In this lesson, we shall understand the concept of salvation or Mukti or Moksha. Please refer articles on Vedic God, Soul and Worship for fuller understanding.
(Read completely to know why we have image of a brave Maharana Pratap on a spiritual article on Moksha.)
Q: What is Mukti or Moksha?
A: Mukti means Freedom.
Q: What kind of freedom?
A: Mukti means the freedom that all souls desire for. In other words, freedom from sorrow and miseries.
Q: What happens after this freedom?
A: After this freedom, the soul experiences ultimate bliss and lives under inspiration of Ishwar. This is the most satisfying and enjoyable state one can have. Also note that contrary to what many wrongly believe in, Mukti is not state similar to sleep or Sushupti. It is the OPPOSITE of sleep – a state of highest possible level of consciousness.
Q: But Ishwar is already within us. So we are already living under inspiration of Ishwar. Then what is so special about Mukti?
A: If you recall the discussions on Ishwar and soul, we concluded that soul has a freedom of ‘will’ and has limited knowledge. As and when the soul dispels ignorance through right use of ‘will‘, it gains more and more bliss and acts in harmony with the purpose of creation. That is why it is recommended for soul to emulate Ishwar in whatever way it can, and also work in a manner that cooperates with the overall purpose of creation.
The purpose of life is to enable the soul to conduct such actions that help it get in harmony with purpose of creation. When the harmony reaches a threshold level, there remains no further reason why a soul should take birth. It thus gets freedom from cycle of birth and death, sorrow and happiness and obtains ultimate bliss.
Thus, Mukti means conducting all actions in sync or harmony with purpose of creation. Ishwar is always inspiring us and is all around us and within us as well. But when we realize this and act accordingly, we obtain Mukti.
Q: What is preventing us from Mukti at this very moment? Why Ishwar does not grant us Mukti right now?
A: Answering the second question first: Ishwar does only what is best. It does not act arbitrarily.
Our nature is such that the only way we can obtain Mukti is by dispelling ignorance. And the only way to dispel ignorance is by conducting actions. The only way we can keep practicing doing the right actions is by having an opportunity to take birth and obtain an environment which is best suited to our current level of competence. And Ishwar keeps doing so until we gain mastery and reach Mukti. So He is acting in best possible manner for us to obtain Mukti asap.
Coming to first question, let us review the properties of soul compared to Ishwar and Prakriti (Nature).
Prakriti is Sat – it exists
Soul is Sat and Chit – it exists and it is conscious (living, animate etc)
Ishwar is Sat, Chit and Anand – it exists, is conscious as well as possess bliss.
Now soul DOES NOT possess Anand or bliss intrinsically. It has to move towards bliss through efforts. Since Ishwar has bliss, it implies that it has to move towards Ishwar.
Now let us come to another foundation of Vedic philosophy, “Knowledge = Bliss”.
Since Ishwar has infinite knowledge, it has infinite bliss.
But soul has LIMITED potential and LIMITED knowledge. This LIMIT keeps varying as per its deeds as per the Law of Karma managed by Ishwar.
Thus the ONLY way soul can possess Bliss is by increasing its knowledge through right acts that remove the limits.
The modus operandi of this process is as follows:
1. Actions create Sanskaars (tendencies or habits) and Sanskaars determine Limits of potential of soul. The catch is that the moment you conduct an action, it creates a Sanskaar. Sanskaar implies that the probability of you conducting the same action in similar situation increases.
Thus, if you do wrong acts – like cheating, hating etc – the probability of you doing the same again and again increases. This reduces the limits of your potentials and hence you have reduced knowledge resulting in reduced bliss. Thus you get a step away from Mukti.
But when you do good acts – like compassion, analyzing and accepting only truth, high character etc – the probability of you doing more of such good acts also increases. This leads to greater potential of seeking knowledge and hence bliss. Thus you get a step closer to Mukti.
2. Now EACH AND EVERY ACTION (including thoughts and feelings) count in this process. Also remember that even if you do something even once, its probability of happening again and making you dumber or intelligent increases.
