Friday, June 16, 2017

SAMSAARA AND MUKTI--HUMAN ENTANGLEMENTS IN LIFE AND LIBERATION



SAMSAARA AND MUKTI--HUMAN ENTANGLEMENTS IN LIFE AND LIBERATION
(Compilation for a Discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, USA, June 2017)
The drama of life played by Humanity on Earth    which  is nothing more than a tiny speck in a Universe which is comprehensively large is called Samsaara. Supreme Being is its director and is often addressed as Kapata Naataka Sootra Dhaari—director of an illusory drama which we call Samsaara making us the actors in this small speck of universe. We struggle hard in learning Vedas, Upanishads, Scriptures and Puranas to find out ways and means to get out of it and attain Liberation, which involves  Moksha (Moha  Kshaya) meaning getting rid of all illusions leading to Mukti (Absolute Freedom to merge with Absolute Consciousness).    Our Solar system, believed by the ancient Rishis to be the center of all things, with our limited knowledge, now appears to be mere side show. The universe is a vast expanse of exploding Nova, colliding galaxies and newly born stars. Spinning through space like a bullet, the Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light years across, each light year being six trillion miles in length. While comprehending such number is difficult, wrapping our minds around the fact there are more than 350 billion such galaxies is impossible. Brahman is not only created this vast growing universe but also   governs it.

Recently Kepler Spacecraft has sent back bounty from beyond--plethora of planets found with potential for life. In a grand finale planet-spotting prowess, NASA Kepler spacecraft tracked down 219 new planets outside our own solar system including 10 that could have the right qualifications for hosting life. They are of the Earth's size and in the habitable zones of their stars. We should be excited to see what people are going to do with this catalog!
 
