Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Gunatheetha, the Jeevanmuktha

Lord Krishna advises Arjuna to transcend the three gunas of satva, rajas and tamas with the words निस्त्रैगुण्यो भवार्जुन, be free from the triad of three gunas, in verse 2-45 of Gita.  Such a person who has transcended the three gunas is called Gunatheetha.  These three gunas together make up Maya Sakthi, that has two constituents, one called avarana sakthi, the veiling power, and the other called vikshepa sakthi, the projecting power. The veiling power throws a veil over the real nature of one’s Self and in the state of ignorance of one’s real nature of one’s self as Brahman, one takes the body-mind-complex as the real nature of one’s self.  The projecting power projects the external world as real. These two beliefs, one about one’s self as body/mind/intellect and the other regarding the reality of the external world, create the cycle of pleasure and pain, which is called samsara. One who transcends the three gunas,viz. Gunatheetha, overcomes the influence of the two powers with the result he realizes his true Self correctly as Brahman, and sees the real nature of the external world as transactional reality only and not as absolute reality and thereby becomes free from the clutches of samsara, in short a Jeevanmuktha. This Lord Krishna points out to Arjuna, in verse 20 of Chapter14,when he states that Gunatheetha as Athma, has no birth or death, sorrow or old age (though the body that is made up of the three gunas may suffer these till the end of prarabhdha), and is in a state of peace and bliss always.

Here also as in the case of Sthithaprajna, Arjuna is curious to know the hallmarks of Gunatheetha (14-21).  In four verses (14-22 to14-25), Lord Krishna adds a few more strokes to the picture of Jeevanmuktha as Sthithaprajna, through his present explanation of the characteristics of Gunatheetha.  As Gunatheetha is only another name for Jeevanmuktha, let me use Lord Krishna’s term itself in rest of the blog. In verse 14-22, Lord Krishna states that Gunatheetha hates not the effects of the three gunas, satva, rajas and tamas, namely प्रकाशं prakasam, light, प्रवृति pravritti, activity and मोहं moham,delusion, when present in his body-mind-complex, nor does he long for them in their absence. Gunas and their effects will still be present for him even though he has transcended them, for two reasons. One he has transcended the gunas through intellect by Athmajnanam that his true self is only Athma which is beyond the three gunas. So there is only change of cognition and no physical change involved.  Second his body-mind-complex remains physically the same as the product of gunas; mind, intellect and organs of knowledge, of satva of subtle pancha bhutas, prana and organs of action, of rajas of subtle pancha bhuthas and gross physical body, of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas, the pancha bhuthas being the five elements, space, air, fire, water and earth.  So Gunatheetha watches the play of gunas in the body-mind-complex, as one watches a play without identifying with the characters.

Lord Krishna, describes his attitude as one of total unconcern to the impact of events and relationships in verse 14-23. This is made possible by his awareness that what is happening is only a play of gunas on gunas as even the physical world is also a product of tamas of grossified pancha bhuthas.  So pleasure, creation of satva, and pain, creation of rajas, arising out of interaction with the world, also does not disturb his stoic indifference as he remains unshaken in his knowledge that he, as Athma, is like the space in the pot, uncontaminated by the contents of the pot. This Lord Krishna, makes more clear in 14-24, where he calls Gunatheetha among other things as समदुःखसुखः samadukhasukhaha, one who treats alike pleasure and pain. Few other characteristics he describes in this sloka and next (14-25) are:
1)    स्वस्थः swasthaha - He is steadfastly established in his true Self, Athma, unruffled by drafts of pleasure or pain.  As he knows this Athma is the same as the one undivided Brahman, which pervades all, living and inert, he has a vision of oneness of all and from this vision flows 2,3,4,5 and 6. 
2)    समलोष्टाश्मकाञ्चनः samaloshtasmakanchanah - He has no hunger for possessions.  He treats alike, with the same indifference, a lump of gold as with a piece of stone or with a clod of earth. He knows the value of gold, but he also knows it cannot give security like the mud and the stone.
3)  तुल्यप्रियाप्रियः tulyapriyapriyaha - Through this and next three descriptions, Lord Krishna explains the equanimity of a Gunatheetha. Here it is stated he is equal minded whether pleasant or unpleasant things happen to him. Any categorisation here or hereafter as pleasant/unpleasant, praise/abuse, honour/dishonour and friend/foe is only as per our judgement and not from his standpoint. 
4)    तुल्यनिन्दात्मसंस्तुतिः tulyanindatmaamsthuthihi - He treats equally praise and abuse, not flattered by one or provoked by the other. 
5)    मानपमानयोः तुल्यः maanapamaanayoh tulyaha- Honour and dishonour is the same in his vision. 
6)    तुल्यो मित्रारिपक्षयोः tulyo mitrari pakshayoho - He is the same with all, whether they regard him as friend or foe. 

