Question: Why would Atman take a part of himself, cut it off, make a human out of it, and send it into Prakriti, confused, alone, on a quest to rediscover his ‘true self’, or nirvana. Doesn’t it strike you as illogical? If logic itself doesn’t apply in this case, how do you explain it? What divine plan is this a part of?

Thank you for writing with your question. If we consider that the atma is one and the same as the nondual Brahman (absolute truth), the entire scenario makes no sense whatsoever. Why would something which is non-dual, perfect and complete, transform itself by creating the illusion of duality and thereby limit itself – all for the purpose of getting back to its original state of nonduality? How can something that is purely nondual ever attain a state of duality. The very concept of duality would not exist in an absolutely nondual existence. And if the absolute is being covered by illusion (maya), what is the source of that maya (since in this model the absolute is nondual), and how can illusion be able to cover the absolute truth. This would make the maya, or illusion, as supreme, and not Brahman – a concept refuted in all Vedic scriptures. There are countless inconsistancies with the concept of a nondual absolute limiting itself.

In reality, though it may not be accepted by popular thought, the scriptures do not establish a purely impersonal and nondual absolute truth. Throughout the Vedic texts the individuality of the individual soul (atma) and the Supreme Soul (paramatma) is stated to be eternal. For example in the Gita Lord Krishna states:

mamaivamso jiva-loke
jiva-bhutah sanatanah
prakrti-sthani karsati

“The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.”

In this verse Lord Krishna describes the individual living entities as amshas, or parts. Yet he qualifies it by the word “sanatanah”, or eternal. The living entities are eternally part and parcel of Lord Krishna. Never was there a time when they did not exist as individuals. “jiva-bhuta sanatanah” – their state as jivas, or individual living entities, are eternal. This is further established in many other places in the Gita, for example (2.12):

na tv evaham jatu nasam
na tvam neme janadhipah
na caiva na bhavisyamah
sarve vayam atah param

“Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.”

The origin of the living entities bondage in matter goes back to time immemorial. Being parts (amshas) of God it is the soul’s duty to serve God, just as the hand, which is part of the body, must serve the entire body. This relationship between the soul and God is eternal. Among the countless souls existing within the spiritual realm of Vaikuntha, a tiny fraction develop a desire for themselves be the whole. It is something like the hand desiring to be independent from the body. It is nothing but a foolish concept, for a separated hand is a dead hand.

For those few souls who desire to be the controller (and not the controlled), the Lord provides them with a situation in which they can simultaneously fulfill their desire and come to realize that they are in fact a part of the absolute. This realm provided to the living entities is the material manifestation. It is a manifestation of the Lord’s love for the living entities.

Even though they desire to become independent form the Lord, it is factually impossible for anything to be independent of Him. Thus He utilizes His maya potency to cover this fact from the living entities so that they can actually feel and experience as though they are independent controllers.

The entire material manifestation is a product of the Lord’s love for the living entities. It is like a cosmic university, the aim of which is to become educated and graduate. The supreme father sends some of his children to this cosmic university, knowing one day they will graduate and return to Him. Sometimes when a student goes to study in a distant university, he feels as though he is independent of his father and able to act on his own, but factually all of his bills and maintenance are being taken care of by his father. His independence is an illusion. The same is the case for the spirit souls in this cosmic university.