“sadyomukti” (Instant Liberation) – 2/3

Part – 1

2.  ‘sadyomukti‘ in Shankara bhAShya:

Shankara tells us at over a score of places in his bhAShya-s that brahman by Its very intrinsic nature is:

नित्यशुद्धबुद्धमुक्तस्वभाव:  |  — Shankara in his commentaries at BSB; BGB; BUB; muNDaka B; mANDUkya B; &c.

Meaning: By nature eternal, pure, intelligent and free.

What we are in essence being non-different from brahman, we are also ever “free.” But, unfortunately, lacking a sense of ‘discrimination,’ as Shankara explains in his Intro (called ‘adhyAsa bhAShya’) to the Vedanta sUtra-s, we mix up what is “Real” with the “unreal.” As a result, we feel we are “bound and limited.” In addition, we take it for granted that we are, by birth, bound within a beginningless and apparently endless nescience. However, having received instruction from a compassionate teacher (vide 6.14.2, chAn.U,), and working diligently with discrimination, we shed our imaginary shackles and figuratively attain our natural freedom.

“From the standpoint of erasing out this universe of name and form superimposed through ignorance,” Shankara writes, “is the very realization of one’s own nature that is spoken of as the attainment” in the sense, “Having been brahman, he attains brahman” (4.4.6, BU) and similar texts. The notion of brahman as a goal to be reached and such other ideas are eliminated for one who has realized one’s identity with the supreme brahman (4.3.14, BSB).

There are no varieties in the state of liberation, liberation being nothing but brahman Itself (3.4.52, BSB), whether the ignorance gets dropped “instantaneously” or “progressively.” The former is called “sadyomukti”  and the latter as “kramamukti.” ‘sadyaH’ means immediate, at once, at the very moment; ‘krama‘ refers to gradualness.

Some experts contend that “In shuddha shAnkara prakriyA, what is taught is jiIvanmukti, also called sadyomukti.” However, Shankara’s own words do not seem to support that belief. He subtly but clearly distinguishes jIvanmukti and sadyomukti in his commentaries.

For one who attains sadyomukti, writes Dr. V. Sundaresan, “there is no further impetus towards action of any sort, from the very instant of the rise of right knowledge (samyag-darzana). There is no further becoming, even after the death of the body, for he is indifferent to the effects of prArabdha karma. There is no further need for manana and nididhyAsana. All wishes have been fulfilled and after death there is no going anywhere.”

आप्तकाम आत्मकामो तस्य प्राणा उत्क्रामन्ति ब्रह्मैव सन्ब्रह्माप्येति    —  4.4.6, BU.

Meaning:  To who, all objects of desire are but the Self, the organs do not depart. Being but brahman, he is merged in brahman.

Calling the sadyomukta a jIvanmukta is just a manner of speaking, referring to the continued embodiment that is visible to others. For all other jIvanmukta-s, even after the initial rise of knowledge, there may be a residual tendency to action, as they are not totally indifferent to the residual effects of karma, as Shankara says in the bRhadAraNyaka,

तस्मात् त्यागवैराग्यादिसाधनबलावलम्बेन आत्मविज्ञानस्मृतिसन्ततिर्नियन्तव्या भवति   — 1.4.7, BUB.

Meaning:  Therefore, there is need to regulate the train of remembrance of the Knowledge of the Self by having recourse to means such as renunciation and dispassion.

We find that, in his entire bhAShya lore, Shankara uses the word jIvanmukta at a single place:

ब्रह्मभूतं जीवन्मुक्तम् , ‘ब्रह्मैव सर्वम् इत्येवं निश्चयवन्तं ब्रह्मभूतम् अकल्मषं धर्माधर्मादिवर्जितम् ॥   — 6.27, BGB.

Meaning:  brahmabhUtam, who has identified with brahman, jIvanmuktam, who is free even while living, who has got the certitude that brahman is all; and akalmaSam, who is taintless, free from vice etc.

In contrast, Shankara uses the term ‘sadyomukti’ (Instant liberation) at quite a number of places in his bhAshya-s. Here are a few examples from his bhAShya-s.:

1)   हि सद्योमुक्तिभाजां सम्यग्दर्शननिष्ठानां गतिः आगतिर्वा क्वचित् अस्ति, ‘ तस्य प्राणा उत्क्रामन्ति’ (4.4.6, BU) इति श्रुतेः   —  8.24, BGB.

Meaning: Those who are firm in abidance to right Knowledge and attain to immediate liberation have no place to go to or to return from, “Nor do his organs depart” (4.4.6, BU).  – 8.24, BGB.

