What is Soul?

Supreme Soul, Individual soul, Kosas

By Monier Monier-Williams in his book Indian Wisdom

The Vedānta.
Of orthodox systems there only remains the Vedānta of Vyāsa or Bādarāyaṇa1 but this is in some respects the most important of all the six, both from its closer con-►►

1The reputed author of this system, Bādarāyaṇa, is very loosely identified with the legendary person named Vyāsa, who is supposed to have arranged the Vedas and written the Mahābhārata, Puranas, and a particular Dharma-śāstra or law-book. No doubt the name Vyāsa, ’arranger,’ was applied as a kind of title to various great writers or compilers, and in this sense it seems to have been given to the founder of the Vedānta system. He propounded his views, as usual, in Sūtras, but Bādarāyaṇa's Aphorisms are generally called Brahma-Sūtra , or sometimes Śārīraka-Sūtra , and the system itself is variously styled Brahma-mīmāṉsā and Śarīra ka-mīmāṉsā (investigation into the supreme Soul or embodied Spirit). The text of the Sūtras and the celebrated commentary by Śankarāćārya have been edited in the Bibliotheca Indica by Dr. Roer, and a portion translated by Professor Banerjea. Dr. Ballantyne also edited and translated a portion of the Sūtras and commentary and a popular compendium called the Vedānta-sāra. A vast number of other commentaries and treatises on the Vedānta exist.

►►formity to the pantheistic doctrines propounded in the Upanishads, on which treatises as forming the end of the Veda it professes to be founded, and from its greater adap- tation to the habits of thought common among thinking and educated Hindus, as much in present as in former periods. The pantheism pervading the Upanishads and leading directly to the Vedānta system has already been illustrated by a selection of examples.

The following simple confession of a Vedāntist’s faith can be added from the Ćhāndogya Upanishad (III. 14):

All this universe indeed is Brahma; from him does it pro- ceed into him it is dissolved in him it breathes. So let every one adore him calmly.

Here, then, we have presented to us a different view of the origin of the world. In the Nyāya it was supposed to proceed from a concurrence of innumerable eternal atoms in the Sānkhya from one original eternal element called Prākṛti both operating independently, though associated with eternal souls and, according to one view, presided over by a supreme Soul. But in the Vedānta there is really no material world at all, as distinct from the universal Soul. Hence the doctrine of this school is called A-dvaita,’non-dualism, ‘The universe exists but merely as a form of the one eternal essence . He is the all-pervading Spirit, the only really existing substance (Vastu). Even as early as the Ṛig-veda the outlines of this pantheistic creed, which became more definite in the Upanishads and Vedānta may be traced. The germ of the Vedānta is observable in the Purusha-sūkta, as we►►

1This is expressed in the text by one compound, taj-jalān, interpreted as equivalent to taj-ja, tal-la, tad-ana. The whole text is sarvaṃ khalv idam brahma taj-jalān iti śānta upāsīta. The philosophy of the Sufis, alleged to be developed out of the Kurān (see p. 36), appears to be a kind of pantheism very similar to that of the Vedānta .

have already shown by the example given at p. 24. The early Vedāntic creed has the merit of being exceedingly simple. It is comprised in these three words, occurring in the Ćhāndogya Upanishad (see p. 41), Ekam evādvitīyam, ‘one only Essence without a second;' or in the following- line of nine short words, Brahma satyam jagan mithyā jīvo hrahmaiva nāparaḥ,’Brahma is true, the world is false, the soul is onlv Brahma and no other,’

As the Nyāya has much in common with the practical philosophy of Aristotle, which gave to things and individuals, rather than to ideas, a real existence, so the Vedānta offers many parallels to the idealism of Plato. Bādarāyaṇa's very first Aphorism states the object of the whole system in one compound word, viz. Brahma-jijnāsā, ►►