We do not know what sort of drama is going on elsewhere while we are struggling hard with the drama of our life! We even do not know whether we can skip all these galaxies to merge with Brahman. Puranas mention of several stops like Svarga, Brahmaloka, Vishnuloka, Vaikuntha,  Sivaloka, Yamaloka that may or may not be included in  14 Lokas  and others. Seven Nether Worlds are: Atala, Vitala Sutala, Bhootala, Rasaatala, Mahaatala and Paatala. The seven higher worlds are: Bhooloka, Bhuvarloka, Suvarloka, Janaloka, Mahaaloka, Tapoeloka and Satyaloka. Puranas should have also been as confused as I am to convince the people about the vast Universe of Brahman’s manifestation! The whole focus of Rishis in Upanishads had been on human beings and how to reach Brahman, being silent on the vast universe and lower creations.  Bhagawan in Gita says it does take many a births to reach the Supreme Being. It says briefly in 8-16: Aabrahmya- bhuvanaallokaah  punaraavartino arjuna | maamupetya  tu  kaunteya punarjanma na vidyate--the dwellers of all the worlds including the world of Brahma are subject to miseries of repeated birth and death. But after attaining the Supreme Being one does not take birth again. All we can hope for is that we can only try to uplift our spiritual life as much as possible in this life towards that progress. Our scriptures also mention Earth as the Punyabhoomi and Kriyaabhoomi (holy land and land for any corrective action) and therefore the soul has necessarily to return to earth at every turn of events.  Vedsas say only humans on Earth  were mortal while Sadhyas, Devas  etc.,  in upper worlds were immortal. May be that is why soul has to return to earth each time for correction and elevation!
Kaarmic Laws are a peculiarity to Hindu religion and do not feature in other religions except Buddhism, and Jainism which had their origin in India and must have been influenced by Hinduism. Karma is the only logical explanation for the inequalities in God’s creation on earth, viz., the healthy and the sick, the rich and the poor, the crooked and straight etc. How and why such inequalities are found in this world, which is a tiny part of this cosmos, wherein everything is governed by certain immutable laws? Karma seems to act on the mental, psychic and the physical planes. No one escapes Karma. Even when divine beings are born on earth as humans, Law of Karma operates. Rama for killing Vali by a hidden arrow had to pay back in his own coin in his next incarnation when he was killed by the hidden arrow of hunter mistaking Lord Krishna relaxing under a tree to be a deer. Karma in literary sense in Sanskrit stands for action, while in philosophy it is accepted as action and reaction or more fundamentally cause and effect.
Samsaara means the empirical process from birth to death and from death to birth. According to Buddha suffering is Samsaara and cessation of suffering is Nirvaana or Liberation. Every living thing goes through this process and the particular manner of its existence in any given span of life will depend on its past Karma leaving the option for making its future better or worse. The word Samsaara in Hindu religion is very significant. We use the word loosely to mean the world or worldly life. It is derived from the Sanskrit word “Sriti” which means passing and its prefix “Sam” means intensely. Now Gita and other Hindu Shastras say that we have to pass repeatedly through this world and the finer and higher worlds. This repeated passing of the souls (Samsriti) is what is really meant by the word Samsaara. Hinduism sees human beings as spiritual beings housed in the physical body. Hindus believe in reincarnation unlike some others who believe in resurrection. To those who believe in resurrection, human beings are made up of a body and soul. Hindus practice cremation in order to end all relationship between the spirit and the physical body when death occurs.
Hindu way of life is based on the concepts of repeated births and deaths, Samsaara, Moksha  and Mukti   (liberation). We offer oblations (Sraaddha) to the departed souls because we believe that they are still living either in any of the fine or higher worlds or in this very earth in some other bodies. We perform meritorious deeds (Punya), for we believe that this will bring us intense enjoyment after death. Similarly we shun heinous deeds (Paapa) lest we should have intense suffering after death. These and other beliefs and rites are   based on the Hindu concept of rebirth.
It is the belief of every Hindu that souls are eternal and they have a past and after the present, unless liberated, will also have a future. The Liberation is called Mukti, i.e., when the soul becomes one with the Creator. Mukti calls for Moksha. Moksha in its condensed form consists of two words Moha and Kshaya in Sanskrit and in its full form it is Mohakshaya. It literally means dissipation of Moha (infatuation) which ends in Mukrti (Liberation). In Bhagavadgita Bhagawan says to Arjuna:  Bahooni may vyateetaani janmaani tava chaarjuna | Taanyaham veda sarvaani na tvam vettha paranthapa--O Arjuna, both you and I have had many births before this. Only I know them all, while you do not know them-IV/5”. Again he says: Jaatasya hi dhruvoe mrityur dhruvam janma mritasya cha--Birth is inevitably followed by death and death by rebirth—II/27”. But why one has to be born again and again? The Hindu Shaastras unlike other religions do not mention of one time Liberation (Heaven) or Condemnation (Hell) after our present life on earth. Shaastras say the Divinity in man reveals itself only when the mind becomes spotlessly clean. But this takes a long, long time.  Our life is too short for this task. That is why we have to go through innumerable births before this task is done.
As we have stated earlier by birth and rebirth we simply change worn-out bodies for fresh ones. Every one of us has done these times without number. Those who know this truth do not have fear of death or grieve for it. In the Gita body is compared to a worn piece of cloth when the time comes for its change, one rejects it and gets ready for a fresh one.  Gita says in II-22: “Vaasaamsi jeernaani yathaa vihaaya navaani grihnaani naroe aparaani| Tathaa sareeraani vihaaya jeernaany anyaani samyaati navaani dehee” meaning “Just as a person puts on new garments after discarding the old ones; similarly, the living entity, Jeeva or Jeevaatman acquires new bodies after casting away the old bodies”. It means our real self is something higher than this gross physical body. Death is the separation of the subtle body from the physical body. The living entity is Jeeva, and it is the traveler.
Every one of us has a gross body. This body is made up of matter and is called Sthoola Sareera (gross body). It is made up of the same materials taken as food and is therefore called Annamayakosha (covering made up of food). Inside this Sthoola Sareera, there is a stronger and subtler body called Sookshma Sareera (fine body). This is imperishable—neither disease, nor old age, nor death can touch this fine body. Nothing in nature can destroy it as Gita says. “Nainam chindanti sastraani nainam dahati paavakah | na chainam kledayantyaapoe na soeshayati maarutah” meaning “Weapons do not cut this Spirit, fire does not burn it, water does not wet it, and the wind does not make it dry. Jeevaatma cannot be cut, burned, wetted or dried. It is eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, immovable and primeval (II/23)” This is the worlds’ traveler. Through our countless births in the past fine bodies (Sookshma Sareeras) have been our constant companions. The Sookshma Sareera consists of seventeen parts—Buddhi (intellect); Manas (mind); Five Praanaas (Vital energies); Ten sense organs: Five Jnaanendriyas (organs of perception working through the physical organs of eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin; Five Karmendriyas (organs of action working through the physical organs of hands, feet, mouth, organ of elimination and organ of production).
It is this fine body that builds up the gross body and keeps it going. We feel, think and desire through it. It is the active part of our being. Yet this fine body cannot act by itself. It is as inert as the gross body which is later animated by it and made to work by it. The Atman (Self) commonly called in English as soul in layman’s language is the force behind the animated Sookshma Sareera and which in turn activates Sthoola Sareera. Atman is the source of life, activity and Consciousness (Chaitanya). Animated by Atman the fine body works the gross body as long as it can and then leaves and builds up a fresh body, causing the cycle of births and deaths. Gita says: Mamaivaamsojeevaloke jeevabhootah sanaatanah| manah Sashteendriyaani prakritisthaani karshati|| Sareeram yad avaapnoti yachchaapya utkraamateesvarah| griheetvaitaani samyaati vaayur gandhaan ivaasayaat || Eternal individual soul (Jeevaatma) in the body of living beings is indeed an integral part of the Supreme Spirit. It associates with the six sensory faculties--including the mind--of perception and activates them. Just as the air takes aroma away from the flower, similarly, the individual soul (Jeevaatman) takes the six sensory faculties from the physical body it casts off during death to the new physical body it acquires in reincarnation (by the power of Karma).
