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Freedom from the Jiva Is Also Freedom for the Jiva
Question: Hi, Arlindo. I have studied Vedanta for the past four years and I totally agree with Vedanta’s most important statement, “I am pure consciousness,” whence I am always ever-free. My question is (I still have to deal with some of my disturbing vasanas and samskaras), why I do not experience this freedom all the time? I hear Ramji say that moksa is freedom “for” the jiva as well “from” the jiva. Furthermore, it is freedom from what?
Answer: Moksa is freedom from “identification” with the limiting adjuncts, such as the three bodies, the five sheaths, etc. It is important to understand that it is only possible by the means of knowledge. Moksa is not an experience, and almost invariably is preceded by self-inquiry first, and self-realization second. Moksa is more than just self-realization. It is the culmination of jiva’s entire evolutionary process. It is the last stage where jiva can finally appreciate, relax and enjoy what Ramji often refers to as “perfect” satisfaction.
But how to “gain” perfect satisfaction as a jiva? Jiva is an individual soul mistakenly identified with the subtle body (mind). Mind will never be completely free from disturbances, because it keeps changing with the modifications of the three energies. It’s exposed to all kinds of inner and outer disturbing factors. Therefore it is impossible to develop a mind 100% free from disturbances.
In most cases people do not feel totally free because they judge their freedom from the standpoint of the mind. But real freedom is freedom “from” the mind, not dependency on mind’s certain condition. Freedom is “you” no longer identified as the mind – it is freedom in spite of mind’s irritations, limitations, fluctuations, etc. In other words, freedom is to be realized in “you” as awareness.
The fact that you do not feel completely free is an indication that to some extent you are still identified “as” the mind. You can only claim your freedom from the standpoint of awareness.
Freedom “from” the jiva, if literally taken, has an implied meaning: that it is not freedom “for” the jiva. It also means that if it is not “for” the jiva it may be “for” awareness. The problem with this statement is that awareness, in its nature, is “beyond” freedom and bondage. Awareness is the substratum of the manifest and the unmanifest. It does not experience bondage or freedom. Only jivas experience bondage and strive for freedom.
In order to better understand the statement “freedom from the jiva” in a relevant way, we need to remember that, fundamentally, everything is only awareness – awareness is all there is, the only reality. Therefore all jivas are awareness appearing as a name and form. Without self-knowledge jiva experiences its conscious existence under the spell of Maya. Jiva believes itself to be a name and a form. But in due time, by the grace of Isvara, the eternal guru unfolds the meaning of the scriptures and the effects of Maya are neutralized. As a result we may say that awareness “represented” by the jnani is apparently freed from Maya’s apparent concealing power, or more specifically, the jnani, or jivanmukta, is free “from” jiva’s self-ignorance.
We also say that moksa is freedom “from” the jiva in the sense that self-knowledge neutralizes the sense of ownership and doership of the individual soul, the “ego.” Ego is another name for “mistaken” sense of identity “as” the body-mind. It is a poor and very limiting sense of identity based on the misapprehension of ones’ true nature/identity as limitless ordinary awareness. Once this misapprehension is converted into true knowledge, it “transforms” the ego, in the sense that one’s adharmic binding vasanas and samskaras are rendered dharmic and unbinding. In other words, freedom from the jiva is also freedom for the jiva.
But to begin with, in order for self-inquiry to be effective, the ego/personality needs to be purified to a certain extent so that its mental disturbances are minimized. Only once the subtle body is relatively free from mental impurities can self-knowledge be gained and retained. But this is not necessarily moksa, or freedom – after jiva’s sense of identity has shifted from the mind to the self another level of mental purification begins. Not that it is really necessary to purify the mind once you know that you are something other than the mind – but why not? Why not have a clear, happy and balanced mind? And in any case, this second stage of purification goes on effortlessly, provided you keep the association with the scriptures and your guru.
Jivanmukta (jnani) is the one reaping the fruits of self-knowledge. Jiva’s ignorance-based vasanas and samskaras are gradually “canceled” as jiva’s personality grows into a more balanced, gentle and wise one, not that the goal of Vedanta is the purification of mind or improvement of the personality. It just comes as a “bonus.” Vasanas and samskaras will still be there, but they will remain as healthy tendencies or healthy patterns of behavior. One’s desires are converted into mere preferences.
And how about the ego? After the mind has been purified by the fire of nididhyasana, and the ego is no longer conditioned by ignorance of its true nature “as” the self, another interesting phenomenon occurs: jiva’s sense of identity is resolved into Isvara and/or awareness. It is a sort of “expanded” ego, or sense of identity, but it is not “expanded” in an idiotic way. The ego does not grow big or disappear; it remains as an educated and generous ego. It indeed remains, but truly humble and much wiser.