Plato does not always state his theory of ideas very intelligibly and probably modified them in his later works. He seems, however, to have insisted on the doctrine that mind preceded, and gave rise to matter, or, in other words, that the whole material world proceeded from or was actually produced by the Creator according to the idea or pattern of a world existing eternally and for ever the same in is own mind. In the Timaeus (10) he says: 'To discover the Maker and Father of this universe (rod navros) is difficult, and, when he has been discovered, it is impossible to describe him to the multitude. According to which of two patterns (npos Trorepov ro3v 7rapadeLyfxdrcov) did he frame the world? According to one subsisting for ever the same? Or according to one which was produced? Since, then, this universe is beautiful and its Artificer good, he evidently looked in modelling it to an eternal (dtSiov) pattern.' ’Similarly, Plato seems to have held that the human mind has existing within it certain abstract ideas or ideal forms which precede and are visibly manifested in the actual concrete forms around us. For example, the abstract ideas of goodness and beauty are found pre-existing in the mind, and, as it were, give rise to the various good and beautiful objects manifested before our eyes. In the same manner all circular things must have been preceded by some ideal circular form existing as an eternal reality. For, according to Plato, these abstract ideas had a real, eternal, unchanging existence of their own, quite separate from and independent of the ever-varying concrete objects and appearances connected with them.


'Brahma-inquisitiveness,’i. e. the desire of knowing Brahman (neut.), or the only really existing being.

Here we may quote a portion of Śaṅkarāćārya's commentary (Koer's edition, pp. 29 and 43):

The knower of Brahma attains the supreme good and supreme object of man (param purushārtham =Tb dyadov, to dpLarov, summum bonum).

A really existing substance (Vastu) cannot alternately be thus and not thus, cannot (optionally) be and not be. The knowledge of a substance just as it is in reality (i.e. true knowledge) is not dependent on a man's own personal notions (na purusha-buddhy-apeksham)1. It depends on the substance itself. To say of one and the same post that it is either a post or a man or something else is not true knowledge (tattva-jñānam). It is a false notion (mithyā jñānam)2. That it is a post is alone the truth, because it is dependent on the substance itself (vastu-tantratvāt). Thus the proving of an existing substance is dependent on the substance itself. Thus the knowledge of Brahma is dependent on the substance itself (not on the notion a man may form of Brahma), because it relates to a really existing substance (bhūta-vastu-vishayatvāt).

In the second Aphorism Brahma3 is defined to mean ‘that from which the production of this universe results.’

Śaṅkara adds a fuller definition, thus (Boer's edition, p. 38):

1Śaṅkara appears here to argue against a doctrine like that ascribed to Protagoras,  the individual man is the standard of all things.’
2One of Plato's causes of mistaken notion is that when two persons or things have been seen and their forms impressed on the mind, they are yet, owing to imperfect observation, mistaken the one for the other: ‘It remains that I may form a false notion in this case, when knowing you and Theodoras and having the impression of both of you on that waxen tablet of the mind made by a seal ring as it were, seeing you both from a distance and not sufficiently distinguishing you, I fit the aspect of each to the impression of the other, changing them like those that put their shoes on the wrong feet. Compare Banerjea's translation of the Brahma-Sūtra , p. 2.
3The name Brahman is in fact derived from the root bṛih or vṛih, 'to grow and expand, ‘and therefore means literally the one essence which grows or expands. Vṛiksha, ’a tree, ‘is from the same root.


Brahma is that all-knowing, all-powerful Cause from which arises the production, continuance, and dissolution of the universe, which (universe) is modified by name and form, contains many agents and patients (kaṛtri-bhoktṛi-saṃyukta), is the repository (āśraya) of actions and effects, and in the form of its arrangement cannot be conceived even by the mind.

The Aphorisms which follow, as far as the 28th, proceed to define and describe the character of God as the supreme Soul of the universe. I here give a summary1 of the most interesting of them, with portions of the commentary:

That the supreme Being is omniscient follows from the fact that he is the source of the Veda (sāstra-yonitvāt). As from that Being every soul is evolved, so to that same Being does every soul return. How can souls be merged into Prākṛti?2 for then the intelligent would be absorbed in the unintelligent. He, the supreme Being, consists of joy. This is clear from the Veda, which describes him as the cause of joy; for as those who enrich others must be themselves rich, so there must be abundant joy with him who causes others to rejoice. Again, he, the one God, is the light (jyotis). He is within the sun and within the eye. He is the ethereal element (ākāśa)3. He is the life and the breath of life (Prāṇa).
He is the life with which Indra identified himself when he said to Pra- tardana,’I am the life, consisting of perfect knowledge. Worship me as the life immortal4.'

