by Swami Krishnananda
Of all the items of the sadhana-chatustaya, mumukshutva is the most difficult to understand. While we may have some sort of notion of what discrimination between the Real and the unreal is, and consequently what detachment is, what the moral prerequisites are, we will fail when we try to know what moksha or liberation is. This is the last stroke that the aspiring mind deals in its march to perfection. Even when we discriminate between the Real and the unreal through viveka, we make a distinction between two aspects of Reality, like the purusha and prakriti of the Samkhya, for instance. To us, discrimination means differentiation – isolation of one thing from another. When we are asked to distinguish between the Real and the unreal, we imagine this distinction to be something like the distinction we make between one person and another person. This is our way of thinking. What is discrimination between the Real and the unreal? It is something like the discrimination between one thing and another thing. This is not discrimination in its true sense, because if we say, “He discriminates,” it means he becomes partial. It is not partiality that we show between the Real and the unreal. We determine the worth of the Real in its associations with what appears to be external to it. What do we mean by the Real? The ascertainment of the character of Reality is discrimination. The moment this is ascertained, the notion of moksha gets clarified. It is not from something that we ask freedom. It is not that some existent thing is catching us. If that is so, freedom would not be possible.
We are caught by certain misconceptions. We are under a delusion that things are placed in certain relations, while the true relation that obtains among them is altogether different. The viveka that we would have to cultivate is to understand in its proper position that which we ultimately regard as real. And if bondage is to be real, the real element in it has to be distinguished from it.
That the Real cannot bind is very important to remember. That which is Real can never be the source of bondage. And if bondage is real, try to isolate that Reality element from what you call bondage. That would be a kind of viveka exercise in regard to bondage, samsara.
What is samsara, bondage? It is something restricting our freedom, something exerting an influence negatively upon us – or to put it precisely, something doing something adversely in respect of us. Something is doing something; that seems to be our bondage. Now we have to discriminate the real element in this something doing something against us, and keep apart what element there is apart from Reality. This is a Herculean task. It is brain-racking, and we cannot understand what it means even with the furthest stretch of our imagination.
How can the real element in the factor of bondage be distinguished from the essence of bondage? It is the reality of bondage that torments us. If the bondage had been unreal, we would not have been bothered about it. We understand what it means. The bondage happens to be real: I am really caught. If I am unreally caught, I will not cry. If I am merely imagining that I am in bondage, well, I have no complaint. If I happen to be in a real bondage, this is why I say I want freedom. But the other aspect of it is that what is real cannot bind us. Then what is it that binds us? The real element in the factor causing bondage is something different from what really binds. It is not the existence of the Reality aspect that is the cause of bondage. There is something else which is mysteriously involved in what we call our state of bondage. It is a mystery. Our bondage seems to be a mystery ultimately. We do not know what is causing our bondage or suffering.
Some people try to explain the nature of moksha. There is an analogy which can bring us very near the truth of the reality of moksha: Suppose a king dreams that he is a poor man, a beggar. In dream he suffers from penury, starvation, and comes almost to the point of dying. What is to be done to appease the hunger of that poor man? He is thirsty, he is hungry, he is sick. Are we to bring medicine to free him from his illness? Are we to bring food for him to appease his hunger? Are we to bring drinks to quench his thirst? What is to be done when the king is dreaming that he is hungry, thirsty and sick? The answer cannot be that we have to fetch him food, water and medicine. That would be futile under the circumstances. We have only to shake him to wake him up, and we will find that he has no hunger, no thirst, and that he is free from all diseases. All his difficulties have gone by the mere act of waking him.
He may have had many problems apart from these three that I have mentioned. There can be umpteen problems in our dream condition. The Yoga Vasishtha has very beautiful stories of this nature – kings actually undergoing the suffering of beggars, and they needed absolutely no remedy. They needed only the panacea of the adjustment of their minds to facts.
