Essays in Life and Eternity
by Swami Krishnananda


Chapter 39: Moksha – The Final Liberation

The disentanglement of consciousness in the reverse order of its involvement in externality through the process of the cosmological descent may be regarded as the way of the return of consciousness to itself, of man to God, of the individual to the Absolute. The details of this 'return' of consciousness to its pristine state of universality, by stages, is indicated by the methods of Yoga practice, which is the art of the gradual communion of the soul with the Almighty. As the coming down by way of descent limits consciousness to greater and greater finitude in space, time and personality, the return process is a gradual unfoldment of the potential of consciousness, namely, the wider and wider attainment of the dimension of its own self, which is simultaneously a lesser and lesser limitation to spatiality, temporality and isolated individuality. The liberation of consciousness from bondage of every kind is Moksha, or ultimate freedom from the limitations of location, knowledge as well as power. The nature of the Self is absoluteness of Being (Sat), which implies the absoluteness of the consciousness of such Being (Chit), followed instantaneously by a timeless grasp of Eternity in the Bliss (Ananda) of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. Since outside the Universal Being nothing can be, even these ultimate definitions would fall short of what is really beyond the concepts of all-pervasiveness, all-knowledge and all-power. Mind and speech turn back in the attempt to characterise the Absolute, and Moksha is the freedom of the Absolute.

Intimations of immortality are recorded by seers and poets in ecstatic language, which the mere grammar of speech cannot adequately comprehend. The Veda-Samhita tells us that the Supreme Purusha is everything that was, is, or shall be, that the Purusha is all, every bit of creation, all grandeur and all glory. This hymn is known as the Purusha-Sukta, whose concluding line adds that there is no other way to cross the realm of mortality than the knowledge of the Purusha. The Varuna-Sukta of the Atharva Veda describes the cosmic sweep of the Great Being designated by it as Varuna, who knows the secret of interactions taking place between any two individuals or partners in performance, who counts the winkings of the eyes of everyone, and knows every movement, every thought and every deed of all things, There is none who can deceive Him. To know Him is to be free from the bondage of error and evil. To know God is life, not to know Him is death. As rivers with all their meanderings reach the ocean and attain peace, so do all beings enter into the All-Being and attain perennial peace, says the Mundaka Upanishad. The Infinite Plenum(Bhuma) which is Eternal Bliss is proclaimed in the Chhandogya Upanishad as that majestic state where one sees nothing else, hears nothing else and knows nothing else outside the One Being. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad has it that where there is duality, one sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches another, but where the One alone is, who would see or contact whom with what means – this is the final goal; this is the greatest achievement; this is the greatest possession and dominion; this, indeed, is the greatest bliss. To know this as the All is to truly live; not to know it is verily wretchedness. Everything accrues to him who realises in his own self the Universal Self, and everything flees away from him who beholds anything outside himself. The Upanishad further adds that he who attains to this experience is the Creator of the worlds, the Doer of all things, and the universe is his – nay, he himself is the universe. If it is known here in this very life, then one can be said to have realised the true meaning of life; if it is not known in this life, great indeed is the loss for that person. Heroes of the spirit, beholding it in each and every being and creature, become, departing hence, immortal, says the Kena Upanishad. He who sees all things within himself and himself in all things, what sorrow, what grief is there for him, who sees oneness everywhere, says, the Isa Upanishad. Greater than the secret of the cosmic reality, greater than omniscience and universal lordship, is this mystery which Yama was not prepared to impart to Nachiketas – such is its majesty, such is its greatness, as announced in the Katha Upanishad. All the parts constituting the individuality of a person melt into the Universal Ocean, the Purusha, says the Prasna Upanishad. The heavens are His head, the sun and the moon are His eyes, the quarters of space are His ears, the Veda is His speech, the cosmic Prana is His breath, the universe is His heart, this visible creation is His footstool, says, again, the Mundaka Upanishad. Transcendent to the values attached to the waking, dreaming and sleeping states is the super-dimensional Eternity, the Self of the cosmos, says the Mandukya Upanishad. From Brahma, the Creator, down to the blade of grass, He is, verily, the One Consciousness, says the Aitareya Upanishad. The knower of Brahman enjoys all existence simultaneously and not in temporal succession, says the Taittariya Upanishad. The stupendous inclusiveness of the Ultimate Reality as exhibited in the Bhagavad Gita (Ch. XI) is, too, well-known.

Mystics of all ages have risen above themselves in a veritable giddiness of spiritual realisation and expressed themselves in rapturous terms. Apart from the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita, there are those who seem to have touched the borderland of Truth, like Plato and Plotinus, Meister Echart and Saint John of the Cross, Jacob Bohme and Ruysbrock, Wordsworth and William Law, Lao Tsu and Chuang Tzu, Jalaluddin Rumi and Al-Gazali, and many others who stood by the lamp of Truth that shone from within their hearts, and saw the world in that light. They were in this world, but they did not belong to this world, their temporal shackles did not prevent them from sharing a timeless brotherhood.

The liberation of the individual in the Universal Being is the final aim of all life. The need for the soul's salvation arises from the fact of the transitoriness of existence. The world is a complicated structure consequent upon the operation of the law of action and reaction and thought process, called Karma. Though Karma means just action, etymologically, it really implies the force by which every action produces an effect, and, verily, it is the effect itself. The bondage of Karma due to the reaction which every action produces is explained by the fact of the unitary structure of the cosmos of which individuals are inseparable parts. Karma arises when this inseparable connection of the individual with the cosmos is lost sight of and the individual indulges in thoughts and actions with the false notion that it is an independent actor or doer, inviting thereby the nemesis of reaction. This resultant effect is the bondage of the individual, and it can be broken through only when the individual sense of doership is given up and a feeling of at-one-ment with the cosmos is developed.

An individual is born in a particular environment either because of a past wish cherished to live in such a condition or of an unknown consequence of desires beyond one's apprehension. The world is a name given to the situation or manner in which individuals experience the fruits of their own desires and actions. The universe is a shadow cast by the wishes of its contents, and it is just what these wishes are and what they sweep away from pure existence with the winds of the forces moving towards their fulfilment. We are asked to perform action without regard for fruits, because the fruits are not in our hands; they are determined by the general law of the universe, which individual sources of action can neither understand nor follow in their implications. The individual, after being born in an incarnation by the force of Karma, performs further actions in its new life, the results of which are added on to the unspent portion of the store of the impressions of earlier accumulated Karmas. This cycle of action producing results and results engendering an impulse for further action would imply that the Karma forces cannot be exhausted and the series of births and death's cannot end, until these sources of Karma potencies are allowed to dry up by the consciousness of one's identity with the Absolute and the non-performance of further ego-ridden actions. In the series of transmigratory lives, the soul may be born in any of the realms of the universe, either with all the five sheaths of encasement, namely, the causal, the intellectual, the mental, the vital and the physical, or it may be reborn with four, three, or two sheaths only, or even just one when born in the highest degree of universal manifestation, all which is in accordance with the intensity of the Karmas to be fructified in any particular plane. In death, the sheaths are withdrawn in their ascending order of subtlety, only to become manifest again into action after rebirth in some plane. This process of metempsychosis, known as Samsara, continues until the salvation of the soul – Moksha.

The ultimate freedom which the soul attains in Moksha is one of omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence and immortality, co-eternal with the Absolute. The Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita declare that the soul, having attained liberation, does not return to mortal life. The liberated soul enters the Absolute, having been freed from spatio-temporal limitations of every kind. By restraint of the mind from indulgence in the temptations of life, by devotion to the Creator, and by knowledge that one's essential being is identical with the Universal Substance, the soul attains Moksha. This is the Supreme Blessedness.