From other portions of the Aphorisms it appears that the to ev, or one universal essence called Brahma, is to the external world what yarn is to cloth, what milk to curds, ►►

1See Dr. Ballantyne's translation, and that of Professor Banerjea.
2The Prakṛti or Pradhāna of the Sānkhya system.
3Professor Banerjea considers that the word 'ether' is not a good rendering for ākāśa, which pervades everything. There is ākāśa in our cups and within our bodies, which are surely not ethereal. One of the synonyms of ākāśa is śūnya, and this may be compared in some respects to the 'inane' or space of Lucretius (I. 330):
Nee tamen undique corporeā stipata tenentur
Omnia naturā namque est in rebus inane.
'And yet all things are not on all sides held and jammed together in close and solid parts there is a space (or void) in things.’
4This is from the Kaushītaki-brāhmaṇa Upanishad, chapter 3. See Professor E. B. Co well's translation.


►►what earth to a jar, and gold to a bracelet. He is both creator and creation1,actor and act. He is also Existence, Knowledge, and Joy (Sać-ćid-ānanda), but is at the same time without parts, unbound by qualities (nir-Guṇa, see p. 95), without action, without emotion, having no consciousness such as is denoted by ‘I ‘and ‘Thou2 ,’apprehending no person or thing, nor apprehended by any, having neither beginning nor end, immutable, the only real entity,

This is surely almost tantamount to asserting that pure Being is identical with pure Nothing, so that the two extremes of Buddhistic Nihilism (Nothingness, Non-existence = my note) and Vedāntic Pantheism, far as they profess to be apart, appear in the end to meet.

I add two or three extracts from Śaṅkarāćārya’s com- ment on Sūtra II. 1. 343:

It may be objected that God is proved not to be the cause of the universe. "Why? From the visible instances of injustice (vaishamya) and cruelty (nairghṛiṇya), Some he makes very happy, as the gods, &c. some very miserable, as the brutes, &c. and some in a middling condi- tion, as men, &c. Being the author of such an unjust creation, he is proved to be subject to passions like other persons — that is to say, to partiality and prejudice— and therefore his nature is found wanting in ►►

1A true Vedāntic spirit is observable in the Orphic hymns when they identify Zeus with the universe thus, ‘Zeus is the ether; Zeus is the
earth; Zeus is the heaven; Zeus is all things.' Orphic. Fragm. IV. 363, VI. 366. Compare also Virgil, Aeneid VI. 724, &c.:
‘Principio caelum ac terras, camposque liquentes
Lucentemque globum Lunae, Titaniaque astra,
Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus
Mens agitat moleni et magno se corpore miscet.’
2As shown by Professor Banerjea, Śaṅkara compares the second person Thou with darkness, because there cannot be a real Thou. So Śaṅkara affirms that 'Thou' and 'I' are as opposed as darkness and light. Plato speaks similarly of darkness and light in connection with nonentity and real entity. Sophist. 254.
3Quoted by Professor Banerjea and Mr. Mullens, and translated by them. Dialogues, p. 120, &c. Essay on Hindu Philosophy, p. 190. The Aphorism is, Vaishamya-nairghṛiṇye na sāpekshatvāt tathāhi darśayati.