2) एवं 

सद्योमुक्तिकारणमप्यात्मज्ञानमुपाधिविशेषद्वारेणोपदिश्यमानमप्यविवक्षितोपाधिसम्बन्धविशेषं परापरविषयत्वेन सन्दिह्यमानं वाक्यगतिपर्यालोचनया निर्णेतव्यं भवति यथेहैव तावत् आनन्दमयोऽभ्यासात्’  |  —  Shankara at his Intro to 1.1.12, BSB.

Meaning: Thus, also it is a fact that, although the Knowledge of the Self results in instantaneous liberation, yet its instruction is imparted with the help of some relationship with some conditioning factor.

3) निष्कर्मत्वस्य वा निष्क्रियात्मरूपावस्थानलक्षणस्य सिद्धिः निष्पत्तिः, तां नैष्कर्म्यसिद्धिं परमां प्रकृष्टां कर्मजसिद्धिविलक्षणां सद्योमुक्त्यवस्थानरूपां संन्यासेन सम्यग्दर्शनेन तत्पूर्वकेण वा सर्वकर्मसंन्यासेन, अधिगच्छति प्राप्नोति    —  18.49, BGB.

Meaning:  “naishkarmyasiddhi may also mean the attainment (siddhi) of naishkarmya, the state in which one remains as the actionless Self. It is supreme as distinguished from the perfection attainable by karmayoga; it is the state of immediate liberation (sadyomukti). This state is attained by samnyAsa or right Knowledge, or better still; by the renunciation of all actions for which one is prepared by his right Knowledge, and so says the Lord, “सर्वकर्माणि मनसा संन्यस्य  नैव कुर्वन्न कारयन्नास्ते” (Renouncing all actions by thought, and self-controlled, the embodied one rests happily in the nine-gated city, neither at all acting nor causing to act) in 5.13, BG.

4) ते एवं कर्मिणः अनुपरिवर्तन्ते घटीयन्त्रवत् चक्रीभूता बम्भ्रमतीत्यर्थः, उत्तरमार्गाय सद्योमुक्तये वा यावद्ब्रह्म विदुः ; ‘इति नु कामयमानः संसरति’  |  —  6.2.16, BUB:   

Meaning: Thus, do they, these ritualists, continuously rotate in a circle like the Persian wheel, until they know brahman so as to attain the northern way (which leads to gradual liberation), or immediate liberation.


jIvanmukti’ is more like an omnibus term that includes those who may or may not have achieved TOTAL detachment with the body after listening to the Advaita message. For example, we have from chAndogya:

तस्य तावदेव चिरं यावन्न विमोक्ष्येऽथ सम्पत्स्य इति   —  6.14.2, chAn.U.

Meaning:  For him the delay is only so long as he is not liberated; and then he will reach perfection.

Alluding to this mantra from chAndogya, Shankara observes,

“He has to tarry ( = To wait or stay temporarily) so long as the body does not fall, and then he merges (in brahman),” 4.1.19, BSB;

“He lingers so long only as he is not freed from the body,” 3.3.27, BSB;

“The text 6.14.2, chAn.U. shows that liberation is put off till the death of the body,” 4.1.15, BSB.

This shows that one may be a “mukta” (liberated) in the sense that:

तस्मात् ब्रह्मात्येतीति उपचारमात्रमेतत् , विपरीतग्रहवद्देहसन्ततेः विच्छेदमात्रं विज्ञानफलमपेक्ष्य ॥ —  4.4.6, BUB.

Meaning: Therefore, the statement, ‘He is merged in Brahman,’ is but a figurative one, meaning the cessation, as a result of Knowledge, of the continuous chain of bodies for one who has held an opposite view. (Translation: Swami Madhavananda).

It does not necessarily imply that a jIvanmukta has achieved complete identity with brahman (jIva brahma aikya) with conformable total detachment with body and all the enchilada like the world that goes with the body. This is in contrast to a “sadyomukta” who attains disembodiment instantaneously.

We may also note that there is a difference between the knower of brahman as nirguNa and the worshipper of saguNa brahman. The prANa-s (organs) and elements of the knower of the nirguNa brahman get merged in It (the Divine) at death of the  gorss body (4.2.15. BSB); but in the case of the worshipers of saguNa brahman after the death of the physical body, they reach (either in their subtle body or another subtle body bestowed to them) Brahma Loka through the arcirAdi mArga, as discussed in detail in the brahmasUtra‘s 4th adhyAya.