The concluding quality, Lord Krishna states is सर्वारम्भपरित्यागी sarvarambaparityagi, one who has relinquished all undertakings for profit, fame or self-promotion. Any undertaking that he starts due to the force of residual prarabhdha, that keeps him alive in the body, will be for universal good and social welfare and not out of ego-centric desires as we can see in the case of Swami Vivekananda, who founded the Ramakrishna mission.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Stithaprajna, the Jeevanmuktha

In the blog “Jeevanmuktha”, I referred to Arjuna’s curiosity regading Jeevanmuktha which is reflected in the question he asks Lord Krishna (2-54), about the Sthithaprajna  lakshana. This question can be summed up as ‘How does a Sthithaprajna live, talk and behave?’  Lord Krishna answers this question through a description of Sthithaprajna’s inner state and outer behaviour in detail in verses 55 to 72.  The Sthithaprajna referred to is same as Jeevanmuktha only and both these terms Acharya Sankara uses in Viveka Chudamani, in his description of one who has realized Brahman and stands firm in the knowledge that his real Self is Athma , that is none other than Brahman.  This description is given in verses 426 to 445 of Viveka Chudamni, of which 16 are devoted to outline the hall-marks of Jeevanmuktha.  In this blog let me explore briefly the exposition of Lord Krishna, as given in verses 55 to 72 of Chapter 2 of Gita. In line with my earlier blog on Jeevanmuktha I am using that term only in the place of Sthithaprajna, in this blog as well. Lord Krishna in these verses gives not only the characteristics of Jeevanmuktha, but also tips and message of warnings to the sadhakas as well, which I may not dwell upon.

In the opening verse of his reply i.e. verse 2-55, Lord Krishna states that Jeevanmuktha completely casts off all desires of the mind and is satisfied in the Self by the Self.  When he says ‘casts off all desires’, it does not mean Jeevanmuktha  is totally desireless, but only whatever desire he has, they are non-binding and selfless ones only.  His desires are in the form of preferences only and they arise out of a sense of fulfilment and a sense of contentment. As he is aware of his oneness with Brahman, the infinite Self, he has no sense of want for finite things.  Brihadaranyaka Upanishad uses three words to describe such a person, आप्तकामः aptakamaha, आत्मकामः athmakamaha and अकामः akamaha (4-3-21).  Aptakamaha is one whose desires have all been fulfilled; athmakamaha, one whose desire is for Athma only and akamaha, one who has no desires to fulfil.  As Jeevanmuktha’s desire is for Athma only and as that too he has realized, being firmly established in  Athma-jnanam, he is free from all desires and so he is athmakamaha, aptakamaha and akamaha. The peace, contentment and infinite bliss he enjoys in all places and in all circumstances is reflected in his interactions with the world. This state of internal bliss he enjoys at all times is stated in Mundakopanishad  that calles such a person as आत्मक्रीडः, athmakreedah, and आत्मरतिः, athmarathihi (3-1-4), the one who sports in himself and delights in himself . This state is possible because of his firm knowledge that there is nothing beside his Self and all that exists is his Self only.

Lord Krishna follows this up in the next verse, verse 2-55, stating that Jeeanmuktha’s mind is not depressed by sorrow nor is it carried away by excitement in happiness and he has overcome the three harmful emotions of attachment, fear and anger.  This emphasises the mental stability that comes from the state of desirelessness described in the earlier verse. His mind being always rooted in Brahman, does not run after material things nor does he feel attached to relationships or possessions. He has overcome the barrier of binding desires and attained realization of Brahman, who is asangha, unattached, and Sat Chit Aananda, as his true Self and so he has no need for external props for happiness, like possessions and relationships.

