Those who see beyond the first three purusharthas, have the necessary qualification to develop mumukshutvam: they have realized that they will neither find lasting security by pursuing artha, nor lasting happiness by pursuing kama, nor a lasting clean conscience and the prospect of wonderful future births by pursuing dharma. Some of them set out to find moksha, liberation.
In Vedanta liberation is defined as freedom from ignorance. Ignorance about what? About myself. I have read or heard that my true Self is not what I take myself to be, i.e. body-mind-senses-intellect. Because I trust that this is correct I give up the idea that moksha means something will be added to myself (bliss, union with God, heaven etc.). Instead I want to be free from the wrong notion about who I think I am and know the Truth of the Self which is who I already am and need not be added. Thus I find myself wanting to lose my self- ignorance and thereby becoming a jijnasu, a seeker of Truth.
The means for moksha in Advaita Vedanta is knowledge, and engagement in the pursuit of that knowledge means studying Vedanta under the guidance of an enlightened teacher who is well versed in the shastra (spiritual texts) and knows how to teach Vedanta.
Amongst those who set out to rid themselves of ignorance there are different degrees of ignorance; but ignorance has to be there – otherwise why go for moksha at all? So it’s worth having a closer look at this ignorance. What does it consist of? If we take for granted that the jijnasu no longer harbors ANY delusions about what artha, kama and dharma can deliver, then moksha has been realized. End of search.
Remnants of artha, kama, dharma
We have to assume that in the mind of every mumukshu/jijnasu remnants of delusions about artha, kama and dharma will be found. As the seeker’s set goal is moksha, it is likely that those delusions will function as a cover on the nature of moksha; most probably in the form of wrong ideas about what moksha will give me. And these wrong ideas will carry the flavor of artha, kama and/or dharma: moksha will mean that I finally and for ever will be safe, or happy (blissful even!), or good.
Now there is no way to avoid this error. Whoever knows what moksha is has already found it to be his nature; there will be no need to go on a spiritual quest to find it. Likewise whoever does not know of moksha at all, will not set out to find it. Only those who hear of moksha and find the idea attractive will consider seeking it. Mind you, what most beginners find attractive is not moksha but their idea of it. It has to be so and is not a big problem at the start as it sets one off in the right direction.
Objectification of moksha
Any action is prompted by a desire. Seeking moksha involves actions, which are prompted by the desire for moksha. Even if my idea of moksha was free of tinges of artha, kama, dharma – which is very unlikely - simply because I am not liberated yet I will be on the look out for an object called moksha. The mind cannot possibly desire something that is not an object – even if it knows that it is supposed to be the subject.
In the mind of any seeker of Truth there will be the idea that moksha will give him something. This in itself is a big error. Moksha will not give anything to anyone. First of all, moksha does not add anything. It is the mere discovery of what is already there, has always been there and will always be there. But not only that – moksha is going to take something away. “Yes” says the mumukshu “the ignorance about who I am.” True, but what will go along with the ignorance? The very ‘me’, which thinks that it is going to gain something through moksha. So whatever it may give – after moksha there is no recipient left.
To sum up the path of Advaita Vedanta:
Every ignorant person starts by running after security, happiness and the idea of being a good person.
After the unavoidable frustrations with t hese goals – namely that they never deliver lasting results – eventually the lucky ones come to know about the possibility of moksha, i.e. they are a little wiser but still basically ignorant. The first idea of moksha will probably be a thinly disguised form of artha, kama, dharma.
A few of those lucky ones come to know of the Truth of Vedanta, i.e. that moksha is nothing but discovery of their true, already-existing Self - they are wiser but basically still ignorant. Artha, kama and dharma will be questioned more and the idea will bud that moksha is not an object to be achieved but is the subject to be discovered.
A few of those doubly lucky ones are even more lucky, finding a teacher who can guide them out of ignorance. Now the process of discovering this very subject will be enhanced. (1)
But even then we have to content ourselves with the fact that as seekers of moksha we are never really seeking moksha - for the simple reason that we are still ignorant. This means that we cannot but objectify it, with the result that we harbor wrong ideas about it. In this last stage we start up the search from a different basis: from 99% delusion about moksha and 1% knowledge of moksha to slowly proceeding to 99% knowledge of moksha to 1% delusion about moksha.
As long as the pursuit persists, delusion will remain, even if ever so minimal. No one will be able to tell how our current percentage-balance looks like, least of all ourselves. But the moment the last percentage goes, with it goes the “I”: Moksha is there and is found to be the Self.
In the course of our spiritual search, moksha will move higher and higher up our list of priorities. Many seekers claim that they do not want anything in life more or even other than moksha. But this cannot be the full truth because what is it that veils the true meaning of moksha? Other priorities, now in the disguise of moksha - mostly the idea that after moksha everything will be fine. Even though this is true – the idea of it cannot be the truth of it. Thus the very last misconception that will go will most probably be a misconception about the nature of moksha. This also means that I can safely assume, the very instant I really and truly want nothing other than moksha, moksha will found to be there.
(1) In a future blog I will attempt to relate these stages to Western advaita seekers.