[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)
I would have said that I ‘welcome’ your series rather than ‘graciously consent’! Thanks to John for agreeing to it. All good, useful material and I look forward to reading the rest.
If I may, I would just like to rephrase a bit of what you said in order to emphasize what some might misinterpret through careless reading or subconsciously holding on to what they already believed to be the case.
Upon enlightenment, the world does not disappear. From the perspective of an outsider, the person who is now enlightened will appear no different, continuing to act, speak etc. as before. (Obviously some things will be different as a result of the now-certain knowledge that they have.) What changes is the understanding that the person now has regarding the nature of themself and the world. It is now known that both ‘persons’ and ‘world’ are only name and form of the non-dual Brahman. (But I would argue that he/she still ‘sees’ separate things and persons. E.g. he still addresses a particular person when he speaks, as though that person were a separate entity.)
Thank you very much Dennis for “welcoming” the series.
But it once again shows your graciousness and courtesy!
Therefore, I may not have to alter the Intro lines, after all !
Regarding the argument you make in the last three lines of your kind Comment:
You are well aware that it is a topic much discussed and debated on the Internet. One view is that, as you presented, a jIvanmukta still sees “separation” between objects and also a separation between himself and the “others.”
Another “model” is that all separations are dissolved and only “Oneness” prevails, but actions happen like the hydraulic tank in which a Bramah press works — press at a point and the fluid raises at another point. The stimulus – response is one system, unseparated.
Another example could be, say, you see a man stub his toe as you go for a walk on a warm evening. A sound “Ouch” emanates from 1.5 meters away from a mouth which is separate from the toe. Two separate hands from somewhere else join to comfort the toe by giving gentle rubs. All apparently separate entities. Actions happening in a stimulus-response mode. But you “don’t think” that the mouth uttering “ouch,” the hands rubbing the toe etc. are working as separate, independent and unrelated entities. You “know” that there is an inherent internal invisible “one” connectivity behind all those “separate” entities – you call that “one” as the man. Actions can possibly be happening similarly in the case of a jIvanmukta.
I, however, prefer that for now we defer a detailed discussion on the subject of “separation” from the POV of a jIvanmukta.
Ramesam and Dennis: Very good topic and your own elucidations, thank you. Two observations:
1). The model of Onness – no separation, brings to mind the Buddhist doctrine of Dependent Origination, whereby all phenomena are mutually dependent, i.e., no phenomenon is self-existent or has self-nature; it is like tangle, an entanglement or better, an intertwining of seemingly separate phenomena. From the Buddhist viewpoint the whole thing is time-bound or time-dependent, as also in the image of the stubbed toe provided by Ramesam. One question would be: Can this be seen as extra-temporal, statically, sub specie aeternitatis (as in the ‘mind of God’/Ishvara or of universal Consciousness, that is Consciousness as the only witness)?
2). The following statement at the end of the penultimate paragraph by Ramesam is not clear to me:
‘You “know” that there is an inherent internal invisible “one” connectivity behind all those “separate” entities – you call that “one” as the man.”
— Could that “one” not be, or be referred to, Ishvara, or even Consciousness as witness?
Thank you Martin for the kind observations.
Regrading the two points made by you:
1. The “model” of Oneness:
Instead of “Oneness,” we may say not two-ness. What i meant was a reference to avicchannatva or abhinnatva (i.e. undivided or no difference within). And as you know, the vijnAnavAda of Buddhism has much common with Advaita. They differ from Advaita in their proposition of “anatta” whereas Advaita points to the “Knower,” AtmA. According to Advaita, when AtmA manifests, the manifestation will take the form of nAma-rUpa-kriya which corresponds to time-space-action.
2. You ask: “Could that “one” not be, or be referred to, Ishvara, or even Consciousness as witness?”
As you are aware, the example given by me refers to the man who stubbed his toe. Apparently, in this example, the entities, the toe, the mouth which produces the sound ‘ouch,’ the hands which comfort the toe all are separate and distinct. But we know they are all connected to one another as parts of one body. The name we give to that body is ‘man.’ Thus confined to the specific example given in my comment, the ‘one’ is the human body.
And as you say, when the separate entities (people, things etc.) in the world are concerned, the “one” that pervades them all is “Ishvara, or even Consciousness as witness.”
Ramesam, thanks for this article, and looking forward to reading the next.
In Gangolli’s English rendering of SSSS’ “Intuitive approach of Sankara’s Vedanta”:
note 46: When Vidya is intuited or realised there does not exist any empirical or mundane transaction or Vyavahaara. Neither there is any possibility or scope whatsoever for any kind of desire to perform any karma in a ‘Vidyaavanta’.
Thank you, Venkat for your interest in the Series.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of jIvanmukti is the absence of volitional desire to act with any motivation. All things are taken as they happen – even eating food – without acceptance or rejection (BG ch 14 verse 22). Such an acceptance is called by the Western teachers as ‘Deep Acceptance.’ That means the acceptance happens prior to the mind, unlike for most of us where it is the mind that judges. The body that housed the ‘former’ seeker (who claimed the ownership to the body) is not anymore there. It will live and die in its own time like all other objects in the world — brihadAraNyaka says, as you know, the body will be left like the snake shedding its slough.
A ripe jIvanmukta will not see a separate ‘world’ outside of him in the sense that he will see only the “knowingness” everywhere. This is unlike most of us who feel the “knowing” capability, the sentience, is within the body and what is there beyond us is the inert matter as world. Therefore, there is no scope for ‘transactions’ to happen because the same One Knowingness is everywhere (no other to transact with).