Vedānta Series 37

All the three types of karmas can be destroyed, says Tattvabodha. Sañcita karma can be destroyed by knowledge about the Self. The concept of “I am Brahman” alone can destroy sañcita karma. Karmas can manifest only through the gross body. Since the yogi is not concerned with his body, karmas cannot affect him. Whatever happens to his body, be it pleasure or pain, does not distract his consciousness fixed on the Brahman. He always stays connected with the Brahman, and pursuant to which he remains in the state of perpetual bliss or ānanda. Bodily pains and sufferings are too trivial for him.  He has reached the stage of jīvanmukta after attaining complete knowledge about the Brahman and later realizing that he himself is the Brahman (Self realisation). From this state, he quickly moves on to universality. He has understood by his experience, that attachment to his body and materialistic living is the root cause of all his sufferings. He knows that his soul is not bound by the limitations of his body, as he can  see the Brahman everywhere.  He truly understands the omnipresent nature of the Brahman.

A jīvanmukta has attained that state only after personally realising that he is not the doer and also knows that he cannot be the doer. When he is not the doer, he is not concerned with worldly experiences. Attachment to the worldly experiences is due to ignorance. The cause for his realisation and experience is the spiritual knowledge, which he has attained through scriptures and from the words of his guru. This supreme knowledge is capable of burning all his karmas. This is compared to roasted seeds.  Roasted seeds cannot sprout because all the parts of a seed – seed coat (comparable to the gross body), endosperm (comparable to the subtle body) and embryo (the causal body) are burnt due to the heat. Though a roasted seed continues to exist, it cannot sprout because all its sheaths are burnt. In the same way, jīvanmukta’s karmas are burnt, because all his three of bodies are burnt and incapacitated to transmigrate. When subtle and causal bodies are burnt, his karmas and impressions of his subconscious mind are also burnt.  Where there is no cause, there cannot be any effect. He continues to exist with his body and gets liberated at the time of his death, not to be born again. After all, water in a broken pot cannot be transferred to a new pot. Thus sañcita karma will be burnt.

Prārabdha karma also does not affect him, as he does identify himself with his body. He has become a jīvanmukta because of his disconnect with the material world. Only those, who are interested in materialistic life, are concerned with gross and subtle bodies, through which they accrue karmas. The one, who has shed his identity with the bodies, never accrues karmas. This is because, his sensory organs are not connected to the materialistic world; and second, his mind is always pervaded by the Brahman, pursuant to which sensory inputs are rejected by his mind. This is a situation, where impressions, even if any, cannot be recorded anywhere. As the impressions alone cause karmas, he does not accrue further karmas and hence there is no question of accrual of prārabdha karmas in this last life. His living is compared to a lotus leaf in water. Though the lotus leaf exists in water, it does not get wet, where  water is the materialistic world and the lotus leaf is jīvanmukta.    

Tattvabodha now declares a secret. It says that those who praise and worship such a jñānin acquire the good karmas done by that jñānin. Brahman decided that all the good karmas of that yogi should not go waste. Since the Lord is companionate, He decided that those who serve and adore such a jñānin will get the good portion of the āgāmi karmas of the jñānin. On the contrary, if someone disrespects him, hates him or hurts him, he acquires bad portion of the āgāmi karmas of the jñānin, if any. This can practically be experienced in the presence of a true jīvanmukta by the feel of positive vibrations emanating from the jñānin.    

Therefore, at the time of his death, he does not have all the three types of karmas. Sañcita karma is burnt by his knowledge. Prārabdha karma is also burnt by the knowledge and no further karmas accrue, because he lives a life like a lotus leaf in water. Āgāmi karma is spent away by transferring it to those who worship him and treat him with utmost respect. When his karmic account is totally nullified, he gets ready for final liberation, leaving his body to the elements of nature, from where it originated.

The one who has realised the Self has crossed the ocean of saṃsāra. Saṃsāra refers to transmigration arising out of indulgence in worldly life. If one gets relived from saṃsāra, it means his consciousness crosses all the limitations and boundaries to become one with the Brahman, who is all pervasive. A realised person does not care about the place where he leaves his body, for consummation to the elements of nature. For him, the city of Banaras on the banks of holy Ganges and a place where dogs eat corpses do not matter at all. He is not worried about the rituals and rites to his body, as he knows such rituals and rites cannot manoeuvre his soul. This concept is applicable only to a jñānin and those who continue to be associated with materialistic living have to strictly follow the dictums of the Holy Scriptures. This is where the shallow spiritual knowledge plays havoc.    

Jīvanmukta now becomes videhamukta, the one without a body. According to Gabriel Pradīpaka, “the videhamukta had to abandon his body due to the extreme intensity of the experience that flashes in him immediately. He could remain around here as the Self sometimes, but not supported by anything  (not even subtle or causal).”  For a jīvanmukta, there is no difference between these two stages. Even when he was existing in his physical body, he never paid attention to his body and the difference between these two is of relevance only to those who live a materialistic life. This means that difference between jīvanmukta and videhamukta is of relevance only for spiritual novices. Death is yet another happening in our lives, like eating and sleeping.    

Liberation happens after the destruction of inherent spiritual ignorance. Every soul is veiled by ignorance. This spiritual ignorance can be destroyed only by the fire of knowledge. When māyā is destroyed, a spiritual aspirant completes his spiritual journey. When the veil of māyā is removed, he understands his true nature, that he is the Brahman. He confidently affirms, “I am That”. Reaching the higher realms of spirituality is not that easy. Knowledge and experience alone helps.  A true guru can impart enough spiritual knowledge, but it is up to the aspirant to understand and explore those holy teachings. All the pleasures derived from associating ourselves with the materialistic world are momentary.  Pleasure and pain always alternates like the pendulum of a clock. Neither of them is permanent. They unfold according to the imprints of our karmic account. Our thoughts and actions cause karmic imprints. There are several ways to commence spiritual journey. The ideal entry would be to develop concern and compassion for other beings, be it man or animal.  There has to be a first step in any ladder and one has to have the right intention to climb up the ladder. The first step is after all, the most important one.  

This concludes the series on Vedānta.

Further Readings:

Vedanta - Karma

Vedanta - Organs of Action

Vedanta - Panchikarana