Ask anyone about the soul and more often than not, you will get a blank stare, or the soul might be explained as a spirit, a part of God, our basic being, or our true essence. But there has never been a good, logical explanation. So here goes!

Although according to Buddhism the soul does not exist, Buddhists talk about something that is very soul-like, and something that makes sense regarding our basic being. They call it "Bhavanga." Bhavanga is a kind of subconscious, but not exactly the subconscious of the individual with which we are familiar; Bhavanga is the foundation of existence.

The Bhavanga is a little different from the subconscious in that; if our subconscious is a stream of personal consciousness that lurks just beneath our conscious minds, then the Bhavanga is the ocean into which that personal stream flows. In other words, the Bhavanga is universal, a kind of Akashic record containing all the memories and thoughts of eternity, and which can be accessed by any individual, if they give up their individuality.

Actually, it is out of this Bhavanga that thoughts arise, just as sub-atomic particles arise randomly from a field of nothingness. What makes the Bhavanga soul-like is the fact that the thoughts arise in certain patterns for each of us, and not at all randomly. The little nitch of the Bhavanga that is us, therefore, is quite individual.

Why the Bhavanga acts individually is because of the power of karma, or our individual habit patterns going back thousands of individual lifetimes. We become stuck in a groove, regarding our habitual actions, from rebirth to rebirth, and it is exactly this groove that necessitates rebirth. It's a Catch 22. We create our karma, we take it with us when we die, and it then causes rebirth. We are caught in a revolving door.

If we didn't have karma and karma's resulting habit patterns and influences, our thoughts would not be restricted to individual tendencies. They would be free to arise unrestrictively, embracing all possibilities. Once karma is established, however, our thoughts and the resulting actions of our thoughts become patterns that we cannot easily alter. This is because we just don't understand what is going on. We can't see the forest for the trees. It is our understanding that makes all the difference.

Thoughts are not us, but they fabricate our souls, or to put it another way, color the Bhavanga so that we believe that our thoughts are real, that our thoughts are us, when they are nothing but random stimulations arising out of the nothingness of Bhavanga in patterns that adhere to our particular karma.

Although thought is necessary to carry on our lives, meditators study their thoughts until thought disappears temporarily; to get out of the revolving door for a moment. When thought disappears, one is then faced with the naked Bhavanga, or the underlying consciousness of existence.

This is emptiness as far as thought is concerned. Within this emptiness, however, is the "face of God," or reality, which many hope to see, for this is the true freedom. Then we change fundamentally, and our karma changes as well. As long as we are immersed in thought, and believe in thought, we cannot see the face of God, or reality, because of the interference of our thoughts

When thought is stilled for some time, the Bhavanga opens up and our minds can access things that heretofore were hidden. We can see all kinds of mysterious phenomenon because the mind instead of being restricted to only our personal memory and thought suddenly opens to the memory and thought of humankind, and beyond humankind, into all of existence..

Bhavanga, however, is restricted only to existence; it is the underlying life-continuum of existence, and what a meditator attempts to do is transcend existence and Bhavanga. In essence, a mediator attempts to transcend the soul and touch God's face or reality. Then, one is faced with reality instead of existence as we know it.

God or realty does not exist in the way that we understand existence. All that we understand is life, and to realize that which is beyond life is quite impossible, because we have no basis upon which to understand such things. We are not capable of understanding, and to pretend that we do is the epitome of misunderstanding.

However, we can touch that Reality that is not within our existence or our experience, and once touched, our entire being changes. Our fundamental being changes without our understanding at all with our brains or our minds. This is beyond material existence, beyond minds, brains, and souls. This is something eternal, something which never began and will never end, will never change and will never be dependant on anything to create or destroy it. This is what we call God, or perhaps even beyond God. This is the ultimate that we cannot visualize or even contemplate. In Buddhism, this is called Nirvanna.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, His twenty-nine years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit