When a jīvanmukta exhausts all his karmas, he is liberated. When pot is broken, the clay becomes one with the clay and the water in it becomes one with the water. They have gone to the place from which they have originated. A pot originated only from clay. Though there may be pots of different shapes and sizes, the cause is the clay. When the pot is broken, the clay of the pot becomes one with the source, the heap of clay. Similarly, when a jīvanmukta, dies, he becomes one with Brahman, from whom he originated (everybody originates only from Brahman). In other words, his individual soul merges with Brahman, not to be born again. It is like a drop of water mixing in an ocean. We can never segregate that drop water from the ocean. There are two types of Liberation that are spoken of in Advaita. One is jīvanmukti and another is videhamukti. Jīvanmukti is liberation while remaining in his physical body and videhamukti is liberation after death. A jīvanmukta continues to live undergoing his final traces of karma. Once all his karmas are exhausted, he merges with Brahman. A jīvanmukta is considered superior than videhamukta for the simple reason, that a jīvanmukta continues to live in this material world, devoid of māyā and its associated afflictions such as desires, attachments and all other allurements. Such a jīvanmukta lives only as Brahman and in fact, he is nothing but Brahman with a shape and form. He always remains as a witness and unattached till his death. (53)

After realising the Self, there is nothing more to be attained. Such a jīvanmukta always remains in the state of Bliss. He requires nothing, not even food and shelter. For him, there is no need for further knowledge. (Knowledge beyond a point is not useful. When there is a strong connection between him and the Self, knowledge is of no use. Beyond a point, unlearning is important in spiritual path.) After realizing Brahman, nothing needs to be attained. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (brihadaranyaka upanishad) says, “This is the supreme attainment; this is the supreme glory; this is the highest world and this is the supreme bliss.” Now he becomes Brahman himself. He who knows Brahman, becomes Brahman itself. He is all done in this life and he has no more births. (54)

Brahman can be attained through knowledge and practice. After attaining Brahman, there is nothing more to do. Kṛṣṇa says in Bhagavad Gītā, “Those who are free from pride and delusion, having won over the miseries of attachment, perpetually connected with the Lord, whose desires have ceased to exist, totally freed from dyads reach the supreme state of immortality. That Supreme Abode of mine is not illuminated by sun, moon or fire and those who reach here, never go back to the material world.” What else one needs out of this precious human birth? Release from transmigration is the biggest gift of all. (55)

Understand that Brahman is Saccidānanda. A jīvanmukta remains in perpetual bliss and he is devoid of all types of dualities. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad beautifully explains this. “The blissful Brahman is in front of you; it is behind you; it is in the south and north as well. It is above and below. It is omnipresent and the whole universe is Brahman only.” A jīvanmukta truly understand this and continues to live till his last traces of karmas are experienced by him. (No mantra nor remedial measures will eradicate our karmas. We have to undergo both pleasure and pain of karmas.) (56)

Upaniṣad-s reveal Brahman only through negations. Identity is duality. Unless two objects are present, identity cannot be established, as the other object needs to be identified by one object. This is duality. The one that cannot be identified is Brahman. That is why Upaniṣad-s negate everything and finally say that Brahman is beyond comprehension (only those with shapes and forms can be comprehended) and can only be realized. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (brihadaranyaka upanishad) beautifully explains the final stages of liberation. “The man who does not have desires is Brahman and being Brahman, he is merged into Brahman.” This also subtly conveys that desires and attachments are the cause for transmigration. (57)

Gods like Brahmā, Indra, etc. enjoy only a miniscule of Bliss of Brahman (we have to always remember that Brahman is Saccidānanda). Such gods enjoy Bliss of Brahman to the extent of their hierarchy. Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (brihadaranyaka upanishad) says, “Brahman is Supreme Bliss and only on a speck of it, other beings live (which includes gods like Brahmā, Indra, etc.” (58)

