According to the Advaita Vedanta of Shri Shankara, release (Moksha) is eternally true. By the spiritual practices it is realised in our practical experience.
Before an aspirant treads the path of Yoga he must cultivate the antecedent qualifications. He must hear from the loving and living lips of a God-realised Guru the meaning of Shruti which will kindle in him the light of spiritual reality of his Self. The practice of selfless benevolence and contemplation of the nature of the Self converts the initial spark of the desire to know the Spirit into a flame. The ethical life, as ordained in the Shastra, purifies the heart and then an aspirant can have experience of the pure light of the Spirit. The fire of contemplation and meditation creates the heat within, which ends in spiritual light. When the aspirant is established in his spiritual Self, then he experiences Shanti, the spiritual bliss, for ever and for ever.
Those who have any doubts as to the profound use of devotion in Vedanta are referred to the commentary of the most holy Acharya on Verse 30 of Chapter XVIII of the Bhagavad Gita.
Now let us consider the relation between liberation (Moksha) and the values of life. There are some people who imagine that when the existence of the world has been negated and the individuality of the Jiva has been merged in the non-individuality of the Attributeless, when the life of action has ended, there can be no difference between that Moksha or Shanti and death. This thought is due to a great misunderstanding about the nature of liberation in Advaita Vedanta. Let it be known that the peace (Shanti) which is the culmination of spiritual discipline and practice in Vedanta is not the peace of death, neither is the accompanying extreme bliss the complete negation of experience. The peace is converted into the highest type of life, in which the spiritual practices and ethical discipline supply the heat and friction to produce the light of spiritual bliss.
It is true that the world does not share the spiritual existence of Brahman, but the practical world nevertheless stands, though phenomenally,, on Brahman itself. In a certain sense the world, having non-different spiritual co-existence with Brahman, is not void- The existence of Jagat apart from Brahman is mere imagination. In the state of Moksha the world does not disappear as a dream disappears on awakening; but it disappears as an illusory snake in its substratum, the rope , when the substratum is known.
The doctrine of Moksha in the philosophy of the most holy Acharya is based on the illustration of the illusoriness of the world being like an imagined snake in a rope.
The knowledge of Truth, or illumination, does not end in the disappearance of Jagat but it shows the reality of Jagat to be Brahman. A new and spiritual light is thrown on the world on enlightenment, which entirely changes our point of view and turns the world of thorns into a bed of roses of spiritual experience. The word ‘Bodha’, which is used by Shri Shankara in connection with the disappearance of Jagat in the state of spiritual illumination, mAans a spiritual interpretation of the world. Jnana does not eliminate the world hut it gives us a new view of it. Let us remember that Jnana and release are not conditioned by time. Moksha is not a Vritti of the mind. It may be said that Vivarta is the theory of the holy Acharya to account for Jagat and illumination.
When Shri Shankaracharya in his commentary on Vedanta Sutra (2.1.14.) speaks of the elimination of the world on realisation, he makes it clear that it is not a state subject to time and space. In his commentary on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.5.1.) he enjoins a highly ethical life on a Jnani as well as on a student of Yoga. Illumination is not the elimination of our individuality but it is a manifestation of individuality in the form of infinity. The culmination of the teachings of the Upanishads in Self-realization is the spiritual vision which transforms the individuality into the infinite spiritual principle. It is different from the philosophical ideal of Spinoza or Leibnitz. Shri Shankara holds the important doctrine that unreality can be indicative of reality. The whole matter depends on experience. In the Upanishads the individuality is a means to the attainment of the high spiritual Truth. Shri Shankara calls an Acharya “one established in Brahman” (Brahman nishta) and “he who sees inseparability”. (Commentary on Katha Upanishad 1.2.8.)
In the state of Jivan-Mukti the world appears as inseparably co-existent with Brahman, as spiritual infinity; the individuality also acquires a new meaning, a new interpretation, a new vision. In his commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (3.5.1.) the most holy Acharya says:
“This world of difference appears both to the sight of the knower of Truth and to the one who is ignorant of Truth”.
