By Shivi Verma
When we realise our true Divine heritage, which is to experience divine freedom, power, joy and bliss, to become a walking, talking expression of the Divine in this body, we have earned our liberation, says Shivi Verma
“The world is full of suffering, but it is also full of overcoming it”- Hellen Keller
The ultimate goal of human life is to attain liberation from the cycle of birth and death. To never be born again, to merge with God, which is to attain moksha.” Being a Hindu I had heard this phrase ad infinitum since my childhood, from the mouth of my elders and grandmother. I often wondered what this so-called state of liberation was. “What would happen once we get liberated?” I asked my grandmother.
“After we die, we will merge with God, and always be at peace, filled with joy,” she said. “Then why did God create a world where people came to suffer?” I asked, baffled by this explanation.
“Because human beings carry a lot of karma, and they have to reap their karmas on this plane. Therefore they suffer. Even the avatar of God has to suffer over here,” she explained, while faithfully tending to the deities in her altar. Was there no possibility of being freed from our karmas while in the body, I wondered. I was given to understand that there was not, and this mysterious thing called liberation, with all its benefits, came to us only after we died. “That is why it is very important to chant the name of God at all times, so that when we die, we will go to God and attain liberation, instead of to Yama,” Dadi advised.
I was far from impressed. The idea of earthly life as a prison term for delinquent souls depressed and discouraged me infinitely. And the concept of attaining liberation after death did not inspire me at all. Creation was too beautiful to exist only as a plane of punishment. I thirsted to find the actual meaning and experience of liberation.
To my dismay, normal life was actually filled with bondage. One was enslaved by time, limitations of the body, ailments, people, circumstances, unfulfilled desires, goals and the myriad emotions cresting and troughing within. Endless thoughts, misunderstandings, missed goals, soured relationships, lost opportunities, bad luck, expectations and betrayals, all of these made life very undesirable. When everything I tried failed to work in my life, I sought Divine intervention. And from then on, a subtle grace, protection and guidance entered my life even in the worst of phases.
And it spelled hope of being liberated from temporal vagaries, because with the Divine as your guide, there were fewer chances of making grave errors of judgment, and then reaping their sorrowful consequences.
Gradually it dawned on me that unless one attained freedom from suffering while in the human body, liberation after death was difficult to come by. This meant that it was possible to be within the body, and yet be free of the consequences of karma.
As I progressed on the path of seeking the truth, I underwent all the hardships I was karmically supposed to, but I soldiered along. I extensively read spiritual literature, meditated, monitored my inner world, and learnt valuable lessons from within. Most of all, I let go of expectations, judgments, resentment, pride, greed, and attachment. I learnt to take full responsibility for my well-being, became vigilant of my thoughts, speech and actions, became open to good advice, became more tolerant and heart-centric while upholding justice, and learnt to surrender to Divine Will. Looking back, I was so intensely focussed on God that without my knowledge I was sourcing grace from Him at all times. And slowly, there came a time when I began to feel that the hold of karma had begun losing its grip on me.
After I met my guru, grace began to shower abundantly on me. I developed the ability to witness my own life and enjoy its ups and downs like a spectator. I also began to notice the gap between stimulus and response and began using it to my advantage. As awareness increased, my ego self became muted, and so did my capacity to feel hurt or remember its intensity long after the incident was over. There was a distinct rise in my power to love and appreciate that transcended grouses and resentment. Turbulent thoughts would no longer plague me. I became immensely contented with whatever I had, and wherever I stood materially. Inner bliss, peace, calmness became my regular companions. I became centred in my breath and began enjoying its movement in my body. I also noticed that life was conspiring immensely to be on my side. I began to enjoy a life of no worries, which came with the knowledge that everything that has to happen would happen at the right time. Though I am still away from the experience of total merging with the Divine, I am sure it’s only a matter of time before I would be granted that experience.