►►spotlessness. And by dispensing pain and ruin, he is chargeable with malicious cruelty, deemed culpable even among the wicked. Hence, because of the instances of injustice and cruelty, God cannot be the cause of the universe. To this we reply: Injustice and cruelty cannot be charged upon God. Why? Because he did not act independently (sāpekshatvāt). God being dependent (sāpekshaḥ) creates this world of inequalities. If you ask on what he is dependent, we reply, on merit and demerit (dharmādharmau) . That there should be an unequal creation, dependent on the merit and demerit of the souls created, is no fault of God. As the rain is the common cause of the production of rice and wheat, but the causes of their specific distinctions as rice and wheat are the varying powers of their respective seeds so is God the common cause in the creation of gods, men, and others but of the distinctions between gods, men, and others, the causes are the varying works inherent in their
respective souls.

In commenting on the next Aphorism (35), he answers the objection, ‘How could there be previous works at the original creation?‘ The objection and reply are thus stated1:

The supreme Being existed at the beginning, one without a second (see p. 113). Hence, before the creation there could be no works in dependence on which inequalities might be created. God may be dependent on works after distinctions are made. But before the creation there could be no works caused by varying instruments, and therefore we ought to find a uniform creation (tulyā sṛishṭiḥ). We reply: This does not vitiate our doctrine, because the world is without beginning (anāditvāt saṃsārasya). The world being without beginning, nothing can prevent works and unequal creations from continuing in the states of cause and effect, like the seed and its plant (vājān-kura-vat).

Other objections to the Vedānta theory are thus treated by Sankara:

How can this universe, which is manifold, void of life, impure, and irrational, proceed from him who is one, living, pure, and rational? We reply: The lifeless world can proceed from Brahma, just as lifeless hair can spring from a living man. But in the universe we find him who enjoys and him who is enjoyed how can he be both? We reply: Such are the changes of the sea. Foam, waves, billows, bubbles are not different from the sea. There is no difference between the universe and ►►

1The original Sūtra is, Na karmāvibhāgād iti ćen nānāḍitvāt. .

►►Brahma. The effect is not different from its cause. He is the soul; the soul is he. The same earth produces diamonds, rock-crystal, and vermilion. The same sun produces many kinds of plants. The same nourishment is converted into hair, nails, &c. As milk is changed into curds, and water into ice, so is Brahma variously transformed without external aids. So the spider spins its web from its own substance. So spirits assume various shapes.

Such a creed as this does not necessarily imply what the later Vedāntists teach — that the world is all Māyā, ‘a mere illusion. ‘This illusion theory, now so popular among Indian philosophers, receives little countenance in the Upanishads, being rather imported from Buddhism. A true Vedāntist, though he affirms that Brahma alone is real, allows a vyāvahārika, 'practical existence' to souls, the world, and Īśvara, as distinguished from pāramārthika, ‘real, ‘and prātibhāsika, ’apparent or illusory existence. ‘How, indeed, can it be denied that external things exist, when we see them before our eyes and feel them at every instant? But how, on the other hand, can it be maintained that an impure world is the manifestation of a pure spiritual essence'? To avoid this difficulty, the supreme Spirit is represented as ignoring himself by a sort of self-imposed ignorance, in order to draw out from himself for his own amusement the separate individuated souls and various appearances, which, although really parts of his own essence, constitute the apparent phenomena of the universe. Hence the external world, the living souls of individual men, and even Īśvara , the personal God, are all described as created by a power which the Vedāntist is obliged, for want of a better solution of his difficulty, to call A-vidyā1 generally translated ‘Ignorance, ‘but perhaps better rendered by ‘False know- ledge ‘or 'False notion.’
Of this power there are two distinct forms of operation, ►►

1Something like the 'Ayvoia of Plato. See Banerjea's translation of the Sūtras, p. 3.

►►viz. 1. that of envelopment (āvaraṇa), which, enveloping the soul, causes it to imagine that it is liable to mundane vicissitudes — that it is an agent or a patient that it rejoices or grieves, &c. — as if a person under a delusion were to mistake a rope for a snake: 2. that of projection (vikshepa), which, affecting the soul in its state of pure intelligence, raises upon it the appearance of a
world, producing first the five subtile elements and draw- ing out from them seventeen subtile bodies (also called linga-śarīra, comprising the five organs of sense, the five organs of action, the five vital airs, with buddhi and manas), and the five gross elements in the same order as in the Sānkhya (see p. 93), Hence the soul mistakes itself for a mere mortal, as it mistook the rope for a snake1.

