The original Sanskrit word helps us understand this better. Soul or Atma is our consciousness-essence and for a manifested individual it is called as Jivatma. Jivatma is made of two words, Jiv (or Jeev) and Atma.
The “Atma” part of the Jivatma, is the microcosmic representation of the macrocosmic divine Consciousness. It is the same in essence and so at this level we are all the same.
Then what makes each one of us unique in our soul journeys is the Jeev part. If you have read the article on our numerous bodies then you understand that we carry all our karmas and samskars (i.e. karmic memory impressions) in our Causal body. This causal body makes up the Jeev part of the Jivatma. Since each one of us have had different experiences and our interpretations of life scenarios and resulting actions have been different; we each have our individual Causal body and in this way are an “individual Jeev”. The word Jeev in its most literal sense means a “living form”. Such a living form or Jeev is our basic individual identity.
When we speak of cleansing our karmas and learning our lessons, we are basically working on this part of ourselves. As we progress, we come to the stage of “Enlightenment” which is nothing but true understanding that even this existence of “Jeev or Life-Form” exists because of the delusion of Maya (what maintains the manifestation of separateness and duality). At this point one is truly aware of the Atma aspect of one’s being. I.e. one is truly aware of our “Atmic Self”- this is nothing but a microcosmic drop of the macrocosmic Consciousness.
But till one is living a physical life, Enlightenment is as high an energetic state one can be in- since without letting the body go, which includes the Causal form and Jeev aspect, one cannot truly and completely merge in the macrocosmic Consciousness. This requires not just the awareness of one’s Atma but also detachment from one’s “Jeev-self”. If one has reached that stage of realization, then at the end of that lifetime, their Jeev would drop off! I.e. their Causal body along with its karmas and samskars would get dropped off and their Atma, their very essence will merge with the macrocosmic Consciousness. This is called moksha. It is ONLY after moksha that one will not be entangled with any further cycles of birth and death- since there is no “jeev- karmic causual body” creating the need for further births (and deaths)!
What I have observed is there are several folks who reach Enlightenment in their lifetime and continue on their “Soul Energy (Atmic) journey” for further understanding and awareness of their Cosmic self. Such folks are at higher energy states than of Enlightenment, but since they still have their physical life-form, it is imperative that they continue to lead their lives with non-action, i.e. without incurring any karma or creating any further karmic samskars. If they are able to do so, then at the end of that life-time they can reach Moksha. In case, they incur karma or get caught in any delusions of the Maya, then their causal body will not drop off at death and will continue with their Atma- leading to further cycles of birth and death.
So, along with understanding one’s true nature of “Consciousness” it is important for us to lead our life in non-action: i.e. action which does not incur karma or create any forms of “attachment”! We will address this concept of Non-Action in another post.