Across the ancient, Indian literature, be it Vedic, Upanishadic or Buddhist – lies one consistent idea. Liberation, Moksha, Nirvana, Samadhi lies in truly realising the self.
Liberation lies in knowing who or what you really are. And who you really are – is the flawless, luminous, whole.
The Singularity – Brahman
According to Indian cosmology – the truth that underlies this entire creation is that – it is a single undifferentiated, flawless, luminous whole. This single wholeness is called Brahman. And your real self, is the same as Brahman.
For centuries after the Veda’s were first viewed by the western world – its ideas were taken to be false or mythical to say the least – for western science viewed the world from its limited paradigms. However, as the scientific world begins to develop its understanding of quantum physics – Indian ideas about the nature of reality are gaining new ground.
From a very simplistic standpoint – liberation is like living and experiencing the quantum mechanical world. If you understand that no matter how you physically see the world – that’s not what it really is. In order to understand what reality looks like – imagine yourself looking through a super-scope – a magnifying apparatus that enables you to see the subatomic particles that make up the world.
These subatomic particles combine to form atoms, atoms form molecules, molecules combine to form visible matter and this visible matter is what the structures that we see are made off – be it a rock, a mountain or a human.
Once you can visualise the quantum world, you realise that everything is made up of the same fundamental particles – everything including you. You are a part of the whole. If this whole subatomic universe is called Brahman, then YOU too are Brahman.
The separate or individual being that we experience as ourselves which is distinct from the rest of the world – is due only to our limited perception. Yet this limited perception has become our reality.
Self Realisation and Liberation
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4 – the self is regarded as the highest reality, it is eternal, whole, it is all pervasive like the sky and naturally self luminous. The true self is free from bondage and limitation. And on realising this ever-shining inner light of the true self – everything becomes possible.
Unfortunately, this light of the true self is often confused with the intellect, the physical body, the sensory experience. We confuse intellectual understanding, limitations of the physical body or sensory experience to be reality. This confusion causes us to superimpose the unreal (or limited viewpoint) on the real – the undifferentiated whole. This limited viewpoint becomes our limitation.
According to Indian cosmology – liberation, moksha, nirvana or samadhi arises when one is able to overcome this limited perception. When one is able to see beyond this limited, transient illusion and grasp the whole picture – one is liberated.
And because the real self is a part of the underlying reality – liberation is the essential nature of every being. Like heat and light are the essential nature of fire, so is unlimited perception the essential nature of every human.
Attaining liberation is like gaining your natural wellbeing after being unwell. They often say that we don’t acknowledge our good health until we are unwell. After recovering we are grateful for health. It’s the same will liberation. We are so lost in the illusion of this world, that we don’t value liberation – our essential nature. But once we glimpse it – this illusionary world can hold no real value.
LIBERATION IS YOUR ESSENTIAL NATURE
When you experience the whole or live in Brahman – you become aware of the inadequacies of limited perception but more importantly you become aware of the bliss associated with functioning wholly. While living in Brahman – you experience no divisions, no distinctions, no limitations. You are a part of the whole and act in accordance with that experience. You don’t act from a limited perspective because the sense of an individual self is non-existent. However, onlookers may view things differently and categorise you. The intellectually minded – may focus on your intellect. And because your perception is not limited, your intellect may appear superior. For the aesthete, your physical appearance may be important. For those in need, your ability to help may be all that they see. Yet to the knower of Brahman – You are none of these. You are just the whole.
This level of perception or liberation is the birthright of every man. And one does not need to wait for death or multiple births to experience it, one lifetime is all you need.
Higher versus Lower Knowledge
While liberation is the birthright of every man, it is not always appreciated. This is because there are 2 types of knowledge.
- Knowledge of the everyday world – vyavaharika
- The highest non-dual knowledge – paramathrika
Everyday knowledge is linked to our limited perception, hence it often is false (mithya-jnana), due to ignorance (avidya) and confabulation (adhyasa). Even though we have developed technologies and scientific theories that enable us to see deeper into the material universe, from this level of knowing we cannot really experience who we really are.
Only after experiencing the non-duality of self and Brahman does one realise the beauty of liberation or mukti. One also understands that liberation is not about achieving something – its about losing limitations. The highest knowledge is limitless, unquantified and without attributes. Hence it has no characteristics. Therefore, liberation has no distinguishing features for the liberated.
“The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.
The unnameable is the eternally real.”
As I have stated above, liberated beings have no desire to be recognised or characterised. However I often get asked by students or seekers “how can I recognise a liberated being?”
The Characteristics of a Liberated Being
As I have no desire to meditate on this question, I am going to share Adi Sankaracharya’s description.
Sankaracharya in his Upadesasahasri (written 700CE) describes a liberated being as:
- Having the ability to distinguish the eternal (rta) from the noneternal (maya).
- Is indifferent to non-eternal things, no matter how valued these may be by society.
- Has no desire for fame, family or wealth.
- Self control
- Practices the highest state of mendicancy – parahamsa parivrajya
Dr Nitasha Buldeo is an Integrated Medical Practitioner, Entrepreneur, Scientist and Yogi. She created I-Yoga & Organic Apoteke and is Director of the Centre for Exceptional Human Performance. She researches human potential and delivers programs that encourage you to live exceptionally. Nitasha believes that every one of us is striving to be the best we can. Her passion is bringing you experiences that inspire you. Her intention is for you to unlock your genius.