3. A typical soul keeps oscillating between good and bad deeds every moment, going few steps back and few steps forth like a drunkard, resulting in the delay in Mukti.
4. But a yogi uses his will-power to refuse to conduct bad actions and proactively conducts noble actions. This gradually weakens the Sanskaars of old bad actions and replaces them with good Sanskaars. Gradually the seeds of all bad sanskaars are destroyed by a yogi. This results in a situation that bad actions are not repeated under any circumstance by the yogi. He thus has burnt the seeds of bad Sanskaars (dagdhbeej) or has got free of the trap of bad Sanskaars forcing bad actions. He moves straight towards Mukti like an armyman without stepping back.
He surrenders completely to Ishwar’s will and achieves ultimate bliss of Ishwar.
This process of destruction of seeds of sanskaars demands constant practice with full enthusiasm, confidence and faith on Ishwar for a period of time.
THE ONLY CONTROLLING BUTTON WE HAVE IN THIS PROCESS IS OUR WILL-POWER.
Majority of people ignore to use this WILL-POWER in right direction and hence basically act as puppets responding to strings of situations. They thus themselves stifle their progress. Yogis act in opposite manner.
That is why Geeta says that what is day for the world is night for Yogi and vice verse.
The more powerfully you use your WILL-POWER, faster you reach Mukti.
Q: You say Mukti demands knowledge. Does it mean I need to know everything about everything possible in world to achieve Mukti?
A: Even if you desire, you cannot know everything. Because you are not Ishwar.
The knowledge here refers to realization and not mundane knowledge. Thus we are referring to concepts that lead to intrinsic knowledge and not mugging up of anything.
Mugging up is also useful and helpful, but ONLY when it helps improve concepts.
Yajurveda 40.14 summarizes this beautifully: One who clearly understands the concept the Vidya (Knowledge) as well as Avidya, guides himself accordingly through actions from bondage of death to ultimate bliss of Mukti.
Q: Then what do you mean by knowledge and ignorance?
A: Yoga Darshan 2.5 explains this concept in most beautiful manner.
It defines 4 concepts to be Avidya or Ignorance:
a. To consider temporary to be permanent and vice verse.
For example, to consider that this body and manifest world will remain forever, and disregard the soul and Ishwar which are permanent. Most of us act accordingly and hence are entrenched in Avidya.
b. To consider impure as pure and vice verse.
For example, to consider that this body full of blood, excretion, urine etc to be pure and have lust towards physical body, sensuality and glamor, and disregard traits like truth, morality, Brahmacharya, self-control, compassion as impure.
c. To consider sorrow as happiness and vice versa.
For example, to conduct one as per dirty vices like lust, anger, greed, delusion, crush, grief, regret, jealousy, hatred, laziness, arrogance etc in false hope that they will provide happiness. And rejecting self-control, compassion, peace, diligence, sincerity, simplicity etc as source of sorrow.
d. To consider inert as conscious as vice verse.
For example, to consider that this body and mind are living. And disregard soul and Ishwar who are conscious entities.
THE OPPOSITE OF AVIDYA IS VIDYA OR KNOWLEDGE
When this Vidya or Knowledge is clearly established, there remains no more any purpose of being bonded in cycle of death and birth. The soul then gets free and obtains Mukti or eternal bliss.
Q: What do you mean by sorrow or miseries?
A: Again Yoga Darshan 2.3-9 explain sorrow most succinctly through their causes.
It says that there are 5 kinds of Klesha or Sorrows.
1. Avidya (Ignorance) which has been described above. This is considered mother of all sorrows and foundation of all other sorrows.
2. Asmita (Ego): To consider this mind, intellect, body to be the self and have false pride, superiority or inferiority complex. This must be destroyed through practice (Abhyas), intellect (Viveka) and renunciation (Vairagya).
3. Raga (Attachment): To have sanskaars or tendencies of feeling bliss through sensory inputs and having greed for more of them.
4. Dwesha (Repulsion): To have hatred against situations or things that caused us sensory grief in past.
5. Abhinivesh (Fear of Death): To have a desire to never die and remain alive always. All living beings – from an ant to most intelligent scholar – fear death and prevent themselves from facing death to extent possible. This itself is greatest evidence of rebirth. When one understands that only body dies but soul remains protected forever under Ishwar’s blessings, this is eradicated.
Q: So how can we obtain Mukti or salvation?
A: We have explained the principles and essence of this earlier. To put in a slightly more mundane form, Mukti happens through:
– Following the guidance of Ishwar as per ‘inner-voice’ and our best understanding of truth devoid of ego.
– Staying away from bad tendencies like sins, crimes, anger, frustration, regret, bad company, bad habits, intoxication, addiction etc.
– Proactively seeking truth, compassion, welfare of entire world, discipline, maintenance of health, worship of Ishwar, practice of meditation and putting best efforts.
– To be honest, sincere and without bias.
– To NOT RUN AWAY from duties as ordained by Ishwar for society and world.
We shall discuss this in more specific details later. But the wise can understand the future roadmap from discussion so far itself.
Q: What happens to soul in Mukti? Does it lose its identity like a drop of water in ocean?
A: If soul were to lose identity forever, it would already have done so and we would not have been interacting with each other. Because time has no beginning. So infinite time has passed since we have NOT lost our identity. Thus the probability of us losing this identity in future also is a perfect ZERO.
What happens is that soul maintains its identity in same manner as a ball of iron becomes in hot fire. It has its identity but is totally immersed in and out in bliss of Ishwar. Thus it loses its identity in same sense as we lose our identity when we get engrossed in some enjoyable task. But this is NOT absolute loss of identity.
Q: Where does the soul live in Mukti?
A: The soul lives within omnipresent Ishwar. Being completely under guidance of the One with perfect knowledge, it has no restrictions on its movements and locations.
Q: Does soul have a physical body during Mukti?
A: No. Physical body is no more relevant for it. Physical body is needed to practice moving towards Mukti and not after Mukti.
Q: Without a body, how does the soul enjoy bliss of Ishwar?
A: The basic powers of the soul that enable it to use the physical sense organs remain with the soul. It can hear, touch, see, taste, smell and think directly through use of will power. The limitations of physical body are no more required for the one who has broken all limitations to achieve Mukti.
Refer Vedanta 4.4.10-12, Kathopanishad 2.3.10 and Chhandogya Upanishad 8.7.1. 8.12.5-6. 8.12.1 for more on this.
Q: Is Mukti eternal or unending?
A: No. If that had been so, we would all have obtained Mukti by now and no soul would have remained in the world trying for Mukti (freedom from existing bondage). The whole purpose of creation would have turned irrelevant then. And if we have been unable to get Mukti so far, it is impossible to ever get Mukti in future.
Because soul is unborn and time has no beginning. Thus as per Vedas, Geeta, Upanishads and every scripture, we have been in existence for INFINITE time. If we cannot get Mukti in INFINITE time, there is no way we can get Mukti EVER.
THUS MUKTI IS NOT ETERNAL
Hence, after period of Mukti is over, soul comes back to world and starts its journey to Mukti again.
However, the duration of Mukti is very high compared to human life. As per Mundakopanishad, this duration is equivalent to time span of 36000 cycles of creation. Each creation cycle is equal to 43.2*200 million years.
So when scriptures say that Mukti is endless, they imply that before this complete term of Mukti is over, the soul will NOT come into cycle of death and life.
Q: Any evidence from Vedas on Mukti not being endless?
A: Refer Rigveda 1.24.1-2:
Question: Whom do we consider the most pure? Who is the most enlightened one in entire world. Who provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti?
Answer: The self-enlightening, eternal, ever-free Ishwar alone is most pure. He alone provides us mother and father again in the world after gifting us ultimate bliss or Mukti.
Shankaracharya in his treatise on Chandogya Upanishad (8.15.1 and 4.15.1) states that soul stays in Brahmaloka or Mukti till his duration is not complete. In explanation of 6.2.15, he states that souls stay in Mukti for several Samvastara (years). In his explanation of Shatpath Brahman 18.104.22.168, he writes that “If souls do not come back after salvation, then the word “Iha” in the mantra becomes meaningless.”
Q: What are the fallacies of considering endless Mukti?
1. It is against Vedas as per above reference.
2. Since soul is unborn and has existed for infinite time. Still it could not obtain Mukti. Thus Mukti automatically becomes impossible if it is eternal. OUR EXISTENCE IN NON-MUKTI STATE IS GREATEST PROOF OF MUKTI NOT BEING FOREVER.
3. Actions of a soul are limited. The fruits of limited actions CANNOT be unlimited.
4. If Mukti be eternal, the world shall come to end eventually after all souls obtain Mukti. Since souls are unborn, there cannot be possibility of new souls being created. And if souls are created, even their destruction becomes inevitable.
5. Unless Mukti is cyclical, even Mukti becomes a prison from where one cannot return.
6. Even the value of bliss reduces if it goes on for endless time. Note that soul is not Ishwar to be able to comprehend bliss in full. Its capacity to enjoy bliss is also limited. Thus only return of Mukti does best justice for the souls.
Q: If there is return from Mukti, then why put efforts for it? After all it is also temporary!
A: Soul has limited capacity and limited knowledge. Thus something that transcends its capacity to appreciate the length cannot be termed temporary.
On earth, we make great efforts to manage happiness for 1 hour, 1 day, few months, few years. We plan so much for a life of merely 100 years knowing fully well that it will end after that. We eat today and start planning for next meal tomorrow morning.
When one can make efforts for such short-term goals, why not make efforts for such a vast time-span of Mukti that is unimaginable for us?
Q: I see your arguments. But I believe in a different concept of Mukti. For example, I am still not convinced that Mukti is not eternal. I believe soul and Ishwar is One. I have other differences as well. What should I do?
1. Many of these differences emerge only because of differences in terminology and metaphors used to explain such concepts which demand highest level of mind-control to realize.
2. What exactly Mukti looks like can be understood only after we reach there. But one thing is clear and unambiguous – that this world that we see is not everything. There is something beyond it and our existence lies beyond the current birth and death. Mukti is, thus, what everyone should strive for.
3. Further understanding beyond this can come only through our own efforts resulting in personal realization.
Thus, EVEN IF YOU DIFFER, don’t worry. Regardless of what you or we think about concept of Mukti, the current duties and responsibilities to achieve that state is EXACTLY THE SAME FOR US – PUTTING EFFORTS FOR REMOVAL OF IGNORANCE.
Thus the road ahead is same for us, regardless of what the destination is conceived to be by each of us.
Whatever it would be, it would be the BEST for us. So let us work together on the common path.
Q: Mukti happens in one birth or several births?
A: It takes several births. Because eradication of each Sanskaar takes its due time and efforts. However please note that we do not know how many births we have already taken for this. So one should put best efforts to achieve Mukti in this birth itself. After all intensity of efforts itself counts the most in this.
Q: If there are several births, why don’t we remember them?
1. Soul has limited knowledge and hence cannot remember beyond what is stored in brain. Forget about previos birth, we don’t remember our stay in womb, our childhood, our dreams, our actions in last so many years etc. If I ask, what did you do or think twelve years after your birth on 4th month, 3rd day, 3 hour and 5 minutes? You simply cannot answer. In fact you cannot account for your thoughts even few hours ago. Does that mean you did not exist then?
2. We should thank Ishwar that we do not remember past lives and hence can work with freshness. We get frustrated by our deeds and thoughts and tragedies of this life itself and want to forget them. Imagine if all the miseries of past lives were also remembered by us. We would have died merely by remembering them!
Thus to know past lives is department of Ishwar. Our department is to use our will-power to remove ignorance through noble deeds.
