Text 1, Chapter 2, Bhagavad Gita by His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Maharaj pointed out that the body is perishable but the soul is eternal. Maharaj is the title he earned from ISKCON as a result of his dedication to the service of devotees and to the Lord Krishna, and for working as a project leader, educator and teacher. He is a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada the founder-acarya of ISKCON, and has been here since 1972. He was born in Plymouth, England and changed his name from David John Thompson to Dhirasanta Das Goswami. He has spent his devotional career in Scandinavia especially in Sweden and Finland.
Maharaj was in Gothenburg (Göteborg) to give a lecture on ‘transit of soul’ – atma – and interact with the devotees of Hare Krishna movement or ISKCON at the temple-cum-restaurant Govindas located near Chapmans Torg. He showed a documentary on the soul’s journey, answered questions from the devotees and lead the evening prayer with kirtans. The temple served a free-of-cost feast to all those who attended the session: most of them were local Swedish and of Hungarian origin.
Govindas restaurant in Gothenburg serves both as a temple and restaurant. ISKCON or Hare Krishna Temple has been in the city since 1990s, and it is the only Hindu temple that celebrates important festivals of Hinduism including the annual Ratha Yatra.