Generally, liberation (mukti) is taken to mean ‘to be freed’. On the spiritual path, liberation has a special meaning: liberation is not just to be freed from the misery of imprisonment, but is about being freed from the misery of imprisonment as well as experiencing a bliss that has never been experienced before and attaining the divine. Indeed, there is happiness associated with release from imprisonment, but that is not enough. Bliss was being prohibited by that imprisonment, so upon release from that imprisonment, that bliss is attained. Thus, liberation has two aspects, being freed and attainment of bliss.
One who aspires for liberation is called an aspirant. In the Gitã, Arjuna is an aspirant. Shri Krishna tells him the principle of liberation in various ways.
THE DEFINTION OF LIBERATION
The technical definition of liberation is to rise above the three gunas of mãyã and become brahmarup by the association of the brahmaswarup guru, and to offer devotion (upãsanã) with dãsabhãv (the sentiment of willing and unpretentious service that originates from love, respect, adoration, humility, gratitude, etc.) to Parabrahman. This definition is affirmed well in the Gitã.
THE TWO TYPES OF LIBERATION
There are two types of liberation (mukti): Jivanmukti and Videhamukti. The above definition applies to both types of liberation, and the Gitã also clearly describes them both.
Jivanmukti means to experience liberation whilst alive. Spirituality is not about promises of the future, but concrete experience. Although every religion has accepted the principle of liberation, the acceptance of jivanmukti is unique to Hinduism. The shastras of India, based on the Vedas, clearly proclaim jivanmukti. One of these is the Gitã. In his teachings, Bhagwan Swaminarayan has also repeatedly emphasized about the experience of liberation whilst alive.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF JIVANMUKTI
Describing the characteristics of a person who experiences the state of liberation whilst in this world, Shri Krishna says, ‘यतेन्द्रियमनोबुद्धि र्मुनिर्मोक्षपरायणः। विगतेत्व्छाभयक्रोघो यः सदा मुक्त एव सः॥’ – ‘Yatendriyamanobuddhir munirmokshaparãyanaha; Vigatechchhãbhayakrodho yaha sadã mukta eva saha.’ – Meaning: ‘A person who is in control of his mind and senses, who solely aspires for liberation, who has no desires, fear or anger and is reflective, such a person is invariably a mukta’ (Gitã 5.28).
The words ‘sadã mukta eva saha’ – ‘such a person is invariably a mukta’ – show that it is not necessary to attain the abode of Parabrahman after death to be called a mukta; such a person is indeed a mukta even whilst in this world.
The same principle is explained again with the words, ‘इहैव तैíजतः सर्गो येषां सा ये स्थितं मनः। निर्दोषं हि समं ब्रह्म तस्माद्ब्रह्मणि ते स्थिताः॥’ – ‘Ihaiva tairjitaha sargo yeshãm sãmye sthitam manaha; Nirdosham hi samam brahma tasmãd brahmani te sthitãhã.’ – Meaning: ‘One whose mind is fixed on tranquillity has won the world whilst here; because Aksharbrahman is faultless and tranquil, therefore, such a person is fixed on Aksharbrahman’ (Gitã 5.19).
Again, with ‘ihaiva’ – ‘here indeed’ – Shri Krishna speaks of being rid of the bonds of the world whilst alive.
Explaining that winning the battle whilst alive is to have fulfilled the purpose of life, Shri Krishna says, ‘शक्नोतीहैव यः सोढुं प्राक्शरीरविमोक्षणात्। कामक्रोघोद्भवं वेगं स युक्तः स सुखी नरः॥’ – ‘Shaknoteehaiva yaha sodhum prãkshareeravimokshanãt; Kãmakrodhodbhavam vegam sa yuktaha sa sukhee naraha.’ – Meaning: ‘A person who is able to endure the outbreaks of lust and anger, etc. here, before departing the body, is a yogi and is happy’ (Gitã 5.23).
The words, ‘ihaiva’ – ‘here indeed’ – and ‘prãkshareeravimokshanãt’ – ‘before departing the body’ –show that true yogis rise above the instincts of lust, anger, etc. and experience the ultimate bliss during this life.
The Gitã then describes the state of one who has conquered the instincts of lust, anger, etc., saying, ‘कामक्रोघवियुक्तानां यतीनां यतचेतसाम्। अभितो ब्रह्मनिर्वाणं वर्तते विदितात्मनाम्॥’ – ‘Kãmakrodhaviyuktãnãm yateenãm yatachetasãm; Abhito brahmanirvãnam vartate viditãtmanãm.’ – Meaning: ‘For those devotees who have no lust or anger, have conquered their minds, are in control of their senses and know Paramatma, Brahmanirvan is all around them’ (Gitã 5.26).
To attain Brahmanirvan means to go to Akshardham. Brahmanirvan is attained only after leaving the body. Nevertheless, those who have the above virtues experience Akshardham in this world and in this body.
The notion of experiencing liberation whilst alive also is stated in Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s teachings. For example, he says, “If one performs a karma by which God and his Bhakta are pleased, then, in this very body, one will enjoy bliss similar to that of attaining the highest state of enlightenment” (Vachanamrut Gadhadã II 45); “When the devotee has kept his mind at the holy feet of God in this manner, he does not have to die to attain the abode of God – he has attained it while still alive” (Vachanamrut Gadhadã III 7); “Such a sadhu also believes that his jivãtmã is distinct from the three bodies – sthul, sukshma and kãran – and that that God forever resides within his ãtmã. Indeed, God and the abode of God are not even an atom’s distance away from such a sadhu” (Vachanamrut Sãrangpur 10).
Thus, from shastras like the Gitã and the Vachanamrut, we understand that although liberation is indeed to be attained, one does not have to wait for the body to pass away to experience it.