Our mind is full of desires. We strive hard to fulfill these desires. They go on multiplying. These desires either bring pleasure or pain. Each deed (Karma) is destined to bear fruit called Karmaphala sooner or later. Good deeds bring pleasure and evil deeds bring pain. During each life time we exhaust only a portion of our past Karmaphala. This is called Praarabhda Karma. It is in the kinetic form.  The reminder that has to be tasted in the future lives is called Sanchita Karma. This is in the potential form.   Fruits of our present lives will be stocked up as “Kriyamaana” or Aagaami Karma. We reap the fruits of our own actions from birth to birth.   We curse our fate (Duradrishta) for our failure and gloat over our good luck (Adrishta). We need neither curse nor hail it. This comes as a matter of course, as a result of our past deeds. We were responsible for it.
Aimless wandering through Samsaara is no good at all and prolongs our state of bondage. Praarabhda Karma is the fruit of life what one has to undergo completely and exhaust in one’s life. This cannot be avoided or altered. It is not possible to get over this. This decides one’s parentage, sex, status in society, place of birth, birth conditions etc. These have to be gone through and are to be nullified.  Saanchita Karma is that portion of the Karma which is still left over and comes from the accumulated Karamas of the past lives. This can be altered by the effort of the individual towards character formation and thus the tendency towards evil gets removed. Penance expiates it and Jnaana nullifies it. While Praarabhda Karma is compared to the clay which has already shaped on the potter’s wheel which has already taken shape and is about to be dismantled, Saanchita Karma is compared to the unshapely mass of clay on the potter’s wheel, which is taking shape whose shape is capable of alteration by an effort on the part of the operator by his skill.  Out of the Sanchita Karma new Praarabhda shapes for the next life.  Besides these there is also a third type of Karma, known as Aagaami or Kriyamaana Karma. Thoughts, actions and desires if they are pure, unselfish and righteous will lead one to the path of perfection; while the opposite qualities—impure thoughts, actions, desires, selfishness and unrighteous conduct are bound to cause suffering to the individual in the next life till retributive justice makes one’s senses aware of such things. This is like the clay on the wheel just lying ready to take any shape that can be given. This also moves to the next life for deciding about Prarabhda karma and Sanchita Karma for the intended life.
Hindu scriptures tell which kind of action done in this life will yield immediate effect. A person, who has committed extremely heinous crimes like killing a saintly soul or a woman, will suffer from their effects in this life (atyutkataih Punya paapaih ihaiva phalamasnute). Other good or bad actions which are relatively trivial may not yield immediate effects. These actions go on accumulating during a person’s lifetime as Aagaami Karma and eventually join the vast store house of Saanchita or accumulated Karma. Saanchita Karma remains in a potential state like term deposits with different maturity dates in a bank, some maturing in this life itself and some lying in store for the future. Praarabhda Karma causes one’s birth and determines how long he will live. When the force of his Praarabhda Karma is exhausted, Sookshma Sareera takes leave of the gross body and then the gross body is declared to be dead. Praarabhda Karma acts like the mainspring of the clock in the body clock, goes on ticking for certain period and when the energy is used up the clock stops. A saint can burn all his Saanchita Karma but has to suffer for his Praarabhda Karma, as any other person. A mortal, when freed from the captivity of desires, becomes immortal and attains liberation even in this very life (KaU 6-14; BrU 4-04-07).
By suicide one can stop his body clock prematurely but his Kaarmic force goes on hounding him even in the other world. The Kaarmic force in this case inflicts more pain, and also many times than what would have been normally the body would have been subjected to. Hindu Shaastras therefore strongly condemns suicide. Hinduism does not consider a new born child to be pure or innocent; nor does Hinduism consider that a child who dies immediately after birth goes to heaven or become liberated. A person with a lot of bad Karma to work out may be repeatedly born just in order to die again and again in his infancy. Every birth is an opportunity for an individual to grow and progress spiritually through the bitter and sweet experiences of life. Those dying in infancy do not get that opportunity to work out faster.
Hinduism never says that everything that happens in a person’s life is the result of actions from previous births. The Laws of Karma is one of the many forces which control his life. In spite of these forces working on him, man has quite a bit of freedom of action as well. He should exercise this freedom by acting in a manner which will spare him suffering or pain in the future and help him to attain liberation through the realization of Brahman. Bhagavadgita as well as other scriptures tell us that a person can get rid of his Kaarmic forces, except those of Praarabhda Karma, if he performs his activities without expecting the fruits for his own action. A devotee of God is encouraged to develop the attitude that his actions are not for his own sake but for the pleasure of God. It purifies his mind and enables him to have the vision of God in every action. After God’s vision he will get rid of all his Saanchita Karma or accumulated Karma and attain Liberation from the cycle of births and deaths, if in the meantime he is also able to exhaust his Praarabhda Karma, which he cannot however avoid or overcome.
According to Hinduism the goal of human life is to be free or liberated from repeated births and deaths, through god realization which is called   Mukti through Moksha or liberation from Samsaara. The soul is chained to Samsasara on account of its association with the body, the senses, the mind and the intellect. Through this association, the soul becomes a knower, an enjoyer and an agent. This association is due to Karma which is the cause of bondage. When this cause is removed the effect also ceases to exist. So abstention from Karma actually leads to the dissolution of the coupling, “marriage-tie”, of the soul with the body,   the senses, mind etc. and consequently to the return of the soul to its pure nature as a substance rid of all qualities and modes including Consciousness and Bliss also. It is a state of freedom from all pain and desire and consciousness. The man who identifies himself more with his Self or Jeevaatman, instead of physical body which does not belong to him in reality, is victorious in shaking the shackles of the three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) and becomes Gunaateeta (beyond all Gunas). His attitude of mind is perfectly balanced. He considers pain and joy with the same response and as gifts from God. He is completely unmoved by whatever changes that take place around him or even to the body which he thought was his own. He identifies his Jeevaatman with Paramaatman and looks at the physical body and the rest of the world with complete detachment. “When the Jeevaatman that is present in the body sees none else than Paramaatman who is above all Gunas, that person comes to me immediately” says Bhagawan   in Bhagavadgita. Such a person will lead himself to his   Mukti or to eternal salvation.
Sreyah anyat preyah anyat” says the Lord of Dharma, Yama to Nchiketas in Chhandogya Upanishad --The pathway to Liberation is different and highly praiseworthy. He appreciated the firmness of   Nachiketas to attain Liberation rejecting his offering of all enjoyments in life.  I have talked about the same in my discourse Steadfast Desire and Genuine Wisdom  leads to Perennial Joy. Recently Swami Chidananmada of Fowai Forum narrates an interesting story  related to the subject of  Way to Heaven and Hell as follows in which references  are made to Gita  and Kathopanioshad. The story is taken from HAPPINESS IS YOU, a book by Dr. Siddhartha B  Gautam, published by Step Press (North Carolina, USA). 
On his way back from a fierce battle, a samurai warrior encountered a monk. He thought of getting a doubt cleared. This doubt had been bothering him for a while. The warrior began humbly, “Oh monk, which is the way to heaven, and which, to hell?”

