Understanding the Concept of Liberation in Philosophy of Advaita Vedant!
In his commentary on Brahman Sutra, Samkara has given an elaborate description of the nature of liberation.
Liberation or Moksha is the transcendental truth, immutable, eternal, all-pervading like the space, devoid of all activity, eternity contented, partless of the future. This disembodied state is liberation.
The liberated self regains his real form in the Advaita Brahman Siddhi. Moksha is said to be the liberation of the self from ignorance. According to Chitsukhacharya, liberation is the attainment of incessant bliss. It is eternal. The self is eternally liberated. Hence, nothing new is gained in liberations since otherwise it shall be non-eternal.
Knowledge and Liberation:
As a matter of fact, there is hardly any demarcation line between the achievement of knowledge and liberation. The Upanishads have maintained that the knower of Brahman becomes Brahman. Moksha means seeing the self in all. It is the status of identity with Brahman. The Brahman’s knowledge culminates in a staged where there is no difference between the knower, known and knowledge.
From the transcendental standpoint, the self, the Brahman and the liberation are the same. The self is Brahman. It is eternally liberated. Liberation is the annihilation of the awareness of multiplicity. It is not the destruction of the worldly names and forms, since really speaking the transcendental self has no relation with the universe.
As it has been said in the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, “This purusa is non- attached.” Liberation means the identity of Brahman and the self. This identity is not imposition of Brahman on self. According to Samkara, knowledge is not an activity. Hence the attainment of liberation is not an activity.
As the covering of ignorance is removed from the liberated soul, one knows one’s real essence. This is liberation. Liberation is not due to knowledge but it is knowledge itself. In the words of Padmapad, Moksha is liberation from false knowledge. False knowledge breeds misery. As it disappears the misery also disappears.
Moksha and Nirvana:
Just as Samkara’s Brahman is different from the Sunya of the Madhyamika philosophy, similarly Moksha is different from Nirvana. Moksha is not negative. It is bliss. Like the Apavarga of Nyaya, in the Moksha of Vedanta the self does not become conscious but rather appears as the pure consciousness which is its real nature.
According to qualified monism of Ramanuja, in liberation the self does not become Ishwara, but appears like Him, lives in His contact, dwells in His country and remains attached to Him. But in Advaita Vedanta, the liberated self sees everyone in the self and nothing else. Unlike the Buddhist conception of Nirvana, in the Moksha of Advaita the self is not annihilated but only its conditions are destroyed.
The liberated self is non-different from Brahman. For the liberated individual, the names and forms of the world disappear and everywhere he sees the same Brahman. Moksha is not attained through self purification, since self purification is an activity. Moksha is attained through knowledge which is not an activity, but itself an existence. Moksha is eternal, pure and of the nature of Brahman.
Samkara believed in the possibility of gradual liberation (Krama Mukti). Commenting on a verse in Prasnopanisad regarding the concentration on Om, he says that such concentration leads to Brahman Loka where we gradually attain complete knowledge. At another place, Samkara has maintained that worship of the attributed Ishwara leads to purification from sins, the attainment of bliss and gradual liberation.
Liberation while living:
According to Samkara, Moksha does not mean the cessation of body, but the extinction of ignorance. Hence, he believes in liberation even while living (Jivan Mukti). Just as the wheel of a potter remains moving even after the pot is made, similarly the man goes on living even after attaining liberation, because there is nothing to stop the earlier continuity of life.
Samkara has here given the example of a man who sees double moon due to some defect in the eye and cannot stop seeing like this in spite to knowing that in fact there is only one moon. For the liberated person all the activities are in Brahman. The post-Samkarite Vedantins have presented several views regarding liberation while living.
According to some, Avidya remains for some time even after being extinguished. According to others, for the liberated person there is no existence of the body or the world. The state of liberation while living is also known as disembodied liberation (Videha Mukti).
Two types of selves:
According to Samkara, Moksha or the disembodied state of the self is eternal. It may be asked here if the self is eternally liberated, what is the need of efforts for liberation. On the other hand, if the liberation is achieved by efforts, it seems meaningless to call the self as always existing, established in its own glory, eternally liberated, etc. A subtle analysis here will further show that in Advaita Vedanta everywhere two types of self have been conceived. Of these, the empirical Self (VijnanAtma) is the enjoyer and is pure, while the metaphysical self (Paramatma) is immutable and eternally liberated.
Forgetting his eternal self, the jiva identifies himself with the empirical form. The essential nature of the Jiva is, however, the metaphysical self. The meaning of ignorance is the dualism of jiva and the. metaphysical self. To remove this dualism by establishing the identity of the self is the aim of Vedanta. Hence, the metaphysical self is eternally liberated, but to achieve liberation, the empirical self requires study, meditation and concentration etc.
By this means, the jiva leaves dualism and recognises the true nature of the metaphysical self and thus attains liberation. But some persons have raised the question as to why the jiva is caught in Avidya at all. According to Deussen and Parthasarathi Misra, Samkara does not explain the reason of Avidya. It is in fact impossible to explain the cause of Avidya. Avidya is eternal just as the self is eternal. To question why there is Avidya is like questioning why there is self. Ultimately, even the philosophical solutions have got a limit. Beyond that limit the human intellect should keep silent and follow the path of spiritual experience.
The Four-fold means:
Thus, without bothering to enquire about the nature of ignorance, the jiva should make efforts to attain liberation. In this effort Samkara has admitted the knowledge of Brahman not as the means, but as the end in itself. It is the ultimate end. Those who point out that there is no place for morality in Samkara’s philosophy forget that the Indian philosophers have never given an unduly high status to morality.
Most of the Indian philosophers believed that beyond the moral level there is the religious level and beyond the religious level there is the spiritual level. To reach this spiritual level is the ultimate, end of human beings. But spiritual aim does not deny, still less negate, the moral aim. It takes it along and proceeds further.
Hence, up to a creatain limit, the Advaita Vedanta exhibits the importance of moral and religious means to attain the ultimate end of life. Samkara has himself considered the fourfold means (Sadhan Catustaya) as necessary for a man to become worthy of studying Vedanta. These fourfold means are as follows:
1. Discrimination between the eternal and the ephemeral:
The enquirer in the philosophy of Vedanta should have the capacity to distinguish between the eternal and the ephemeral objects as a necessary pre-requisite for his study.
2. Detachment towards wordly and other-worldly enjoyments:
The second condition required for the student of Vedanta is detachment from all types of enjoyments as well as the desire for them, both wordly as well as other-wordly.
3. Sama, Dama etc:
Along with discrimination between the eternal and the ephemeral and detachment from enjoyment, the enquirer should possess the means of Sama, Dama, Sraddha, Samadhan, Uparati, and Titiksa. The meaning of Sama is control of the mind while Dama means control of the senses. Sraddha means keeping faith in the scriptures. Samadhan means concentration of the mind on the attainment of knowledge. Uparati means aversion from the disturbing actions. Titiksa means the practice in bearing heat and cold, etc.
4. Desire for liberation (Mumuksatva):
The last, though by no means the least condition for the sadhaka of Vedanta is a burning desire for liberation and a strong determination for its attainment. For the Sadhak, after he has conquered the passions etc., by the above mentioned fourfold means, Samkara has prescribed the necessity of hearing (Sravana), concentration (Manana) and meditation (Nidid hyasana).
Thus, the aspirant for the knowledge, of Brahman should take to hearing the teaching of the Guru. After the false impressions are annihilated and strong faith in the reality of the Brahman is established in the aspirant, the teacher teaches him the secret of Tattva-Masi (That Thou Art). Then the aspirant concentrates on this truth with one pointed mind and meditates upon it again and again.
By this he gradually begins to realise the truth and the real nature of the self. Such a complete realisation is the culmination of the knowledge of Brahman. This is liberation. When this is achieved all the dualism disappears, doubts and attachments are removed and supreme bliss is attained. The liberated man serves the society and the living beings while he is alive and does not return to bondage after leaving the body.