Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Extracts from the works of Shri S.N. Sastri
[How often does one come across a Computer savvy eighty seven year old Sanskrit Scholar and Vedic pundit well versed in all the major Upansihads as well as the commentaries of Revered Sankara? This rare genius is Shri S.N. Sastri, a retired Senior Finacial Officer of the Indian Government and author of several acclaimed works like Commentaries on Narayaniyam, Hastamalakiyam etc. His agile mind gets reflected in his writings through the lucid, balanced and comprehensive assessment of all the intricate issues of Advaita . Shri Sastri’s articles are available at:
and also at:
I am grateful to Shri S.N. Sastri for his ready consent to publish excerpts from his essays at this Blog on the subject of Liberation right in this Life (Jivanmukti) and Liberation without body (Videhamukti) -- ramesam.]


(i) Extract taken from “Introduction to Advaita Vedanta”:

“The world has no reality apart from Brahman, just as the illusory snake has no reality apart from the rope. When the knowledge of Brahman arises, the world is seen as a mere appearance of Brahman. The illusory snake arose from the rope, was sustained by the rope and ultimately merged into the rope.

"Similarly, the world arises from Brahman, is sustained by Brahman and merges into Brahman on the attainment of knowledge. Another example is also given to explain this. Ornaments of different sizes and shapes are made out of one gold bar. Their appearance and the use for which they are meant vary, but the fact that they are all really nothing but gold, in spite of their different appearances and uses, cannot be denied. The appearance may change, a bangle may be converted into rings, but the gold always remains as gold. When we begin to look upon the bangles, rings, etc., as nothing but gold in essence, the differences between bangle and ring, ring and chain, etc., cease to count though they continue to retain their different shapes.

"[O]n the dawn of the knowledge of Brahman (which is the same as the Self), though the different forms continue to be seen by the j~nAni, the realised soul, he sees them all only as appearances of the one Brahman. Thus the perception of difference between one person and another, or one thing and another, and the consequences of such perception, such as looking upon some as favourable and others as the opposite, and the consequent efforts to retain or get what is favourable and to get rid of or avoid what is not favourable, come to an end. This is the state of liberation even while living, which is known as jIvanmukti.

* * *

"[L]iberation is not the attainment of some new state in some other world after the end of the present life. It is only the realisation, in this life itself, of what one has always been, namely Brahman, by the removal of the wrong notion that one is the body-mind complex. The illusory snake never existed. What existed even when the snake was seen was only the rope. Similarly, bondage has no real existence at all. Even when we are ignorant of Brahman and think of ourselves as limited by the body, we are really none other than the infinite Brahman. Liberation is thus only the removal of the wrong identification with the body, mind and senses."

(ii) Extract taken from a Summary (by Shri Sastri) of Jivanmuktiviveka of Swami Vidyaranya:

Jivanmukti and Videhamukti are distinguished only by the presence and absence of the body and the sense-organs. The awareness of duality is absent in both of them.

The Jivanmukta is one for whom this phenomenal world, in which he moves and acts, has ceased to exist. In the case of an ordinary person, his mind reacts to the various forms in the world and gives him knowledge of their variety and their differences from one another. But the mind of the Jivanmukta does not get so transformed and so he does not see differences, but sees all forms only as Brahman.

"In deep sleep the mind does not undergo any transformation, but the seed for transformation remains. So sleep cannot be equated with the state of Jivanmukti. The Jivanmukta remains unaffected by both pleasure and pain. He is not elated by something good happening, nor is he depressed when a calamity occurs. He does not crave for anything, but subsists on whatever comes of its own accord.

"Though his senses function and can experience everything, his mind is absolutely calm and does not react to anything. Though his eyes see everything before him, his mind does not judge them as good or bad, favourable or unfavourable and so he is free from agitation and attachment or aversion. The senses themselves do not cause any harm. It is the mind which judges what is experienced by the senses and develops likes and dislikes in the case of an ordinary person. Since the mind of the Jivanmukta does not make any such judgment, he is free from all attachment and aversion."


When the body of the Jivanmukta falls, he becomes a Videhamukta, freed from his empirical existence and attains his real nature, like air resuming its tranquillity when the wind stops blowing. His subtle body is dissolved here itself. He cannot be described as 'sat', that is to say, he cannot be called 'praajna' conditioned by avidya or 'Isvara' conditioned by maayaa. He cannot be called 'asat', or made up of mere matter. He does not experience the gross objects of sense. He is neither Virat, nor Hiranyagarbha nor Isvara. Nor is he Visva, Taijasa or Praajna. Thus he does not come under the category of microcosm (vyashti) or of macrocosm (samashti).

Characteristics of the Jivanmukta:

(iii) Extract taken from a Summary (by Shri Sastri) of Jivanmuktiviveka of Swami Vidyaranya:

"Because of the absence of transformation of the mind, the Jivanmukta is free from Vasanas. His mind always remains pure. He never looks upon himself as a doer of actions since he does not identify himself with the body-mind complex which alone performs all actions. Consequently he is neither elated nor depressed by the good or bad results of the actions. Others do not have any reason to fear him, because he never insults or harms others in any way. He is also not afraid of any one. He remains unaffected even if some wicked man insults or harasses him. He does not distinguish people as friend or foe. Though full of learning, he never exhibits it. His mind is absolutely free from worldly thoughts and is always fixed on contemplation of the Self.

"[A Jivanmukta] remains cool even in matters concerning himself, just as a man attending a marriage or other ceremony in another's house remains unaffected by the gain or loss of that other person. This coolness is due not only to his freedom from worry, but also to his awareness of the fullness of his own Self. These are the characteristics of the Jivanmukta."

(iv) Extract taken from Vedanta Saara:

"When a Jivanmukta is not in samaadhi, he experiences sense-objects as well as hunger, thirst, etc, but does not consider them to be real and is therefore not at all affected by them. He is like a man witnessing a magical performance, being fully aware that what he sees is not real.

“He who does not see anything in the waking state as in sound sleep; who, though seeing duality, does not really see it as he sees only the Absolute; who, though engaged in action (for the good of the world), is in reality inactive (being totally free from the idea of agency); he, and none other, is the knower of the Self. This is the truth.” (Sankara’s Upades’asaahasrii,10.13).

“Such qualities as freedom from hatred are natural to one who has attained Self-knowledge. They have not to be cultivated with effort (as in the case of an aspirant for liberation)”--- Naishkarmyasiddhi,4.69."

Some of the Relevant Scriptural Sources for the above Material:

Mundaka Upanishad – 2.2.8
Sankara’s Upadesa saahasri – 10.13
Naishkarmya siddhi – 4.69
Sankara’s Vakya vrittis – verses 52, 53
Sankara Bhashya On Bruhadaranyaka Upanishad – 3.2.11; 4.4.6
Sankara Bhashya on Bhagavad Gita - II.51, V.24, VI.27