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Liberation

By Jayadvaita Swami

In the Vedic context, "liberation" means more than just freedom from hangups and freedom being socially pigeonholed or political oppressed. It means freedom from the cycle of birth and death. In Sanskrit, this liberation is known as moksa or mukti.

According to the Vedic teachings, attaining this liberation is the true goal of human life. We wander about this material world, lifetime after lifetime, in different bodies, in different species, each time undergoing the repeated miseries of birth, death, disease, and old age. When born into the lower species, as animals, as fish, as plants, we are too densely covered by ignorance to ask why this is happening or to try to get free. But in the human life, endowed with higher intelligence, with the ability to question, we can take to the path of spiritual enlightenment and at last attain liberation. The Vedic teachers advise us to do this urgently, before this lifetime is over and the chance is lost.

Some sages conceive of liberation as the total dismantling of the ego, the sense of individual selfhood. Suffering, they say, proceeds from desire; desire from the ego, and the ego from illusion. When illusion is gone, so too is the self--and the desire and suffering that come with it.

According to some of these philosophers, at liberation there is emptiness, there is void. Like a flame snuffed out, the self no longer exists. Others say that at liberation the self merges into the Supreme, into God, into the One, like a drop of water merging with the ocean. Either way, there is no longer an individual self, so its transmigrations and sufferings are over.

Yet other sages point to a liberation in which the self continues to exist but in a state of purity and freedom. In material life, these sages say, one constructs a false sense of self, in which one identifies with the temporary body. And so one thinks oneself Indian or American or Chinese, white or black, young or old, and so on. Or one materially identifies with the temporary thoughts and movements of the mind. But in fact, they say, the self has its own eternal identity, its own spiritual form, beyond the realm of matter. And at liberation one leaves aside the false self--one goes beyond the temporary body and mind--and realizes one's true self.

It is this liberated self who enjoys the nectar of immortality, these sages say. And liberation without spiritual selfhood, they say, is like spiritual suicide: you've put an end to your suffering by stamping out your individual life.

The Vedic literature speaks of both forms of liberation but more highly favors the one in which the individual self continues to exist, to enjoy a liberated life of eternity, knowledge and bliss.

SUGGESTED READING
Beyond Birth and Death
Sri Isopanisad

         

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