Defining jIvanmukta – JMV and Yogavasishta

Dennis seems to have ipso facto accepted a definition for jIvanmukta as given by Swami Vidyaranya in Jivanmutki Viveka (JMV) because he writes as follows in his Comment at another thread @ 16:12 on Dec  23, 2020:


“My version of jIvanmuktiviveka is that translated by Swami Mokshadananda, ISBN 81-7505-182-5 and it gives source references for all the non-original verses that are used. Open the book virtually anywhere and you see quotations from LYV. He even takes his definition of jIvanmukti from there!

“(5.92) He, who is awake in sleep, who has no waking, whose understanding is devoid of desires, is called jIvanmukta.  (20.36) He, whose mind while awake, is ever free from the mental transformations even as the mind in the sleeping state is unaware of objects and who being a man of knowledge, like the full moon whose company is sought after by the wise, is known as jIvanmukta.” (Ref. 152)

It seems that you are agreeing with me that YV is likely to be a source of confusion if it deals with all the various theories and does so without criticism. My aim in the ‘Confusions’ book is specifically to cut through all the later accretions and modifications to determine what Shankara himself said on the relevant subject.”

End quote.

At the outset, I would like to shout from roof tops that I am not agreeable at all with the conclusion that Dennis draws in para 3 of his comment quoted above.

I cannot understand how he could unilaterally arrive at such a conclusion to say that “YV (Yogavasishta) is likely to be a source of confusion if it deals with all the various theories and does so without criticism” merely based on quaternary and worse sources without consulting the primary text. It does not look that he examined what Sage Vasishta might have actually said about jIvanmukta. It is also necessary that the real source of the presumed “confusions” is investigated before trying to put the blame on any text or resolve the imaginary “confusions.” Otherwise, it will be like erecting strawmen and trying shooting them down.

Sorry for my harsh words.

For example, please note how many levels of misinterpretations could have gone into on what he takes as the “base” for the criticism and analysis. He quotes two verses believed to be defining the word jIvanmukta, namely 5.92 and 20.36:

  • These are the English translations by Swami Mokshadananda
  • of the verses quoted by Swami Vidyaranya
  • taken from LYV (Laghu Yogavasishta) of an unknown author
  • which text is an abridgement to less than 19% of the original Yogavasishta, generally believed to be authored by Sage Valmiki of Ramayana fame.

Even going by a commonsense approach, I fail to understand if one can really take those two quoted verses to be technically valid “definition” for a jIvanmukta.

One gets the impression that the two verses are more of a laudatory description of a jIvanmukta than being technical “definitions” per se of the difficult concept which is beyond access to the normal finite mind, as Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society tells us.

As a matter of fact, the word “jIvanmukta” appears at over 164 places even in the condensed English version of Yogavasishta serialized, courtesy Dennis, at this site. The concept of living liberation is discussed almost in every chapter of Yogavasishta, except the very first one.

So, I did a quick research to see how many times “jIvanmukta” appears in different chapters in the original Sanskrit verses. It has been a time taking exercise as there is no readily searchable database of the 32,000 verses that constitute Yogavasishta. I am presenting the partial results obtained by me so far (first five Chapters). The real meat comes in the 6th chapter and I need more time to search that chapter of nearly 14,500 verses. But the results obtained thus far are quite rewarding and revealing. Therefore, it is worth placing what I found so far before the readers.

The 2nd Chapter has 20 cantos. “jivanmukta” appears in 6 verses.

The 3rd Chapter has 122 cantos. “jivanmukta” appears in 18 verses.

The 4th Chapter has 62 cantos. “jivanmukta” appears in 2 verses.

The 5th Chapter has 93 cantos. “jivanmukta” appears in 60 verses.

The canto-wise search is pending in the following : The 6th Chapter First part which has 128 cantos. The 6th Chapter Second part which has 216 cantos.

It is interesting to note that the Canto 18 in the 5th Chapter having 65 verses is titled “Description of jIvanmukta.” One has to make a diligent study of these 65 verses to understand what Sage Vasishta is trying to tell us about the concept of jIvanmukta.

In addition, a number of the 56 verses in the Canto 75 titled “Discriminating Bondage and Liberation,” in Chapter 5 also deal with jIvanmukta.

The “Intrinsic nature of a jIvanmukta” is described in 44 verses in the Canto 77.

Jumping to conclusions without a careful study of all the above verses and also those that come up in the Chapter 6 will be very premature and incorrect, to say the least.

We find the simplest introduction to the concept of jIvanmukta in the 3rd Chapter. It begins with a request by Rama to the Sage Vasishta to describe the characteristics of a jIvanmukta and videhamukta (The videhamukta part is omitted by me for this article):

श्रीराम उवाच ।
ब्रह्मन्विदेहमुक्तस्य जीवन्मुक्तस्य लक्षणम् ।
ब्रूहि येन तथैवाहं यते शास्त्रदृशा धिया ।।          —  3.9.3

And Sage Vasishta explains beautifully in ten verses ending with the refrain of “he is said to be a jIvanmuta.”

श्रीवसिष्ठ उवाच ।

यथास्थितमिदं यस्य व्यवहारवतोऽपि च ।
अस्तं गतं स्थितं व्योम जीवन्मुक्तः स उच्यते ।।    — 3.9.4
बोधैकनिष्ठतां यातो जाग्रत्येव सुषुप्तवत् ।
या आस्ते व्यवहर्तैव जीवन्मुक्तः स उच्यते ।।       —  3.9.5
नोदेति नास्तमायाति सुखे दुःखे मुखप्रभा ।
यथाप्राप्तस्थितेर्यस्य जीवन्मुक्तः स उच्यते ।।       —  3.9.6
यो जागर्ति सुषुप्तस्थो यस्य जाग्रन्न विद्यते ।
यस्य निर्वासनो बोधः स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।      —  3.9.7
रागद्वेषभयादीनामनुरूपं चरन्नपि ।
योऽन्तर्व्योमवदच्छस्थः स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।  — 3.9.8
यस्य नाहंकृतो भावो यस्य बुद्धिर्न लिप्यते ।
कुर्वतोऽकुर्वतो वापि स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।         —  3.9.9
यस्योन्मेषनिमेषार्धाद्विदः प्रलयसंभवौ ।
पश्येत्त्रिलोक्याः स्वसमः स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।     — 3.9.10
यस्मान्नोद्विजते लोको लोकान्नोद्विजते च यः ।
हर्षामर्षभयोन्मुक्तः स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।              — 3.9.11
शान्तसंसारकलनः कलावानपि निष्कलः ।
यः सचित्तोऽपि निश्चित्तः स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।    — 3.9.12
यः समस्तार्थजातेषु व्यवहार्यपि शीतलः ।
पदार्थेष्वपि पूर्णात्मा स जीवन्मुक्त उच्यते ।।               — 3.9.13

The meaning of the verses is summarized by Shri K. V. Krishna Murty in the following words (English rendering by yours truly):

  • Though involved with the worldly affairs, the jIvanmukta will always be thinking that the world is non-existent and he remains internally as the Supreme Self.
  • Though fully awake, he remains, as though, in deep sleep i.e. suShupti.
  • He does not feel elated by joys or dejected by sorrows.
  • While in suShupti he remains awake. He does not have wakefulness. It is a strange position.
  • Outwardly, he may act in accordance with likes and dislikes. But inwardly, he remains space-like (i.e. without any attachment).
  • Whether he is working or not, he does not claim being the agent for whatever goes on.
  • His mind will not get associated with anything.
  • When he opens his eyes, i.e. in the state of awareness of True Knowledge, it is Dissolution. When he closes eyes, i.e. a state of not being aware of True Knowledge, it is Creation.
  • He is afraid of none and no one is afraid of him.
  • Even though he has a mind, he does not have thoughts.
  • He remains cool even in anger.

(Adopted from: )

As we go into the remaining chapters of the text Yogavasishta, the concept of jIvanmukti gets more and more technically and precisely defined explicating the in-depth meaning of this difficult concept as the seeker advances in his understanding of the Non-dual message. For example, in the 16th Canto of the 5th Chapter, Sage Vasishta says: ““Whoever does not think in terms of likes and dislikes, agreeing and disagreeing, acceptance and denial is known as a person “Liberated in this Life” (jIvanmukta).

I, therefore, urge the interested reader to fully study the Yogavasishta pdf available at this site and not foreclose the issue with prejudice.

1 thought on “Defining jIvanmukta – JMV and Yogavasishta

  1. It does seem, Ramesam, that you are making a habit of misunderstanding something that I have said and then ranting about it at great length to ‘refute’ it!

    The comment that I made, which you have quoted at the beginning of this post, has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with what I believe – I did not even read those quotations from LYV!!

    The whole point of this comment was simply to demonstrate that VIdyaranya relies extensively on LYV and Yoga Vasishtha itself for the ideas that he presents in his jIvanmuktiviveka. I literally opened the book at random in several places and chose those quotations because jIvanmukti happens to be one of the topics of current interest.

    And you talk about my attacking straw men!

    I refer you back to the point I made slightly earlier in that thread: “I don’t dispute that YV is ‘highly revered’ and I was also impressed when I read a version many years ago. But it is clearly post-Shankara and, as I think you must accept, many ideas with which Shankara would have taken exception have crept into Advaita since his death.”

    (Note that I accepted the later comment that YV may well have been written around or even before Shankara but the point still stands that Shankara’s teaching did not refer to it.)

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