Speaking Tree-Times Of India- 23 August 2010
Liberation is believed to the epitome of achievement of the human form. But the phenomenon of liberation is riddled with a great paradox.
The paradox is that the liberated entity disintegrates, dissolves and no longer remains to appreciate the state of liberation. The whole exercise of liberation therefore seems to be an exercise in futility when viewed from the standpoint of the individual endeavouring to seek liberation.
Liberation can never be an acquisition of the individual. Because liberation is not of a person, liberation is from a person. It is often said by sages that the search or efforts to seek liberation will end only when the seeker ends.
All attempts made in this direction only further crystallise the identity and discreteness of the seeker. The state of am-ness when suffixed by an identity automatically precludes any scope of salvation. Desire for liberation is an oxymoron, because liberation is absence of all desires. Does it mean that all endeavours like meditation, devotion and prayer are superfluous?
Sage Ashtavakra said precisely that. Liberation is merely a blink away. It need not involve any form of penance, effort or endeavour. The identity of self is totally a creation of the self and a figment of imagination. The name, the form is merely a projection. Liberation is instantaneously becoming aware of the absence of the subject-object dichotomy.
The meaning of the word Ashtavakra is “distorted at eight places”. According to legend when Ashtavakra was in still in his mother’s womb, his father would recite from Vedic scriptures. But his chanting was defective and every time Ashtavakra discerned an error, he would squirm inside the womb. As a result he was born with eight deformities; hence the name.
This story is symbolic. The squirming was perhaps at the futility of the chanting. Sage Ashtavakra was a realised soul and his discourse to King Janaka forms the content of the treatise, Ashtavakra Gita, that predates the Bhagavad Gita.
The name Ashtavakra has a far greater significance. Yoga as elucidated by Sage Patanjali is comprised of an eight-fold path. Ashtanga Yoga, comprising yama or restraint, niyama or self-regulation, dhyaan or meditation, pratyaahara, dharana, samadhi asana and pranayama. The eightfold path leads to samadhi or liberation. But Ashtavakra said that all endeavours only fortify the identity of the seeker. He said that liberation is the state where the subject and object become one. All endeavours only serve to underline the ego and are a detriment to liberation. Ashtavakra therefore seems to underline the distortion created by any path of endeavour by the seeker. The philosophy challenges the basic premise that one has to make any effort to seek liberation – for that matter even ashtanga yoga. This is a radical departure from all established though.
A specific form is merely the all-pervading consciousness cleaving itself into a subject and object. It then goes about believing all that is observed is as separate and discrete as its own self. The true nature of the Self is beyond all identity and ego. It is plain consciousness. The ego is adulteration of this consciousness by total conviction in this fleeting illusory identity. And then the game of seeking begins, like the dog chasing its own tail. Holding on to the illusion of identity, one goes about seeking. The form can never ever seek the formless consciousness of which it is a manifestation. It can only merge and this merger can happen only when the form realises the futility of all efforts to become the formless.
(The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon firstname.lastname@example.org and neuroconsciousness.blogspot.com)
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