[John LeKay, Artist and Editor-Owner of the Non-duality Magazine (NDM) did a lengthy Interview (in two stages) almost a decade ago (July – August 2010) on the broad topic of Jivanmukta and Jivanmukti. The Conversation is not readily available now at the NDM Website (which is under renovation). John has, therefore, kindly permitted its republication and Dennis Waite, has very graciously consented to host the Interview as a Series of Posts at Advaita Vision Website because of the relevance of the topic even today. (A few words are tweaked here and there for better readability).]
NDM: Can you please tell me how you became interested in Jivanmukti?
Ramesam Vemuri: It is rather difficult to mark a specific date or relate my interest (in Advaita and Jivanmukti) to a particular event; it happened as a process of nature and nurture in the general atmosphere of Indian cultural milieu I grew up in. Perhaps it was smeared on to my brain cells even when I was a young boy! I was born and brought up in a family steeped in philosophy (my father was a Theosophist and author of several philosophical works). I had been fortunate to be exposed to Mr. J. Krishnamurti’s talks early in life (even before I could fathom their full import). Both these situations could be the triggers for my interest in Jivanmukti.
NDM: What would you say Jivanmukti is exactly?
Ramesam Vemuri: As the word connotes, Jivanmukti is release or freedom (in Sanskrit ‘mukti’) when one is still living (in Sanskrit ‘jivan’) with a body. The immediate question that comes up will then be: is there release after death also? The answer is yes. It is called Videhamukti or Liberation without the body.
But what ‘exactly’ is the freedom or release from? This is the most critical point to be appreciated.
The release is from the ‘bondage’ of the world. But the world does not bind one down with any ropes. The body of the person is as much a part of the world wherein it moves and works unfettered. How then is the person bound by the world?
A person living fascinated by the world is a “Worldly person” or in Sanskrit a “samsAri.” (S)he is driven by his mind and senses captivated by various objects of the world. He struggles for his continuity and perpetuation. One of the self-survival tools that the mind quickly discovers in nature is the pattern of causation.
The mind tends to detect a cause-effect relationship even in random unrelated happenings in the world. He entwines himself in these imagined cause-effect relationships weaving several theories around them and building prediction mechanisms. He ends up ever struggling, ever chasing. His happiness and sorrow depend on the success or failure of his expectations. He is thus caught up in or totally “bound” by the apparent cause-effect machinations in the world (in Sanskrit ‘samsAra’).
One may ask: “Is there any other way of living in the world?” Yes, there is. It is being “not-bound” by the cause-effect equation. After one is unbound, the world and the things in it (including his body), of course, will continue. So will all the other natural processes including the hunger, pain and aging of the body.
However, two big changes take place. For one, he clearly understands the falsity of the cause-effect relationship and other such mechanisms and patterns conceived by the mind. He also becomes free of the limitations and constrictions imposed by the mind which thus far had isolated him. He will not anymore take himself as an entity confined to the body-mind separate from a world sitting out there; nor will he consider the world to be something antagonistic, a world from which he needs to be protected and saved. Just as you see a man in totality as a wholesome man and not as an ensemble of separate legs, hands, eyes, ears etc. etc., he “sees” the entire world (inclusive of his body-mind) as one seamless whole.
Please notice the quotation marks used on the word “sees.” The word “sees” is used only to convey a sense of what it will be like. In fact he does not ‘see’ or ‘cognize’ anything after being unbound. He is not a ‘seer’ or ‘cognizer’ seeing an object located out there separate from himself. The whole thing, whatever that is (including his body) just remains as “Is-ness.” Just as ‘seeing’ takes place without the ‘seer,’ actions also happen without a ‘doer.’
If things are experienced by him, the experiencing takes place without an ‘experiencer.’ He is thus not any more ‘conscious’ of a separate body with an independent ID-tag to be taken care of, to be protected. So no more struggles, no more chasing or being bound by cause-effect relationships and expectations. He takes all things in his stride as they come to happen on their own accord without any effort on his part. This is the second big change.
The earlier contracting and confining mind with its tendency to reify and deify does not any more isolate the individual. It melds and dissolves into the very Consciousness that cognizes everything and “That” is everything. He does not identify himself with the finite body-mind. He is synonymous with Oneness where there is no ‘other.’ To be as that infinite expansive mind is Jivanmukti.
One who firmly abides in it is a Jivanmukta or Sthitaprajna or Arahant (in Buddhism).
(To Continue … Part: 2/12)