Hi,The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.
This individual soul is unbreakable and insoluble, and can be neither burned nor dried. He is everlasting, all-pervading, unchangeable, immovable and eternally the same.
It is said that the soul is invisible, inconceivable, immutable, and unchangeable. Knowing this, you should not grieve for the body.
Reading through this very interesting discussion it occurred to me that confusion may arise because "soul" covers two distinct properties: a) permanence and b) non-materiality.
By permanence, I mean it is some sort of unchangeable essence. By non-materality, I mean that it is somehow separate from the body and material processes; i.e. substance dualism.
Because in the Western world (and, it seems, in Hinduism), these two traits are lumped together when we use the word "soul", there is natural tendency to assume that the Buddha rejected both these characteristics. Based on what I glean from this and other discussions, though, it appears the Buddha actually only rejected the first one -- i.e. the notion of permanence.
For me, the vexing issue still remains: how do we account for kamma-vipaka without introducing some notion of permanence? If the recipient of the "fruit of good and bad actions" is not in some sense the same as the person who acted, then the teaching becomes meaningless. It would be like saying that Jack acted, but Mark received the result.
In the course of one lifetime, the illusion of permanence can be accounted for by memory cells, habitual behavior caused by genetics or environmental conditioning, social/family narrative, etc. We can explain the feeling of continuity without setting up a notion of Self. But since none of these factors persist across lives, what can be said to provide continuity on the longer scale?