The Size Of The Soul

By Niraj Bidawatka

The size of the spirit soul is mentioned in the Śvetaśvatara Upanishad (5.9) to be the ten-thousandth part of the tip of the hair. If one takes the tip of the hair and divides it into hundred parts and then takes one of these divided parts and further divides it into hundred parts, then what remains is the size of the soul. Since the soul is so tiny, it is not possible to see the spirit soul with the naked eyes.

The soul is situated in the region of the heart. It is due to the presence of such a tiny particle that the complex machinery of the body is working. It makes the gigantic body of an elephant work as well as the tiny body of an ant. When the soul leaves the body, it is called a dead body. One of the most pertinent questions that arises is that if the soul is present in the body, then why can we not see it. The answer is that it is very small and our senses being imperfect, cannot see things that are too small or too big, things that are very near or very far away. The ears cannot hear sounds that cross a particular decibel limit.

Moreover the soul is spiritual in nature whereas the eyes that we possess are material. Material means made up of matter such as earth, water, fire, air and sky. Since matter and spirit are incompatible, material eyes cannot see spirit. Spirit is anti-matter, or opposite to matter. Matter is always dead whereas spirit is eternally full of life. Thus the soul is a living entity, who infuses life into dead matter, such as the various 8.4 million types of bodies.

3G technology in mobile telephony allows us to make video calls, i.e. we can see the person, whom we are calling. However we need to have 3G compatible handsets to derive the benefit of seeing our friend on the other side of the line. Similarly if we want to see the soul and our dearmost friend Krishna, the Supersoul, then we need to have compatible spiritual eyes. We cannot see them with our present material eyes. The eyes however can be spiritualized by chanting Hare Krishna.

Our real identity is that we are individual spirit souls who are occupying our respective bodies. “I am not this body, I am the spirit soul (atmā)” But in the conditioned stage, we identify ourselves as the body. We think that “I am the body” and therefore we are working hard to satisfy the needs of the body. Inspite of working hard and giving the best comforts to the senses, no conditioned soul is absolutely happy or satisfied because he has neglected to provide comfort to the spirit soul.

The spirit soul can become happy only when it comes in contact with Krishna, Who is the source of all living entities. Therefore we find that the devotees, who are living with no material possessions in the mountains and jungles, are very blissful. Big celebrities and tycoons, who have the best of material comforts, visit them to find solace from worldly anxieties. Why is it so? This is because the devotees are in touch with the Supersoul and thus they are always in a state of bliss. If the soul is nourished, then automatically the body gets nourished.

The soul can be nourished by devotional activities such as hearing about the activities of Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead and chanting His holy name. We therefore request you to kindly listen to the Bhagavad Gita lectures and Hare Krishna Kirtans that are recently uploaded on our website. Download them on your mobile phones so that you can listen to them in your spare time. We suggest that you set aside at least 30 minutes to listen to the Kirtans. If you do this, then, within a fortnight you will find that you have made enormous spiritual progress. You don’t have to approach a spiritual counsellor to understand this, you can evaluate it yourself. So please do it. There is no loss in it but the gain will be substantial.

Also Read

Experiencing The Soul

Who Am I?

Can You Show Me God?


Heart surgeon Wants to Know What a Soul Is


19 thoughts on “The Size Of The Soul

    • No, the soul cannot be quantified with respect to the scientific dimensions. Had that been possible, the scientists would have discovered it and would not have denied the existence of the soul. Because they cannot see the soul, they deny its existence. Since the gross senses cannot see or perceive the soul, it is not possible to measure the soul through machines that are manufactured by the scientists with the help of their gross senses.

      – Niraj Bidawatka, Editor


        • Atomic means very small. We have to explain in the language which is understood by all. The exact words used in the scriptures are as follows: “anor aniyan“: smaller than the atom. anu means atom. By the way, we have not used the word “atomic”, anywhere in the above write-up. But even if it used, there is nothing wrong.

          “Beyond nature” means “spiritual”. There is differentiation of small and big even in the spiritual world. Just as this material world is made up of material atoms, similarly the spiritual world is also made up of atoms albeit “spiritual atoms”. The scientists cannot claim to possess any patented rights for the exclusive use of the word “atom”. Anyone and everyone can use it.

          Hare Krishna.
          Niraj Bidawatka, Editor


  1. If the soul is one ten-thousandth part of the tip of the hair, it means that it is one thousand-times bigger that a Hydrogen atom that is 0,0000000001 meter wide; the fun is that the nucleus of that atom is still 100,000 times smaller that the atom itself. Considering the fact that the nucleus is composed of protons and neutrons which by far are not the smallest known units of the quantum world, your definition of the soul means that Atman is a compound of smaller particles and therefore subject to decay which is opposite to what the Shastra says. So, your philosophical standpoint is in fact a materialistic one.