We can use the illustration of dreams to understand the idea of moksha. In dream, all travel over distance may look like real travel. For example, may have a plane, for example, in dream. We were rich in dream, and travelled some ten thousand miles. That travel is a possibility and a reality in the state of dream, but though it appears to be a movement from one point of space to another point of space, there was no such activity at all. The person might have been sleeping on his bed; he has not got up from there, and yet he is flying many miles away in a plane. He has the pleasure of many such things without moving an inch from the bed.
We can undergo all the vicissitudes of life positively or negatively, as an emperor or as a beggar, on the bed in which we are sleeping, in a small room of our house. These vicissitudes of dream life, in their relation to our waking existence, can throw some light on the relation that perhaps obtains between our present state of existence and the moksha that we are seeking.
In this illustration of dream, just as to free ourselves of the dream poverties, etc., we need not fetch the valuables or the treasures of the dream world, we have only to be shaken up and awaken to a new state of consciousness, to be free from the bondage of samsara would not be to acquire something of samsara itself. To be a rich person would not be to gain gold and silver. It would be to awaken to a new order of existence, a new state of consciousness, a new state of reality – which we have to remember is not spatially distant from that which we have left earlier.
To again come to the illustration of dream, our waking condition is not spatially away from dream. We have not moved to a distant place when we have awakened from dream. We are in the same place. We have not moved an inch when we have come from dream to waking. So spatial conditions are not involved in waking from the dream world to the waking world. No movement of that kind was involved. This illustration throws light on the fact that freedom from samsara is not movement through space. The Vaikunta that we are speaking of, the Kailasa, the Satyaloka and so on, are as far from this hall where we are sitting now as our waking condition is from our dreaming world. How far is it? How much time is needed to reach it, and how far is Vaikunta from this world? As much time is needed to reach it as is needed to wake up from dream, and so distant is Vaikunta from this place as our waking world is from our dream world.
This is why great teachers have proclaimed the identity of samsara and moksha. In one sense, waking and dreaming are identical. They are in the same mind, same place, same person. The identity of all conditions and the interpenetratedness of all psychological situations is a difficult thing for the mind to understand. We are told that this is a world of relativity, which means to say that there is interpenetration of values, frequencies and vibrations. One thing pierces through another, like the wavelengths of a radio, for example. Radio stations broadcast news and music through different frequencies of energy. They are all interpenetrating, one touching the other, one colliding with the other, and yet one is not knowing the existence of the other.
So are the worlds interpenetrating, says the Yoga Vasishtha. Svarga is cutting though us here, in this very hall itself. Vaikunta and Kailasa are penetrating through the air of this room where we are seated and yet we cannot see them, just as one frequency of a broadcasting station cannot see another frequency of vibration. They are there, and yet we cannot see them. The receiving apparatus alone can distinguish them. This receiving apparatus is our mind. It can attune itself to Vaikunta or to Kailasa or to hell, as the case may be. Hell and heaven, samsara and moksha, all the realms of existence cross each other at one point and we can experience any condition at any place, at any time, provided the mind is attuned to it properly.
So what would be moksha? What is mumukshutva, the point that we are discussing? It is clear that moksha is not moving from one place to another place. It is not freeing oneself from something that is really there. If at all it is freedom from something, it is like freedom from the hunger and the penury of dream. When a person wakes up into the consciousness of being an emperor, he may be said to be free from what caused him bondage in dream. But from what was he freeing himself? We know it was not something that was really there that caused him bondage. There was nothing except a medley of thoughts, a mess of mind, a confusion of understanding which caused the dream.
It is difficult to explain all these things except by analogies. Nobody can explain logically or scientifically what God or moksha is. The best way of teaching, they say, is image, comparison, illustration, analogy; and this is the reason why the Yoga Vasishtha was written, knowing well that there was no other way of teaching these profound truths.
