How jīvanmukti can be attained? As we know, jīvanmukti means attaining liberation in this life. Realizing the Self is a precondition for jīvanmukti. One can attain jīvanmukti, provided meditation is practiced every day; universal love is practiced; destruction of pains and miseries in life; and experiencing and remaining in Blissful state all the time. Spiritual realization happens only in the mind or it is the state of mind. If the mind loses its tranquillity by developing doubts, including doubts on one’s sādhana and acquiring falsified knowledge, liberation is certainly not possible. Only balanced mind can be devoid of such afflictions and even a small disturbance in its equilibrium, will desolate the purity of the mind. Reading and re-reading will not lead us to the state of jīvanmukta, because there is only one Truth, which is the fact that the Self alone exists in this universe and is in the form of unbroken consciousness. Bondage comes out of one’s imagination and if one comes out of imagination, it leads the way to Self-realization. The fact is that everyone is aware of the Self; but due to imbalanced mind, one learns all types of dyads such as likes and dislikes, love and hate, etc. Kṛṣṇa said, “The ignorance, the faithless and sceptic meets with destruction. Neither this world nor the next worlds belongs to him. Whoever lives in doubt cannot find happiness.” One needs a proper Guru to pursue spiritual path.
What is ignorance? Spiritual ignorance is always innate and is explained as falsified knowledge (māyā and avidyā). It is said that though ignorance is an obstruction to Liberation, doubt is said to be worse and spoils the happiness of even material life. Having said that, doubt works in both the extremes. When one is attached to material life and is full of desires, doubts pull him down from the extremes of addiction to material life to spiritual life and vice versa. We can always notice that one bad person suddenly turns into a good person and vice versa. In such cases, doubt plays a strong, yet subtle role, which we may not be even aware of. Therefore, in the spiritual journey, doubt hampers our progress and pulls us back every time when we move significantly forward. The biggest doubt in the minds of seekers is to ‘have darshan of their favourite deity’ or ‘attaining siddhis’. Another classic example is unwillingness to stop ritualistic worship, knowing fully well that it will not lead to liberation. Why a few are not willing to stop ritualistic worship? This is due to doubt whether God will be upset or angry or punish him or her. For this, the story of Nidāgha is cited. His Guru told him to stop ceremonial worship, but he did not listen. Guru never wanted to mislead him and hence, went to his house three times and convinced him to follow the right method for liberation and he changed.
What would be the mental condition of those who are following the right method to seek liberation or to become a jīvanmukta? When his mind is at peace and rest, he loses his connection with the world, as his mind would have been totally dissolved; in such a situation, there is no question of doubt in his mind. Such a person always stays connected with Brahman, sustains his physical body as everything is connected with him through prāṇa. Such a person will be taken over by Brahman. Those near him, realize him; on the contrary, he will not be able to realize anyone or anything. For him everything is Brahman only. This person is said to be Self-realized. He still carries on with his duties, but he is not affected with what is happening around him. Sage Vasiṣṭha says that there are seven stages, which describe seven degrees of Self-realization based upon one’s mental conditioning. They are– ardour, contemplation, attenuation, pacification, indifference, oblivion and transcendence.
In the first stage of ardour, he develops deep love and warmth of high intensity. During this stage, he always seeks the company of learned. He develops deep sense of non-attachment and he repents for his ignorance, and attempts to learn through Self-realized persons. He takes on to study of philosophy at this stage. The second one is contemplation, where good and positive thoughts flow uninterruptedly as a result of his association with learned persons and studying philosophy. Non-attachment begins to dawn on him during this stage, as a result of his learning process and company of learned persons. Both ardour and contemplation lead him to the third stage of attenuation (weakening in force or intensity). His mind, which was pervaded by worldly thoughts empties itself into Bliss, known as Ānanda. At this stage, his mind completely rests in Ānanda and this is the fourth stage, which is known as pacification (intensification peace). In this stage, the quality of Bliss will always be of sattvic in nature. These four qualities in him make him to enter the fifth stage, known as indifference. At this stage, he loses his contacts with the external world and continues to remain in sattvic Ānanda. We know that Brahman is sat-cit-ānanda. Because of these five stages, he enters into the sixth stage of oblivion (the state of being unaware or unconscious of what is happening), resulting in the fusion of subject and object. When these six stages are crossed successfully by experience, he enters into the final stage of jīvanmukta known as transcendence, which is Self-realization.
Such a person perpetually exists in unconscious trance. In this stage, his mind is totally devoid of any actions and he eternally stands connected with Brahman. It is said that highest penance means steadying one’s mind and all his senses to one point. Brahman can be realized only in this unconscious trance. There is no other way to realize Brahman. To make a beginning, one has to practice prāṇāyāma faithfully, without resorting to counts and duration. A good practice of prāṇāyāma automatically triggers good meditation.