The monk seemed to be deep in meditation; he did not respond. The samurai asked the same question again, louder, and a third time, louder still. His yelling almost shook the tree sheltering the monk.

The monk’s eyes flew open. “You stupid fellow,” he said, “why did you disturb my meditation?”

The samurai was furious. Who was this monk to call him stupid? He drew his sword, ready to kill the monk.
  
When he did so, the monk smiled and said, “That is the way to hell!”

The warrior stopped where he stood, and realized that the monk had been listening to him all along, and was now teaching him a valuable lesson. He put his sword back in its sheath.

 “And that is the way to heaven,” said the monk.

Impulse control is a key component of emotional intelligence, and a whole lot of spiritual guidance also emphasizes the need to “not do what comes to our mind without giving some thought to it”.
  
 If Kathopanishad calls the two ways ‘the pleasant’ and ‘the right’ options, Geeta  warns us not to be swayed by the suggestions and promptings of the senses.

We must begin with the ‘now’. In the context of the small choices that come to us – in thought, word and deed – we must subdue our habit-based impulses and change our nature. Vulgar thoughts, harsh words and unkind actions try to emerge in us all the time; the good news is that we do have, in 7 out of 10 cases, the choice to proceed with them or to withdraw from them.

Let us act wisely in every 10 minutes of the window of the ‘now’ and let us build a different, robust future.

 Swami Chidananda in his speech conveys to us there is no such place as Hell or Heaven reflecting the thoughts of Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita and says we alone create our   Hell or HHHeaaven eaven by our actions. He also says that struggling   in Samsaara seeking temporary pleasures with repeated births and deaths  is living  in  Hell whereas permanently joining our source, The Supreme Consciousness, after realizing the Self within us to enjoy   perennial joy is living in EAVENhh Heaven. ea
Gita says by living in constant awareness of the Self, one develops an intimate relationship with the Supreme. As the bond of love for the Supreme becomes stronger, the detachment and renunciation come spontaneously. The inner purification, renunciation, and liberation –all this is an ongoing process towards Self-realization and the attainment of Mukti.

How can we attain MuktiI? MNU has the following to say:
Samvatsaro asaavaadityo ya esha purusha esha bhootaanaamdhipatih brahmanah saayujya(ga)m salokataam  aapnoti etasaameva devataanaa(ga)m saayujya(ga)m saarshitaa(ga)m samaanalokatvam aapnoti ||

Samvatsara is verily this Aaditya. This Purusha is the overlord of all living beings. One who meditates upon Him like this, attains equality with Brahman and attains His very world. He who meditates like that attains equality with Gods (devatas) with equality in enjoyment and equality   in respect of their worlds (like Indraloka, Chandraloka etc.)

