Let us now turn to the Vedantic idea. According to the Vedantic view the Self is one, omnipresent, all-permeating, the one reality. Nothing exists except the Self–that is the starting-point in Vedanta. All permeating, all-controlling, all- inspiring, the Self is everywhere present. As the ether permeates all matter, so does the One Self permeate, restrain, support, vivify all.
It is written in the Gita that as the air goes everywhere, so is the Self everywhere in the infinite diversity of objects. As we try to follow the outline of Vedantic thought, as we try to grasp this idea of the one universal Self, who is existence, consciousness, bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda, we find that we are carried into a loftier region of philosophy than that occupied by the Samkhya. The Self is One. The Self is everywhere conscious, the Self is everywhere existent, the Self is everywhere blissful.
There is no division between these qualities of the Self. Everywhere, all-embracing, these qualities are found at every point, in every place. There is no spot on which you can put your finger and say “The Self is not here.” Where the Self is–and He is everywhere–there is existence, there is consciousness, and there is bliss. The Self, being consciousness, imagines limitation, division. From that imagination of limitation arises form, diversity, manyness. From that thought of the Self, from that thought of limitation, all diversity of the many is born. Matter is the limitation imposed upon the Self by His own will to limit Himself. “Eko’ham, bahu syam,” “I am one; I will to he many”; “let me be many,” is the thought of the One; and in that thought, the manifold universe comes into existence. In that limitation, Self-created, He exists, He is conscious, He is happy. In Him arises the thought that He is Self-existence, and behold! all existence becomes possible. Because in Him is the will to manifest, all manifestation at once comes into existence. Because in Him is all bliss, therefore is the law of life the seeking for happiness, the essential characteristic of every sentient creature.
The universe appears by the Self-limitation in thought of the Self. The moment the Self ceases to think it, the universe is not, it vanishes as a dream. That is the fundamental idea of the Vedanta. Then it accepts the spirits of the Samkhya– the Purushas; but it says that these spirits are only reflections of the one Self, emanated by the activity of the Self and that they all reproduce Him in miniature, with the limitations which the universal Self has imposed upon them, which are apparently portions of the universe, but are really identical with Him.
It is the play of the Supreme Self that makes the limitations, and thus reproduces within limitations the qualities of the Self; the consciousness of the Self, of the Supreme Self; becomes, in the particularised Self, cognition, the power to know; and the existence of the Self becomes activity, the power to manifest; and the bliss of the Self becomes will, the deepest part of all, the longing for happiness, for bliss; the resolve to obtain it is what we call will. And so in the limited, the power to know, and the power to act, and the power to will, these are the reflections in the particular Self of the essential qualities of the universal Self. Otherwise put: that which was universal awareness becomes now cognition in the separated Self; that which in the universal Self was awareness of itself becomes in the limited Self awareness of others; the awareness of the whole becomes the cognition of the individual. So with the existence of the Self: the Self-existence of the universal Self becomes, in the limited Self, activity, preservation of existence. So does the bliss of the universal Self, in the limited expression of the individual Self, become the will that seeks for happiness, the Self-determination of the Self, the seeking for Self-realisation, that deepest essence of human life.
The difference comes with limitation, with the narrowing of the universal qualities into the specific qualities of the limited Self; both are the same in essence, though seeming different in manifestation. We have the power to know, the power to will, and the power to act. These are the three great powers of the Self that show themselves in the separated Self in every diversity of forms, from the minutes” organism to the loftiest Logos.
Then just as in the Samkhya, if the Purusha, the particular Self, should identify himself with the matter in which he is reflected, then there is delusion and bondage, so in the Vedanta, if the Self, eternally free, imagines himself to be bound by matter, identifying himself with his limitations, he is deluded, he is under the domain of Maya; for Maya is the self-identification of the Self with his limitations.
The eternally free can never be bound by matter; the eternally pure can never be tainted by matter; the eternally knowing can never be deluded by matter; the eternally Self-determined can never be ruled by matter, save by his own ignorance. His own foolish fancy limits his inherent powers; he is bound, because he imagines himself bound; he is impure, because he imagines himself impure; he is ignorant, because he imagines himself ignorant. With the vanishing of delusion he finds that he is eternally pure, eternally wise.