Do emotions come from the heart, the soul or the subtle body?

by Chaitanya CharanMarch 17, 2017

Anwser Podcast

Transcribed by: Nikhil Fernandes

Time: 6 minutes

Do emotions come from the heart, the soul or the subtle body?

The ‘heart’ that is referred to in relation to emotions, it is a metaphorical reference and does not refer to the biological heart. When somebody talks about being ‘heart-broken’, it does not mean that the biological heart is affected. It refers to the seat of emotions where we feel shattered. The seat of emotions is the same as the source of consciousness. In scriptural philosophy, what we refer to as the heart is the same as the soul. In day to day metaphorical usage we may use the word heart instead of the soul.

The soul is source of consciousness and all emotions. However, in the conditioned stage, the soul is often controlled by emotions that are not its original emotions. Consider the use of a computer to research something on the internet. While using the computer an advertisement may pop up and if I’m not discerning and I click on the advertisement, I am taken to another webpage which I never intended to visit. This can happen again and again. The computer was meant to help me search for something specific. However, the same computer was also responsible for giving me other suggestions and leading me somewhere else. Here, both the computer and I are responsible. The suggestion came from the computer but it was I who accepted it. If I were not present, even if the advertisement appeared, it would not automatically lead to a different webpage. This analogy can be used to understand the relationship between us and our mind. We are like the computer user and the mind is like the computer.

We need the mind to do various things in life. The mind is the channel by which our consciousness comes to the body and the physical world. When we decide to do something, the mind may come up with many suggestions along the way. If we are not careful we may follow the suggestions subconsciously. Say a person decides to go to a restaurant and eat a simple salad. At the restaurant they see enticing unhealthy food and the mind proposes they eat that instead. If we are not careful they land up accepting the suggestion of the mind and eating the unhealthy food without realising what happened. Although the suggestion comes from outside, we ultimately are the ones who accept it.

Putting this in philosophical terms, the soul is ultimately the source of consciousness, emotions and desires, but sometimes the soul acts unthinkingly. The emotions and desires that we experience currently can come from three sources: 1) the body and external world, 2) the mind and 3) the soul proper. In the first category are those emotions and desires that are stimulated by external objects – the senses, the body or the external world. In the second category are those that come from our past recollection. These are impressions left on the mind that appear from time to time without external stimulus. In the third category are those that originate from the soul proper which are pure spiritual emotions. They are emotions of devotion and service to Krishna. We do experience such emotions occasionally, but they are not very regular because the soul is very much caught up by the mind and the body. After an emotion or desire appears, regardless of its source, it is the soul that is the ultimate chooser of how to act on the emotion or desire.

Rather than worrying too much where the emotion originates, we should instead focus on where it is taking us. By thinking about whether the emotion is taking us in a healthy or unhealthy direction, we can be selective about our emotions.

To summarise, the soul when in the material body is not always the originator of all emotions but it is always the chooser of how to act on emotions. In the pure state the soul is both the originator and the chooser of all emotions. Even if the origin of an emotion may be the external world or the mind, we are always the choosers of how to act upon the emotion. As we become more spiritually awake, then we become more intelligent choosers. Otherwise in the conditioned state we remain unintelligent choosers. As emotions appear we should evaluate if they are healthy or unhealthy. We can then curb the unhealthy ones and focus on cultivating healthier emotions.

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Chaitanya Charan

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