 Ya  evam viddhaanudagaayane prameeyate, devaanaameva mahimaanam gatvaa aadityasya saayujyam gacchatyatha yo dakshine prameeyate pitrunaameva mahimaanam gatvaa chandramasah saayujyam gacchatyetau  vai sooryaa-chandramasor-mahimaanau braahmano vidwaan abhijayati, tasmaad brahmano mahimaanam-aapnoti tasmaat brahmano mahimaanam ||

When a meditator meditating on Parbrahman dies during Uttaraayana,    the period of the Sun’s apparent movement towards the northern direction, he attains the greatness of Gods (like 33 devatas like Aditya,  Rudra,  Indra, Prajapati etc.) and attains Saayujya or similarity with the  characteristics of the Sun. On the other hand he who dies during the period of the Sun’s movement towards the southern direction gets only the greatness of the manes (pitrus) and attains similarity with the Moon. Those that attain the Moon who could not exhaust  all their karmas are destined to be born again in this world. 

But a Brahmaopasaka who dies during Dakshinaayana also attains Moon and after resting   there during Dakshinaayana proceeds further and attains Brahman when Uttaraayana begins.   He will not return back to earth again.  (Please recall the story of Bhishma here. He avoided landing on Moon.)  All his Karmas, Saanchita and Aagaami get annihilated or untainted on account of his meditation and his Praarabhda karma also would have been fully exhausted in his ultimate body and there is no cause at all for his further bondage.

The various schools of Hindu Philosophy (Darshana) hold different views about Mukti. Some schools say that Mukti can be achieved by people only after their death, and the others claim that it can be achieved even while they are alive and also differ in the type, degree and nature of liberation or Mukti.