    • What you have stated is ambiguous. You yourself are not sure as to what you want to say.

      The size of the soul is defined in the Svetasvatara Upanishad. The exact verse is as follows:

      balagra shata bhagasya shata dha kalpitasya cha
      bhago jiva sa vigyeha sa canantyaya kalpate

      So you are wrong when you say that our philosophical standpoint is materialistic. We are simply repeating what the Upanishad says and the upanishads, by no means, can be termed as material. They describe the soul as permanent and eternal. The soul is not subject to decay, as you are fallaciously trying to project.

      Thanks. Hare Krishna.
      Niraj Bidawatka
      Editor, The Hare Krishna Revolution


      • Namaste Niraj,
        you are right in that “Upanishads surely cannot be termed material”, but their language is so tricky that they may be interpreted variously. What you state is not the only “definition” of Atman one can find in the Upanishads; the very same Svetasvatara, curiously, offers another definition when it says that Atman is “no bigger than a thumb, the inner Self, ever seated in the heart”. (see 3.13) How can this contradiction be reconciled? Obviously, when the Upanishad says 10,000, it does not speak about exact size. This is no “scientific statement”.
        You state in your article that the soul is “very small”, “smaller than atom”, “a tiny particle” and thus “above nature”. However, if you characterize something as smaller than something else or “located” somewhere, you conceptually make it “a part of nature”, i.e. material, because size and location are spatial features of prakriti, space being one of its later 24 evolutes. Anything that is described as “above nature” CANNOT be spatial nor temporal which is exactly what Shastra tries to indicate when describing Atman as nitya, shashvata, sarvagata, aprameya, achintya, avyakta, achala, sthanu etc. If you speak about “soul” as having a size, location, and being something that “moves” to some heavenly planet, it can only be a sukshma or karana sharira, which are more durable and etheric than physical body, but by their very nature both are perishable in the end.
        You say: “One of the most pertinent questions that arises is that if the soul is present in the body, then why can we not see it?” In fact, this is one of the most impertinent questions for a spiritually inquiring person to ask, because anything you can see is object other than you. Atman, being your Self, cannot be seen not because it is small, but because it is “you”, the very subject. With what you can see yourself? Upanishads say over and over again that the subject is consciousness which cannot be but dimensionless — that is exactly why in the same verse the Atman can be described as “the smallest of the small” and “the largest of the large”.
        That is why I said that your idea is conceptually material although you may be convinced that it is perfectly spiritual.


        • @dahvaniji,
          The verse from Shvetasvataropanishad (3.13) is:
          angustha-matrah puruso ‘ntaratma
          sada jananam hrdaye sannivistah
          hrda manv-iso manasabhiklpto
          ya etad vidur amrtas te bhavanti

          angustha-of a thumb; matrah-the measurement; purusah-the Supreme Person; antah-atma-the Supersoul; sada-always; jananam-of the living entities; hrdaye-in the heart; sannivistah- entered; hrda-by the pure heart; manu-if knowledge; isah-the controller; manasa-by the pure mind; abhiklptah-seen in meditation; ye-those who; etat-this; viduh-know; amrtah- immortal; te-they; bhavanti-become.

          They become immortal who know the Supreme Person, who in a form the size of a thumb always stays in the living entities’ hearts, who is the master of all knowledge, and who is meditated on in the heart.

          The verse describes the form of Brahman to be meditated upon in a particular kind of meditation known as anguShtamAtra vidyA described in the Upanishads. The meditator has to meditate upon Vishnu residing in the cave of the heart(dahara) who is of the size of a thumb.
          The passage actually describes Brahman ,not the jiva. The entire chapter describes Brahman not the jiva.
          The jiva is nowhere described as smaller than the smallest or bigger than the biggestbiggest. Rather these are descriptions of Brahman.
          Krishna in Bhagavadgita, vibhutiyoga says:
          “Of all things small, I am the soul.”
          The jiva is anu not vibhu like Brahman. Of course, as the antaryami, the Lord also resides within the soul. But yes you are right in saying that the soul is too subtle enough to describe its size.


  2. The passage in Shvetasvataropanishad 3.13 does describe Brahman; however this Brahman is characterized as antaratman in the same – the innermost Self. I wonder how “the innermost Self” can be something other then the real “me” — like some “another super-soul” you suggest. The real “I” can be only one ot the two, otherwise we would all be eternal schizophrenics. If you read the mirror passage of purusha as angustha-matra in Kathopanishad in 2.1.12 it will be more obvious that there are no “two selves” in us – provided you also read and understand the preceding verse where a qualification for such a knowledge is stipulated: “By the mind alone is Brahman to be realised; then one does not see in It any difference whatsoever. He goes from death to death who sees difference in It.” You will find a dozen of similar statements in other Upanishads as well.

