When we have microscopes that can see sizes less that 1/10,000 , then how do we understand the statement that the soul can’t be seen through the most powerful microscope?

by Chaitanya CharanJanuary 24, 2012

From Siddhartha:

Answer Podcast


According to The Physics Factbook, the diameter of human hair ranges from 17 to 181 µm. Ley, Brian (1999). “Width of a Human Hair”

1/10,000 th of that would be 1nm, the size of the Hydrogen atom.  SP mentions in BG 2.25 that the soul can’t be seen through the most powerful microscope.

In this context, how do we understand that there are microscopes (http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/35034) through which we can see a Hydrogen atom?

Yes there are microscopes which can see to extremely high resolution, and they can see to resolutions beyond the size of the soul. But the important point is, that the soul is spiritual. The soul cannot be perceived with material senses, so please refer also to answer to the question ” is the size of the soul metaphorical or literal “, to gain a clearer understanding, but I will mention here briefly , that the soul is , mentioned in the scriptures, in the Bhagavad Gita itself as aprameya , immeasurable, why is it immeasurable ? , because it is spiritual , we cannot ascribe any material dimension in a material sense in it, but the same time the Upanishads also say and Prabhupada quotes, kesha dash bhagat, shata kalpatisya ca, that soul has a dimension of the 1/10000 size of the tip of the hair, why is it told like this ? in contradictory terms ? because, when we say something which does not have dimensions, we should not mistake that it is formless shapeless and impersonal. So to indicated that the soul does has a form and a personality, the material dimension is given to the soul, and the soul is mentioned of having a specific dimension. Now , in order that we not think that dimension is just like the material dimension, it is also told that the soul is immeasurable. So now , Shrila Prabhupada says that the soul is so small that it cannot be seen, now we have to understand that even in an Acharya statements, there are eternal principles and there are contextual arguments. For example Shrila Prabhupada in the Isopanisad ;purports mentioned that God is the proprietor, and if people doesn’t accept the proprietorship of God , they will keep fighting, and the fighting will be, he gives the example of communists and the capitalist, even now to some extent the fight between communists and the capitalists have become outdated, because the communist no longer have so much power , certainly we don’t have the first world and the second world fighting with each other . so has Shrila Prabhupada’s purport has become irrelevant ? No m the principles is eternally relevant, but an acharya will give example according to the context to make those principles understandable to the audience. So that’s why there are eternal principles and there are contextual examples to illustrate those principles. So , now, when Shrila Prabhupada got his education in 1920s and when Shrila Prabhupada wrote his purports, the technology , at that time, was adequate to sizes to this magnitude, and why Shrila Prabhupada would use that as an additional arguments. Actually, because scientist cannot have that much microscope , they cannot see. Now there is another section, another place where Shrila Prabhupada was asked this question specifically, that ” Prapada what if in future they develop a microscope b uy which they can see beyond this size ” t, Shrila Prabhupada said ” even then they will not be able to see because the soul is not material, the soul is spiritual.”. So basically, based on the contextual knowledge at a particular time, Shrila Prabhupada may use specific arguments, and we have to understand that arguments , they are based on shastra but they are often phrased for the understanding of the audience, in contextual or contemporary terms.

To summarize the answer, the soul being spiritual cannot be seen by any material microscope, no matter how high is its resolution.and Shrila Prabhupada uses the contextual argument that the technology is not strong enough to see 1/10000 th tip of the hair, at that particular time, that contextual argument may not be relevant now, but the eternal principle is always relevant that no matter how good the material technology, the soul being non material cannot be seen by the material senses.

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Chaitanya Charan

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