What is liberation?
|Ego, emotions and intellect conceal our Divinity and trap us in Maya, said the late Deepa Kodikal|
The Divine has bestowed people with free will to choose their experiences. And the more they choose consciously, the more they enjoy the freedom to create their lives as per their wish; to have peace, joy, abundance, control over their situations and the backing of the Divine at all times, which is their birthright. The more they choose unrighteously, unconsciously, selfishly, egotistically, the more they plunge into the meshes of maya, doom, despair and endless cycles of karmic bondage and suffering. The free will given to us by the Divine is meant to make us realise how the abuse of power eventually leads to our downfall, while its judicious use leads to liberation and boundless joy.
Ruzbeh Bharucha, author of the Fakir trilogy, says, “When we began our journey as a spark come forth from the Great Fire, we possessed only free will. There was no karma involved as we were in our pristine form. So time went by and most often we used our free will in a manner where there were reactions. Some good, most often not so good. Some filled with compassion while others mainly pregnant with self-centredness. As we passed various physical shells, our free will was used more and more, till eventually very little free will existed and the other side of the scale became heavy…the scale of karma.”
And once this scale becomes too heavy, when nothing works in our favour, when all that we get is hurt and betrayal in return for love and loyalty, we start yearning for freedom from worldly snares, questioning human existence, and looking for ways to get lasting joy and happiness. And from here the journey within begins. When the whispers of the Divine within become your lodestar, and not the suggestions of the world, you have started taking baby steps towards liberation.
According to Dadashreeji, master and Head, Maitribodh Parivaar, all movement of life on earth is a movement towards liberation.
“In this journey, all those traumatic breakdowns are like eroding layer by layer of ignorance, releasing the true self, just like an ice-cream candy exposed to heat,” he says.
Moving towards liberation
The meshes of illusion are such that souls can take innumerable lifetimes before they actively begin to seek liberation from the dragnets of life. Paul Herer, a seeker from America, says, “The West has every material comfort and luxury, but it has not been able to give us peace and happiness. I came to India to seek the truth, and what I got over here can never be traded for any fame, wealth or comfort.”
Mallika Shastry Chandrashekhar, a psychologist and an ardent seeker of truth, says that it is difficult for her to pinpoint exactly from where her desire for liberation started, but admits that it was the heart-wrenching rejection from her immediate family that compelled her to look for love, acceptance and completion from within. “Once I knew I was not me, the self-deprecating self-defeating me, and that I am actually a part of the entire phenomena, my search began. Right now, I am a speck. I must be the whole star and then the cosmos.”
Liberation is the result of both human effort and grace of God. Says Rajini Menon, a jnani and author of Face to Face with Reality, “Grace delivers liberation only when one reaches the brim of purity through one’s own efforts. This is similar to the titration experiments in chemistry classes. Each drop counts, and is important for the transformation. But it is the last that brings in the final change; that is Grace and you never know when it would happen.”
But thankfully such is the charm of the Divine, that once the journey begins, there is no looking back, and the seeker pursues his goal like a horse pursues the carrot dangled before it.
Geetika Krishnan, a mother of two, used to be a conservative girl who tended to look down upon non-conformists. Her life and beliefs were brought into question when she faced oppression from her in laws. Forbidden from taking up a job, routinely put down for minor slips, and forced to do things against her will, she relapsed into deep sorrow and depression. It was at that time that a dear friend of hers introduced her to spirituality. She told her that people would treat her the way she allowed them to, and that it was up to her to take back her power.
Geetika seized the suggestions made by her friend, and began applying them in her life. As she dropped expectations from her in-laws and learnt the art of responding instead of suppressing, the behaviour of her in-laws changed. Enthused, she intensified her study of spiritual truths, and very soon discovered the wellspring of power within herself. “I cannot tell you how much I yearn for merger with God. I have realised that once you start treading this path all other paths close for you. For unless you start biding by your inner voice, there is no way you can achieve lasting happiness in the world. I have not yet reached there but my commitment to my inner well-being is total. I have stopped eating non-veg foods, meditate regularly, and keep a strict vigil over my mind.”