Dwaita School of Philosophy of Madhwa on Mukti
The Dvaita or dualistic school of Vedanta does not believe in Jeevanmukti and believes in post-mortem liberation only. A person who has gone through rigorous moral and ethical disciplines followed by right knowledge, right action, non-attachment and devotional meditation on the personal God (Vishnu) becomes first eligible for release or Mukti through Lord’s love. This school also believes in four levels or gradation in Mukti: 1) Saalokya Mukti—the departed soul goes to the abode of the Personal God, Vaikuntha and stays there blissfully enjoying his presence; 2) Saameepya Mukti or Saannidhya Mukti—the departed soul enjoys the bliss of extreme proximity to the Personal God; 3) Saaroopya Mukti—the departed soul acquires the form of the Personal God and enjoys intense Bliss; 4) Saayujya Mukti—the departed soul becomes blissfully absorbed in the Personal God.
Advaita School of Philosophy of Sankara on Mukti
The Advaita or non-dualistic school of Vedanta philosophy believes that one can attain liberation from Samsaara even while alive, which is called Jeevanmukti in Sanskrit. Various moral and ethical practices, worship of the Personal God (Saguna Brahman) etc., gradually purify one’s mind and get it ready for intense meditation on the Impersonal Divine Reality (Nirguna Brahman). Such meditation enables him to Aatmajnaana or the knowledge of the inner divine as vividly explained in Aatma Bodha of Sankara. Aatmajnaana destroys the mantle of ignorance (Avidya) that covers the Knowledge of Reality. As soon as this veil of ignorance is removed release will come. Then he becomes Jeevanmukta. After attaining Jeevanmukti he can no longer think himself as an embodied being. Body to him appears to be illusory like the rest of the world called Maaya in Advaita concept. The illusory body however continues till his Praarabhda Karma is exhausted. When Praarabhda Karma is exhausted the illusory body dies, the Jeevanmukta attains his disembodied body release called Videhamukti.
According to one view, a Jeevanmukta may totally lose interest in his illusory body immediately after attaining Jeevanmukti. As a result his body drops off in a matter of days causing his Sadyomukti or immediate release. Committing suicide by a spiritually unenlightened person is condemned by Hinduism   because it causes him intense suffering after death. However, according to scriptures, a Jeevanmukta whose lack of interest in his body causes its death is not adversely affected by the loss of the body. Their minds remain immersed in Brahman-consciousness. In that state they totally lose their body-consciousness. As a result, their bodies cannot get nourishment and drop off after few days. Other scholars say that the term Jeevanmukti, from the stand point of those who have attained Aatmajnaana, means Sadyomukti or immediate liberation. After attaining Aatmajnaana the liberated souls can no longer identify with their bodies, which along with the rest of the world have become illusory and unreal. Therefore, from their standpoint they have attained Sadyomukti. However, observers who see such souls may call them Jeevanmuktas.
There is another concept about liberation through stages called Kramamukti or Avaantaramukti. According to this concept, a person who has intensely meditated on Saguna Brahman using the sacred sound symbol Om or other prescribed methods of meditation such as Dahara Vidyaa, Bhuma Vidya or Shaandilya Vidyaa etc. goes to Brahmaloka after death. There he attains knowledge of Nirguna Brahman under the guidance of Hiranyagarbha. When the Universe is dissolved at the end of the Kalpa he becomes one with Brahman and is not born again. This type of liberation from Samsaara is called Kramamukti or Avaantaramukti.
Vishishtaadvaita Philosophy of Ramanuja on Mukti
According to Sribhahyam, what happens is that the Jeeva-atma joins and associates and integrates with Parama-artma. It still exists as an entity with Parama-atman inseparably and indistinguishably.
This school of non-qualified dualism, Vishishtaadvaita does not accept Jeevanmukti as it says a person can be liberated only after his death in this physical world. Mukti means living blissfully in Vaikuntha, which is the realm of the Personal God Naaraayana. A person who has attained Mukti lives blissfully in spiritual body in the presence of God. He acquires many divine powers such as Omniscience etc.  But unlike God he cannot create, sustain or dissolve (srishthi, sthiti and laya) the world. In spite of his exalted state, he has to remain a subservient to Parmaatman (Supreme Spirit).  According to this school, liberation cannot be attained by Aaatmajnaana as is asserted by Advaita School. This school also says that Karmayoga and Jnaanayoga only aid Bhaktiyoga.  Vishishtaadvaita Gurus administer the three secret mantras of their philosophy to their disciples who resort to complete surrender to God (Saranaagati) called Prapatti. These are: “Om Namoe Naaraayanaaaya”, “Srimannaaraayana saranam saranam Prapadye” and “Sarvadhaarmaan parityajya maamekam saranam vraja| Aham tvaa sarva paapebhyoe mokshyishyaami maa suchah ||” The last mantra is from Bhagavadgita being the last advice given to Arjuna by Bhagawan in the last chapter dealing with Mukti through Renunciation. It means, “Setting aside all meritorious deeds (Dharma), just surrender completely to My will (with firm faith and loving contemplation. I shall liberate you from all sins (or the bonds of Karma). Do not grieve, XVIII/66”. The meaning of abandoning all duties and taking refuge in the Lord is that a seeker should perform her or his duties without selfish attachment as an offering to the Lord, and totally depend on the Lord for help and guidance. The lord takes full responsibility for a person who totally depends on Him. Mahabharata says in 12.290.21: The wise should not be attached even to the righteous deeds for their entire life, but should engage their mind and intellect to the contemplation of the Supreme Being. One should develop a spirit of genuine self-surrender to the Lord by offering everything including the fruits of spiritual discipline (Saadhanaa) to Him. We should connect all our work with the Divine.  The world is controlled by the laws or will of God. One has to learn to abide by His will. Be thankful in prosperity and resign to His will in adversity. This in essence sums the philosophy of Ramanuja to attain Liberation or Mukti.
Sankhya School of Philosophy on Mukti
In this system, the soul or spirit is Purusha and body-mind complex is evolved form of unconscious primordial matter, Prakriti. Purusha is pure Consciousness: Prakriti although inherently unconscious, functions by borrowing Consciousness from Purusha. The bondage of Purusha is caused by Aviveka or Purusha’s false identification with Prakriti and its evolutes like mind, body etc. Such false   identification is caused by Purusha’s ignorance. While in bondage Purusha suffers mental and physical pain because of its false identification with the body-mind complex. In order to get rid of the false identification and consequent pain and suffering, Purusha must acquire the knowledge that as Spirit it is completely different and distinct from Prakriti and its evolved product, the mind-body complex. This knowledge is called Viveka-Jnaana. In the Sankhya system, Mukti also called Kaivalya, means complete cessation of suffering and pain. It is Vivekajnaana which causes Purusha’s Mukti from Prakriti.
