It is this that gives us the fundamental idea of Vedanta, for we cannot deny that there is joy in Nature. This also enables us to understand that all souls are alike. The soul abides in the body, and does not sin through action; and it is an error to believe that it is ahankara and not the soul that acts. We can understand how this error arises and how it can be removed; and then we can realize that all souls are the same.
This is the fundamental idea of Vedanta, based on the existence of a universal impelling force of life. There is complete agreement on the point among thinkers, and all works on the subject say so. Indeed we cannot deny that there is joy in Nature, and all sacred books are agreed that there is.
Identity of souls: When there is absence of motive in action, it leads to meditation, which is the voice of our own soul. But the perception (or meditation) of each soul is different, as we see from subsequent results. We could regard all acts of perception as alike, if there were no difference between souls. We can regard souls as alike when there is some other relation between them too, a relationship that is not due to some special cause; and we find that such a relationship exists, For instance, all of us can understand certain common ideas, like the fullness and omnipresence of light; and that is so because of this relationship between souls.
The sacred books say so too; but we do not know it because we do not understand them. There are many ways of understanding the text of the sacred books; but it requires knowledge to be able to succeed. If we do so, we shall find that there is no real contradiction among them.
The nature of the soul: The soul abides in the body, and there is reciprocity between the two. At the same time we can distinguish between them. The soul is verily Truth; but while it abides in the body, it has its own desires too. But the soul does not sin through action, though there is a separate result of each action.
It is an error to believe that it is ahankara and not the soul that acts; for when we get knowledge, we find that it is the soul that does so. This error arises from the fact that attachment exists, and we believe that it cannot come to an end even when the soul comes to regard all things as equal or the same. But it is possible for the soul to attain to this state, and it is honored as supreme because it can act without attachment. This also enables us to understand that all souls are the same; because if the soul can regard all things as alike, it can make no difference to it whether it abides in a body or not; and we believe that the souls are different because the bodies in which they abide are different.
Indeed, we might say that the limbs of the body are attached to the soul, but the soul is not attached to them; and the superiority of the soul consists in the fact that its actions are a sacrifice. The souls appear to be different because of the difference in the use of words. But it is an error to suppose that they are different, because we find that the result of an action is not different in the case of different souls.
It is the nature of the soul to be united with the limbs of the body, and that is so because of the assistance it receives from them in performing its actions. Indeed, the connection of the soul with the body has never been regarded as contrary to reason.
The soul and the different stages of life: This is the correct idea of the soul; but there are other ways of understanding it too. Each system of philosophy has its own conception of the soul; but they are all parts of one great whole, and need to be understood in that light.
There are different actions for different stages of life, and they are the result of the characteristics of both body and soul. Fitness is not a necessary condition of success in life; and the fruit of action belongs not only to the soul, but to all the organs that take part in it. Indeed, there are different actions suited to different states and stages of life.
Idea of the soul: This is the correct idea of the soul; but there are some who believe that the soul is that which remains after everything else in the body has undergone a change or disappeared. But this is an indirect way of getting at the idea of the soul, though there is no error in it.
The soul and the systems of philosophy: Each system of philosophy has its own idea of the soul. But all systems are alike in their own way, and each is part of a great whole. There is a division of thought among them, just as we may divide a large number like a hundred. But it is not difficult to understand these systems, because we can know their meaning from the language of their text, and there are no symbolic expressions like "kindling the fire" in them. Their whole idea of action as a sacrifice is based on reason; but even so it is necessary to have calmness and self-control to be able to understand their text.
Actions and stages of life: There are different actions for different stages of life: for instance, when a person is at the point of death, he is permitted to eat anything, but is unable to do so. Thus, a person can perform only certain actions at a certain stage of life, and that is so because he needs the assistance of different organs of the body at different times. In any case, these actions are the result of the characteristics of both body and soul; and we know that it is not always possible to overcome obstacles that lie in the way, and succeed.
Conditions of success: But fitness is not a necessary condition of success in action, for it may be destroyed, or a person may not be able to make use of it. This statement may appear to be an extraordinary one, but is none the less true and easy to understand. At the same time we must not deprecate fitness as a means of success in action.
The fruit of action: The fruit of action belongs not only to the soul, but to all the organs that take part in it. Indeed, there are three factors of action, the actor, the instruments or organs that take part in action, and the object of action; and the fruit or result belongs to all of them.
Actions and stages of life: There are different actions for different states and stages of life; but the most comprehensive idea of it is to be found in that of the householder. The life of a Muni gives us another equally comprehensive, but that relates to a conception of a world that is believed to be full of obstacles. This leads US to believe that there can be no fixed rule in regard to the attainment of freedom from the bondage of life.