    The amazing thing about Shvetasvataropanishad is that just one verse earlier of your “tip of the hair” refference (i.e, in 5.8) it is said that jiva (not Brahman) is angustha-matra who illumines the thinking and individuality like sun (i.e., like Consciousness). How can two entities of the same size occupy the same space simultaneously? Is not then the implied meaning that they are essentially one (because nothing else but God is really existent or Sat)?

    You stated: “The jiva is nowhere described as smaller than the smallest or bigger than the biggest. Rather these are descriptions of Brahman.” You are absolutely right, but nowhere in my posts above I was speaking about jiva. To be exact, I used the word ATMAN. Perhaps you are used to treat them interchangeably as synonyms, but then I wonder how the Upanishads can make any sense to you as a whole. Kathopanishad 1.2.20 is one example of such a statement: anoraniyanmahato mahiyanatma’sya jantornihito guhayam — “Atman, smaller than the small, greater than the great, is hidden in the hearts of all living creatures.” From this and numerous other apparently paradoxical Upanishadic passages you can understand that Atman is not “a countable being” but “consciousness”. Perhaps you are inclined to change the sentence grammar a bit and interpret the verse as refering to two Atmans, one Jivatman as the smaller and second Paramatman as the bigger, but this section deals specifically with one only Atman, “your Self”. As Atman is repeatedly characterized as spaceless and timeless, there is actually no point of using numbers, sizes or comparisons with regard to it. While there are definitely many different jivas with diverse qualities, you will not find a single verse in Upanishads saying explicitly that there are “many Atmans”. Even Bhagavadgita 2.12, oft-quoted by Vishnuists as their scriptural “proof” of existence of many Atmans, refers to jivas only. It appears that majority of misunderstandings between your and other Indian schools of thought are based exclussively on different notions of Atman, the innermost essence of any self.

    Further you said: “Krishna in Bhagavadgita, vibhutiyoga says: Of all things small, I am the soul.” Frankly, I was unable to track down a verse with such meaning. Could you navigate me?

    Your another statement: “The jiva is anu not vibhu like Brahman.” I do not argue over this statement even a bit, provided that you do not confuse jiva with Atman. Atman is even smaller then the anu as it is anoraniyan. Perhaps it is known to you that anu is defined as “parimandalya” in Vaisheshika, meaning “mathematical”, in other words dimensionless point, the least thinkable, further indivisible unit of anything (not just gross matter). Can you imagine something existing even behind a dimensionless entity? It can be only vibhu. (In mathematics too, the infinitesimally small value is equivalent to the infinitesimally large value). That is why the Upanishads can bold-facedly say “aham brahmasmi” or “ayam atma brahma”. (Of course “ayam jiva brahma” is not the Upanishadic teachings and it was never taught by any traditional Vedantic Acharya to my present knowledge, not even by Shankara and his followers, as you often erroneously hold.)

    Lastly, you said: “The soul is too subtle enough to describe its size.” — But in your article, you were specifically referring to “the small SIZE” of soul which statement downplays the Vedantic teachings on Atman. The subtleness is certainly something quite different from smallness. That is why I placed my comment.


    • Dahvaniji,
      Atman is a term used to describe either Brahman or jivas when the context demands. Antaratma or more specifically Antaryamin is a form of Brahman that is situated in every thing. In the Brihadaranyakopanishad antaryami brahmana, statements like Yasya atma sariram and yasya Prithvi sariram ( atma(jivatma) and prithvi are the body of Brahman)describe this. Here atma can only be the jiva.

      Secondly,Brahman is described as angusthamatra to help the sadhana meditate on him residing within his heart. He has to think of his body as Brahman’s abode and Brahman sitting in the throne of his heart.

      Thirdly, in badarayana sutra(1.2.11), it is said that two atmas(atmanau) have entered the cave of the heart.

      In our opinion all statements of the Upanishads are mahavakyas, we wont reject those mantras that supposedly donot support our viewpoint as not paramarthika satya like followers of Advaitavada. So these abheda vakyas are explained in a way that does not contradict other statements that support bheda. These statements signify the jiva’s unity with Brahman, not identity. In Bhagavatam,the gopis searching for Krishna during rasalila,say out of their visuddha prema “krishno’ham” which describe their unity with Krishna due to love but they are not identifying themselves with Krishna.

      What I meant by jivatma being Anu is that it is very small and subtle. Infact its the smallest thing. But Brahman is even subtler than it and hence is smaller than the smallest as It has jivatma as Its sharira(yasya atma shariram).Jivatma can never be vibhu. Sri Shankara also accepts this at the vyavaharika level.