By reason of A-vidyā, then, the Jīvātmam, or 'personal soul of every individual,’ mistakes the world, as well 'as its own body and mind, for realities, just as a rope in a dark night might be mistaken for a snake. The moment the personal soul is set free from this self-imposed Ignorance by a proper understanding of the truth, through the Vedānta philosophy, all the illusion vanishes and the identity of the Jīvātmam and of the whole phenomenal universe with the Paramatman, or ‘one only really existing spirit,’is re-established2.

Let me here introduce a version of part of a short Vedāntic tract in verse, called Ātma-bodha, ’knowledge of soul, ‘attributed to the great Śaṅkarācārya. It is highly esteemed as an exposition of Vedāntic doctrines, and has therefore been inserted by Dr. Haberlin in his anthology of shorter poems3 . The following metrical lines ►►

1See Ballantyne's Lecture on the Vedānta -sara, p. 25. Reference may
also be made to the Vedānta-paribhāshā, a text book of the most modern
Vedāntic school.
2See the passage from the Muṇḍaka Upanishad, quoted p. 42.
3There is also a Tamil version and commentary translated by the Rev. I. F. Kearns, Madras, 1867. I have consulted the Tamil commentary as given by Mr. Kearns.

►►may serve as a specimen of some of the ideas contained in this well-known epitome of Hindu
pantheistic philosophy:
Knowledge alone effects emancipation.
As fire is indispensable to cooking,
So knowledge is essential to deliverance (2).
Knowledge alone disperses ignorance,
As sunlight scatters darkness — not so acts;
For ignorance originates in works (3).
The world and all the course of mundane things
Are like the vain creation of a dream1,
In which Ambition, Hatred, Pride, and Passion
Appear like phantoms mixing in confusion.
While the dream lasts the universe seems real,
But when 'tis past the world exists no longer (6).
Like the deceptive silver of a shell2 ,
So at first sight the world deludes the man
Who takes mere semblance for reality (7).
As golden bracelets are in substance one
With gold, so are all visible appearances
And each distinct existence one with Brahma (8).
By action of the fivefold elements3
Through acts performed in former states of being,
Are formed corporeal bodies, which become
The dwelling-place of pleasure and of pain (11).
The soul inwrapped in five investing sheaths4
Seems formed of these, and all its purity
Darkened, like crystal laid on colored cloth (14).
As winnowed rice is purified from husk,
So is the soul disburdened of its sheaths
By force of meditation5 , as by threshing (15).

1Cf. Shakspeare's 'We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep, ‘Tempest, Act iv. Scene 1.
2That is, the mother-of-pearl oyster (śukti).
3This is called Paṅćī-kṛita or Paṅćī-karaṇa, the production of the body, and indeed of the whole world, by the action of the five elements (see p. 93), being a dogma of the Vedānta.
4See the remarks, p. 123.

5Yukti seems here to be equivalent to yoga. It may also mean (argument, ’reasoning.’

