The soul is incomprehensible to the common mind. The mind is required to acquire a certain degree of maturity to understand the soul. Why? The reason is that the soul has some contradictory qualities. As a verse in the Kathopanidhada says,
Asino duram vrajati,Shayano yati sarvata:
It means something to the effect that it (the soul) can go far even when it is sitting and even in sleep, it can go everywhere. Even then it remains where it is, as Adi Shankaracharya writes in his comments upon the verse: Sa Cheheiv Vartate.
How can it happen? Here I would like to relate a personal experience of mine. My father Mr. Nilkanth Nandurkar has a close friend called Mr.Madhav Parnaik, who stays at Nashik. He is a disciple of the late Shri Nana Maharaj Taranekar, a famous saint from Indore. Whenever Nana Maharaj visited Nashik, Mr. Parnaik requested him to visit his house. However, Nana Maharaj could not fulfill his desire for one reason or another. He has the Padukas, wooden sandals of Nana Maharaj at home, and worships them every day.
He had kept the Padukas at a niche in the wall. On getting up one morning, Mr. Parnaik found that the Padukas had automatically descended to the ground. They were placed on the ground in a particular order: one step forward and the other one backward. It appeared that someone had worn the Padukas and walked in the night. Mr. Parnaik wondered whether it was an indication of the passing away of his guru and the idea scared him ‘ to death’.
He immediately called upon my father and in a panicked state, he related the incident to the latter and asked him about its meaning. Father said, “Don’t worry. Nana Maharaj is a famous person. If he had really passed away, its news would have appeared on the TV. What the incident suggests to me is that Nana Maharaj visited your house in the night, as you ardently desired him to”.This brought some relief to him but still, he was not sure about it.
So they decided to visit Indore, to call upon Nana Maharaj himself and ask him about the meaning of the incident. They did likewise. At that time, Nana Maharaj was too old and sick to even move out of his bed. When asked whether Father’s guess was true, he declared, “Yes, that is true”. So the person who was too old and sick to even move out of his bed had traveled all the way from Indore to Nashik to visit the disciple’s house.
How could it happen? The only plausible explanation of it can be that it was the soul of Nana Maharaj that traveled from Indore to Nashik, while his old and sick body remained asleep at Indore. This vindicates Kathopanidhada’s assertion: Shayano Yati Sarvata: in sleep, it can go everywhere. Of course, this does not mean that the soul was completely disconnected from the body during the visit. That the body kept functioning smoothly even during the visit means that it was still governed by the soul. This vindicates Adi Shankaracharya when he says, Sa Cheheiv Vartate, it remains where it is. So the soul only appears to move from the body but it keeps functioning there only.
Why should the soul move – or rather, appear to move- from the body? The reason has been correctly gauged by Adi Shankaracharya. In his comments upon the verse, he says, Sanmanadigatishu Tadupadhitvadduram Vrajitv, it appears to move because of getting into the troubles of the things like the mind. In the case of Nana Maharaj, his mind compelled the soul to apparently move out of the body. The thought of having left his disciple’s ardent desire unfulfilled must have troubled his mind and that must have forced the soul to apparently move out. This bears Adi Shankaracharya out.
So as the soul has such contradictory qualities, it is incomprehensible for the common mind. After putting in the spiritual sadhana of years and years, the mind gets mature enough to understand the soul. After all, you can not expect a Montessori student to understand a Ph.d. thesis, can you?