Methods towards liberation
Although the masters agree that each person’s path to liberation is different and there is no single method towards attaining liberation, they give a few crucial tips for starting your spiritual journey.
|Dadashreeji: Liberation releases you to enjoy a better, ascended state of life|
That said, there are some signposts on the path that hold true for all. Being intensely aware of one’s conduct, thoughts, speech and action is one of them.
Says Mohanji, guru and founder of Ammucare charitable trust, “The first step is being aware of all our activities. This is a kind of perpetual meditation. Be aware of your every word. You will realise how much you talk! Spontaneously you will talk only what is necessary. Also, we will stop looking at the world with judgmental eyes. We know there is a cause for every effect, and we silence our mind with the awareness that it is worthless to pursue the causes all the time, and accept the effects gracefully. The last stage is being aware of our thoughts. This will happen spontaneously. And as we become aware, they decrease spontaneously and we become one with the silence. When we become empty inside, when the mind become still without desires of any nature, liberation happens.”
Guru Naushir lists a few critical components necessary for attaining liberation.
Here below is a distillation of a few necessary steps without which karma cannot be voided. Indeed, once you start walking the path, these practises become an inseparable part of your life.
Inner purity is the key to liberation. Face yourself and consult your conscience before you say or do anything. This prevents guilt from taking roots. Give up your anger, retaliation, feelings of vengeance, resentment and sense of victimhood. Bitter thoughts and feelings soil your consciousness, feed on your happiness, and keep you away from enjoying the present moment.
Seeking forgiveness for previous wrongdoings, forgiving those who hurt you, cultivating positive and pious thoughts, and being in the company of elevated souls are some of the ways to purge yourself.
Doing yoga, pranayama, meditation, japa, sitting in silence, and observing your thoughts too are powerful ways to purify yourself and void your karmas.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outline eight steps to liberation, out of which yama and niyama are meant for purification. The five yamas are non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and non-covetousness. The five niyamas are cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self-study and surrender to God. Develop a personal relationship with God. Instead of talking to yourself, talk to Him. Make him your close confidante, and listen to His guiding whispers in your heart. Once you give Him your hand, he will firmly hold it leading you to the ultimate.
Accept life, expiate karma
We get only what we have created. Either in this life or some other life. Therefore, being too resistant to pain, and too eager to leave unpleasant situations and people in your life, without learning the lessons they have for us, would result in more karmic entrapment. Be patient. Give all you can to difficult people and trying situations, to see a change for the better. Even if they don’t change, you would have evolved much higher in consciousness, in coming closer to your true self by being the first to give. Slowly, when the karmic give and take is complete without any bitterness from your side, as you learn to drop judgements, and expectations, and learn to be unconditionally loving and forgiving, the iron bars of karma will weaken and fall, releasing you into liberation.
No matter how strong the pull of unfulfilled desires and temptations, avoid indulging in them at the cost of your health, and overall well-being. Anything that becomes an unquenchable mania, greed or obsession will surely herald your downfall in the matrix. Addictions to intoxicants and bad habits, greed for money or possessions, love for gossip, coveting what is not yours, a desire to feel superior to others, a need to exert control over people, or show off your assets, and lust are all temporarily pleasurable, but with long-term negative consequences. Keep a strict vigil on your thoughts, and always consider the consequences of self-centred action. Seek guidance, counsel and Divine help in case the self-sabotaging desire becomes too strong.
Develop patience and perseverance
Quick reactivity is what Maya thrives on. It sets off a ripple effect and things turn from bad to worse. Be aware of the consequences of your impulsive retaliation. This is an offshoot of self-control. This does not mean that one suppresses everything within and never expresses pains and discomfort. But do it non-reactively, through the art of non-violent communication. Pay more attention to the voice of awareness, than to your ego. Once you give up your expectations that people should be amenable to you at all times, you would find unprecedented freedom from sorrow. Take responsibility for your life, its sorrows and joys. And even if you err, do not lose hope. Forgive yourself and resolve to be more mindful in future.