The fact is that it is want of discrimination between Atman and non-Atman which distinguishes the ignorant man to whom this illusion assumes the form of: “This I am”. “This is thou”.
It is clear, therefore, that when the unity of the entire existence and its spirituality is realised in experience, then the world loses its difference; but it does not mean that the world is entirely eliminated as is a dream at the time of return to the waking state. The “elimination of the world” in the philosophy of Advaiba means the vision of inseparable unity in the highest spiritual sense.
Unity of the spirit includes the variety of Jagat; similarly, the unity of all the Jivas includes their individuality. Shri Shankara calls action which is done without the feeling of limited egoity “inaction”. Karma does not mean the action of the body or the senses nor does want of Karma (inaction) mean sitting silent. Karma and a-Karma acquire a new meaning in the eyes of the Jnani.
In Jivan-Mukti the idea of egoity is eliminated, dharma is observed by the Jivan-Mukta. Many of his disciples have missed this high point and have concluded that the Acharya enjoins the state of physical actionlessness.
It is evident that the Vedanta of the most holy Acharya does not teach complete actionlessness or moral indifference. In the path of Vedanta the practice of virtue is not discouraged. Even in the state of Jivan- Mukti it occupies a very high position. When the holy Acharya says that a man who has acquired Jivan-Mukti need perform no action, he means no ritualistic action. He himself lived as a compassionate teacher, as a very great writer and as a preacher of Truth throughout his life.
He does not say a word implying any relaxation in the moral discipline, the only difference being that the Jivan- Mukta follows the path of virtue, benevolence and discipline as a free man and not as a slave. It may also be noted that Shri Shankara’s doctrine is radically different from the master morality of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vedanta interprets ethical behaviour in the light of the spiritual Truth and thus avoids many of the intricacies which encompass modern ethical philosophies.
Shri Shankaracharya does not enjoin sloth, lethargy or actionlessness in the case of Jivan-Muktas. A Jivan- Mukta acts as a free man. Freedom consists in living according to the moral discipline and the spiritual practices. A Jivan-Mukta is a sovereign of the world and not a slave. His rule of life is love and it is absolutely impossible for him to indulge in any evil practice. Ethical discipline is compulsory for those who live in the realm of egoity and those whose nature contradicts the spiritual urges and aspirations. Jivan-Mukta is the culmination of the ethical life and the life of prayer and devotion. The Jivan-Mukta’s nature becomes ethical; just as flowers show beauty and fragrance, so does he manifest compassion, purity, selflessness and non-egoity in service to all. Like the sun emitting heat and light to give life and activity to the world, the Jivan-Mukta lives emitting the light of righteousness and the highest ethical conduct.
Emphatic disagreement must be expressed with Sadhu Nischaldas who makes some wild statements descriptive of the relaxation of ethics in the case of a Jivan-Mukta.
A liberated man is free from egoity and external obligation and is also beyond all the evil of the world. Another word for Mukti used in the Vedanta is Nishreyasa which alsomeans the highest ethical standard. The teachings of the holy Teacher Gaudapada, who seems to enjoin inactivity in the case of a Jivan-Mukta, are misunderstood.
Commenting on the Karika of Shri Gaudapada (2.36.) which says: “The Jivan-Mukta behaves like a stone”, the most holy Acharya says that the meaning is that a liberated man acts freely above the bondage of egoity. He acts in light and not in the darkness of lethargy and self-interest.
According to the writings of the most holy Acharya we can find no fault with action itself; but Avidya and egoity (Ahankara) which prompt actions are full of faults. Karma has to be performed in the right spiritual way and not to be entirely given up as something despicable. The difference tween the point of view of the Jivan-Mukta and the one still in Avidya is very great. The Jnani by virtue of the grace of his Guru and by following the injunctions of the Shastra can distinguish between Truth and unreality. He knows that Brahman, the non-dual, is the only great Reality. He is the Self of our own and of every other being. In him there is no individual selfishness.
He works for the good of all and is established in Shanti while engaged in external action.
Index for this series of essays