Q: When we don’t even remember past deeds, why does Ishwar punish us for that?
If you have fever, you go to doctor for treatment. You do not know the cause of fever or how you contracted it. But you very well admit that some mistake must have happened causing this fever.
Similarly, remembrance of past deeds is not necessary to understand Ishwar’s law of Karma. We see such varieties in world, different social status, health, species etc. And we can well ascertain that everything is happening in such a planned manner with so intricate details that despite all the greatest claims of ‘modern science’ we have not even scratched 1% of surface.
The variety and planning in world lead us to conclude that the great planner provides us variety of situations based on past actions.
Smart people who introspect can witness the immediate benefits of good deeds and harms of bad deeds in near term itself. Then why should it not be extended beyond this life.
So even if we do not remember past lives, the world itself is witness to fact that Ishwar provides us situations as per our deeds continuously even after this life ends and new birth happens.
Q: When there are so many lives and Ishwar will keep giving me life after life, why should I hurry for Mukti? I am enjoying my present as well. So let me stay the way I am.
A: This logic seems to come from a smart MBA grad fresh out of B School! But Ishwar is smarter.
In this world, either you progress or you deteriorate. Stability without progress is ALSO deterioration. Look at world itself, you enjoy playing with a small baby. It is so lovely and cute. But we enjoy its cuteness only for few months. Imagine, if after several years also, the baby remains a small cute baby, what would happen? We all would start getting worried and consider it to be a rare serious disease. We all pray that children grow in most healthy manner and that is also what Ishwar demands from us through His creation.
Even in business affairs, if a company shows same performance year after year without showing growth, its valuation goes down very significantly.
In same manner, if we DO NOT put proactive efforts for progress, we are actually reducing our valuation. And hence the next life would be worse off than current one. Even to justify our being human beings, we have to put certain proactive efforts.
Q: Can animals not get Mukti?
Yes, they can. Because the souls in all living beings are identical. But they can strive for Mukti only after taking birth as human beings.
Remember, human is the ONLY species that has the potential to use the WILL-POWER to achieve salvation. Rest of the species are like treatment centers where they can only face fruits of actions done earlier so that their deeply ingrained Sanskaars are wiped out.
Thus humans who are obsessed with certain kinds of addictions or habits take birth in appropriate animal species so that they get opportunity to release those Sanskaars. Once these are released beyond a threshold, they become eligible to take birth as humans and then put efforts.
Hence, all human beings should put utmost efforts to ensure that they take next births as humans again and can continue their journey. There is nothing more precious than human-birth and we should make best use of this golden opportunity.
Q: But even ignorance is bliss. A wealthy person sleeps on luxury bed but is not happy. And a laborer sleeps on hard stones but is blessed with sound sleep. Animals in jungle live so happily. And humans keep worrying. So instead of knowledge, ignorance is bliss.
A: This is childish logic.
1. Grant a wealthy the option to become a laborer and grant a laborer the option to become wealthy immediately. Wealthy will never agree and laborer will immediately grab the option. If both had equal bliss, no one would have desired to change from current situation.
2. No sensible human would desire to become an animal because humans can access higher levels of happiness that animals cannot.
3. The cause of grief for the wealthy is NOT wealth but his defective way of thinking. This defective way is his own Karma or actions.
4. Ignorance puts limits in bliss-acquisition. It is natural for souls to progress from less knowledge to higher knowledge. You don’t enjoy the games of 1 year old toddler because of higher knowledge. What people compare ignorance with to claim “ignorance is bliss” is defective knowledge or Avidya itself.
But if you seek Vidya, you get higher and higher bliss. There is no other way.
Q: What is meant by Swarg/ Narak or Heaven/Hell.
A: Swa means happiness. To obtain happiness is Swarg or Heaven.
To obtain miseries is Narak or Hell.
They DO NOT refer to any imaginary place or location. They refer to situations we create for ourselves RIGHT NOW through our efforts.