Lord Krishna outlines the ladder of fall for a person in the verses 62 & 63  in which he states that what starts as dwelling on sense objects, grows into attachment, and develops as desire for them, which when frustrated  sows the seeds of anger that leads to delusion, loss of intellect and finally to destruction.  For a Jeevanmuktha the base itself, dwelling on sense objects, is knocked out by Athma Jnanam, Self-knowledge and so he is free from its corollaries that include attachment, desire and anger. As he sees Brahman everywhere and that Brahman is his very Self, there is no duality for him, As there is no second thing, there is nothing to fear for fear comes only from a second entity as stated in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, द्वितीयाद् वै भयं भवति, fear comes only from a second entity(1-4-2). Further as Athma, his real Self is eternal, he as Athma is neither born nor is there death for him and so there is no fear of death, as well.  As his mind is under the control of the intellect and his intellect is firmly established in Athma-Jnanam, he is not swayed by what happens to the body or in the external world, be it joy or sorrow.  His control over the mind is exemplified in verse 2-58, wherein it is stated that he can withdraw his senses from sense objects at will, as tortoise withdraws its head into its shell when it senses danger. Like the ocean that absorbs unaffected the rivers entering into it, the mind of Jeevanmuktha does not lose its peace or placidity due to any desire entering into it. He has attained what Buddhists call as ‘Bodichittam’, a mind wherein anything can enter but nothing can disturb its peace.

His behaviour as far as the external world is concerned is given in verse 57, wherein it is stated that he moves everywhere without getting attached to a place, person or thing, treating with equanimity, the opposites be it good or evil, pleasant or painful. He is a samadarsi with samathvabhava, not swayed by likes and dislikes for people, events or things. His samatvam, unlike a karmayogi’s is spontaneous, involving no effort and is firmly based on Jnanam. When an ordinary person interacts with the world he is swayed by the happenings around him and he is alive to the pleasures and pains. For him the world is very much real and so reacts to the events around him and concerning him.  He is very much ignorant of his true nature and feels bound by samsara. For a Jeevanmuktha, there is no division between jiva, jagat and Brahman nor there is a sense of bondage. For an ordinary person, only the dream world is unreal and the waking world is very much real. For a Jeevanmuktha, who has realized his true Self as Turiyam, pure consciousness or unity consciousness, the waking state is as much unreal as the dream state and he is untouched by its happenings in the same way the waker is not affected by dream state happenings. Lord Krishna in verse 69 colourfully refers to this with the statement that what is night for all beings is day for Jeevanmuktha and where Jeevanmuktha is awake, all beings are asleep. Lord Krishna concludes the description here calling the state of Jeevanmuktha,  Brahmisthithi, the state of Brahman, and giving the assurance that at whatever age or stage one gains this Brahmisthithi, there is no going back for him and he attains oneness with Brahman from that moment.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


Before study of Vedanta, ‘I’ means for one, the ahamkara ‘I’, i.e.ego ‘I’  associated with the three bodies, gross, subtle and causal , together referred to as sareera triam, along with the consciousness manifested in the mind i.e. chidabasa.  While studying Vedanta, one comes to know of the second ‘I’, the witness ‘I’ or the sakshi ‘I’. One also learns that this sakshi ‘I’ is the real ‘I’ and the ahamkara ‘I’ is only the transactional ‘I’, which is useful for distinguishing oneself in one’s transactions with the world. One further learns that this sakshi ‘I’ is pure Consciousness, one without attributes, not subject to modifications, beyond time and space and has no birth or death and that this is the ‘I’ that is referred to in the mahavakhya, “Aham Brahmasmi”, I am Brahman. 

When one in ignorance considers ahamkara ‘I’ as the real ‘I’, then that one considers the limitations of the body and mind as his limitations and is subject to the emotional ups and downs caused by the raga and dwesha, likes and dislikes of the mind, and the  physical struggles to make oneself  complete and fulfilled.  This struggle and turmoil is called samsara.  This samsara is the result of Self-confusion, mistaking the ahamkara ‘I’ as real Self, and the consequent activity to overcome the resultant feeling of limitations and this samsara causes the sense of bondage. Since the sense of bondage is caused by mistaken notion, freedom from this sense of bondage can come only from correcting the wrong notion and getting established in the knowledge that one’s real self is the Sakshi ‘I’. 