Sometimes stories, illustrations and comparisons convey the truth better than scientific demonstrations and logical propositions, because the mind cannot grasp these profundities. By the comparison we have made between waking and dream, we seem to have come to the point of understanding what God and moksha can be. Just as freedom from the sufferings of samsara of dream means not a spatial isolation of consciousness or a temporal movement from one place to another place but a readjustment of consciousness, so also waking is immanent in the dream consciousness though it is not palpable or tangible in the dream condition.
Likewise, God is supposed to be immanent in this world. He is Antarayamin. He is not in the seventh heaven, or far from us. Just as the waking state can be said to be hiddenly present in the dream condition – hidden in the sense that without it, dream would not be possible – the world cannot be, if God is not. In this sense of the immanence of the waking consciousness in the dream distractions, God may be said to be immanent in the world. He is present here, just under our very nose. But in the same sense as waking may be said to be transcendent to dream, we cannot see waking in dream. For all practical purposes, it is removed from the dream condition. Likewise, God is transcendent to this world.
We cannot even imagine that there is a waking condition while we are drowned in the sorrow of dream; likewise, when we are in this world of samsara, we can never imagine that there can be a God. He is transcendent; yet He is here, He is immanent, just as the waking stuff is hidden, secretly pervading the very fibres of dream experiences.
These analogies throw a flood of light on the complexity of the relation between samsara and moksha. What it is that we are seeking when we ask for moksha? What is salvation? It is entry into the world of truths. When we speak of God-realisation, we do not speak of moving away from this world, running away from this Earth, escaping, as people think, but entering into a flood of those real values that constitute any meaning in this world. What value can there be in any object of dream but that which is in waking life? When we transcend dream into waking, we deny not anything that is substantial or real. We do not run away from anything. We enter into the true order of things. We attain the freedom of consciousness which is liberation, moksha. Therefore, it is something like waking from the sufferings of dream, which does not involve spatial movement or temporal succession, which does not involve avoiding something that is good or pleasant. So nobody need be worried that going to God means abandoning all the pleasures of the world.
Many people do not want to practise sadhana or think of reaching God for fear that the pleasures of the world would be left out here. What about all the good mangoes and the kheer that we have in the world? Leaving everything here, we go there? A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Here we have a bird in hand and there we do not know what we may get. There we are supposed to be given nothing. They say in the state of God, we want nothing and will get nothing; we will simply be sitting, mummy-like. Well, when compared to the gorgeous beauties and the tempting attractions and tastes of this world, that state where we would want nothing cannot attract us. But that is a very poor definition of moksha.
Coming again to the illustration of dream and waking, to give you an idea of what God is, would you like to be an emperor in dream, for many years? Or would you like to be a simpleton in waking life rather than a rich man in the dream world? What is the good of ruling a dream world for years and years? Let me be a simpleton in waking life rather than a wonderful man in dream.
So are the riches, the temptations and the values that we see in this world. They would be worth nothing when compared to the higher reality of God, who is not far from us, again to remind you of this fact. It is not reaching something far in space; it is something hidden, immanent, here itself. So to attain moksha would be to enter into the world of Reality. We call it God-realisation, here and now – not tomorrow and at some other place. It is not reaching something, but being everything. This is the distinction between the true meaning of moksha and the common notion of it.
There is a world of difference between reaching something and becoming everything. In becoming everything, we do not abandon anything. We become the Self of all, as God Himself is. So the Atmatva of the universe is the state of moksha. We become the Self of things, the very being of all that is created. We become the Atman of all humanity, for the matter of that. And there is no question of abandoning or gaining. Neither raga nor dvesha can be there. It is, as the Mundaka Upanishad very beautifully says, te sarvagaṁ sarvataḥ prāpya dhīrā yuktātmānas sarvam evāviśanti (Mundaka 3.2.5): They attain everything, everywhere, at all places, in every manner. This is moksha, and the thought concerning moksha should be clarified before we approach a Guru for being initiated into the secrets of yoga.