And when we get into habit of seeking Swarg every moment, all roots of ignorance are destroyed and we obtain ultimate bliss or Ishwar.
We earnestly request all that they should STOP living in illusion of any special place like Heaven or Hell after death. They should stop believing that those who disagree with them will go to Hell and others will go to Heaven forever. They should be tolerant to all faiths and all people so far they are not criminals or nuisance creators. Compassion to ALL souls is necessary for getting Heaven here itself and then blessings of Ishwar in Mukti or Moksha.
Q: OK. I understand about removing ignorance to achieve salvation. Is that why one should go to remote place to meditate and achieve salvation?
A: Vedic knowledge DOES NOT mean memorizing certain verses or understanding certain concepts intellectually. It means complete understanding that is exhibited in thoughts, words and actions – in knowledge, actions and contemplations.
This is like learning bicycle. Merely reading a book on bicycle and its design will not help. You need to practice. There is simply no other alternative.
Similarly, to achieve salvation you need to be in the world, live like a lotus here, detached from the mud around, and put efforts for cleansing the system. To run for meditation when your duties demand your involvement in the world, will not lead to Mukti but dumbness – the opposite of Mukti.
Isolation may be useful in short-term for specific purpose, but Mukti CANNOT come without cooperation with other souls. Vedas have innumerable Suktas only on cooperation and collaboration. Those who attempt to seek Mukti without this most fundamental requirement of Vedas are merely in doldrums.
Q: Then what about those Sanyasis and Munis who used to meditate in jungles. Were they escapists?
A: If you are talking about present day Sanyasis in jungles, if they are there temporarily to rejuvenate themselves or because due to old age, they are unable to work proactively in society, that is perfectly fine.
But if they are able bodied and yet seek permanent reclusion, then they are being escapist and treading the way of dumbness. Vairagya from attachment should happen and NOT from actions.
Such artificial reclusion is insult of Ishwar. If Ishwar would have thought that isolation is best for you, he would have given you birth on some solitary planet and not in midst of a society full of people and facing problems and challenges. Further, even the knowledge you receive is through interaction with world. If you stop interaction, you lose chance for further knowledge enhancement.
If you were born in an idealistic society where everyone is performing his or her duties reasonably well, then perhaps you would have had the liberty to explore the world within away from hustle-bustle of crowd.
But today, when there is so much corruption, intolerance, hatred, poverty, grief, immorality etc in society, only a psychopath or an impotent coward would seek running away from these challenges, that Ishwar wants us to face, work upon and thereby obtain Vairagya and dispel ignorance.
Its a pity that in name of spiritualism, a large work force of our action-oriented nation escape away from their duties towards nation and society. In the process, not only do they retard their own progress and run towards dumbness, but do great damage to society and nation. This is the most painful face of anti-nationalism facing us.
If we look down the history, all those false babas, gurus, siddhas who were busy seeking silence of mind in isolation or doing petty magic tricks in name of spiritualism during the most turbulent years of our history are the most wrong examples of spiritualism that one can have. Unfortunately we are flooded by such false role models. That is why despite having best of spiritual foundation, we still are the weakest and most shamelessly helpless societies of the world facing one slap after another for last 1000 years at least.
Our real role models of spiritualism should be legends who rose to the challenges of nation and society and burnt away their self to serve the larger cause. They were the true seekers of Mukti and exemplified the concepts of Vidya and Vairagya for us through concrete actions. They are the true saints for us. I am talking of legends like Rana Pratap, Shivaji, Bismil, Ashfaqullah, Netaji, Azad and Swami Dayanand among innumerable other heroes.
Swami Dayanand used to run several miles daily, perform squats and pushups, practice Mudgar and do rigorous training throughout his life. Because the concept of Mukti is only for the strong and effortful.
May we all seek such a powerful vigorous selfless mission towards Mukti that is not restricted only to I but society, nation and entire humanity! May Ishwar grant us that strength, enthusiasm and purity right now!
In next article, we shall review methods of Mukti in more detail.
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