This Brahma too is of the same character as the soul, the highest Purusha (soul) and Prakrti (Nature) united together into one; and so Vedanta, unlike the Sankhya and its allied systems, gives us a purely monistic conception of life. Thus we see that we begin with Nature as the supreme creator of things and think of the soul as different from all of them, and end with Brahma, where Nature and the soul are united together into one; and that is the ultimate Reality, which is both personal and impersonal, manifest as well as unmanifest. This is the final conclusion of Vedanta, and this the "knowledge of Brahma" in the Bhagavad Gita as expressed in the conception of Krshna.
It is by no means difficult to understand this idea. Indeed, as we have seen, the very idea of Nature can be transformed into that of God by means of the idea of Sacrifice. The Mimansa tells us that sacrifice or good and intelligent action, performed in accordance with its law, and meant for the benefit of all, transforms and purifies not only the doer of the deed, but also sanctifies the materials of the sacrifice. It is this idea that is amplified by Vedanta, for the idea of Prakrti itself is transformed into that of Brahma or God by means of the idea of Sacrifice. This really means that if we believe that the whole universe is governed by a law which is essentially intelligent and good, and makes for the preservation and continuance of life; and that despite all changes, including sorrow and death, there is joy in life when we take it as a whole, we believe that there is God in the universe, who creates, supports, and continues life without end, and that death itself is but a door to another life.
It is in this manner that we can transform Nature itself into Brahma by means of the idea of Sacrifice, and believe that the universe is full of life and joy without end; and this is the essential truth of Vedanta. It does not deny the reality of pain, but maintains that we are forever acting to change it into pleasure or joy, so that freedom from the bondage of life consists not in the renunciation of action, but a state of equanimity in the midst of action and the experience of pleasure and pain.
The conclusion of Vedanta: Thus we see that the conclusion of Vedanta is altogether different from that of the Sankhya; but, while maintaining that life is synonymous with action, and action as a sacrifice is of the essence of the idea of God, it believes that knowledge and action are but counterparts of the same energy of the soul, and that with every breath we draw, we know and act at the same time; and so it includes all that the other systems have to say on the subject of freedom from the bondage of life.
The plan of the work: The work is divided into four chapters, and each chapter consists of four parts. As in the case of the other systems, the opening Sutra tells us that its subject-matter is inquiry into the nature of Brahma; and, as the idea of Brahma is associated with that of the soul, and the latter is conceived to be characterized by desire as well as joy, and is regarded as a creator, we have a discussion of all these questions with reference to both Brahma and the soul in the four parts of the first chapter.
In the second chapter the author examines the consequence of regarding Prakrti as the supreme creator of things, and then goes on to consider the character of the soul as an actor, and of Brahma with reference to Prakrti.
In the third chapter we are told of the relation of the soul to the body, how a new birth takes place, and how the soul, after death, is said to live in the world beyond. The author also deals with the problems of knowledge, action, and pain; explains the process of creation in this world, and points out that creation by the Infinite must be of the same kind. He also tells us how we can understand the idea of God, and explains his idea of Brahma, with special reference to the character of the soul.
In the last chapter the author considers the question of re-birth and transmigration of the soul, and explains the limitations of the idea of freedom of the soul from the bondage of life, as it is understood by the Sankhya and the other systems; and points out that real freedom can consist only in a state of equilibrium in the midst of action and the experience of pleasure and pain. He who attains to this may be said to be free from the revolutions of birth. The Sutras may now be summarized as follows:
Brahma: Let us now inquire into the nature of Brahma. Brahma is that which is the origin of the universe; but He has also been described as a spectator of things in the sacred books.
When we say that Brahma is the origin of the universe, it does not mean that He should be associated with Gunas or the attributes of the objects of Nature. We can conceive of Him independently of the Gunas in the same manner as we are able to do of the soul. Freedom means joy, and joy is not opposed to desire. The soul is different from a number of things, like Ether or light, but is still characterized by joy.
The character of the soul: The state of freedom is one of joy; and we say so because the soul itself is full of joy. There is no real contradiction between desire and joy, for desire can be in consonance with Dharma.
The soul is different from a number of things, for instance, Ether, vital breath, and light. It is possible to argue that if it is characterized by desire, it cannot be very different from them. But this is not a valid objection, for desires can be controlled; and we say that the soul is different from the "elements" because they are divisible into parts, while the soul is not. Indeed, we cannot deny that the soul is different from these things.
We can prove that the soul exists and is an actor and a propagator of the species; and, as there is joy in the act of creation, joy is a characteristic of the soul. We cannot think of the soul as it is, and the best way is to think of it in terms of the intellect.
The soul is an eater of food, and a propagator of the species. The act of creation is a secret act, corresponding to the nature of the soul. There is also joy in a proper act of creation, and joy is a characteristic of the soul.
This may appear to be a new conception of the soul, but is none the less true. The soul is an actor, because it is the original thinker; but, as it is unmanifest, we cannot conceive of it as it is, and have to clothe it in some form to grasp its idea. That form is the intellect, which is said to be a common characteristic of all men. We cannot deny that the intellect is the only form in which we can think of the soul; and there is general agreement of learned men on the subject.
Brahma and the soul: We can understand the idea of Brahma from the character of the soul. The soul is associated with the vital breath, but is different from it; so is Brahma. The soul has other characteristics too, and the idea of Brahma corresponds to them as well.
The idea of Brahma: Brahma is the resting place of Heaven and Earth and all other things, and we can understand His idea from the character of the soul.
The character of the soul: The soul is the supporter of prana or vital breath, but the two are different. It is associated with the vital breath in accordance with a law so that it may live in the world and act and create.
It is imperishable because it abides in Ether, and that too is so in accordance with a law.
It is small in size but great in action, and can make itself manifest only through the body in which it abides, and by means of which it acts. But we cannot define it by meant of words.So far as the body is concerned, it fills the whole of it, but abides more specially in the heart.
We cannot deny that the soul is an actor, or that it has form, for it is always known by its "subtle body", which is its form, and by means of which it acts. It is eternal, because this "subtle body" of it is eternal too. The actions of the soul are of various kinds; and they arise from its own natural activity.
The soul is an actor, and the body is its form; but no language can describe it truly as it is. It is sometimes described in terms of prana or vital breath; but the two cannot be identified.
The soul is an actor, and the body is its form. It is minute but all-pervading, because of its special characteristics; and it is because it depends on the body for its manifestation, that it desires to have different objects of Nature.
No language can describe the soul as it is, but its best description is that it is like the intellect. At the same time we cannot deny that it is an actor; and the original idea of the science of Astrology is based on its conception as such. It is for this reason that it is also described in terms of prana or the vital breath, which is its chief instrument of action.
There are some who would identify the soul with the vital breath; but the logical consequence of this would be that we should regard Prakrti or Nature as the sole supreme creator of the universe, including the soul.