All such individuals are, in common parlance, referred to as jIvanmukta-s or guNAtIta-s or other similar terms before this event. They are not considered sadyomukta-s, because for them, there is still the step of attaining brahmaloka after physical death unlike the sadyomukta-s, though all of them will not take birth again in this world.

In summary, not all jIvanmukta-s are sadyomukta-s, but sadyomukta-s can be called jIvanmukta-s. jIvanmukti is a much more an elastic term, encompassing a range of meaning, but sadyomukti is a very definite term.

3. Self and the Universe:

Swami Krishnananda of The Divine Life Society observes that “Much has been said and written by speculative geniuses on the relation between the perfectly liberated “Self” and the universe.” He gives instances of such speculations that are contrary to what bhagavatpAda Shankara says in his bhAShya-s. For example:

  1. The liberated condition need not annihilate the perception of plurality;
  2. The Liberated ‘self’ retains individuality;
  3. So long as all individuals are not liberated, no individual can have liberation;
  4. The freed ‘self’ can have objective dealings (interactions) with other forms;
  5. The form of the world exists after Self-realization.

The venerable Swami Ji demolishes with reason and logic all such untenable misconceptions. He observes that “several cultured thinkers have been limited by a humanitarian view of life. Their philosophies are consequently tainted by humanistic and social considerations. They are not dispassionate in their effort trying to understand the deeper truths, and are deceived by an inordinate love for the human being.”

Those twisted views of “Liberation” arise, according to Swami Krishnananda, because, “We want to know the beyond without stepping over to the beyond from the binding phenomena. We wish to plant our two legs in two ships moving in opposite directions, and then cross the ocean. We desire to know something absolutely without ourselves being that thing, an impossibility!”

Looked at  from that stance, one would naturally wonder if concepts like “avidyAlesha,” “bAdhita anuvRtti,” to  explain away a visible world even after Self-realization, go beyond satisfying the separate ‘self’ which claims “I realized I am brahman.”

(Contd … Part – 3)

7 thoughts on ““sadyomukti” (Instant Liberation) – 2/3

  1. Ramesam has made a VERY BOLD statement here. For me , the take away is that there is only one ultimate liberation , sadyomukti, with no gradation. And Shankara clearly tells us that it is only attained through knowledge and renunciation as better phrased below:
    BG 18.49
    Meaning: “naishkarmyasiddhi may also mean the attainment (siddhi) of naishkarmya, the state in which one remains as the actionless Self. It is supreme as distinguished from the perfection attainable by karmayoga; it is the state of immediate liberation (sadyomukti). This state is attained by samnyAsa or right Knowledge, or better still; by the renunciation of all actions for which one is prepared by his right Knowledge, and so says the Lord, “सर्वकर्माणि मनसा संन्यस्य … … नैव कुर्वन्न कारयन्नास्ते” (Renouncing all actions by thought, and self-controlled, the embodied one rests happily in the nine-gated city, neither at all acting nor causing to act) in 5.13, BG.“

    All other liberations are for those “who want to cook a leg of a hen and then preserve the rest with an expectation of laying eggs”.

  2. Dear Vijay,

    Thank you for your kind words and the excellent summarization of the core message emerging out of this Series of posts.

    In view of your reference to 5.13, BG and 18.49, BG, I am tempted to add here a few more points.

    The verse at 5.13, BG talks about both the unenlightened man who identifies himself with the body and the “realized” one who understands that “he” is different from the body-mind. Once the detachment happens fully with the nine-gated city, the “embodied One” (dehi) is not anymore confined within the body (as the Inner Self) and figuratively speaking, knows, that he is the Self Itself. The 9-gated city does not then remain as the human body consisting of food-feces-etc., but will be like “brahmapuri” described at 8.1.4-5, chAn.U. And as the Upanishad says, brahmapuri is brahman Itself.

    You quoted “सर्वकर्माणि मनसा संन्यस्य …” from 5.13, BG.
    The verse at 5.6, BG, speaks about pAramArthika saMnyAsa, i.e Absolute renunciation, which, the Lord himself says is hard to attain (” संन्यासस्तु पारमार्थिकः हे महाबाहो दुःखम् आप्तुं प्राप्तुम् अयोगतः योगेन विना ।” — Shankara bhAShya).

    Also, the giving up of all actions is not as easily done as said. One has to abjure at the level of “intention” itself — i.e. at the level of “samkalpa,” as the verse at 6.4, BG says: ” सर्वसङ्कल्पसंन्यासी योगारूढस्तदोच्यते ॥”

    With that level of prior preparation being in place, the siddhi of naiShkarmya mentioned at 18.49, BG is attained.

