Soul is in the form of consciousness is the supreme Reality. It is the substance what was, what is, and what shall be. Consciousness lies beyond past, present, and future. Consciousness is ultimate truth because no second thing exists other than consciousness when one realizes the fact that, the self is neither the waking entity nor the dream entity but the formless witness of the three states. The three states are mere mirage created out of consciousness. Thus consciousness alone is real ,eternal and the ultimate truth or God.
People are not aware of the fact that there is no God can exist, apart from self/Consciousness. If there is no self/Consciousness, then there is no body, world and their belief of god. They think that there must be a creator of this universe. If one thinks body /’I’ as self, then there is a creator, but if one thinks the soul as the true Self, then there is nothing exists other then the soul.
If one objectifies and sees a universe, then he is bound to see many things beside himself and postulate a God, the creator. Body, God and world rise and set together from, and into, the Self/soul. If God is apart from the Self/soul, then He would be Self-less, that is, outside existence, that is, non-existent.
In Isa Upanishad says:
Scholars say that the path of Avidya [performing Aganihotra and other sacrifices] and the path of vidya [worshipping gods and goddesses] produce different results. Wise men confirm this. [X]
Vidya and Avidya both are hindrances to Self-knowledge, but Vidya is even worse than Avidya. The word Vidya is used here in a special sense; here it means worshiping gods and goddesses. By worshiping gods and goddesses you will go after death to the world of gods and goddesses. But will that help you? The time you spend there is wasted, because if you were not there you could have spent that time moving forward towards Self-knowledge, which is your goal. In the world of gods and goddesses you cannot do that, and thus you go deeper and deeper into darkness.
Avidya is Karama and therefore a hindrance. You perform Avidya - i.e., you perform Agnihotra and other sacrifices. This is a roundabout way of purifying the mind, and it is also groping in the dark. But it may not have as heavy a toll on your time and energy as the other.
The final advice by sankara is: combine both work and worship. Together they may quicken your pace towards Self-knowledge, because it will lead to Chitt shuddhi, purification of the mind. When this happens your desire for enjoyments will become less and your sense of "I' and "mine' will subside. This is the way to Karama-Mukthi, gradual, or progressive, liberation, according to Sankara.
He who worships gods and goddesses [Vidya] and also performs sacrifices [Avidya] attains immortality by sacrifices [Avidya] and attains bliss by worshipping gods and goddesses [Vidya]. [XI]
The condition in both cases worshipping gods and goddesses and performing sacrifices is that the person should have no motive for personal gain. He should not desire the fruits of his actions, such as going to the heaven of gods and goddesses.
As earlier explained, the word Vidya ¸ has a special meaning here. It means worship of gods and goddesses. Similarly, Avidya ¸ also has a special meaning. It is Karma that is, performing Aganihotra and other sacrifices. Such karamas are obligatory, but if they are done without any attachment to their fruits, they help purify the mind. Combining karma and worship is a path to gradual liberation. Sankara approves this for those who are not yet ready to renounce.
But suppose you follow the two paths separately. If you perform Avidya ¸ you will go to Pitra loka (the world of your ancestors). This is a dark region, because it is far removed from Self-knowledge. In fact, you will have to wait a long time to attain Self-knowledge. But if you worship Vidya ¸ - that is, gods and goddesses you go into still darker regions, and your attainment of Self-knowledge is even further delayed.
True, you go to Dev loka (the heaven of gods and goddesses), but you are caught in the pleasures there, and you remain there until the fruits of your worship are fully exhausted. You are then reborn as a human being, and your struggle resumes from where you left off. This is why Vidya ¸ is considered worse. But if you combine the two that is, perform the obligatory karmas without any attachment to the fruits and at the same time worship gods and goddesses, again without any desire to go to heaven - then you can get the benefit of both, liberation and bliss. For those who are not yet ready to renounce, this path is recommended.
It proves that the concept of god, karma, heaven and hell are ideas created by religion, to help for those who are incapable of grasping. The concept of god and goddesses and karma are part of the ignorance. By worshiping god and goddesses one accepts the false self as true self, thus he is unfit for self-knowledge. Therefore concept of god is not the means to acquire the self knowledge. That is why Buddha rejected concept of God.