Your true self, the higher self, is the epitome of selfless giving. It has created all that which exists, without bothering to stamp its name anywhere. Our real nature too is not to hoard, but to give, selflessly. But thanks to the fears generated by the insecure mind, we either become tight-fisted or give without discrimination and for the wrong reason such as self-promotion. Give whenever your heart moves you to be generous. And do it silently without trumpeting it. Giving has many forms. You can give your time, your effort, your talent, your compassion and your wealth as and when the need arises.
Liberation is not for the lily-livered. The more you stay in alignment with your higher self, the more unconventional your life and path might appear to the world, but the more inner peace you would feel, which would be independent of the world. See God in everything you do and everyone you meet. Do good for the sake of doing good, and surrender the results unto the Lord. Do not claim ownership. In the end surrender your desire for liberation too. Believe that you are already liberated. There is no liberation to be found at a later date. In your freedom to choose how you respond to life and the situations thrown by it, lies your liberation. The moment you realise that you are not a hapless victim but a creator of your life, your liberation begins.
And slowly there comes a time when an individual begins to strongly feel that the net sum of his karmic ledger has become zero. It is a completely natural state, when you have nothing to fear anymore. The fetters of incessant thoughts drop and you feel unprecedented peace within your heart.
Dadashreeji explains, “There is a feeling of being released from the layer of ignorance towards true knowledge and awakening. With every release, the influence of the past reduces. Those who once caused you emotional turmoil and difficulty will lose their power. You experience yourself as having ascended to a better state of life.”
Says Maitri Sulata, one of Dadashree’s disciples, “I had been a seeker since a long time but ever since I took the shelter of my guru, I feel deep peace and immense silence within. As though the world and its dramas have no effect on me. Things happen the way they have to happen, and I see them only as a witness without getting personally agitated about them.”
Says Bhaavin Shah, “I was going through emotional turmoil and life was not making sense to me. I did all sorts of spiritual practises even though I felt they led me nowhere. But then, gradually there came a time when I could see that all that misery had shaped up my life and given it meaning. Thereafter, I became a teacher, healer, and writer. For me, liberation means looking at the big picture and seeing that whatever is happening is perfect, and that everything will eventually work out. When you realise that everything is a blessing in disguise, it gives you the greatest sense of ease.”
As good as this seems, the final state is when the individual becomes one with all that is. This state is almost impossible to describe in words. There is total dissolution of the self in the Absolute.
Says Rajini Menon, “This state is unexplainable. No words can describe this. The functioning of the body and mind happens absolutely naturally, but you are beyond consciousness and unfathomable. You are prior to witnessing, prior to consciousness. There is no doer left in the person anymore.”
Rajini herself reached this state by constantly monitoring her inner world and never repaying ill-will by ill-will, even though people would be mean and heartless to her. This was not easy since there came a time when the hurts mounted up so much that she fell ill with depression. And through this depression, and inner churning, Rajini began to see the light within herself. Everything dropped from her. She felt she was floating in bliss and an unending expanse. “I would feel like a royal king moving around as if everything was under my control. My circumstances were the same, but there was a sea change inwardly,” she says.
Explains Dadashreeji, “As you grow towards higher states of liberation, you experience that all is governed by the law of the Divine and that all is just happening, you are not doing anything actively. But because of your lofty elevation, situations, dreams and desires simply manifest as you desire them to. Eventually, one is liberated from all wants as he has no self to have any desires. It happens when one experiences the altered state of consciousness beyond the human dimension.”
Adds Guru Naushir, “Such a person is called a jeevan mukt. Post-liberation one becomes a perfect master with immense powers, one of which includes remaining in a state of universal consciousness or bliss. The reason why many souls choose to depart the physical realm and very few opt to remain behind is because existing in the physical body feels like an ocean compressed into a small bottle.”
All their lives humans strive for joy, success, peace and abundance, but while striving for them often leads to loss and betrayal, the search for our authentic true self not only delivers us from suffering, but gives us all the desired things as a happy byproduct, without unnecessary striving from our part.
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