    My 2c understanding.


  3. I address these topics in Volume 1 of ‘Confusions’ and some of these problems occur here. The following is a brief excerpt:

    (I have to say that I agree with D. B. Gangoli’s comment on the idea of sadyomukti that) this belief “is a ridiculous one, a laughing stock” (Ref. 190) and he points out that the belief that we ever had a body to begin with is only accepted from the standpoint of ignorance.

    Swami Krishnananda avers that sadyomukti enlightenment is an ‘experience’: “Sadyomukti is the processless immediate experience of Brahman, spaceless and timeless, on account of one’s habituation to the non-dual knowledge of the Self… is a very unique experience, and it puts an end to the relative notions of Īśvara, jiva and jagat.” (Ref. 182)

    But Shankara explains in his brahmasūtra bhāṣya 4.1.15 that only saṃcita karma (both good and bad) is destroyed by Self-knowledge. The body survives until the prārabdha karma is naturally exhausted. He points out that “The description of sthitaprajña which we get in śruti and smŗti (bhagavad gītā 2.55-68) confirms our belief that one can be established in the knowledge of the Brahman and yet possess the body.” (Ref. 116)

    Best wishes,

  4. Dear Dennis,

    I did read some of the books by Shri D.B. Gangoli. Will you please let me know the title of the book that you mention at # 190, so that I can read it (again)?

    2) The possession of a body by a jIvanmukta who follows a saguNa brahman or by one who takes the route of “progressive liberation” cannot be denied. As you know well, s/he is a mukta in the sense that s/he will not be born again on the earth. After the gross body dies, s/he will go to the loka of his/her favorite deity. In contrast, a sadyomukta is said to be one whose organs “do not depart.” However, s/he can take up a body as an abode, should a need arise; but otherwise, s/he is completely detached from the body. That is the understanding I get.


    [P.S.: If you do not mind, will you please mention the titles of the articles/books that the numbers # 182 and 116 refer to.]

  5. Apologies – I should have added the references. They are:

    116. Vedanta Explained, Shankara’s Commentary on the Brahma-sutras, V. H. Date, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1973. (2 volumes). No ISBN. (This is a readable version so highly recommended – although that does mean that the translation is not literal and therefore open to ‘distortion’.)
    182. The Realisation of the Absolute, Swami Krishnananda, The Divine Life Society, 1947. No ISBN. Downloadable from https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/realis/Realisation_of_the_Absolute.pdf.
    190. The Essential Ādi Shankara, D. B. Gangolli, Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya, 1991. No ISBN.

    Are you able to use ‘reason’, as opposed to ‘scripture’ to explain how a sadyomukta can be ‘completely detached from the body’ and yet still be considered as ‘existing’ as a jIva in any sense of the words?

    Best wishes,

  6. Dear Dennis,

    Thank you for the references.
    It will take me some time to go through them.

    I wonder in which context Shri Gangoli could have said that ‘sadyomukti’ is a ‘laughable and ridiculous concept.’ Undoubtedly, all such concepts have the starting point in our contention that there is a limiting adjunct (body etc.), or ‘ignorance,’ as he puts it.

    In a sense, the entire edifice of Advaita philosophy itself could become “laughable,” if we stretch his idea!

    You asked me a question about replacing “scripture” with “reason” to explain “sadyomukti.”

    “Reason,” I suppose, is a creature of the finite human mind. I do not know if we can invoke “reason” when there is an absence of an individual. The situation is not, perhaps, far different from how you yourself explain the concept of “apauruSheya” — the absence of an individual claimant for authorship.

    However, the more baffling point for me is that even stalwart Sages like Jaimini, Audulomi, Badari seem to differ in speaking about the final position, as we see from the 4th Chapter in Vedanta sUtra-s.

    In sum, I feel that this terrain is quite a bit beyond my abilities.

    From the way you posed the question, it looks to me that you have something to say on the subject. May I know your views please?


  7. Without taking time to compose a considered response, my simple ‘reasoned’ reaction is that it is meaningless to talk about ‘someone’ continuing to exist, in any sense of the word, without a body-mind. Advaita is always, for me, a ‘reasonable’ philosophy. And Shankara himself appears to support this view.

    If we are talking about the pAramArthika position, then there is and never has been any ‘indivdual’. But, from the vyAvahArika position, there is an aj~nAnI who becomes a j~nAnI and then maybe a jIvanmukta. And the appearance and acceptance of a body-mind continues until expiry of prArabdha karma.

    Best wishes,

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