The Sankhya system also accepts Jeevanmukti like Advaita system or the emancipation of the soul while living in the body. When a Jeevanmukta dies he attains Videhamukti.
Poorva-Meemaamsa Philosophy on Mukti
This school believes only in after-death liberation of the soul. Mukti can be achieved through the right performance rituals as enjoined by the Vedas. The concept of Muktia in the early Poorva-Meemaamsa system is that the liberated soul goes to heaven and enjoys heavenly bliss forever. But the later Poorva-Meemaamsa school describes Mukti as a state devoid of the possibility of rebirth and thus free from the possibility of consequent pain and suffering. It does not speak of Mukti as a state of heavenly bliss.
It is the view of the Meemaamsakas that Agnihotra must be performed so long as one is alive. Giving up Nityakarmas meaning, prescribed duties by Shastras for daily observance based on Varnaashrama Dharma tantamount to doing evil Karma and extremely sinful. So, they do not favor Sanyaasa Aasrama (the last stage of Varnaashrama Dharma to lead the life of an ascetic). In this Aasrama there are no rites like Agnihotra.   Eesaavasyopanishad says that man must live a hundred years performing Nityakarma. The Taittareeya Braahmanas says that to extinguish the Agnihotra fire is to earn the demerit of killing a hero. Meemaamsaka holds Karma to be a goal by itself; Vedanta regards it as a means to higher end.
All Hindu religious and spiritual teachers are agreed in thinking:
1)      That God is one though He has many names and forms, and that He is an ineffable perfection;
2)      That all men find themselves in this life in the toils of Samsaara in accordance with their own past Karma;
3)      That there is a triple path consisting of Karma, Bhakti and Jnaana which can lead men out of Samsaara to the perfection of God;
4)      That he who would be saved should cultivate the virtues of purity, self-control, detachment, truth and non-violence in their various forms and become a Dharmaatma (Embodiment of Dharma);
5)      And, that man’s salvation consists in his being free from the cycle of births and deaths and gaining entrance into the world of spirit. 
Wandering through Samsaara aimlessly only prolongs our state of bondage and is meaningless. Hindus are made aware of Mukti (liberation) as the final goal to be reached in our human life and they are exhorted to bend their steps towards it from the start.  But, this is not an easy job. This requires God-realization, for then alone we shall be liberated. So long our minds are not clean we cannot realize God. So we have to cleanse our minds to reach the goal by practicing Dharma, which is our true religion and our spiritual endeavor which is our Saadhana (effort). This may take numerous births before one reaches the goal.  The spiritual journey is long and slow, but no sincere effort is ever wasted. All living entities (Jeevas) are eventually redeemed by reaching the zenith of spiritual evolution about which we talked about in the past. Gita says: Prayatnad yatamaanastu yogee samsuddhakilbishah | Aneka janma  samsiddhah tatoe yaati paraam gatim” meaning “ The Yogi who diligently strives, becomes completely free from all imperfections (sins)  after gradually perfecting through many rebirths and reaches the Supreme abode (VI/45).
Hindu Shaastra guarantee that the progress made in one’s life is not lost. We can find a suitable starting point to reach its stage of purification.  Hinduism teaches us to ascend to perfection by two stages. The Path of Desire (Pravritti Maarga) followed by the Path of Renunciation (Nivritti Maarga) covers the whole course. The course ends when the last trace of attachment to worldly things drops off and the Divinity in us becomes fully manifested.
Pravritti Maarga allows individuals to desire the good things of this world as well as the higher worlds and tells them how they may fulfill such desires. Those who follow this path can minimize their misery and obtain a deal of enjoyment here and hereafter. They also get their mind purified in this process. It is an elementary course of mental discipline. The Karmakaanda of Vedas shows this path and the Poorva Meemaamsa explains the details.
There are some enlightened people who are fed up with this world. They do not bother about even the intense enjoyment of the sense-objects of the higher worlds like Svarga. Their experience in this life and the previous ones must have helped them to see through the hollowness of sense-enjoyments. These people are fit for taking up the final course, and that is the Nivritti Maarga, the Path of Renunciation.  Renouncing all desires, they have to concentrate their minds absolutely on Brahman. Various methods for doing this are prescribed in Hindu scriptures as we have learnt in Atma Bodha, Kaivalya Upanishad etc.   One may take up any of these advanced courses straight to reach the goal. The Jnaana Kaanda (the section dealing with knowledge) of the Vedas consisting of the Upanishads is the earliest revealer of this path which has been made easy to understand and follow by the great Aachaaryas in their various commentaries and later saints.
Isavasyopanishad says: Avidya is represented by Vedic Rituals, and Vidya as the Upaasanas or meditation on the Vedic deities pre-ceded by knowledge about them.  Avidya is equally applicable to blind following of religious practices.  Mere Vedic rituals or religious practices will lead to Pitruloka are the world of Manes and Upaasana on Vedic gods (vyaahritis of Brahman) and Brahman to Devaloka (heaven). But everyone has to return to this world from both of them, after exhausting the religious merit.  Isavasya Upanishad also speaks of Andham Tamah meaning entering into blinding darkness by both the pursuers. Having tasted the pleasures of both Pitruloka and Devaloka, there is a strong tendency in individual’s psyche to try them again and pursue the same course on return. This is called blinding darkness. The tendency is to pursue Vedic Ritual or Religious course for getting Pitruloka or Vedic meditations to attain Devaloka, thereby missing the royal path that leads to Mukti.
When a balanced combination of Vedic Ritual and Vedic Upaasana is practiced, in the right spirit, the result will be entirely different. Vedic Rituals and ordained scriptural duties in one’s life will lead to the purification of the mind. Meditation on Easa or Supreme Being practiced by such a pure mind will ultimately result in Mukti.
Giving up selfish and desire-motivated actions, performing acts of charity and service, devotion to Supreme Being and considering human life more as a blessing than a curse will be the Royal Path to Mukti. This is the central theme of the Isavasyopanishad which teaches for the first time Karma Yoga.