The person who has acquired this right knowledge through sravanam, then made it doubt-free through mananam, and got established in this knowledge unshakably by removing habitual dehatma buddhi through nitidhyasanam, is called Jeevanmuktha. Jeevanmuktha is one who has become a mukthapurusha, a liberated person, while living and his state is called Jeevanmukthi.  The final liberation from the cycle of birth and death which is attained when the body, which continues until exhaustion of prarabhdha karma, is shed at death is called videha mukthi Jeevanmukthi  is a concept unique to Advaita Vedanta.  Jeevanmuktha realizes that he has never been bound and the notion of bondage was one born out of his ignorance, Ajnanam.  Both bondage and liberation are only concepts and one’s true Self, the sakshi ‘I’ which is Athma, is always free of all concepts. Being established in this right knowledge is only called liberation.  As he is firmly established in this knowledge he is also referred to as Sthithaprajna.  Lord Sri Krishna refers to such a person as Gunatheetha (Gita-ch.14)  as well besides Sthithaprajna (Gita-Ch.2).  Athma is free of all attributes, and as one who has identified himself with Athma, he has transcended the three gunas and so is called GunatheethaAs Jeevan muktha is one who has realized the jeeva-Brahma-aikyam and is established unwaveringly in that, he is also called Para-Bhaktha, a supreme Bhaktha . He is also referred to as Brahmavid, knower of Brahman, since he has realized his real Self as Brahman.

Since we normally identify ourselves with the ahamkara ‘I’, we have sense of incompletion and non-fulfillment.  To complete ourselves and feel fulfilled, we go after wealth, possessions, positions, relationships, status etc. and this leads to activity aimed at self-aggrandizement and material enrichment.  Such activities in self-interest lead to karma and karmaphala, which may be beneficial or adverse.   Unfructified karmas of present birth are called agami karmas, the accumulated karmas over previous births is called sanchitha karma and that part of the sanchitha karma that determines the present birth with its environments, equipment and length of lifetime  is called prarabhdha karma.   For a Jeevanmuktha, agami karma is annihilated, sanchitha karma is liquidated and only the prarabdha karma, remains.  Prarabdha karma is like the arrow that has left the bow shot at a target.  It cannot be got back or arrested in its movement but has to exhaust by itself, by reaching the target.  But the balance of prarabdha karma does not affect Jeevanmuktha  mentally, as he does not identify himself with his body/mind.  But prarabdha’s influence can be seen in his interaction with the external world.  This accounts for different types of Jeevanmukthas.  Some retiring to a forest or a lonely place to spend their days in silence;  some being active in society, teaching, running ashrams and working for the physical and spiritual welfare of the people; some staying in Samadhi mostly, coming out of it only to satisfy essential biological needs etc. 
Swami Sridharananda, while explaining the term ब्रमविदां वरिष्ठः,Brahmavidham varishtaha, in Mundakopanishad (3-1-4), used to classify Brahmavids thus. ( As Jeevanmuktha  is synonymous with Brahmavid, I am using that term only.)  Jeevanmuktha superlative is one who goes out to people to help them spiritually and in other ways.  Jeevanmuktha comparative is one who does not shun society but keeps himself aloof in society and helps those people who come seeking him, in all ways possible. Jeevanmuktha positive is one who keeps away from people and society and pursues his spiritual practice in a secluded place like forest or cave.  A Jeevanmuktha engaging in pravritti, activity or nivritti, withdrawl, is due to the influence of residual prarabhdha.  But either way he is working for loka sangraha, universal welfare, only, through seva or through silence or through both.

When Lord Sri Krishna speaks about Jeevanmuktha, Arjuna’s curiousity is aroused and he wants to know how Jeevanmuktha speaks, how he sits, how he walks, in short how he behaves and conducts himself (Gita 2-54).  This curiousity is understandable as Jeevanmuktha having evolved into unity consciousness, sees everything in himself and himself in everything.  Further as he has awakened to the state of Thuriyam, the waking world is also another dream to him, only this dream is long, continuous, useful and shareable. I will not go into Lord Sri Krishna’s reply now but only state this much. Though a Jeevanmuktha is fully conscious of his identity as the sakshi ‘I’, he makes use of ahamkara ‘I’ in his interactions with the external world.  In his case, ahamkara is a non-binding one and like a roasted seed it cannot germinate fresh karma, as his desires are non-binding and actions are selfless ones arising out of a sense of fulfillment and a sense of love and compassion for all, with no sense of doership, karthrutvabhava.