The soul is like a king whose ministers
Are body, senses, mind, and understanding?.
The soul is wholly separate from these,
Yet witnesses and overlooks their actions (18).
The foolish think the Spirit acts, whereas
The senses are the actors, so the moon
Is thought to move when clouds are passing o'er it (19).
When intellect and mind are present, then
Affections, inclinations, pleasures, pains
Are active in profound and dreamless sleep
When intellect is non-existent, these
Exist not therefore they belong to mind (22).
As brightness is inherent in the sun,
Coolness in water, warmness in the fire,
E'en so existence, knowledge, perfect bliss ,
And perfect purity inhere in soul (23).
The understanding cannot recognize
The soul, nor does the soul need other knowledge
To know itself, e'en as a shining light
Requires no light to make itself perceived (27, 28).
The soul declares its own condition thus —
‘I am distinct from body, I am free
From birth, old age, infirmity, and death.
I have no senses I have no connection
With sound or sight or objects of sensation.
I am distinct from mind, and so exempt ►►
?The soul is supposed by Vedāntists to have three conditions besides the conditions of pure intelligence, viz. waking, dreaming, and profound or dreamless sleep (sushupti). While awake, the soul, associated with the body, is active and has to do with a real creation. While dreaming, it has to do with an unreal or illusory world. When profoundly and dreamlessly asleep, it is supposed to have retired by the channel of some of the pericardial arteries into the perfect repose of union with the supreme Soul. See Vedānta-Sūtra  III. 2. 1-10.
Hence the Vedāntist’s name for the one universal Spirit, Sać-ćid-ānanda.
?The celebrated Hindu maxim Atmānam ātmanā paśya,’know (see) thyself by thyself,’or ‘know the soul by the soul, ‘has, therefore, a deeper philosophical meaning than the still more celebrated Greek precept attributed to Thales.
►►From passion, pride, aversion, fear, and pain.
I have no qualities, I am without
Activity, and destitute of option,
Changeless, eternal, formless, without taint,
For ever free, for ever without stain.
I, like the boundless ether, permeate
The universe within, without, abiding
Always, for ever similar in all.
Perfect, immovable, without affection,
Existence, knowledge, undivided bliss,
Without a second, One, supreme am I’(31-35).
The perfect consciousness that 'I am Brahma’
Removes the false appearances projected
By Ignorance? , just as elixir, sickness (36).
The universal Soul knows no distinction
Of knower, knowledge, object to be known.
Rather is it enlightened through itself
And its own essence, which is simple knowledge (40).
When contemplation rubs the Araṇi
Of soul, the flame of knowledge blazing up
Quickly consumes the fuel ignorance (41).
The saint who has attained to full perfection
Of contemplation, sees the universe
Existing in himself, and with the eye
Of knowledge sees the All as the One Soul (46).
When bodily disguises� are dissolved,
The perfect saint becomes completely blended
"With the one Soul, as water blends with water,
As air unites with air, as fire with fire (52).
That gain than which there is no greater gain,
That joy than which there is no greater joy,
That lore than which there is no greater lore,
Is the one Brahma — this is certain truth (53). ►►
?The epithet nir-Guṇa, 'quality-less, ‘so commonly applied to the supreme Being in India, will be better understood by a reference to p. 95.
Nir-vikalpa may perhaps be translated, ‘destitute of all reflection,’or perhaps, 'free from all will.’?

  Avidyā-vikshepān, ’the projections of ignorance.
Upādhi, a term for the illusive disguises assumed by Brahma.

