by Swami Krishnananda
It is very difficult, from the statements of the Upanishads, to distinguish between which actually is the state of liberation while living in body and which is that of Absoluteness attained after the transcendence of the body. Often, they give the same description with reference to both. This only shows that the distinction between Jivanmukti and Videhamukti is relative and does not have much meaning in itself. The Mukta has no difference of any kind in himself. Jivanmukti is the highest spiritual experience by the individual when the mortal body is still hanging on due to the remainder of a little of Sattvika-Ahamkara or Prarabdha. In this condition the usual empirical functions of the mind cease, even this remainder of Prarabdha is not felt, and the mind takes the form of Shuddha-Sattva, the original nature of universal knowledge freed from the relations of space, time and cause. The Jivanmukta experiences his being the lord of all, the knower of all, the enjoyer of everything. The whole existence belongs to him; the entire universe is his body. He neither commands anybody, nor is he commanded by anybody. He is the absolute witness of his own glory, without terms to express it. He seems to simultaneously sink deep into and float on the ocean of the essence of being, with the feeling 'I alone am', or 'I am all'. He breaks the boundaries of consciousness and steps into the bosom of Infinity. At times he seems to have a consciousness of relativity as a faint remembrance brought about by unfinished individualistic experience. He exclaims in joyous words:
"O, wonderful! O, wonderful! O, wonderful! I am food! I am food! I am food! I am a food-eater! I am a food-eater! I am a food-eater!....I am the first-born!.... Earlier than gods, I am the root of immortality!....I, who am food, eat the eater of food! I have overcome the whole universe!" – Taitt. Up., III. 10. 6.
"He is the (real) Brahmana, who, having known this Imperishable, leaves this world" (Brih. Up., III. 8. 10).
"He enjoys as the Lord of the universe." He is the "Seer who sees no death, nor sickness, nor any distress, the Seer who sees only the All, and obtains the All entirely" (Chh. Up., VII. 26. 2). His enjoyment is in the Self, he sports with the Self, he has company of the Self, he has bliss in the Self, he is autonomous, he has limitless freedom in all the worlds. Everything proceeds for him from the Self. He has crossed the ocean of darkness.
"As the slough of a snake lies dead and cast off on an ant-hill, even so lies this body (of a Jivanmukta). But this incorporeal, immortal Life-Principle is Brahman alone, the Light alone." – Brih. Up., IV.4.7.
"He does not desire, he has no desire, he is freed from desire, his desire is satisfied, his desire is the Self" (Brih. Up., IV.4.6).
"He is the greatest among the knowers of Brahman" (Mund. Up., II.1.4).
"Him these two do not overpower – neither the thought 'therefore I did wrong', nor the thought 'therefore I did right'. He overcomes them both. Neither what he has done, nor what he has not done does affect him." "This eternal greatness of the Brahmana is not increased or decreased by actions." "He sees the Self in the Self and sees everything as the Self. Evil does not overcome him; on the other hand he overcomes all evil. Evil does not burn him; on the other hand he burns all evil" (Brih. Up., IV. 4. 22, 23 ).
The wise sage is silent and indifferent towards the play of life. No force on earth or in heaven can touch him. Even the gods can do nothing to him, for he is the Self of even the gods. He is the supreme master, the overlord of all. If he breathes, others shall breathe; if he stops breathing, others shall die. By his mere wish mountains shall be shattered, and oceans dry up. He is the God, none is superior to him. His wish is God's wish and his being is God's being.
"He who sees all beings in his very Self, and the Self in all beings – he is not averse to any thing. In whom, the wise one, all beings are just the Self, then what delusion, what sorrow is there for him, who sees Oneness (everywhere) ?" – Isha. Up., 6, 7.
The Jivanmukta is in the extreme condition of Jnana, the state of Self-absorption, non-related and Self-Identical. There is practically no difference between the highest Jivanmukti and Videhamukti, though in the former state the body is unconsciously made to linger on for a short time on account of the last failing momentum of the desires arisen in him before the time of Self-Experience. For all matters concerning life we need not make any distinction between the two conditions. The highest Jivanmukta does not feel that he has any body. Hence he is not in any way inferior to, or lower than, the Videhamukta. The distinction is made, not by the Mukta, but by the other ignorant people, who perceive the appearance or the disappearance of his body.