      The kathopanishad verse saying,he who sees duality in Atman goes from death to death means that one should not see any difference between Vishnu’s name, formbody,colour,abode,limbs ,ornaments,attributes,forms ,energies as there is no internal difference in him. They are all one but only appear to be different.

      Lastly I am no manager of this site and nor am I an iskconite nor will I ever become. I am a believer of traditional Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

      And BTW, it is a fact that ShankaracharyaJi was a vaishnava or a “vishnuite” at the vyavaharika level.
      You can get more information on this from this blog:

      Infact all Vedanta Acharya were convinced that Vishnu alone was Brahman(Saguna Brahman in case of Shankara)with the exception of Appaya Dikshita who was criticised even by Advaitins for his philosophical conclusions.


      • Also regarding the Shvetasvatara(5.8), the jiva is called angushta matra only due to the reason that the dahara(space within the heart), within which the jiva (and Antaryamin) resides is of that size(angushta matra). In the very next verse, the real and fixed size of the jiva is described.

        The Brahma sutra solves all this apparent contradictions.


      • //Secondly,Brahman is described as angusthamatra to help the “sadhana” meditate on him residing within his heart. //
        Addendum: Instead of sadhana, I meant sadhaka.


  3. Namaste
    As i see here is a good amount of discussion about the size of atman spiritually , but myself being a person with medical science background can tell that the size referred in the above passage is very easily quantifiable by today’s science.(as Mr Narayana Rao asked above )
    Diameter of human hair – around 100 micrometer
    so lets take the tip of human hair to be 20 micrometer
    10,000th of tip of human hair – 0.02 micrometer that is 20 nanometer

    so if the question is – Can we see an object of the size 20 nanometer ?
    Answer is – Yes we can , with an electron microscope. The resolution of electron microscope is 2nanometer .
    so if something of that size is there inside our heart (as stated in the passage above) it would have been clearly identified even if it was anti-matter as an antimatter as small as an electron was detected by the very first person who experimentally proved it in 1930.



    • Dmitry, thanks for reference. However, looking at the original Sanskrit I am prone to rather take it as the confirmation of my previous comments. Why? Because the original verse says that jiva is “sukshma”, which according to the context definitely does not meant “small” (hrasva, anu etc.). It is interresting that in CC, Prabhupada translates it as “small” but in actuall Bhagavata verse we find “subtle”. Well, that is a big difference! I would rather say, it is the very opposite…It also substantiates the notorious fact that one can read practically anything into “Vedic” scriptures — which is the reason why even hard-boiled Advaitins are found to comment elaborately on Uddhava Gita or Navayogi Samvada of Bhagavatam and consider it as one of finest specimens of Advaitic thinking!


      • Dear dhvani,

        As far as I understand the main point of this statement is not around “subtle” or “small”. But it is around Krishna being jiva as well. And that by looking at jiva we may see Krishna.

        However your points are also interesting. Let me know if I am wrong and what practical difference it makes. I like your flow of thought and honestly interested in knowing more.


        • I think you got the essence of the verse, but kindly see what happens when someone starts making deductions based on these very words — the very title of this post is really ridiculous to anyone who has got at least some idea what Vedanta is all about. How can anyone use material categories such as smallness or size for defining Atman whose nature is Consciousness — something outside time and space borders?
          You say: “But it is around Krishna being jiva as well. And that by looking at jiva we may see Krishna.” These are words with amazing consequences. Have you ever considered what you would see if you truly SEE (not just imagine of hypothesize) that ANY jiva — which actually means EVERYTHING you see — is nothing but God….?
          “Let me know if I am wrong…” I find it useless to get argumentative about these matters, as I know too well that what is right at one stage may appear as wrong at the next, and vice versa. So if you are truly convinced of what you are saying is right, it is genuinely right FOR YOU. If it brings out the best in you, it cannot be wrong (until you wake up in some higher reality). As far as myself is concerned, I am not much interested in knowing more, rather of being aware of more.


        • In fact, the translation of the Kathopanisad verse (1.2.20) as reproduced in BG As It Is is misleading and manipulative, because the subject of the sentence is one (and also verb in singular). There are no two Atmans:The one Atman is BOTH anu and mahata, i.e. transcending anything you can ever think about IT. Just see the very next verse that says: “Though sitting still, It travels far; though lying down, It goes everywhere. Who but myself can know that luminous Atman who rejoices and rejoices not?” It is paradox upon paradox… How does it resonate with the quoted English translation? Prabhupada gives a meaning that is out of context and reads into the verse his own (limited) understanding which is against the very spirit of the Upanishad.


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