►►That which is through, above, below, complete,
Existence, wisdom, bliss? , without a second,
Endless, eternal, one — know that as Brahma (55).
That which is neither coarse nor yet minute,
That which is neither short nor long, unborn,
Imperishable, without form, unbound
By qualities, without distinctive marks,
Without a name — know that indeed as Brahma (59).
Nothing exists but Brahma, when aught else
Appears to be, ‘is, like the mirage, false? (62),
With regard to the five sheaths (paṅća-kośa) alluded to in the fourteenth verse of the Ātma-bodha, it must be noted that in the Vedanta the individuated soul, when separated off from the supreme Soul, is regarded as enclosed in a succession of cases (kośa) which envelope it and, as it were, fold one over the other, 'like the coats of an onion The first or innermost sheath is called the Vijñāna-maya-kośa or 'sheath composed of mere intellection, ’associated with the organs of perception. This gives the personal soul its first conception of individuality. The second case is called the Mano-maya or ‘sheath composed of mind, ‘associated with the organs of action. This gives the individual soul its powers of thought and judgment. The third envelope is called the Prāṇa-maya or ‘breathing sheath,’i. e. the sheath composed of breath and the other vital airs associated with the organs of action. The fourth case is called the Anna-maya or ‘covering supported by food,’i. e. the corporeal form or gross body the three preceding sheaths, when combined together, constituting the subtile body. A fifth case, called Ānanda-maya or 'that composed of supreme bliss, ‘is also named, although not admitted by all. It must be regarded as the innermost of all, and ought therefore, when five are enumerated, to be placed before►►
?Sać-ćid-ānandam. A-dvayam.
?Mithyā yathā maru-marīćīka.
As remarked by Dr. Ballantyne, Lecture on the Vedanta-sāra, p. 29.
►►the Vijñāna-maya. Moreover, a collective totality of sub- tile bodies is supposed to exist, and the soul, which is imagined to pass through these subtile bodies like a thread, is called the Sūtrātman, ’thread-soul ‘(occasionally styled the Prāṇātman), and sometimes identified with Hiraṇya-garbha.
Of course the Vedānta theory, if pushed to its ultimate consequences, must lead to the neglect of all duties, reli- gious and moral, of all activity, physical or intellectual, and of all self-culture. If everything (to irav) be God, then you and he and I must be one. Why should any efforts be made for the advancement of self or for the good of others? Everything we have must be common property. According to the Bṛihad-āraṇyaka Upanishad (IV. 5):
Where there is anything like duality, there one sees another, one smells another, one tastes another, one speaks to another, one hears another, one minds another, one regards another, one knows another but where the whole of this  is one spirit, then whom and by what can one see? whom and by what can one smell? whom and by what can one taste? to whom and by what can one speak 1 ? whom and by what can one hear? whom and by what can one mind? whom and by what can one regard? whom and by what can one know?
This Indian pantheism is paralleled by some phases of modern German thought, as described by Dean Mansel in the following extract from one of his Essays lately published:
With German philosophers the root of all mischief is the number two — Self and Not-self, Ego and Non-ego. The pantheist tells me that I have not a real distinct existence and unity of my own, but that I am merely a phenomenal manifestation, or an aggregate of many manifestations of the one infinite Being. If [then] we shrink from Nihilism, there remains the alternative of Pantheism. The instincts of our nature plead against annihilation and maintain, in spite of philosophy, that there must really exist something somewhere. Granting that something exists, why is that something to be called Ego? What qualities can it possess which shall make it I rather than Thou, or any one being rather than any other being?
I am directly conscious of the existence of a self. But this consciousness is a delusion. This self is but the phenomenal shadow of a further self, of which I am not conscious. Why may not this also be a shadow of something further still? Why may there not be a yet more remote reality, which is itself neither self nor not-self, but the root and foundation, and at the same time the indifference of both? This ultimate existence, the one and sole reality, is then set up as the deity of philosophy, and the result is pure pantheism.
Perhaps it may not be out of place here to contrast with Indian ideas Aristotle's grand conception of the nature of God as propounded in the eleventh book of his Metaphysics. In chapter vii of that book Aristotle says (not, however, quite in the order here given):
The principle of life is in God; for energy of mind constitutes life, and God is this energy. He, the first mover, imparts motion and pursues the work of creation as something that is loved.  His course of life must be similar to what is most excellent in our own short career. But he exists for ever in this excellence, whereas this is impossible for us. His pleasure consists in the exercise of his essential energy, and on this account vigilance, wakefulness, and perception are most agreeable to him. Again, the more we examine God's nature the more wonderful does it appear to us. He is an eternal  and most excellent Being. He is indivisible  devoid of parts  and having no magnitude (peyedos), for God imparts motion through infinite time, and nothing finite, as magnitude is, can have an infinite capacity. He is a being devoid of passions and unalterable.
?This work has been well translated by the Rev. J. H. M'Mahon.
Hence, according to the translator, Aristotle's idea of God is that he is a Being whose essence is love, manifested in eternal energy, the final cause of this energy being the happiness of his creatures, in which he himself participates for ever. Aristotle, again, warns his disciples against regarding God's nature through the medium of their own subjectivity. There is a celebrated passage in book XI, chap, viii, in which he says that traditions have been handed down representing the heavens as gods, and the divine essence as embracing the whole of nature and these traditions, he affirms, are kept up to win over the multitude and secure obedience to the laws and for the sake of general expediency. On that account gods are described as existing in the form of man, or even as taking the shape of animals.