Much has been said and written by speculative geniuses on the relation between the perfectly liberated soul and the universe. If liberation means the experience of the Infinite, the question of the liberated soul's relation to the universe is a puerile one. It is like speculating over the relation of the sky to the sky. It is stated by some that the liberated condition need not annihilate the perception of plurality. If we say that the Absolute can perceive plurality, we go against all sense and reason. Or, can we hold that the liberated soul retains individuality? In that case, the liberated soul would become non-eternal, for all that is individual is a part of the process of the universe. Further, what do we mean by plurality? Plurality is the intervention of non-being or space between things. Then we have to say that the Absolute has internal differentiations and external relations, which would mar the indivisibleness and the secondlessness of the Absolute. No perception is possible without the intervention of non-being in undifferentiatedness. If the Self is the All, there cannot be non-Self in Self, and as long as there is perception of the non-Self, it cannot be the liberated state. Nor can we understand the argument that there can be any duty for the liberated soul. It is erroneous to believe that as long as all individuals are not liberated, no individual can have liberation. There is no intrinsic relation between the Karma of one individual and of another, except in the sense that there is a mutually determining cosmic relationship of all individuals so long as they live in particularised states of consciousness. When there is destruction of thought, there is annihilation of all forms. Forms cannot exist when there is no differentiation among them, and the differentiation of forms is the work of the cognizing consciousness. There cannot be objective cognition in the Absolute. It cannot be said that, because forms exist for others even though one individual may attain freedom, the freed soul can have objective dealings. There is no cogency in the statement that the liberated being can have any relation with any thing, for it transcends the cosmic relationship of created entities which flow into one another as reciprocally determining forces. As long as there is relation, there is some thing external to the Self, and as long as there is experience of something other than the self, there is no Absolute-Experience. The Absolute is not bound by the rules and regulations of the worlds and the thoughts of other individuals in any way. The fact that many others remain unliberated even when one soul is freed, does not compel the liberated one to have relations with others, for the simple reason that the liberated one is no other than the trans-cosmic Absolute. And, moreover, when the thinking process expires in the Absolute, there cannot be perception of other unredeemed individuals. We have no grounds to say that the form of the world exists after Self-realisation, for forms can exist only when existence is divided within itself. But this has no validity for the Absolute, which is Existence itself. Division creates individuality which is phenomenal.
So long as there is consciousness of the reality of an objective universe and the individuals, one cannot be said to be a liberated one, for he is, then, only another individual, however much superior he may be to others in the state of his consciousness. Liberation is experience of the highest Reality. He who perceives that there are others and they are unliberated, cannot be a liberated soul himself, for the liberated is one with the Absolute which is extra-relational. A liberated one does not think. He merely is. There can be no compromise with self-limitation in liberation, however slight it may be.
The liberated soul becomes the All. Experience of Pure Being is the criterion of liberation. The liberated soul itself becomes the One Self of all; how, then, can it have the consciousness of limitation or of the act of redeeming the unliberated? And, how, again, can an unredeemed soul redeem another unredeemed soul? The human mind is al ways obsessed by the delusion of the social bond that connects different individuals. It cannot think except in terms of society, family, relations, etc., connected with the separatist ego. He who is concerned with the world is only a magnified family man and is not free from the sense of separateness characterising mortal nature. Even several cultured thinkers have been limited by a humanitarian view of life. Their philosophies are consequently tainted by humanistic and social considerations. They are not dispassionate in their trying to understand the deeper truths, and are deceived by an inordinate love for the human being. The infection has led them even up to the dangerous point of attempting to argue that none can be liberated until social salvation is effected! This view is the outcome of the interference of materialism with spiritual absolutism. Man's vision is so narrow that he is concerned merely with things that he sees. He fails to take an integral view of the essence of existence as a whole, because of his experience and reason being limited to empirical reality. To the Absolute, the world is not a historical process, but being. To the ignorant individual Samsara appears to be from eternity to eternity, an undivided super-rational appearance, though in the Absolute there is cessation of Samsara. Since different individuals are in different stages of evolution, and as also there can be nothing to prevent the entering of the soul into the Absolute on the rise of Knowledge, there cannot be any such thing as social salvation or ending of the historical process of the universe.
