Liberation leads to slippery summits

Meditations / Mukunda Goswami This article was posted in the Hindustan Times 6 May 2002. MADHVACARYA WROTE that liberation or moksha means attaining the lotus feet of Bhagvan Krishna, or entering an eternal relationship of service to the Supreme Lord. As lyrics to a popular song once intoned, "Everyone is looking for something." That something we all seek is shelter; and for some that is liberation. But liberation seeking is rare. Most of us look for ultimate happiness in the tri-varga world of artha, kama and dharma (wealth, sensual pleasure, and religiosity). Few are actually seekers of moksha or liberation. Generally, we want perfection by becoming extremely wealthy, by quickly and easily satisfying our most cherished physical desires or by action such that the devatas will award our specific desires. Only those who are philosophical about life or who feel materially exhausted are after moksha. But what exactly is liberation? Some think it's merging into ultimate Brahman or oneness. Others think it's suicide. Most think attaining perfect artha, kama and dharma will bring true shelter. If I have enough money, I don't have to fret. I've become liberated from financial worries. If I can have unlimited bodily pleasures, I'm liberated from sensual demand. And if I have performed all my havan yagyas correctly, done the right austerities and appropriately pleased the devatas, I'm liberated from want. History has shown us that militant 'liberationists' have risked their lives fighting for what they are certain will free masses by giving them economic, political or social emancipation. The term 'liberation' has been widely used in this context, where protecting peoples' rights gives shelter. These are only some of the vain searches for protection against the unknown, from that which is frightening, and from death itself. There's a strong tendency in human society to take shelter of scientists, loved ones, and leaders of political, religious, psychological and philosophical movements. We pattern our lives after our role models in these fields. But liberation is moksha. And real moksha, permanent moksha, is as the sage Madhvacarya described it. It means yoga samadhi, or constant meditation and prayer, along with a desire to love God. As Christ taught, we are to "be in the world, but not of it." He was advocating heaven on earth without the physical, or astral ascent into swarga (heaven). But even elevation to swarga is not final. Madhva taught that lasting liberation is available only when love of God, with full knowledge of the meaning of God, is achieved. This is called jivanmukta.