REFERENCES

This lecture has been prepared by N.R. Srinivasan for the Vedanta Class at Sri Ganesha Temple, Nashville, TN by suitably extracting materials, abridging and editing texts from the following sources which is gratefully acknowledged:
1.      T.K. Mukundan, A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai 400007, India.
2.      Chandradhar Sharma, A critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Banarasidas Publishers, Delhi, India.
3.      Swami Nivedananda, Hinduism at a Glance, Ramakrishna Mission, Calcutta Students’ Home, Calcutta, India.
4.      Swami Bhaskarananda, The Essentials of Hinduism, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai 600004, India.
5.      Pujya Chandrasekhara Sarasvati, Hindu Dharma, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai 400007, India.
6.      Ramananda Prasad, The Bhagavad Gita, American Gita Society, Fremont, California, USA.
7.      D.S. Sharma, A premier of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai 400007, India
8.       Vidya Ravindra, The Bhagavadgita, Golden Goose Publishing, info@goldengooseindia.com
9.      Swami Harshananda, Ten Cardinal Upanishads, Ramakrishna Math, Mylapore, Chennai, India.

APPENDIX

PATH TO MUKTI BY SWAMI GAUTAMANANDA (HINDU, CHENNAI)
The Karma Kanda section of the Vedas has details of yajnas and rituals by performing which one can obtain pleasure, power and other specific goals. When these rituals are observed with austerity, the individual acquires merits entitling him to enjoy his desires. But all yajnas are to be performed in this world (bhuloka), though there are many ‘lokas’ for other kinds of beings such as the Manes, the spirits, and celestial beings.
Lord Krishna tells Arjuna that a majority of people are carried away by the offer of material benefits and get involved in these rituals without any thought for redemption, pointed out Swami Gautamananda in a lecture. They lack the will and discrimination to strive for salvation.
The people who worship only through rituals seek the lesser deities to obtain benefits according to their aspirations. These may pertain to material gains in this world or can win them a chance to live in the celestial regions. But once the fruits of Yajna are experienced and enjoyed, they have to get back to the cycle of birth.
But they do not know the truth that the Lord is the presiding deity and the ultimate receiver of the offerings made in any ritual. Had they desired the highest goal, Mukti, they could have obtained it by seeking Him directly.
A Jnani is able to see the shortcomings in these rituals that distract people from the highest goal of life. Seeking the grace of lesser deities is more demanding. If the rules and conditions in the rituals are not followed meticulously, all the effort in terms of money and hard work is wasted. For lesser gains we have to strive hard. Should we aspire for the raw fruit when ripe ones are available? Why seek contaminated wells when pure reservoir is accessible?
In comparison, when we seek God, the demands are simpler while the gains are infinite. The Lord says that the highest gain, moksha, is obtained by seeking Him with the simple offering of jnana and bhakti. He is concerned about bhakti and a pure heart alone. He is pleased with whatever we offer — even our daily acts — when these are dedicated to Him with love and sincerity.

REMARKS BY N. R. SRINIVASAN
In this context it is worth recalling the following which I have often quote in my discourses:
Viswaani deva savitar-duritaani paraasuva | Yad bhadram tanma aasuva” (Rigveda)
Oh! Resplendent Lord Savitar, the cause of the Universe, do destroy all our sins; grant us that which is ultimately good. [We do not know what is good for us. So we pray to the Lord to grant us that which will be for our good.
“Patram pushpam phalam toyam yo may bhktya prayacchati |
Tad aham bhktyaa uphritam asnaami prayataatmanah || (Bhagavadgeetaa)
Whosoever offers me a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water with devotion I accept and eat the offering of devotion [Love and devotion is all that Lord is looking for and not tons of material offerings to please him. A dedicated heart, not complicated rituals, is needed to please God and obtain his grace. [This is the principle behind why Hindus offer food to the Lord first and then consume the same as blessed food called Prasaadam].
Hindu way of life is based on the concepts of repeated births and deaths, Samsaara, Moksha and Mukti   (liberation). We offer oblations (Sraaddha) to the departed souls because we believe that they are still living either in any of the fine or higher worlds or in this very earth in some other bodies. We perform meritorious deeds (Punya), for we believe that this will bring us intense enjoyment after death. Similarly we shun heinous deeds (Paapa) lest we should have intense suffering after death. These and other beliefs and rites are   based on the Hindu concept of rebirth.
Wandering through Samsaara aimlessly prolongs our state of bondage and is meaningless. Hindus are made aware of Mukti (liberation) as the final goal to be reached in our human life and they are exhorted to bend their steps towards it from the start.  But, this is not an easy job. This requires God-realization, for then alone we shall be liberated. So long our minds are not clean we cannot realize God. So we have to cleanse our minds to reach the goal by practicing Dharma, which is our true religion and our spiritual endeavor which is our Saadhana (effort). This may take numerous births before one reaches the goal.  The spiritual journey is long and slow, but no sincere effort is ever wasted. All living entities (Jeevas) are eventually redeemed by reaching the zenith of spiritual evolution about which we talked about in the past. Gita says: Prayatnad yatamaanastu yogee samsuddhakilbishah | Aneka janma  samsiddhah tatoe yaati paraam gatim” meaning “ The Yogi who diligently strives, becomes completely free from all imperfections (sins)  after gradually perfecting through many rebirths  reaches the Supreme abode (VI/45).
The Lord says that the highest gain, Mukti  is obtained by seeking Him with the simple offering of Jnana and bhakti. He is concerned about bhakti and a pure heart alone. He is pleased with whatever we offer — even our daily acts — when these are dedicated to Him with love and sincerity.