Katha Upanishad says:
Fools dwelling in darkness, but thinking themselves wise and erudite, go round and round, by various tortuous paths, like the blind led by the blind. [Ch II-5 P-14]
It indicates that the one who is ignorant [darkness] of the true self [formless witness/Consciousness] searches truth by accumulating knowledge of every path and practice and uncertain about the truth, and thinks every path leads towards reality. The ignorance of the true self leads one towards unreality or hallucination.
This Ataman [God or Brahman] cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, or by intelligence, or by much hearing of sacred books. It is attained by him alone whom It chooses. To such a one Atman reveals Its own form. [Katha Upanishad Ch-II -23-P-20]
This Atman cannot be attained through study of the Vedas, nor through intelligence, nor through much learning. He who chooses Atman—by him alone is Atman attained. It is Consciousness that reveals to the seeker Its true nature. [ 3 –page-70 Mundaka Upanishad- Upanishads by Nikilanada]
The above passages further proves that: self-knowledge cannot be attained by study of the Vedas and intellectual understanding or by bookish knowledge. Therefore there is no use of studying the Vedas and other scriptures in order to acquire the non-dual wisdom. That is why Buddha rejected the scriptures, and even Sri, Sankara indicated that, the truth lies beyond religion, concept of god and scriptures.
For the same reason Raman Maharshi said fortunate are the one who do not lose themselves in the labyrinths of philosophy. Bhagwan says: Take Vedanta, for instance: it speaks of 15 pranas the names and functions of it which the student is asked to commit memory. Will it not be sufficient if he thought only one prana does the whole work of maintaining the body? Again the antakaran is said to think, to desire, to will, to reason etc. Why all these details? Has anyone seen antakarana, or all these pranas? Do they really exist? They are conceptual divisions invented by teachers of philosophy by their excessive analysis. Where do all these concepts end? Why should confusion created and then explained away? Fortunate is the man who does not lose him self in the labyrinths of philosophy, but goes straight to the source from which they all arise. (GURU RAMANA .By S.S Cohen -vii Danger of philosophy-Page -58-59)
Raman Mahrshi further explains [in page 111/112- practical guide to know your self]:-
Q: D: Is it not necessary to study the Vedas or at least Prastnatraya[Bagvad gita.Dasoponishad and Brahma Sutra all with commentaries] to ensure firm realization?
A: Bhagvan: - No. Do you need all that to see yourself? All that is intellectual wealth, useful in explain doubts and difficulties if others rise them if you yourself encounter them in course of thinking. But to attain realization, all that is not necessary. You want fresh water to drink, but you do not require all the water of the river Ganges to quench your quest.
They alone in this world are endowed with the highest wisdom who are firm in their conviction of the sameness and birthlessness of Consciousness. The ordinary man does not understand their way. [Chapter IV — Alatasanti Prakarana 95-P-188 in Upanishads by Nikilanada]
This passage indicates the fact that everything is Consciousness/spirit. The one who views and judges the worldview on the base of his birth /body will not realize the fact that, the man including the world is created sustained and finally dissolves as Consciousness. Thus Consciousness alone is, and all else is mirage.
Thus self-knowledge is the aim of every human being. Since everyone thinks the physical body is the self their aim is misdirected and they focus their attention on materiality which makes one feel the duality [waking] as reality.
Nisagadutta said: Millions are in search of the ultimate truth, and only one in million will be able to grasp and realize it. By focusing more attention on Consciousness by talking, writing, discussing only of Consciousness, the conviction grows and becomes firmer and the duality will fade away as reality. Consciousness, which is one’s true identity will prevail as birth-less and deathless, eternal substance and witness of the mirage called duality or universe.
Therefore, there is no need to study scriptures, or indulge in god and guru glorification or performing religious rituals in pursuit of truth. Since, they are not the means to acquire non-dual wisdom. It is only waste of time and effort to indulge in those things. thus Self-Realization itself is God realization.