If the Absolute does not have any external or internal relation to itself, the liberated one cannot have any such relation to the universe, because the distinction of the individual and the universe is negated in the Absolute. It is illogical to say, at the same time, that "Liberation means Absolute-Experience" and that "the liberated soul is concerned with the work of redeeming others, and even on getting liberated, retains its individuality." Relative activity and Absolute Being are not consistent with each other. If it is argued that both these are compatible, it is done at the expense of consistency. The Absolute has nothing second to it, and hence no desire and no action. Anything that falls short of the Absolute cannot be regarded as the state of Liberation. The Jiva remains a centre of universal activity in the states of Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Ishvara, but not in Brahman. If what the Sruti says – "He does not return" – is true, there can be no reverting to individuality after Absolute-Experience. There cannot be action without consciousness of plurality, and plurality-consciousness is not the nature of the Absolute. All attempts to reconcile Reality with appearance, taking them as two realities, are based on a faith in the ultimate validity of empirical experience. We want to know the beyond without stepping over to the beyond from binding phenomena. We wish to plant our two legs in two ships moving in opposite directions, and then cross the ocean. We desire to know something absolutely without ourselves being that thing, an impossibility! The tendency of some of the modern thinkers to struggle to give a reality to objective experience and multiplicity-consciousness even in the highest Reality is the effect of a failure to discriminate between the Real and the apparent and is due to an unwise attachment to phenomenal diversity. As long as philosophers are content to be mere dogmatic theorizers, they can never succeed in determining the nature of Reality, or of bondage and liberation. It is but intellectual perversion that causes some to twist even the metaphysical truths to answer to the empirical demands of man. The fact that we see things is not the proof for their existence.
It is said that, because the individual is inseparable from its environment, the liberated soul has to work for the redemption of the other unliberated souls, if its own salvation is to be complete. This argument is, again, limited to the souls that are still in the cosmos, that move in the realms of Virat, Hiranyagarbha and Ishvara, but is irrelevant to Brahmanubhava. It is wrong to think that the liberated soul has any external environment with which it may have relations. It is Infinitude itself. Further, each individual is restricted by its own Antahkarana, the mode of objectified thinking, and hence, its world of experience cannot be identical with the worlds of others. Man is cheated by the notion that each individual has the same psychological background and constitution as the other, and that the environment of one individual includes those of all other individuals, also. The environment of one is different from that of the other, and, therefore, the liberation of one individual does not have any relation to the states of other individuals. If everyone is to think alike, there would be no diversity of living beings and there would be a wholesale salvation of the universe. If individuals think differently, one cannot have an intrinsic relation to the other. No doubt, everything is comprehended in the Absolute, and so each individual, as long as it exists as such, influences the universe by its existence and active individualistic consciousness, and vice versa, since there is a real Unity behind all individuals. But this mutual interaction is secondary, and does not affect the primary factor of liberation. Moreover, we have no right to give independent realities to the subject and the object, for all plurality is like a dream in the Universal Consciousness, and to it there can be no question of the existence of unredeemed souls or an objective reality. Bondage is in each individual separately and not in the universal unity. In any case, the problem of the redemption of the unredeemed souls by the liberated one does not arise. There is no wrong to be set aright, no error to be converted, no ugliness to be banished from life, except with reference to one's own self. When the self is purified, the Absolute Truth is revealed in it, and in its infinite knowledge it can set right the universe by its very existence, or consciousness of perfection. There is no ultimate relation amongst the imaginary environments of different individuals, even if they interpenetrate one another. They have a transcendental oneness, and an empirical phenomenality.
There is also an attempt made by some to argue that unworldliness is not the essence of any true philosophy, and that the Upanishads do not teach unworldliness. This view is the outcome of the failure of the arbitrary reason unaided by experience to determine the nature of Reality. There is a desire in the human being to maintain the same worldly relationship even in the state of final Liberation. Whatever we experience empirically seems to be a hard fact, the reality of which we do not want to deny. The individual's attachment to the body and society is so intense that to break away from it does not seem to be desirable. If unworldliness means repudiation of the separative forms of experience and individual relationship, liberation is really unworldly. The Absolute is unworldly in the sense that it has not, as the world has, distinctions of space, time and individuality, or name, form and action. Liberation is the possession and experience of unlimited, undivided consciousness of the Bhuma, or the plenitude of existence.
There cannot also be any question in regard to the position of power, rulership, and the like, in the state of the highest liberation. These are all relative notions of individuals. The Ultimate Reality is the Absolute, which is non-dual and, therefore, there is no scope for the operation of an objective power in it. The Absolute itself is Power, not merely an exerciser of power. Power is a separative factor, a means to create duality, which is nullified in the Absolute. The truly liberated one does not feel that he is the lord of anyone else, which notion involves distinction in existence, but he has the Eternal Experience of the Essence of Infinity.
Absolute Liberation is Transcendent Experience, beyond conception and expression, free from the differentiations of knower, knowledge and known. It is the Conscious Experience of absolute "Be"-ness, which is the Great Reality.