Without Brahman no object or no being can exist. Brahman exists across length and breadth of the universe, like a threads crisscrossing in a woven cloth. Brahman is like butter permeating milk (butter is present in milk originally. But it can be separated after milk is made into curd; only by curdling curd, we get butter). In the milk, we don’t realize the presence of butter, though inherent in it. Similarly, Brahman is already present in us, but we are not able to realize It, as It is veiled by māyā. Unless, we sharpen our knowledge from a spiritual teacher, it is difficult to understand the presence of Brahman within, as It is subtlest of all. (59)

Brahman is immutable. He is neither this nor that; neither here nor there. That is why, Brahman is called Omnipresent. (60)

In the presence of Brahman, the sun does not shine, nor do the moon and stars, nor does lightning, let alone this fire. When Brahman shines, everything follows. By Its Light, all these are lighted. There are many Upaniṣad-s which say this. (61)

Brahman pervades the universe both inwardly and outwardly, shining all the time. As previously discussed, It interpenetrates the universe. (62)

Universe is not Brahman (but universe is part of Brahman). Only Brahman exists everywhere. If anyone thinks that any object exists other than Brahman, then it is only a mirage. As we are attached to shapes and forms, we are not able to realize the presence of Brahman in everything. This attachment is called māyā. When māyā is shed, we realize Brahman. (63)

Only spiritual knowledge alone can make us to realize Brahman who is Saccidānanda. All that we see are only Brahman. But due to lack of highest spiritual knowledge, we are deluded by the shapes and forms or sound or light. Brahman is all of these and not all of these. Though It permeates the universe, still It is different. It is Saccidānanda. We exist in dualism because of innate ignorance, called māyā. Unless the veil of māyā is removed, we cannot realize Brahman, though It is omnipresent. To understand what māyā is, we need spiritual knowledge and with this knowledge and by negating everything (shedding all kinds of duality), we realize Brahman. This path is called sādhana, which involves several steps. (64)

Brahman is Absolute Consciousness and omnipresent and can be realized only through true knowledge. The one, whose vision is obscured cannot see the sun; similarly, the one, whose knowledge is obscured cannot realize Brahman. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad beautifully explains this. “The Self is formless, yet you cannot see It by the eyes. It is beyond speech, so you cannot express It with words. You cannot perceive It by other organs either. You cannot realize It even by austerities and sacrifices. If your mind becomes pure by tuning away from sense pleasures and if you meditate, you can “see” the formless Self. (“see” here means find out, learn, or determine with certainty, usually by making an inquiry or other effort. It is called seeing because, the pleasure of being with It is something that cannot be explained and has to be experienced.) (65)

A human being freed from impurities attains pure knowledge that is free of any doubts. Spiritual path cannot be pursued with doubts in mind. The mind has to be pure like a crystal. He has attained this pure knowledge through hearing (one to one interaction with his Guru), reasoning it with the knowledge imparted by his Guru and finally meditating or contemplating. Reasoning and contemplations are more or less one and the same. The effects of such a pure knowledge can be experienced only during quality meditation. When gold is heated in the fire, though it has impurities of ashes in it, finally when cleansed, reveals its true nature of shining. Similarly, when the mind becomes devoid of impurities, Brahman reveals Itself there. It is almost a spontaneous revelation. It has to be experienced. (66)

Brahman, which is ever illuminating and self-effulgent reveals Itself in buddhi (buddhi cannot be simply explained as intellect here. It is ascertaining intelligence and the intuitive aspect of consciousness, by which the essential Self awakens to truth). When Brahman reveals Itself in buddhi, all innate ignorance along with bondage (jñānaṁ bandhaḥ - limited knowledge is bondage, says Śivasūtra). Therefore, it is imperative that only with pure knowledge, that is devoid of all dyads and triads, Brahman can be realized). (67)

The one who renounces all his activities such as attachment, anger, ego, desire, etc. and remains in perpetual bliss understands that Brahman is beyond space, distance and time. Brahman is omnipresent and hence, he shuns all types of differentiations – rich and poor, heat and cold and other types of contraries. He is aware that Brahman alone can give perpetual inexplicable happiness (bliss) and leads to Liberation. Having learnt thus, he is liberated, not to be reborn again. (68)

With this, Śaṃkarācārya’s Ātmabodhaḥ is concluded and epilogue follows.

Further Readings: