MOKâA: FREEDOM FROM WHAT?
Even though it comes last, mokÀa is a very important puruÀ¡rtha, as we shall see. MokÀa is recognised as a pursuit only by a very few people in any given generation. Because a certain appreciation, a certain maturity or insight, about life and its struggles is required to understand mokÀa, people do not discerningly pursue it, although everyone is in fact, always seeking freedom in one form or other.
Although we think of freedom in a very positive way, the word mokÀa is actually defined in a negative sense. There is something binding you, from which you want to become free and that freedom is mokÀa. We say, for example, that a man who is not in jail has freedom, whereas if he is in jail, he does not. Because he cannot choose to come out, he has lost his freedom of mobility and wants to gain it. He wants freedom from the shackles of jail.
If you are using crutches because of a leg fracture, you want freedom from the crutches. Similarly, an infant requiring the help of the wall or mother's hand in order to stand wants to be free of the wall or the hand and therefore strives to stand on his or her own. Freedom, then, is always freedom from something.
MokÀa means freedom from something I do not want. And because mokÀa is a puruÀ¡rtha, a human end common to all, wanting to be free is not peculiar to me alone. Everyone wants to be free from certain things that are common to all. That I am attached to particular forms of security, artha, reveals a certain fact about myself — that I am insecure. That I also seek pleasures, k¡ma, reveals that I am restless, that I am not satisfied with myself. I have to do something in order to please myself, which means that I am displeased with myself.
If you are always seeking security and pleasure, when will you make your life? When will you really be able to say, 'I have made it! You can say that only when you see yourself as secure and are pleased with yourself. Then you are free; you have mokÀa.
MokÀa does not mean salvation. In fact, there is no word in Sanskrit for salvation, which is just as well, since salvation implies a certain condemnation of yourself. It implies that someone has to salvage you, has to save you, which is not what is meant by mokÀa at all. The word mokÀa refers only to the freeing of myself from certain fetters. The basic ones are the notions that 'I am insecure' and 'I am displeased with myself.'
I must see myself as secure and be pleased with myself as I am. Only then do I have mokÀa. If I am secure and pleased with myself, what situation is going to change that? I require no security or a situational change whatsoever to be secure and at peace.
This should be understood well. You spend your entire life manipulating the world to please yourself. In the process, you find that two hands and legs, five senses, and a mind are not enough to contend with all the factors involved. There are just too many events and situations, as well as natural forces, over which you seem to have no control.
FREEDOM IS FREEDOM FROM SEEKING
With my limited powers and limited knowledge, I find that I can never measure up to the demands of gaining the securities and pleasures that I seek. This is why life seems to be a problem. Only when you reach thirtynine or forty, when you undergo what is sometimes referred to as the 'Mid-life crisis,' do you begin to understand this. Even though you may think your marriage or your job is your crisis, actually you are the crisis. Your crisis has nothing to do with marriage or any of the other situations in your life. Your tendency, however, is to find a scapegoat for every problem you have and the immediate scapegoat available is often your partner in life.
When we look into our various pursuits — artha, k¡ma and dharma, we find that, what we really seek is none of these. We seek only freedom from being a seeker. Everyone is a seeker pursuing artha and k¡ma mainly and, to some extent, dharma. But, ultimately, everyone is seeking only mokÀa. Therefore, mokÀa alone is the real end. In other words, freedom from being insecure is what we seek when we seek security. When I seek certain securities, I am not really seeking the securities themselves. I am seeking freedom from being insecure. This distinction should be clearly understood.
The shift in emphasis that this distinction represents is what we call learning.
Seeking security is very natural. For an uninformed person, one who does not think about or understand his or her own ideas and urges, security is a particular thing and is always taken to be outside oneself. That — 'I am insecure' — is a totally accepted conclusion for such a person, a conclusion that is never doubted or questioned.
Various philosophies have arisen from this insecurity. One person says, for instance, that money will not give you security, while another person says it will — but only here on earth, not later. Later security, we are told, can only be gained by doing certain prescribed acts. Thus, we have varieties of religions and philosophies, all of which have been born out of accepting that, 'I am insecure' and that, security is something outside of oneself.
Even as a child, one's security depends on the constant availability of protection, love, and care of one's parents. On the other hand, once the child has grown up, the situation is reversed. Now the parents' security depends on the attention of the child. Parents often feel neglected by their grown up children who are now occupied with their own lives. Once a child has grown up, security is no more in the parents; it lies elsewhere.
THAT I LACK IS THE PROBLEM
As a child I was insecure and now also I am insecure. There is a constant shift in what I take to be securities, which is considered to be a normal life for everyone. No one, however, deserves to have this problem. Security is not the problem. That I lack something is not the problem. The problem is that 'I' lack. This difference must be seen clearly.
What I lack is always variable — I lack iced tea; I lack children; I lack a house. What one lacks is always peculiar to the individual at a given time and place in one's life. This differs from individual to individual, from culture to culture. However, this 'I lack' is common to all and is entirely different from what I lack. I may lack a healthy body, a taller body, a thinner body, a turnedup nose, longer eyelashes, or a different skin colour. And this may only be the beginning of an endless list! But the fact that I conclude that 'I lack' is universal.
For instance, what can you do if your height is less than you would like it to be? The most you can do is to wear highheeled shoes, which does not really make you any taller. In fact, in the eyes of others you may be shorter. It is only when you are being recruited for a basketball team that anyone else thinks about your height. Height is your complex. I do not think about your height until you get into highheeled shoes and try to walk. Only then do I see your height because you have drawn my attention to it; and I immediately cut it down by a few inches. I may actually reduce it more than the actual height of your heels.
only fall short of my expectation, but also you become shorter than what you really are!
Thus, if you have a complex with reference to your height, you are stuck. If you were a wire or something stretchable, your height could be increased but, here, no stretching is possible. Similarly, there are a lot of things that you are stuck with because the things you are not, known and unknown, are countless. And what you lack you can never totally fulfil. The more you go after what you lack, the more you breed what you lack because what you lack has a knack of multiplying itself. It is like going to the supermarket to pick up a few things you lack and coming home with a few more desires to be fulfilled when you get your following week's paycheque. This is why we say desire is like fire that leaves a black trail after itself. No matter how much you feed it, fire never says, 'Enough!' Similarly, human beings can never say 'Enough!' to securities and pleasures.
INSECURE PLUS INSECURE IS NOT SECURE
When, then, are you going to completely fulfil your arthas and k¡mas? I am not saying you should not seek out security; that is not the emphasis here. We are only trying to understand the very pursuit itself. Money definitely has its value. But, if you think that there is security in money, or in anything else, the process of seeking becomes endless. The insecure me, the one who wants to be secure, does not really become secure by the addition of what I consider to be securities. No one can say, 'I am secure,' even with all possible securities.
As long as I require crutches, the sense of insecurity centred on me will remain with me. Feeling secure because I have crutches does not mean I am secure. I feel secure only because of the crutches, whereas the sense of insecurity centred on me remains.
Suppose I am insecure and what I think is secure is as insecure as I am. For example, if one insecure person marries another insecure person in order to be secure, the result is not security. All that results is a marriage between two insecure people. Can there be a greater hell anywhere? When two such people come together, it is a problem because insecurity plus insecurity do not make security, only double insecurity.
There is a story about a man who, as he was bathing by the side of a river, slipped and was swept away by the current. Because he could not swim, he prayed, 'Oh! Lord, please help me!' Just then a log came along and, catching hold of it, the man said, 'My God! God is great!' Then he realised that the log had fur on it — and hands also. He had thought he was holding on to a log, but now he realised that the 'log' was holding on to him. Still he thought that the Lord was saving him. He found, however, that the Lord was a grizzly bear that, having fallen from a tree, had also been swept up by the current. Once he realised he was holding on to a bear, he wanted to escape, but the bear already had too tight a hold on him.
WHO HOLDS ON TO WHAT?
Similarly, you do not know which holds what or who holds whom. You may have thought you were holding on to something, only to find that you cannot give it up, which means that it is holding you. This is a problem. Any habit is the same. An alcoholic was once a free person. When he or she took the first drink, the person poured the alcohol into the glass and, then, holding on to the glass, drank from it — no problem. However, after some time the person finds that he or she does not drink at all. As soon as 'Happy Hour' arrives, the bottle tells the person, 'Come here,' and he or she goes like a zombie. Then the bottle says, 'Come on, pick me up!' And the person picks it up. It says, 'Come on, pour me into the glass! Drink!' And the person drinks. Then, it says 'One more, one more.' And the person takes more and more alcohol without his volitional control. Who is this person now, the one who was previously free? Does he or she drink? Or does the drink, drink the person?
In so many situations, no one knows who holds on to what. I see no difference between the grabber and the grabbed, the holder and the held. Even inert things like drinks, cards, or dice, have the capacity to grab me — to say nothing of relationships, since people are equally insecure. Therefore, an insecure me plus anything in this world that happens to be within the framework of time is not going to make me secure. This we should understand well. We are not trying to develop a particular attitude here, just a simple appreciation of the facts.
THE FACTS OF INSECURITY
That I am insecure is a fact and that I seek securities is also a fact. That which I consider secure is not secure because it also is finite. This, too, is a fact.
You may think that, by giving away whatever securities you have, you will become secure. One man did this. He gave away his house, his business, and his bank balance, and went to a Swami. But the Swami was also insecure and wanted to have a following of disciples. Previously, the man was on a husband trip, a father trip, a businessmoney trip, and now he is on another trip — a Swami-¡tm¡trip minus a house, wife, children, money and so on. To think that subtraction is going to help, when addition does not, is nothing but a lack of understanding. And if artha is like this, k¡ma is the same.
No pleasure is going to be lasting. Take music, for instance, You buy a recording of a hit song. Why is this song a hit? Because, like a hit man, it knocks off all the other songs out of the running. Last month's hit song has been hit and is no longer a hit song. It only gathers dust on your tape deck. No one bothers about it any more.
Similarly, your attitude is always changing. What made you happy before no longer provides the same joy. You get tired of everything. Even if God were around you all the time, you would eventually want some privacy. This constant changing is natural because you are basically displeased with yourself. Therefore, you are pleased only now and then. The only silver lining in life is one's hope. This is all that keeps you going. Perhaps hope is nature's way of enabling you to survive so that you can discover nature herself.
Suppose those moments of pleasure, which are so few and far between, were denied to a given person, suppose they were not there at all, do you think a selfconscious human being, the displeased human being, would want to live? He or she would surely commit suicide. And, in spite of these moments of pleasure, if a person thinks there is no possibility of being happy, either because of a loss of some kind or an apprehension of some great calamity, the person would
choose not to live. This is the thinking behind all suicides.
Therefore, moments of pleasure are worthwhile
because they keep you going. The hope is that you will discover that you do not need a motherinlaw to be displeased; you need only yourself. If you close the doors, put aside the world and sit in an easy chair and try to be with yourself, then you will understand whether you are pleased with yourself or not. You will find that you do not require a world of perception, a world of books or anything to be displeased. All that you require is yourself. After just a few minutes of sitting with yourself, you want to get up and go out or take a shower — anything other than sitting with yourself.
THE WORLD IS NOT THE CAUSE OF YOUR PROBLEMS
To be displeased, then, requires nothing but yourself. It is not the world that displeases you; you are displeased with yourself. And whatever pleases you is going to be time-bound.
Because any k¡ma, any pleasure, you pick up is limited by nature — in terms of time, content, and degree, the one who is displeased remains in spite of occasional moments of pleasure. Therefore, we have now discerned the problem to be the conclusion about myself that, 'I am displeased.' This is a fact that is not going to be altered just because I pick up moments of pleasure. That I am insecure does not change merely because I acquire or give up certain securities. Thus, the only solution is to see myself secure and pleased with myself. But how is it possible to do this?
If, with all these securities and pleasures, I am displeased with myself, how am I going to see myself pleased without them? This is where the teaching called Ved¡nta comes in and tells you that your problem is not one of lacking something, but of not knowing that you do not lack anything. It converts all one's pursuits into a pursuit of knowledge.
In the vision of Ved¡nta, there is no reason for you to be displeased with yourself because you are totally acceptable to yourself — not in terms of attitude, but in reality. It is not a belief; it is a fact, a discoverable fact. Only something that can be discovered is a fact; and the discoverable fact here is that you lack nothing. You are totally free. This is a vision of you and this is the heart of Ved¡nta, the heart of this teaching. The problem that 'I lack' is thereby converted into ignorance, the cause of which I do not know for the time being. Until I come to know, the vision assumes the status of a promise.
YOU ARE THE PROBLEM; YOU ARE THE SOLUTION
Ved¡nta defines the problem as not
what you lack, but that you lack, and says that you are the solution because you are the problem.
There are two types of problems. One has its solution outside the problem and the other has its solution within the very problem itself. The solution to the problem of feeling cold, for example, is outside the problem in the sense that you have to cover yourself, go to the fireside, or go out into the sun. You may even decide to go to the Bahamas. When the solution to a problem is outside, it means that you have to do something to solve the problem. If hunger is your problem, you, have to feed the hunger by eating food, which is also outside. The solution to a jigsaw puzzle, however, is within the problem, within the puzzle itself. Because the solution is within the problem. There is no problem, in fact. The only problem is you and the solution is also you. When you do not understand something, it is a problem for you, whereas when you do understand, there is no problem. The understanding is the solution. In the vision of Ved¡nta, you have no problem, in fact.
Then, you may ask, how
can I recognise that I do not have a problem? This seems to be one more problem to add to the ones I already have. But is it? One problem is not there — the problem of selfnon-acceptance. Because, in the vision of Ved¡nta, the self is acceptable. What else do you want really? The only problem any human being has is selfnon-acceptance. Therefore, you are the problem and you are the solution. Now your pursuit becomes one of knowing yourself and it can be a game — fun, all the way. This, then, is the teaching.
A discriminative analysis of dharma, artha, and k¡ma leads one to a certain fundamental human problem. Once this human problem has been discerned, you will take special steps to resolve it, even though you may continue to pursue artha, k¡ma, and dharma. The solution to this original fundamental problem is called mokÀa.
Excerpts from the Gita Home Study