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.


  1. thath thvam asi.
    One who is unaware of this is also Brammam . The difference lies in one's recognizing the rope as a snake and another as a simple rope. When the same person touches the rope with a stick, and then becomes aware that it is a snake, soon realizes his folly of not having known it even at the start.
    Likewise, the knower as well as one who lies unawares are equally Brahmam.
    Quotes from Gita are great indeed.
    subbu rathinam.

    1. Yes, all are Brahman only,whether they know it or not. But knowing and staying steadfast in that knowledge always, makes one the Jeevanmuktha.
      Thanks for the comment